If you're alright with sexually explicit stuff you can find the link to my AO3 on my profile. I'm under the same pen name.

(apparently I can't put up bloody links on ffnet)

If you're not feel free to continue reading here.

It came as no surprise that Levi and Mikasa were the only two who attended the burial. They stayed through the entire ceremony, silently watching as every shovel of soil tucked Sophia neatly underneath their feet, every soft scrape both grating and soothing.

They left the burial late afternoon, leaving a small bunch of flowers the exact shade of Sophia's eyes, a cut spool holding the stems together awkwardly.

They mounted their horses, their pace slow and measured as they wound their way back home. Her head was no longer bandaged and most of his own bandages were gone also—but their bodies were still tender, bruises running deep into the muscle and perhaps that was the reason their pace was so leisurely.

Or perhaps, she admitted to herself, seeing him painted gold in the dying rays of sun, his hair windswept and in bad need of a proper haircut and clothes in slight disarray—was something she wanted to relish for as long as he'd allow it.

Mikasa would almost think the combination of the lonely stretch of road and colorful sunset would have bordered on romantic if they weren't so heavy, bones cracked and fractured with bitterness and regret.

About midway into their trek home Levi broke the thick silence, surprising her. "I've known Sophia for most of my life." He paused, as if wasn't sure if he should continue. "I met her when I was just a boy."

Mikasa watched his expression carefully, waiting for him to unlock his own chains, encouraging him with her silence.

"I broke into her place on a cold night. It was one of the worst snow storms of the winter and I was usually good with finding a place to stay but they were all cramped with the other rift raft that lived on the streets. I knew Sophia didn't always stay in her shop, that she had another home. I was cold and filthy enough to risk it." A bitter smile touched his mouth, the sunlight deepening the stormy blue of his eyes. "I slept full and warm and I woke with her beating me blind."

He lifted his head into the breeze that passed over them. "She tried to take me in but I never had any of it. Neither did she try very hard. I was too much work." He shrugged. "She'd give me a spare shirt or jacket every now and then, sew up the holes I always made in them, taught me how to sew a thing or two myself." He touched his cravat lightly, and though he did not say it she knew it was a token of their relationship.

Mikasa had always wondered about the life Levi had lived when he was younger, had heard only rumors of its darkness. Claude had only been a glimpse of it and she had not pressed for details in their moments alone together. She did not need them. "Brave of her, then." She murmured quietly.

Levi's gaze lowered. "I told her associating with me could be disastrous for her but she always said she was too old for anyone to hurt her. Idiot, really."

Levi continued to prattle on, telling her small stories of her unorthodox methods of caring for him—and while he said them with disparage she knew that these small charities had struck him deeply as a bereft child, that he had carried that gratitude with him as he'd become a man. She knew that all of it had made her death all the more painful.

"I knew," He finally finished, voice as tight as his clenched fists, reins wrapped about his knuckles tightly. "I knew that I risked her life—her family's—every time I sought her." His gaze was clouded, inverted, lost within a bitter memory. "I was selfish."

She didn't comfort him, perhaps because the way he spoke his words, tone brimming with bitterness—regret etched across his features—spoke not only of Sophia's death but of many others, of names she'd never know of.

"How's your arm?" He asked suddenly, clearing his throat. "And your head?"

She looked down to her arm, clenching her fist and bending her elbow experimentally. "It's fine. My head…" She looked back up, straight ahead. "I've healed fine." He'd often asked for her health and she found the repetition slightly irritating. If anything had really bothered her it had been the pain in her ear that had plagued her the nights after the incident with Claude—but it had waned enough.

Levi kept his gaze on her arm and shoulder, eyes trailing up and watching her expression carefully. "That brick was for me."

She recalled the boy, the looks from the crowd, the odd sense of protectiveness that had welled up within her. She'd constantly told herself that she could only feel those things for Eren and Armin but her body had proven her wrong time and time again; moving to save Sasha, Historia, countless others—and now Levi.

Perhaps…perhaps she was not as pitiless as she'd made herself to be.

Perhaps neither of them really was, even if heartless was what they were very well capable of.

"It was for the both of us." There was one question however, that had refused to fade away, pushing at her insides until she gave it voice. "Claude…" She saw him tense, asking the question anyway. "Are you angry that I killed him?"

His mouth pressed together. "No. Claude was…" His horse shifted warily, as if sensing his unease. "Claude was like me, then, a child doing what he had to do to survive. I might have ended up like him if Erwin hadn't caught me."

She pondered his answer, wondering how things would have wound up if it had been Levi who had been the leader of the thugs instead of Claude, a life where she had never known him. She wondered if he would have wound up dead at her hand if they'd met on that street, and she would have never been the wiser.

The thought troubled her more then she knew it could.

It made her realize that, despite the friction between them, she was grateful for his presence in her life. That he had not been left to rot on the streets—that he'd taken her under his wing and found her worth his time and effort and training.

Mostly, she was grateful to be able to call herself his comrade.

They were not, however, quite friends.

"As long as you're fully healed for our next mission." He glanced down at his own bruised hands. "I don't want to pick up your slack again."

She bit back her smile, tugging her scarf up over her mouth as the wind picked up.

They reached the castle at nightfall, swiftly giving the horses food and drink, the breeze chilling them to the bone as they stepped inside. It was dark, a mostly melted candle lit by the doorway. They made their way down the hall silently until they reached his bedroom door.

She should have continued onwards to her bedroom and down the hall but she felt curiously rooted to the spot, watching his pale fingers circle the knob of his bedroom door and hold still.

He had not touched her since that night at Sophia's, since the night they'd curled together in their jail cell—had not so much as hinted at wanting to touch her. She had not been able to focus much on that part of their relationship, either—perhaps only at night, when she was alone and her bare skin was pressed to the cool sheets, reminding her of a much rougher and warmer touch.

She'd grown comfortable with his presence, with his mannerisms and way of thinking but she knew a baser part of herself had wanted to learn him in different ways. She'd felt the lick of heat flare up her stomach often enough; when he brushed against her, when his eyes dropped to her mouth, when his tone deepened and he mussed his hair, the scent of him clean and heady.

"I can make you feel good. I want to feel every inch of you. I want you to feel me."

Mikasa built her resolve, ignoring the way her insides jangled. "I can stay, Levi."

"Whether you can ignore everything and everyone, whatever everyone else might think, is up to you and you alone. As long as you're sure you won't regret your choice."

She clenched her jaw, the words bubbling up past her lips willfully, falling between them, stilted and wooden. "I can stay. With you." She licked her lips, feeling curiously breathless, palms damp. "Tonight."

She saw him freeze, felt his gaze touch over her in brief surprise—and then he looked away, back to his hand gripping the knob.

"Mikasa…" Levi murmured.

She held her breath. Ask me. Ask me to stay. "Yes?"

He paused for just a moment too long. "Good night."

She kept her expression still as stone. He'd…changed his mind, then. She nodded curtly, pulling away, already numb. "Good night, Levi."

She walked away, pretending she didn't hear the way his breath caught.

"Do I know you?" She'd asked him curiously, dark eyes sparkling prettily in the fading sunlight.

Levi felt uncharacteristically shaky, licking his lips before speaking. "No."

She tilted her head in confusion, her pretty black hair slipping over her thin shoulder, giving him the look older women gave children who looked frightened or lost. "Is there something else you need?"

"I…" He couldn't find his voice, didn't seem to know how to tell her what he'd been meaning to for months now.

But it was simple, wasn't it?

He'd finally mustered the courage to speak to her. Speak he would—he had to. He lifted his gaze and suddenly she was gone, a bloody smear upon the ground where she'd just stood and he knew, he knew—

Levi woke in the middle of the night, trembling and choking on his own spit. He struggled to sit up, kicking the sheets away and pressing his bare feet over the rough floorboards. He dragged his hands over his face, willing the nightmares away, could still feel the slickness of the blood between his fingers.

He breathed, slowly, deeply, tried to remember other things; the cracks and pops of the gear as he flew through the air, the clean smell outside the walls, the slosh of soapy water as it ran down grimy windows and the taste of black tea.

He breathed through his nose, swallowing, letting his mind wander into other thoughts.

The feel of her open mouth, the softness of her hair and how lovingly her thighs had cradled his hips, the power of her body begging to be tested against his. She could swallow him whole, he could drown in her, and he was so used to being the one who did the devouring he wasn't sure he'd be able to crawl back from it.

You should tell her, Levi. Tell her now before it goes any further.

She'd asked him to be noble and it had been that that had prevented him from tugging her towards him, prevented him from dragging her onto his bed, from coaxing her open for him then and there.

But he couldn't keep away. Not now, not when he needed her the most. She wouldn't forgive him, wouldn't hesitate to cut him out completely. Mikasa was loyal down to her bones and she would not forgive betrayal, had never forgiven it. After discovering the shifters among their midst—Annie, Reiner, Bertolt, Ymir—Mikasa had been ready to cut them down, had cut Annie down and almost brought down Reiner and Bertolt. And, if the reports were true, had been willing to strike even Ymir.

He saw it in how long she'd clung to her anger after he'd beaten Eren, in how she'd vowed to harm him for hurting him—she did not forgive easy.

She would not forgive him at all.


There were too many tethers, too many reasons why he should keep his hands off of her, why he shouldn't think of her, want her the way he did—but none of them seemed to matter in the face of their circumstances, in the ugliness of the deaths that surrounded them.

He'd never been one to be cling to righteous morals, either.

Moments of beauty, he recalled bitterly, removing the remaining bandages around his chest with shaky hands.

He wondered if he could have one.

Mikasa woke feeling someone in her bedroom.

She had good instincts, always had, and she knew who it was even before she opened her eyes and found him perched beneath her window upon the ground. His pale night shirt was mostly unbuttoned, hanging loosely from his broad shoulders, his elbows propped on his raised knees. His hair looked damp and disheveled, several locks of it falling over his brow, curtaining the blue eyes that were watching her intently.

"You're awake." He murmured, his voice thicker than usual.

She slid to the side of her bed, tugging the sheets away from her, asking without preamble. "Why are you here?"

He pressed his lips together in displeasure but had he really expected any less? "You know why I'm here."

She tilted her chin up a little, dark eyes glinting beneath the moonlight eerily. She stayed stubbornly silent, demanding a verbal answer from him. She'd offered to stay just hours earlier and he'd denied her—but he'd crawled back, and she would have nothing but his complete surrender.

He was just broken enough to give it to her.

"I thought I could be noble." Levi looked away, his expression betraying the guilt he felt despite the nonchalance of his words. "But I want to stay." He let his eyes sweep the mostly bare room, her bed, a nightstand, her scarf hung over the back of a chair. "With you." He looked to her now, holding her gaze steadily. "In your bed. If you'll have me."

She said nothing, only watched him for several drawn out moments, letting the tension climb until he was half sure she'd tell him to get out—and then she rose, walking towards him silently.

She wore an artless pale gown that hung loosely off her shoulders, a tiny row of buttons lining down the front, the fabric snowy and thin enough to be slightly sheer. She crouched before him, her hands brushing his away as he reached for her.

He frowned, her fingers beginning to slowly unbutton his shirt, tugging it off his shoulders with precise, practical movements. "You're still hurt." Her cool fingers ran over his hard chest, fingers lingering over the long brutal lines they'd carved into him. She didn't quite say it with concern, said it more as an observation, a doubt.

He caught her wrists, her look of reluctance making him speak. "I'm fine."

She pressed the tips of her fingers into his ribs experimentally and he scowled, pulling her hands away. He licked his dry lips. "I'm well enough." He amended.

She didn't look very convinced—but he tugged her closer, pressing his mouth to hers, his eyes shutting as she slanted her mouth over his. He released her hands, his fingers slipping down her back and bunching her gown in his shaky grasp, lifting it up past the swell of her hips. Their hands moved over one another gently at first then more urgently, the moonlight bright upon their bruised and scarred skin, letting them hide nothing as they took from each other what they could.

He didn't know how long he stayed there, but before he knew it his eyes were shutting, his breathing deep and easy—until he felt her shift away.

She sat up, swinging her legs off the edge of the bed, pulling the sheet over her bare body.

He frowned, a little more than sluggish as he spoke. "Mikasa…"

She made to move away but he grabbed her elbow, holding her in place.

She stiffened and he rubbed his thumb over her skin soothingly, waiting until she relaxed before speaking. "I'll leave. This is your room, not mine."

She looked at him over her shoulder, nodding towards her gown on the ground. "I was going to get dressed."

He pressed his lips together, regretting having spoken as he released her. "You don't need it." It wasn't as if he was going to bother putting his clothes back on—at least not now that it didn't seem she wanted him to leave.

She ignored him, pulling it on and buttoning it quickly. Perhaps it was because she was younger and he wasn't exactly young himself but seeing how much energy she had left and how much he didn't soured his mood a little.

Or it would have if he wasn't so damned relaxed. She crawled back into the bed and he pulled the sheets over them, admitting to himself that knowing she'd stay beside him through the night made him feel much more at ease. He slid his hand beneath her gown and up her thigh, cupping her bare hip and shutting his eyes, the feel of her soft skin soothing him though his thoughts were restless.


He should tell her, he knew. But he didn't have to. When had he ever been a good man? What did knowing about the past matter if it only brought pain and you could not change it? Telling her would be pointless.


She was on her side, her hair splayed over the pillow. It had grown longer, he noted dully, the tips of the inky strands tickling his lips. The moonlight played over the edges and curves of her body forgivingly, both highlighting and softening her scars and bruises. She watched him perceptively, that same peculiar look she'd given him before. "Levi?"

He fell asleep only a moment later.

Despite what most thought it was not a rarity when Hange became awfully serious. Erwin had lived and seen enough of humanity to know that people were not one thing despite the comfort of placing a single trait upon those you knew.

It was something he'd often took advantage of.

"This mission…" Hange's brow furrowed. "Will be dangerous. We'll need Levi and Mikasa and they're both still injured."

Erwin's lips pursed ever so slightly, his large hands smoothing the sheets of paper over his desk. "They're well enough." He shut his eyes, body weary with the weight of one who had lived too long and too much. "They'll have to be."

"Get me some food, will you Armin?" Eren yawned as he spoke.

Armin looked a little sleepy himself, nodding. They'd woken a little earlier than usual, the sky still gray with the lack of sunlight. Armin parted his lips to reply when Sasha walked around the corner, nearly stumbling straight into them. Armin smiled at her. "Good morning, Sasha."

Sasha smiled nervously. "Morning." She wrung her hands together, throat working. "You two going to eat?"

"Yeah." Eren raked his hair back, cracking his neck as he spoke. "I'm just going to go check on Mikasa first. You guys go ahead." Eren waved at them as he turned but before he could he felt Sasha grab his wrist. Eren stiffened, looking at her incredulously. "Sasha, what—?"

She yanked him forward with surprising force, nearly sending him tumbling into Armin. "Sasha what the hell—?"

"I'll go get her!" Sasha's smile was—despite its brightness—very strained. "Save me a bowl." She paused before she moved away. "Remind Connie he owes me half his food." She spun on her heel, walking down the hall quickly.

Eren's brows knitted together, following close behind her and leaving a protesting Armin behind. Something was wrong. "I wanted to check up on her because I fell asleep early last night." Eren lengthened his strides in order to keep up with her, a little irritated with the way she kept speeding up. "Is something wrong, Sasha?"

Sasha flushed deeply, shaking her head, brown pony tail bobbing. "No." They reached Mikasa's door and paused. Sasha bit her lip. "I'll go in first."

Eren stepped forward before she could go for the knob. "Sasha, what's going—?"

Sasha tried to block him, squeaking when he managed to grab the doorknob. "Eren, no!"

Eren shoved the door open—and nearly slammed against it as Sasha leapt onto his back, her hands clamping over his eyes and blinding him.

"Mikasa!" Sasha shrieked.

He heard a curse and a thump, a muffled growl of 'get out' and before he could get Sasha off of him the door slammed shut. "Sasha get off of me!" He pried her hands away from his face, shoving her off of his back. "Mikasa!" He grabbed the doorknob but it was locked now. He banged his fist against it. "Mikasa open the door!"

He'd heard someone's voice and it hadn't been Mikasa's. In fact it had been a very male voice and it had almost sounded like—

Mikasa sounded very strained as she spoke from behind the door. "I'll be out in a minute, Eren."

Eren caught Sasha's wrist before she could jump him again. "Mikasa, what the hell is going on?"

He heard more shuffling within her bedroom and she opened her door, slipping out and shutting it behind her quickly. She looked a little disheveled in her civilian clothing, her hair slightly damp, her dark eyes skirting away from his. "What's wrong, Eren?"

He gave her a very, very hard look. "Why didn't Sasha let me into your room, Mikasa?" Eren felt a sense of foreboding spreading low in his gut, his hands clenching of their own volition. "What's going on?"

She licked her lips before speaking, tucking her hair behind her ear. "I was just getting dressed, Eren. Sasha knew I'd just finished bathing."

Mikasa had gotten a little better at lying—but she was still horrible at it. "You're lying to me."

"Eren," Mikasa clenched her fists. "There isn't anything—"

"Then why can't I go into your room?"


He moved to her door but she grabbed his wrist tightly, sliding her body between him and her room. "Eren, don't."

"Just tell me what the hell is—?"

The door flew open behind her back and Mikasa made a strangled sound—and oh. Oh.

"It's too fucking early to be making so much noise, Eren." Levi stood in the doorway of Mikasa's bedroom, shirtless and the button of his pants undone. "She'll catch up with you in a minute." He gave Mikasa a pointed look then turned away, letting the door swing open carelessly.

Eren couldn't quite think clearly for several seconds—couldn't quite breathe properly—and as he eyed Levi's mostly undressed form, the clothes strewn about the floor, the rucked up sheets and the nail marks raking down his spine his brain still struggled to come to the conclusion that was obvious.

Levi and Mikasa?

Mikasa looked into her room furiously—then back to Sasha. "Sasha, take Eren."

Sasha nodded jerkily and before Eren could suck in a breath the door was shut in his face.

Levi and Mikasa?

Levi sat on the edge of her bed, ignoring the glare boring into the back of his skull as he tugged on a boot. "First she walks in on us." Levi pulled on his other boot. "And then she returns with Eren who decides to throw a tantrum outside your door." Levi pondered for a moment. "Good thing she walked in on us first. No telling how Eren might have reacted if he'd seen us like…" He gestured to the bed flippantly. "That." Levi's brow furrowed, as if contemplating Eren's possible reaction.

Her words were frighteningly—or they would have been, perhaps, to someone else—hollow, airless and thin. "I told you to stay hidden."

Levi threw her a dark look over his shoulder. "Why the hell would I have to hide, Mikasa?" He stood, sliding on his belt.

"Because I asked you to." Mikasa grabbed his shirt off the ground, balling it in her fist. Just an hour ago she'd been twisted about him, an hour ago he'd been inside of her and she hadn't been able to press closely enough—and now she looked as if she couldn't bear the sight of him. "Because he wasn't ready." She threw the shirt at him, her tone controlled, her movements jerky and stiff. She sat on the edge of her bed, hands gripping the side of the mattress tightly. "Get out."

Levi didn't move, his eyes watching her closely, his thoughts straying as they slid down her body

As much as he admired how she looked in her uniform he'd always been enthralled with the way she looked in her civilian clothing, with the way the fabric draped over her loosely, how soft it looked in comparison. He could almost pretend they weren't soldiers, that they were just a simple man and woman who'd found each other through one way or another.

He could almost pretend that their deaths weren't lingering around every corner, that they bore no responsibility beyond their own lives, and that they hadn't been driven together because of the usefulness of their extraordinary strength, because that strength had never really been enough.

He could almost pretend they were normal people with ordinary lives; could almost pretend things between them were simple.

He spoke quietly. "Because he wasn't ready, Mikasa?" He moved a little closer, tossing his shirt onto the bed. "Or because you weren't?"

She shut her eyes. "Get out."

"Answer me, Mikasa." He stepped towards her, cupping her chin and lifting her face up to his. "Did you want to keep this—" He gestured to the clothes on the floor, the bed, the space between them. "A secret?"

She licked her lips, drawing his gaze to her mouth, his stomach tightening.

"Yes." She admitted, his grip on her chin slackening. "This is most likely temporary. He had no need to know. Not so soon." Not ever.

Levi gave her a hard look, his mouth hard. "Well he does now, doesn't he?" He released her. "You couldn't baby him forever. I could care less who does or doesn't know. Neither should you."

Her jaw clenched, her glare cutting him deeper then he'd like to admit. "You wouldn't."

He pulled on his crumpled shirt, ignoring the sting of her words. "It wasn't as if I had a choice, anyway." He began to button it quickly, words as terse as his movements. "We both know Eren wouldn't have left until you let him into your room. He's a stubborn fucking brat and not even you would have been able to stop him." Levi tucked his shirt in. "But if you want to place the blame solely on my shoulders go ahead. Whatever the hell is more convenient for you, Mikasa."

He left without another word.

"These are the plans for our next mission." Erwin pointed to a center group etched upon the worn chalk board, the squads gathered in the room still in their civilian clothing for the impromptu meeting. They all eyed the plan intently, some looking grim and most looking nervous. Erwin looked to Levi. "You'll be leading the center group. Hange will lead the left and Mikasa will lead the right."

Mikasa looked to Erwin at that, surprise flickering across her usually stoic features. They all looked a little surprised—but Levi had spoken to Erwin before about Mikasa's strength and capability and it had only been a matter of time. She would be the one to replace him when he was gone, and her training had only begun.

"Mikasa is…?" Eren swallowed thickly. "Mikasa will be leading a squad?"

Erwin nodded. "We need our strength spread out as evenly as we can."

Levi eyed the plan grimly, seeing everyone tense at his next question. "Where will Eren be placed?"

Erwin pointed to the center group. "He will be in your care." Erwin did not say it but Levi heard it nonetheless. Hange would be a little too reckless with his power and Mikasa would be too protective. Eren had always respected him and obeyed his orders and that made missions easier.

"I would like Eren and Armin to be placed in my group." Mikasa kept her gaze fixed on Erwin. "We work better when we are together. Separating us would only—"

"Mikasa," Levi interrupted. "You have no say in this matter. Eren will be in my team."

Mikasa gave him a look that was all daggers. "Eren should be with—"

"He should be where Erwin places him." Levi cracked, the entire room becoming dead silent at his low spoken anger. "You're foolish when it comes to Eren's safety. You think of no one else's, much less your own. Having Eren beside you would only hinder you because you can't control your baser instincts. Stop arguing, Mikasa. You're much too young and stupid to doubt the orders you're given."

The silence hung thick in the air, everyone shifting uncomfortably. Mikasa made to stand—but Jean reached out, touching her shoulder gently and murmuring something in her ear. Mikasa's throat worked tightly, but she nodded, her expression stony as she forced herself to relax back in her seat.

Erwin looked to the rest of the group, blue eyes sharp. "If you have any questions about the placement of yourselves or anyone else, ask them now."

Levi didn't look away from Mikasa, his gaze fixed on the way Jean's hand lingered on shoulder, his thumb pressing over her soothingly. He'd seen them become closer over the years, touches becoming slightly more frequent but it hadn't quite seemed so stark as it did now.

Eren spoke again, breaking the taut silence, directing the question to Erwin. "Where will Armin be placed?"

Erwin looked to Mikasa. "He could be in your group."

Mikasa licked her lips and Jean's grip tightened imperceptibly. She gave Armin a significant look and he nodded ever so slightly. "No." She looked away. "It'd be better if he was in Levi's squad."

Levi narrowed his eyes slightly, her response surprising him. He'd expected Mikasa to—at the very least—attempt to have Armin under her care. But perhaps she wanted Armin to accompany Eren because if she was not there to prevent him from being reckless Armin would be. Hange would most likely have Mobilt along with Erwin, it seemed—and Mikasa…as much as she never really thought of her own safety he was sure he could count on Sasha and Jean to watch out after her. He just needed to make sure they were placed with her.

Jean's hand slipped away from her shoulder, his fingertips brushing the hair that had been gripped in his fist just hours ago.

Levi bit the inside of his cheek discreetly. He could give Mikasa that if nothing else. He had to. "I'll take Armin."

Armin gripped Eren's sleeve tightly.

Erwin nodded. "We'll assign the rest of the squads in the days to come."

Eren and Armin looked to Mikasa worriedly—but Mikasa only stared straight ahead unseeingly.

"You shouldn't be pushing yourself so—"

Mikasa swung her axe down, cutting the thick stump neatly in two. Sasha sighed as she replaced it with another, gathering the halves and tossing them into the wooden wheelbarrow.

"We need firewood." Mikasa swung the axe again, as if emphasizing her words. "I need to keep training or I won't be prepared for our mission."

"We have a week." Sasha grabbed the split pieces, sitting on the grass and glaring up at the bright sunlight. "I guess telling you to take it easy on your body is kind of pointless since you and Levi…" She flushed and bit her tongue.

Mikasa gave Sasha a very unamused look.

She looked away apologetically. She'd tried her best to keep Eren from finding out but she didn't really think anything could have stopped him. When the meeting had ended Sasha had found Mikasa and Eren arguing and Eren had stormed off, Armin trailing after him to try and calm him.

Mikasa had looked worried—but she'd hidden it quickly with her usual cool exterior, how bowl of food untouched. And as the hours had passed and Eren and Armin still hadn't returned Mikasa had thrown herself into her chores with her usual dogged determination, mood black enough to keep everyone at bay.

Well, everyone except her, that is.

"You didn't eat, either." Sasha reminded her. She looked up at the lack of response—found Mikasa staring off into the distance, almost as if she hadn't heard her. "Mikasa..?" She tried again and Mikasa finally turned towards her. She looked up at her with a frown, holding her gaze as she asked a question she knew was none of her business. "Do you love him?" Sasha bit her lip. "Levi, I mean?"

Mikasa froze, her grip on the axe slackening. She reached for her scarf and tugged it over her mouth, looking perplexed despite the bite of her answer. "No."

Sasha looked away, putting the pieces of the split log together like a puzzle, speaking carefully. "How do you know?"

Mikasa stared at the scarred stump, features blank. "I don't know."

Sasha shifted uncomfortably. "Connie and I are—together." She stuck the split wood together again. "But not really." She knew loving anyone was unbelievably stupid—but he'd crept under her skin nonetheless.

Mikasa had, too. They'd all grown up together and the thought of losing any of them…

Mikasa watched her, her long skirt swaying in the slight breeze. "I know."

"I'm not going to repeat myself, Mikasa." Levi murmured his final warning. After speaking with Hange and Erwin and agreeing on the squads he'd gone in search of her, becoming more irritated by the minute. He'd found her chopping wood alone, stopping to readjust the bandages on her arm—when he'd spotted the fresh blood upon them.

And if she thought whatever had occurred between them would give her more leniency on his part she was very, very wrong. "We have a mission in a week. I need you in top shape. Reinjuring your arm is needless and stupid. Go to the medics."

Mikasa ignored him, moving to pick up her axe as if he didn't exist—he moved swiftly, kicking the axe away and grabbing her wrist, twisting her arm behind her back. She tried to twist back but it only made the pain flare up her arm again and before she could blink he had her pressed face first against the wall, hands restraining her.

He spoke very quietly. "You will be leading a group of your own, Mikasa—with Jean, Sasha and Connie. You will be the strongest and they will depend on that strength. Your body is injured and you pushing yourself will not only lessen your chances at survival but theirs. You can't act the way you're acting now."

Mikasa gritted her teeth, twisting her leg between his and hooking her foot behind his ankle as she shoved back. He stumbled and she spun, punching his still tender ribs and watching as he fell back—until he caught the front of her shirt, jerking her forward with him. He shoved her underneath him just as they struck the ground, his hands pinning her wrists on either side of her head, legs jerking to avoid her knee.

"Listen to me, Mikasa." Levi muttered, ribs still throbbing, his teeth gritted. "You can be angry at me all you want. You can go back to loathing me—but you will obey my orders or you can leave the survey corps. Your attitude will only get you and everyone else depending on you killed."

She stropped struggling, her breaths jagged. "Get off of me."

Levi remained crouched over her, eyeing the way she clenched her teeth when she spoke, the tightness of her mouth. "Are you going to listen?" He pressed his thumbs into her damp palms. "Or are you going to keep throwing a fucking tantrum?"

She spoke slowly, much more softly. "Get off of me, Levi."

He released her hands, straightening up onto his knees. "You should go over every possible scenario with your team. Keep Sasha close to you—she's got good instincts and she'll catch anything you might miss. Listen to Jean when he proposes a plan—he thinks clearly when he's under pressure. Put him in charge in case you cannot take control. Connie is quick, almost as quick as you—use his speed to your advantage."

Mikasa stayed on her back, her scarf unraveling, pulse at the base of her throat thrashing. She stared up at the clear sky as she spoke. "Don't use Armin to fuel Eren. Putting Armin in danger will only make Eren become reckless—he won't be able to focus. Eren has gotten better at using his titan form and if he uses it make sure Armin stays close to him—on his shoulder, if there aren't too many titans. Armin can lead Eren and Eren won't be distracted by wondering if Armin is safe. Eren trusts Armin's decisions more than anyone else's." Mikasa swallowed. "You'll have to make sure they're protected."

Levi watched her for a moment then stood, dusting himself off. "Worry about yourself, Mikasa."

He walked away and she was on her knees in the blink of an eye, his wrist in her grip, halting him. Her head was bowed, her hair falling forward and curtaining her features. Her nails bit into his skin, the pressure weak, fragile, and seeing such a powerful woman begging him nearly undid him.

"Please, Levi." Her voice was just a rasp. "I won't be there to protect them." Her words shook, nearly muffled by the breeze. "Keep them safe. In my stead."

He looked down at her, waiting for a long moment before turning his hand and breaking her hold.

"Mikasa…" He laced their fingers together, the way he had throughout their night and morning, trying to convey things he could not speak aloud. He swallowed tightly. "I'll try…if you do the same."

She lifted her head at that, her dark eyes terribly perplexed. "Levi?"

"Protect your squad." He circled her wrist with his fingers tightly and tugged, urging her onto her feet. "Protect yourself. Keep safe. Don't be reckless." He couldn't quite bring himself to look at her. "You need to think about yourself too, Mikasa. If something happened to you your brats wouldn't ever forgive themselves."

He could feel her examining him, feel the way her eyes lingered over his hard jaw and lowered gaze, a question hanging in the air.

But she knew, he thought.

She had to.

"I'll try." She murmured, repeating his own words.

And he supposed it had to be enough.

A/N-As always, I'm sorry for any mistakes.
I'm probably going to wrap up this story with the next two chapters, three max. It feels a little strange to think that my first rivamika fic is nearly at its end already. Thank you for sticking it out so long.