Summary: "When we love we tend to disregard ourselves in favour of caring for someone else." ― Neither Annie nor Eren had expected to take the fall that is loving a person, but in the damp walls of Annie's prison cell they find that there might be something worth more than anything they ever fought for.
Spoiler Warning: Though I'm ignoring the canon plot from chapter 34 onwards, I'm including the factor revealed in chapter 42, so if you haven't read that you're in for spoilers.
Notes: This story unexpectedly grew from a one-shot. The prologue and the first 5 chapters are revised versions of the original first few chapters and partly went through some sever editing before being re-uploaded. (I combined some of the chapters for various reasons.)
Random updates on my writing process can be found here: leviplease,tumblr,com/tagged/aus-writing (Replace the commas with dots for the link to work.)
Recommendation: If you haven't read them already, you should definitely have a look at chapters 17, 31-33 and the first few pages of chapter 34 of the manga. Those are the basis of this story and they have been altered in the anime adaption. So honestly, read them and pay attention to how Annie and Eren interact and I think it will add to your reading experience with this story.
An Unbearable Sight
Prologue: Eyes filled with Hurt
She was defeated. With its arms torn off, the huge body she possessed was slumped to the ground. Unable to move by the weight of another titan pressing it down, she could only hold out inside it as countless people from the Scouting Legion were swarming towards her. There was no point in even trying to push her titan form any further – it was only useless flesh now. It was the last shelter she had from this cruel world – and they were cutting into it, tearing through the chunks of flesh on her neck in which her real body was preserved.
Annie didn't know what was worse: that she had failed in fulfilling her mission to take Eren, or that she had failed to escape over the wall. The memory of Mikasa cutting off her fingers on both hands so she could no longer cling to the wall shot through her mind again. And the thought of those merciless eyes when her former comrade from the 104th training squad had told her to fall still made the hair on the back of her neck stand on edge.
They'd never gotten along very well in their training days, but now Annie was sure that Mikasa downright resented her. The dark haired girl being weirdly overprotective of Eren – the very person Annie had attempted to kidnap – it wasn't really surprising. But compared to her affectionate and caring behaviour towards her childhood friend, the cruelty she could show towards others was astounding. Annie seriously wished to never have to face that cold-hearted girl again.
Fresh air approached her as they tore open the muscle of her titan form to retrieve her real body. She was so numb and exhausted from fighting and running in that huge body that she was still tied up to. And even if she could've moved, what would've been the point of fighting back when their numbers were so high and she was so weak?
Still, she was scared of facing them. The blood of their comrades was on her hands – she was well aware of that – why should they have any mercy for her. She had squashed their friends like insects, why should they do any less to her.
Huge fingers gripped her, ripping her out of the last bit of shelter she had left. Eren had her in his grasp and she found it hard to breathe even though her face was now freed from the titan flesh and her lungs had full access to air again. Half of her wanted to close her eyes, so she wouldn't have to see what was coming for her, but the darkness behind her eyes scared her now more than ever.
Tears ran down her cheeks as she desperately tried to think of a way out, the words of her father from long ago echoing in her ears. He had asked her to treat the whole world as her enemy and told her that he'd be always on her side. And he had made her promise to come back to him one day, and she really had intended to. She had wanted to survive, not only for her own sake, but also for her father's sake. And so far she had managed to. This time however she had run out of options.
As soon as Mikasa had sent her falling, Annie had known she had lost. Unlike that time in the forest of giant trees, there were no titans anywhere that she could call to devour her titan body, while she made her escape in the turmoil of it. And where would she run off to anyway? They knew her face now.
Her feet hit the ground as Eren put her down. Only now did she notice how shaky and weak her legs were. She would surely fall to her knees, if it wasn't for the huge hand of Eren's titan body which refused to let her go. Somehow she was glad about the warmth of his steaming fingers that engulfed her. But life soon left those limbs and she knew that he as well was releasing control of his titan body, leaving the massive limbs to slowly dissolve from their heat.
Members of the Scouting Legion approached her, tearing off the motionless titan fingers that enclosed her body and seizing her. She struggled, however with little effect – her body was currently far too weak for her to put much effort into resisting.
The hands grabbing her restrained her. They were way too close, she just wanted to shake them off, but it was no good. Her body was so tired she could barely hold herself upright on her own anyway. So she gave in to the enemy closing in on her and tried not to think too much about what was awaiting her in their custody.
The tears had dried up. All that was left for her was an indistinct emptiness and her heavy breathing. Her skin was almost numb to the touch of the scouts confining her. Their voices were far off and barely reached her ears as her gaze aimlessly wandered past them.
And then she saw him. Lying in Armin's arms, he seemed as exhausted as she felt after manoeuvring the huge body dissolving nearby. But still he was looking at her with these wide amber eyes of his – just the way he had looked at her right before she had transformed into her titan form. Why was he looking at her like that? What was it with this guy and his big earnest eyes? If only he would stop.
Eren struggled to get up, barely breaking eye contact with her. Armin seemed to argue with him to stay put, but the brown-haired boy did not listen. Keeping his eyes fixed on his target, he started to move towards her.
Annie wanted to turn away. She wanted to avoid directly facing him a second time even more than she wanted to avoid his gaze. But she could not even avert her eyes from his green irises. Somehow they had trapped her gaze and she could only stare at him with unease as he approached slowly, getting steadier and steadier on his own feet again.
"Why?" he exclaimed as he was yet a few steps away from her. Someone called his name – maybe Mikasa – but he ignored whoever it was, as his hands pushed passed Annie's many guards and grabbed her by her shoulders.
"Why would you do that?" he repeated – louder this time – and shook her.
Even if she wanted to, Annie could not answer. The scene left her dumbstruck and horrified at once. His voice sounded so desperate, like she had never heard it before and- where those tears in his eyes? Why was he crying now? Why was he crying while saying her name?
She was barely aware that her mouth was gaping open. It hardly mattered though given the fact that she struggled to comprehend what was happening before her eyes right now.
Was he crying because of her and what she had done, or was he crying for her? But that was ridiculous. Why would he be crying for her? Why would he – the boy that had exclaimed so many times without hesitation that he would kill all the titans – cry for her – the girl who had come for him transformed into a titan and had killed several of his comrades in her attempt to capture him. To him surely her actions must seem more treasonous than to anyone else here.
And yet she could not detect any resent in his earnest eyes, only the desperate sadness and the question how things could have come to this. Eren sure was special. Even the goodhearted Armin now looked at her like she was a traitor – well, to them she was just that after all – but not Eren. What an idiot. Or maybe fool was closer to it.
His honest idiocy had actually started to fascinate her a while back. It had been clear to Annie that their diverse mind-sets made it feel like they were living in two worlds that were completely different from each other. And in some way she had wanted to test him with his ideas of how things worked and show him a bit of her world. That had been very likely one of the main reasons she had offered to teach him some of her hand-to-hand combat skills.
Now she wondered if she just should've stayed away from him with that naïve attitude towards life he displayed despite the things he had apparently gone through. Maybe then it wouldn't pain her so much to face him right now, to see him cry because of her. Maybe then it wouldn't freeze her to the spot. Yes, maybe, just maybe.
Scouts were still all around, some of them standing close by trying to break them apart. But Eren refused to let go of her shoulders. Did he really await an answer of her? What was he expecting to hear? That it was all a misunderstanding? No, it surely wasn't, there was no denying the facts.
He seemed to realise. His fingers loosened up and slid from her shoulders as he slowly gave in to the people ushering him away. It felt like a final goodbye, though none of them was able to bid the other farewell. Eren just silently turned from her and for some reason it saddened Annie more than anything she could've ever imagined.
"Eren- I'm sorry," she hadn't even known she was about to say these words, before they were out. He froze and looked back at her in surprise.
"I'm sorry, I can't tell you what you want to hear," she specified. Yet actually she was sorry for everything. But most of all she was sorry that she wasn't able to stay with him and they could never try to be friends. So far she hadn't even known for herself, but now she felt it all so clearly.
Eren gulped visibly, yet he didn't say anything. Maybe he was grasping what she had left unsaid, but maybe he just didn't know what to make of her words. During their time together in the 104th training squad, she had had the impression that he often was a bit slow on the uptake. And then again, sometimes he had surprised her by comprehending more than she had expected of him.
He really was one of a kind.
The scouts holding her were growing impatient. Eren and Annie shared one last look before she was dragged away to her unavoidable fate. His gaze was hefted to her back until she was out of sight, oblivious to the tears that were welling up in her eyes again.