Categories > Anime/Manga > Attack on Titan > A Matter of Stature

Part 3

by Milia 0 reviews

A girl from Sina is engaged to a man she's never met. She must find out why and solve the hidden secrets of her family. (LevixReader, ErenxMikasa)

Category: Attack on Titan - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Drama,Humor,Romance - Published: 2015-05-03 - Updated: 2015-05-03 - 13556 words - Complete

A Matter of Stature

Chapter 11: Naivete

Things got busy for the scouts, as a new wave of recruits was to come. It had been about a year since Eren, Mikasa, Armin and several others joined, and they were no longer really the new ones. Levi's promised cleaning lessons would still happen, you were sure of it, but for the time being, he was busy helping Erwin prepare everything to try to get some people to join. The truth was not to be sugar coated though, the Survey Corps were dangerous and they wouldn't try to hide that.

As expected, there weren't many recruits, but at least Erwin and Levi didn't return by themselves. Most of the potential cadets stayed away from the scouts after being scared off by the battle with the female titan. If regular titans were scary, an enemy titan with human intellect was just too much. Erwin returned to the base in the company of only one new recruit, it was not the best year for the scouts, but not the worse.

"(Name)!" The new girl called out to you the second she saw you. You recognized her right away.

"Mary Anne!" You hugged your friend, happy to see her. You took in the appearance of her uniform, "you're a scout?"

"Yup," Mary nodded. "I insisted that I wanted to be a scout and they let me join the training last minute. I managed to pass and here I am. I guess they figured there wouldn't be any scouts this year after the news of the casualties from the female titan mission got around. But that won't happen to me, I have spirit!"

"Maybe a little too much spirit," Levi commented quietly.

"Cadet Mary Anne," Erwin spoke and Mary Anne immediately saluted.

"Sir!" She stood straight, her fist over her heart, a smile wide on her face, full of life and hope.

"You can take it easy for today and get to know your fellow soldiers, tomorrow you'll participate in the cadets' training and duties," Erwin explained, "you're dismissed."

"Yes, sir!" As soon as she was off duty, Mary Anne turned her attention back to you. "Tell me everything!" She squealed excitedly. The two of you ran off to Levi's room to talk

xoxox xox xoxox

At Levi's, and technically your, room you would have the chance to catch up with Mary Anne without prying eyes and ears. But before you could get to that, you cautioned, "no shoes on the bed, Levi's a neat freak."

Mary giggled and removed her boots before jumping on the bed. The two of you sat there barefoot as if it was a slumber party, though it was a too early to call it that. "So... How was it?"

"Being here isn't so bad," you shrugged. "I'm very confused though. Why did father send me here instead of keeping me at Sina?"

Before replying, Mary Anne insisted, "we can talk about that, but first, please tell me everything, I'm dying to know!"

You could work with that. Though you were dying to know how things were at home yourself, you supposed you could humor Mary's curiosity first. "Everyone is very nice. Hange is a little crazy, but still nice. Eren is a titan shifter, but sometimes it's easy to forget he is. He's entirely normal and easy to get along with. Armin is adorable, he's totally the little brother type you just want to hug and protect. Mikasa is very perceptive, sometimes I think she knows what's going on better than anyone. In fact, sometimes I wonder if she suspects about the arrangement, but everyone else is convinced the marriage is willing. I should tell you our story, it makes sense that you would already know about it and it would be odd if anyone mentions it and you don't know. The story that we decided to tell them about when we were dating is-"

"Don't torture me!" Mary fell back on the bed in a display of over dramatics. "Please, just tell me, is it like in the novels? I need to know! I've been too busy picking up after you to get any, have some mercy and tell me!"

Your jaw dropped and your face turned red as the meaning of her words sunk in. "That's not how it is!"

"So it's not like in the novels... Well how was it? Give me some details!" Mary sat upright, her eyes and ears in attention, examining your expression and waiting to hang on to your every word.

"I don't know, we're just friends, I've never had a real boyfriend, let alone a lover," you blurted out, face hot.

"Oh," Mary Anne frowned in disappointment. "Well that's too bad. I knew this was arranged, but I thought it would be an arrangement with benefits. I mean, he is a scout, shorter than I imagined, but a scout none the less."

You knew that Mary had a thing for scouts. She loved novels that featured a dashing hero that defeated titans. She especially loved that tale about a titan that climbed over the walls, kidnapped a lady and climbed to the top of a tall tower with the female protagonist in its gigantic hand. The hero had to save her, but of course he somehow ended up with his shirt destroyed in combat, as it often happened in those situations. The author had no shortage of words to describe his well toned arms and clearly defined six pack. Mary assumed that all scouts were just as amazing and invincible. "I don't know, I haven't seen any more than you have."

"What? Not even shirtless?" Mary pouted. "We'll have to fix that. This is your life now."

"Not necessarily," you wondered how much you should say, but then again, she probably had more information than you, after all, she had been at Sina until recently, or so you thought. "I just need to learn to control my titan shifting problem so I don't accidentally go titan, then I can divorce and go home."

Mary gasped, "titan shifting, you?"

"I thought you knew..." You stared at her in confusion. "I've never gone full titan, it only happened once and it was just a partial transformation, it wasn't too big. It was close to happening two other times, but it didn't. I think I can control it, Levi seems to have eased up on keeping watch on me, he used to keep an eye on me practically all the time when I first got here. I think he's almost completely convinced I'm in control and I'm pretty sure I am, so I should get a divorce soon, maybe by next month at the latest. I'll still write to my friends here when I go home and maybe I'll be able to visit too."

Mary remained silent for a long moment, taking it all in. "Well, if you're in control then, that's good, but aren't you going to join the scouts?"

"No, I'm going home," you replied. "I don't think father wants me to join the scouts, though Erwin let me know that their doors are open. I don't know, I guess I'll think about it after I have a chance to talk to father. How is he?" You assumed Mary was sent to take care of you in response to your letter. Your past maid was your father's reply, his way of letting you know that you were loved. "Oh, by the way, since you're doing this whole pretending to be a scout thing, you don't have to pick up after me. Levi sometimes calls me a slob and thinks I need cleaning lessons, but I think I'm improving. Sorry I made you work so hard for me in the past. I didn't mean to make your job difficult."

Mary shifted uncomfortably and gave a little nervous laugh, "don't worry about it, you did spend a lot of time sleeping, so I wasn't too busy. I was only joking about not getting a boyfriend because of my job, I was just being picky, I want a handsome brave scout."

Mary frowned in contemplation. She has never shown any anger towards you in the past and your apology was sincere. "What's wrong?" You asked with concern.

Mary looked at your left hand and reached out for it, lifting it and examining the ring. "It's all scratched up," she observed.

"Oh," you took off the ring and rubbed it on your sleeve, but it had no effect, it was already clean, just scratched. "I should have taken it off before helping my friends with their chores. It's ok, I'll send it off to be polished."

"Honey, diamonds don't get scratched up like that," Mary pointed out. "It's glass," she sighed, while you stared in confusion. "Haven't you asked yourself why Melinda and I didn't pack a lot of jewelry for you?" You shook your head and Mary continued sadly. "I'm not here on a job, I'm not pretending to be a scout, I am a scout."

Your eyes widened. "But it's dangerous!"

"I know, but I'll be fine," Mary smiled. "Besides, I won't be a scout forever, just until I marry my ideal man, then I'll live in Rose and visit you often."

You sighed, Mary always had dreams of her ideal man sweeping her off her feet and treating her like a queen. You couldn't criticize her when you were being treated like royalty by your father, sheltered and cared for. But a marriage to a dashing scout wasn't an automatic happily ever after of luxury and adventure, yet you weren't sure how to make her understand that, you didn't even know when you had realized it. Something else puzzled you though. "Why did you quit your job? Was it because you wanted a scout boyfriend?"

"Actually I was fired," Mary revealed, much to your shock. "Well, fired is a bit of a strong term. Let's said I was laid off. Sweetie, your father is broke, your jewelry was sold, you can't go home."

There was Mary Anne as frank as always. You stared at her, taking it all in. "Father... No... That can't be... What will happen to him? To Artie, to Melinda, to Tony, to Fluffy, to everyone?"

"To you," Mary Anne reminded. "Well, no worries, darling, just stay married and live here. Your hubby will warm up to you. So what if the scouts aren't as glamorous as in the novels? Levi's cute, in a boyish sort of way, and I bet he's fit from all the training."

"Mary!" You were starting to panic, to fear for the future and the titan mist once again appeared around you. Mary yelped and scooted away, her hand gripping the bed sheets. You noticed and took deep calming breaths. You would figure this out, everything would be alright. Think of a plan, just think of a plan and go with it. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you." The mist disappeared.

"Wow, that was, you were going to... wow!" Mary took deep breaths of her own. If she was scared of a little mist, you couldn't imagine her fighting a titan.

"Listen, Mary, I need you to keep my father's situation a secret and tell me everything you know about it," you requested.

Mary nodded, "I don't know too many details, but there was some kind of investment that failed or something. I think Melinda and Artie knew about it, but they wouldn't tell me. Your father had to let go of the staff and sell almost everything he owned to keep up appearances. The merchants don't know about it yet, they do know about your marriage though and want to see a party. Everything has already been arranged with the last of your father's fortune. You're not supposed to know this, he wants to keep up appearances so you won't worry, but I had to tell you. I'm pretty sure he doesn't even know I became a scout. He recommended me for another maid job so I wouldn't end up on the street, but I hated working for the mustache's bratty son, he tried to flirt with me, the nerve of him, and his wife didn't do a thing. I'm going to get a good husband who would never cheat on me and would cut any man who dares to look at his precious wife in half. Did I mention that I love how scouts dual wield? Swords are sexy."

You sighed, despite being in a way under Mary Anne's care in the past, you felt like she was in your care now. Despite being a working girl, she was very naive. So were you, though in the past month you've heard so many stories with tragic endings from your scout friends that you had to grow up. Mary was the same as you, a sheltered girl. Your father took her in when she was young, thinking it would be good for you to have someone your own age around. She went from a hungry orphan in rags living at Rose's worse sector to a well fed and clothed maid with a secure job, a steady salary, a roof over her head and an employer that made sure she was healthy and received a basic education. She was frank and a little precocious, yet naive, more of a naive dreamer than even you. "Mary... even if you can handle ODM gear, being out there is not going to be easy. Please be careful."

"Sure thing!" Mary assured, though you wondered if she truly understood. "Now on to more urgent matters. Honey, you're not dressed for success, let me pick out your outfits and you'll seduce Levi in no time."

Once again your face felt like it was on fire. "I can't! Besides, I don't think he'll go for it, not that I'd try anything."

"Erwin then?" Mary suggested.

"What?" You gasped.

"A secret affair right before the party, how exciting!" Mary sighed dreamily. "Hey if you won't snag him I will."

"I'd rather not mix things up more than they are," you breathed. You needed time to make sense of everything, so for now you would introduce Mary Anne to your friends and continue to try to make sense of the situation in your mind at the same time.

xoxox xox xoxox

That evening, Levi came by as always, though you were not really planning to go to sleep yet, since Mary wanted to get together with everyone after dark to find a room to huddle up in and tell scary stories. You wanted to talk to Levi that evening though, so you waited for him. "Levi..."

"She's a real scout," Levi half stated and half asked. Her paperwork was done and she took the basic training. She wasn't near the top of her class, but she managed to pass.

"Yes," you replied. If he hadn't known she was your maid before, he could have easily figured it out by now, since Mary wasn't really quiet about it. None the less, she was keeping your father's economical situation a secret and you were thankful for that. Now it made a little more sense why he married you off to Levi, not for the sake of having him support you, if that was his only aim, he would have married you off to a rich merchant, but rather, he was to be your bodyguard as you had initially thought. The reason why you couldn't be kept safe by bribery if your titan condition was discovered was because he didn't have the funds for it. Yet your control was pretty good, though you weren't trying to develop your power, only suppress it. Maybe your father expected you to have more trouble and took precautions accordingly. How did he go broke anyway? Where was he? Your mind kept going back to his oath of silence and you wondered if there was a connection. Your thoughts had been busy with that the whole day, but now you needed to talk to Levi about Mary Anne. "No..."

"Yes or no? Is she a scout, or is she here to keep an eye on you, or me?" Levi didn't beat around the bush, he didn't even sound tense. His voice was completely calm and casual, as if he knew getting you to talk to him wouldn't be too difficult. You had asked to be his friend and he had agreed that it could be possible.

"She's officially a scout, she's no longer under my father's employment," Levi didn't seem to be aware of your family's economical situation and impending lack of influence. That could complicate things, so you would hold on to that piece of information for the time being. "But she's not a real scout, she's used to novels about invincible scouts and glorified battles where only the minor unimportant characters die. I'm worried that she'll get herself killed."

"There's nothing that we can do if this is the choice she made," Levi stated, he seemed used to it, but not indifferent.

"I know, I'll try to talk to her though, tell her not to get cocky," you decided. You were going to ask him to take care of her, but you realized that you couldn't do that and it wasn't even necessary.

"There's something more you wanted to say," it wasn't a question, but an observation.

You nodded, "yeah, but I realized it goes without saying." Levi gave you a curious look, so you elaborated. "I was going to ask you to keep an eye on her, but that's impossible out there, you'll have a lot more to think about to get as many of them back safely as you can. Besides, from what I've heard, you already do your best to bring them all back alive as it is. So just... keep doing what you're doing and try your best, ok?"

"Fair enough," Levi nodded, a little surprised that you understood. "Not everyone understands that though, not at first."

"It's hard letting someone go, but at least you can keep their memories," you replied. "It's odd, I got to thinking that way because of my mother, even if I have no real memories of her. My father told me about her and Melinda was her close friend, so in a sense I have a part of her with me. Even if people don't last forever, what they do somehow does..." You closed your eyes in thought recalling the stories your father told you about your mother. You opened them, wondering if Levi was getting bored or thinking you were odd, but he seemed understanding. "I like pirates too, good pirates though."

"Pirates?" Levi inquired.

"There are stories about what goes on in the large bodies of water called oceans. The pirates are outlaws, some bad and some good. Most of them attacked ships to steal from them. My favorite story was about a good pirate, a pirate who defended the other ships and recovered their goods from bandit pirates. Those stories are forbidden, oceans are not to be mentioned in casual conversation. But I believe that one day we will beat all the titans, then we won't need the walls anymore. I used to think I would go to the beach one day, I don't think so anymore, I might not live that long, but everything the Survey Corps do will make that future come closer for humanity or humanity's descendants. Sooner or later, you or your comrades will win, even if it'll be hard. I want to help, I haven't decided what to do in the future exactly, but I want to do something to help." You watched Levi, who had been quietly listening.

"When you first came here I thought you were a spoiled brat," he admitted. "Then I started to see you weren't so bad, so I decided to stop thinking of you as only a burden." You wondered if that decision came along with the one to stop doing your laundry. "Maybe you can make the best of the life you have when things don't go your way. Even when sheltered, a strong spirit might just remain strong." Without any further explanations, Levi jumped out the window. Somehow, you felt as if you were starting to understand him better.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 12: Helpless

You quietly ventured down the dark hallways, joined by more people as you passed in front of doors. Last time you did this it was... interesting, to say the least. Heading back to your room, or rather Levi's room, was the most 'interesting' part. Now there you were again, ready to pick a dark empty room, form a circle on the floor with nothing but a small flickering candle in the middle and share scary stories with the scouts. Hange loved Mary Anne's idea for entertainment, Armin and Krista not so much. You told yourself that if you got scared all you had to do was think of a certain someone's horse-like scream, which was much more funny than it was alarming.

Mary had insisted to tell the stories in a different vacant room each time. That way no one would have the familiarity of their own room to lean on and everyone would have to walk back to their respective rooms. You joined the cadets entering a randomly picked vacant room, forming the usual circle with the candle in the middle. Erwin and Levi were not present, but Hange, the 104th trainees, Mary Anne and you had attended each of the nightly reunions. The night was rather stormy, with strong winds and a good amount of rain, it was perfect for ghosts stories. Mary was all too eager to get started and began her tale as soon as everyone was seated.

"This is the story of a young scout, just like us, and it happened on a stormy night, just like this one." You weren't surprised by Mary Anne's choice of setting. That's how it always started, the victims were always peculiarly similar to the people listening to the story. One of the newer recruits claimed that noises were coming from under her bed. no one gave it any thought, old furniture sometimes made noise. One day, the girl fell ill, but the doctor didn't know what was wrong with her. She gradually worsened until one day she didn't show up at the mess hall or at training."

"That evening," Mary dramatically continued. "A boy who had a crush on her decided to see how she was doing and bring her a snack. He knocked on the door and she called for him to enter. He did so and saw her sitting on her bed, looking rejuvenated. He was glad to see her in a better state of health, but at the same time there was something that frightened him, but he couldn't tell what it could possibly be. Then she smiled and thanked him for coming to see her, she said in a sweet voice 'if you truly care for me, you'll kill the monster under my bed.' A cold chill ran down his spine, even if he told himself that she must only be kidding. Then he looked under the bed and what did he see?"

Armin was shaking, his eyes open wide. "A mo-m-monster?" He involuntarily inquired.

"Oh no," Mary went on in a dark and creepy tone. "He looked into the darkness under the bed and heard the whisper of a weak voice that was barely alive saying 'run.' What he saw was his beloved, all weak and sickly whispering desperately, 'there's a monster on my bed."

Eren grabbed Mikasa's hand and she blushed. It was funny how he wasn't afraid of titans but spooky stories still made him jump. "Me next!" Hange volunteered, no one offered any arguments, so she continued with her story. "This story is also about scouts much like us. One night a new recruit was heading back to her room after finishing her duties. She had taken a while, as she was still getting used to her chores, cleaning up after dinner, but at least she could sneak off some snacks to take to her room. She got a little lost, since she was still new, and ran into a young man. 'Good evening,' he told her, 'I am the night guard, please allow me to walk you to your room.' She told him her room number and he walked her there. When they were at her door, he said he was hungry, so she gave him the snacks she had brought from the kitchen."

"The next few nights it happened in much the same way," Hange continued. "The girl had learned her way around, but she enjoyed the handsome guard's company, so she looked forward to seeing him every evening when he walked her to her room and every evening she brought him a snack. Eventually, the chores were reassigned and she stopped running into him. Oddly, no one seemed to know him and the other scouts claimed there was no night guard. The girl wanted to see him again, so she ventured out of her room one night and wandered the halls until she found him."

Everyone had their full attention on Hange as she finished the story. "Good evening,' he greeted her as always, though he seemed a bit tense. 'I haven't had anything to eat since I last saw you. Have you brought a snack for me today?' She was shocked that he had not been eating and didn't understand why. 'I don't have any food with me, but I will get some for you,' the girl offered. 'I'm sorry,' he replied, 'but I can't wait another minute, if you don't have any food for me I'll just have to drink your blood!'

A wave of gasps and yelps spread through the circle of people sitting on the floor. Armin was shaking like a leaf and Eren was hugging Mikasa, whose face looked like it was on fire. You jumped in surprise as Jean hugged you at the climax of the story. Before the tension could wind down, the window was suddenly thrown open and a gust of wind flew in, bringing with it the cold heavy rain. The candle went out and everyone scrambled to their feet, running around and bumping into each other in the darkness.

"All of you, shut up!" If the voice wasn't already recognizable, the crash of lightning that lit up the room further confirmed the identity of the man who had spoken.

Finding themselves in the presence of a very pissed off Levi, which was certainly scarier than any ghost, the scouts quickly formed into some semblance of order and saluted with a shaky chorus of "sir!"

"Is this the stupid reason why you fools have been so tired during our training exercises?" Levi shouted harshly. "If you're so full of energy, then why don't we go out and practice with ODM gear right now. This weather is perfect for some good training." No one dared to breathe a word, but you could somehow feel their eyes on you through the darkness. You tried to tell yourself that it was your imagination and remained silent. "I want everyone in ODM gear out in the field in ten minutes!" Gasps of disbelief and groans of apprehension invaded the room, soon to be silence by Levi's very final sounding, "march!"

As the scouts marched out, only you and Levi remained in the room. Thunder crashed and it's suddenness made you jump. "You're not really serious about training in this weather, are you?"

"I am," Levi confirmed. "They need to be ready to spend the night outside of the wall if we go on a longer expedition one day." The mere thought of it sounded insane.

"How would you even spot titans in the middle of the night?" You tried to point out the major flaw in that logic.

"Titans are less active at night. Some of them will still be moving, but a good number will be basically dormant, so we'll have less visibility, but also less to watch out for," Levi explained.

"That makes sense, but what if they get injured during their training? They'll catch a cold at the very least, or end up with broken bones at worse," you argued in your friends' behalf.

"(Name)," you watched Levi, while another bolt of lightning crashed in the background illuminating his annoyed expression. He let out a breath and his tone became less severe, though still serious. "They were falling asleep during their training, they could get hurt worse if I don't discourage this neglect of proper rest from continuing."

"I understand," you voiced, a little surprised that he even took the time to explain it to you. It was as if he didn't want you to see him as the bad guy. It would be tough, but you understood that Levi had to make sure the scouts were prepared.

"Do you mind?" Levi finally inquired after a moment of silence had passed.

"I understand," you repeated. Then in sunk in that he was wearing pajamas, which were a pristine baby blue color, and that he had picked up his uniform, which he had changed out of at some point before the cadets had entered the room where he slept. "Oh... right, I'll leave now." You hurried out of the room so he could change.

You waited in the hallway until Levi emerged wearing his uniform and ODM gear. He didn't seem happy to be back in the uniform he had been wearing that day, but didn't have time to go get another one. Besides, it would get soaked anyway. He had the ODM gear since he had used that to climb out the window of his room. "No cloak?" You curiously asked.

"No time," Levi replied and hurried outside. It wouldn't look good if he was late after telling everyone else they only had ten minutes.

xoxox xox xoxox

Fortunately, there were no broken bones that night. There was some slip ups and the majority of the cadets ended up bruised, but it wasn't too bad. It was ironic, but because Levi was the only one without protection from the cold rain, as everyone else put on their cloaks, he was the only one to catch a cold. As a consequence of his illness, the wedding party was postponed until he was able to speak a full sentence without sneezing.

Yet the most peculiar thing related to the events of that night was a conversation you later had with Mikasa, the only one who miraculously escaped the night's training without bruises. She admitted to you, in a lonely hallway away from prying eyes and ears, that she had felt a presence in the room when the group entered, but assumed it to be her imagination. The group was seated by the time she realized it was Levi and then she claimed to have gotten distracted, which you assumed meant this was around the time Eren took her hand and she concluded that going with the flow was more important than warning everyone of their impending doom.

"He knows that everyone keeps an eye on him to see when he goes into his room so they could sneak off to steal snacks from the kitchen, I'm pretty sure he knows all this but lets it pass," Mikasa explained. "Last night didn't make sense though, if he wanted to catch us in the act of staying up too late, why was he in his pajamas? Everyone was too frightened to question it, but I can only think it was a coincidence that we happened to go into the same room he was in. He wasn't waiting for us, he was just trying to get some sleep."

Mikasa looked at you, as if waiting for your input, though you only offered a simple, "oh." You agreed with her conclusions, but you weren't sure why they mattered. Then you recalled why it was necessary for Levi to exit his room via the window. He would be seen otherwise and the word would get around, even if he had no intentions of interfering with the so called secret nightly snacks. Then people would start to question why would a happily married couple not share a room. "Um... well..."

Mikasa's head moved to the side and it was your cue to take note of the footsteps that approached. Mary Anne appeared at the other end of the hall, walking tiredly. Her curly red hair was wilder than usual, amber eyes exhausted. "Hey," the greeting was punctuated with a yawn and you saw in her a way out.

Mary was surely more creative than you with excuses and she already knew about the arranged marriage, so you didn't need to put up a wall of pretense for her. "Hey, Mary, I was just telling Mikasa why Levi wasn't sleeping in his, my, our," you stumbled over your words, "our room last night."

Mary yawned again, you weren't sure if it was real or if she was buying some time. finally, very naturally, she replied. "(Name)'s father is very protective of her. He made Levi promise that they wouldn't consummate their marriage until it was officially announced at Sina. So basically they're waiting until after the party. Kissing and cuddling is fine, but it doesn't make it any easier to resist temptation, hence the separate rooms."

Your face was bright red at this point and you wondered if Mikasa was regretting her curiosity. "I see..." Mikasa finally voiced. "That makes sense. Well, excuse me, I need to finish my chores," with that said, she ran off.

"I bet she tells Eren, and I bet Eren tells Armin and by the time that's done, Sasha would have overheard and decide to tell Hange, then once Hange knows, everyone will know," Mary Anne theorized. She had been there for less time than you, but understood most of the scouts pretty well. She was a social creature that was either very friendly or very annoying. "I guess this means you'll have until the party to get used to the idea of sharing a room with your hubby," she grinned.

"Did you just set me up on purpose?" You pouted.

"Honey," she patted you on the head like a child, like Erwin. "Someone has to take care of you when your father can't."

"I don't need a man to take care of me," you argued.

"No, I don't need a man to take care of me," Mary Anne retorted, "I simply want one, but I don't need one. I can get a job and feed myself just fine. I'm not saying this because you're a girl, even if you were a man, the fact would still stand that you wouldn't last a day without people to watch over you. Sweetie, I'm not trying to be mean, I'm just trying to ensure your survival. I don't understand the specifics, but your father can't take care of you anymore and someone has to." There was Mary Anne with her brutal honesty again. She cared for you like a sister, you didn't doubt that, but she also saw you as helpless. So did Erwin, you realized, always so polite and gentle, as if fearing for the repercussions of offending such a fragile creature.

Did Levi see you like that too? Is that why he didn't reprimand you for being a part of the late night ghost stories group, or did he simply let it pass because you weren't a scout? Just when you felt that the two of you had become friends, you were starting to have your doubts. The thought bothered you more than you expected it to and you became determined to never again be seen as helpless, not by anyone, and especially not by Levi.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 13: In Sickness and in Health

"So that's what happened," you finished telling Levi about the conversation you had with Mikasa and Mary Anne.

"Guess we'll have to share a room after the party," Levi mumbled drowsily. He was in his room, which meant you would be the one looking for a vacant room to sleep in tonight, since it wouldn't be right to tell the miserably sick Levi to move. You assumed he was simply too sick and tired to fully comprehend your words and that he might come up with a better plan when he was over his terrible cold. "You should go before you catch my cold," he warned.

"Don't worry, I'll be fine," you assured. "Hange gave me the strongest vitamins she could find to boost my immune system and make sure I didn't catch your cold. She also asked me to write a detailed report describing your misery," you laughed, assuming she was kidding, though she sounded serious.

"She wasn't kidding," Levi clarified, guessing you assumed she was. "But don't humor her."

"Oh..." You blinked. "So... um... Do you need anything? Are you hungry? Thirsty? Cold? Want an extra blanket?"

Levi shook his head miserably, he hated being sick. It was a rare occurrence, but when it did happened it killed him. It wasn't that his cold was worse than anyone else's, but rather he had a harder time dealing with the common symptoms. Coughing and sneezing was especially unpleasant for him. He paused, thinking better of his answer and eyed the nearly empty tissue box on the night stand. "Get me more tissues," he finally requested.

"I'm on it!" You ran off to get another box of tissues from the storage, though instead of just one, you piled as many as you could carry in your arms and took them to Levi's room. You made sure to mention it to Armin when you passed him in the hallway, to let whoever was in charge of supplies know that they would need extra tissues. They already purchased a lot, but Armin assured you he would come up with a convincing argument in favor of a bigger tissue budget.

You returned to Levi's room and delivered the tissue box. Levi looked quite uncomfortable, his face tense, his eyes watery. He extended his hands as if he couldn't wait another second for a tissue. As soon as a tissue box was within his reach he quickly opened it, retrieved a tissue and sneezed into it. He let out a breath of relief. "What took you so long?"

"Don't tell me you were actually holding in a sneeze this whole time because you ran out of tissues? How did you even manage that?" You began to stack the extra tissue boxes neatly before Levi complained about how unorganized they were.

"What was I supposed to do? Sneeze into the air, my hands, or the blanket? That's disgusting," he wrinkled his nose, clearly grossed out by the thought.

The expression called your attention to his nose, which looked very red. "If you're not more gentle with your nose, it's going to fall off," you teased.

"I wouldn't have to clean it so much if it stayed clean," Levi retorted. He laid down, with the blanket up to his neck. "Take out the trash, slob."

"Hey!" You complained, "I'm not the one who left the trashcan in such an overflowing state. You're the slob... But I suppose I shouldn't be so hard on you giving your condition. Your poor body's crawling with disgusting germs right now."

Levi cringed at your words, "don't remind me," he grumbled and you gave him a victorious grin.

You proceeded to take out the trash before he complained about it, and put a new bag on the little trashcan. Levi meanwhile stared at the ceiling miserably for a few more minutes before he finally fell asleep.

It was several hours before he woke up. You were sitting at his bedside reading a book to entertain yourself. It wasn't one of the explicit romance novels Melinda and Mary Anne packed though, you weren't even sure what had happened to them. This was a book about adventures at the sea and pirates. It was a forbidden book, since it took place outside of the walls, and it was considered to be a dangerous temptation to go outside and consequently get killed.

You put the book down and looked at Levi as he woke up with an annoyed groan and pawed at the cool cloth on his forehead in confusion. "You had a fever," you explained. "Oh and by the way, your pillow needs to be washed because you were drooling like crazy."

"What?" Levi bolted upright, the cloth that was on his forehead falling on his lap. His expression was absolutely horrified, it was hilarious. "You're lying," he realized with a glare. "Stupid brat," he checked his pillow apprehensively.

"Okay, okay, relax, I was lying, the ever immaculate Levi doesn't drool in his sleep," you laughed.

"I hope you don't either," he grumbled. Once he was satisfied with his pillow's inspection, he laid down again and tossed the cloth at you. "Make it colder, my head hurts." He closed his eyes tightly and remained still.

"I'll go get you an ice bag," you decided. After retrieving the item, you returned to Levi's room with it and place it on his head. his eyes remained closed and he didn't say anything, though the cold seemed to afford him some relief. "It's time for your cold medicine, but you should eat something first. The scouts made some chicken soup for you, do you want me to bring it over?"

"No," Levi groaned, he didn't like eating on his bed but he didn't really want to get up either. He knew he needed some food in his system to get better though. "I'll go to the mess hall," he resolved.

"Are you sure? It's loud and crowded," you pointed out.

Levi gave it a second thought but concluded, "there's no choice."

"I can bring the food here and be extra careful not to spill it," you offered.

Levi considered it, he really didn't want to get up and go to the noisy, crowded mess hall. "Alright," he finally agreed. "Just be careful."

You nodded and went to get his food. you returned with a tray, nearly stumbling at the door, but you managed to regain your balance without spilling anything. "Here you go," the tray was like a miniature table that you placed on his lap as he sat up on the bed, the ice bad precariously balanced on his head.

"That wasn't funny," he scolded with a frown.

"That wasn't a joke," you admitted, relieved that your stumbled didn't result in a fall. "It's going to fall off," you held the ice over his head.

"You don't have to hold it," Levi voiced, though you could tell he needed the relief of the cold feeling on his aching head.

"You can't eat with one hand like that," you replied. He didn't trust himself to be as steady as his should be and held a tissue underneath his spoon to catch any drops that might fall before he could lift it to his mouth, which meant that both his hands would be occupied with the spoon and tissue. "Want me to feed you?" You joked.

Levi rolled his eyes, "as much as I want a chicken soup bath." You laughed and after a pause he inquired, "did you eat?"

"Yeah, Sasha came to get me to make sure I ate," you replied. "Hange offered to sit with you while I was gone so you wouldn't be alone. She seemed disappointed though, something about not being able to make any interesting observations while you were sleeping."

"That idiot can go catch a cold and study her own misery," Levi huffed, though you knew that the scouts were a tightly knit group and they cared for each other's well being. Levi picked up the glass of orange juice then felt a sneeze coming up and quickly put it down, but the sneeze went away as sneezes rarely do and he let out a breath of relief, finally able to drink his juice in peace.

"You're a master at suppressing sneezes," you observed. "And coughs too, I assume. At least you won't strain your throat too much from coughing."

Levi ate quietly for a few minutes, until he finally inquired, "why are you so set in taking care of me?" It was as if the question had been on the back of his mind the whole time.

"Because we're friends and friends take care of each other," you replied simply. After some extra thought you added, "I spent a long time bedridden myself, someone always had to take care of me, but I couldn't take care of anyone. For once, I want to be the one offering help instead of getting it."

You waited for Levi to say something, though you weren't sure what you expected him to say. He finished eating and finally replied. "If you want so badly to be helpful, then you can wash the dishes."

You picked up the empty tray, "a thank you would have been nice, Mr. Sick and Germy."

Levi glared at the reminder of his current ill state, "get lost, brat," he took his cold medicine and laid down, adjusting the ice bag on his head while you stuck your tongue out at him. You thought that as you exited the room he muttered a quiet "thanks," but you didn't know if it was real or just your imagination.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 14: Secrets

After Levi recovered from his cold, the time finally came for the wedding party to take place. It wasn't a wedding per se, since technically that was thought to have already passed at Rose, though it only consisted of signing the documents. None the less, food, music and fancy clothes were expected. You were transported to Sina in a chariot, it was your first time back home since your life had been turned upside-down by your cure, side-effects and engagement. You haven't had any mishaps as a titan though, so you were feeling confident that nothing would go wrong, at least in that respect.

Melinda had presented you with your dress, it was a very pretty wedding dress though it felt odd to wear it since you didn't exactly feel like a bride. You had been asking about your father and trying to get information from Melinda, since Mary Anne claimed that she and Artie had their fair share of knowledge about what was going on, but Melinda kept telling you not to worry. "Listen (Name), no matter what happens, know this, you are a very strong person and you will be okay. Levi is there to make your life easier, but even if he's not there for you completely, you'll be okay."

You didn't know how to take her words. At least she wasn't assuming you were helpless, but the question still floated in the back of your mind as to why Levi was even necessary. You had grown fond of him, but that wasn't the point. "Why him? Why anyone? If you think I'm strong, why not assume that I would be able to support myself on my own? My titan abilities are under control, I'm not dangerous."

Melinda showed no surprise at your words, she already knew about the titan aspect. It was odd sitting at your old room like this, in an entirely new situation. This was the mansion you grew up in, though it was devoid of its expensive artworks that used to line the walls and most of the furniture was gone. Only Melinda and Artie remained of the old staff. Tony was there too of course, and Fluffy still remained, though she just barked at you when she saw you. "This isn't about supporting yourself or about your titan abilities. Your ability to transform will disappear completely in time and only regeneration will remain, that is the cure to your illness, it has been tested."

You stared at her in surprise. "Tested? Tested how?"

"It doesn't matter," Melinda shook her head as if she held a dark secret, a burden that she refused to share. "Your father will explain more, now let me finish getting your hair and makeup ready."

You let Melinda finish the preparations without protest. You knew you wouldn't get any more information out of her. Once the preparations were done, she left the room, then your father came. You had a million things you wanted to ask, but all you could really do was hug him.

"My little princess," he spoke gently, soothing away your worries. "I'm so sorry you had to go through this, my daughter."

"Please tell me... Tell me everything!" You insisted.

"Yes, it has all failed and I have no choice," your father finally began the long awaited explanation. "I was hoping that by some miracle I was able to negotiate, but I could not. Years ago, before you were born, your uncle started conducting some research in hopes of saving your mother. He got mixed up with some suspicious individuals and stumbled upon a formula that could turn humans into titans. The mere thought of it was alarming, so he didn't think to offer the serum as it was to his sister, he wanted to save her, not turn her into a monster. I was filled with hopes of saving my wife and funded his research without question. Time had passed and you had been born, your condition was even more severe than your mother's, we would lose both of you if something wasn't done."

You listened unable to breathe a word as your father narrated the tragedy. "Unfortunately, the formula was a failure and your mother could not be saved, the serum only killed her faster. Her brother and I were devastated and for a time we agreed that we would only use known medical treatments on you. None the less, he continued his research and developed a new formula after realizing what went wrong and researching it over and over to make sure he made no mistake. Years had passed by then and you had become a young lady. I had thought that he was only researching normal medicine, nothing titan related, but his research was far more expensive and far more dark than I could ever imagine."

The tension could be clearly felt as your father continued. "Even if your uncle would hurt innocent people, I know that he would never hurt you, and as unfair as it sounds, because of the hope he gave me to keep you alive, I cannot hate him for what he did. Still, that wrong could not be left as it was, and so I stepped forward to take the blame that I do believe is in part mine. The people whom he negotiated with to obtain your cure might go after you, that is why I placed humanity's strongest soldier by your side." This didn't exactly match up with Melinda's version who claimed Levi wasn't necessary for your survival, yet you didn't think either of them was lying, but rather interpreting the risks of the situation in different ways and coming up with different predictions for the future.

"Who are they? Those people who know how to turn humans into titans?" You asked urgently.

"I don't know," your father admitted. "Your uncle negotiated with them more often than me, and I don't think even he understands who they really are."

"Who is he? My uncle, I didn't even know I had an uncle," your confusion increased with each piece of information. New answers only led to new questions.

Your father shook his head, "you're a kind girl, but I'm afraid that when it comes to you, I'm a selfish man. My sweet daughter, I love you so much, more than the world itself. I'm sorry I couldn't devote myself only to you, but I cannot abandon innocence entirely." It was as if he was speaking in riddles and he wasn't entirely willing to give you all the pieces to the puzzle. He was protecting you, but from what? How were you safer not knowing rather than knowing?

A possibility occurred to you. Your father's words rang out in your mind. He said you were kind and he was selfish when it came to you. Maybe he thought that if you understood the situation you would try to do something about it and get hurt in the process. He was trying to stop you from putting yourself at risk. If you were simply told not to do something, you might still do it, so refusing to tell you were the danger was became the best way to keep you away from it. This signified that it wasn't something you could simply stumble upon, if you were to get to the bottom of this, you would have to know exactly what you were looking for. Then you thought about the other part of his statement, that he couldn't abandon innocence. Someone innocent must have gotten hurt in the quest for your cure, that fit with the description of your uncle's actions.

Your father wanted to bare the blame in your place, to take the guilt you could feel onto himself. As for your uncle, he wouldn't tell you who the mysterious man was. That man would hurt innocents but not you, yet you didn't want that, but if you knew who he was, rather than being quietly saved by the sacrifice of others, you would try to stop him and doom yourself in the process. Knowledge was sacrifice and ignorance was the perceived right to stand idly by with no blood on your hands and no stains on your conscience. It wasn't so simple though, what he said about not letting go of innocence, he wanted to make everything right, he wanted to fix the injustice, but he would do it in way that your suffering wasn't a requirement.

"Father, please, I can help," you insisted. He smiled, "very well, my child." You recognized this tone of voice, he was humoring you, calming you, but not doing what you wanted. "When the time comes, I might need some assistance from Levi, make friends with him, then maybe he won't be opposed to helping out."

You sighed, he was only thinking of Levi as your bodyguard. Was he to become a sacrifice as well? You suddenly found yourself worried for Levi's life. You were frustrated, but you couldn't hate your father. You were like him, clinging to your loved ones more strongly than to humanity itself. Just as he couldn't hate your uncle for protecting you regardless of the cost, you couldn't hate him for giving up everything for your sake. He wasn't a coward though, he wasn't just risking other people, his own life was on the line and that only increased your worries. Mist gathered around you, but your father didn't recoil. He just hugged you and tried to soothe your anxiety. He never saw you as a monster, he never feared you, he only feared for you, and you couldn't hate him for that. Nevertheless, you wouldn't let him bear your burdens alone, the titan mist subsided without incident. When whatever hidden threat was out there came, you would make sure Levi wouldn't get hurt for your sake and somehow, you would find a way to protect your father too.

Though you felt overwhelmed and wanted to cry, you didn't. Your determination was very strong. You would have to talk to Levi later, to warn him, perhaps leave him so that he wouldn't be caught up in this. You weren't sure if being near your father would allow you to protect him somehow or only bring him more troubles. You would think of that later, for now you had to put on a mask of happiness to appease the high ranks.

You were led amidst your confusion to a carriage that took you away from your childhood home. The mansion would be sold soon, no doubt. This was probably the last time you would be there. The carriage took you to a grand hall where parties for the rich were often held. The place was larger than most mansions in the area and elegantly adorned with marble floors, jeweled chandeliers and elaborate flower arrangements. The large expanse held an open area for dancing, an elegant orchestra playing a waltz in the background and many tables filled with a variety of dishes.

Your father escorted you there, where you were supposed to meet Levi. Before he could hand you off to your husband, the two of you were surrounded by several couples. Monocle, Mustache, Nose, their children and their spouses were all there. You could hardly tell what they were saying, but it sounded like an overcrowded chicken coop. There used to be one in the yard, Fluffy never gave it a second look, she was too much of a refined pooch to go around chasing chickens.

Your father, sensing your distress, positioned himself at the center of the circle of snobs. You snuck off behind him, giving a discrete wave that he nodded to and you went off. He wasn't happy with having to put up with those people, but he might as well try to minimize the damage of his social rank's impending downfall, they had to find out eventually, very likely soon.

You looked around with purpose. If anyone met your eyes, you looked away before they could speak and hurried to head in the opposite direction, sending out the message that you were busy. You wondered if Levi felt as out of place as you. This wasn't what you imagined a ball to be like. Though the setting was pretty, the atmosphere was filled with malicious pretence and hypocrisy.

Finally, you spotted a man who looked like Levi, then took a moment to look in the opposite direction as if you had not seen him. He looked very handsome, but you tried to tell yourself that he wasn't your real husband, just your pretend husband and that you'd have to let him go soon. You wondered if it would even be ok to just be friends, would that place him in any danger? Maybe it was best not to risk it.

After more or less managing to collect yourself, you walked across the room. Levi was aware of your presence, he probably knew you had seen him and for a moment pretended not to, but made no mention of it as he met you half across the way. You hurried to close the distance, suddenly impatient for no reason and tripped on your long white dress. The dress was supposed to be worn with tall heals that thankfully Melinda replaced with flats at the last minute, though she didn't have time to modify the dress. Fortunately, Levi caught you, which prevented an embarrassing fall. "Clumsy," he muttered grumpily, quietly enough so that only you could hear.

"Nice to see you too," you considered sticking your tongue out at him, you knew that annoyed him, but you didn't want to cause an outcry with your lack of manners. Yet before you could think of an alternative comeback, your attention was caught by another detail. "Um... Levi..." You looked up at him. "How did you get so tall?"

"Melinda," Levi spoke the one name that said it all. You figure she must have made his suit, as well as your father's and who knows how many more fancy outfits. "These shoes are killing me." You discreetly looked at his shoes. The sole had to be quite thick to make him taller, though the shoes tried their best to hide it, which meant that the space left for his feet was very thin.

"Let's go sit down," you suggested, which Levi certainly didn't protest to. Unfortunately, you were intercepted by a group of snobs that once again spoke at the same time with false compliments and airheaded comments.

From what little coherency you could gather from the exchange, they expected the two of you to dance. The way to the chairs and tables was barricaded by chatty snobs and you could feel many pairs of eyes on you. Levi was forced to lead you away, doing his best to stretch his patience as far as it would go. The music was slow, the dance was close and it made you blush, it also made you realize that you had no clue what you were doing and you became terrified that you would step on Levi's already pained feet. "What is it?" He whispered, noting your tension.

"I'm trying not to step on you," you confessed, but that wasn't the only thing on your mind. "Also, I found out more about my situation, but I can't tell you here."

"Tonight, when this torture is over, you can tell me," it was as if he wanted to make sure you didn't change your mind about speaking by waiting until the next morning.

"Ok," you agreed and let the uneasiness sit in the back of your mind while you clumsily moved from side to side, more or less trying to stay in tune with the soft music. "I don't know how to dance," you whispered.

"I noticed," Levi whispered back. "I don't think you're supposed to drag your feet like that, but keep doing it, I really don't want you to step on my feet." One thing was for sure, it was going to be a long night.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 15: How Scandalous!

After the dance was finally over, you and Levi were allowed past the snob barricade and into the area where the tables were located. You sat down at one of the smaller dining tables away from the buffet of entrees and beverages, and the battalion of waiter and waitresses ready to cater to the rich's demands. The table had been chosen precisely because it was meant to host two people, which should discourage any unwanted snobs from inviting themselves over. Levi look relieved to be sitting down, though the shoes were still uncomfortable. Melinda meant well, you knew, but sometimes she tried a little too hard.

"Good evening, Lady and Sir, it may be a little late, but please accept my congratulations on your marriage," a formally dressed waiter approached. "May I bring you anything?" The young man was a little on the plump side, though not too much, his blond hair was a pale shade of platinum green eyes always alert and attentive.

Levi was about to dismiss him, but you spoke first "Gustav!" You recognized him as one of the servants that used to work at your mansion. "Thank you, how are you doing?"

The young man smiled, pleased that you recalled his name. Despite not having interacted with him much in the past, he liked that you didn't treat him like most other rich people from Sina. "I'm quite alright, I do miss working for lord (Lastname), but I am quite pleased serving Lady Mona Lisa, I mean, the honorable house of Gardenia."

Mona Lisa was the name of the daughter of the man you called Monocle in the privacy of your mind, others publically called him lord Gardenia. Mona had been named after a painting made at some point before the titans first appeared, it was one of the few artworks of the old world that were still around. You had seen it and knew that Mona didn't look a thing like the woman in the painting. Her black hair seemed incapable of growing past her shoulders, as if her bony frame couldn't afford to give it much in the way of nutrition, despite her notable appetite. Still, though raised to be a snob, Mona wasn't so bad.

"By the way," Gustav had continued while you were lost in your recollections. That life that could be hardly called a life seemed so far away somehow. It was as if you had lived more since you married Levi than in your whole life before that. It had to be because you were wide awake now, you reasoned. Still, part of you thought it was more than only that. "Lady Mona Lisa wanted to speak to you, I hope you will grant her a moment."

"Sure," you agreed, then looked at Levi pleadingly. "Mona was nicer to me than the other established families at Sina," you explained.

"Go say hi then, I don't mind," Levi replied. There was a certain knowing look in his eyes that you couldn't explain. "I'll talk to you after you're done speaking with Mona Lisa."

You were about to insist that he came along, as you had thought Mona wanted to see you both. Maybe it was just to be seen with the star couple of the evening, but you thought it wouldn't be too much to humor her with that much, better her than one of Mustache's numerous relatives. Yet Gustav's exclamation of "excellent!" took you by surprise. "May I escort you to Lady Mona Lisa?"

Gustav motioned in the direction you would be headed and you spotted Mona Lisa at another small table a short distance away. You didn't think you needed to be escorted there, but decided not to make a big deal out of it and stood up to follow Gustav.

You greeted Mona and sat at her table. After a few short pleasantries and congratulations, during which Mona was very nervous and uneasy, she got right to the point, while Gustav pretended to tend to other guests while continuously looking over at the table where you and Mona sat. "Miss (Name)," Mona squeaked, sounding like a mouse, in other words, like usual for her. "Oh, miss (Name)!" You could never get her to drop the miss from your name. "I must confess I did something terrible."

"You don't say, miss Mona Lisa." Your sass seemed to be lost on her, but she did look very nervous, so maybe this wasn't something as insignificant as you would normally guess.

Mona looked every which way before leaning across the small table to whisper, "I have fallen in love."

"That's not exactly a crime, Mona," you pointed out, dropping the silly constant miss, that you knew she wouldn't drop. It was odd that she had not complained about not being addressed as Miss Mona Lisa, in the past she would gasp as if offended and remind you to be mindful of formalities.

"Oh, but miss (Name), I have no betrothed," Mona confessed, so stressed by her condition that she didn't care about how you addressed her. She placed her hand over her heart, just below the oversized ruby hanging from her necklace, that thing looked heavy. As you observed the ruby, more so out of comical curiosity, wondering how she didn't fall over, rather than any real interest in the jewel's value, you noted that her hand wasn't as bony as usual, her face more shapely and less elongated. Given what a skeleton she was before, the change was favorable, though she was still lighter than most girls her height. "I am afraid that due to my normal weight, it will become very noticeable soon."

You rolled your eyes, "love doesn't make people fat," you informed. "Besides, I've seen you eat, you can take it." It came to your attention that she had not ordered any major dishes yet. You had heard stories of how much she ate during social events. "Is that why you're not eating right now?"

"Oh no, miss (Name)," Mona shook her head, the ringlets that framed her features bouncing around her face. "I'm not worried about my weight, I'm worried about my condition. I'm afraid I'll become ill, I will not be able to hide it during the ball, then father will notice and insist that I see a doctor. Then what will become of the Gardenia name? Of Gustav? Of the child?"

"Child?" You repeated and Mona gasped as if frightened by the loudness of your voice. It didn't matter though, if anyone overheard, they would assume you were talking about you and Levi, you were the newlyweds after all. The pieces came together in your mind. Her condition wasn't just love, and it would indeed be obvious on her thin body, she was pregnant. Then your brain made another connection, she had mentioned Gustav, the ever cheerful and polite Gustav was Mona Lisa's lover? You could almost hear Mary Anne in your head, gushing about the forbidden romance between a Lady of Sina and a servant.

"I apologize, miss (Name), please forgive me for telling you this. I'm sure your gentle ears do not which to hear about such improper conduct," Mona Lisa apologized, as if begging for forgiveness for a horrible crime. She didn't apologize for being in love or pregnant, she apologized for telling you.

You had heard far more... complicated, stories of affairs in fiction, but decided that telling her that wouldn't be much of a consolation. "It's ok." You tried to reason what was going on. If Mona and Gustav were ordinary people this wouldn't be a big deal, but then if they were ordinary people they might have gotten married some time ago.

"Gustav has been asking me to marry him for quite some time now," Mona confessed, confirming your theory. "I wouldn't let him mention it to anyone though, father would kill him. Please, miss (Name), I beg for your discretion."

"Of course," you assured. "Don't worry, I won't tell anyone." You weren't sure if the part about Gustav being killed was metaphorical or literal, but you didn't ask.

"Thank you, miss (Name)," Mona breathed. "I am happy you agreed to help us reach the good doctor. He assured that he would do his best to have the baby be born healthy." You blinked, what exactly did you agree to? When? "Also, please give your husband my thanks, Gustav told me that he is intimidating but well meaning, don't be angry at him though, I sincerely believe he meant it as a compliment. Oh miss (Name) I knew you would understand, after all, you married a lowly soldier with no fortune, though I heard he might begin to lead a jewel mining operation outside of the walls when Maria is recovered. Is that true? I would like a baby sized tiara to be made if the child is a girl. Her father may be a servant, but he is a kind man with a heart of gold, so I want her to know that regardless of the circumstances of her birth, she is a princess. If it is a boy then make it a princely crown. I think it'll be a girl though, because I had a dream that it was a girl and she was beautiful. Oh miss (Name) I can't wait to talk to the good doctor and hear his opinion on the matter."

Doctors were not dream interpreters, nor did you think any doctor, however knowledgeable, could possibly be able to know the baby's gender at this early stage. You didn't tell her that though and Mona was so full of life and joy that you decided to forgive the lowly soldier comment. You guessed that she meant to make amends with her father at some point, or else she wouldn't be talking about jewels. You still asked, because you didn't understand what your role was in all this. Apparently Gustav spoke with Levi, it must have happened after the two of you arrived at Sina and were swept away to get ready for the ball. Since you had arrived separately, which you did think was a bit unusual, Levi had plenty of time to talk to Gustav. Just what did he agree to? Mona seemed unaware that Levi didn't really have a chance to explain it to you. "What's the plan?"

"After we get to Rose, I'll get in contact with my lawyers and they'll arrange everything. Father will retire, I'll get him a nice mansion to live in and Gustav and I will move to the main house," Mona explained, as if it was all already a matter of fact.

"What if your father doesn't like that idea?" You cautioned, though not in a discouraging way.

"He will simply have to except it. The problem is reaching Rose, but with help from you and your husband that should be easy. Once I'm there the legalities will be processed and the takeover will be complete. Father will go bankrupt and will have no choice but to rely on me or his business partners. I'm sure he'll choose me, so that the Gardenia name will continue. I plan to threaten to change my family name to Valcrez, after my dear Gustav, if he doesn't cooperate, but if things are settled peacefully after the takeover and father accepts Gustav, I will give him the Gardenia name. None the less, until the legalities are done, I am not the owner of the Gardenia fortune," Mona explained.

Your stared, "you've got guts," you mused aloud. She had somehow taken over her father's business all so that he would accept her boyfriend, a bit extreme but gutsy none the less.

Mona gasped and smoothed her dress. "Is it that obvious? And how rude, referring to my daughter as guts," she frowned.

"No, I meant to say that you're brave," you clarified.

"Oh... such a quaint little expression," Mona twisted her nose in disapproval, "did you learn that from your husband," she was in snob mode.

"Now listen here Mona," you warned. "Do not insult my husband."

Mona gasped and you wondered if you really looked that scary glaring at her. "I just realized I have been calling you miss (Name) during this whole conversation. Should I address you as Lady (Lastname) or Lady Ackerman?" Now she seemed to be in airhead mode. You realized this was her defense to diffuse the tension. At least she was aware that she had done something wrong.

"Just be respectful to Levi, ok?" You finally requested.

"Very well," Mona Lisa agreed. "But please, tell me, how may I address you?"

"(Name), just (Name)," you replied with impatience.

"Very well, (Name)," Mona nodded. "I'm sure you want to return to your husband now, so let me end our conversation by once again thanking you for your assistance and really, do give your hus-" she paused, and made herself rephrase her words, "Mr. Ackerman, please give him my thanks."

That was the first time she referred to him by name rather than as 'your husband.' At least she was making an effort to be respectful and that's what made her 'not so bad.' She could still use some improvement though.

You returned to Levi's table and smiled curiously as you took your seat. "So, what exactly are we supposed to do for them?"

"Escort them out of Sina and to Rose," Levi whispered. "Mona has some documents to sign, which are being processed at Rose for safety reasons. You might recognize her lawyers as the Itadaki brothers."

"Who?" You inquired confused.

"The twins," Levi reminded.

"Oh," the two identical lawyers that were present when you and Levi signed the marriage document. "So we're taking her to them."

"Not directly, we leave tonight after the ball, she'll be staying at Dr. Facio's place at Rose until everything is ready," Levi explained.

"Facio as in Fredrick Facio?" You asked.

"Yes. he's my neighbor at Rose, though he's usually off in Sina making house calls and spending the night wherever his patients are. Then again, I don't spend much time at my house either. He sometimes drops by after scouting missions to treat the wounded, unless he has pressing business at Sina," Levi explained.

"Oh, I didn't know he did that, he did seemed really nice though. Very gentle and patient," you smiled at the memory of your past doctor. Though he didn't cure you, he did help as much as he could and always treated you with importance, as a person, rather than just another patient. You had explained your past illness to Levi, but you realized that, despite describing the symptoms and mentioning your doctor and how he was as a person, you never really referred to him by name. He was always 'the doctor' and you felt kind of bad for that. You made it a point to call him Fred from now on, like your father did.

Levi didn't seem surprised that you knew Fred. He probably was already aware that he had been your doctor, as that piece of information wouldn't be difficult to obtain, even if he wasn't Fred's neighbor. "It'll be useful to have a favor to call in from the tyrant," Levi commented.

"Tyrant?" You questioned. It seemed that he knew more about Sina than you did.

"Mona," Levi explained. "She's a ruthless merchant that hides behind her father's shadow. Gustav seems alright though, so maybe he'll be a positive influence. Besides, she'll find a way to take over her father's assets anyway, we might as well get in on it and gain at least some use of her connections. I hate the lot of them, but sometimes you have to deal with difficult people like that."

"Mona's not that bad. She's bratty, but also a tad airheaded, like she doesn't know she's offending people," you tried to explain. Though you got a little angry over the lowly soldier comment, you realized in hindsight that she didn't mean it as an insult to Levi, but as a compliment to you.

"No, she's manipulative. She'll act helplessly snobbish as if she can't help her upbringing, then say something that sounds like she's trying to fight her wrong teachings and be forgiven. She's insulting so that when she says something half decent it'll stand out and you'll believe it. She's using Gustav, but maybe he'll still be a good influence, a connection at the very least," Levi explained in warning.

"She's having his child, Levi, she loves him," you defended. Mona had to care for Gustav, even if she didn't care for anyone else who wasn't rich.

"You trust people too much," Levi criticized.

You frowned, "you just can't see any good in people from Sina. Mona needs to go a long way to be a truly good person, she's still kind of a snob, but she didn't put me down when I was sick. Everyone else made jokes about me dying at any moment. If you think she's bad, you don't know anything about the bad side of Sina. I used to live here, I know how toxic it can be. I was fortunate enough to have a father who taught me kindness, but not everyone is that lucky."

"We shouldn't talk about this here," Levi discreetly glanced around, Monocle was nearby. You weren't even sure how Levi noticed him, he was much easier to see from your position than his. "We'll have to agree to disagree for now."

"Fine," you pouted.

"Smile," you blinked at Levi's sudden order and stared as he forced a very obviously fake smile onto his face. You became once again hyper aware that you were being watched, but you couldn't help it but to laugh. Levi mouthed a silent 'what?'

After your fit of giggles was under control, you explained. "You're not good at fake smiling. I might have to tickle you one day to make you smile for real."

"Don't even consider it," Levi warned, though the tension of your earlier disagreement about Mona was mostly gone as quickly as it came. "C'mon, maybe another dance will give them enough of a show to stop staring at us for a while, the looks have increased in attention."

You got up and linked arms with him, heading off to the dance floor. The song was a slow waltz at first, then the tune unexpectedly changed. You glanced at the orchestra, a few snobs were gathered around the conductor and they wanted a show. "You were right, they were pushing us to dance. I have a bad feeling about this." The music got faster and called for more movement in the dance. "Levi, I don't know how to tango."

"Just focus on not tripping on your dress or stepping on my," he bit his lip in pain, "feet," he muttered under his breath.

"Sorry!" You whispered back. It was dizzying, it was confusing, it was stressful, this wasn't what a dance was supposed to be like according to the fairytales. Then you realized it, this wasn't a dance, it was a show you and Levi were forced to perform. Maybe one day you'd be able to dance with him for real...

To be Continued

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