CHAPTER 1: A SINGLE SLIP
Everyone was far from joyous after war had rippled humanity. No one could say what it was that they felt. But for sure, everyone was bathing in a momentary relief. The Titans once feared were gone, many soldiers gone as well, and soon the walls would follow. As a great wave of tears blinded the citizens, having lived like birds in cages for centuries, no one could express their gratitude to all of those who had died in the horrific battle having ensued a month before. Now, everything had finally settled down. Yet even with only half of their luggage undone, the legion scouts unbuckled themselves from their usual strain and began a celebration like there was no tomorrow.
"And then it swung at me! I jumped up and shot out my gear just in time to swoop off its neck!" shouted one of the soldiers at the table with head shaved crisp and jubilant.
"Seriously though, you almost got our gears intertwined. If you hadn't been such an idiot…," trailed off another from across the bench.
His choppy light brown hair ruffled about as he frowned at the bald man. The two continued to exchange word until an elegant raven head approached them with two other individuals trailing behind. Seating themselves down, the new trio joined in on the conversation of the duo already seated at the table.
"Yo! Man! Where is everyone?" shouted the bald soldier.
"Shut it, Connie," growled the taller man that had been seated with him.
His ears would bleed soon enough from the way the wonderful Buddha boy sung like there was no tomorrow.
"Come on, Jean. It's finally over, right?" interjected one of the three that had just seated themselves.
Armin's large blue eyes and bobbed cut bangs gave off a gentle air into the conversation. However, Jean simply grunted in response. He looked up slowly at the female fighter who had seated herself next to the bob head. Her dark hair silhouetted her face just enough to create an air of mystery.
"I see that your hair grew longer, Mikasa," Jean complimented the soldier.
The woman turned around at the sound of his voice and smiled faintly, "Thanks."
But just as quickly as she had given him her attention, it swiftly went back to the darker brunet who was occupying the seat next to her.
"So…" Connie poked about his food tilting his head slightly as he continued, "What's up with Captain Levi? Did he patch things up? What's going to happen to you, Eren?"
The brunet looked away for a second before answering just as a certain southern girl joined the table, placing a plate of hot steaming potatoes and vegetables on the sturdy wooden surface.
"What's up?" the pony tailed girl grinned, her mouth stuffed with broccoli (most definitely stolen from the kitchen) as she seated herself.
Everyone knew that right after the battle, the Court had immediately summoned all of the titan shifters onto their ground and began determining just what they would do with their lovely war weaponry. Most of the towns folks wanted an end to the term "titan" all together, but little did they expect Levi and Erwin to state what they did on that day of judgment.
"I can't transform anymore."
Everyone's eyes grew big— especially Armin's and Mikasa's.
"What?!" shouted Jean, even he had been taken by surprise.
Although Eren and the tawny head had been on bad terms, the two's mutual hatred for each other had fueled a strong respect that no one could simply pluck at.
Eren looked at everyone with scrunched brows, "It's gone. All of it."
Mikasa spoke softly, "All of it? So… You can't…?"
The dark brunet nodded in response just to reassure his comrades, "I'm just a regular human being now. If I got injured, I'd die like everyone else."
Sasha spoke in between chewing, "What about Ymir, and the others though?"
"Same," Eren stated confidently.
Connie's brows scrunched together as he poked at Sasha's plate of food, "Nyeh… Why is that though? Did Hange do something to you guys?"
Eren frowned, "I highly doubt it, but Captain Levi and Commander Erwin were able to convince the court that we weren't a major threat. So... They let us go without any injuries. However…"
Mikasa nodded for him to go on.
"However, we're still on watch and I'll still need to be held in the dungeon for a while."
Mikasa and Armin stayed silent, their face unchanging. Both of them were unsatisfied with the court's final decision. However, they knew that it was useless to fight. Everyone at the table already understood. Without Levi and Erwin, the titan shifters would have most likely been dead or put into some sort of lab experiment for the sake of further study to preserve Humanity.
"Hey…" Armin suddenly spoke, "Shouldn't you go thank them?"
"Huh?" Eren responded, dumbfound.
Connie smirked, "Yeah! They risked their butts for you out there. You should at least give them something back in return."
Eren frowned, eyes brows knitting.
Hadn't he given back enough?
He had risked his life and all of his friends for the sake of "humanity" hadn't he?
But of course, when he thought back to it, his efforts had only been for one person.
He knew that no matter what, he could always justify that he had fought for Mikasa and Armin- which he had. But deep down, wasn't it Eren, alone, that wanted to be with them? For sure, the two reciprocated the same feelings. But if Eren hadn't dreamed of the outside world, he wouldn't have gotten as far as he did as well. Well… No matter what, Eren did feel a bit guilty about the way he had been so rash at times as well almost killing some of his comrades in battle. His hit and miss moments had been plentiful, and the two head masters had been there to see him through it all.
As time trailed by, the conversation was dropped due to other soldiers coming into the cafeteria. Sasha was already passing the drinks around. Getting a hold of a jug of beer, Eren remembered when he was fifteen. Everything had been basically "illegal" for him. Even so, he had already bypassed some of those "illegal" doings seeing as he had killed a man or two at a rather young age. Now he was twenty five and no one was going to stop him from having a little booze with his friends. Taking a sip Eren frowned slightly. The dark brunet didn't necessarily like the taste of beer, but it was nice to take a jug of it once in a while. Just like how coffee was sometimes preferred black.
Bringing his attention back to his friends, the green eyed ex-shifter made small talk with the other soldiers to bypass the time. As word and food continued to circulate around the table, Eren spotted Captain Levi and Commander Erwin sitting at another bench occupied with higher matters. Their faces were flawless as they went about conversing with the other soldiers stationed higher than Eren and his friends. Eren knew that his life hung on the two older men. They were what kept him alive and away from the court scoundrels that threatened to end him. Eren turned away from watching them and went back to joking about with his friends.
At some point, the group lost count of how long they had been at the table. Everyone was starting to get woozy from having too much to drink and eat. Eren knew he probably shouldn't have drank with Jean when the two started fighting and decided to go head to head in a drinking contest. Mikasa had warned Eren before she had left to tend to a scuffle outside of the cafeteria that she didn't want him bed ridden the following day. And although Armin had tried to reassure that he would watch out for his thick headed friend, Mikasa hadn't been convinced as she had left the room.
Connie, though short in stature, had somehow managed to survive through the entire drinking rally and eventually pulled Jean away from the table. The choppy haired man could barely stand as he teetered in the bald soldier's arms. At his limit, Sasha suggested that he be taken to his room to retire for the night. Connie agreed and the two left the place, abandoning Armin, Sasha, and Eren to clear up the messy table. Just as Armin was finishing up wiping away at the wooden planks, Eren wobbled over to him after putting away the dishes.
"Heeey… You going to take a shower later?"
Armin didn't look up just as he completed a final swipe on the table, "Yeah... But you can go ahead. I'm still thinking about checking up on the library- Hange was telling me about something earlier in the kitchen."
"Okay then," sang Eren, completely oblivious to the other diners.
He was slightly nauseous, but he knew he would be alright. Unlike Jean, he hadn't completely drunk to his limit yet— only enough to get a buzzing sensation.
Just as Eren passed the door frame into the hallway, he was reminded of Commander Erwin and Captain Levi. He was supposed to thank them. Checking the time, Eren saw that it wasn't actually as late as he had thought. Perhaps the two were still awake doing paper work or something. The dark brunet didn't want to see the Commander and Captain in the state he was in, but he also didn't want to return to his dinky dungeon so soon. Well… Either he took a shower now and flew straight to bed, seeing as the shower was right above his sleeping quarter, or he could go thank his higher ups before going to bathe and sleep. The option of bathing first wasn't possible. He seriously was too lazy to clean himself up, come back to thank the Commander and Captain, and then go to bed. And besides… It would be quite late by then anyway. Heaving a sigh, the twenty five year old male did his best to prolong his travel so that he could postpone his arrival to bed as he headed towards the Captain and Commander's quarters. Just as Eren took a step up the stairs which lead to Levi's office, Annie passed by at that same exact moment bumping into him.
"Hey Eren," she greeted with a curt nod.
Eren waved at her just as the blonde continued to speak, "Hange wanted to see you tomorrow at lunch time. Says she's got some plans for everyone."
Everyone— which meant the ex-titan shifters.
"Oh…," responded Eren.
The green eyed man knew that Hange had been in deep despair the moment she had discovered that the titan shifters were no longer able to change to man eating monsters. Hange must have most definitely plunged at the discovery and begun digging into reasons why.
"Training ground then?" Eren quirked an eyebrow.
"Yeah," spoke the blonde.
"Okay, I'll be there then," Eren said reassuringly as he could; hopefully his speech wasn't slurring without his own noticing.
Annie smiled as a response— slightly leaning towards a smirk and continued to walk on pass, joining in with other soldiers of different ranking at the end of the hall.
Eren took his time walking up the creaking stairs that lead to the offices of the other captains. He passed by Captain Levi's room and knocked a few times. However, it seemed that either no one was in, or Levi was ignoring him. Eren looked down at the floor, eyeing the crack of the door to see if there was any light just to make sure that his keeper wasn't pulling his leg. Disappointed to see that there was no bright ray shining down onto the wooden planks, Eren moved on to Erwin's office. Incidentally, Erwin's office was separated rather far from the rest of the higher ranked soldier's rooms. Perhaps it was because Commander Erwin dealt with much more serious and complicated matters that required additional privacy.
Eren continued to climb the set of stairs until he finally made it to the top where his feet met the entrance to a short passage way. Heaving himself up, the dark brunet pulled himself together. He was going to thank Commander Erwin, and perhaps Captain Levi if he was also there, and then retire for the night. The green eyed soldier had gained his composure to some degree from the exercise up the stairs. Although still under a happy buzz, Eren hoped to himself that he didn't look like too much of an utter fool seeing as he had just left dinner. The brunet could see that the entrance to Erwin's office was open slightly ajar. If the two head masters weren't in there, someone had to be. Eren approached the door. Reaching out an arm, the man allowed for his knuckles to lightly knock on the mahogany surface of the office's entrance.
There was no answer.
Eren reached for the handle of the door and pushed it open.
Perhaps his knock hadn't been loud enough?
As Eren looked around, he could make out the shape of a rather large desk in the middle of the room. A small lamp, dimly lit, was placed at the right corner of the wooden structure. The yellow rays weakly uncovered the form of a twin sized bed at the junction of the chamber. Looking around, Eren took in the fact that the space was rather large— at least compared to the teeny lodgings that were given to the soldiers to sleep in. Realizing that he was gawking about in Erwin's office, he regained his self-control.
Erwin was in his office alright…
He had his head on his desk, shoulders slumped, and was most likely asleep. Well, Eren guessed he would have to wait till tomorrow then. The ex-shifter was about to turn around and exit when his foot stepped on one of the floor boards which gave a loud creak.
"Oh," the Commander stated in surprise as he lifted his head up sluggishly, "I… expected you. Close the door and sit down."
Eren slowly turned around like a criminal caught in a badly played out act. Erwin had expected him? The brunet didn't question the Commander though and did as he was told like any obedient soldier would. Pushing the door firmly shut, Eren took a few steps toward the older man.
"Sir, I—" but the ex-shifter was unable to finish his sentence as he realized just how pale the older man before him looked. Erwin's eyes were vacant, and his hands were nervously tapping at the corner of the desk in which he was seated.
"Um… Sir? Are you alright?" the brunet continued to inquire as he took a few more steps towards the blond veteran, "You look a bit… pale."
"Ah… Right," Erwin sighed heavily.
Suddenly the Commander stood up a bit too haste which made the legs of the wooden chair scrape the floor, discharging a rather unpleasant sound. Yet, when the older man finally stood up, Erwin walked rather slowly around the desk in order to meet with the younger subordinate. The Commander seemed rather aloof. As Eren watched Erwin's approach, the German male began to think of how to spell out his thank you to the older man. When the Commander was a good pace from where Eren stood, the brunet braced himself.
Eren gave a stern salute and spoke firmly, "I want to thank you and Captain Levi for all you both have done for me! I know I've caused a lot of trouble, but I'm very grateful to you both for keeping me alive up until now."
Erwin paused for a moment, lingering in front of Eren for a few seconds. Eren awaited for a response. Erwin smiled- Perhaps a smile that Eren had not been prepared for, because it was as if Erwin hadn't heard the ex-shifter's words at all.
Eren's form began to become small and he slightly slouched staring at the ground. Perhaps he had said something wrong? Or maybe Erwin didn't like being thanked so boldly?
The soldier's hands were clenched at his sides as he waited for the Commander to rebound his salute with words, but all he could hear was his own heartbeat drumming against his ears. Embarrassed and unable to stand the tension, Eren looked up just in time to see that Erwin was merely a finger's length away from him. The ex-shifter never realized how easily Erwin towered over the twenty five year old. Suddenly confronted, the brunet began to panic.
Taking a few steps back from the sudden closeness, the German male wavered, "C-commander Erwin?"
The brunet was completely clueless to why his Commander was being so unresponsive. Eren felt as if the older man was trying to trap him into a corner. Afraid that perhaps the court had finally asked Erwin to rid the world of ex-titan shifters, Eren began to fasten his backward pace. Why else would have the blond Commander expected him? Unfortunately for the soldier, he forgot that they were in a room and not situated in an open outside environment. Within a few steps, Eren caught himself stuck between a wall and the older man. Eren's veins were throbbing at his neck, and he was ready to take flight. However, somewhere in the back of his head a small voice reminded him that Erwin was "on his side" just as Captain Levi was…
Erwin came closer to Eren, but seemingly didn't pull out a knife or anything to the younger man's relief. Instead, both of Erwin's hands came to settle onto Eren's shoulder eventually trailing slowly down to the brunet's elbows. The intimate gesture made Eren flinch involuntarily. Perhaps Eren's words had touched the Commander's heart? However, Eren's thoughts were cut off when the older man's larger hands came down onto the brunet's wrist. Suddenly the ex-titan shifter felt smaller than a fly under the older man's gaze. Was this Erwin's way of thanking him? The endless questions bubbled out of the younger man's brain. Eren was so confused, and all he could do in order to hide it was stare down at his feet.
"C-commander?" Eren squeaked out as he continued to stare at the fact that Erwin's hands were still on both of his wrists.
Erwin didn't answer as his palms began to slowly tighten around the German male's hands now placed between them. Eren was afraid to break the silence but knew that the tension was growing far too strong. The stillness felt as if it had stretched out forever and would continue to do so. Suddenly the subordinate felt the release of his hands. Relieved that he was now free, the younger man looked up.
Thinking that perhaps the Commander was done with his weird act, Eren continued, "Sir, did you hear me earlier?"
However, he was cut short by the older man— who's face came crashing down onto his own.
CHAPTER 2 PREVIEW:
The older man reeled himself back feeling a few loose buttons make it beneath his feet which were most likely from someone's uniform shirt.
Erwin's skin felt sticky and the air smelled of…