For those who are wary of OC stories: please give this one a chance and read until at least chapter 5. If you get to that point and still think that this fanfic is not worth your time, by all means, close the window, write a hate review, whatever. Before you make any premature judgments, PLEASE GIVE THIS A CHANCE.

I. Wendy

Year 844

"Foolish snit."

Eileen Pixis was once a woman strong of heart, a housewife through and through. Her soul lay in the family, and the loss of her husband and two of three sons to the land outside the walls had chipped away at her mind slowly but steadily. Now she was little but a scornful, hopeless wreck, sitting in her rocking chair all day. Her bright red hair had grayed, and her clear, smiling face aged into lines of hatred. The other Pixis women had tired of her harsh conduct, and even her own daughter, Wendy, constantly got frustrated with her mother's grief.

Being in a military family meant that one was accustomed to death. Tears would be shed all the same, but life waited for no one. "Time goes on." That was their family motto; the Pixis clan had long accepted that.

It didn't make the loss any easier, though, and Eileen Pixis was a lost cause.

As her mother momentarily awakened from her grieving stupor, Wendy recoiled at the expression of scorn, disgust, and sadness that marred Eileen's face. Kneeling, she clutched her mother's worn, wrinkled hands desperately. "I want to fight, Mother. I want to join the Survey Corps."

"You foolish snit," her mother snarled again, back straightening as she leaned forward, her sour breath stinking in Wendy's face. "You defile your father and brother's wishes. Do you know the reason they kept you safe here, tucked away at home, and ran straight into the line of fire?"

Wendy had heard this speech more than a thousand times. It still didn't make it hurt any less, but she was better at controlling her tears now. "To protect me from the Titans by sacrificing themselves."

"So you do know." Eileen settled back into the rocking chair, scowling as she muttered, "Foolish, ungrateful chit..."

"Mother," Wendy tried again, "you don't understand. I am thankful, but I want to fight precisely because I want to carry on their will...I want to make my own choices for once-"

"Want, want, want. All you do is want, like a spoiled child. We can't have everything in life, Wendy, we can't have everything..." Her voice trailed off, and presently enough, Eileen was back to rocking in her creaky chair in the dark, eyes cast above Wendy's head listlessly, her lips moving soundlessly. There was no point in trying to reach her now.

Wendy had tried everything; she had gone to all her uncles, cousins, even her aunts for help in pleading for her cause. They all said the same thing: "Wendy, don't be stupid. You're too young, too weak to go."

They failed to remember that her older cousins had enlisted far younger than she; Wendy was already fourteen, for heaven's sake! Most entered training when they were twelve or thirteen, even eleven.

So just because she was a woman, she couldn't enlist because it wasn't a Pixis woman's duty. A proper Pixis woman was the head of the household when the man of the house was gone. A proper Pixis woman knew how to fight, but the only weapon she was truly allowed to wield was a kitchen knife.

But they were wrong.

Eileen Pixis, Ruby Pixis, Allison Pixis, and all the Pixis women before her married into the clan. They were not born into it. They were not raised up among the Pixis men who were trained to fight as easily as they could breathe.

Wendy was just as shrewd, agile, and resilient as her brothers, uncles, cousins, and father, with a temper and ache for freedom to match. She didn't want to stay cooped up at home, in fear of the unknown. The very walls that were meant to protect her was suffocating her.

She didn't want to end up like the women before her, all killing themselves with worry each time their husbands and sons rushed off to war. She wanted to be the one to get a piece of the action. She didn't want to be left behind. Not again.

It was time to break tradition, even if it meant disobeying the wishes of every family member she had. It had come to this; it was either this last resort or to steal off in the middle of the night, never to return home again.

There was only one person left that Wendy could turn to, one last beacon of hope. One word from him, and it'd be set. No one would dare to argue.

"Grandfather?" Creeping up to the door, Wendy rapped her knuckles on the wood softly.

Commander Pixis turned, his long green cape swirling around his body as he turned towards his only granddaughter. He smiled, wrinkles deepening as he beckoned for her to enter his room. As much as Dot Pixis cherished the rest of his family, he had a special place in his heart for his granddaughter, the only daughter in the bloodline.

Wendy swallowed; despite the warm smile, her grandfather still cut an incredibly intimidating figure. She was loathe to talk to him, to tell him of her dreams, but she had no other choice. The words spilled out in a rush: "I want to join the reconnaissance corps."

She cringed, waiting for the explosive reaction of either "OVER MY DEAD BODY", a plain, flat-out "NEVER", or, even worse, a silent stare of disappointment. Instead, Commander Pixis turned his back on his granddaughter, sitting at the wooden table in the center of the room. It was really the only notable furnishing in her grandfather's otherwise barren bedroom and had an old chessboard set out upon it.

"Play chess with me, Wendy."

Whether this was a good or bad thing, Wendy couldn't tell, but she nodded jerkily and stepped inside the room. Nervously, Wendy crossed the room to take a seat across from the aging man. She had played chess many times before, but never with her grandfather, who was practically a chessmaster. Hell, her grandfather was basically the master of everything, and it was a well known fact that he had never been beaten by anyone, ever.

Well, except the King, but those times didn't count.

Her grandfather gave her the white chesspieces. A handicap? Not necessarily, but Wendy accepted them without arguing and began setting up the pieces. It would do her no good to argue.

She made the first move, sliding a pawn up one space, and then, the rest of the game melted into a blur until, in an unexpected moment, her grandfather uttered one word that left her confused and breathless: "Checkmate."

Wendy stared at the board dully. How did he manage to trap her king in like that? A glance at the clock hanging on the wall told her that her grandfather had beaten her in less than six minutes.


"You are still weak, Wendy," Commander Pixis murmured, toying with his black king between two fingers.

At his words, Wendy stared down at her fingers forlornly, shoulders slumping forward. So he, too, didn't think she would be able to make it as a soldier, much less one in the highest-risk and most unpopular division.

Her grandfather continued in his merciless dissection of his granddaughter, seemingly oblivious to her tearing eyes and trembling shoulders. "Not only were you born in the frailer shell of a female, you were coddled as a child and raised in the capital, far away from harm. You have honed your skill and agility all your life, yet you've never tasted the harshness of true toil and work. Your brothers and cousins never used their full strength on you in sparring matches, either."

"But sir-"

Dot Pixis held up a single finger, silencing the girl immediately. "However." He exhaled a long, drawn-out sigh before speaking. "You are agile for your age, a bit too headstrong and shrewd for your own good, but it cannot be denied that courage and ingenuity is a vice, though you get yourself into trouble far too often. And as much as I am hesitant to let you go, there is nothing I can say or do to prevent you from doing so."

Wendy's face broke into a relieved smile as she leapt across the table, scattering the chesspieces left and right, diving into the arms of her grandfather. "Thank you, sir," she breathed, "thank you so much."

Recovering from the initial shock of Wendy's sudden jump, Commander Pixis held her tightly. "I worry for you, Wendy, but it is not good to keep you confined. Besides, you're the first of the grandchildren to hold your own against me in a chess match for this long. It'd be a shame to keep you locked away at home."

Year 847

Wendy could hear the whispers as she passed by. It was inevitable, and she'd buffeted through three years of similar treatment, so she only allowed herself to steel her jaw as she strode on past the gossiping crowd.

"That's Wendy Pixis, right?"

"The girl with the red hair and freckles? Yeah. I heard she pulled strings with her relatives to get into the trainee camp."

"How else would a pampered, Capital-born bint graduate as valedictorian of her class? Look at how small she is. She's probably riding on the fame of her family."

"She probably slept with most of the higher-ups by now to gain their favors. Just wait 'till she actually has to fight a Titan; so much for the pretty face."

"Oh, but she'll be going to the military police. Definitely."

"Actually, I heard that she's planning on entering recon." A short, perky girl with tawny, orange-gold hair added lightly as she skipped past the group, running to catch up with the slightly taller redhead.

"Petra," Wendy acknowledged lightly with a nod, relaxing just a smidge in her friend's presence.

"Oh Wendy, shouldn't you be more excited? We're finally going to graduate and get sorted into our divisions! Oh, I hope we'll be able to stay in the same troop, don't you?"

"Of course!" Wendy matched Petra's bright grin with equal fervor, though with a little more trepidation. "But I can't help but feel that if I let down my guard after coming this far, I'll just fail at the finish line."

"Loosen up, Wendy, you've come this far." Grabbing her hand, Petra pulled her into the throng of trainees, all of whom were pushing into the lodge outside the drill field, clamoring for their troop assignments.

They took their places at the oblong, wooden tables set throughout the room. Wendy kept her back ramrod straight, observing the captains at the front of the room. She saw two of her uncles, who were struggling not to beam at their sons.

Wendy's eyes then flicked over to her cousins, Remy and Jeremy, who were elbowing each other excitedly. They had graduated within the top ten as well, and were well on their way to becoming police. Safe and tucked away like treasures.

The government was built rather backwards in her opinion, but as frustrating as it was, humans were all cowards in one way or another. The century-long peace had ended two years ago. So far, there was no sign of a reemergence of the Titans. People were beginning to relax again, and they began to cheer at the sight of the recon troops. But one day, if the Titans couldn't be held back, they'd get through every last wall humankind built up and crush them all.

It was fucking terrifying to think so far in the future, if it was far at all. Wendy didn't want to even consider the possibility of the Titans bursting through the fortifications of Wall Rose, though she reminded herself that she'd be leaving the walls of the cities to fight Titans face-to-face as part of the Survey Corps.

She'd be helping humanity take back what once was theirs.

Heartbeat accelerating, Wendy let loose a breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding. Petra was right; she'd come this far, so she would not, could not give up now. She wouldn't cave and become part of the police force, slinking back to the family in shame. So much for her big talk.

Her grandfather was right, too; nothing Wendy had thought she was capable of three years ago could have prepared her for the brutal training she'd endured as a trainee. She was beaten thoroughly, physically and psychologically, by her trainers and her fellow trainees.

But she was strong now. Strong enough to take on a Titan. She'd survived.

Wendy inhaled and exhaled again, calming herself. She'd enlist in reconnaissance. Besides, she had her pride to uphold.

"That idiot."

Levi, newly promoted as corporal, cocked his head to the side as the man next to him cursed under his breath. "Captain Devon?" he asked, somewhat curious. The large, dark-haired man usually didn't have such public outbursts, and was known to be one of the milder leaders.

"It's my stupid sister," he explained agitatedly, eyes stuck on a petite girl with a shocking head of red hair, cropped close to her ears. Her eyes were far too large for her face, which was dotted all over with freckles. She had an innocent look about her, like a little rabbit that had unknowingly walked into a cave of wolves. "Stupid, stupid, stupid."

Levi also didn't picture Devon as a man with a sister complex. "You two don't look alike," he commented.

Devon shrugged. "Deedee looks like my mother, the rest of us take after our father. She was a preemie, too; the runtiest runt of them all." He heaved a huge sighed that rumbled in his chest. "I'm worried sick about her already."

"I suppose she'll be going into the police, then." As it was for most born with golden spoons tucked in their mouths. Of course, veterans like Devon were exceptions to the rule once they proved themselves.

Devon scoffed. "As if. She hasn't listened to a word of reason since my dad and brothers got themselves killed. Doesn't want to go into the police, doesn't want the stationary guard either. Fancies herself a recon type of girl, 'specially after Wall Maria got torn down."

"Naive," Levi mused.

"You're telling me. She's the baby of the family and I am not sending her into the jaws of a Titan. She's scared of spiders, for goodness's sake. But what the Commander says goes." He sighed. "You have no idea how many strings we've pulled to give her loopholes, exit'll take care of her for me, won't you, Captain?"

It was Levi's turn to scowl, though Devon didn't notice and continued chattering on. The scouting legion was no place for cowards, dreamers, or princesses of powerful clans.

Well, will you look at that, Wendy Pixis is all three.

"Our legion captain is Captain Levi," Petra announced as the two girls headed towards the drill field to assemble. "He's new, isn't he? Rumor has it he's worth a whole legion of scouts."

"I don't know about that," Wendy replied as they got closer to the sparse crowd of new scouters, "but I'm glad my brother didn't make a huge fuss in front of everyone about it. He already babies me enough."

"Oh, he just loves you!" Petra cooed, pressing her palms together with a sickeningly sweet smile.

Wendy rolled her eyes. "Shut up. The captain's talking."

As if on cue, Captain Levi's attention flicked over to the two girls. "You there. Since you're so ready to speak, why don't you introduce yourselves?"

Taking things in stride, as always, Petra saluted. "Petra Ral, sir. Excited to report for duty."

His glare didn't fade as it shifted to Wendy; in fact, it seemed to intensify. She gulped but focused on steeling her stare and saluted. Growing up in an all-male family taught her one thing: to stand up to men bigger than you (though Captain Levi was on the rather short side). The trick was to keep your chin up and most importantly, not break eye contact.

"Wendy Pixis, sir." Wendy was glad that her voice came out strong and confident. Perhaps a little too cocky.

"Hm." Levi's frown deepened and he gestured to the field with his thumb. "Pixis, laps for an hour before you join us for debriefing. Everyone else, stay here."

Wendy's jaw dropped, affronted as she glanced at Petra, who was shocked as well. "Captain, with all due respect, it wasn't all Wendy's fault," Petra cut in.

The captain looked even more irritated. "Then Pixis will do your share as well. Two hours."

Just her luck, Captain Levi was a chauvinistic bastard like the rest of them. Wendy knew better than to gripe and disobey orders though, no matter unfair it was, and took off at a light jog.

"I want you sprinting!" Levi ordered from his position at the forefront of the group.

Grumbling, Wendy sped up, wondering if she could risk flashing her new captain the middle finger.

Irwin Smith sidled up to Levi during dinner time, a knowing look on his face. "I saw what you did to Pixis. Gave her laps and tore her a strip for a minor offense. For a new captain, you sure aren't giving yourself a very nice reputation."

Levi acknowledged his superior with a stiff nod. "She thinks far too highly of herself. If she enters the field like this, she'll come back with her tail between her legs, if she returns at all."

"Aren't we all like that?" Irwin smiled. "From the way I see it, you're prejudiced and maybe even a little bit worried for her."

"You misunderstand me," Levi replied smoothly as he lifted his teacup to his lips. "This is mere protocol. Initiation procedure for the incompetent, if you will." He took a sip of his tea and spat it out. "PIXIS," he growled across the dining hall.

A mop of red hair shot up from one of the tables. Visibly fatigued, Wendy slunked up to the captain, her pale, freckled face sunburnt and peeling at the nose. She truly looked like a wreck. "Yessir?"

"What is this?"

"Tea, sir," Wendy sighed.

"You call this sewage tea?" Levi dumped the contents of his cup onto the dirt floor, where it soaked into a wet stain. "Remake it."

Obviously struggling not to grumble, Wendy took the cup and shuffled away. Irwin noticed that her arms and in fact, every inch of skin showing were scarlet red and peeling. He raised an eyebrow at the man next to him, who had gone back to sipping his soup daintily. "Mere initiation procedures? Why don't you lay off on her? She went through the three years of hell just like everyone else."

"On the crutches of her family name," Levi spat. "I will not tolerate anyone who does not climb here on their own two feet."

"She's not like that," Irwin commented as he snatched a morsel of bread from Levi's plate, chewing on it contentedly. "I've known her for years through her cousins and really, she has a good head on her shoulders. Trust me on it."

"Did her brother send you to plead for her benefit? Frankly, I'm a bit disappointed, Commander." Sniffing, Levi wiped his fingers on his napkin as he finished his meal. "At any rate, I merely wish to take her down a few notches so she finally gets it in her head that she isn't a princess here."

At that moment, a scarred, tomato-red arm slammed a fresh cup of tea in front of Levi's face. Some of it sloshed out onto the table. Droplets dotted the captain's face, irking him even more. Both men lifted their heads to find Wendy looming over them, sparks of fury dancing out of her bright amber eyes. She was quite the picture, really: flushed cheeks even redder than before, lips stretched in a scowl to reveal a crooked tooth, fiery red hair plastered to her forehead in sweat.

"I'll have you know that your decision suits me just fine, Captain," she snarled. "I'm no princess and I don't plan to be one. Oh, and enjoy your tea...sir," she added belatedly before spinning on her heel and stomping out the door into the night.

Irwin laughed outright, his commander facade cracking for a brief moment before sealing back together. "The kid always did have spunk. Don't begrudge her for it, Levi."

"See, this is what I'm telling you. This impudence needs to be beaten out of her," Levi grumbled as he lifted the teacup to his lips anyway. The flavor was too faint this time, having not been steeped long enough. Dim girl.

"Give her a chance, Levi," Irwin insisted gently as he rose from the table. "I'm not telling you to stop disciplining her...but just treat her equally, all right?"

Levi grunted. Not if he could help it.

"I'm going to fucking kill him."

"Who?" Unfazed, Petra continued to rub the soothing salve up and down Wendy's sunburnt arms. They were on Wendy's bunk in the barracks, Wendy stripped down to her pants and lying on her chest as Petra tended to her burns.

"Who else?" Wendy spat. "I swear, that man must have a stick the size of a Titan up his ass." She hissed as Petra rubbed a little too hard at a particularly sore spot. "Ouch, watch it."

"Well, he was pretty harsh," Petra mused as she moved her ministrations onto Wendy's back. "But who cares, Captain Levi's gorgeous and he's known for being hard to approach, especially by girls. The fact that he's singling you out so early in the game is remarkable in itself, but not only that, he has warmed up to you really, really quickly."

"That's not a friendly kind of warming-up-to, that's a flat out I-fucking-hate-you-because-I'm-an-asshole." Wendy turned her head, peering over her shoulder to glance at the sunburnt skin. "He thinks I'm some kind of princess, you know that?"

"Ooh, romantic."

"...You've reached an all new level of stupid, Petra. Congratulations."

Unabashed, Petra giggled. "Thanks. So, what're you going to do now?"

"I'm going to fucking teach him a lesson, that's what."

Several gasps and even chuckles sounded throughout the small cabin. Clearly, the entire female barracks were listening in on their conversation. Word had traveled fast about the redheaded girl who'd managed to piss the newest, up-and-coming captain off on her first day.

The girl on the bunk below them, Emmy, chimed in on the conversation gently. "Don't you think you should, you know, lie low for a couple days?"

"Naw." Wendy propped her chin up on her pillow. "Our damn captain is going to find out what happens when he messes with a Pixis. You just watch."