Disclaimer: I own Shingeki no Kyo- *gets spun around by Titan!Annie via 3DMG*
A/N: First of all, thank you for all the follows, faves and reviews. They keep me going. You guys are wonderful. ;A;
I updated. Yay. Sorry for the long wait, but I did inform everyone that I update really slow, so... Um, anyway, enjoy!
Die Flügel der Freiheit
Chapter 2: Strength in Vulnerability, Vulnerability in Strength
She knew, the moment she laid eyes upon him, that he was perfect. Her tears came unbidden—she couldn't be happier to hold him in her arms like this, heart full to bursting with love only she could give. She gazed upon his eyes, the verdant gems so bright and precious, as they opened to a world too tainted to deserve something so brilliantly beautiful. She took in the dark chocolate of his hair, its colour as rich as the confection she'd only ever tasted once before. She traced the smooth expanse of skin gently, almost afraid of breaking something so fragile even with the slightest of touches. She ran her fingers from the sides of his face, to his rosebud lips, to his delicate chin then down to the shoulders she was sure would one day be stronger than anything else. She held him close to her bosom, her hand on his back, stroking the soft—
The bliss on her adoring face melted away into horror.
'No… No! Nononononononono!' she thought, pain and agony encompassing her rapidly paling face, eyes widening as she took in every detail, her fears confirmed by the existence of the appendages she found on her little boy's back: the limbs whose existence elicited both pride and a hollow anticipation of oncoming loss.
Her heart broke at the revelation, yet she couldn't but stare in wonder and awe at the tiny wings, the downy feathers so soft and delicate, almost glowing ethereally in the sparse candlelight illuminating the room. So intent was her gaze that she did not notice her husband coming closer until he lightly touched her shoulder.
She looked up at him, her conflicting emotions reflected in her eyes.
"Please," she begged, "I just had him. Please don't take him away! Not there!" The desperation bled into her hoarse voice, evidence of the hours and hours of harsh labour she endured to bring this amazing miracle to life.
"No!" she sobbed, her grip on his wrist an iron vise. "I've never asked you for anything…. Please, I beg you, if nothing else, give me this… I'll never ask for anything more! I can't—I just… I just had him…" She was breaking.
She suddenly let go of her husband, wrapping herself around her baby instead, as if willing the child to once more become a part of herself to shield him from prying eyes that weren't even there.
Her husband knelt at her bedside, gathering his family in a protective embrace. He swallowed painfully. He couldn't stand to see her this way, and he would be lying if he said that he didn't feel the same. All his efforts, all his abilities, all his life had been dedicated to serve Humanity! Couldn't he be allowed one small selfishness?—he looked on as the little wings fluttered, seemingly sensing the distress in the air—except that this was no small thing.
Not when his son's wings were like this.
He slowly exhaled through his nose, gathering his scattered thoughts to a point of deadly focus. His actions from here on out would be tantamount to nothing less than treason. There would be no room for mistakes.
"You know I'll only be able to buy us some time," he whispered next to her ear, "Sooner or later he will want to be there. They all will, especially him. It's in his blood." A lengthy silence… And then, "It has been written."
"I know." She shook harder, stifling her cries. "Please."
He nodded his assent, eyes never leaving his son's ivory wings that would soon be no more.
He knew, the moment he laid eyes upon him, that he was broken. He stayed still as can be while he resisted the urge to move, to twitch, to do anything—mind rapidly being filled by scenarios of possible events, actions and reactions way before they even occur (if they ever do). He met the wary gaze, the gray storms shining dangerously as they judged all of his tells, trying to decipher his intentions. He took in the black of his hair, its darkness standing out even against the shadows that surrounded them. He held his hand out slow and steady, almost afraid of scaring away something so wild and untamed even with the barest of movements. Still holding the hard stare, he appraised the other, noting how it was that each part of the boy's body was at the ready— from his piercing eyes to the thin line of his mouth, then to the shoulders that he would make sure to make strong enough to be able to carry the weight of the world, down to the sharp-looking tips of those wings whose feathers glinted like tempered steel would at night.
"You're wounded," he said, careful to keep eye contact, "I only want to help you, I promise."
The boy's form remained unmoved, his distrustful eyes ever so vigilant. A moment passed. Two. Three. Perhaps it was because his gaze never wavered, or maybe the other was just in that much pain; but whatever the reason, the boy slowly approached him, blatantly ignoring his outstretched hand. He let it fall back to his side.
"What do you want?"
He was startled by the question. It must have shown on his face because the boy spoke again.
"Everybody always wants something."
He sighed. So it's that way, huh? It couldn't be helped then. He had to come clean. These types will never take bullshit they could smell a mile away.
"I want you to enlist in the military and become Humanity's Strongest." Like you're meant to, he mentally added.
Another long pause passed between them. The boy's face was devoid of emotion. And then…
A mixture of relief and sudden tiredness washed over him, but paid it no mind. An objective has been met, but they were still at the beginning.
At least we'll have more of a fighting chance now, he thought.
They walked through the side alleys and made their way to the Headquarters in a stifling silence. He led the young man through the barracks and straight to the medical bay. The door was open but he knocked anyway.
"Dr. Jäger? I have a patient for you."
The doctor looked up as they approached, his eyes widening at the sight of the new recruit's wings. He ushered the patient to the nearest bed and drew the curtains around them. He made quick work of assessing the damage. The newly-promoted commander raised an eyebrow. The boy gave no sign of being wary of the doctor, not even flinching when the latter touched his wings without asking. A far cry from just some time ago.
"It's not as bad as it looks. Your left wing is slightly dislocated, but at least there are no fractures. There are some open wounds, but nothing we can't fix. I'll just have to reset your carpal joint and bind it up in a cast. You won't be able to use it for a while. "
He took hold of the bones he was going to set. "This will hurt. At the count of three." He snapped the bones together at the joint at 'two', and the only indication that the boy felt something remotely recognizable as pain was a barely-seen twitch of his eyebrow. The doctor's apologetic smile as he bound the appendage was ignored, and the disinfecting of the flesh wounds was a silent affair.
He was offered pain killers, but he refused them all. He simply laid himself down on his stomach, turned his head away and closed his eyes.
The adults left at the rather rude dismissal, allowing the young one to rest as they moved away from the infirmary. They ventured outside and stopped at a fairly isolated tree. Dr. Jäger removed his spectacles and rubbed at his eyes, but not before wiping his sweaty and slightly shaking hands in his pockets. Erwin Smith leaned against the trunk.
"I found him in the slums. Other winged children ambushed him by throwing rocks. I intervened before he could retaliate. He would have killed them all. I saw it in his eyes." He paused, allowing Grisha to absorb the information. "They were making fun of him for being an orphan; and then condemned him for the colour of his wings."
Children can be a lot crueler than adults. He hated this human attitude of ganging up on the… different, despite never receiving such treatment himself. Erwin glanced at his own dirty blond feathers. He was one of the normal ones, after all. Gathered together, they would be a sea of mere brown and blond, with an occasional reddish hue blended in. Nothing at all like those of the boy they left alone.
"He will be Humanity's Strongest," Grisha looked away, his voice dull, "It has been written."
Erwin hummed in response, eyes fixed on the ebony feather in his hand.
A/N: There. The second chapter. Um, I know I promised a lot of info here, but it didn't quite fit with what had to happen, so I had to redraft where everything is supposed to be. Sorry. As always, feedback would be very much appreciated. Please feed the author. ^_^
And oh! Here's my reply to Boxenofdonuts, my unsigned reviewer: Thank you! I'm glad you liked it. I hope you liked this chapter too. ^_^