A/N: So I guess Hanji has some sort of implied, violent past (in the manga) and I decided to dwell on it. And I love Levi/Hanji.
Important Notes: Au of the mission outside the wall.
Please remember to review~
Armed with Death
Chapter 1: Within the Interim of Death
"Are you going on another mission, Zoe?"
The silence in the room shifts awkwardly as the words fall complacently from her chest. Her fingernails drum to an off-beat tempo against her thigh, staining her pants with liquid crimson dripping in rivulets from the massive, painless gash in her arm. She peers into the horrid reflection staring back at her, the familiar conjures of her lips turned upwards into a jeering, maniacal smirk.
"That's none of your concern," she responds after a moment, lifting the blade shard to her forearm.
"Are you going to kill again? Or should I be the one doing it for you?"
A tremor racks her being, an intense shiver that tingles her brain and clouds her vision with an overwhelming darkness. She reflexively slides the edge of the serrated fragment across the porcelain canvas of her skin. Warmth blossoms through her torso and leaks down her swelling skin; she regains her consciousness again.
"Won't you let me take a turn? Just this once?"
"No!" She barks at the mirror and the expression in the scratched surface of the glass falls blank. I'm an absolute mess. She brings her sticky hand up to the right side of her face, sliding her palm down, smearing her own blood across her brow, eye and cheek. That's better. "No," she repeats again, gentler this time, "I will not allow it…"
"But you like your insanity…"
"I love being insane," she agrees quietly, and suddenly, without warning, she screams. Her voice pierces the veil of quiet that has settled throughout the room, pitch gradually rising louder and louder until it becomes deafening to her own ears. She drives the broken sword through the face in the mirror and a spider web of shattered lines explodes outwards, dropping shards harmlessly to the floor.
She picks one up, the exposed flesh of her fingers tearing against the rigid edges.
"End it then. If you can't handle what has been bestowed upon you at birth, then you should just end it…"
"You're right," she utters, pressing the tip to her throat. "It won't hurt, right?"
"Of course not."
A foreign hand clutches her wrist and she stills as a familiar body brushes hers. "What the fuck are you doing, Four Eyes? This is the second time this damn month." The figure tosses the glass back into the pile, his grip still on her hand. "Are you even aware how annoying you are? We could hear you all the way from the dining hall. You scared some of the rookies shitless."
She hums in her throat. "Levi…"
"Shitty Glasses," he dead-pans.
"Doesn't it feel amazing?" She inquires, turning to face him so her bloodied lips are near to his. The heavy scent of copper poisons his senses but his expression remains blank. "Doesn't killing feel so amazing, Levi?"
He doesn't get to answer her because she's occupying his mouth with hers already, tongue wrapping around his, hands shaking as they travel up under his shirt. She tastes bitter and smells metallic and her clothes are soaked with her own body fluids – fucking disgusting, he thinks luridly. His hand comes up to push her away by the clean side of her face. "Knock it off," he hisses, starting for the door with her in tow. "Let's get your shitty wounds closed before you bleed to death and do us all a favor."
"Why?" She mutters, "Why should I when it's just so…beautiful…like roses…" She lifts her arm to her unfurling tongue, lapping at the bitter wounds. "And it tastes like life…"
"A life you're about to lose if you don't come-the fuck-on." He lets her go when they exit into the corridor, moving to wipe the slick blood stains from his hands with the handkerchief in his pocket. "Shit, you're making such a mess…"
Hanji purrs from behind him, but her voice isn't directed at him so much as it is the ceiling. "I want to dissect something… won't you be my subject?"
"No," he denies abruptly, "get yourself in fucking check before I'm forced to snap your neck."
She chuckles in her chest, garnet orbs flashing grimly behind her glasses. "Be gentle, won't you?"
"I'll make it quick, how's that?" Sarcastic, as always.
The slender edge of a dagger suddenly slides along the length of his neck with a metallic hiss, harmless and cold to the touch. She leans her lips to his ear. "You know… the urge to kill has become so strong…" She plants a chaste kiss against the crook of his shoulder. "What if I killed you, right now? Just drove this blade straight into your throat? Or, better yet, cut you open"—she glides down his chest—"from here"—it stops just above his belt line—"to here?"
Levi grunts, slapping the blade away. "Go dissect your fucking Titans. And control your insanity already, I don't need you corroding and analyzing some poor bastard's organs when I have my back turned."
"But you'd be so much more fun…" The dagger reflexively digs into her arm and she gasps, white noise brimming in her skull. "F-uck! Shit that hurts!"
"Maybe you should have better control."
"Fair enough," she utters, massaging her forehead, hands shaking. "I was starting to black out again." She tucks the bloodied dagger into her belt and grips the oozing gash trailing from her wrist to the crook of her elbow. "Stitches. I'm going to need stitches. Lots of stitches. And don't tell Erwin, please."
"I never do," he replies reassuringly, guiding her down the hall. His fists quake uncontrollably. "You know I never do."
Levi can't remember the last time his hands have shaken so intensely – not since his very first mission years before, when he was Eren's age and still just as obsessively compulsive about cleanliness as now. They still shake sometimes.
He remembers how his heart drummed against the cage of his chest, the way the swords quivered in his hands, and the disturbing look in Hanji Zoe's garnet eyes as they realized that everyone in their squad was dead except for them, and low and behold nine Titans were sauntering towards them. It was the first time Hanji broke and he doesn't want that to happen again. Back then is just like now, though, but not all of their squad is Titan food right away. Hanji, however, still has that disturbing look in her eyes.
Bloodlust, he tells himself, counting off three 15-meter-class Titans to his left and one 18-meter-class to his right, and five more of various sizes within the proximity of his rear. And intrigue. Desperation. Revenge. Just like all those years ago… He notices that she's watching them carefully as well. Let's try not to repeat that incident, shall we, Hanji?
Hanji allows a maniacal smile to etch its way into her normally elegant features. "This is awesome! Which one should I go after first? Oh, never mind, I want the really big one!" She playfully pokes Levi in his ribs with her elbow, although it kind of hurts because she's far too excited for self-control. Control, on the other hand, is Levi's middle name, coupled with irritable. "Let's go, Levi! Let'sgolet'sgolet'sgo!"
He sighs under his breath as she leaps off, swinging around on her 3-Dimensional Gear like it's a toy. This was supposed to be a simple fucking mission, he thinks again, studying her swift movements out of the corner of his eye. At least she's not in the mood for a full-blown slaughter house. So why the hell can't I shake this ominous feeling? Growling in his throat, he shoots off and slays the closest Titan to him, which, unfortunately, doesn't calm the storm within him.
The strange emotions welling in his torso are annoying him as intensely as they are scaring him, something he's felt since she threatened to dissect him last week. Which is why he's so afraid of absolutely nothing…but the more he dwells on it the less he cares, because in the end the only thing to truly be afraid of is losing to the Titans.
Losing what though, Levi isn't sure he wants to know, but he's certain he's going to find out sooner or later.
He swings around and slices into the second Titan, which reminds him of the one he saw back in his childhood – when a Titan had climbed over the wall the day the Garrison squads were spread thin – that had, subsequently, killed his family. Mother was squashed beneath its foot, Father devoured in two bites, Sister crushed beneath the collapsing house and through it all he can't remember their faces or voices because he was only six at the time, but he sees them in his dreams, silhouettes against the darkness closing in. And he certainly hears them scream.
He takes down another two Titans, one half the size of the other that almost takes off his leg when he aims for the bigger one, before doing a headcount of his squad. Three missing, Eren Yeager seven yards to the North-West of him, Mikasa Ackerman another forty in the opposite direction. Now where the fuck is Shit-for-Brains Zoe?
Eren is naturally boisterous, so his shout is recognizable even from several buildings away. Levi glances at him but he points to somewhere ahead of them, arm shaking from adrenaline and fear – but the fear isn't because of the Titans. It's because – when Levi dares to look – there's Hanji, struggling in a Titan's grasp as it moves her closer to its gaping jaws. It had probably come out of an alleyway when her back was turned (a kind of attack that is responsible for twenty percent of their casualties).
"Shit!" Levi hisses, darting across the roof.
Levi swings between the buildings to waste less gas and speed up faster, gear grinding against the cobblestone walkways as he descends on an arc and shoots up into the sky. Eren maneuvers around him, slicing down the smaller Titans that launch up to grab them. Levi can see the Titan that has Hanji now – but she's looking away, eyes corkscrewed shut and her body rigid in its grip. Oh no.
He gives little regard for his gas now and rockets up to meet them, severing the Titan's wrists from its arms just as Eren carves a chunk out of its neck. Levi grabs Hanji and guides them to the nearest building top, but one-handed flying isn't exactly a walk in the park and they slam into the roof at a good fifty miles an hour, Levi holding her close and using his back as a cushion upon impact. Pain derails his thoughts – protect her protect her protect her – as his ribs crack against the force, knocking the wind out of him and throwing his whole world into a momentary darkness.
He blinks the blackness in his vision away, soldiering through the searing pain in his chest, focused on Hanji and only Hanji. She stirs in his arms. "L-Levi…" She's not hurt at least, but she is shaking again his chest, nails biting into the thin fabric of his shirt. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry! I should've been more careful – I should've – I can feel her again."
Levi struggles to sit up, but he grits his teeth to hold back any pained sounds, even though his body is screaming. "Are you OK?"
"No, no I'm not I'm not I'm not I'm no-!"
His hand finds her cheek, stilling her. She suddenly digs her finger tips into his chest and he knows why – she's fighting back what she had countless times before, the first incident back on their first mission, after she had been pushed passed her limit (which, contrary to popular belief, doesn't take much) and came down from her high. He doesn't want to relive that. And neither does she. Fortunately, she also hasn't been so close to death since then, but if he had been only seven seconds later – maybe even two – saving her wouldn't have been an option.
She bites into her lips. "I can feel her, Levi. She's talking to me."
Levi opens his mouth to say something – anything – to calm her down, same as he did last week, when a shadow engulfs them, rising up before them like a snake preparing to strike. The Titan stares down at them as they stare up at it. "Shit," Levi utters. "Let's go!" When he glances at her she's still as a statue, cold, void of emotion, and garnet eyes glazed over with darkness. He grabs her by her collar. "Four Eyes! Look at me! HANJI!"
Her lips press into a thin line and her world goes blank, void of noise and blurring her surroundings. There is only her and it.
He grabs her by her waist but she's faster, shooting her gear into the monster's eyes so it rears back, howling about the sudden blindness. Hanji zip-lines up to its skull, unsheathing her swords, and launches up, crossing her arms and ripping out the flesh at the top of its spine. Levi prays that she isn't insane, that she is still Hanji and that they aren't repeating what happened almost ten years ago. But when the body falls away from his vision she is there, bloodlust even more intense and an ugly, twisted smirk on her face. The shark has smelt the blood. There is no going back.
"Hey!" He calls out and she glances at him, twisted smirk pulling taught on her lips. "…Hanji?"
"Long time no see Levi," she returns, relishing in the way his eyes narrow dangerously, "I'd love to stay and chat – maybe even cut you open – but it seems you're all in a bit of a jam. Ta-ta~!"
She swings off like a dart, a speeding blur that Levi can't follow, but he tries. He gets up and starts after her, unsure where he is going exactly, but the pain in his body is overwhelming – and the next thing he knows he is grinding against the ground, rolling to a stop by connecting his skull with a wall, and putting up a futile fight against the shadows creeping into his vision like spiders.
His consciousness leaves him just as quickly as he had lost Hanji ten years ago.
"Captain! Hey, wake up!"
Levi doesn't register the tone of the voice at first, so he doesn't know who it is, and he can't see anything no matter how many times he blinks, so that isn't an option. He feels the pressuring aches in his chest intensify as the unidentifiable figure helps him up, hooking his arm around its neck. His mouth is dry so he tries his best to wet it and make a remark – or even a sound, for that matter. "Wh-where…?"
"You're alright," the figure says, still monotone and mysterious. "Petra, get his other side."
His other arm is wound around another figure's neck. "Hang in there; you aren't far from the meet up point."
He wants to observe the obvious destruction around him (no mission involving Titans ever leaves an area unharmed) but everything is swallowed by an abyssal darkness that is gradually scattering to form his reality. He groans as the pain returns to him, and then he realizes who he's with, judging by the height and build – one, Petra, as the other had said, and two is Auruo.
Then his memories come back to him, bit by bit, falling into place like pieces of a puzzle… assuming the puzzle was patterned with Titans, blood, corpses and his squad slaying everything in sight. Then it hits him. "Sh-shit! Where's that fucking four-eyed freak?!"
"She went on a killing spree," Petra answers calmly, hoping to keep Levi from thrashing too much. "Erwin tried to calm her down because she was spewing out random statements about killing him."
"We found her about ten minutes ago stabbing an already dead Titan with her broken swords," Auruo finishes for her, "we tried talking some sense into her, which only ended with me getting a nice cut in my eyebrow from just barely avoiding her attack." Levi can feel him passively shrug. "She doesn't seem right so we're leaving her alone for now. Erd thinks she breached her limit."
"Take me to her."
Petra and Auruo exchange similar expressions along the lines of 'is that a good idea?', but they know there is no arguing with him. They reluctantly drag him down five long, seemingly endless streets until they hit the meeting point; the familiar scent of horses fills his nostrils and they prop him up against the nearby wall. "We'll be back soon," Petra assures him and takes her teammate by his sleeve. "C'mon, let's go help with clean up."
He listens intently as they shuffle off and disappear around the corner. To his side he senses the anxious shifting of another person; he instantly knows it's Hanji by the way she reflexively moves to sit beside him, almost apologetically. "Are you OK?" He asks before she can say anything, adjusting himself against the wall so he isn't putting so much weight onto his chest and isn't bent so awkwardly.
"Physically, yes. Mentally, no. Emotionally, definitely not."
He finds her side and leans against her shoulder to reduce the pain on one half of his body. She smells like blood, vanilla, and sweat, typical of someone who's been in the field for so long (minus the vanilla. He would be the laughing stock of the squad if anyone told him he smelt like anything other than hard work and swelling pride). Absolutely filthy… "You're a shitastic soldier, you know that right?"
She sighs under her breath. "Yeah…"
"Good. And now that we've established this… I'm not exactly any better." She glances at him, but he doesn't notice because he's too visually impaired at the moment, so she settles again and allows him to continue without interruption. "I couldn't do anything to stop you from repeating what occurred ten years ago. I'll take the fall for that; kind of broke my promise when I said I wouldn't let it happen ever again."
Hanji clutches her arms with opposing hands. "I… I couldn't help it. The fear and the desire to kill were just consuming me. I'm so sorry, Levi." She turns her innocent carmine gaze to him. "It's hard to control her… do you think this might be because-?"
"Shut the fuck up." He winces at the tone he uses and becomes aware – by the way she whimpers like a startled, scolded puppy – that she's uncomfortable, guilty, and nervous again. "You're not your father," he continues, gentler this time, "so don't blame him for this. You are nothing like him and you will never be him. Take responsibility for your own actions and grow the fuck up." There was no need to sugar coat it, and she knows this, but she still bites back a sob and curls up, wishing the wall could swallow her forever. Sighing he adds, "Grown-ups don't cry, you know."
"I know," she concedes, touching the scars beneath her sleeve. "I'm sorry."
"And stop apologizing before I make you Titan bait."
"Wouldn't be the first time."
He doesn't like how she brings up flashbacks of their first mission so abruptly, but it is what it is and he can only resort to shaking them from his mind or – in case they are particularly overwhelming and it becomes increasingly more difficult to wipe the imaginary blood from his hands and from his face – pushing them into the farthest corner of his brain before changing the subject. "I think there might be one Titan still left around here in need of being captured."
Her cerise eyes widen and a smile returns to its rightful place on her lips. "And I have the perfect name for it too!" She leaps up and sprints off to find Eren or Mikasa or the new guy on the squad or some of the other Corps officers in the area screaming out something along the lines of "ELROY! KEEP ELROY ALIVE!" and Levi can only cradle his throbbing head and be thankful she didn't see the blood pooling from the break in his arm or the anxiety in his obsidian gaze.
He leans back and allows the rumbling of falling Titans to loll him into a much needed sleep.