Early the next morning, the cadets were lined up for the aptitude test on the stationary gear. It was another test to see how fit each person was to become a soldier, and also served to weed out those who couldn't make the cut.

Mikasa found herself among the first group of people to try their hand at the aptitude test. It took a minute or two, but before long she had found her balance, and was now observing the others.

She noticed Armin a few yards away managing to find his balance, shaky as it was, and made sure to give him a smile of encouragement.

She also spotted some of the other cadets holding themselves up quite nicely as well, including potato girl and the guy with the hair fetish. Or, as Eren told her to call them, Sasha and Jean.

Speaking of Eren…

She looked over and saw Eren stepping into the harness. He was slowly raised up into the air, and abruptly flipped upside down.

She gasped in shock, and several other people turned their heads in surprise. While some people had trouble keeping balance, no one else had flipped like that so suddenly.

But as soon as he flipped upside down, Eren shifted his weight and flipped the right way again. Except instead of just calmly hanging there, he kept shaking, as if there was something trying to make him flip over again and he was attempting to prevent it.

Shadis walked over. "Stop shaking Yeager."

Eren grimaced. "I'm trying, but...something seems off about this gear…"

Shadis frowned, and gestured at the cadet standing next to the machine to lower him down.

"Wagner, switch gear with Yeager."

After switching gear, Eren was able to hang steady just fine.

Shadis eyed the gear critically. "It seems your equipment was defective. That's why you couldn't stay still before. Still, I have to say, being able to stay upright with defective gear is quite impressive, especially for a new trainee."

The cadets began murmuring amongst themselves.

Mikasa's eyes widened. How...how was he able to do that?

Shadis glared at Eren. "Don't expect any points for this though Yeager! Now that you've shown your aptitude, we'll be expecting even more from you! Take this gear to the supply depot for repairs."

Eren saluted. "Sir!"

Shortly afterwards, Mikasa was let down, and the next batch of trainees came up for their aptitude test.

She glanced over at Eren as he headed toward the supply depot, and saw that he looked...annoyed?

She blinked in confusion. He passed the aptitude test, and did really well. Why would he be annoyed? Did he not like all the attention?

Armin trotted up to her. "Nicely done Mikasa."

Mikasa smiled. "And you."

Armin glanced ahead. "So, what's up with Eren?"

Mikasa frowned. "I was going to ask you the same thing. He's been acting a bit off ever since yesterday."

Armin nodded. "Yeah. I was really surprised when he stuck up for that potato girl. And when they were asking him about that day, I thought he would blow up, but he took it rather well."

Mikasa nodded. As she replayed the scene in her head, the more odd it seemed. Eren should have gotten more fired up about the day his mother died. At the very least he should have gotten angry after those remarks from Jean. But instead, he was much more restrained.

She began to feel slightly nervous. Is Eren finally growing up? Does he not need me to look after him anymore?

Armin continued. "When I asked him about it last night, he said that training made him think about the bigger picture, and how we need to work together as soldiers if we're going to drive the Titans out. He even admitted that no matter how good he is or how hard he trains, he'll never be able to do it all by himself, and that he'll need to put his trust in his fellow comrades."

Mikasa looked at Armin sharply. "Really? He said that?"

Armin shrugged. "I know, I was surprised."

Mikasa tilted her head. "Not to mention he seems to have gained a perfect sense of balance out of nowhere."

They were silent for a few minutes.

Armin chuckled softly. "We're probably reading too much into it. Eren's still the same person, he just seems to have matured a bit at last."

Mikasa nodded. "Right. Still, he seems to have done it rather fast."

Mikasa glanced at Armin with a sly smile. "So, I noticed you staring at that bored looking girl over there."

Armin blushed. "Was it that obvious?"

Mikasa chuckled softly. "I only noticed because I've known you for so long. I suppose you could do worse."

Armin shook his head. "Oh come on. It's not like I'm going to go over there and try to woo her or anything."

Mikasa had to stifle a giggle. "Woo? Armin, you need to stop reading those old romance novels."

Armin looked away, flustered. "Oh shut up."

Mikasa looked ahead, and saw Eren returning from the supply depot.

That's odd. He figured out where it was that quickly? I have a pretty good sense of direction, and I'm still figuring out the layout of this place. Hmm. Maybe he just got lucky.

Mikasa glanced back at Armin, and saw that he was once again staring at the bored looking blond girl.

This fact did not go unnoticed by Eren. "Already scouting for the future Mrs. Arlert?"

Armin looked sharply at Eren. "Not you too!"

Eren chuckled. "It's just a thought. She is rather pretty."

Eren glanced at the girl, then back at Armin. "Hey, why don't you go introduce yourself to her?"

Armin looked at Eren in shock. "What? I can't do that!"

Eren smirked. "Why not?"

"I can't just walk up to a stranger out of nowhere and say 'hi, my name is Armin, what's yours?'"

"Isn't that what you did with me?"

"I was four!"

"And now you're twelve. That's three times the experience."

Armin shook his head. "Your logic astounds me sometimes Eren."

Mikasa spoke up. "Well, look at it this way. If you talk to her you could become acquaintances, which over time could develop into something more. And if she wants nothing to do with you, then that will be the end of it. Not much to lose, and plenty to gain."

Eren nodded at her gratefully, and she could see that Armin was considering her advice.

After a moment, Armin's face became serious. "You're right, Mikasa."

"Hey, what about me?"

"As I said, you're right Mikasa. I'll go over and give it a try."

Eren grinned. "Good luck!"

As Armin walked toward the bored girl to introduce himself, Mikasa found herself staring at Eren.

Something's different about him. I wonder what's going on in his head…

Annie glanced around the training grounds, feeling bored.

She'd managed to pass the test with the stationary gear no problem, and now had some time to kill while the rest of the trainees went through.

She'd noticed Reiner chatting with some of the other cadets, and had to resist the urge to roll her eyes. They weren't here to make friends. Reiner was just setting himself up for disappointment if he got attached to these people. She hoped Bertolt would keep an eye on him.

As for her, she intended to keep to herself as much as she could. The only thing she cared about was completing the mission and making it back home alive. Anything else was just a pointless distraction.

"Um, hi!"

Annie turned around to see one of the other trainees standing a few feet away. The moment she looked at him his face became flushed, which surprised her, as it wasn't that warm out.

He nervously rubbed the back of his neck. "Uh, my name is Armin. I didn't catch yours before?"

Annie sized him up. He seemed friendly, if a bit shy, but didn't seem like the type who would cut it as a soldier.

"Annie." She answered shortly.

Armin smiled nervously. "Annie, huh? T-that's a nice name. I…"

Annie interrupted him. "Why are you talking to me?"

Armin winced slightly. "Am I bothering you?"

Annie shook her head. "No. I'm just wondering why you decided to talk to me."

Armin's face became slightly serious. "Well, we're both training to be soldiers, and I thought it would be a good idea to get to know the other people here better, since we'll be depending on each other out in the field."

Annie's eyes widened momentarily. "I see. I suppose there is some sense in that."

She shook her head. "But, given what happened two years ago, I don't see any point in getting too attached to anyone here."

Without waiting for a response, she turned and walked away.

She didn't want to be rude, but she wanted to send a clear message to those around her and keep interactions to a minimum.

Unfortunately, that message didn't seem to be getting across. Only a few minutes later…


Annie turned around and saw another one of the trainees standing before her.

He nodded at her. "Leonhart, right?"

Annie tilted her head. "Yes. Yeager, right?"

She remembered him from yesterday. After that stupid girl had been caught with the potato, for whatever reason this guy had stood up for her. Another person who was trying to bond with their fellow cadets. Great.

Eren raised his fists. "Hey. Spar with me."

Annie looked at him incredulously. "Are you serious?"

Eren shifted his stance. "Do I look like I'm joking?"

Annie sighed. "Fine."

She walked over, and within a matter of seconds he was on the ground.

Annie glanced at him dismissively before beginning to walk away.

"Not bad."

Annie turned around and was surprised to see that he was already back on his feet. Perhaps he was tougher than she thought.

He gestured at her. "Again."

Annie felt herself beginning to feel annoyed. "Why? There's no point to any of this."

Eren frowned. "Is that what you said to Armin?"

Annie blinked. "Who? You mean that guy from earlier? He a friend of yours?"

Eren nodded. "Yeah."

Annie shook her head. "I just told it like it is."

Eren looked skeptical. "Is that so. Do you really believe that though?"

Annie scowled. "What do you mean?"

Eren gestured out at the training grounds. "Do you really think that if these people die, their deaths will hurt less just because you didn't get to know them?"

Annie's eyes widened.

Without warning, Eren lunged at her, and she barely moved out of the way in time.

Eren continued. "Some of these people will die facing the Titans. I know that's an unavoidable reality. But trying to look away from that fact doesn't make it go away."

Annie kicked his leg out from underneath him and sent him to the ground again. "Maybe. But if I don't let myself get attached…"

Eren glanced up at her. "You really think you have a choice in the matter?"

Eren swiped his leg and sent Annie sprawling to the ground as well, much to her surprise.

He looked at her seriously. "Whether you like it or not, we're going to get to know each other during training. You can try to be aloof in a futile attempt to numb the future pain, but that seems foolish to me."

Annie hastily stood back up, glaring at him. "And what would you suggest instead?"

Eren stood back up as well. "Relax. Enjoy your time here. Get to know the others. Have some fun."

Annie scoffed. "I didn't come here for fun."

Eren shrugged. "Neither did I. But that doesn't mean I intend to be serious all the time."

He looked at her darkly. "When my mother was eaten by a Titan right in front of me, it was without a doubt the most horrific moment of my life. But the reason it was so horrific was because I loved her, and because I cherished the good times that I had with her. In other words, the pain only came because of the happier moments that preceded it."

Annie was stunned into silence. Part of her felt sympathetic for his loss, but a bigger part felt guilt.

It was my fault...our fault…

She quickly tried to suppress the feeling, but something about Eren's gaze made it more difficult.

Eren tapped the side of his head. "I may not have much life experience just yet, but I do know this. In life you have to take the good and the bad. You can't have joy without sadness. Cherish those around you while you can, because you never know when that opportunity may be lost forever."

With that, Eren walked away, leaving Annie by herself with her thoughts.

Author's Note: Sorry this chapter is rather short, but I've been busy this week, and the next chapter will be very not short, so hopefully that will make up for it.

If you're keeping up with the manga, I made a video of Chapter 108, just go on Youtube and search Attack on Titan Chapter 108 Can We Trust Eren and it should come up. As good as the manga is, it also makes me glad I'm doing this story, because in this story the main characters have a chance at getting at least a somewhat happy ending, while that possibility is looking more and more impossible in the canon.