Note: Not sure if this chapter should be rated M or not, so I thought I'd post this warning. Kid Eren is not so much physically hurt, but definitely emotionally scarred here. The plot is to demonstrate the ugliness of humanity, but don't worry, everything will be okay in the future (thanks to Levi).
"Corporal – Levi –!" Gasped Petra as she mounted her horse to catch up with the man in front of her. He had left without a word and readied himself for the trip within minutes. Eyes resolute yet empty, he had traipsed for the woods without a backward glance. Even as she struggled to follow him, he showed no sign of slowing down.
"Corporal Levi – Please –" Petra tried again, urging her horse into a reluctant trot behind the man whose shoulders had taken on more weight than anyone could ever carry, "We can't just barge in there unprepared –"
"I am prepared." Said the man laconically.
Petra blinked but recovered herself quickly. She held the leash tighter in her fingers and compelled her horse to catch up with the man so they could ride side by side.
"Understood, Sir." She said adamantly, her sole focus now on the road in front of them.
Silently, the pair travelled onwards as the wind whipped their hair and cloaks back. They journeyed for a good few hours before stopping by a babbling brook for a drink of water.
As Levi bent down to fill his personal flask, Petra stared at his back with a complicated expression on her face.
She seemed to be struggling with herself for quite some time before finally forcing herself to speak up.
"Um," She started in a slightly higher voice than usual, "I-I know it's not the best timing, Corporal Levi, but I…"
She swallowed as words failed her.
Levi stood up and faced her with the same dispassionate face. He did not interject and waited patiently for her to speak.
It was even harder to say it to his face than his back. Petra lowered her gaze, so she was talking to his boots instead.
"I know how much you've changed since Eren." She whispered, "So I thought – I thought – that I would…draw up some doc–"
"We have to get going." Interrupted Levi deliberately, cutting off whatever she was going to say. He turned on his heels and rearranged the reins on his horse.
"I – Yes, Sir." Petra said, abashed. She bit her lower lip as she climbed up upon her own horse. It hadn't been the right moment – she had almost ruined it.
As Levi started again down the narrow pathway within the darkening woods, Petra locked her gaze onto the small of his back. It was no matter. She would have the opportunity to ask him again some other time.
She just hoped with all her heart that he wouldn't be too cross with her once he knew.
It was another bleak morning. Eren had just woken up. Sluggishly, he blinked at the dark walls, not really comprehending anything. There was a split second where he couldn't remember who he was, or why he was here, and the wonderful feeling of oblivion took over. Then everything came rushing back to him, plunging him into a new mood of misery.
There was the tiniest window with tight bars in his cell though, so only minimal sunlight shot in. Eren only knew it was early morning because the guards were chatting about last night's poker game at the end of the hallway.
He rolled over on his side to muffle the sounds of crude laughter and back-thuds. As he turned, the heavy chains chattered loudly, restricting his movements. He didn't know how long he had been here, and he didn't know how long he'd have to stay.
There was no point anymore. In anything.
Eren's dull eyes found a square of cement wall that he liked to look at and stared at it in stagnancy, almost welcoming the despair overcoming him. He had laid here, staring the same four walls, for numerous days and nights.
He knew he had turned into a titan again, because the same head-splitting pain was within him when he woke up chained and alone in this cell. Yet he no longer cared about his future; nor did he care about the people coming to gawk and whisper about him from behind the safety of the iron bars. He no longer cared whether he lived or died. He just wished they would get on with it.
"Here you go, Mutant." Growled a voice from outside his cell. One of the guards was holding a plate of brownish food. He spat in it loudly before pushing it inside the bars. Laughing, he walked away.
Eren did not get up. They all called him that, though he didn't know what it meant. But he could guess from the tone it was muttered that it was nothing good. He was used to spit-covered food as well. It didn't matter either way, he hadn't eaten anything since his last meal shared with the man inside the little hut –
Eren squeezed his eyes shut. He didn't want to think about anything that had to do with the man. He felt stupid for thinking that Levi had actually cared – that Levi had grown attached to him like he did the man. Like the nuns in the orphanage, whose job was to care for the foster children, Levi's job had been to care for him specifically.
And he had done his job wonderfully.
Tears of bitterness and sorrow welled up, blurring his vision. Biting down on his lower lip, Eren raised one tiny fist and rubbed his eyes roughly. Soon, his stiff pillow was soaked through with his tears.
It was a good while before anyone stepped in front of his cell again.
Eren raised his head when he heard the perverted sniggers outside. He was a bit confused because he only received food once a day, and he had already received his.
A small group of guards stood outside the bars, leering at him. The hairs on the back of Eren's neck stood up as he saw the look on their twisted faces. The small boy gulped, dreading what was coming next.
Almost simultaneously, the guards undid their belts and let their pants fall to their ankles. Eren scooted away to the furthest corner of the cell, eyes round with fear at the ugly sight in front of him.
The guards cackled nastily and started to urinate into his cell, pissing all over the stone floor. Eren cried out in horror and revulsion at the abhorrent actions, unable to turn his eyes away.
The guards finished and, roaring with laughter at the look on the boy's face, left for their posts. The last guard lingered purposely, zipping up as slowly as he could. He came up right against the bars and squinted at the cowering child.
"I'll come back after my mead break, Mutant." He smirked in vulgar, "I'll save up for you."
Eren shivered as he finally walked away. He stared unbelievingly at where they all stood minutes ago, his chained wrists trembling in fright. He didn't know it was possible to be treated worse than he was the first time he was in this prison. He didn't know what to do, or how to feel. All he wanted was to go back home…
Fresh tears welled up when the boy realized he had no home. He couldn't remember the house he lived in with his parents anymore, as he never returned again after they died. The dungeons in the Survey Corps headquarters had hardly seemed like a home, though the company of the man had definitely made things better. And the orphanage he lived in with Mikasa and Armin had been stamped into bits after the titan attack… Eren bit his lip in angst as Armin's death flowed before his eyes… He hadn't been able to see the night sky in forever. In fact, he wondered if he would ever be allowed outside again.
Drowsily, the boy slipped into a restless sleep.
"…appreciate your speediness, Corporal. A shame everything turned out like this…What happened exactly?"
"I want to see him."
"You can see him during his trial. If he gets a trial, that is."
Distant voices reached Eren's ears, but he disregarded them.
"What do you mean 'if'? He deserves a fair trial as much as the next person!"
A female voice this time. Eren had never seen a female guard around here though…
"That all depends, girl. If Corporal Levi would be so kind as to let us know what happened, so we could make an informed decision…"
Eren's green eyes shot open. Did he just say…Corporal Levi? His Levi? He sat up straight, staring at the direction of the voices. Was Levi here, in the prison? Had he come for him, the boy?
"He was threatened, he turned, and Corporal Levi terminated the titan, like he was instructed to do!" Said Petra shortly.
"Is that so?"
"You may realize that the threat has been neutralized and in containment." Levi stated icily.
A humorless laugh. "Is that what he is, a 'threat'? Because it seems you're all very attached to him. Very…ah…protective."
"…Hardly." Came Levi's cold voice almost lazily, which Eren definitely recognized this time. "He is still my responsibility. It is my duty to see this through."
Eren's shoulders sagged. Of course. He was here because of his job, nothing more. The little hope that had dawned on him slipped away like fleeting wind. The light disappeared behind his eyes of aquamarine. He lied back onto the sad board that was his bunk and pulled the thin, frayed blanket over his chin.
"Very well, very well… Sign here to revert custody back to the Military Police, and I'll give you five minutes with the monster."
"Looks like I came back just in time, huh?" Snarled a familiar voice much closer. "A little gift for the Corporal…"
Eren pulled the blanket over his head, hoping to cover up the sound and the awful smell. He couldn't watch the vile action again. The sound of a zipper unzipping tore through the silence, accompanied by a dark chuckle. Eren trembled under the blanket, dreading what was coming.
Then a few dull thuds sounded, followed by yelps of helplessness. Finally, a sickening thump resonated throughout the empty hallway, and silence settled in.
Cautiously, Eren peered out from under the blankets, his eyes furtive. A small gasp escaped his lips as he witnessed the scene outside the bars.
There, under the dim candlelight, stood the man who looked more gargantuan than the tallest titan. He wore a look of murder on his thinned, deadpan face, and his glacial grey eyes stared straight at the boy. Underneath his foot, with his face pressed upon his own urine, was the guard that had promised to come back. He was wincing pathetically against Levi's boot.
"Did he touch you?" Levi asked malignantly.
Eren gaped quietly.
The toe of Levi's boot pressed down on the guard's cheek, forcing his face to rub against the odorous discharge.
"Did he?" He demanded again, pushing the scoundrel down harder with each syllable, "Did he hurt you?"
"N-No." Eren replied in a small voice.
"Good." Said Levi, wrinkling his nose in disgust. He surveyed the boy through the bars; he looked thinner and shabbier than Levi could ever remember. There was no blood in the sallow cheeks, no spark in the lifeless eyes, and no trace of faith in the youthful but beaten face.
The first time he had seen the boy had also been through bars like these, though it had been a completely different time. So much has happened that it seemed like that was a lifetime ago.
Levi's expression was hard to make out under the flickering lights. It had seemed so urgent, compulsive even, to see the boy. But now that he has, he realized he had no words for the cringing child.
None at all.
Eren sat there in the corner of forlorn cell, so small that he could disappear into the devouring walls behind him. Yet Levi could do nothing to rescue him from his fate. Promises were fruitless, for he could offer none. It seemed like he had come all this way just to disappoint the boy in person.
Levi turned away slowly, freeing the guard from his heel as he did so. He couldn't bring himself to look at the boy for one more second. It had been his fault that Eren was now imprisoned here, in this morbid cell of gloom.
"W-Wait!" Called the boy desperately to the retreating shadow of the man, "Can you – Can you take me with you?"
Levi froze. His naïve words were as powerful as a flood, drowning him out.
"Please!" Eren called again. He climbed off the stiff board clumsily and dragged the chains behind him as he ran towards the bars. "L-Levi!"
A small hand reached out beyond the bars and grabbed Levi's pant leg with all the force the child could carry out. His shaking fingers clamped against the fabric, as if refusing to accept the harsh reality. Caught in a stalemate, Levi had no choice but to turn around to face the tear-stained face behind the baleful irons.
There was a deep crease of worry on the man's otherwise handsome face. His long lashes camouflaged the concern at the bottom of his eyes. He lowered them until they rested on the trembling fingers of the child.
"…Hang in there." He finally said after an eternity, the only empty words he could speak. Then he cruelly snatched his leg from the boy's grasp and made for his way down the hall.
"Levi!" Cried Eren, his thin arm dangling helplessly between the bars, reaching out for his guardian angel that has flown far away, "Take me too! PLEASE!"
Yet the man walked on.
Levi's pace did not falter as he disregarded the frantic calls.
"Levi – don't go – please –!" The boy started to cry earnestly at his departure, sobbing so hard that he could barely catch his breath, "P-Please!"
Levi closed his eyes so heavily that he could see red spots on his lids. The tips of his lean fingers were shaking slightly due to the agony he had repressed deep within. He walked on, listening to the inconsolable calls that grew weaker and weaker with each step he took, until all that could pierce him was ringing silence.