A/N: Spent all night (or morning I guess. It's 5 a.m. now!) writing this. I just suddenly thought of why Eren's equipment for the maneuver gear test was faulty and so this HAD to be written! Definitely canon! DO NOT QUESTION ME! Haha. Fine, it's my headcanon, but I hope after reading this you'll accept it as your headcanon too. :D The original chapter wasn't particularly kind to Mikasa, so I added some fluff to provide my readers with some payoff. :) Of course, the fluff makes loads of sense and is totally in character! No pointless fanservice! Heh.
Disclaimer : Shingeki no Kyojin created by Isayama Hajime.
"Why were you picking a fight with that boy?" Mikasa asked Eren when she caught up with him outside the mess hall.
"The heck? No, I wasn't getting into a fight," he replied.
"I take my eyes off you for one second and this is what happens."
"Here we go again." Eren reached over and touched Mikasa's hair, surprising her. "But more importantly, ain't your hair a bit too long? Great way to get into an accident during the maneuver drills!"
"Yeah, alright. I'll cut it," she said, twiddling a lock of hair in between her fingers. "But how short do you think it should be?"
Eren stopped and turned her around to face him. "Around here should be fine, I think," he said, using his hand to show her where she should cut her hair.
A sudden yell that sounded like it came from Connie made Eren turn back to see what had happened. He saw Connie with Jean, so he figured that they were just fooling around. He thought he heard the short boy ask Jean what he wiped on his shirt. Thinking nothing of it, the two of them started to walk towards the barracks.
"What's wrong?" Eren asked. He noticed that Mikasa was being awfully quiet, as if she was deep in thought.
"Huh? Oh, it's nothing," she replied. "It'll be weird not having long hair."
"It's just hair."
"I've had long hair as long as I can remember. My mother used to say that I look better with my hair long."
"The Titans aren't going to care how pretty you look, Mikasa." Eren sighed. "Think of it as a new beginning, okay? After we pass the maneuver drills tomorrow, we'll be full fledged soldiers!"
"We'll still be trainees, Eren," Mikasa said. "Besides, I still don't want you to join the Recon Corps. I don't want a new beginning."
Eren's expression turned sour instantly. She was being overprotective again and it really got on his nerves. "Don't forget to get your hair cut," he said before storming off in the direction of the male barracks.
Silently, Mikasa watched him go with a sad expression on her face. She'd gotten used to Eren acting like this towards her, but that didn't mean that she liked it. He'd been like this ever since his mother died that tragic day : normal for the most part, but always prickly at the slightest suggestion of giving up his quest for vengeance. She felt a hint of nostalgia as she recalled what he was like before the attack. To some, he might have come off as headstrong and rude, but to Mikasa he was passionate and honest. Even then, he never liked being protected by her, but he'd always keep it to himself. Sometimes, she could even feel a grudging sense of gratefulness from him, though he always tried his best to hide it. Those days were long gone.
Once Eren was out of sight, Mikasa turned on her heel and started walking in the direction of the female barracks. She didn't enter the building though. Instead, she walked right past it, straight towards the storage shack on the other side of the compound. She had something very important to do before going to bed. A mission to stop Eren from throwing his life away. As she crossed the training yard, she could see the potato girl - Sasha Braus - stumbling across the dirt, still undergoing the punishment that head instructor Keith Shadis had laid on her earlier that day. The blonde haired girl named Krista was walking towards the exhausted girl with what looked like a loaf of bread bundled up in a cloth. Mikasa stayed in the shadows of the perimeter fence, not wanting to be seen by anyone.
When she reached the supply shack, she pulled out a key from her pocket and unlocked the door. The reason she wasn't at the mess hall earlier was to steal this very key from the quartermaster. It was risky, but she'd managed to get it without arousing any suspicion. The room inside was dark and dusty, but with the help of the moonlight Mikasa could barely make out some crates lined up along the wall to one side. Putting her hands into the box, she pulled out a harness from its depths. It was one of pieces of equipment that they were to use for the next day's maneuver gear drills. This was her goal. She looked around to see if there was anyone nearby before performing her act of sabotage.
Mikasa cut her hair, Jean thought as he observed the oriental girl from his spot behind her. Why'd she cut it? Eren must have told her to. That idiot! He stamped his foot on the ground angrily, attracting unwanted attention from the head instructor. "Kirschstein! What in the name of non-existent Titan balls are you doing?"
Deciding not to pursue the matter any further, the instructor gave Jean one final death glare before continuing with the lesson.
"In these crates, we have the full body harnesses that you bunch of Titan bait are gonna use for today's drills. Every one of you come up and take one each!" Keith Shadis exclaimed. The trainees swarmed towards the crates that were lined up in a row beside the head instructor. Mikasa hurriedly made her way to the crates and took one harness for herself. She pulled out the sabotaged harness that she'd stuffed inside her jacket and quickly walked over to Eren who was at the back of the line.
"I got one for you, Eren," she said, handing him the faulty gear. "Here, I'll help you put it on."
"Thanks!" Eren was visibly excited at the prospect of finally getting started on his journey towards revenge. As Mikasa finished buckling the last of the belts, she stood up and let Eren do the same for her.
"Eren, don't be too hard on yourself if you can't do it, okay? We're not all suited to using the maneuver gear," she said, looking down at his kneeling form as he worked on the buckle around her thigh. He immediately looked up at her and said "I'll do it. Now hold still, I've almost got it."
When all the trainees were ready, they formed lines in front of the drill platforms set up behind the head instructor.
"First thing's first, let's see if you're good for something!" Shadis bellowed. "Just tie the ropes to the sides of your waists, and hang down from there! Use your full body belts for balance! Those who can't manage that will be used as bait!"
Eren smirked at Shadis' words, completely confident that he would be able to perform the drill perfectly. It simply never occurred to him that he might actually fail the test. Behind him, Mikasa watched silently, her heart beating a little faster than usual at the thought of her plan coming to fruition. Everything was going perfectly so far.
The trainees took turns on the platforms, some faring better than others. Mikasa performed flawlessly, but she couldn't have cared less how she did. When Eren's turn came, she watched his every move intently. He attached the ropes to his sides and signaled to the facilitator that he was ready. Slowly, his feet left the ground and he gained height, swaying ever so slightly as he fought to maintain his balance. Mikasa couldn't help but feel a slight sense of satisfaction when he immediately lost his equilibrium and violently flipped upside down, though she hid it with a calm expression on her face. The expression on Eren's face however, was one of abject horror.
"Eren! Eren!" Mikasa shook him roughly by his shoulder, trying to wake him from his stupor.
"Worrying about it won't make much of a difference, you know," Armin said. "If you pull it off tomorrow, everything will be okay. More importantly, you should eat in order to recover from your blood loss."
Eren half-heartedly ate a spoonful of his dinner, his head still throbbing from crashing into the ground earlier when Mikasa and Armin tried to teach him how to balance with the harness. Mikasa had decided that it wouldn't hurt to give him a few pointers, seeing as his equipment was damaged anyway. She felt bad that she had to lie to Eren like this, but she kept telling herself that it was for his own good. She didn't want him to get himself killed.
"What if...What if I can't pull it off tomorrow?" he said suddenly. "I won't...I won't know what to do with myself."
Seeing Eren feel so down like this made Mikasa feel terrible. It was like all the life had been sucked out of him.
"Come on already, it's no use losing sleep over it now," Armin said.
"This is pathetic. How am I supposed to deal with those damn Titans like this?"
"Maybe you should just forget about the whole extermination thing," Mikasa interjected, drawing questioning glances from the two boys.
"If you're not cut out for this, well, that's the way it is," she continued. "If you can barely pull your weight, the only thing you'll manage is to die pointlessly. All your dreams and efforts will be for naught."
"Say what?" Eren was taken aback by her words.
"What I'm saying is that you don't have to be a soldier. Supporting mankind as a manufacturer is also an option. Fighting is not just about tossing your life out the window."
"I trust I needn't remind you of what we saw on that day?" Eren argued. "You think your little argument is going to convince me to give up?"
There was a moment of silence as the two of them stared at each other fiercely, creating a thick tension in the air. Sighing, Mikasa said "Still, how resolute you are is hardly important."
"What do you mean? Let's hear it."
"Whether or not you become a soldier is not for you to decide," she said bluntly, effectively winning the argument. There was nothing Eren could say to that.
Bitch, I know that, he thought as he returned his attention to the barely touched food in front of him. He hated the fact that she was right. He'd made taking revenge on the Titans his life goal. Was it all really going to come crashing down around him before he had even started?
I can't pull the trick off, so you're basically telling me to shut up. Eh, Miss I-can-do-whatever-like-it's-no-one's-business? Eren glared angrily at Mikasa, prompting her to look away. It hurt her to think that this was a gaze full of anger, not love.
"I'm not saying that you'd be the only one going back to the landfills," she said, still hiding from his piercing glare. "When that happens, I'll be going too, so you should not let it trouble you." She turned to look at Eren, but instead, she saw Sasha sitting in his place. Apparently, he'd left the table with Armin when she wasn't looking.
Eren sat outside the male barracks, looking up at the black sky. The stars were out in force tonight, like shiny chalk dots on a large blackboard. Somehow, it felt like they were mocking him. It felt like everyone was mocking him. He asked Jean, Connie, Reiner, Bertholdt and just about everyone he could find in the barracks to teach him how to perform the drill, but no one was helpful. Not in the slightest. Everyone was asleep now, but Eren didn't know how he could do the same, so he sat outside alone, brooding.
He looked up to see Mikasa walk quietly towards him. Sitting down beside him, she said "If you're so frustrated and tense you're never going to do it right."
"You'd like that wouldn't you?" Eren said with a bitter tone. She always had to be around to rub in the fact that he was a weak little boy, didn't she? Always so calm and collected like it was a given that she could do anything without so much as breaking a sweat. He glanced at her, feeling equal measures of resentment and envy in his gaze. He couldn't deny that part of his insecurity around her was due to the fact that he really wished that he was the one bestowed with all the skills that Mikasa had, not her. He was the one with the mission to eradicate all the Titans, yet she was the one who could do everything. It made him feel pathetic.
Mikasa didn't speak. She just gazed longingly at him, unable to think of anything she could say to placate his wounded ego. Sighing, she rested her head on his shoulder. No words were exchanged between them, but even Eren couldn't help but feel calmed by her tenderness. He felt the tension slowly ebb away in the quiet of the night, leaving behind nothing but a boy and a girl, sitting together in the cool darkness. For a few moments, he completely forgot about the test.
"Can't we just stay like this forever?" the girl whispered. "We don't have to fight the Titans. We can just live together somewhere. We can be a family."
Eren didn't know what to say to that. Somewhere deep in his heart, he thought that it would be nice if they could live like that. But that thought disappeared just as quickly as it came. "I only want to kill them all," he stated bluntly, ruining the mood. Reluctantly, Mikasa lifted her head from his shoulder and got up.
"You'll kill nothing if you can't pass the test," she reminded him. She looked away from him to hide the disappointed look on her face.
"I'll pass the damn test! I'll show you that I can take care of myself!" He turned to face her, but she'd already left.
Eren hit his head hard on the ground when he failed to maintain his balance yet again.
"No...not yet!" he muttered helplessly from his upside down position. He could see the faces of the other cadets as a chorus of murmurs came over them.
"Put him down," commanded head instructor Shadis.
"I'm still...I'm not-"
"Put him down now."
The facilitator did as he was told, releasing Eren and helping him to the ground. Eren sat in the dirt, his whole body shaking with disbelief. It was over. He was so useless. Pathetic.
I'm sorry, mother. I'm sorry.
Mikasa watched the sorry sight with a mixture of relief and sadness. She didn't feel good seeing Eren wallow in self-pity and sorrow like that, but she told herself that she had no choice. She loved him and she would protect him no matter what. Ultimately, she was glad that her plan had worked. Knowing Eren's reckless nature, he would probably have gotten himself killed on his first mission as a real soldier.
"Wagner," Shadis said, catching everybody's attention.
"Exchange your equipment with Jaeger's."
Mikasa felt a lump in her throat when Thomas Wagner did as he was told and gave Eren his full body harness. Eren hurriedly put the harness on and re-attached the ropes to his sides, eager to grab this second chance, though it was with a large degree of fear that he signaled for the facilitator to lift him from the ground. This time, he managed to maintain his balance perfectly, to everyone's astonishment.
How come? I did it...right off the bat!
"What on Earth?"
"Faulty material," said Shadis. "The metallic fixtures on your belt were damaged. Normally it goes up to the waist, so that even if you're overturned, your head won't hit the ground. This is the first time I've heard of such a thing. I never knew those bits could be damaged. You're gonna have to get yourself some new gear."
"The... then-" Eren stammered. "What about my military aptitude?"
"No problem. Train hard."
Eren immediately pumped his fists into the air in triumph, overwhelming relief pouring into his features. He quickly glanced at Mikasa, conveying his feelings to her with his gaze.
What do you think Mikasa? I can do this! I can fight them Titans! Now you can't be a frickin' pain in the bum to me any more!
"Looks like a miracle happened," Reiner said from beside Armin.
"If that look on his face isn't triumph, I don't know what is!" Armin exclaimed happily, unable to detect the tension between Eren and Mikasa.
"It isn't. He's thinking about how he won't have to stay close to me any more, and it makes him happy," she said sadly, leaving her friends speechless. Her voice trembled ever so slightly, belying her calm exterior. She could feel her eyes moisten as the thought of her failed plan tied her heart up in knots. Eren was going to become a soldier after all.
Eren's appetite was twofold that night. He was much more jovial than usual, fooling around with the guys and stuffing himself like he hadn't eaten for days. When he finally decided to retire to the barracks for the night, he ran into Mikasa just outside the building.
"Mikasa? What is it?" he asked. She'd been quiet at dinner but he didn't care to talk to her any way. He was too busy celebrating his success. Seeing the pained look in her grey eyes now, he wondered if he should have shown more concern. He may have been cold to her sometimes, but he wasn't heartless.
"So, it's a new beginning, huh?" she said. She was terrified of what lied ahead. Their future together. Would they even be together? What would she do if he died in battle? Mikasa hadn't felt fear and insecurity like that in a long time. But she was strong. She would never give up fighting.
"I thought you didn't want a new beginning?" Eren smirked.
"I didn't want to cut my hair. But you told me to, so I did. For you." She gazed directly into his green orbs. "So, I'll think of it as a new beginning. For you."
"For me? Don't say it like that, sounds like I'm bossing you around," he replied. "You don't have to do what you don't want to."
"You're right," Mikasa said as she walked up to Eren and locked him in a tight embrace.
But I want what you want. Whatever you want. And I'll go wherever you go. Just please don't die. Please don't leave me alone.
"Let's do our best then," she whispered into his ear before burying her face in his chest. She wanted to feel his warmth. She wanted to remember every bit of him. Every touch and every feature. The rhythm of his indomitable heart and the texture of his skin. She never wanted to forget him. The thought of him dying was enough to numb her with fear, so she wanted to commit every bit of him to her memory. Mikasa knew that she had no choice but to face the fact that Eren was going to be a soldier. He was going to fight the Titans. So she had to become stronger. She had to protect him no matter what. So she would never have to live on with just his memory to accompany her.
Eren was slightly taken aback by her hug, but he quickly softened up. It was times like these that he was reminded of that bawling baby girl whose life he had saved that fateful night. He may have had his differences with Mikasa, but she was family. The only family he had left. He may not have detected her romantic feelings for him yet, but this alone was reason enough for him to feel bad about being mean to her. He still hated her over-protectiveness, but that didn't mean that he enjoyed being hostile towards her. After a few more moments in her arms, he gently tore himself away from her and said "Of course. We'll fight and we'll win."
Mikasa nodded wearily. After a short pause, she said "It's late. I'll go back now."
"Do you want me to walk you back?" Eren mumbled, as if he was somewhat reluctant to make the offer. Mikasa couldn't tell if he was being thoughtful or if he just wanted to atone for being mean to her, but she couldn't have cared less.
"Thanks, Eren. Let's walk together." She chuckled, her face lighting up immediately.
"Hasn't it always been this way? We walk together all the time."
"Yes. I guess you're right." The smile on Mikasa's face radiated a happiness that she hadn't felt for a long time. "Let's go," she said as she took his hand in hers.
"We're not kids anymore, Mikasa!" Eren blushed slightly, though he didn't pull his hand out of her grasp.
"Just this once," she said, pulling him along by the hand.
"Fine." He sighed,finally relenting as he followed her lead. However black the world may be, they would walk together, side by side. They weren't trainees, or soldiers, or even survivors from Shiganshina that night. They were just a boy and a girl, walking hand in hand into the cold blackness of an uncertain future. A future that they would face together.
Only one faulty harness and it goes to Eren? And Shadis claims to have never heard of such a thing as a faulty harness? And the problem was with the metallic fixtures! Coincidence? I THINK NOT. Mikasa you sly little devil. :D
Thanks so much for reading! Please review! :D Oh yeah, and please go check out my multi-chaptered fic : Tears of a Titan! Loads of Eren/Mikasa love there, people! It's a serious story though, don't expect nothing but fluff. :X Jean will appear in chapter 5 of that story! Can't wait to finally write him. He's a very interesting character!
Well, thanks for reading. REVIEW. 3