When Hanji Zoe is ten, she decides that she's sick of being a little boy.

It hadn't happened the way you pick a new hat or decide to wear your hair a different way, or rather closer to the way you would replace your pinchy, uncomfortable shoes that your mother made you wear when you were a child with the ones that you saw in the window of the store every day that slipped right on and let you walk comfortably.

The first person she tells is the florist down the street, Erika, a tall, blonde woman whose hair reaches her waist and who has all the curves and up-and-down body features that Hanji can only wish to have.

She comes into the shop crying, wrapped in her mother's shawl and quivering as though the wall had fallen and a titan had attacked "I d-d-don't...don't..." Hanji's breaths become shaky and she with every word she speaks. "I'm a girl! I d-don't...p-please don't hate me!"

And Erika had said without a moment of hesitation, "It's alright, Hanji. I understand. Listen to me, Hanji. There are a lot of flowers in the world, but there are also a lot of weeds. And every one of them is beautiful. But the thing is, Hanji, sometimes there are weeds that want to be flowers, and sometimes there are flowers that want to be weeds." Her fingers against Hanji's hair and the warm ba-bump of her heartbeat ceased the tears that were streaming out of her eyes.

Erika had sent her away with a bouquet of roses and the advice Be careful, Hanji. She tells Hanji that if she needs to talk, she is there.

Hanji had never spoken to her again since that day.

At first, she thinks that no one would notice.

Stuffing a few small pillows up her shirt doesn't change much, and her hair growing to shoulder-length is a small enough difference that it only gets a few strange looks. But it's the clothing that makes them stare.

She'd only bought a long skirt, the kind that the girls she sees jumping rope outside all the time wore that flew up and down and showed a sliver of bare leg in the breeze. The clerk raises his eyebrows at her and the shame that fills her chest is unlike anything she's ever felt before. It's the way people look at pets who had misbehaved and at convicts who'd stepped out of line.

But the feeling of the skirt around her legs is enough to make up for it. Every step Hanji takes felt like walking on air, like some sort of dreaming state that she'd entered and it felt wonderful because she finally feels like her.

And that's when the stone hits her.

The next few minutes are a blur of jeering voices and pain and her face turning red because suddenly the airy, light feeling is gone and she's carrying ten thousand stones inside her body and then it is ripping. The group of boys tear away at the dark blue fabric that had carried her out of the drab, dry world she is living in and before she knows it, her legs are exposed showing the lacy, girlish panties she'd acquired and everyone is laughing oh, god, her head hurts.

There are words like "trannie" and "he-she" and Hanji can't help it, a scream escapes her mouth. One of her attackers grabbed her glasses and smashed them on the cobblestones and she screams and screams and screams some more.

And no one, not one neighbor or passerby, says anything to stop it.

Hanji Zoe is dead set on going to a place where nobody knew her.

Every library or bookstore or flower shop or grocery has some taint, some leftover of the constant taunting and the disapproving looks from her parents and the way mothers directed their children away from her on the street. And nowhere is safe. Everywhere could be another one of the ripping clothes and the insults and the glares.

So it is only natural that she'd join the Scouting Legion.

It's danger and adventure and new people and new places and no one would look at what is between her legs or question why her chest is lumpy but her face looks like a pubescent boy's.

No one noticed her when she left, and Hanji thinks that maybe it's better that way.

The Scouting Legion is full of yelling and pushing and lots of ups and downs and loud noises and everything that her small street of shops hadn't been. There are boys who looked like girls and girls who looked like boys and people with freckles and pointy noses and tan skin and everyone is different and it's wonderful and there is a swelling in her chest that felt almost like pride.

When Rivaille pushes her up against the wall and kisses her and moves his hands up and down her sides there's something in her veins that wakes up and starts a firework show in her heart. It's pain and pleasure and god, it feels beautiful.

But then he's taking off her clothes, removing the viridian cloak and the jacket and that firework show turns into a forest fire and she thinks that her heartbeat will burst out of her chest like a raven and caw, caw, caw again and again and again.

When her shirt is gone, Rivaille stops, and his hands drop from her body.

"Hanji."

The tissue stuffed in her lacy, pale pink lingerie is showing right through and a sick feeling rises in her throat and what was a perfect, perfect night turns into a bad dream.

"Hanji, I understand." His monotonous, perpetually bored tone has what sounds like a hint of kindness in it and Hanji all of the sudden is crying. "Don't cry." He puts a hand on her head, ruffling her mane of chestnut-colored hair.

"Y-you...I-I..." It's just like the flower shop again, but this time Rivaille doesn't rock her back and forth or whisper kind things to her. He presses a kiss on her forehead and then turns around to leave.

"It's alright."

Later, Rivaille says kind things to her when she's afraid and motivates her to keep on going a little bit longer, but he never touches her like that again.

Hanji Zoe is not afraid.

She is a lot of things. She's broken in a lot of places and there are parts of her that she wants to rip out and tear away, but she is not afraid. She's the bouncy, energetic, interested girl who her subordinates look up to and who her comrades value and sometimes, just sometimes when the wind is blowing in the right direction and the stars are in the right place, it doesn't matter what's underneath her clothes.


i claim no ownership to shingeki no kyojin