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

Part 8

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 - 9795 words - Complete

A Matter of Stature

Chapter 36: Sitting in a Tree

You stood firm, holding your blades at the ready, trying to watch both Levi and the branches above, looking for a good place to shoot your ODM gear without being intercepted by Levi to prevent your ascent.

Before you could come up with a strategy, he dashed forward, twin swords at the ready and moving extremely fast. You felt the blades on your arms, the hits were hard, though they had no sharp edge, so you weren't cut. "I would have cut both your arms off by now if this was a real fight," Levi warned.

"They would have grown back," you countered, stepping back, trying to regain some semblance of control over the fight.

"In theory," Levi reminded.

"I'd rather not test that theory, but there's a good chance it's true," you argued in return.

You were moving away from the clearing despite your efforts to stay in range of the sunlight. You mostly moved your blades parallel to each other with one goal, mostly blocking, but you realized that dual wielding wasn't just about holding two swords. It was for the two swords to accomplish more than one would, complimenting each other instead of doing the same thing that could be accomplished by a single blade. You weren't a dual wielder, you had not trained for it and found yourself remembering just how many opponents Levi could take on at once, judging by the ninja fight.

Your back hit a tree and Levi's blades touched your neck. "Decapitation is a fatal wound, you wouldn't recover from this," he declared, finally stepping back.

"Fine, you won that round," you admitted. "But the fight's not over!" You shot your ODM gear up and moved through the air, trying to put some distance between you and Levi, so that he'd lose track of you and you could come back for a surprise attack.

"Stubborn," Levi gave pursuit, quickly closing the distance between you.

In an effort to speed up, you sacrificed precision, which proved to be a fatal mistake. The left side of your ODM gear got tangled and you were having trouble retracting the hook from the branches. You fired the right side and managed to pull the left hook free by force, without losing significant altitude, but the loss of time allowed Levi to catch up to you in mid air.

You gripped the handle of your blades, causing the right hook to retract as well. You couldn't see a thing, though you concluded that the fabric that had been thrown at your face was his jacket, go figure when he had the time to take it off. "You're the one who wants to fight dirty," Levi reminded, in a 'you started it' kind of way.

Your voice was muffled behind the fabric that he kept around your head and you wondered if he could even make out the words of your comeback, in which you pointed out the irony of a neat freak fighting dirty. Well, if he was fighting dirty now, then you took that to mean that everything goes. You could feel yourself moving through the air, though you couldn't see where you were being taken. You resolved to disarm Levi by removing his ODM gear. He was only using one side, as his other hand was occupied in holding you prisoner. You didn't think he'd actually fall though, he would notice what you were doing and when he tried to stop you, that would be your opportunity to escape and prepare a counter attack.

Your hands moved without any guidance from your eyes, searching for the belts of the ODM gear. You found something that felt like a belt buckle and started to undo it, then pull it off. "What are you doing?" Levi loosened his grip on the jacket that covered your face enough for you to free yourself from it. You tried to grab it so you could threaten to throw it in a mud puddle if he didn't accept defeat, but it escaped you and fell to the ground below. As you scrambled to grab it you almost made Levi drop you, though he managed to hold on to you by the back of your scouts jacket, as you had started wearing the uniform during training despite not being officially in yet.

Giving up on holding the jacket hostage you were about to return to your task of separating Levi from his ODM gear when you realized that the belt in your hand was not the one you expected. You had instead taken the belt off his pants. "What?" You dropped the belt. "Gear, your gear!" You babbled, your face red.

Levi raised an eyebrow, "my what?"

Your face turned even redder, "your ODM gear!" you specified. "I was trying to disarm you, nothing more," you insisted. Wanting to get away from the scene, you raised your arms to escape your jacket and fall. "(Name!) Don't push your luck!" Levi warned seriously.

You took it to mean he didn't want you to take any unnecessary, falls and you couldn't agree more, even if you did heal, it still hurt. You shot your ODM gear into a tree and continued at a regular rhythm, quickly gaining altitude. You hurried away as fast as you could, trying to go back to your initial plan of escaping Levi's pursuit and returning in a surprise attack, though it would be hard to sneak up on him.

You noticed your ODM gear slowing down and stopped on a tree branch to check your fuel level. This was not good, you were almost completely out of fuel and with what you had left, you couldn't really do much. You looked behind you to see if Levi was coming, then in every other direction in case he passed you somehow and was coming in for a sneak attack. You didn't spot him anywhere, so you just sat on the tree branch contemplating your next move.

A few minutes passed in silence, then you finally found Levi, his ODM gear was completely out of fuel so he took it off and left it at the base of the tree before he started climbing. You used what little fuel you had left to move to a different tree and reach a high branch on it, then began taking off your empty ODM gear for better mobility.

Levi was fast and was already high up the tree he was climbing. Rather than climb down again and start climbing the tree you had moved to, he examined the branches, then after considering the distance, jumped from one branch to another.

You were just barely out of your ODM gear and Levi was already close to catching up with you. Though you weren't sure when the fight had become a chase, you didn't question it and tried to climb higher.

"Where are you going?" Surprisingly, Levi's voice was coming from above. You were so focused on not falling that you didn't even notice when he passed you on the other side of the tree.

"Up?" You replied unsure. He hadn't bothered to go back to recover the belt you dropped, not that it mattered since his pants fit well enough not to fall off without it. It was a fact that you reminded yourself you shouldn't dwell on during a time when your focus could be instead occupied in climbing, except he had continued climbing and was directly above you on the tree, so where were you supposed to look? You also weren't sure when the fight, turned chase, had turned into a race.

You hurried up the tree, breathing heavily in exhaustion until you finally reached the area below the branch Levi was sitting on. You grabbed his foot and to your surprise you easily pulled his boot off. "Huh? Are these even the right size?"

"My feet are not swollen anymore," Levi pointed out. Ah yes, it was the consequence of the shoes Melinda had made. Levi must have started using larger more comfortable boots and never got around to switching back to his previous size. "Now give it back."

"Nope!" You began pulling on his other boot despite his protests. He was too much of a neat freak to run around barefoot, so this was just what you needed to make him surrender.

You lost your footing, the boots slipping from your grasp as you tried to regain your balance. Levi leaned down and grabbed your arm, steadied you then pulled you up to sit on the branch he was on. "I'm taking your boots," he announced, pushing your torso to rest against the tree trunk and pulling your legs onto his lap.

"What?" You squeaked in surprise, caught off guard by the sudden proximity.

"Since you dropped mine, you're the one who will have to go back barefoot," Levi decided.

"No way!" You finally found it in you to try to fight back, though you were careful not to fall off the branch. Levi still managed to get your boots off, though all your squirming made him drop them to the ground below.

"Now look what you did," he trapped you against the tree branch, while you mockingly stuck out your tongue and squirmed in an effort to get yourself free.

"Don't stick out your tongue or something might happened to it," Levi warned.

"Oh yeah, I heard that story from Eren," you laughed.

"What?" Levi asked in sudden confusion.

"It should be fine though," you continued. "I'm on a tree, not on a horse."

"That story," Levi recalled. You continued your squirming, managing to escape, though Levi didn't seem to be making too much of an effort to keep you trapped in place.

At some point, the once aggressive battle had turned playful and you had lost your determination to beat Levi to a bloody puddle just to prove you could get over your big crush if you really tried. You escaped Levi and climbed down to the branch below, where you sat.

Levi leaned down from the branch above, upside down, holding onto the branch with his legs. "It's almost sunset, we should head back now."

"Ok..." you breathe, though you rather just sit exactly where you were for an indefinite period of time.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 37: Heart

Levi tried to move to the branch below, where you were at, but his pants got caught on a splinter on the branch above and without the belt doing its part to hold them in place, though they wouldn't fall off under normal circumstances, Levi almost fell right out of them as he ungracefully landed on your branch, his pants around his ankles.

"Levi!" Worried that he was going to fall off, you reached out to help him up, but he pulled himself up before you could. You let out a breath of relief, followed by echoing laughter.

Levi cursed under his breath as he tried to take a more dignified position on the branch, so he could focus on pulling his pants up, but he was too close to the thinner side of the branch and heard it crack. You both froze and the branch cracked again. Levi jumped to hold on to the tree trunk and saved himself from falling, you were much closer to it, so had no problem holding on, plus a portion of the branch was still left on the thicker side where you were.

You watched as Levi's pants sailed down to the base of the tree and noticed that you were not alone. Krista held a basket of flowers. She and Armin were curiously examining the boots on the ground when the pants fell on Armin. He jumped in surprised and examined the garment before dropping the pants as if they were on fire and pulling Krista away on a hasty terrified retreat.

You weren't sure if you should be embarrassed or amused, but the fact of the matter was that you were indeed amused. You hugged the tree trunk to prevent yourself from falling as you let your laughter ring out loud and clear.

"Shut up!" Levi ordered, but you didn't do as you were told, you simply couldn't. In a split second, Levi was inches away, glaring directly at you in just his underwear and shirt. You couldn't say anything though you were desperate to come up with something sassy. You just couldn't stop laughing. This went on for several minutes until, with a lot of effort, you somewhat managed to control yourself. "Are you done?" Levi finally asked with impatience. You nodded, still giggling a little under your breath. "Then let's go down, I don't think I can trust you to get down on your own. You're too tired to heal yourself if you fall and we are very high up. Besides, if you fall on your head it might be fatal and you won't even have the chance to heal later."

You looked down and wished you didn't. You always shook off the notion of fear by telling yourself that any pain you might be on if you fell was short and temporary, that you would heal and fully recover. Flying through the air at high speeds was a lot easier when you reassured yourself that falling had no significant consequences.

You gulped, your laughter leaving you entirely. You had to admit you were tired, which was why you only climbed down to the branch directly below after escaping Levi right before the pants mishap. He had definitely noticed it then, you had been breathing heavily on your way up the tree and whatever sunlight did to recharge your cells, you weren't getting it now that the sun was setting. You'd have to recover your energy the ordinary way, with food and sleep.

"I don't really have a choice," you concluded. "I mean, I can't stay up in the tree forever, so I'll have to climb down. If I don't climb down now, I'll just be more tired later." You looked at the branches below, trying to plot your path, though staring down at the ground wasn't very reassuring.

"Hold on," Levi decided. At first you thought it was sarcasm. It was a piece of good advise that was so good it was redundantly obvious.

Then his meaning finally sunk in when he joined you in the stub of branch that was left for you to stand on and took your arms, placing them around his shoulders. "Wait... You're going to carry me on your back? Can you climb down like that?"

"I can climb, but I can't stop you from falling, so don't let go," Levi instructed.

"Ok..." you held on, blushing at the close contact. "What about your pants?" You asked shyly.

"I'm not climbing down to get them and climbing back up to get you," Levi logically informed. He began to climb down as if he knew where to move by instinct.

You held on and closed your eyes, more so to focus on the sensation of being so close to him than anything else, as your spontaneous fear of heights was now gone. Your feet gently touched the ground, but it took you a moment to move. You realized that Levi was trapped between the tree and yourself and reacted by stepping aside, wondering why he hadn't complained for you to let go the second you were close enough to the ground to safely jump down.

You waited while Levi dressed and focused on the task of putting your boots back on. Your and Levi's ODM gear and scouts jackets were nearby. Krista and Armin must have picked up everything they found on the way, then abandoned it when the pants fell and they concluded they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. "The scouts would have heard about this by now and who knows what conclusions they've reached."

"If it bothers you, you should correct them," Levi suggested, he was now fully dressed.

"What about their morale?" You inquired with a hint of hope.

"Morale shouldn't be built on a lie. We were close to going on a mission when I told you that, but until the Survey Corps goes out of debt, we can't really operate outside of the walls. It might be a while until we go on another mission, plenty of time to recover from the disappointment of a divorce," Levi informed as a matter of fact. "If that's what you want," he added.

You were rendered speechless for a moment. Levi waited for you to say something, but when you didn't, he turned around and walked. You continued after him in heartbroken silence.

xoxox xox xoxox

The two of you arrived at the base, put away the ODM gear and went inside, going your separate ways in silence. You were late to dinner after getting cleaned up and changed. You looked around, but didn't see Levi anywhere, you did take a long time in the shower so maybe he already ate. You didn't go to his bathroom though, you didn't want to cross paths with him at the moment, so you used one of the shower stalls the other girls usually used.

Though you expected the mess hall to be empty by now, a few people were still there, occupying a table in the corner. You curiously approached the group and set your tray of food at their table, picking at it, just to have something to occupy yourself with, despite not having much of an appetite at the moment.

At the center of the group was Hange, everyone was so focused on her that they didn't even see you. She seemed to be reading something that sounded similar to one of the novels you used to read with Melinda and Mary Anne, except much more defiant of the laws of physics. Not that you knew much about those particular laws of physics anyway, as your only experience came from fictional texts that surely took numerous creative liberties.

You ate your food in automatic motions, only vaguely aware of what you were consuming. Chew, swallow, survive, it'll stop hurting one day, just be strong, it's not the end of the world, just the end of your crush. Don't cry, you need to break the divorce to the scouts gently. You couldn't cry in front of the scouts, they'd treat Levi like a villain if you did and it wasn't his fault he had been forced to marry a girl he didn't and couldn't love.

The names in Hange's narration caught your attention, it would be too much of a coincidence if the protagonists of the story shared your and Levi's names. You peeked over the tight circle of people surrounding Hange, Eren, Mikasa, Armin, Jean, Sasha and Connie were there. They were all blushing to some degree, with Armin being by far the reddest. Krista must have gone off to pick flowers to brighten up the base, and Armin must have offered to go with her, then the pants incident happened.

You noticed Hange was reading from a handwritten journal. Fanfiction, there was now fanfiction about you and Levi. You blushed as Hange described a particular romantic scene. Eren thought something was off with the story and shyly interrupted with a question, "is that even physically possible?"

Hange laughed, "oh Eren, you know so little," she teased.

"Of course it's possible," Jean bragged, "I bet I could do it."

"Maybe I should start a sex-ed class for the scouts," Hange mused aloud, which made Armin look dismayed. "What do you think (Name?)" Everyone jumped in surprise, suddenly made aware of your presence. "By the way, Eren wants to know if Levi can-"

"Make popcorn!" Eren loudly interrupted with something entirely random. It would be terribly embarrassing to get stuck getting some weird, physics defying sex-ed talk from anyone, especially Levi.

"Um... I'll ask," leaving your half finish food on the table, you went on the retreat.

"Are you going to finish this?" Sasha inquired, pointing at the food.

"No, you can have it!" You called back to her as you disappeared from the mess hall.

"Thank you!" Sasha happily began to eat the leftovers. They were all unaware of the turmoil in your mind and maybe it was best to keep it that way.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 38: Excuses

You returned to Levi's room without thinking and stopped at the door. You were just rushing anywhere and ended up there. His words echoed through your mind as you stared at the door, contemplating if you should go in or not. He wanted to divorce you, though he had said he'd get a divorce if that's what you wanted, but what about his wishes? He knew you liked him, so he couldn't be expecting you to bring up the divorce yourself. That could only mean it was what he wanted, but he wanted you to take the first step. Yet that didn't make any sense, Levi wouldn't dance around the issue if he wanted a divorce, but he also wouldn't go around in circles if he didn't. He was usually direct, why not this time?

Maybe you were just reading too deeply into it. He was trying to let you off easy, that must be it. You took a deep breath and dried your eyes. You had cried on the way there, though not at the mess hall, or else someone would have surely asked what was wrong. You told yourself to be strong and opened the door. Levi was looking at the book he had been reading earlier, he had picked it up on the way back. He was just staring at it, as if rereading the same line in an effort to draw some meaning from it, while his mind was elsewhere. Surely he noticed your arrival, his senses were always sharp, but he made no effort to acknowledge you were there.

You wondered if you should just go to sleep, maybe in one of the spare rooms. No, that would be running away and you weren't a coward. You would survive, life would go on, this wasn't the end of the world, you were heartbroken now but you would get over it, even if it took a long time, but you couldn't go on like this, with a loss that was never official. You had to put this matter to rest once and for all if you were ever going to have the slightest hope to move on.

You swallowed the lump in your throat and took a deep slow breath. "Levi," you tried your best to keep your voice clear and even. He put the book down and stood, giving you his undivided attention in silence. You closed your eyes for a moment and breathe deeply again, then looked at him, forcing yourself not to stare at your feet even though you really wanted to. "I love you." There, you said it, it was done, and you felt like a big weight had been lifted of your shoulders regardless of what came next. You sighed in relief, letting out at least some of your tension.

Levi stared at you for a moment, processing your words, then chuckled, a sound you weren't used to hearing from him. "I guess I'm all out of excuses."

You were about to follow up your declaration with some words of assurance that you wouldn't protest to the divorce, or let it affect the scouts in any way. But you were so confused by his reaction, that you couldn't help it but to ask, "what do you m-" You were silenced mid question by his lips on yours.

Though you were initially stunned, you responded to the kiss and wrapped your arms around him. He pulled you tighter against his body, making the kiss deeper and more passionate until you were both out of breath. You remained still, holding on to Levi as he held you. You were happy, though still confused, but certainly happy.

Levi noticed the puzzlement in your eyes, despite your smile and recalled the question he didn't let you finish. "You asked what I meant," you nodded, though whatever he had meant was certainly better than what you expected. "I didn't want to be with anyone that I couldn't rely on, or could lose too easily, or couldn't handle it if I was the one who didn't make it home," he explained. Then he added, "or someone who couldn't put up with my training... or cleaning," he admitted. "But I ran out of excuses..."

"Why didn't you say something?" You asked curiously.

"You didn't say anything either," he pointed out.

You realized that he was only making sure this was what you wanted. That you weren't just going with the flow, or doing it for the scouts, or were well enough with inaction. He wanted to make sure you not only had feelings for him but the will to act upon them.

xoxox xox xoxox

You learned a lot about Levi after that, he told you about his past in the underground city, a story that he wouldn't share with just anyone. How he came to be in the Survey Corps, the loss of his closes friends from his old home. Stories of scouts missions and his comrades, some who still lived, and many who didn't. you listened to everything, speaking a few words when you could think of what to say, but mostly in silence. Levi didn't seem to mind your quietude, you were absorbing every detail and treating it with importance, you were trying to understand, sharing in his memories, and that was what really mattered.

You joined the scouts officially, though there were no missions at the moment. You knew the investigation to catch Dr. Facio was going on, but he had seemingly vanished. His patients were not happy about it and the higher ups at Sina had their doubts about the accusations. Fred treated many rich and influential people and they were worse off without their doctor. He had done a lot of questionable deeds in his selfish quest, but he was a very talented doctor who also helped many, if only to help fund and camouflage his research. Thankfully, no one had tried to kill Levi and you haven't really seen anyone suspicious around.

Later, the news had come that Mona Lisa was murdered. The culprit could have been any of her many enemies. You didn't know the specifics, no one in the scouts did just yet, but apparently her ninja guards could do nothing against the intruders. You assumed it had to be more than one person to have killed a significant number of her ninja, and wondered if the Sina mafia was related to the incident.

A lot of people in Rose rejoiced that the merchant tyrant, who had become more infamous during her short reign than most merchants did in a life time, was gone for good, but your thoughts immediately went to Tony and his whereabouts. As far as you knew, his body was never found, on the other hand, Gustav's body had been found, though he had died weeks prior to Mona Lisa's assassination. Artie and Melinda were in a panic and left for Sina against the cautions of you and your father.

After Artie and Melinda had left, you were with your father at the bakery, when a peculiar conversation occurred that stayed in your mind with the feeling of unfinished business. Your father had looked at you as if expecting you to say something, or ask him something, though none of your questions and remarks seemed to be what he was waiting for. He looked as if he had resolved that your mind was in other matters, and so was his, so there was no time to talk anyway, yet the uncertainty hung in the air.

"Father," you asked finally, not liking the feeling of uncertainty that felt like it came from a different source than the obvious. "Is there something you're not telling me?"

"Nothing I haven't already told you, princess, but whenever you're ready to talk, I'm here. I understand this may not be the best time, since we're both worried about Tony, and now Artie and Melinda have gone to Sina." Your father's stress was evident in his voice. you were shocked at how much older he looked now, a testament to the harsh process of adaptation and the numerous worries that plagued him.

You knew he wanted to go to Sina and search for Tony as well. He had become determined to protect at least that little boy, for the sake of all the people whom your uncle sacrificed. "Are you going?" You inquired. "You know how dangerous it is."

"I want to go," your father admitted with frustration. "But Erwin gave me an ultimatum and has me under house arrest. Well, I can go out and all, but I'm not supposed to leave the neighborhood, and especially not go to Sina unless it is on official soap business and even then I am not to go alone. The scouts need to funds to keep their operations running until things settle down in the government. Mona Lisa messed up the economy quite a bit and now her resources are rotting in storage while her business associates argue about who should get what and people go hungry in Rose. I'm supposed to be an important business asset," he huffed. "I understand that my death will have more significant consequences than just my death, but it's my life to risk for whatever cause I deem worthy. I would be on my way to Sina right now if I thought I could actually get there without someone sent by Erwin intercepting me."

You frowned and immediately argued, "your death, business resource or not, would be terrible, so please don't take your life so lightly!"

"I'm sorry, princess," he sighed tiredly. "I'm just so frustrated that things keep falling apart. At least you're safe and you seemed so happy before the news of Mona got us all worried about Tony."

"Yeah," you let out a frustrated breath. Your life was still so full of ups and downs it was dizzying. Mary Anne's death, Levi's supposed death and subsequent return, Fluffy's mysterious titan tracking ability that was yet to be put to good use since the Survey Corps operations' were officially frozen, your uncle's identity... You were planning to tell your father that Levi was your boyfriend, maybe that was what he was expecting you to bring up. Technically, Levi was still your husband, but in reality he was more like your boyfriend. You didn't have the energy to tell your father about it now, there was too much going on. "We'll just have to be strong and do our best," you decided, able to think of nothing more to do in this situation.

Your father smiled with a bittersweet look in his eyes. "You've grown into a fine young woman, (Name). I'm proud of you, my princess, and I love you."

"Thank you, father," you smiled back, at least you had your father, Levi and your friends. You were determined not to lose them. "I love you too."

That time you didn't go home with a new handmade garment, or a box of pastries to share with your friends, or a letter full of business tips, though you realized you were yet to read the last one. You just went home with a heavy heart.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 39: Unicorns and Popcorn

You rode Knight back to the scouts' base with a heavy heart, yet an unbreakable determination. When you got home, you went to the room you shared with Levi and searched for the pants you wore that day when you visited your father. You found the letter, folded in the pocket. You'd washed the pants and put them away, but haven't really used them again since that day.

The letter was wrinkled from the paper getting wet and the ink was probably smudged and faded. You put it away on the night stand's drawer anyway, saving the little piece of your father's wisdom to read later, when your mind was not so clouded and you had the opportunity to actually make sense of its contents.

You exited the room and ran into Levi in the hall. "I was just going to join the production line," you voiced. There was no one else there, so you hurried to close the distance between you and hugged him, feeling reassured in his embrace. He wasn't one for public displays of affection and he had informed you of it before the possibility even crossed your mind. It was ok and you didn't push him about it, besides, you weren't much into PDA yourself anyway, the scouts overactive imaginations didn't need any more material concerning their OTP.

"We finished," Levi replied, "everyone's exhausted, but the soap is ready to be shipped." Levi made the special ingredient himself, so the scouts just had to add the water and the filler, stuff to give the liquid soap texture, color and a scent. The three spoonfuls per bottle of Levi's secret elixir of cleanliness was what made the soap so effective, though no one except the author knew what was in it.

"Already?" You exclaimed in surprise. "That was fast, maybe we should give them a treat for their efforts," you suggested, trying to focus on the positive things you could do, rather than the things you had no control over.

"You always want to give everyone treats for everything, no wonder your dog is fat," Levi critiqued.

"A little positive reinforcement can go a long way, and Fluffy isn't fat, she's just fluffy," you defended. "Now to think of a good treat..."

"They don't deserve a treat, they need to work harder," Levi insisted.

"You're just bitter because they kept calling you Levi the unicorn behind your back," you teased.

"Whose fault was that? You're the most hardheaded girl I've ever met, literally." Thanks to your healing, the headbutt during your fight with Levi a few days ago had left you without noticeable consequences, despite it being painful when it actually happened. He was not so fortunate and developed a big bump on his forehead.

"I still think you were too hard on poor Armin. He only called you captain unicorn to your face by accident and he apologized immediately," you recalled.

"Then fainted like a wimp," Levi shook his head hopelessly.

"Only because you glared at him. If looks could kill, you would have annihilated every living creature on the planet." You wondered if that's how Levi looked when he took down titans. If they were any smarter, surely they would know to run for their lives.

"If you insist on making something for them, why not popcorn," Levi suggested. "I heard the scouts teasing Yeager about wanting popcorn, I'm not sure what that was about, but a good number of them seemed to be in on it. Is that supposed to be code for something?" Levi eyed you suspiciously as you recalled Hange's fanfiction and blushed.

"Um... Maybe?" You laughed nervously. "I'm not telling," you firmly declared and tried to look determined.

"Something I would disapprove of?" Levi's suspicion increased.

"Maybe..." You admitted, taking a step back and searching for an escape route that didn't involve getting Hange and the others into trouble.

"Tell me," Levi stepped forward and you stepped back some more, realizing that you were now inside the room and Levi was locking the door behind him. So much for an easy escape.

You firmly planted yourself in the middle of the room and gave Levi your best look of stubbornness, you weren't about to back yourself into a wall. "I'm not telling and you can't make me." You crossed your arms, pouted adamantly and stomped your foot for emphasis.

"We'll see," Levi stepped closer, but you didn't move an inch or react in any way. You kept staring at the wall behind him in indifference, determined not to react to anything he did... Until he gently bit you on the neck, leaving you with no other choice but to react.

"L-Levi," you gasped, but refused to spill the beans. "I'm not a tattle tell, I know how to keep my silence," you remained firm in your determination.

"Have it your way," he released you and took a few steps towards the door.

"Huh?" You blinked in confusion. "You're giving up?"

"Yes," Levi replied. "I doubt you'd hide it from me if it was anything really important."

"You're right about that, but aren't you curious?" You asked in surprise.

"I know how to keep my curiosity," Levi countered. He took another step towards the door.

"What about the popcorn?" You moved to catch up with him.

"The brats can make it themselves," Levi decided.

"I'll help them," you stated, just to fill the silence.

"Go ahead," Levi said indifferently.

A moment of silence passed as the two of you walked out of the room and towards a destination unknown to you. "It's not going to work," you stated stubbornly. "Not bribery or indifference will make me speak... Unless the bribery involves a full pardon for Hange and all of them."

The mention of Hange's name provided enough of a hint for Levi to come up with a theory. "Hange was reading fanfiction about us at the mess hall again, wasn't she?"

You blinked in surprise, he knew about that, plus the occasion you witnessed was apparently not the first time it happened. "Well, yes, but don't be angry at her. She's just trying to be supportive in her own way."

"Half of the things she writes are physically impossible," Levi informed as he made his way to the kitchen with you following him.

"I know, but-" you paused and gave the statement some more thought, perhaps a little too much thought. "Half of the things she writes? Don't you mean all of them?"

"Nah, only about half," Levi started digging around the pantry.

"Oh..." You couldn't help it but to wonder which of the fanfiction scenes were actually realistic. You shook your head in an effort to clear it, while Levi was still busy looking for something. That memory of the day you tried to bathe Fluffy and didn't knock on the door picked the most inconvenient times to pop up to the front of your mind. 'Don't think about that,' you mentally told yourself. 'Don't remember it, don't think, don't think, don't...' You paused as Levi handed you a bag of corn. 'Wait a minute, he's my boyfriend now, for real, doesn't that give me license to think and remember as much as I want?'

"What are you blushing about now?" Levi interrupted your thoughts.

"Nothing!" You quickly changed the subject. "We're making popcorn?"

"No, you are making popcorn, you're the one who wants to spoil the brats, I'm just here to make sure you don't make a mess," Levi took a seat, leaving you to make the popcorn yourself.

"Fine," you began to prepare everything. "I'll make the popcorn all by myself and I'll even wash all the dishes all by myself."

"I suppose I could help with that," Levi offered with a tone of nonchalance, though you knew he enjoyed everything related to cleaning.

"You really must be a unicorn," you concluded. "Only a mythological creature can be this clean. Levi the magical unicorn of cleanliness!"

"You really want the popcorn to get cancelled, don't you?" Levi warned.

You laughed, "no one else is here."

"That doesn't mean you can tease me in private," Levi argued.

"But you said I could do whatever I wanted as long as it was in private," you reminded. "Which means I can call you Levi, the magical unicorn of cleanliness and boop you as much as I want. You're the one who said it was ok." Your eyes were focused on preparing the popcorn and listening to its delicious popping sounds, taking in the pleasant scent.

You didn't notice Levi sneaking up behind you until his arms were around your waist. "That means that I can do whatever I want too," he whispered in your ear.

Your face instantly turned scarlet against your will, "I guess that's fair," you pushed the words out in a quiet stutter. You leaned into his warmth and closed your eyes... Then suddenly, he was gone.

You blinked in confusion, as Sasha entered the kitchen with a voracious expression. "I smell popcorn!" She declared as if in a trance.

You looked at Sasha, then looked around to find Levi sitting across the kitchen, supervising with mild interest. It never failed to surprise you how fast he moved, no wonder not even ninjas could take him. "I'm making popcorn for everyone who helped out with making the soap."

Sasha's eyes lit up with joy, "that's me! I mean, not only me, but it includes me!" She cheered.

"It's a nice day, let's eat outside," you suggested.

"Yes!" Sasha agreed, though as long as there was food involved, you could have invited her to eat in the middle of a titan infested field and she'd still go. "I'll get everyone so we can get started." She ran off.

"See how happy the scouts are when you give them treats?" You grinned at Levi.

"Don't spoil them," he warned. "They better not lazy about in the practice mission even if we're not going outside. It'll be your first mission, it's inside the walls but you better not slack off," Levi reminded in all seriousness.

"I won't," you assured, pouring the popcorn into a large bowl and carrying it out. You were actually pretty excited about the mission, though you reminded yourself that it probably wouldn't be easy. "Aren't you coming?"

"I'll wash the popcorn pot first," Levi decided, that was perhaps more so his treat than the popcorn itself.

"Quick question before I go, are you secretly a super ninja?" you asked. "Because you move faster than regular ninja." He only rolled his eyes in response. "Oh, I know, you're a unicorn ninja!"

"(Name)," he warned threateningly. You had the audacity to blow raspberries at him, but in a split second found yourself trapped in a kiss that shut you up for good. The bowl of popcorn slipped out of your hands and spilled a few golden treats on the floor. Levi managed to catch the bowl and most of the popcorn was safe in it, but he still glared at the small mess on the floor in horror, "clumsy brat."

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 40: Simulacrum

It was raining something fierce and the constant drops of water hitting your face were getting annoying. It was hard to see where you were going, but there were so many trees around that there was a good chance your ODM gear hooks would reach one of them, even if it may not be exactly the one you were hoping for. You stopped on a tree branch and looked around, you had lost track of Levi again. How did he move so fast in the rain?

You suddenly felt the branch shake and nearly slipped off it, but Levi reached out to steady you. He had appeared out of nowhere, landing on the branch next to you, though it was thankfully thick enough to support you both. "One more time," you challenged stubbornly. Though the scouts tried to begin their missions with good weather if it was possible, the weather might change unexpectedly, or an emergency might happen on a rainy day, so being prepared to maneuver under unfavorable weather conditions was necessary. There would be a mission simulacrum tomorrow and hopefully the weather would be nicer. It would happen within the walls, so there wouldn't be any real danger, but you still wanted to do well.

"At least you're not slacking off with your training, but aren't you forgetting something?" Levi waited for you to point out the vital detail.

"Fuel," you replied. "I have enough for one more race, but if this was a combat situation, I would have to save it for an emergency only," you dutifully recited.

"And how are you going to head back after the race?" Levi asked.

"I'll walk," you had been caught with that detail, but you weren't about to admit it.

Levi shook his head hopelessly, though you got the feeling he was somewhat amused by your stubbornness. "Let's go back, we're done training for today. We'll catch colds if we stay out here much longer. Besides, it's late, everyone will be wondering where we went... and coming up with theories." He stepped closer, wrapping his arms around your waist.

"It wouldn't entirely be a lie," you smiled.

"They'll assume we spent 90% of the time kissing and 10% training instead of the other way around," Levi pointed out.

"10%? But we haven't done anything," you reminded.

"Yet," it was more like 15% really, since you spent a good while up in that tree, but you had been training hard, so it was a well earned break. The rain wasn't so bad anymore when you had other sensations to focus on, mainly Levi's kisses, his hands caressing your body, your hands enjoying his body, and other such more interesting things than the rain.

"I'm really worried, guys. I mean, who's late to dinner when there's roasted turkey and mashed potatoes with cheese on the menu?" You heard Sasha's concerned voice on the ground below.

"I don't think anything bad happened, maybe they just lost track of time," Eren tried to offer some reassurance.

"They might have gone back already and we missed them," Mikasa suggested.

"Or maybe they want to be left alone..." Armin quietly voiced.

"I see them!" Sasha suddenly exclaimed. "They're making out on that tree over there!"

"Sasha, no!" Armin immediately tried to stop her from pointing and being so loud.

"We should go back now," Mikasa urged.

"Yeah, they're fine, nothing to worry about, let's go," Eren hastily agreed and the four of them retreated in a hurry.

You watched them run off and waited a moment before asking. "Aren't we going back?"

"Why? No one will worry about us now," Levi had a point, he had a very good point, and by now he was kind of used to the scouts' theories, so why not make the best of it?

xoxox xox xoxox

Thankfully, the day of the simulacrum was sunny. You sat in a tree, your legs dangling lazily from the branch as you watch for imaginary titans in the horizon. You were a scout who had no missions to go on until business was settled at Sina. Yet with the departed Mona Lisa's products rotting in storage and dozens of merchants fighting for their ownership while some of the food could still be salvaged, the supreme court had more pressing matters to tend to than reconsider activating the Survey Corps. You wondered why some of the scouts didn't snap and go vigilante. You might have considered it, yet Levi's past experience as an outlaw didn't end all that well, but then again, he actually got caught, sort of.

Your mind drifted to Tony and you wondered where he was. You consumed every bit of news that reached your senses, but not the newspaper, nor the rumor mill had anything to say about the missing boy. You hadn't seen Artie or Melinda in a long time, and your father was still stuck in Rose, preventing him from joining the search at Sina. You had a feeling Erwin had more reasons than what it may appear to keep him there, but it was just a baseless theory at the moment.

You blinked yourself out of your daze and watched for the signal, a kite rose above the trees, you noted its location and color, a normal titan. Since the scouts couldn't go outside, a series of simulacrums were being practiced. The repetitive training with ODM gear had gotten boring and the scouts' restlessness was becoming more obvious. Concerned that everyone would fall into a pattern that reduced practicality and dulled the senses, Erwin set up a series of exercises to simulate missions outside wall Rose.

They didn't want the scouts commander making too much noise at Rose, so instead of flares, the quieter and cheaper kites were used to signal the approach of imaginary titans. "Red flare!" You called out and the words were repeated by the scouts on your neighboring trees, then by their neighbors and so on. You made your way down from the tree. The scouts were currently camping out. Sometimes, they had to make such stops to rest and allow their horses to recover. Though the simulacrum was conducted on foot, the presence of a titan nearby meant that the stop was over.

You got into formation, it was a smaller version of the formation you would be using outside and everyone was in sight and earshot of each other, though the scouts in the far left would have to shout very loudly for you to hear them, which wasn't necessary, since the messages were meant to be relayed anyway. You ran through the forested area near the scouts base, trying to stay in formation. Running wasn't exactly your forte and increased cell density might make your legs stronger, but it would also drain energy and give you extra weight to carry, so your special ability was essentially useless for speed and agility. At least Knight would carry you if this was a real mission.

The echo of "green flare," reached you and you almost repeated it too soon, but managed to hold back your voice. Since you were using your voice to simulate the flares, pointing was used to indicate their imaginary position. You watched for the person in front of you, Sasha, to repeat the command and point, having caught sight of the person in front of her. You relayed the command and pointed in the same direction as Sasha, with Connie echoing your words and direction soon after.

You continued running until the echo of a "black flare!" reached you. You watched were Sasha was pointing and mimicked the action, echoing her words. Levi was the only one on a horse, to signify the titans' speed advantage due to their superior size. You thought Eren would have been a much more realistic candidate for that, but he wasn't supposed to transform unless it was absolutely necessary and certainly not for a practice mission within Rose. you tried not to laugh as you scattered out of the way along with your comrades, while Levi rode in on Cali, holding the black kite.

"Let's take it out before it steps on anyone!" Hange called out, you joined Connie in running behind Levi, who sat there for a moment, before sending his horse running forward. Hange ran towards him from the side, but Cali sped up, carrying Levi away. "That's a really fast titan, but it's not too big, let's catch it for my research!"

A bit tired of flying kites all day, Levi decided to get creative with his role and turned around, running back. Though he wasn't actually going to trample anyone, you were supposed to get out of the way as if a titan was running around. You couldn't get too close unless you snuck up behind him, or else it would be declared that you had been stepped on and you would be out of the game.

"Regroup and distract it, protect the formation!" Hange declared. "Hey, titan, over here!"

Levi completely ignored Hange and ran towards Connie, who had committed the unforgivable crime of standing around with an unsure expression. The echo of "red flare," was heard, but how could that be? Levi was right there and he was holding the black kite.

Krista came running in on horseback, holding a red kite. "I'm sorry about this, but I got eliminated so I'm a titan now." Everyone was watching out for Levi, but in the battle field, you might have more than one titan to watch out for at once. Unfortunately, Connie was too focused on getting away from Levi, looking more scared than if he had seen an actual titan, and ran right into Krista's path. He froze upon realizing what he had done. "I think this means you got eaten," Krista informed gently.

"Aw, chased by an abnormal, then eaten," Connie frowned.

"Oh, don't feel too bad about it, you lasted pretty long," Krista offered some consolation.

"Titans don't talk to humans," Levi reminded, while he chased after Jean, who was gasping for breath and ready to fall over from all the running.

"Sorry!" Krista moved on to chase after you. "Here I come, (Name), I'm going to eat you!" She tried to sound ferocious, but it didn't come out that way. If it was Sasha on the other hand... She could certainly make a believable hungry titan impression.

"You let your guard down, titan! Hiya!" Hange swung her training swords, slashing at the empty air in front of her.

"Oh no!" Krista gasped, "I've been slain!" She lowered her red kite and galloped away, calling out, "I'm melting!"

"Hange!" Levi scolded. "You're very irresponsible, Jean would have been trampled by the abnormal by now."

"No way! Didn't you see Sasha right behind you? She totally took out the abnormal!" Hange argued.

"She didn't get close enough to make a deep enough cut," Levi argued back.

"You're just mad because (Name) gets to tag along with my team on her first mission outside," Hange argued back. She had told you that you would likely get moved around later, and probably end up on Levi's team, but for now you had to show that you could, as she put it, 'play without the coach,' since he had personally trained you. Although there was no telling when exactly that mission would take place.

"Um..." Sasha moved her swords up and down, "slash, slash?" She voiced unsure. "Dead titan?" Levi glared at her and she stepped back. "dead scout?"

"No, that's definitely a dead titan!" Hange cheered.

Before the argument could continue, the cheerful echo of "yellow flare!" reached you. The simulacrum had ended. With all the running around you've done all day, you were certainly tired. You were on watch during the last stop and it wasn't long before you were on the move again, so you really didn't have much time to recover.

You saw Eren heading over, from the direction you had come from before, looking left and right, waiting to spot his usual group. Armin came running from the right and Mikasa followed from the same direction, but further ahead. The trio greeted each other and started a quiet conversation.

"Food!" Sasha cheered. "It's almost dinner time!"

"Dinner has to be made first," you reminded her.

"Oh I'm sure it's done by now," Sasha was doing her hungry titan impression without even realizing it again.

"Um... actually, Armin, Mikasa and I are supposed to make it, and since we've been here doing the practice mission the whole time, it's not even started yet," you reminded, much to her disappointment. Sasha's face froze with a hungry expression, her eye twitching slightly in disbelief. "Sorry, I'll go get started now," you dashed off.

Eren, Mikasa and Armin had stopped to wait for you to join them, as they guessed you would, since you had the dinner duties together that evening. "I can take your place if you want. I was planning to help Mikasa and Armin with dinner anyway," Eren offered. "Isn't it your nine month anniversary today? Or was that just Hange making up stuff?"

You recalled the particular scene he was referring to, in which Hange, in Levi's absence, teased you about having a mini-Levi hidden somewhere, since it had been nine months since your wedding. "Yeah, she was making stuff up," you replied.

"I knew it," Armin quietly nodded.

Although the anniversary did coincide with the arranged wedding, albeit you haven't really been keeping close track of time. "It has been nine months," you acknowledged, "but aren't anniversaries supposed to be a yearly thing?"

Eren shrugged, "I thought so too, but Hange mentioned it, so I thought you might have plans or something."

"Not really," the four of you reached the scouts base. Levi had gone to the stables to return Cali.

"Guys, wait up!" Sasha hurried to keep up with you and your companions. "I'll help make dinner, then it'll be done faster and we can eat sooner!" She offered. The five of you went off to the kitchen to make dinner, the mission had been fake, but it was still tiring.

xoxox xox xoxox

The next day a debriefing occurred. Levi woke you up in the morning as usual. You wondered how much sleep he actually got. Sometimes if you woke up in the middle of the night, before the sun was up, he was gone, despite having been there when you fell asleep. One time you drifted in and out of sleep in the middle of the night and thought you saw him exiting the room, already in his uniform. He glanced back at you and quietly said something that you interpreted to be 'go back to sleep' but you weren't sure if that was a dream. You mostly slept through the night without waking though, as the training was very tiring.

Yet without fail, Levi would be there to wake you in the morning, to remind you that you were being a "lazy slob" and that you needed to hurry up and "wash before breakfast." Then he'd kiss you until your response indicated that you were more awake than asleep, it was very difficult to pretend to be asleep like that.

This morning, Levi had news, "we have a meeting with Erwin after the general debriefing for yesterday's simulacrum. Don't tell anyone about it," you nodded, yawning. "(Name)," you focused on him, he was using his 'what I'm saying is very important' tone. "No one is to know."

"Right, no one will know," you agreed. Once he was satisfied with your agreement, he let you go about your business getting ready for a new day, then the two of you headed to the mess hall for breakfast.

To be Continued

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