'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through barracks, not a trainee was stirring, not even a—
"Eren, what are you doing?"
Never mind. It's doubtful that these kids even celebrate Christmas. It's probably just another normal night to them.
"Waiting for the water to finish boiling. I need a hot drink." Eren glared at the kettle, as though it was somehow personally offending him.
"Yeah. Coffee's just too… bitter. And we don't have to funding to waste it on hot chocolate." Eren flinched as the door burst open, hand immediately reaching for swords that weren't there.
He blinked as he saw Sasha burst in, apparently having kicked in the door if the bottles in her arms were anything to go… by…
"Oh no. Not again." Connie was backing away from Sasha, who was grinning like a cat that had gotten into the big barrel of cream that stood in the corner of a noble's pantry and slowly went bad because they were too lazy to use it. "Sasha, we'll get in trouble."
Sasha grinned at that, almost sly. "Nope. Shadis is busy. Something came from Trost for him, and the rest of the soldiers in the area are a little… inebriated, tonight. They won't notice a few missing bottles unless someone does something to get us noticed."
Wary glances were exchanged all around, until Jean suddenly started pushing tables out of the way. "Fine, but we're sitting on the ground."
With that, the rest of them slowly came around to sit, some closer to one another than others. Most had gone to bed already, but there were still a fair few there. The expected top ten, plus Ymir (she never left Christa if she could help it, after all), and Armin (who would have followed Marco, but decided to stay with Eren for as long as he could).
Twelve little trainees, all in a circle, with normal glasses in front of them. Sasha opened one of the bottles and poured it to halfway, then passed it to Reiner next to her. "It's pretty strong, so we can't drink too much, or we'll lose control and get caught."
"Like last time?" Jean asked, eyebrow raised.
"Yep." Sasha's reply held no sarcasm. "Just like last time."
Finally, the drinks were poured, and they waited in silence for someone to suggest a game. Sasha, having been the one to steal the liquor, was the one that got first pick, of course. She spoke her choice with a grin. "Never Have I Ever."
Groans circled around, but they all acquiesced.
"Can we make one rule, though?" Jean complained. "Keeping the 'do you like' kind of questions to a minimum?"
Sasha shrugged. "Fine by me. Oh, and we take sips, not drink the whole thing. Maximum of five sips, then you're out.I'll go first. Never have I ever… ridden inside a carriage."
Christa, Eren, and Jean all lifted the glasses to their lips. The question was a mundane one, but the answers were a surprise.
Eren shrugged. "My dad was a doctor. Sometimes, a richer member of the city would ask him to treat them personally, sending a carriage for him, and he took me along a few times."
Jean rolled his eyes. "Trost. My mom had some friends in the upper class, and she'd rent a carriage whenever we went to parties so that we didn't look out of place."
Christa's face brooked no questions, and no one dared press.
Sasha turned to Reiner. "Your turn."
"Hm…" Reiner closed his eyes. "Never have I ever… been waylaid by a Wall Cultist to discuss the greatness of the Walls."
Groans were heard all around as over half the circle raised the glasses to their lips. Reiner grinned, happy to have gotten so many people out with just one go. All heads turned to Bertl, who fidgeted for a few seconds.
"Um… never have I ever… read erotica?" The last part was spoken quietly, almost as a question, rather than as the statement it was supposed to be. With a few catcalls, blushes, and even a straight face on Mikasa's part (and wasn't that drink a surprise), glasses went up again. Grins were being exchanged at the first dirty question of the night. By common agreement, no one asked further about it… yet.
Annie was next, and she simply stared down into her glass, swirling the liquid inside around quiescently. "Never have I ever… played an instrument."
Jean and Marco were the only ones to drink this time. Jean already at his third, was starting to blush. He glared around at the rest, though whether it was due to embarrassment or due to the fact that he was already halfway to getting kicked out, no one knew. "Violin."
Marco simply shrugged and smiled. "Piano."
Connie snorted, and thought it over for a few seconds. "Alright, I'll go easy on you guys, 'cause I doubt anyone's going to say yes to this one."
"Are you going to say 'had sex'?" Jean immediately questioned. "Because that one gets asked every time, and I'm pretty sure the answer is still no for everyone."
"No way, that's too cliché." Connie waved him off. "No, mine is… never have I ever… killed someone."
In the annoyed, playful groans that followed, Eren, Mikasa, Reiner, Bertholt, and Ymir all quietly raised their glasses to their lips and took sips.
Silence spread over the few that had been laughing, their faces masks of horror. Annie and Armin, already party to those particular bits of information, stared quietly at the floor, just as the ones that had drunk already.
"H…holy shit." Connie whispered.
Eren exchanged a glance with Mikasa, and after a few seconds of silent conversation, turned back to the group at large. "Mikasa and I… it was self-defense. Mostly. It's… complicated."
A few heads nodded, as though urging him to continue.
"I…" Eren turned to Mikasa. "Do you mind if—"
"I don't. Tell them everything, if you want to."
Eren sighed and looked at the rest of the present trainees again. "Okay, so, when we were nine, Mikasa's parents were murdered and she was kidnapped by slavers who wanted to, um…"
"They wanted to sell me as a sex slave to rich nobles that wanted to have an exotic plaything." Mikasa spoke without any real inflection, her face carefully blank.
"Yeah." Eren winced. "My dad was supposed to visit them for a checkup that day, and he wanted me to meet Mikasa, so I went too. When we opened the door, we found the murder scene. He went to get the Military Police, telling me to stay where I was until he got help."
"You didn't stay, did you?" Annie's eyes bored holes into his head.
Eren shook his head. "I grabbed knife and… well, I tracked the guys down. Pretended to be some cute and innocent little kid that just got lost at first to make them let down their guard and check that I'd found the right guys, and then I gutted the one at the door. I had another knife tied to the handle of a broom for longer range, and used that to take care of the second guy. Mikasa was tied up on the floor, so I used the first knife to get rid of the ropes, but then the third guy came in and started yelling about how I'd killed his friends. Before I could get the knife, he kicked me away from it and then put me up against the wall and started choking me. Mikasa… Mikasa took care of him."
"I shoved it straight through his back and into his heart." Mikasa added on, though her voice was still quiet and controlled.
An awed and terrified hush fell over the group, and fearful glances were sent at Mikasa and Eren, along with inquisitive and still more fearful glances at Ymir, Reiner, and Bertholt. Better the monster whose story you knew, then the one that was a mystery.
"I don't want to talk about it." Ymir abruptly stood up and left. Seconds later, Reiner and Bertholt followed suit, muttering similar excuses and apologies.
Slowly, the ring on the floor dispersed, only halfway through their game. Sasha even managed to return the remaining bottles, vowing not to try instigating another night of horrifying stories.
Just the one truth was enough. No one wanted more.
The next morning, the air around the 104th division was irrevocably changed. Only the ones that were there knew why, but everyone felt it.
Because the rest were only the prey.
The killers in the 104th division…
They were the hunters.