chapter three

*******

machines

*******

“I’m beginning to see a pattern with those two.”

Rico’s wry voice cut through Marlo’s misery - if he thought it had been unpleasant riding a horse for the better part of a day before, it was *nothing* compared to doing so with an injured leg and a bruised body – and his rather pathetic attempts to find a comfortable position in the saddle that didn’t aggravate his injuries. “Huh?”

He was beginning to grow used to the withering looks she sent him – Hitch could learn a lot from this woman – then Rico nodded in the direction of the three riders in front of them: Captains Ackerman and Hange, and Eren. “Oh,” he remarked as he caught the muffled sounds of yet another argument. Behind them, he could hear some grumbling from Jean, probably over the same thing that Rico was pointing out.

“If they’re not hanging all over each other, then they’re fighting,” Rico explained, and then she frowned. “Or they’re hanging on each other *and* fighting.” The expression deepened as she pressed two fingers gently to the clean bandages on her forehead. “It’s getting annoying.”

“Uhm, maybe it’s a… well, whatever they are thing,” Marlo volunteered as he stared at the two… men. Eren had ridden with Captain Ackerman for the first part of the morning, as usual, sleeping off the… well, sleeping, but had switched to his own mount once they stopped to let the horses rest for a while. That seemed to be what had precipitated this more recent fight, if Marlo was to take a guess. “Maybe their kind fight a lot? I mean, Ymir and Krista-“

“Krista is giving Ymir grief because Ymir was a back-stabbing bitch, from what I understand,” Rico pointed out as she stopped fussing with her bandages and latched on to the reins instead. “Even so, that girl seems awfully forgiving. No, haven’t you just ever been around a couple who love to bicker for bickering’s sake,” she asked as she glanced aside at Marlo.

He gave the question some thought and shook his head after about a minute. “No, can’t say that I have.” Who willingly fought with a person you were supposed to love? What was the point?

Rico huffed a little as she twirled the end of a rein about. “Yeah, that’s what those two are, a couple of idiots who love to wind each other up because they can and then be there when the other finally lets go.” She grimaced as she shook her head. “And we’re stuck with them, lucky us.” The amount of sarcasm in her voice just then made it clear that they were anything but that.

“Uhm, I don’t get it,” Marlo admitted, and felt that he much preferred her withering looks to her pitying ones. “I mean, *why* do they do-“

“Go to hell for all I care!”

“Which is fine by me, as long as it’s free from brats who have shit for brains!”

“You, you, du kontrollsüchtiger, kleiner Bastard, du denkst du weißt alles! Warum gebe ich mich überhaupt mit dir ab? Ich muss schlussendlich senil sein, um mich überhaupt mit einem totalen Arschloch wie dir rumzuärgern!” Eren was actually tearing at a lock of his own hair as he pulled back on the reins of his horse, causing the animal to jerk its head as it pranced about for several steps until Rico and Marlo rode up to it. “Denkst du nicht auch, dass er ein totales Arschloch ist?” He turned to them with golden eyes wide and blazing, and for a moment Marlo wasn’t certain about what confused him more, the strange, guttural language or how such a young-looking person could in reality be so old and capable of so much death.

“Oi! You little shit, I know you’re insulting me,” Captain Ackerman called out from ahead.

A look of pure annoyance flashed across Eren’s face. “Learn something other than that horrible pidgin English you speak and maybe you’ll find out for certain,” Eren shot back. “And with a *terrible* accent at that!”

Captain Ackerman, half-twisted in his saddle to glare back at Eren, appeared ready to leap at the suicidal idiot, except for the restraining hand Captain Hange had on his shoulder while she babbled on in an excited tone about being right about ‘the evolution of language’ or something.

“Hey, aren’t we supposed to be quiet,” Jean called out from behind them. “Something about not attracting attention?”

Captain Ackerman shifted his glare in Jean’s direction for a few potent seconds before he turned back around. Marlo didn’t look behind him, but judging from how quiet it was back there, he’d say that Jean wasn’t going to complain again about the short-tempered man’s antics any time soon.

“Vampires after us and *this* is what I have to put up with?” Rico didn’t sound too happy just then and had taken to giving Eren a rather frosty look. “Do any of you have more than half a brain?”

Instead of appearing insulted, Eren gave her a shockingly lovely smile, one that made Marlo’s face heat up for some reason and even had Rico glancing aside. “Brains were always Armin’s department – apparently I’m the crazy idiot who always causes trouble.” He didn’t appear too upset at that assessment.

Curious despite his embarrassment, Marlo leaned a little closer to Eren as he shifted about on the saddle. “Ah, who’s Armin?” Was there another… what did Captain Hange call them, hybrids?

Before Eren could answer, Rico did. “Wait, is he blond and a little taller than you?” She seemed to have recovered from whatever it was that Eren had done to her with his devastating smile and was back to her default of mildly annoyed.

“Yeah, that would be him.” Eren held the reins of his mount loosely in his left hand and made to run his right one through his dark, tousled hair before he let out a muttered curse and scratched at the back of it instead; the cat-face barrettes that held back his long bangs were uneven today, as if he’d knocked them about a few times already. For a moment a wistful expression came over his youthful face before he shook his head. “Mikasa said he stayed behind to help out the Corps, which is probably for the best. While he has his moments when he’s cornered, he’s better taking people on with his mind than a blade.”

That… sounded rather ominous, Marlo thought to himself while he continued to shift about in the saddle in a useless attempt to ease the lingering pain in his wounded leg. His horse shook its head and sidled about beneath him, clearly displeased with his fidgeting, and Eren stared at him in an eerie manner, his eyes huge and glowing and unblinking for what felt to be too many seconds. It reminded Marlo of a cat watching its prey.

“If your wounds are bothering you so much, why don’t you just take Ymir up on her offer of blood,” Eren asked when he finally blinked, his tone not so much curious as… derisive. Marlo found his back turning stiff as he scowled at the… what *was* Eren?

“Why do you think I should,” he demanded to know as he clenched at the leather reins in his hands.

“Yes, why do you,” Rico echoed as she nudged her horse a little closer. “I’d think the last thing your kind would want is giving up blood.”

Eren let out a slight huff of air as he slung his right leg up over the top of the saddle and still rode with a balanced ease, his fingers busy plucking with a stray lock of hair that had escaped one of the barrettes. “First off, a few drops here or there won’t hurt us – try having a vampire put their fist through your stomach and out through your back in an attempt to knock the fight out of you only to get up to walk it off, and we’ll talk about blood-loss.” He flashed them a grin that was full of too many sharp teeth just then to resemble anything containing humor before he resumed playing with his hair. “Second, I don’t see why you’re putting up with being all miserable when you’ve been offered a way to heal faster.” Letting go of the now twisted strand of hair, Eren shrugged and began to tap his claws against his grey boot. “But hey, maybe you’re both masochists or something. Don’t let me get in the way of your kinks.”

Marlo felt the blush from before return with a vengeance as what Eren was implying sunk in, a sputtered denial barely making it past his lips while Rico scoffed as she adjusted her glasses. “Really? You think we *enjoy* this? Just how much drugs did those two give you?”

“Not enough, apparently. I mean, I’m here putting up with all of this shit.” The derisive note in Eren’s voice grew stronger and the look on his face… it wasn’t an expression that belonged on someone whose features were that of a teenager, Marlo knew that much. He was used to dealing with Commander Dok, had even dealt with a few Ministers and so thought he’d come to know some bitter, jaded people in his time with the MP, but Eren… something told him that he didn’t want to know just what all Eren had seen and experienced in his long life.

Either Rico hadn’t noticed the expression or she didn’t care, because she just clicked her tongue in a manner disturbingly like Captain Ackerman and then shook her head. “Yeah, because you have it so rough right now – a full belly,” for a moment she stumbled over the words, “a sister who seems to adore you, a- well, okay, not sure what’s going on with you and Captain Ackerman to be honest, but you don’t seem to be putting up too much effort to get away from him, and-“

“And a few dozen vampires hot on my ass, last time Mikasa and I bothered to get a count, and however many Malform they can scavenge up which I’m betting is a lot,” Eren finished for her, his eyes even brighter than before. “Granted, I doubt they’re all grouped together, but even a handful of them isn’t good, considering the damage that three of them did back in Trost. Or worse, what fighting five of them did to Sicily.”

Marlo found himself curious enough to interrupt. “What- what is Sicily?” He’d never heard of that dome.

If he thought the look on Eren’s face was terrible before, it was nothing compared to now - *nothing* in his demeanor seemed human anymore. “And *that’s* my point right there,” Eren hissed in such a manner that his horse became skittish.

Rico blinked a few times, clearly taken back herself, but as always, never remained subdued for long. “So how did you manage to remain free that time?”

Eren patted his horse on the neck to help calm it down. “Same way as always, a lot of blood, destruction and death.” He seemed to stare at nothing for a moment before he looked up at her. “We healed, like we always do, and ran away. Which is why you idiots need to do the same.”

Marlo didn’t even need to look over at Rico to imagine her reaction, which was probably a mix of anger and indignation since he felt much the same. “You think we should just do it,” he demanded to know as he forgot about his injured leg and leaned closer to Eren until he became unsteady in the saddle. “Just… just drink vampire blood?” That sounded… sounded so *insane* to him that he couldn’t believe he’d just said it.

“Yes.” Eren shrugged in such a nonchalant manner that Marlo wondered if this was the same person who had just talked about blood and death a moment before. “Look, maybe the two of you – hell, maybe none of you except for Hange have figured it out yet, but this?” He paused to wave around to the trees surrounding them. “This is real. You’re out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by a bunch of creatures who see you as a tasty snack, and among them are really nasty ones who not only see you as walking dinners but temporary pests where the only concern is do they drain you dry before or after they rip out your spine.” While he spoke, the claws on his fingers slowly began to extend, until they gleamed in the mid-morning’s sunlight. Marlo found their length and evident sharpness fascinating, and let out a startled yelp when all of sudden those claws were in his face, a mere hair’s length from his eyes. “Do yourself that fucking favor and take the blood,” Eren repeated with a sense of overwhelming weariness to his voice as he kept his claws in front of Marlo’s eyes for a few seconds before pulling them away.

Barely able to keep himself upright on the horse as he wiped at his now teary eyes, Marlo began to wonder if it wasn’t just the vampires ‘out there’ that they had to worry about, even if it seemed that Eren was only trying to make a point – at least, he *hoped* this was Eren trying to make a point.

“Why do you care so much?”

“Yeah, why do you care so much,” he repeated Rico’s question, his voice cracking a bit on the words as he dropped his hand back into his lap and looked up to find Eren seated normally in the saddle once more and now playing with one of the barrettes that he’d pulled from his hair.

“Hmm?” Eren cocked his head to the side and seemed to consider the question for a moment. “Let me ask you this, since you already know a good bit more about my past than many people have for centuries,” he admitted as that weird, ageless expression once more settled across his features. “Why are you two out here? I know why most of the others are, but you two… you two I don’t get.” The way he frowned as he spoke made it clear he wasn’t happy with that uncertainty.

Rico matched his frown with one of her own as she fiddled with her glasses. “Why wouldn’t I be here?” There was a bit of heat to her words as if the question stung her pride. “I joined the Engineers because they’re what keep the domes going, keep the Malforms out and help protect people and… and yet….” Her hands clenched on the reins as if she was holding her blades and she shook her head. “How long were you in the Corps? You see how often they die?”

The smile Eren gave her just then was much too cynical to bear for long. “Yes, I’ve seen them die, some in front of me, but that’s nothing new. I’ve watched Malform and vampires kill people for a very, very long time.”

That stark reminder made Rico blink a few times before she continued. “Ah, yeah, well, it’s almost as bad in the Engineers.” She stared down at the reins in her hands and forced them to unclench. “I’m… I’m tired of people dying and it being for nothing. I’m tired of us doing the same thing year after year and having nothing to show for it but a longer list of the dead. Running into your boyfriend and your sister was the first time that there seemed to be any answers and a hope of things changing, so here I am.” When she lifted her head, there was clear defiance in her eyes and the set of her mouth. “I don’t agree with everything that’s happening and I’ve been watching Captain Hange to see what Ymir’s blood does to her but… okay, I’ll try it at lunch if it’ll shut you up and get rid of this damn headache,” she muttered as she once more ducked her head.

The complaint appeared to affect Eren somewhat since his smile warmed a little, yet the look he gave Marlo just then was rather expectant. Unsure of what to say, Marlo felt himself blushing again and took to shifting about in the saddle.

Looking back… it did seem rather silly why he’d joined the MP. “I guess… I guess I wanted to make a difference,” he tried to explain, not helped in the least by the way Eren’s unusual golden eyes stared so steadily at him. “The MP’s supposed to protect people, to keep them safe.”

“They did, at one point.” Eren’s brow grew furrowed and his eyes glazed over as if he was seeing something not there. “That was their original purpose when they were established, to provide order in the newly created cities and a sense of protection, but… I don’t know if it was just their own greed that did them in or the vampires.”

Marlo would love to blame it on the vampires, now that he knew about them, but thinking back to his fellow MPs, he didn’t think he could blame their corruption solely on an outside influence. “Well, I wanted to protect people, too, and… I’ll admit that it made my mother proud, me joining the MP.” For a moment he wondered how she was taking the news of his desertion. “I thought maybe I could make some sort of change from within, could make it like it had been,” he ignored Rico’s snort of derision, “if I worked hard enough.” Yet all that had happened was that he’d been made fun of by the other MPs and punished by his superiors. “So when Commander Dok made it clear that Commander Smith and Captain Ackerman were going to be arrested just because some Minister wanted it done, an order he couldn’t disobey… I guess I realized that there wasn’t anything I could really do.” He gulped past a throat gone tight as he stared at Eren. “But they *were* doing something, so yeah, I guess I’m like Rico on this, I followed Captain Ackerman out here because I wanted to help in whatever that was.”

For a moment Eren was quiet, was perfectly still as he rode along, and then he hummed a little as he fingered the barrette that he held. “A couple of idealists, who would have thought?” A grimace twisted his lips as he held up the barrette for a moment before sliding it back into his hair.

The sardonic tone just then was a little much for Marlo to bear, especially after he’d done what Eren had asked, he’d told the truth. “And why are *you* out here,” he demanded to know while glaring at the… er, other man. “I mean, other than…” He deflated a bit as he tried to think of just what he wanted to say.

“Other than the fact that a bunch of assholes kidnapped me and dragged me out here,” Eren finished for him, that sarcastic smile back on his lips as he leaned forward a little to rest his forearms against the neck of the grey horse. “It’s simple – I’m going to find whatever it is that Grisha hid away all those years ago, and I’m going to kill every vampire and Malform that gets in my way. Because *that’s* what matters to me, killing those bastards.” His eyes were once more glowing bright enough to shine in the daylight and fangs peeked past his lips as he spoke.

Marlo was quiet after that declaration, uncertain at all what to say, but Rico didn’t seem to have that problem.

“Then why drag along a vampire that seems to have loyalty issues, huh?”

Eren turned to look at her for a few seconds and then startled Marlo by laughing, the sound surprisingly carefree. “Well, Ymir is… Ymir.” He rubbed at the back of his head a couple of times. “She’s a pain in the ass and yeah, she set me up good the one time, but on the whole you know where you stand with her – and her with the others. And I don’t think they’re going to forgive her for what she did so we’re sorta stuck with each other.” He glanced up at the trees as if trying to catch a glance of the acerbic vampire, a wistful expression on his face. The expression darkened when up ahead, Captain Hange laughed at something that Captain Ackerman had either said or did.

“So, any idea what we’ll find in this dome, uhm, Shingansha,” Marlo asked in an effort to stop Eren from glaring so stringently at Captain Ackerman’s back.

“Hmm?” Eren did that thing again where he cocked his head to the side and gave Marlo an eerily blank look for a few seconds as if sizing him up before answering. “Shiganshina. Oh, probably Malform, lots of Malform since they’ve been using the place for nests for centuries.” There was a scratching sound as his nails flicked across the hardened leather of the saddle, a noise that none of the horses appreciated and caused them to skitter about for a few seconds – not that Eren seemed to care, but then again, he was the best rider of the three of them. “The last time Mikasa and I got anywhere near the place there were a few vampires as well, and not much else.” He shrugged in an entirely too fluid manner that made Marlo’s bones ache just then, a way that no one who had been stuck on an awful horse for a few hours let alone days should be able to move. “The dome did collapse centuries ago.”

Busy fussing with the bandages on her face, Rico left off as she seemed to concentrate on something. “Shiganshina – that was one of the earliest domes, wasn’t it? Named after one of the primary architects?”

Eren clapped a couple of times as he dipped his head in the Engineer’s direction. “Kudos to you. Yes, it was one of the first, and we heard a lot of theories about why it failed over the years – poor quality materials, flaws in the plan, hurried construction, even sabotage by people who disagreed with the whole enclosed city policy.” He paused to swing down on the right side of the horse so he could snatch up a tall piece of grass, which he then twirled around between his clawed fingers. “But the real reason was that they built it over Köln – well, that means nothing to you.” The look he cast upon the grass just then was rather pensive and the light in his golden eyes grew dull. “The Malform were waiting for them there, they just didn’t know it.” The stalk was held up for a moment and then released to the wind, where it floated for a moment before falling to the ground. “It didn’t last long.”

Marlo had thought it uncomfortable when Eren, Captain Ackerman and the others went… well, when they went all ‘hybrid’ or whatever it was, when their eyes began to glow and their fangs came out, but he was beginning to dread the moments when Eren’s appearance lost its youthfulness and that terrible sense of time replaced it, when he went so still and, well, *inhuman*. It made Marlo uneasy and, oddly enough, feel inconsequential, as if the handful of years he’d lived hadn’t meant anything. “Were you there for it? When Shing- Shiganshina fell?”

Eren shook his upper body as if forcing away something painful before he shook just his head. “No, we were in Antalya then.” His gaze fell downward for a few seconds and then the one side of his mouth quirked a little in a smile. “Somehow we didn’t get the message about the dome, guess we should have signed up with a better carrier or something.” When all Marlo did was stare at him in confusion, Eren sighed and went to run his right hand through his hair, only to let out a guttural curse a moment later. “You guys make me feel old,” he mumbled as he pressed his right hand against his chest for a moment.

“Maybe because you *are* old,” Rico was ever so kind to remind him.

“Still look better than you, Dollface,” Eren shot back as he let go of his chest to reach up and readjust one of the barrettes. When she turned to glare at him, he merely smiled and brushed his fingers along his bandage-free forehead, which caused her to roll her eyes.

“Oh yeah, you and grumpy up there deserve each other,” she informed him. “How much longer are you going to sulk back here with us?”

Eren seemed to consider the question as he reached for a flask of water in one of the saddlebags, his attention focused on the black-haired figure riding ahead. “Eh, I figure I’ll wait until lunch. It’s rather nice to do without all the bitching for a bit.”

“But I thought you liked all the bitching.” Marlo became flustered when both Rico and Eren stared at him with various looks of incredulousness. “It’s just, you seem to, uhm, ‘bitch’ together a lot.” Okay, he was going to keep his mouth shut from now on.

Eren merely continued to look at him for a few more seconds before turning toward Rico with one eyebrow raised, upon which all she did was shake her head back and forth several times while shrugging. Having the distinct impression that they were carrying on a silent conversation about him and that it wasn’t good, Marlo slunk down as much as possible in the saddle and hoped that it would be lunchtime soon.

*******

Hearing the faint pad of footsteps behind her, Fatima scooted back from the computer and looked up to see Zyanya enter the ‘room’, which was little more than a small, partitioned section of the cave where the Mayan vampire had set up her base. “Is something wrong?” While they had crossed paths numerous times over the centuries, Fatima didn’t have more than a passing relationship with the other woman and so wasn’t an expert with her moods.

“A fourth of the Mutates didn’t return this morning,” Zyanya informed her while she toyed with a coiled gold and jade bracelet around her left wrist.

“Ah.” Ignoring her study of the sedative used on Jäger for the moment, Fatima turned to better face her colleague and folded her arms so that her hands tucked into the full sleeves of her loose cotton tunic. “Do they usually return? Forgive my ignorance, as I’ve never really bothered to keep a pack of the creatures.”

A slight smile crept over Zyanya’s strong features. “No, your talents lie in other areas,” she remarked as she gestured to the computer. “They almost always return before sunrise, so something must have gone wrong.”

Fatima reached for one of the new sedative formulas that she was working on, the drug capsule cool beneath her long fingers. “That or maybe they ran into our quarry? Reiner and Bertolt told us that the turned captain is a capable fighter, and we know Ackerman is vicious enough to handle several Mutates on her own.” She twisted the capsule about while she spoke. “There’s also the traitor.”

Zyanya’s smile became more of a frustrated pout as she gave up on fussing with her bracelet to skim a hand over her head, causing a few strands of black hair to slip from the short ponytail. “I’m not sure they would be able to take out so many Mutates on their own, just the three of them – four if Jäger is recovered enough. So either there’s more of them than Reiner reported, or something else is going on.” She let out an explosive hiss and shook her head in frustration. “Dammit, I hate being trapped in here until sundown.”

Well, they could always put on some protective gear and go out to investigate, but they would be hampered by the outfits and if they did run into Ackerman, they would be at a distinct disadvantage should it come to a fight. No, best to stay inside for now. “It would make sense that Ackerman would bring along some help, if she’s lowered herself to align with humans.” Not that it would do her much good in the long run. The poor girl never did learn, did she? “I think… I think for now it’s not unlikely that we go along with the hypothesis that your pack has found Jäger.”

Red flared in Zyanya’s dark brown eyes, even as Fatima felt her fangs descend in anticipation. “Should I send out messages to the others, then?”

Fatima held the capsule in her hand for a moment as she considered the question; it wouldn’t do to have everyone else abandon their searches and convene here if the pack had been taken out by wild hogs or were delayed by sunlight. “For now… send a Mutate out to the others saying we *might* have found him, and that another will follow once we’ve conformation. Is it possible to have some of the pack search for the missing?”

“I think I can get the new order across and not override the existing one to find Jäger,” Zyanya agreed. “It’ll strain the limits of their intelligence and they’ll probably move slowly at first, but it’s possible.”

“Good, that’ll give me some time to work on the new sedative.” This one should make Jäger much more biddable, and build upon the work that Reiner and Bertolt had put into the troublesome child.

“I’ll leave you to it, then. I’ll be busy working on the Mutate, so they’ll go out as soon as the sun sets. Let me know if you need anything.”

Fatima waved her left hand in thanks as she resumed studying the formula displayed on the computer screen, mind already busy on the possible tweaks she could make to enhance certain parts of the chemical composition. This would be so much easier if she was in Gdansk or St. Petersburg, but beggars couldn’t be choosy. She would muddle on as best she could, as she always had, and hopefully this time the sedative would work on the child.

If not, then she would tweak it again, and again, and again if necessary. She had learned much patience over the years, and Jäger couldn’t hide much longer. If Zyanya’s pack didn’t hunt him down, then Zeki would find him, or Shen, or one of the others. It would be better for the child if Fatima perfected it before he was captured, but in the end he would be theirs, and in the end he would be loyal. Things would just be so much cleaner if they were done her way rather than Shen and Indira’s.

After all, they needed the poor child’s blood for things other than amusement and torture.

*******

“I’m warning everyone now that we’re only stopping long enough to give the horses a chance to rest,” Levi called out as everyone began to dismount, most of the baby asswipes groaning about their various aches and how hungry they were. “So fix something quick and take a shit while you can.”

“Classy as always,” Hange commented as she loosened the girth of the saddle and then undid the bridle enough so her horse could eat on the long stalks of grass growing in the clearing they’d picked to rest in for their break. Levi did the same with his horse, and even gave the black and grey gelding an affectionate pat on the neck before stepping aside – and almost into Hange, who was clearing waiting for him. “What the hell?”

“Look, just let this morning go, okay?” Hange’s expression at the moment was almost frighteningly earnest as she glanced between him and over to where Eren was chatting with Mikasa, Ymir and Krista. “It looks like he’s calmed down now so don’t go upsetting him again.”

About to say that he hadn’t intended for the damn brat to get all in a snit in the first place, Levi let out a harsh breath as he jerked his hand through his hair; dammit, why did the pest have to go bring up this shit right now? Except he knew that Hange was just trying to be a friend and give him some much needed advice in an area where he was sadly lacking. “I’ll… try. But you know I was right.”

“Well, you had a good point, but you could have gone about it better,” she admitted as she stepped aside. “Less yelling might have helped.”

He snarled a little as he swiped at the back of her head – tall freak that she was – which caused Hange to laugh as she danced out of harm’s way. The cheerful sound caused several people to look in their direction, Eren included.

It was the first time that Levi had really seen his lover since Eren had chosen to ride with Rico and Marlo over an hour ago, and for a moment Eren’s expression hardened when their eyes met. Then the brat’s shoulders seemed to shrug, just a little, and a slight smile curled the corners of his lips. What the hell did that mean?

Mindful of Hange’s admonishment to not start a fight, Levi went over to watch Sasha and Connie build a fire so they could prepare something for lunch; there was a distinct pout on Sasha’s face while she worked. “It’s just going to be rations today, sir,” she explained as she stacked the wood mostly one-handed because of her injured arm.

“At least Eren handed over the rest of the herbs so the porridge shouldn’t be so bad,” Connie added.

“Still, it would be better if we could hunt while traveling.”

“We’ve more important things to worry about right now,” Levi reminded the idiots. “Just make some coffee.” Since he’d ate at breakfast, he’d do with only having some caffeine to get him through until dinner and allow the more ‘normal’ people among them enjoy the food to help with their healing and the brisk pace they were putting in so as to distance themselves from last night’s camp.

Leaving those two alone, he decided to just get it over with and went to see what Eren was discussing with the bitches and… well, Krista was all right, other than her dubious taste in lovers. He found the four of them huddled around Hange’s spare datapad. “You better not be watching vids.”

“Don’t I wish,” Ymir grumbled as she tugged on the rim of her cloak’s hood as if nervous. “We’re just checking to make sure we’re still on course.”

Across from her and holding onto the datapad, Mikasa nodded and did something on the screen to enlarge the image. “I think we need to head a bit more north if we want to hit that one supply station you think is out there, but we should still be okay.”

Levi leaned in to see where she was indicating on the map, which just so happened to put him near Eren. “Yeah, that’s where it should be – I don’t think anyone’s been there for a few years, but the supplies should still be good since they prep ‘em to last a while.” Beside him, Eren had gone still but didn’t pull away.

“At this pace, we might reach it by tomorrow night.” Mikasa powered down the datapad and tucked it inside of her jacket. “I smell coffee brewing, let’s go get some.” She clearly had directed that at Eren, yet he didn’t move along with her.

“I think Jean’s waiting for you, so you should go see him,” he told her instead as he remained beside Levi. When Mikasa frowned at the dismissal, Eren made a shooing motion with his hand. “I’ll be there soon enough.”

For a moment Levi thought she’d say something or refuse to leave, yet all she did was give him a narrowed look before she waved back at Eren. “Okay, I’ll save some coffee for you.” Then she left, and after a moment Ymir and Krista did the same – though not before Ymir got in a parting shot.

“Remember that we’re on a short timetable here, boys. Save the quickies for later.”

Levi was spared having to beat some manners into the pain in the ass by Krista, who managed a nice hit to Ymir’s ribs as she sighed in exasperation. While Ymir complained that she’d merely spoken the truth, Levi motioned for Eren to join him closer to the horses so not everyone could overhear their conversation.

There was a moment of hesitation, and then Eren fell into step beside him, their green cloaks fluttering in the breeze. A part of Levi was annoyed with how… how at ease he felt with having Eren beside him, with knowing where the little shit was and not having to worry that he’d disappear at any moment; the past hour or so was had been stressful, and the only way he’d managed not to drag Eren back beside him was that Levi had been able to hear his voice as he’d chatted with Rico the entire time.

“So, sounds like you and Rico are getting all chummy.” Dammit, that had come out a bit surlier than Levi had intended. He glared as he pushed one of the pack horses out of the way.

Eren blinked a couple of times and reached out to scratch along the nose of Hange’s horse. “Eh, she had a lot of questions about the tunnel system linking the domes together. Since Mikasa gave her the information about it, I figured it wouldn’t do much harm to talk about it.” He shrugged a little as he glanced down through his eyelashes for a moment, as if thinking about something. “Besides, it was a chance to get to know her and Marlo a bit better. I’m not comfortable traveling with strangers.”

“We didn’t exactly have the time or resources to put together the best team,” Levi pointed out as he folded his arms over his chest, the fingers of his right hand slowly stroking along his gauntlet. “You’re lucky this many people came along in the first place.”

For some reason, Eren grimaced at that and shook his head. “Maybe you shouldn’t have bothered.” When Levi made to argue, he held up his right hand. “No, not to come after me, but to bring them along. I’m not sure how much good they’re going to be against vampires.”

“Well, we’re stuck with them now so we’ll just have to beat some skills into them and hope for the best. It wasn’t like things were that much better back in Trost.”

That got a short bark of laughter from the brat. “You do know how to cheer a person up,” Eren remarked as he rubbed at the back of his neck. For a moment he looked so uncertain, so worn down, that Levi felt the urge to grab onto him and pull him close. Yet when he shifted forward, Eren moved away from the horse and looked over at the trees.

“You know, you can’t keep everyone safe. If by some miracle they don’t find us along the way, they’ll probably be waiting for us at Shiganshina since they know that’s… that’s where Mikasa and I used to live. It’s where *Grisha* used to live. And if they’re not there, then they know we’ll head back for one of the domes eventually. It’s a waiting game at this point, and they’ll only be all the more vicious out of desperation the longer it drags on.” There was a terrible sense of acceptance, of hopelessness in Eren’s voice as he spoke, and that awful darkness in his beautiful eyes.

“So I don’t know why you should care if I’m riding next to you or if I’m up in the trees with Mikasa, because they *are* going to come for us, for *me*, and it’s not going to make much of a difference where the hell I am at that time, is it,” he asked, referring back to the fight that had him cursing at Levi earlier and heading off in a sulk to talk about motivations and tunnels with Rico and Marlo.

Levi let out a slow breath and scratched at the undercut part of his hair as he did his best to put his thoughts in order before he opened his mouth, Hange’s voice in his head reminding him to not upset Eren again. Part of him just wanted to call the brat an idiot – a coward and an idiot at that – but there had been enough fighting for the time being.

“Look, I’m not telling you what to do.” He glared at the little shit when Eren let loose a rather eloquent snort of disbelief. “Trust me, you’ll know when I do because I’ll back it up with a swift kick to that ass of yours, but I’m not. What I’m saying is that you’re an utter moron for making yourself a target up in the trees.” Okay, maybe that could have been phrased better, judging from the nasty look Eren was giving him just then. Gritting his teeth together, Levi slowly reached out and grasped Eren’s stiff left hand between his own two. “When you’re on the ground, I can keep better track of you. I can see what’s incoming and better defend against it. I can’t do that when you’re flitting around in the damn trees like a fucking bird.”

Eren remained all stiff and prickly, and gave his hand a slight tug. “It’s not as boring, being up in the trees.”

“Tell me that you can keep track of everything around you better while hopping around up there.” Levi’s eyes narrowed while he waited for an answer, and his nails dug into Eren’s hand for a second when the damn brat looked aside. “Yeah, I thought so. Look, it’s your choice, but I feel better if I know you’re safe. The whole fucking point of all this was to get you back, so why make it easy on them fuckers to take you again?”

It was quiet between them after that, with Eren refusing to meet Levi’s eyes and Levi left with nothing else to say after basically admitting what he felt and annoyed about the fact. Clicking his tongue in disgust, he dropped Eren’s hand and turned to leave, but only got about two steps away when the brat all but slammed into his back and grey-clad arms snaked around his chest.

“Dammit, you piss me off,” Eren gritted out with his chin digging into Levi’s right shoulder. “I can take care of myself, you know!”

Levi made a rude noise as he dragged the brat around to face him. “That is the shittiest lie I’ve ever heard – if it wasn’t for me you’d still be drugged out of your mind and handed over like a present to a bunch of vampires right now.”

“Arroganter, besserwisserischer Bastar-“

Levi decided to cut off the latest string of what certainly was abuse by kissing Eren just then, along with a forceful slap to the ass. The growl the action provoked was downright adorable, so he ignored the way that the little shit yanked on his hair since Eren was soon kissing him back with fervor, mouth feverishly hot and pliant beneath his own and hands sliding along his back. He had just stroked his left hand along Eren’s side and began to fondle that delectable ass with both hands when Ymir’s annoying as hell voice shouted out.

“Hey! What I say about quickies, huh?”

“Ich werde sie verdammt noch mal ausweiden,” Eren growled as he broke off the kiss yet didn’t pull away from Levi.

“That better not have been about me for once,” Levi remarked as he gave his lover’s ass another squeeze.

“No, not this time,” Eren muttered. He glared at nothing in particular for a moment before shaking his head and resting it on Levi’s shoulder. “Though you deserve it. You have any idea how boring it is to ride on a horse all day?”

That earned the little shit another smack on the ass even as Levi smiled. “I don’t want to hear it since I’ll be right there riding beside you.”

“I’m not-“

“Coffee is ready, but not for a couple of perverts getting it on in front of the horses!”

“Oh for- we’re talking,” Eren shouted as he grabbed Levi’s hand and headed back to the camp. “I’m about to poke holes in her cloak,” he muttered.

“You’re the one who insisted on bringing her along,” Levi pointed out with some satisfaction as he had to adjust himself a bit in his pants to make walking comfortable.

It looked as if Eren was trying to scowl Levi’s way at the moment, but the slight twitch of his lips prevented there being any true heat in the expression. Just to prove a point, Levi tugged him in close as they approached everyone gathered around the cooking meal, and planted a lingering kiss on those slightly curved lips. “Your barrettes are uneven,” he murmured once it ended.

Eren’s pleased expression quickly turned into annoyance as he shoved Levi away. “Soon as we reach a dome, I’m dumping your ass for a Chairman, just you wait,” he huffed as he fumbled with one of the barrettes.

“Ha, you’ve never had it so good, you little shit.” Levi took advantage of Eren’s occupied hands to flick him in the forehead, smiling a slight smile of his own at the way his lover whined in frustration and snapped the readjusted barrette shut before reaching out to swat at him with a clawed hand.

“Aw, you two get cuter together each day.” Hange approached them with a mug in each hand, which she held out toward them.

Levi accepted one of the mugs while he glared at the lunatic. “Is your brain even more defective than usual or something?” There was nothing ‘cute’ about him.

“Nope, I’m as fit as a fiddle – I don’t even have any bruises left over from last night!” She waited until Eren took his mug to pull back her right sleeves. “Look! They’re all gone! Think Ymir will mind giving me her blood all of the time?” There was a hopeful note to the crazy woman’s voice as she stared intently at Eren.

He shrugged while sipping at his drink, then glanced around at the small group gathered around the cooking pot of porridge. “I doubt it, but crazier things have happened. However, that reminds me of something.” He set his mug down on the ground while rolling up the left sleeves of his jacket and shirt. “Hey, Rico! Come over here for a minute, and bring your coffee.”

Doing as she was told and not looking too happy about it, Rico sauntered over with an obviously curious Mikasa trailing after her. “What do you want,” she asked, the perpetual frown on her face as she looked Eren up and down.

“Hold out your cup – it’s time for you to get that ‘pick me up’ we talked about earlier,” Eren explained as he extended a claw on his right forefinger and held it to his left forearm.

Figuring out what the brat intended to do, Levi grabbed his right arm around the same time that Mikasa yelled out ‘no’! Eren gave him a displeased look and Rico stared in confusion while Levi shook his head.

“No, you’re not going to do it,” Levi explained as he pushed down Eren’s left arm. “There’s no telling if there’s some of that shitty drug left in your system.”

“But I thought Hange said it’s all gone.”

“I said I *think* it’s gone, but I’ve got the most rudimentary of instruments with me right now,” Hange rushed out as she waved her hands around in the air. “We don’t know for certain.”

“Yes, so let me give Rico some blood instead,” Mikasa volunteered as she pushed back her sleeves. “That is what she wants, right?” She glanced at the Engineer for confirmation.

Rico sighed as she fidgeted with her glasses. “I guess.” At Mikasa’s concerned look, she sighed again and nodded. “I’m not happy with the idea, but Captain Hange appears fine and I’m less thrilled with the idea of coming nightfall and facing more Malforms or worse while being all banged up. So yes, it’s what I want.” She held out her mug of coffee with only the slightest moue of disgust on her face.

“Oh, trust me, you’ll feel better! There’s no negative side effects at all,” Hange enthused while Mikasa used a claw to slice into the side of her left hand in order to allow a steady flow of fat drops of blood to drip into the mug. It looked to be about twice as much as what Eren had given Levi that first time, and Levi had a wicked impulse to tell Rico about that ‘sex slave’ side effect for a moment – at least, until he caught a stern look from Eren. Dammit, how had the brat known about that thought?

The look of disgust intensified as Rico lifted the mug to her lips and began to drink down the ‘spiked’ coffee, not stopping until it was done. By that point, the others, save for Ymir and Krista, had gathered around to watch the spectacle. She wiped at her mouth once she was done drinking, paused for a second or two, and then shrugged. “It wasn’t as bad as I thought.”

“There really wasn’t that much in there,” Mikasa admitted as she licked at her cut palm, which was already healed. “That and Sasha makes a really strong pot of coffee.”

“She makes the *best* coffee,” Connie offered as he hugged his girlfriend close. Levi felt the need to gag over the blatant sign of affection.

“Great coffee or not, it still had blood in it. When will I start to heal?” Rico stared pointedly first at Mikasa and then Hange, both of whom merely shrugged in return before turning to look at him.

Nice of them to put him on the spot. He clicked his tongue a couple of times while he thought back to when his thigh had been injured. “I’d say a few hours – you should be feeling a bit better instantly, but the first time Eren gave me his blood, my wound had healed up enough in an hour or two that I didn’t need pain meds anymore and by evening enough that I could walk around normally.”

Rico pressed her right hand against the bandages wrapped around her forehead and nodded. “The headache’s already a little better, but maybe it’s psychosomatic. Still, good to know that I should be back to fighting strength come nightfall.”

Standing beside Mikasa, Jean seemed to be struggling with some internal decision as he bit into his bottom lip and kept glancing between Rico and Mikasa. Just when Levi was about to tell him to go into the woods if he had to take a shit that badly, he nudged his left elbow into his charming girlfriend’s side. “Uhm, can you do that for me, too?” When she looked at him, he gave her a shaky smile. “The blood thing.” A splotchy blush began to spread across his face.

“If you want,” Mikasa replied, a hint of pink staining her pale cheeks as well.

“Oh I’m so not sticking around for this,” Eren muttered as he walked away, toward Ymir and Krista. Levi followed, especially once he heard Connie and Sasha chime in, something about Jean not being the only one able to kick ass tonight. Not for the first time, Levi wondered what it was that he’d done to be stuck with all these baby asswipes – sure, there’d been the stealing and occasional maiming and throat-slitting while he’d grown up, but that was basic survival. Well, mostly. He wasn’t anywhere near as evil as Erwin, and if you wanted to discuss crimes against humanity, you didn’t need to look much further than Hange so why him?

“I think I need to reevaluate my life choices and associates,” he muttered, mostly to himself.

Beside him, Eren flashed him a lopsided grin. “Welcome to the club, and hold that thought. You’ll *really* be ready for some changes after talking to Ymir, I guarantee it.”

“She’s *your* friend, you little shit,” he reminded Eren.

“Yeah, which makes it even more pathetic.” For a moment there was that awful darkness in Eren’s golden eyes, and then he seemed to force a smile on his face. “Yo, Pita,” he called out, “you going to help out Mikasa or what?”

Ymir’s entire body went stiff while beside her, what could only be described as a truly beautiful smile broke out over Krista’s face right before she began to giggle. “Dammit, Rebel, I told you *not* to call me that!”

“But you love nicknames!” Eren smiled at her for a couple of seconds while she growled, the sound savage and low. “Yeah, yeah, no sense of humor, some people,” he remarked while he rubbed at the back of his head. “Seriously, you’re not going to help Mikasa? She’s doing what you wanted, you know.” He waved back over to where everyone else was gathered.

Ymir and a still giggling Krista glanced over in the direction before Ymir shrugged. “I think she’s got this round covered, it’s not that much blood. I’ll handle the next for whoever is still around then.”

Beside Levi, Eren went still at the remark, whereas Levi’s vision turned grey except for the snarky bitch in front of him and Krista. “You think this is funny,” he demanded to know as his hands dropped to the hilt of his blades.

Ymir went still as well, while Krista seemed to edge her body a little between Levi and Ymir. “No,” Ymir admitted after a few seconds while she gently pushed Krista aside. “I don’t think this fucking mess is funny at all, which is the whole point – I think it’s a disaster waiting to happen. I’m doing what I can to help train the poor saps and even giving them my blood, and all it’ll probably do is delay the inevitable.”

Levi released the hilts of his weapons so he could lunge forward to latch onto the front of Ymir’s cloak and pull until her masked face was only an inch or two away from his. “You think they don’t know they’re going to die? That they plan on living to some ridiculous old age? You don’t put on these shitty blades and gauntlet unless you’re willing to risk your damn life, you fucking leech,” he spat at her. “Even an MP knows that. Seems to me you’ve spent too long sucking things dry so a pathetic piece of shit like you can live to remember that sometimes, you put your life on the line for what matters. *They* know that. So we’ll do whatever’s necessary to give them enough time to do it.” Having said his piece, he shoved her away as if the mere touch of her disgusted him, which was close to the truth.

Eren appeared unmoved by Levi’s sudden outburst, except for the darkness in his eyes, while Krista appeared torn between lashing out at Levi and comforting her girlfriend, who stood perfectly still once she regained her balance. Then her head turned in Eren’s direction.

“Er ist noch schlimmer als diese verdammten Gören da draußen, ist dir das klar, Rebell?” To Levi’s utter annoyance, she was speaking in that damn guttural speech, supposedly to Eren.

In response to whatever she’d said, his lover’s shoulders hunched forward and his face took on a haggard appearance, adding years and so much suffering to his bearing. “Ich weiß.”

“Tust du das wirklich?” Ymir shrugged aside Krista’s hand only to catch it a moment later and hold it with enough force to make the poor idiot gasp. “Denkst du, sie wissen nicht ihn gegen dich einzusetzen, nachdem er zu deiner Rettung geeilt ist? Annie hatte deinen Schwachpunkt sicherlich schnell heraus gefunden, aber die Anderen… Sie werden nicht so nett sein, wie sie es war.”

“Enough with the gibberish,” Levi snarled as he glared back and forth between the two morons, concerned at how whatever the bitch was saying was affecting Eren.

“Ich *weiß*!” It sounded as if Eren had repeated himself, and his expression grew more awful as his golden eyes burned and his fangs descended – he didn’t look at all human just then, didn’t seem to notice that his claws were digging into his own chest as he grasped at the bag that hung against it.

“Sie werden die Menschen töten, aber Napoleon… scheiße, du musst dir etwas überlegen, denn momentan haben wir viel zu viele Schwächen, vor allem du.” Ymir’s eyes were a brilliant enough of a red to shine through the goggles.

“Ich *weiß* das,” Eren howled as he let go of his bloody chest to lash out at the traitorous bitch, causing Ymir and Krista to fall backward to avoid the razor-sharp claws. “Halt’s Maul, halt’s Maul, *halt’s Maul!*”

Levi wrapped his arms around the snarling brat’s waist to hold him back, even though part of him wondered if it wouldn’t just solve a major headache to unleash him on Ymir here and now; one less pain in the ass, but one less talented fighter. Well, two less talented fighters, because Krista would probably insist on defending the troublesome bitch, so in the end he held on. “Oi! Calm the fuck down,” he hissed in Eren’s left ear while his lover continued to snarl and swipe in Ymir’s direction, while Krista trembled at her side. “Kill her *after* we get back to Trost.”

Eren made another half-hearted swipe before shivering as if utterly frozen in Levi’s arms. His head lolled back against Levi’s shoulders; Levi was shocked to see that there were traces of tears on Eren’s dusky cheeks, still drops of water that sparkled in his thick eyelashes. What the hell had the two of them been talking about? “What the *fuck* did you say to him,” he demanded from Ymir.

“Nothing that he didn’t already know, and that he doesn’t need to face,” she replied, sounding more than a little sullen at the moment.

“Same could be said for you,” Eren muttered as he lifted his head enough to glare at her. “Don’t see how we’re all that different.”

For a moment Levi wondered if he needed to get between the two idiots since Ymir’s body tensed in an ominous manner, and then she relaxed as she threw her hands up in the air. “Why do you think I’m pushing so much,” she asked as she draped her left arm over a confused Krista’s shoulders. “I don’t think we’re going to get a second chance at this, so we have to make sure this time matters.” Her voice grew rough as she hugged Krista close. “And I’m not going down without a hellova fight.”

“Won’t be much of a fight if you drive away everyone who’s supposed to be fighting with you,” Levi couldn’t help but point out, his voice laden with sarcasm. He had the impression that Ymir was giving him a nasty look from behind the goggles she was wearing, but he didn’t really care.

“Maybe there’s something to you other than the foul mouth and snarky attitude,” was all she said before she allowed a furious Krista to pull her away.

Figuring that he’d leave it to the other woman to beat some manners into Ymir, Levi gave Eren’s ribs a forceful enough of a squeeze to provoke a high-pitched squeak from his lover. “What about you? Calm down yet or do I have to kick some sense into you?”

Eren waited until Levi relaxed his arms enough so he could twist around in them to answer. “Perhaps you should – I mean, what the fuck was I thinking to ask you to drag Ymir back with us?” He shuddered a little as he rested his forehead against Levi’s, his expression still horribly drawn and his eyes shadowed with… with something. Levi had seen a lot in his years, both the hopelessness that dragged one down in the poverty and violence that was Tartarus, and the bleakness that overtook some of his colleagues in the Corps as they went on mission after mission just waiting for the one that would be their last. What emanated from his lover just then was something new, was something so… so *heavy* and draining that Levi felt his own knees buckle under the effort of holding Eren upright.

So he did what he always did, he drew on the anger that he swore some days never really went away, the anger at the fact that this shit kept happening to him and those he- that this shit kept happening. “Hey! What the *fuck* did she say to you,” he demanded to know as he grabbed onto a handful of Eren’s thick, tangled hair and used it to yank the brat’s head back so he could look into those dull, golden eyes.

“It was noth-“

“Finish the sentence like that and I’ll kick your teeth in, and do it again when they grow back,” he warned, not in the mood for this bullshit. At least the threat managed to light a spark in those gorgeous eyes, warming them up to the color of honey. “Tell me the truth.” His fingers tightened in Eren’s hair until his lover winced in pain.

“Sadist,” Eren spat as his right hand scratched at Levi’s, but without any claws. “It’s just…” He slumped against Levi, his body feverishly warm and pliant, and Levi had to relax his hold before he ripped out a handful of hair. “I know she’s goading me, it’s what she does. I even think I know why she’s doing it because I fight better when… when I have something I don’t want to lose.” For a moment he buried his nose against the crook of Levi’s neck, causing Levi to shiver at the inadvertent caress.

“And that’s what, Mikasa? She saying shit about your sister?”

Eren let out another shuddering breath, making Levi shiver again. “No, she’s pointing out that when the others catch up to us, they’re going to come after *you*.” Eren pulled back enough to stare at Levi with eyes gone wide and shining, like two golden pools of fire. “Annie knew enough to use you against me, and so will they, but they won’t stop at leaving you… at leaving you half dead.”

There was a flash of pain through Levi’s body as the memories of what the blonde bitch had done to him came flashing back, the flares of agony in his arm and throat the worst of all. Yeah, that hadn’t been fun, but he’d been weaker then, hadn’t known what to expect despite all the warnings Eren and Mikasa had given to him. Things were different now. *He* was different now, and if a bunch of undead fucks thought to use him against Eren… well, *they* were the ones who were about to get their throats torn out this time around. “I should kick your ass on the principle of it alone – you really think they stand a chance against me?” He sniffed as he gave a rough tug to the little shit’s hair. “I think those drugs fried what shit you have that pass for brains.”

Eren hissed at him but didn’t attempt to pull away. “I will *relish* watching them take you down a peg or two, just you wait, du Arschloch.”

“Huh, I knew that was an insult.” Levi yanked Eren in closer as the world turned grey, except for a certain annoying, addictive brat. “And I think you’re confusing us – you’re the one who keeps getting his ass handed to him. Need a fucking babysitter, you do.”

“Need my fucking head examined, is what-“

Enough foreplay, Levi decided as he went in for the kill, only to have Eren meet him halfway. The damn brat nipped at his bottom lip, which earned him another tug to the hair before they kissed in earnest, tongues sliding together for a few seconds before Levi trailed his lips down to the spot that always made Eren moan in such a delicious manner. He tasted sweat and something else, something he was identifying as ‘Eren’, something that made him want to growl as he could feel the damn brat’s pulse thunder against his tongue, as Eren’s fingers dug into his shoulders and their hips rocked into each other’s. His free hand fumbled between their bodies to claw at a belt – dammit, why were the things so complex? He just wanted it off, just wanted their shitty pants down and… and the image of Eren on his knees before Levi was *so* incredibly good just then that Levi groaned in anticipation and clawed some more while Eren babbled something incomprehensible and-

“I saved some coffee for you two.”

“Fuck!”

“Mikasa!”

Levi and Eren shouted at the same time while jumping apart, Levi hissing as Eren’s claws dug at his shoulders and Eren stumbling since it was his pants that were partially undone; he cursed in what sounded to be German and fumbled to set his clothes aright, and all the while the impressive bruise on his neck slowly healed. As for himself, Levi had to breathe in and out a few times while he glared at Mikasa, and the world gradually came back into color.

She gave him a blank stare in return for a moment before turning toward her brother. “Everyone’s about done with their lunch.” A hint of reproach came over her features. “It’s not a good idea to let yourself get so distracted.”

“It’s not like we planned it,” he snapped at her as he jerked his right hand through his hair then yelped as he nearly tore out a barrette. “That said, couldn’t you have given us ten more minutes or something?”

“We’ll be leaving by then, so no.” She rolled her eyes and went over to help him with his hair, and Levi used the distraction to adjust himself in his pants. “Besides, I don’t exactly feel sorry for you after this morning. You’re not the only one who’s had his plans ruined.” Once Eren’s hair was more or less restored to order – as much as it ever was – she gave him a quick hug. “Now come on, we’ve a lot of distance to cover.”

Having the distinct impression that he was being given the cold shoulder just then, Levi hurried up to take his place by Eren’s left side. “So did everyone enjoy their spiked coffee?”

Mikasa’s shoulders stiffened and it was clear that she would have preferred to go on ignoring him just then, but she merely slid her left arm through Eren’s right and shook her head. “Marlo’s a bit leery and couldn’t drink all of it, but he had a little and we’re hoping he’ll change his mind when he sees how much everyone’s improved by dinner tonight. Honestly, I’m surprised that the rest of them did go through with it already.”

Eren gave Levi a small smile when his left wrist was snatched up. “You still going to train again tonight?”

“Yeah, but this time we’ll go a little easier on them – just beat them half as much.” They needed to learn, they just didn’t need to be roughed up enough in case those shitty Malform found the camp again.

“We’ll look for a suitable place to stop tonight.” Mikasa seemed to consider something before she spoke again. “Sasha’s right about something – it would be best if we hunted a little. Fresh protein is better than the rations if they’re healing.”

“Only if it doesn’t slow us down,” Levi told her.

Mikasa nodded. “It shouldn’t. Maybe we can find a suitable pond or lake when we stop, it’s been a while since we had fresh fish.”

That prospect seemed to cheer up Eren. “Now that I’ll gladly eat.”

Levi didn’t give a shit what was on the menu, just as long as they had someplace safe to stay for the night. And if it offered up a bit of privacy, even better; he didn’t care about attacking Malforms or vampires after his head, but dammit he was going to find some alone time with Eren soon - especially after this latest revelation.

*******

Krista blinked as the small, brightly colored grey and blue bird fluttered its wings mere inches from her face and barely made the jump in time for the next tree branch, grateful for Ymir’s firm hold on her left arm. “Be careful there, darling.”

“I was just startled,” she tried to explain, not wanting Ymir to think that she wasn’t doing a good job of keeping up. “That bird came out of nowhere.”

“They tend to do that,” was her girlfriend’s sardonic reply; she didn’t need to see it to know there was a wry twist to Ymir’s lips just then. “Damn things think they can just fly wherever they want.”

“Imagine that.” Despite herself, Krista smiled back a little; it was just so difficult to remain upset with Ymir for long, even though she deserved it. Not only had there been the whole betraying Eren and running off with thing, but she’d been a bit nasty to the others lately, too. Well, more of her abrasive self when she really needed to get along with everybody. Oh, who was Krista kidding? Ymir was never going to be ‘nice’ and play well with others. But she could make some sort of effort.

Since Mikasa was a bit further ahead scouting, Krista felt it was safe to breach the subject. “Did you really have to torment Eren and Captain Ackerman so much earlier?” She frowned while she concentrated so she could make the jump over a particularly challenging gap between the trees.

Ymir heaved a deep enough sigh to send the material covering her face fluttering outward. “Look, those two get on my nerves almost as much as Mikasa and her sappy MP boyfriend, all right? They can’t figure out if they want to scream at each other or fuck because they’re so messed up, so they keep throwing all this drama around them.” She tugged at the edge of her hood and growled a little. “Eren at the least is way too old to be acting like that.”

Krista had to laugh a little. “Yes, because you’re so reasonable when it comes to relationships.” When Ymir turned her head in Krista’s direction, Krista shrugged. “You were sooo mature when we first started… well, when we got together.”

She was willing to bet that Ymir was narrowing her eyes in an effort to intimidate just then. “I don’t like know-it-alls,” Ymir griped as she continued to fuss with her hood.

“Then you must barely be able to stand yourself.”

“Ooh, it’s going to be fun explaining how you fell to the ground, princess.” Despite the threat, there was more than a trace of humor in Ymir’s low voice just then. “These branches are awfully slippery.”

“Hmm, just like a certain someone I know.” Krista couldn’t help but smile now; she had missed this, had missed Ymir’s teasing, the easy back and forth between them. “Still, do me a favor and take it easy on them, okay? You’re supposed to working your way back into everyone’s good graces, not on their last nerves.” She made sure to back up the ‘request’ with a rather stern look.

Ymir heaved another heavy sigh and slid a gloved hand inside the hood to scratch at her head. “Only for you, princess.” Yet she sounded suitably subdued so Krista took that as a ‘yes’.

“Don’t you ‘princess’ me, I think Eren was ready to tear into you if it wasn’t for Captain Ackerman. What was that about?” She had never seen Eren so upset with her lover before, even after… well, never.

Things were quiet for about a minute, and then Ymir made this weird snarling sound as if she was frustrated and upset over the fact. “It’s difficult to explain, but… look, Eren’s not… always there at times. You need to watch out for him if something bad is going to happen to Mikasa.”

Krista remembered Ymir warning her along this line before. “All right, you said he could be very protective of his sister.”

“’Protective’ is an understatement. The others… well, they’ve learned the hard way that it can get messy, taking on the two of them together. I guess earlier today was me seeing if Eren was going to be that way with Napoleon at all – we already know that the pissy captain will do a hell of a lot for him.”

Under the impression that Ymir was leaving out part of the explanation, Krista felt the urge to smack the secretive idiot just then but didn’t want to get into a fight while leaping about so high up in the air. “And are you satisfied now?”

“Hmm, more or less. Now we have to worry about things getting nasty with Mikasa *and* Napoleon, but worse come to worst, we let those two take the blows and then get out of the way while Rebel tears everything to pieces. And I do mean pieces. Big, bloody ones at that.” Ymir shuddered for a moment.

“You know,” Krista told Ymir as she tried to get the mental image that those words conjured out of her mind, “you’re not a very reassuring person.”

“You should at least be happy about how the kiddies finally accepted your idea there.”

“Hmm?” It took Krista a moment to realize that her girlfriend meant how everyone had more or less agreed to drink blood. “Oh! Yes.” She smiled a little over that. “I was surprised that they all gave in so quickly, but I guess that it helped when Jean and Rico decided to go along with it.” Despite her happiness, she noticed that Ymir chose not to say anything else about the matter, which was rather telling.

She knew that Ymir didn’t have the highest hopes for their… well, it was odd to think of the others as ‘human’ when Krista had been just that not too long ago. But those who hadn’t been turned were at a disadvantage because of their slower reflexes, their inability to heal and their overall weakness. Before, there was no way Krista could have kept up with Ymir like she was doing now, jumping several meters with ease and unafraid of falling if she missed because she could heal from any damage. Yes, it would hurt, but the pain wouldn’t last that long, she was learning. Even her sharpened senses made running and jumping easier, made spotting the next branch less difficult up here in the shaded canopy.

So she didn’t push and ask what Ymir thought what the chances were of everyone surviving even with them having enhanced healing, didn’t want to ruin the moment with defeatist talk – no matter if it was true. She’d learned early on that death could strike at any moment, could take away those closest to you without any warning so one had to live in the now and do whatever was necessary to hold on to it, and that’s what she planned on doing. She would watch out for herself and try to keep Ymir from doing anything too stupid, and hope for the best. If she could help others, could ensure some sort of future then so be it.

“Well, one good thing about having a big, fat target painted on our asses is that we should feed well up until the end,” Ymir mused aloud. “Those Malform last night were tasty.”

Shaking her head in dismay, Krista swiped her claws at Ymir’s left shoulder, careful not to tear the protective cloak. “That’s what you see as the bright side to all of this? We get to eat all of the monsters they send after us?”

“Well, not *all* of them – you saw what happened to Eren when he got a bit too full. We do need to keep some wits about us.”

There were times when Krista swore that Ymir should come with some sort of warning label. She understood that her girlfriend had lived a very difficult life, but still…. “And you think that Eren and Captain Ackerman are messed up,” she muttered as she ran along a rather crooked branch.

“Hey, I never said I wasn’t.” Ymir sounded much too agreeable just then. “So the question is, what about *you*, darling?”

Suddenly the prospect of plummeting all those feet to the ground just to put an end to Ymir and her snide yet accurate comments didn’t seem so bad.

*******

Driven out of the lab by the hunger pangs gnawing at his stomach and constant concerned looks that Moblit kept giving him, Armin wandered along the hallways toward the dining room and hoped that they were still serving dinner since he had yet to eat that day. It was just so difficult to focus on things like food and sleep when Mikasa was out there risking her life to save Eren, Annie was surrounded by a bunch of pro-vampire zealots, and the Corps was doing what it could to protect the domes and the remaining humanity they sheltered. He thought he was close to identifying some of the weirder compounds in the formula that had been shot into Eren and Captain Ackerman, and once he was successful in that, he could then work on some sort of antidote. Sure, it wouldn’t do much good with all of the hybrids running around outside, but at least he was doing *something*.

So focused on trying to figure out the one chemical chain – it almost looked like succinylcholine, except there was an extra- when was a wall put there? Rubbing his now sore nose, he looked up to see that he had run into a… was Captain Zacharius smirking?

“Ah, I’m sorry!” He felt his cheeks heat up as he stumbled backwards. Beside the very tall and rather odd captain was Commander Smith and a woman he hadn’t seen before, one with kind blue eyes and blonde hair cut short. Like the two men, she was wearing the Corps’ white and grey uniform, and the hilts of her blades appeared well-worn. “I guess I wasn’t looking where I was going.”

“We’re rather used to it after all the years with Hange.” Commander Smith laughed a little while he exchanged a knowing glance with Captain Zacharius. “When she’s really involved in a project, poor Moblit follows her around and shoos people out of her way.”

The thing was, Armin could easily imagine it. “I hope to never get that bad,” he admitted, and then felt his blush intensified as his stomach chose that moment to let out a particularly loud rumble. “Uhm….”

“If you’re headed to the dining room, it should still be open.” Commander Smith motioned to the blonde woman standing beside him. “We were showing Nanaba here around and planning on having a bite to eat.”

The woman held out her right hand and smile. “Hello, it’s nice to meet you. You’re Armin, right?” Her smile slipped a little as she waited for him to respond.

“Yes, I am.” He grasped her hand and gave it a quick shake. “I assume that you’ve heard about me?” He forced a mild smile onto his lips; considering what all had happened here a few days ago, it was foolish to think that nothing had been said about Eren and Mikasa, so it was logical that something was brought up about him as well.

Nanaba’s smile strengthened as all four of them began to walk together. “I can assure you that it’s all good! It’s not often that someone can manage at Hange’s level, after all.” She chuckled a little as she tugged on the front of her grey jacket. “Ah, I came here from Maria to help fill in the gap left by her and Levi.” For some reason a slight blush spread across her face.

When Armin sent a puzzled look in Commander Smith’s direction, the tall man gave Nanaba’s right shoulder a comforting pat. “She’s been promoted to Captain – I have every faith in her.”

“I’m glad someone does,” Nanaba said, her voice rather quiet as her hands dropped to her blades.

“You’ll do fine,” Captain Zacharias replied in his low rumble of a voice. “Can’t be any worse than those other two.”

That prompted a laugh from Commander Smith. “Their fighting skills aside, Hange and Levi are certainly… unique when it comes to their leadership ability.” His smile appeared a bit pained for a moment. “At the least, I hope you don’t antagonize Ministers and Chairmen with the particular ease that they seem to possess.”

Nanaba began laughing and shaking her head at that, and even Captain Zacharias was groaning and palming at his face. “Oh no! I’ve heard those stories.” Armin wondered if he could get Moblit to share some tales in the lab when he got back there, especially since the man adored to talk – well, more like rant – about the crazy things that Captain Hange had done over the years.

It was about then that they’d reached the dining room, and Armin’s good mood took a substantial hit – the place wasn’t as empty as it had been a couple of days ago, but a lot of the faces he saw sitting around were unfamiliar. He supposed it was heartening that so many people had stepped up to replenish the 104th’s ranks, but he still felt sad over the fact that that a lot of good people had died or been wounded in the past few weeks, or that it was a given in the Corps that the best you could hope for was a quick death….

It was also rather depressing to see that they were once again serving some sort of grey ‘meatloaf’ for dinner, along with what were probably meant to be mashed potatoes and some rather limp spinach leaves. Armin grimaced as he recalled Eren’s simple but delicious meals and hoped for not the first time that day that wherever they were, that they were all right.

“And to think that I’d hoped that the food would be better in a fancy dome like Trost,” Nanaba remarked as she poked at her ‘meatloaf’.

“At least it’s not as bad as Karanese,” Commander Smith remarked, while beside him, Captain Zacharias seemed to be holding his breath while he took a bite of the spinach. “It does make me long for when we’ll be able to leave the dome and forage for our supper.”

“Ooh, I am particularly fond of fresh-caught fish. There’s a wonderfully large lake just outside of Maria.” Nanaba propped her head up on her left hand while she buried the meatloaf beneath the mashed potatoes and tried eating it that way.

“Yes, fish is wonderful,” Armin commented. “Sometimes Eren makes croquettes with them, when we have the right ingredients.” The thought of the fluffy, fried balls made his mouth water and would have killed his appetite if he wasn’t so hungry. “I think that’s the most I see Mikasa eat, except when he makes apple pie.” He reached for his cup of coffee and was surprised to find everyone staring at him. “Is everything all right?” Was there something on his face?

Commander Smith shook his head as he pushed around the food on his plate. “It’s just surprising, hearing about Eren doing things like that. I guess with all the fighting and… well, with how old he is and what he’s done, it’s easy to forget that there’s a normal side to him and Mikasa. It gives me hope that Levi won’t really change at all.”

Armin had to force down the mouthful of food he’d just taken past a throat gone tight, not only that they were talking about his dear family like this, but that it was being done so openly. “Eren and Mikasa *are* normal – all they want is peace and to live the same way they always have when they’re not being hunted down, which is quietly and not drawing any attention to themselves.” Again, he was reminded about Annie, about how it seemed that everyone wanted something from her and Eren…. “It seems to me that the vampires aren’t alone in being responsible for the damage that brought the world to its low point, they were just bright enough to use it to their advantage.”

Commander Smith gave him an accessing look for several seconds before bowing his head. “Did anything interesting happen at the MP headquarters yesterday?”

Wondering what brought along this sudden change in topic, Armin pushed away his tray of food despite the fact that it was only half finished. “It was… interesting. It’s clear that they’re attempting to break Annie out of the chrysalis, and I get the impression from her partner that maybe they’re a bit bitter about Annie not sharing the immortality thing.” He trailed a finger over the veins in his left forearm, over the faint traces of hybrid blood that ran inside of him; one of the things that Mikasa had done before she had left was leave him with a bag of her own blood, ‘just in case’. Since he only needed a little of her blood once a week, it should last him quite a while.

Commander Smith frowned as he picked up his coffee and held it near his mouth for a few seconds. “But surely they know that she can’t just turn them.”

“I’m not sure how much common knowledge it is that almost all of their victims would just end up as Malform,” Armin reminded him. As it was, Captains Ackerman and Hange, and Commander Smith knew more about vampires than probably anyone else beside himself – somehow he doubted that the Ministers and Chairmen working for them had been trusted with that much information. “It’s for the best that they’re not having any more luck getting her out of the stone than we did.”

“Something tells me that when she finally does break out, that or goes missing, that it won’t be a good sign for us.” Commander Smith sighed as he set his mug aside. “At least we’re a little better prepared to face whatever disaster comes next.”

Captain Zacharias paused in the eating of his dinner to grunt, what could be seen of his expression beneath his thick, shaggy bangs one of disgust. “Encouraging as always, Erwin.”

“I like to think of myself as a realist,” Commander Smith told him with a mocking smile. “And the longer we go without hearing from Levi, the more I keep waiting for the next big explosion.”

“Eren and Mikasa have a lot of useful things stored all over the place,” Armin offered as he gave up on his dinner; his hunger was assuaged enough for now that he decided to hope that breakfast would be a bit better. “Maybe by the time that Captain Ackerman and Mikasa caught up to Eren, they decided to swing by one of their stashes and fetch something that they feel might be of use like some old tech or data.”

Armin thought he heard the weird captain mutter something like ‘there goes ever getting Hange back’, while Commander Smith pressed the forefinger and thumb of his right hand to the bridge of his nose as if to stave off a headache. “How much – no, never mind. Clearly I wasn’t asking the right questions when those two were here.” He fixed Armin with a searing gaze as his right fist landed with a heavy thud onto the table. “I thought the three of you were poor.”

Feeling uneasy all of a sudden, Armin shrugged and wished he hadn’t said anything. “Uhm, well, we don’t have a lot of available converted credits….” Constantly switching IDs made that rather difficult, and it was suspicious, showing up in a dome with a lot of money considering their apparent ‘age’. “It’s Eren and Mikasa’s stuff, so I don’t pay that much attention to it,” he flat out lied.

Something told him that Commander Smith didn’t believe him completely, but the man let the matter drop for now, especially since it looked as if dinnertime was coming to an end. “Well, hopefully they’ll be returning soon – we’re down three of our best fighters and it’s clear that someone has some plans for Eren. It’s easier to counter whatever they’re doing if we can draw them out into the open.”

Grateful that he hadn’t eaten all of his dinner after all, Armin forced a bland smile on his face as he rose to his feet. “Nanaba, it was nice to meet you,” he told the young woman as he gave her a slight nod. “Commander, I’ll keep you informed of my visits to the MPs as well as any new updates on my research.” He waited for Commander Smith’s nod in return before he left, and waved to the few familiar faces he saw in the half-empty room.

During his time with the Freedom Corps, Armin had been impressed by their courage and dedication, by the way they persevered in standing between humanity and the Malform. During that time, Commander Smith had struck him as a very intelligent, very shrewd man who was doing what he could so his people – no, so *everyone* could survive, a man who had an inner core of cold steel that reminded Armin of Eren and Mikasa at their most ‘vampire-like’ behavior. It was the ability to step back and judge what needed to be done to survive, to know that people were going to die and nothing could be done to prevent it; in Eren and Mikasa’s case, it was because they were so old, because they could heal and survive things ‘normal’ humans couldn’t, while with Commander Smith it was that he knew what his people had to face and what they had to do. This was the man who routinely assigned his people to patrol for Malform, who sent them out to fight against the creatures knowing that some of them would die, who had allowed Captain Ackerman to go outside with mostly raw recruits because he couldn’t spare the more experienced fighters. The man who knew that vampires were targeting the dome he had promised to protect, and hoped to use Armin’s dear family to draw them out….

Well, the commander better have one hell of a plan, because somehow Armin doubted that the vampires would let something like the 104th get in their way of claiming Eren after all of the effort they’d put into finding him this time. Then there was Eren’s family – Mikasa certainly wasn’t going to be happy with the idea of her brother being used as bait, and neither was Armin. Something told him that a short, bad-tempered captain might have a few objections as well.

*******

“You two boys sleep tight! Don’t let the bed bugs bite! Or the mosquitos, or the ticks, or any spiders, lice or burrow beetles. In fact, there are numerous insects that-“

“Uhm, thank you, Hange, but we’ll be fine,” Eren told the woman as he dragged a furious looking Levi away from the campfire. “Bugs don’t seem to like… er… our kind.”

“Really? I must-“

“Get back to your watch, you lunatic,” Levi shouted at her when Hange made to lunge at them. “Go bother Mikasa or Ymir or something.”

“Oooh, good idea!” Hange adjusted her glasses and glanced around for the nearest prey for her research. Eren felt a little bad, especially if his sister was that ‘prey’, but hey, it was every hybrid for themselves when it came to satisfying Hange’s scientific curiosity. He’d been stuck indulging it often enough….

Now that Hange was placated for the time being, the two of them headed toward where they’d set their belongings earlier, equidistant from the horses and the campfire. Marlo was already settled for the night, as he’d be on the last watch with Eren and Levi. Eren imagined that pretty soon Connie and Sasha would join them as well, since the couple were on the middle watch, so it was best to try to fall asleep now while it was still quiet around them.

He changed into a more comfortable top while Levi laid out a blanket for them to lie on, and then watched while Levi changed as well. It wasn’t the softest ‘bed’ Eren ever had, but it wasn’t the worst, either, which had to be back when he and Mikasa had hidden in various abandoned buildings when… yeah, he didn’t want to think about those times. He didn’t want to recall the desperation of being hunted by Malform when the present was a bit too similar, when he had another person holding him close whom at any moment could be snatched away and-

And the awful darkness was creeping into him, that madness that he both hated and longed for at the same time, the dearth of emotion and yet so much of it, the sense of-

The sense of pain as something bit into the back of his neck and too-strong arms wrapped around him to hold him immobile against a warm body. Eren’s eyes flew open as a cry died in his throat, strangled by confusion. What… what was happening?

“You claw up these blankets and I will *kick* you so hard you’ll be tasting my boots for weeks, you little shithead,” Levi snarled in his ear.

Levi. Levi was here, was safe and… and…. Eren trembled as he relaxed into Levi’s embrace in increments. “You’re here,” was all that he could say past a throat gone tight.

Levi continued to hold him in the crushing embrace that was probably leaving bruises on his arms and chest for another minute or so before sighing and slowly releasing his hold a little. “You’re right, you *are* so fucked up,” Levi said as he ran a hand softly over Eren’s hair.

“Told you,” Eren whispered back as he shivered again, this time from the feel of someone playing with his hair. “That’s why you should always believe what I say.”

“Ha, as if.” Levi dug his chin into Eren’s shoulder and nipped Eren’s left ear. “Believe someone as fucked up as you, don’t think so.”

“Better to be fucked up than a sadistic asshole.” Eren attempted to knock his elbow into the bastard’s stomach but found his arm pinned to his side – then something occurred to him. “Hey, why am *I* the little spoon?” Shouldn’t the shorter person be in that position?

Levi made a rude sound right next to Eren’s ear which made him want to cringe. “You’re the little shit so you’re the little spoon. Stop asking stupid questions and go to sleep.” He wiggled closer to Eren as if getting comfortable and tightened his grip around Eren as well.

Feeling more than a little imprisoned at the moment, Eren attempted to pull free and only got another nip for his troubles. “Dammit, I am *so* dumping your ass for that Chairman as soon as we get back to Trost,” he threatened, and grew more annoyed at how petulant he sounded.

Levi dared to laugh over the threat and dug his chin in even more. “Yeah, right – name one way a Chairman is better than me.” He even had the audacity to rock his hips into Eren’s ass as he spoke.

Reminding himself that killing the bastard just then would just draw any Malform within miles to them because of the fresh blood, Eren gritted his teeth as he gave the bastard two examples. “Feather beds and unlimited tea.”

Things were quiet between them for almost a minute before Levi clicked his tongue. “Screw this, *I’m* dumping *your* ass for a Chairman once we get back.”

Despite the awful mess they were in and the lingering sense that the madness was still lurking in the back of his mind, Eren had to laugh just then. He twisted around as much as he could to give the cocky bastard an off-center kiss before lying back down. “I’d like to see you try.”

“Hmm, I managed to sweet-talk you, didn’t I?” He could feel the smile on Levi’s lips as they pressed against the back of his neck.

“I think you’re confusing ‘sweet-talk’ with ‘insults’ but whatever.”

“Hey, it worked so that’s all that matters.” Levi nuzzled behind Eren’s ear until he shivered in pleasure. “Now shut the fuck up and get some sleep before I smack you. And no clawing shit.”

“Yeah, there’s that ‘sweet-talk’.” Eren chuckled a little when he heard Levi growl, the sound faint and almost amused, and snuggled back against the asshole. “Night.”

“Just shut the fuck up.”

For some reason, it felt… safe now with Levi’s arms around him. Eren breathed in deeply Levi’s scent and let the day’s exhaustion wash over him now that the madness was gone and things were as normal as they could be when everything else was all fucked up. In fact, for the moment everything was all right, Mikasa was nearby and Levi was with him, so he could surrender to sleep and trust in them to be there when he woke up. He could trust in Levi, and that odd thought followed him into the darkness.

*******

Rough Translations:

You, you, you controlling, little bastard who thinks he knows everything! Why do I even bother with you? I must finally be going senile to even bother with such an utter asshole like you!

Don’t you think he’s an utter asshole, too?

 

Arrogant, know it all bastar-

I’m going to fucking gut her.

 

He’s even worse than those damn brats out there, you do realize that, Rebel.

I know.

Do you really?
You think they won’t know to use him against you after him running to your rescue? Annie sure figured out your sore spot quick enough, but the others… they won’t be as kind as she was.

I know.

They’ll kill the humans, but Napoleon… fuck, you have to figure something out, because we’ve way too many weaknesses right now, and you most of all.

I *know* that.
Shut up, shut up, *shut up!*

*******

Return to Archive

Next Chapter