{a great grief}

"What the hell did you do to her?" he asked, bending before the young girl. She was small and skinny, her eyes glassy and dark and empty. They were fixed on Levi's face, and it made his stomach turn to look at them. They had brought him a corpse. A living fucking corpse. Typical.

Mikasa Ackerman was pretty. For a child. She had a round face, feathery black hair, and a slender body. However, there were mauve and sallow bruises crawling delicately across her dainty features, blood crusted on her cheeks, on her gaping, swollen lips, around her blackened eyelid, smeared across her forehead and the front of her dress. Her left arm looked awkward, bent at an angle that suggested it had been broken days ago.

The largest man spoke up. Levi didn't care for his name. He didn't care for any of them. They were a disappointment, and he was disgusted with every detail of this dealing. "She fought," the man said gruffly, shrugging. "It's not our fau—"

Levi's boot crashed into his jaw, sending him flying into the opposite wall. Levi looked at him, staring coldly as the man clutched at the side of his face that had rather painfully crunched against the solid concrete. Idiots, Levi thought as another one dove at him. With a flick of his wrist, a blade was in Levi's grasp, and the man's throat was opened like rain being expelled from the heavens. Only much messier. The blood went flying, coagulating for a short moment before bursting and splattering across the floor, flecks of it catching the poor beaten girl in the face. She had no reaction to this horror. She merely laid on the ground like a broken doll.

That's all she is, Levi thought, watching her without pity. A doll to be used in all different perverse ways. And I thought I couldn't go any lower. He might have laughed at it all, but in all honesty, he couldn't tell who was more pathetic. The broken child, or the man who was going to sell her? In truth, he had thought that he had been dealing with someone older. But if all was true, the mother had died defending the girl. The mother was all they needed, Levi thought, stepping on the corpse of the man he had just murdered to reach to one he had punted into a wall. His ribs gave a sweet sounding crunch as they collapsed beneath the weight of his soles digging into his back. They could have left the damn girl, and then maybe I wouldn't have cared at all what happened to the bitch. Levi was surprised at himself. He had not realized he'd had so much humanity left inside of him, to be so disgusted with himself and the entire dealing.

"Not your fault?" Levi flicked the blood off his blade, peering at it with a bored expression. "That might be true. I don't really know. Or care."

Levi saw the other one squirming. The one who was standing still, staring at Levi in shock and fear and awe. The man whose face was half collapsed, reached for something. Levi stomped his boot onto the man's hand, successfully giving each and every twitching bone a good cracking. He tilted his head back at the unscathed man, and he twisted his foot as if squashing an insect beneath his boot. The man howled, and the sound bounced off the corridor of the underground tunnel, where these types of dealings tended to take place.

"Tell me," Levi said, examining the blood caking his blade. His hand was smeared red. That bothered him. "Who broke her arm?"

The uninjured man opened his mouth, but all that came out was a faint choking noise. Levi's jaw set in irritation, and he closed his eyes. Why did he deal with these people. Why was he even here? Why did it have to be a goddamn child?

"Fine," Levi said. "Whatever." He sliced the throat of the howling man with one stroke, cutting deep and precise. He watched the blood as it tumbled in a strange sort of cascade, dribbling at first and then gushing, blooming red and bursting out and out in a flume. Levi drove his face down into the dirt with the heel of his boot, eyes narrowed in disgust. The man gurgled as he died. Part of him wished he had made the death more painful.

The uninjured one went running. Levi's nostrils flared in rage. He pushed himself forward, kicking up a great deal of dirt as he leapt, his body moving fast and hard, streaking across the air and catching the man with ease. His one slender arm hooked around the man's neck as Levi pushed off, latching himself onto the back of the dealer. He leaned very close, his red blade glinting in the lantern light.

"Get off!" the man shrieked squirming and twist, his arms batting at Levi's body. "Get-"

"Stop screeching, swine," Levi said, his knife slipping inside the man's mouth, the blade pressing to his tongue. "It's unflattering."

His screeching as the blade punctured the roof of his mouth was almost unbearable. Levi listened to his teeth crack, the noise somehow more haunting then the agonized screams. He yanked the blade out, and gave the man's throat a good slit for good measure. His screeching turned to choking, bloody mouth yawning open and moving with the sound of wet gasps, gurgling, and then he slumped forward. The blood pooled in the dirt, sinking into it and turning a rich vermillion hue, then a callous black.

Levi stood for a moment in the silence. His heart was ramming in his chest. What have I done? he thought as he looked around numbly. Bodies littered the ground, gooey flesh strewn across the wall, streaks of blood, pools congealing against the tightly packed dirt. The lantern flickered. The corpses cooled.

"What a mess," Levi murmured, staring at his bloody hands. He cocked his head back at Mikasa Ackerman, the dead doll. He stared at her little body, which had not budged since the dealers had thrown her down at his feet only ten minutes previous. He walked cautiously toward her and he saw something.

In her hollow black eyes, something sparked.


Levi stopped. He looked down at himself, all unkempt clothing and splattered blood. In truth, they didn't look much different. Only she was a broken child, and he was a broken man. He scowled a little at the thought of it. But still, he was at a bit of a loss. What now? What could he possibly do with a child who had been brought to him to sell for her pretty face?

He wiped his blade on a handkerchief he produced from his pocket. Her suddenly very alert eyes were following his every movement. He gave a sniff, and examining his blade pensively. "Those bastards," Levi told her idly. "They stained my shirt. And your dress."

Mikasa Ackerman looked at him, and her busted lips parted wider in terror. He stared at her for a moment, and sheathed his knife without thought. "Can you speak?" he asked her.

She stared at him as if he was a titan come to gobble her up. That made him want to smack her, but he had no taste for harming the girl. He rubbed his hands against the handkerchief. "You better be worth it," Levi warned the child with a low voice. "You're worth a lot of money, you know."

Her lips trembled. He rolled his eyes. "Stand up," he barked.

She began to shake.

He resisted the urge to throttle her. "Stand up," he repeated in a low voice. "Or you can stay here with these corpses. I don't care, honestly, but you need to decide. Now."

Her trembling was distracting. He couldn't think with all her quaking, and he needed to think. He needed to think fast. What the hell was he going to do with her? I need to hide her, he thought. Hide her… where? With me? It sounded like a disaster waiting to happen.

"Mikasa," Levi said. "Move your ass, or die. Those are your choices."

If she shook anymore, she might have snapped in half. Like a branch in the roar of a storm, she looked even more broken than when she began. But somehow, she sat herself upright. And she looked like she was about to start sobbing, tears welling up inside her dark eyes.

"Good," Levi said softly. He offered out his hand. Tentatively, with quaking fingers, she grasped it. Levi couldn't help the relief that stretched through him. And then he remembered he had no idea what to do with her, and he sighed. He yanked her roughly to her feet, watching her legs wobble as she swayed uneasily. She gained balance, but she was still trembling. "Walk with me."

She did. One foot after the other, her feet scraped across the ground mechanically. After a little while, her shaking stopped. Her mouth opened and closed, gaping and breathing heavily.

"W-who…?" she finally whispered. Her fingernails dug into the flesh of his palm, scraping at the drying blood.

He stared ahead, and he debated or a moment. "Levi," he told her, leading her forward into the darkness.

She said nothing for a very long time. They walked, their feet making the softest of noises against the emptiness of the tunnel.

"Thank you… Levi," she said softly. Her voice echoed in the darkness. It was a dead whisper.

Levi paused for a moment, and looked down at her with a hard gaze.

"Don't," he said simply.

The first chapter. When I started writing it I actually wasn't sure if I was going to definitely continue, but by the end of it I did. Also the only chapter that my ese Angie has actually read.

So here is to Angie! EIGHTEEN YEARS OLD AS OF TODAY. You legal bitch, omfg, now you have no excuses about going after guys older than you.

For anyone not Angie, this is an AU that I started a few months ago. New info has come out since then, and so there are some things in the story that might not be 110% accurate, or align directly with the manga. I think I made a few mistakes with ages, and rearranged when some things happen. I don't think anything is big enough that anyone who's not me will notice though.