By La Marelle
Petra was in love.
Hopelessly in love.
It hadn't always been that way. Initially, her feelings for Captain Levi had been purely founded on admiration and awe. When she first joined the Survey Corps after graduation, the very notion of the man that was Humanities Greatest Hope was simply a rumour spread between cadets. Some thought he was a mirage, created to boost moral; he probably didn't even exist. It wasn't until four months into her service that she even laid eyes on the man, on her first expedition outside the walls. He saved her hide from a ten meter Titan that was lumbering stupidly towards her, as she stood frozen in fear and convinced that she was about to die.
The Survey Corps lost sixty per-cent of their troops on that mission. And as fate would have it, all the teams were reshuffled due to the immense loss of manpower. Petra was placed under the command of Levi, the Great Hero, himself. Initially, she assumed that Levi hadn't even remembered saving her life. Why should he? He had the weight of humanity on his shoulders and had slayed so many Titans that that one in particular had probably been entirely insignificant to him. She didn't forget though. She would never forget. Curiously though, during her first week under his command as Levi had them running drills so he could observe their technique with the Three-Dimensional Manoeuvre Gear, he called her over. Her fist pounded against her heart in a dutiful salute, while he informed her that she needed to be more focused on her surroundings. This was her last warning, he told her; he wouldn't save her the next time she screwed up.
From that moment, Petra resolved to devote herself to her Captain. To blindly follow him, to try her hardest to please him and to never make him have to risk his own life for her again. From that moment, she pushed herself harder than she ever had during her three years of training.
Currently, Petra stood in the cobblestone-paved courtyard of their Special Operations Head Quarters. Gone were the heavy, restraining leather straps of her harness and her awkward, protective knee-high boots, replaced instead with thin-soled slippers. Dressed in just her crisp shirt and white trousers – the bare minimum of her uniform – Petra steeled herself, closing her eyes and taking deep breaths to help her focus. Void of her heavy constraints, Petra felt free; free to give herself completely to the task ahead of her, free to give herself completely to her training.
It had been two years since Petra was enlisted into Captain Levi's squad. Back then he was only known as Lance Corporal Levi, not Captain Levi. When he was promoted to Captain, he had organised himself a team of elites to work under him. Petra had been one of the four selected. Pride had swelled through every inch of her body at the announcement. She was proud of her own abilities and what she'd had to achieve to get to where she was. Mostly, she was proud that Captain Levi held her in such a high regard.
Thus, Petra had a chance to really get to know her Captain. Their small group of five had grown incredibly close in the past year. She saw her other crew members like her big brothers, and they certainly treated her like a little sister. They picked on her, played tricks on her, and teased her. Their favourite topic was to tease her about her apparently obviously growing affections for the Captain.
Petra vehemently denied it. That feeling that blossomed in her stomach whenever he entered the dining hall of a morning wasn't love. That would come later. At that point in time, it was nothing more than infatuation.
Breathing deeply through her nose, Petra raised her foot, placing it on the elevated edge of the stone well that they retrieved their water from. Taking another deep breath, she leaned forward, stretching her muscles and flattening her body against her leg until her nose came into contact with her kneecap. She reached up, interlocking her fingers around the sole of her foot, stretching her arms and forcing her body even closer to her leg. She let a strained breath out of her mouth as she tried not to focus on the discomfort the stretch in her muscle caused.
From a very young age, Petra had been a dancer. She took to ballet like a duck takes to water. Ballet had run in her family, and her lessons when she'd been younger had aided her considerably when she'd joined the military. Not only did it make her body movements smooth and fluid when it came to hand-to-hand combat, but it also made using the Three-Dimensional Manoeuvre Gear. She moved with an ease and flexibility that many soldiers lacked. Anyone who observed someone adept at using the secret weapon of the military, would say that they way that they flew through the sky with their Manoeuvre Gear was not that unlike a dancer. Ballet had come as second nature to Petra when she was young, but she'd struggled initially to take to the Three-Dimensional Manoeuvre Gear. It wasn't until she starting to think of it as a dance, that it too became second nature to her. She could apply the disciplines she'd learnt through ballet to flying from rooftop to rooftop. The only real difference, she often mused, was that falling from a treetop was a slightly larger drop than simply falling off your pointes.
Practice was essential in anything, if you wanted to maintain your ability, and while most of her spare time was spent looking after her crewmates and training in more serious areas, Petra still liked to practice her ballet when she got a chance. It kept her flexible and nimble. And amongst other things, it increased the muscles in her legs, giving her less of a chance of damaging them with the forever-changing dimensions caused by her Manoeuvre Gear. Dancing, she had found, was a very useful form of training for her.
Petra switched her position, placing her hand on the edge of the well for balance instead, raising herself en pointe and raising her right leg and arm simultaneously, until her leg was as close to vertical as she could get it. She stared up at her hand and foot; focusing all her concentration into the strain she felt in her hamstring. Focus was everything when it came to surviving in the Survey Corps, as she had realised through Levi's counselling and few too many close calls. The few occasions that Petra had been harmed in the field were all due to a lapse in her concentration, and in doing so she had stupidly put her comrades in danger; an action that she beat herself up over numerous times.
The most serious of which had occurred six months ago. While on a reconnaissance mission outside of Wall Rose, Petra had single-handedly taken down the tallest Titan she had ever encountered using a technique that Levi had taught her, but one that she had been struggling to master. As she stood proudly on the back of the fallen Titan's head, she bubbled with laughter and jumped up and down, waving her bloodied sward at the other troops. She called to the rest of her teammates, asking if they'd seen her. Seen what she'd done. She didn't hear their screams of warning. It was almost too late before she caught the sight of another Titan right behind her, reaching for her greedily. She hadn't been so scared since her very first mission outside of the walls, when Levi had saved her. Again, she felt her body freeze up with that debilitating emotion. Again, she had awaited her immanent death. But again, it didn't come. Instead, she felt the wind rushing through her hair, an unbearable lightness about her, and she opened her eyes and found herself tucked protectively under Levi's arm as he dragged them through the air to the safety of the nearby woods. He'd tutted in frustration and told her to never do anything so stupid again.
It had been that moment that she realised why she blushed whenever she was within close proximity to her. He'd thrown her down on a tree brash forcefully and yelled at her for making what could have been a very closely mistake. Petra had blinked back tears. Levi had told her once that he wouldn't be saving her again after her first mistake, yet he had. He cared enough to do it. Though it took a week for him to stop being so livid with her. Not many people could be saved from death twice by a man and not develop some feelings, especially when built on a pre-existing foundation of unadulterated admiration. Her feelings for him drove her forward, motivated her. Yet they also distracted her, and made her unable to do the one thing he'd screamed at her to do: focus.
Petra lowered her leg slowly, and tiptoed away from the well in order to create more room. With her arms at her side, Petra took another deep breath and stepped forward before swinging herself into a spin. With her right leg sticking out at her side, she raised herself up on her toes and back down again with each full rotation, giving her momentum, not allowing her to stop. Her head continuously snapped back to the same spot directly ahead of her as she focused on it to help her balance.
Ever since they returned from that mission, living in such close quarters to her Captain had proved to be excruciatingly difficult. It was agony and it was bliss. She looked forward to each day that she got to spend in his presence. She bounded out of bed before even the sun had woken up, especially to make coffee just the way he liked it. She scrubbed Head Quarters from top to bottom each day so that any form of uncleanliness wouldn't put him out, because she knew how much he disliked it. She cared for his horse; she cared for him. But through all of her efforts, she never received much more than a nod of thanks. While she grateful for even that, she longed for more. She longed to catch him staring at her over his afternoon cup of tea, for his hand to falter on hers as he passed her a stack of forms to fill out, or to be pulled into a dark alcove of Head Quarters and kissed until there was no breath left in her.
They were all silly pipe dreams though. For Levi to do any of the things she wished he would, would be completely out of character for him. Levi was, if nothing else, professional. And such antics were the antithesis of appropriateness. Not to mention that she highly doubted that any of the thoughts that she harboured for him would have even entered his mind. She was just one of his Foot Soldiers. Nothing more.
Such thoughts needed to be cast from her mind. She had to concentrate on her current training, or she was never going to improve.
It was on her forth rotation, however, that something appeared in the exact spot that Petra was focusing on. It almost threw her off balance instantly. It was the very person she was trying her hardest not to think of. Petra would recognise the short stature, raven hair and bored expression anywhere. It had been plaguing her imagination for six months straight. Steadying herself, she continued her momentum, kept her eyes on the same spot, which now, ironically, happened to be exactly where Levi's lips where. Petra felt defeated, but her face split into a wide smile, anyway.
"Captain!" She greeted cheerfully, as she continued pirouetting. She didn't begrudge him being here, it was their Head Quarters, after all, she just wondered why in the name of Wall Sina, was she being tested socruelly?
"Petra." Levi said to her, "What on earth are you doing?"
"Dancing!" She replied simply, her smile broadening at her answer. She knew it wasn't the one that Levi desired.
"I can see that, woman!" He said, his annoyance flaring at her comment as he placed his hands on his hips, at the base of his pristine shirt. "Why?"
"To help with my focus, Sir." She said, regaining some of her soldier-like respect, he was her Captain, after all. Even if he was quite amusing to tease. "And dizziness. If I can endure this than I can learn to handle the Manoeuvre Gear better."
She couldn't help but titter at the blurred vision of Levi quirking his brow at her. She wanted him to leave, to allow her to focus on not thinking about him, but perhaps having him here would discipline her further to not think of him. Yes, that was it. She would have him right here in front of her and force herself to not have a single thought about him.
It urged her to do better.
"You really thing that twirling will help you manage to kill more Titans?" He asked incredulously.
"Now now, Captain" she said, her smile not faltering. She began to become slightly out of breath from her exertion, "Don't mock... Did I ever tell you that my Grandmother was the lead dancer for the Royal Sina Ballet?"
She watched as he shifted, crossing his arms over his chest. A slight nod of the head prompted Petra to continue.
"She broke her leg at the height of her career, making her unable to dance any longer, so instead she settled down to start a family. She was adamant that any females in the Ral family should learn to dance." She continued, forcing herself to keep momentum.
She felt herself getting lightheaded with dizziness, but she pushed on. She wanted to prove to both Levi and herself that she could focus. That she wasn't just a starry-eyed female being an inconvenience to the team.
"I hated it when I was younger… It stunted my growth… It seemed like a useless pastime to me, but my grandmother insisted… 'Petra' she used to say to me… 'I can tell you that dance will be the most useful thing you will even learn.'… I guess she was right, it's certainly come in handy since I joined the military." She said through laboured speech. It was time to slow down.
Bending her leg and pressing her leg against her opposite thigh she locked her fingers together, forming a circle in front of her. As she began to pirouette faster to finish her exercise, the dizziness really began to hit her. She put her leg back to steady herself, but her footing slipped on the uneven cobblestone ground. Her arms shot out to her sides to try and stabilise herself, but it was too late, she felt herself toppling backwards.
She let out a cry and closed her eyes tightly as she braced herself for the fall. Instead of the hard ground, she felt a steady hand at her elbow and a warm arm slip around her waist, preventing her from falling. Petra's eyes shot open in surprise, and she looked up to find Levi at her side, looking at her with his same impassive face, though there was a slight crease between his brows, that she could only interpret as concern. At any other time, Petra would have relished at their position, and her heart would have fluttered at the extremely close proximity. But as it was, her image of Levi was moving violently from one side of her vision to the other. A groan escaped her lips and she screwed her eyes shut again, bringing a hand up to her face, beginning to feel herself go slightly faint.
"I apologise, Captain," she said weakly. "I overdid it."
Petra felt his hand shift to her lower back, as she was pulled upright. His other hand supported her elbows, and in a daze, she let herself be led to the edge of the well. His hand that held her elbow moved to her shoulder, where he placed pressure, forcing her to sit down. She happily obliged, and put her head between her knees out of both embarrassment and necessity.
"Don't apologise." He said, surprisingly gently, and sat down next to her. Petra felt his move his hand from the small of her back to rest in between her shoulder blades, lest she be overcome by dizziness again and topple backwards down the well. "It's more than any of the other oafs in this team are doing."
Petra lifted her head to look up at him in surprise. Her vision began to stabilise, she noted, happily. The world around her was only wobbling slightly. She felt a hot blush creeping up her neck, settling on her cheeks as the realisation of her situation hit her. She lowered her head again, in mortification, allowing her hair to fall around her face to hide it. Levi was sitting next to her, his thigh touching her own, and a warm, steading hand on her back. The proximity was almost too much for her to bear. It was pleasurable torture. He was simply making sure that she didn't pass out, she had to tell herself. There were no extra motives in the way that his thigh pressed against hers. His thumb certainly wasn't gently stroking her back. She was just imagining that. She was wiling it to be so much that her mind was playing tricks on her.
She swallowed deeply and pushed the thought from her mind.
"The men make fun of me for it," she said with a sigh. "'Dancing is for girls', they say. They're adamant to point out how woman-like I am." With her blush receding she looked back up at him, her expressing betraying the hurt she felt when they teased her.
"You are a woman, Petra." Levi said bluntly, causing her to wince. "In case that was lost on you- though I can assure you that it certainly isn't lost on anyone else. It's very hard not to notice."
Petra's mouth formed into a small, pert pout. She was a girl. She wasn't stupid, she knew that. But being the only girl on the team meant that they treated her differently. Protected her more like the wasn't as capable a soldier as the rest of them. They wolf-whistled when she wore a new shirt, and tried out a new perfume. They told her she couldn't get off her horse to fight the herd of Titans approaching - she had to stay and look after the horses. She just wanted to proved that she was as good as the rest of them. She shook her head slightly at her Captain, his usual impassive expression on his face. He didn't understand. She wouldn't expect him to.
"Yeah, well- I just want to get better for my comrades." She said dejectedly.
She heard Levi sigh, felt him shift next to her, watched him as he stood up. She immediately longed to have the warmth of his body next to hers back. Rather than saying anything in response, he dropped his hand gently onto her shoulder, causing her to make eye contact with him, her auburn iris' locking with his steely ones. He stared down intently. Her breath hitched slightly as he leant down so that they were at eye level, noses mere centimeters apart. She tried to work out what he meant by the gesture, but as usual, his face gave nothing away.
"Let them say what they want. You're a vital member of our team, Petra. I don't want you going anywhere. Anything that's going to keep you alive a day longer is fine by me." He said before releasing his hand from her shoulder and walking back towards to castle without so much as a goodbye.
Petra let out a great shuddering sigh as he walked off, realising that she'd forgotten to breathe. The skin where he'd placed his hands tingled from the contact still, and it felt as if a colony of butterflies had taken up residence in the pit of her stomach. However, her resolve hardened. Levi valued her, and at the end of a long, tiring day, that was all that mattered.
She stood up; her dizziness had ebbed away to almost nothing. She fixed her gaze on his disappearing head, willing him to turn back to look at her. He never did. He never would. So instead she stood up, stepped forward and spun herself into another pirouette. She had to get better. She had to strive for nothing but perfection. For herself. For her own life. For the lives of her team mates. But mostly, for Levi. Her feelings may be forever unrequited, but if the closest she could ever get to him was just being his loyal subordinate, then she was content right there. She had found her place in life.
Petra was hopelessly in love.
Levi was not in love.
At least, that was what he kept telling himself.
For years he had locked his feelings and his heart away. He buried it as deep within himself as the King was within Wall Sina. Emotions were nothing more than weaknesses disguised as happiness. Emotion got in the way or rationality on the battlefield. It prevented a man from thinking straight. It clouded your judgement. It distracted you. From experience and observation, Levi knew that once you got attached to someone in a normal capacity, you were destined for for disappointment and heartbreak. In the midst of war, you were also destined for death.
Either you would be forced to stand by and watch them, and in turn, a part of you, die, or you would be distracted by your feelings, and die yourself.
Levi wasn't fond of either of these ideas. He would prefer to keep every part of him very much alive until he was and old man and there were no Titans left in this godforsaken world. Instead, he became distant. He shut himself off from people. He didn't want to have to handle any more pain than he already had to endure. Since he'd formed his Special Operations Squad, however, he'd slowly felt himself letting his defenses waver, as a reluctant fondness formed for his troops. He found himself not able to hold back a smirk as he was surrounded by their antics in the dining hall of a night. He acted annoyed for the interruption whenever one of them would knock on his door, but really, he felt that he could relax whenever one of them was in his presence.
Petra, in particular, was guilty of eliciting that feeling from him.
He admired Petra Ral for what she was: an impeccable soldier and one of his loyal subordinates. At the end of the day, that was all his asked for from those that served under him: Loyalty and survival. So far, she had served him well in both regards, as had the other members of his team, whom he had hand picked. He saw the potential in all of them, each for their own reasons. Petra was arguably the most skilled of his recruits. Fifty-eight Titan kills in all. That was an impressive number even by his standards.
Petra was the only female on his team. Commander Erwin had questioned his decision. She was a strong and skilled soldier, he had agreed, but there were better out there. Levi had never never one to discriminate on a soldier's ability based on their gender, and wasn't about to start now. In fact, Petra had many skills that none of the other men had, due to her gender, which Levi had anticipated. Her svelte, petite body allowed her to glide around on rooftops and treetops like none of the larger men on the team could. Her lightweight allowed her always land smoothly – she was never too heavy footed. Her small stature and agility made her a harder target to hit. Her most important hallmarks though, were that she could follow orders, and that she trusted him unconditionally. She would follow him into hell if he commanded her to.
But Levi was not in love.
He wasn't dense, he was well aware of the feelings she harboured for him. Even without Auruo pointing it out even chance he got, it was blatantly obvious to him. She tried her best to hide it, but Petra had never been good hiding her emotions. She wore her heart of her sleeve, raw and exposed. It was both beautiful and incredibly infuriating. He did his best to ignore it, for the sake of them all. It was the little things that he noticed. The little things she did that betrayed her feelings. Little things that she herself probably didn't even realise she was doing. Little things that, all the same, made Levi (and the rest of the team) feel like that were loved and appreciated. Mostly, she was kind. Levi's attitude meant that he didn't ever have to put up with people enough to get attached to them. His brash personality made people not want to get to know him, and he liked it that way. Petra was different though. She persisted and pushed until she crashed through his barriers like some sort of bloody Colossal Titan.
She made the best coffee, that much was well known between the men. But it was the way she would always serve him his drink before the others, with a cheerful 'Good Morning, Captain' and a smile that made her eyes crinkle at the corners. The way she sweetened his is just a touch of honey, which, funnily enough, was reminiscent of her own scent. It was the way she would always poke her head into his office when she noticed his lamp burning well past a reasonable hour, just to make sure he was okay. The way she sat with him at his desk to help him work through the paperwork that had piled up during their last mission. The way she strayed to help, even when her own eyelids began to droop from exhaustion. It was the way she cared for his horse as much as her own, even though it wasn't her responsibility.
All of these things made a peculiar feeling rise up in the pit of his stomach. Levi knew what that fluttery feeling was, certainly, but he forced the butterflies back down all the same. Levi wanted to rid the world of Titans so that all other living things could prosper, but if he had the chance, he would happily murder every butterfly from the face of the planet, just so they couldn't invade his gut. Petra Ral was first and foremost, his subordinate, which made any possible feelings for her highly inappropriate. Aside from that, Levi thought very highly of her as a competent soldier, but in the current climate she, or any of the team, could easily die tomorrow. Feelings only made you attached.
Attachment could lead to a man's downfall.
So why was it that he currently stood transfixed on the image of her, standing by the well, looking up at her foot, which was gracefully raised vertically into the air. The serene atmosphere that surrounded her made him feel like he was intruding on something, yet he found himself drawn to her. The concentration on her face intrigued him, and her determination made him proud of her. Proud that someone which such attributes was a member of his exclusive team.
With his hands behind his back, Levi crossed the courtyard as he continued to watch her intently. She lowered her leg, before smoothly stepping into a pirouette. He had never seen her doing anything like this before. All of his men trained often, usually as a team. And even so, her moves were so smooth and graceful, that Levi wasn't all too sure that she even was training. Training meant getting dirty and sweaty; getting covered in cuts and bruises. Training for a war was a business just as nasty as the war itself. Petra's silky rotations were not the brutal actions of a training regime. They were the decorative movements of ballet.
He came to a stop in front of her so that she would notice him in the midst of her rotations. His hands moved to his hips as he contemplated her momentarily, uncertainty sketched into his features.
"Captain!" She greeted him cheerfully. Levi felt as if his heart was being crushed by a Titan's vice-light grip as a smile spread across her face and her eyes lit up at the sight of him. He cursed himself. Cursed the whole situation. Cursed Petra and the way she was always so inherently happy to see him.
"Petra" he said, trying to sound as unamused as possible "what on earth are you doing?"
"Dancing!" She said enthusiastically, and Levi tutted in annoyance. She knew that that was not the answer he was after. She was being cheeky. Levi was disgusted at how endearing he found it.
"I can see that, woman!" he said, his annoyance showing, though it was from his godforsaken butterflies, not her response. "Why?"
"To help with my focus, Sir." She informed him. Levi was still unsure if he liked the way she called him 'Sir'. He preferred 'Captain', and was even partial to the distinctive way she pronounced his name. "And dizziness. If I can endure this than I can learn to handle the Manoeuvre Gear better." A rare smile graced his lips at the comment, though it disappeared as soon as it came. She always endeavored to be better, that was one of the many things he liked about her. Still, he, himself was getting dizzy just watching her as she controlled her spins. He couldn't help but be impressed and slightly concerned. He didn't want her to exert herself.
"You really think that twirling will help you manage to kill more Titans?" He asked, his voice slightly disbelieving as he raised an eyebrow at her.
"Now now, Captain," she said, her smile never leaving her focused face. He noticed her breath becoming laboured from the strain of talking, "Don't mock... Did I ever tell you that my Grandmother was the lead dancer for the Royal Sina Ballet?"
In truth, Levi knew very little about Petra. It was another one of his tactics to not get attached. The less he knew, the less he could admire. The less he could remember. What he did know of her came in little candid snippets like this, or from little things that he observed. He knew, for instance, that she cared deeply for her family; he observed this from how diligently she wrote to her father every other day. He knew that she was easily amused, judging by the way she laughed at everything, even when others were laughing at her expense, she joined in, unable to not be infected by the laughter. He knew that she was left handed by the way she always wore her timepiece on her right wrist. He knew that her soap smelt like honey…
Just don't say that he was in love. Because he wasn't.
Besides, none of that was relevant. So he just crossed his arms over his chest and nodded for her to continue.
"She broke her leg at the height of her career, making her unable to dance any longer. So instead, she settled down to start a family. She was adamant that any females in the Ral family should learn to dance." She explained.
Levi noticed her posture wobbling slightly. His eyes moved from her face to watch her body, cautiously.
"I hated it when I was younger… It stunted my growth… It seemed like a useless pastime to me, but my grandmother insisted… 'Petra' she used to say to me… 'I can tell you that dance will be the most useful thing you will even learn.'… I guess she was right, it's certainly come in handy since I joined the military" She continued, and he watched as she gracefully bought her leg in and span into a final, constant gyration, which only stopped after her sixth revolution.
What happened next he saw in slow motion. She placed her foot down on the ground to steady herself, but lost her footing. The well was too close, Levi noted. If she continued falling in the direction she was heading, she would knock her head heavily on the stone edge of it. The last thing he needed was an unconscious soldier, he told himself, but really, there was an uncharacteristic moment where dread filled his body. In a heartbeat he was at her side, one hand wrapped around her tiny waist, to stop her falling, the other at her elbow, to steady her. He let out a small breath of relief when he caught her, as he realised that he'd forgotten to breathe for the last few seconds. Her body was warm from the exercise, and felt nice to have in his arms. She fit there nicely. He looked down at her with a look of unadulterated concern. He could see how unfocused her eyes were from the dizziness.
As she groaned at buried her face in her hand, Levi righted her, keeping his hand at her elbow to keep her balanced. He moved his hand comfortingly in the small of her back, and led her to the edge of the well, forcing her to sit. He noted, unnecessarily, that she had two very desirable and prominent dimples in her lower back.
"I apologise, Captain," she said meekly, "I overdid it." Levi could sense the embarrassment in her voice. That was another thing he liked about her. Levi never asked for perfection from his troops, that was their own concern. Of course he would prefer to forgo the inconvenience of them dying, but making sure that didn't happen was their own problem, not his. Yet Petra strived for perfection. He knew also, that she strived for it for him. He thought that incredibly stupid of her, but appreciated it nevertheless.
"Don't apologise." He said and placed his hand in between her slightly protruding shoulder blades. He also wouldn't be very happy if she lost her balance and toppled down the well. If she was going to die, he was hardly going to accept it being from something as fucking dumb as that.
"It's more than any of the other oafs on this team are doing." He comforted, but noted her increasingly paling complexion as she slumped forward to place her head between her knees.
He watched, unamused, as she tried to hide the blush that crept onto her round cheeks. He wasn't sure why she tried to hide it. He thought blush was very becoming on her, but he didn't want her to exert herself again. At the thought, he shifted closer to her. Simply to ensure she was stable, he told himself. Nothing more. There was nothing in the way that his harnessed thigh pressed against hers just slightly more than was necessary. His thumb was just stroking her back out of comfort for her, not because of the way the bumps of her vertebrae flowed so enticingly under the calloused pad of his thumb. He was just ensuring that she was well enough to look after herself, so that he could continue his inspection of Head Quarters.
That was all.
"The men make fun of me for it," she said and Levi thought that she sounded slightly defeated at that. He noticed her voice quavering with hurt. "'Dancing is for girls', they say. They're adamant to point out how woman-like I am"
This confused Levi beyond belief. He had always been very to the point not only in his words but in his thoughts as well. Why would the fact that she was a girl be any sort of problem? He knew that the men joked around with her, groaning that she was the woman, so she should be the one doing the cleaning. Levi always stood in then, and reminded them that if they could cook, care for the horses, file paperwork and make coffee as well as Petra did, then maybe he would excuse them from cleaning duty once in a while. They always grumbled and went back to their sweeping. Yet there were some things that she couldn't do, simply because she was a woman. She couldn't, for example, load their heavy trunks into the wagons when they moved around, simply due to the disparity in physical strength between her and the men. And when under attack she had to stay with the wagons, because she was the quickest and move agile, and could protect it best.
There was nothing wrong with any of that, though.
"You are a woman, Petra." Levi said with a furrow of his brow, as if that statement alone should put a rest to the entire thought. "In case that notion was somehow lost on you- though I can assure you that it certainly isn't lost on anyone else. It's very hard not to notice."
His eyes flicked tactlessly down the form of her body.
He watched as Petra's mouth formed itself into a little pout at his comment. It hadn't been what she'd wanted to hear, Levi knew. But if she didn't want honesty, she shouldn't have joined the military. He was always quite particular with his words. They spoke nothing but the truth. It was impossible for someone to not notice that she was a woman. She was hardly androgynous-looking. The way she cared for them all, the way she always nurtured them when they were sick, the way she looked out for them on the battlefield. The way her hair flounced nicely as she bounded down the staircase with a smile plastered on her face that just made you know that she was genuinely overjoyed to see you. It was all done in an effeminate manner that wouldn't be befitting on Erd or Günter, or any of the others. It was a nurturing quality that only a woman could posses. And all this without even mentioning the way that her tight fitting uniform it made visible some of the curves that the other men definitely didn't posses.
It was simply obvious to him.
"Yeah, well- I just want to get better for my comrades." She said finally, causing Levi to hang his own head for a moment. Petra was always so self-sacrificing. She only ever wanted to help. To make a difference.
Standing up, Levi removed his hand from her back and instead dropped it gently onto her shoulder reassuringly. His own, nonchalant eyes meeting her awed golden ones as he bent down to her eye level. Their were faces agonisingly close.
"Let them say what they want. You're a vital member of our team, Petra. I don't want you going anywhere. Anything that's going to work to keep you alive a day longer is fine by me." He said before letting go of her and walking back towards the castle. The hand that held her shoulder a moment ago flexed and clenched into a fist, trying to rid himself of the tingling sensation that had settled there.
He only hoped that his small action could adequately portray just how much he did appreciate her.
They weren't the most heartfelt words ever spoken, but Levi had meant them. And in them he'd meant to encapsulate all the feelings he held for her. All at once, he'd meant for it to say: 'thank you for the coffee every morning'; 'thank you for folding my shirts just the way I like them'; 'thank you for the constant support you give me on the field'; 'thank you for caring for my horse'; 'thank you for caring for me'; 'just don't die'.
He fought the near-overwhelming urge to look back at her. Doing so would mean that there was something there. It would make the moment more than it was. More than a Captain reassuring his soldier. A fleeting glance could be a dangerous thing, and Levi had sworn to himself that he would not do anything dangerous that wasn't completely unavoidable. Just knowing that she was there though, made everything in this world feel less dangerous to him. Because she always had such a positive outlook on the world, even in the bleakest of times and because Petra was a constant in his life that he did not want to lose. She would always be there and he needed her to always be there.
He needed her to eye his half-empty plate at dinner and inquire whether he had eaten enough, no matter how much it annoyed him. He needed her to sit up with him by lamplight, helping him with his work until it was well into the night, despite his protests. He needed her bright, smiling eyes to never lose their lustre. He needed the special treatment he gave her in the morning in the morning, greeting him as cheerfully as ever, and serving him his coffee before all the others. He needed the way that his breath would hitch in his throat, as the morning light would catch on her strawberry-blonde hair, causing it to glow a startling shade of gold…
But Levi was not in love, dammit.
A/N: My first published fic. :3
I just had this headcannon that Petra was a dancer. She had the physique for it, and I always pictured them like little ballet dancers up there on their wires, doing pretty little spins and splattering blood everywhere...
I hope you enjoyed it. Let me know what you think. I tried really hard to stay cannon, even though I think anything with Levi and feelings is slightly uncannon.