This is for Rita, who was one of my first friends on tumblr, and who actually encouraged me to watch SNK in the first place. She deleted her tumblr and I've missed her ever since. I wrote this thing for you anyway in the hopes that, when and if, you come back, you'll see I kept my promise.

And yes, yes, damn you, you made me ship it.


~Eleven years ago~

"She escaped?"

Levi broke from his reverie, pulled his hand away from his mouth, his back cramped from being hunched for so long. He folded his hands together, glaring. "Yes."

Claude sat on the edge of the scarred table, fiddling with his butterfly knife nervously. "We have all of the others. We have plenty of them, men and women and even some kids, all healthy. I don't think he'll care if he gets one less. I don't think there's anything to worry about—she's just one that escaped, that's all. He'll get his moneys worth."

Levi hummed, drumming his fingertips on his knee, his other hand raking his hair back. Move them, he thought, hide their shaking. "She was a coveted pretty piece, from a specific clan from his homeland. He wanted her quite badly." Very badly. "He'll cause a shit storm once he realizes we won't deliver her."

Claude shifted, awkwardly twisting his body, driving his blade through the soft, decayed wood between them.

"We can get her back. I have a few guys who are good enough to make sure of it. Bloodhounds, really—they can sniff out a mouse from miles away."

"No." Levi eyed the blade bitten into the table's surface, tried not to think of it biting into her pale flesh. "We'll leave it be. We don't know where she's at. For all we know she could have gone to the authorities. They could have a setup, expecting us to go after, waiting to flush us out. It's too risky. We'll just tell him she killed herself. Hung herself or threw herself out the back of the van or a window, anything, but she's gone. Understand?"

"We can find her, though." Claude pressed, carving into the table viciously, his lanky blonde hair falling over his furrowed brow. "We can say she escaped but we're looking for her. Maybe we can get him to pay a little more, you know, for the trouble of dragging the bitch back." He kept carving. "Maybe we can even have a little fun with her for all the fucking trouble she's causing."

Levi's fury cracked through him, unblinking as he kicked the leg of the table, throwing Claude off, the blade cutting into his thumb and palm.

"What the fuck, Levi—"

"I said she's fucking gone, Claude, get it through your fucking skull. He wouldn't pay us to find what we lost. Do you think everyone's as stupid as you?" The trembling was getting worse but he bit through it. "Put that blade away before I shove it up your ass. Swallow your shit instead of spewing it all over the place."

Claude held his bleeding hand to his chest, his dull blue eyes glinting with restrained fury. "I was just trying to help—"

"Well, don't. You never fucking do." Levi stood, hiding his stiff limbs with a casual lean against the window, his lungs tight as he gazed down at the buildings and streets below. All oblivious, all ignorant, unknowing, unaware of how merciful their blindness was.

"Fine. But we're losing a lot of money for just one stupid, tenacious bitch." He bent, lifting his bloodied blade from the ground, the soft stomps of his boots and the slam of the door making Levi wind up tighter, knew he was close to breaking.

But he couldn't, he reminded himself, shutting his eyes, slowing his breathing. This life was a hard one but he was harder, and he'd fucking chew nails if he had to, merrily fucking pull on more chains, dig his own grave deeper.

For her. Because she was soft, she was goodness. He'd gladly damn himself to a life of enslavement, swallow his soul up in filth, to keep her free and running, to keep her as clean and pure as she was, keep her away from the life he'd chained himself to, no matter how much his hollow chest ached.

He'd already dragged her into these filthy waters deep enough—but it had been necessary to bring her across the seas, to get her out of her warring, dangerous homeland. It had been the only way, her only chance of a good life. It had been risky, and he'd almost been caught but he'd slipped her through their grubby fingers quickly enough. She was safe for now, but a far way from being completely out of harm's way.

And he needed to clean this shit up before anyone put the pieces together. He flexed his scarred knuckles, wondered if he had enough left in him to do what he had to.

He needed to make her truly disappear—far enough that even his own filthy hands couldn't reach her.


~Eleven Years Later~

"She's pretty." Armin murmured, his small pale fingers gripping the chain fence, his blue eyes peering from behind it. "How old is she?"

"Nine." Eren murmured, shrugging as he pulled himself up off the grass. "Our age. Her name is Mikasa." He brushed away the bits of clinging dirt and blades. "That's what my mom said."

"Oh. Mikasa." Armin murmured, pulling away from the fence. "She looks very happy." Armin's cheeks were bright and pink, the color clashing starkly with the ink blue of his eyes. "Doesn't she, Eren?"

"Yeah." Eren's stormy green eyes narrowed as he joined Armin's careful watching of the girl, the tinkle of her pretty laughter carrying in the cold breeze as her father ruffled her long black hair. She had very nice skin, Eren thought, and he wasn't sure if he'd ever seen anyone with eyes as dark as hers. He'd never seen features quite like hers really, except perhaps on television—and except for her mother, who was also very, very pretty.

He looked back up, seeing her swing through the monkey bars quickly, oddly graceful for her age. He could only get about halfway before his fingers betrayed him and he hit the ground. She reached the other side, hopping down, shyly looking up at her father, seeking his approval.

"You don't think she's pretty?" Armin pressed.

Eren blinked a little owlishly. He had remembered blushing when he'd met her mother at the supermarket the other day, her gentle smile oddly pleasing. "I guess. But lots of girls are pretty."

Armin's eyes shimmered curiously. "I've never heard you call any other girls pretty."

Eren scowled a little, adjusting his scarf, grabbing Armin's sleeve and tugging. "Come on, it's cold and it's getting late."

Armin kept smiling, nodding and falling into step beside Eren. "It's still kind of early." He looked up at the twilight sky, then glanced at him perceptively. "Did they shorten your curfew again?"

"Tch," Eren shoved his small hands into his coat pockets, a little guilt creeping into him, remembering the last time he'd gotten them both into trouble. "They didn't. I'm just cold." Eren lied, eyeing the darkening sky, the way the street had quickly emptied. They didn't live in the most dangerous part of town but neither was it the safest. The houses weren't too close together, and the woods about them were thick and shadowy, and he'd watched the news enough to know that sometimes bad things happened in them. "I'm hungry." He jutted out his chin, walking mulishly.

He could try his best to defend Armin but he wouldn't risk it if he didn't have to.

Armin smiled, walking beside him. "Okay."

They were just passing an alley when the sound of hushed male voices made them freeze. Eren turned stiffly, seeing four scraggly looking men huddled together, walking towards them.

"Hurry, Armin." Eren grabbed Armin's hand, linking their fingers, tugging them both forward. "If they try to grab at us you run, alright?" He felt his heart pound, all the warnings his mother had drilled into his skull springing forward. "Get help and I'll try to hold those bastards off."

"You shouldn't curse." Armin said reflexively, keeping his gaze on the ground, letting Eren pull him forward, his jagged breaths fogging the air. "And Eren—I wouldn't—I won't leave you—let's just run. There's a fire station just around the corner we can both make it…your dad always said we should run there if we needed help—"

The men stepped out of the alley, inches from their backs, the scent of smoke and cloves and alcohol striking their noses offensively. Eren sucked in a deep breath, pushing Armin forward and bracing himself between them—when the thugs suddenly turned in the opposite direction, their gazes latched onto the park with unusual intensity.

The park?

Eren paused, looking over his shoulder, searching for Mikasa and her father—but they were gone. Or, so it seemed. From their angle they could only see half of the park, the building blocking the rest, but if he just took a few steps, maybe if he shouted he could warn them and give them time to—

"Eren." Armin pleaded, shaking his head. "We should go. They're looking at us, now."

Eren sucked in a deep breath, seeing the thugs watching them warily, their glares threatening, dirty fingers slipping into their pockets suggestively, a last warning.

And he wasn't a coward but he wouldn't drag Armin into it, wouldn't risk hurting him. Not when he wasn't sure. Besides, it looked as if Mikasa and her dad had left already. Hadn't they? She did have her dad with her and he should know that being out on the streets at night wasn't safe. They were probably almost home by now.

He turned away with a last sharp glare at the thugs, his throat tight, swallowing the sharp ache that had appeared within it.

It didn't feel right. There was something going on, something his child's mind couldn't quite fathom, something ugly that made his small fists clench. "Alright. Let's go."

Armin let out a breath in relief. "I'm sure they're fine, Eren."

He nodded, unable to stop himself from looking back.


"It's no good." Grisha muttered, the words barely audible from between gritted teeth, putting down the woman's thin wrist. "They've been dead for hours." He placed his hands on his thighs, still kneeling, his words sounding strained but hopeful. "Eren is there a little girl nearby? Is Mikasa there?"

Eren spoke tonelessly. "No, she isn't."

His eyes felt unbearably dry, and he forced himself to blink, once, twice, slowly. They'd been killed, her dad dead with a neat, deep bullet hole in his gut—not the mom, though. It looked as if they'd blasted off most of her neck and shoulder, the bite deep, snapping the collarbone, and lower. It must have hurt, he thought dully, it couldn't have been the same gun.

"A shot gun." He heard his father murmur. "These houses are so far apart from one another…people hunt in these woods all the time." He shook his head. "Gun shots are normal."

Normal.

It was huge, a crater on her small slim body, disfiguring the bones in her face. It almost looked as if some large beast had held her still and taken a bite out of her. Her last moments must have been agony.

And he knew who that beast was, and more importantly what they looked like. He'd seen the way those men had moved towards the park, like a pack of wolves, dragging the scent of prey into their lungs greedily.

He'd seen them lingering about before, knew they were trouble. He'd felt it. But he hadn't said anything. And now this had happened.

She looks very happy.

He stared at the lifeless bodies splayed brokenly across the floorboards, like puppets cut from their strings, toys with dried up batteries.

Doesn't she, Eren?

"I'm going to call the police and request for an investigation. You wait for me down downstairs, don't touch anything." He felt his father look at him but couldn't pull himself back out of his head, simply stared wide eyed at the bodies on the ground. "Do you understand, Eren?"

He understood much, much too well.


It was strange, she thought, that she was not weeping. Perhaps it had all been too quick, too unreal, her mind had disconnected from her heart, and her body was simply holding them in the same shell, together, but separate.

Her body hurt in a numb sort of way. They hadn't beaten her but they had roughed her up some before throwing her into the back of their van, her face feeling swollen, the corner of her mouth spliced, blood crusting and flaking. She couldn't feel her fingers, the duct tape about her wrists biting hard enough to cut off her flow of blood and she was cold, she was ice—and it was all just a distant blur, as they shut the rusty van doors, imprisoning her.

"Hurry the fuck up." The driver, Claude, snapped and she looked up dully when he leaned over the seat, eyeing her critically. "Your mother really was a tenacious bitch." His lips curled up, the expression too feral to be a smile, his blue eyes as pale as ice. "But at least we got you." He cocked his head at her lack of response. "Don't try to run away or you'll get something worse than your mother did."

She looked away, focused her gaze on the back of the rotting seats, broken springs torn through the orange upholstery.

Run?

It's what her mother had screamed at her before she'd fallen, her blood everywhere. But where could she run to? That was her home. Where could she go if not with them? Where else did she belong?

"You think Levi will be happy I found her?" She heard Claude ask the other thugs as they clambered in.

"Yeah," The man laughed, the sound twisted, awful. "I bet he'll let you suck him off right there."

She shut her eyes as they shifted the van into drive, their laughter like glass in her ears, uncaring of her fate.


The girl is missing.

In the chaos of sirens and police lights and camera crews and reporters it had been easy for Eren to go unnoticed. His father was the head doctor for the town after all and so he was swept up into his job thoroughly, sitting him in the backseat of the car.

The girl was probably taken…human trafficking…it's gotten pretty bad around here. It's easy to get lost in these woods.

But Eren knew these woods intimately, had wandered about them since he'd learned to walk. He knew where those abandoned cabins were. He had seen one once that had been crawling with those thugs, had made it a point to keep himself and Armin away from there.

Finding them…getting her back doesn't seem very likely.

And he'd grabbed Hannes wrist, his fathers, every officer that had gotten near, told them where he thought they kept her but they had all their men searching the vicinity, they'd get to that cabin later, in the morning—but it would be too late, much, much too late.

We should prepare for the worst.

Eren slid out the backseat, his knife and tape deep in his coat pockets, quickly and silently slipping away.

It looks like we were too late.

He only hoped he wouldn't be too late to save her.


"How long are we going to stay out here?" The older thug murmured, long-limbed and rail thin, his head hidden under a dark green baseball cap.

The younger thug shrugged his hefty shoulders, seating himself on the brown decaying couch, slinging his shotgun over his shoulder carelessly. "Claude said he'd come by in the morning. We just need to wait out the night because the cops are crawling all over the streets. We didn't expect them to find out so quickly."

The thin man pulled his cap over his eyes, the nervous gesture seeming to soothe him. "Yeah. We just need to wait it out for tonight—but what if they find us?"

His friend sighed. "Paul is patrolling around. He'll be back in a few minutes. We'll take turns."

An uncomfortable silence settled about them, and Mikasa watched them dazedly, bound and sprawled across the cabin floor. Blinking was something she had to remind herself to do, and breathing was tiring, exhausting, her energy leeching with each rasp.

"You wanna know something?" The thicker thug smiled darkly, breaking the silence, gesturing for his friend to get closer, lowering his voice. "I heard that she was a runaway. She was some kind of special order for the devil himself."

The other man looked startled, giving Mikasa a look laced with doubt. "But she's just a kid."

The thug scowled. "Not her. The mother. He wanted the mother but she escaped and when Claude spotted her again he knew getting her back would be good money."

"Oh." He folded his lanky frame within on himself, sitting on a chair by the window, still touching the tip of his cap. "But we killed her."

"Maybe he'll be happy with her, though."

The men continued their bickering, muttering about how much she'd be worth, if someone would want her, how much they should ask for.

"Um, ah…excuse me."

The wooden door groaned as it was pushed open a crack, and she saw the men stiffen, their bodies coil, the voice small and meek and shaky.

The taller of the two leapt forward, ripping the door back, sending it crashing against the wall. "Not so fast, kid!" The boy crumpled a little, alarmed at the man's rage, at the way he hunched over him like an animal ready to rip out his throat. "How did you find out about this place?"

"I…was playing in the woods and I got lost. But I know my street name." The boy held his arm behind his small rigid back, his other clenched against his side. "And I spotted this house." There were tears gathering at the corners of the boy's eyes, and Mikasa dully wondered why he was crying.

That was a normal reaction, she knew. She should be crying. But corpses had no tears.

The man slowly shifted from his position, his expression softening, lowering onto his haunches. His large hand cupped the top of the boy's brown mussed hair, shaking it affectionately. "A little boy like you shouldn't be playing around in the woods. There are wolves and other animals about. But don't worry." He kept petting him. "Me and my friend will take you back. Let me get my car keys and—"

There was a soft damp gushing sound, a quiet, wet gurgle, the man's words cut off abruptly.

"Thank you, sir." The shakiness was gone from his voice, replaced with a rage that was much too dark for a child. "But I've caught on already." She saw the boy raise his other hand, shoving the man's hand away from his head, his other hand ripping a knife out of the thug's throat, blood splattering everywhere. "Now die, fucker."

The boy clasped his small hand behind the man's skull, slamming him to the ground, lifeless, his throat gutted—and the boy pulled back, shutting the door and disappearing behind it.

This can't be real, her mind repeated, the smallest of trembles beginning deep in the pit of her belly, the ache that had dissipated swelling fiercely. Please, no more.

The other thug rose, thwacking the couch back, wide-eyed and shaking as he grasped his shotgun more firmly, the same gun that had delivered the shot that had torn into her mother's body, her blood peppered and rusted on its side, on his jeans and coat.

"Hey…stay where you are, damn you!" The thug stumbled forward, lifting the shotgun as he tore the door open. "To hell with you…"

And then the boy was charging, running towards him with a knife taped to a wooden stick, lashing it up at the thug violently, splicing his neck and throat, burying it deep into his shoulder.

The man fell onto his back in shock, the shotgun bouncing over the floorboards, and before he could right himself the small boy gripped the small knife, leaping onto him vengefully, his large eyes blank, violent. He landed on him, cutting into the man's skin, stabbing over and over, the sounds horrible, wet, drowned out by his fierce cries and curses. "You fucking animal!" He kept stabbing, his neck, his chest, his shoulders. "Don't you ever fucking wake up again. You had it coming. This is what you deserve."

Mikasa felt her body come alive again, her eyes unblinking, the breath ripped out of her lungs as she watched him finish him off with a last brutal stab, shakily wiping the blood off his cheek with his sleeve. He faced her, weakly getting to his feet, walking towards her, blood dripping from his small knife—a kitchen knife. The kind her mother had tried to use. There were still tears shimmering in his pretty eyes but he spoke calmly. "It's over now." He came closer still. "You're gonna be okay."

He reached her, his body heat touching her skin, his hands warm and slippery as he cut away the tape. Her skin prickled painfully, the blood flowing again. "You're Mikasa, right? I'm Eren. Doctor Yeager's son. I think you've already met my dad. I saw you at the park earlier…"

Her arms slid forward limply, recalling how eagerly her father had opened the door, calling out Dr. Yeager's name, the three men who'd stormed in…

Three.

"There should be three of them." Her throat ached. There had been a fourth, Claude, but he'd driven away, said he wouldn't return until the morning. The third had been patrolling and he was probably nearby…

"Huh?"

There was a sound and they both turned, finding the third man at the doorway, his eyes latching onto the dead bodies of his friends.

Eren lurched for the blade between them desperately—but the man lunged forward, kicking Eren's small body viciously, the sound of his cry strangled as he flew across the room.

"Did you do this?" The man sounded heartbroken, the crackle in his voice too human for what he'd done. "They were my friends, damn you!" He was strangling the small boy, his large hands squeezing his small throat, and she could see him struggling, see his small body squirming and no this couldn't be real—how many murders could she witness in one day before her mind finally fractured into madness?

"F-fight!" He was speaking, Mikasa realized, dogged enough to manage to get his voice out from between the man's fingers. His small hands clutched at the man's wrists, scratching, drawing blood. "You win, you live. If we can't…you're dead."

The man shook him harder, his grip tightening. "You little shit."

The boy locked his gaze onto hers. "You can't win without fighting!"

She couldn't quite comprehend everything that had happened to her. But did it matter? It was cold, and cruel, and she was hollow and dead but this small boy wasn't, his eyes bright as flames, full of life, of fury, of passion, and he'd come to save her.

She gripped the small knife, gritting her teeth, seeing the struggle, trembling so hard it felt her very bones would splinter out of her skin.

But this was normal, she rationalized. Death happened every day, every moment, it leered closer with every second that passed.

That was the world they lived in; clawed hollow by cruelty, brimming with beauty. It didn't matter. That was what they were trapped in.

Fight.

And she'd been dead and cold. But this small boy wasn't. He was life and fire.

And she didn't want him to be put out.

Her trembling stilled, her pulse slowing, evening, her vision suddenly very clear. She slid out her foot, the callused skin of her feet scraping across the wood, the board cracking beneath her heel as she moved forward, steady and hard as steel.


Eren made sure to keep beside her as his dad finished talking to the police, an unopened juice box in his hand. He'd never really liked fruit punch anyway.

He eyed Mikasa from the corner of his eye, tugging his scarf away from his mouth so he could breathe better. She had sat very, very still the entire time, even when she'd walked, or spoke—it was a little frightening, really. They'd sat them in hard plastic chairs as they'd taken his father into the interrogation room, and he struggled to find a way to reach her.

Because she looked too still. It made him feel as if maybe he hadn't really made it in time to save her.

A policeman walked over to them, his face kind, his eyes compassionate and filled with pity. "Hey, Mikasa? Do you remember me? I'm officer Hannes." He reached out and tried to grasp her hand—but she flinched, wrapping her small arms around her body.

"She doesn't want to be touched." Eren glared at Hannes, though he knew he wasn't supposed to, had been chided by his mother enough times to have his ears fall off. "Leave her alone."

Hannes looked a little begrudging, but conceded. "Ah, yes, sorry…" He cleared his throat. "Mikasa, are you sure you don't have any family to take you in?"

Her icy expression thawed, cracked, a brief and sharp flash of agony flickering through her gaze, making her shudder. She breathed in, slowly, freezing everything out again and if Eren hadn't been watching her so closely he would have missed it entirely. "No…I'm alone…I have no other home."

The officer's frown deepened. "Perhaps a grandmother? An aunt or uncle? Any name you can think of?"

Mikasa curled in on herself—and Eren had seen enough. He hopped off his chair, placing his small hands on Hannes shoulder and pushing. "I said leave her alone!"

"Hey, kid—quit it." Hannes lifted Eren, sitting him back down none too gently. "Jesus," He breathed, "what is she your girlfriend or something?"

Eren felt himself flush, the accusation ridiculous. "Leave her alone."

Hannes pressed his lips together and was about to retort when another officer stepped into the room. "Hannes?" He pointed a thumb over his shoulder. "They need you."

He pressed his fingertips to the backs of his eyelids, sighing wearily, the sound bone deep and thin. "Alright." He straightened, frowning down at the both of them in disapproval. "Stay put. Your dad is almost out."

Eren continued to glower until Hannes left them alone. And Mikasa was still much too motionless.

"Mikasa…?"

She blinked slowly, and it took her far too long to fix her dull dark eyes on his.

He frowned. He supposed he shouldn't have expected an actual verbal response. "Are you okay?"

There. Surprise. It was slight and very weak, but she had had a bit of a reaction and almost as soon as it appeared on her small face it vanished. "Yes." Her voice was very frail.

He took a breath, gripping his juice box a little too tightly. Whenever he was upset or crying or, as his mother said, 'throwing one of his fits' she always sat him down and forced him to drink a whole glass of water. "Here," He fumbled with the straw, punching it through the small hole, wrinkled his nose when he spilled a little over his thumb and wrist. He held out the juice for her. "Drink it."

She didn't look at him.

He set his small jaw in determination. "I said drink it." He pushed it more insistently, forcing her to lean away. "You didn't drink the water the officers gave you." He kept following her mouth with his juice box. "And you didn't eat your crackers." She shook her head at him. "You need to eat or drink something or you're going to get sick." When she continued to fight him he grabbed at her collar. "You're alive, aren't you?" He nearly shouted, stunning her enough to make her flinch, and he pressed the straw between her lips. "So drink."

She shut her eyes, her small body trembling, her nod shaky as she drank obediently. He helped her drink the whole thing until he heard someone call his name.

"Eren?"

They both froze. His dad was standing beside them, his hair slipping lose from its tail, over his shoulder. "Eren, leave Mikasa alone."

Eren huffed a little, putting the box on the chair beside him grudgingly, wiping his juice slicked fingers on his shirt. "I was trying to help."

"Hmm," His father murmured sympathetically, helping Eren off the chair. "I'm sure Mikasa appreciates it. Come on. We need to get home before your mother gets worried." He looked at Mikasa now. "The police are going to take care of you, Mikasa. You'll be alright now."

Mikasa said nothing.

Eren frowned as his dad pulled him forward, was about to speak up when Mikasa's small voice warbled out of her throat. "Dr. Yeager…?" They all watched her silently, patiently. "Where…where will I go?" She looked so still, her eyes burned so fiercely, so brokenly. "I'm cold…I don't have any more family." Eren felt his heart stutter sorely. He'd saved her, hadn't he? Why did she look so dead then? So distant and lifeless. "I don't have a home anymore." Mikasa shut her eyes.

Eren tugged off his scarf. When he was upset his mother made him drink water. When he was cold his mother always bundled him up. But she didn't have a mom anymore, did she?

"Here." He struggled to wrap the scarf about her neck and face, covering her mouth and nose, flopping the last part about her head. There. That should keep the chill off. "It's warm, isn't it?" Only her large eyes were visible above the scarf, glimmering curiously as she watched him. "Come on." He grabbed her sleeve and tugged her forward, pulled her off the chair and onto her feet. "Let's go home. Our home."

He heard her shaky inhale, felt the way she quivered against his small knuckles. He pulled her out with him down the hall, ignored the looks from his father, from officer Hannes and the rest. He'd barely made it in time to save her—but her mom and dad were dead and gone. He couldn't bring them back but perhaps he could share his own parents with her. Perhaps he could ease the ache she felt, if only a little.

"Yes." He heard her wobbly whisper, heard the tears that weren't quite shed. "Our home."


"Are you sure about this, Grisha?" Hannes asked with a furrowed brow. "Taking in another child…?"

Grisha kept signing forms, his signature an elegant, sharp scrawl. "Eren didn't give me much of a choice."

Hannes huffed. "He's a kid, Grisha. Now, this is a small neighborhood but there are plenty of family's that would love to take in a young girl like Mikasa—"

Grisha shook his head, his expression a little tired, a little rueful. "When Eren was six years old he found a wounded stray cat. It was missing an eye and the tail looked like it had been burnt off. Eren came home covered in scratches, his clothes bloodied, because he said the cat didn't want to let himself be held but he knew it needed help." His lips curled up into a smile. "Carla refused to take it in, of course, the thing was rabid. When we tried to take it away from Eren he kicked and screamed and razed until we released him. We kept it—it was either that or rip the animal out of his arms forcefully. The cat sleeps in his room every night. His name is Hook." Grisha pushed the page away, filling out another calmly, steadily. "When Eren was eight—last year actually— he and Armin were playing in the woods. They were climbing trees when Armin fell and broke his leg." He flipped another page. "They were about a mile away from the house, and it was downhill, rainy season. Climbing back up for an adult is difficult, a mountain for a small child—but Eren lifted Armin on his back and bodily carried him all the way to the fire department." Another page. "I was working at the hospital at that time and the paramedics had to call me out of a surgery because Eren refused to leave Armin alone." He laughed a little too himself, adjusting his glasses. "I wasn't much help either. Eren stayed by him the whole time, holding his other hand, glaring at anyone that might hurt him."

He sighed wearily, affectionately, signing the last page. "I know my son." He lifted his brief case. "He's taken Mikasa in. Once Eren forms a bond with you—even if you're unwilling—his tenacity and protection knows no boundaries."

Hannes grunted, watching him slip his jacket back on. "You need to teach that boy some discipline, Grisha."

Grisha lifted his briefcase, walking away. "I rather thought we could all learn something from him, instead."


Levi had seen countless dead bodies. He'd had to touch them, bury them, cut them apart—he'd cut the very life from them more than he cared to recall. He'd murdered, almost gotten killed, experienced and caused horrors he knew were unforgivable, could drown in the blood he'd spilled—and still, this death, her death, brought him to his knees.

His heart was pounding harshly, his lungs ached for breath as he held himself up off the sidewalk, the ache tearing at him until he felt he'd fracture.

Fuck. Fuck this. Fuck it. I fucked it up again.

He groaned, pressing his stone cut palms over the backs of his lids, rocking back and forth on his knees. He could feel the slickness of blood thickening between his fingers, caked beneath his fingernails, the blood of Claude's crushed face, his screams of agony doing nothing to assuage Levi's rage.

You fucking killed her. How could you fucking kill her? I told you to leave it alone. You killed her.

He swallowed, a sharp pain tearing at his throat, at his lungs, his heart, his rib cage splintering beneath his skin.

Please, he begged pathetically, not her.

Another growl clawed up his throat, and he felt his body contort, retching violently there beneath the streetlamp, tasting the bitterness of bile, the venom of his insides, the ash of every cigarette he'd breathed, the burn of every drink, the scorch of every drug he'd inhaled, swallowed, injected—all of it poured out of him into a brown yellow puddle, spread out slowly, tinged with blood.

He retched until he was empty, and then he gagged and dry heaved until he was sure his very heart would slip from his lips.

It was minutes, or perhaps hours, but his body quieted in its spasms, and he hefted himself onto his back, inches away from vomit, his eyes staring up at the sky unseeingly.

He hadn't been able to see her—her body. The last time he'd seen her, alive, had been months ago, and he'd watched her from a distance, let the burn of smoke sift in his lungs as he lingered in the shadows. She was carrying her small daughter, her husband's arm wrapped around her thin waist intimately, holding her to him proudly as they'd watched the small thanksgiving parade.

But of course the fucker had held her proudly.

She was beauty in human form. Kindness and passion and charity. Her compassion knew no bounds—she'd even extended it to a feral dog like him back then, when starvation and illness had nearly stopped his heart.

And he'd promised he'd protect her, with every spoonful she had fed him, with every cup of water she'd lifted to his lips, with every healing touch she'd given him. He'd promised to save her from the hellhole they'd lived in, refused to let her die, even when their deaths had seemed inevitable. And what had he gone and done? He'd brought her overseas, helped her escape, let her find another, a good man, marry him, have a daughter…to have her only die as viciously as she would have back home.

How terrified she must have been.

They'd killed the husband first, had tried to take her but she'd fought, and of course she'd fought, she would do everything to protect her daughter, and he'd promised her she was out of danger, had never thought Claude would find her, or even remember her.

But he had, and he should have protected her. And he could beat Claude until he was just a shit stain on the floor but it wouldn't bring her back.

Where's the girl?

I…I don't know. When we got to the cabin the cops were there we couldn't get any closer. But they were dead. I don't know who killed them but the cops took the girl, I think.

He'd snuck past the sleeping cops sitting in their cars outside the house, crept onto the roof, through a window—not her house, a crime scene—and he'd found everything in place. Sheets tucked in neatly, laundry folded, cups flipped upside down on a kitchen towel to dry, an apron, her apron…and he'd found photos everywhere. Smiles mocking him from behind their glass, and he'd pathetically, shakily taken a few, crisply folding them into his pockets, had been about to leave when he'd found the picture of her daughter.

A daughter he had held only once, only weeks after she'd been born.

Mikasa, she'd handed him her infant daughter so easily, so trustingly, hadn't cared that he looked like he hadn't slept in weeks, that he was going through withdrawals, had only touched his arm as he'd looked down at the baby she'd had with another man. I named her Mikasa. Do you like it?

He hadn't been able to respond for several moments, felt a storm of emotions brewing within him—jealousy, elation, relief that she'd survived the labor—but he'd only shook his head.

No. It's a shitty name.

She'd laughed, as she always did, making him think that he'd said something clever and kind instead of depressing and snarky.

Do you think Mikasa looks like me, Levi?

Levi inhaled, opening his eyes, pulling himself out of the memory, tugging the young girl's picture out of his pocket, tracing it with a filthy fingertip.

Yes, he'd admitted roughly, she looks just like you.


A/N~If the plot didn't make sense, I'm sorry. If the plot is painfully obvious then I am also very sorry. But it's going to get much, much more complicated and while I may follow some of the canon plot points I'll probably deviate quite a bit. And, also, I plan on this thing being very, very long. Maybe 20 chapters, maybe even more. It'll get very angsty, it'll be very violent and I'll try to curb my darker tendencies as much as I can but there are going to be beatings, brutal fights, abductions, drugs, talk of human trafficking and...stuff. I'm dragging Eren and Mikasa through the flames of hell and back.

I live in a bad neighborhood so I figured I might as well use it as inspiration.

I hope you didn't hate it.