Okay, so I'm still sad about the canon concerning Levihan, so this is a self-indulgent fic haha
Oh, and I wrote this after reading chapter 138, so there are some elements from the 139 that aren't included in this manga, but nothing major in regard to this story... (Disclaimer: I actually like the manga ending, and this is not a "fix-it" sort of fic - please do not start any discourse in the comment section, I have seen enough negativity from this fandom on Reddit already :'( )
Hange is surprised to hear their words echoing around them, almost as much as they are stunned to realize they have managed to sit up. They can feel the flattened earth under their palms.
It's weirdly quiet, too.
A few seconds earlier, the rumbling was filling the air, loud enough to hurt their ears. It was deafening. So, where did it go? The sounds, and the Colossals, and the pain, and the flames…
"It took off."
Their head wipes around, fast enough that they should have gotten whiplash. Somehow, their body feels distant, fuzzy. They don't pay it any mind, because they know this voice, but… it can't be…
Erwin smiles softly at them. And he's not alone. There are so many familiar faces, there is-
"Hange. You've done your duty."
They stare at them – all of them, everyone they have known and loved and lost – for a while more, before sighing and relaxing again.
If this is what it means being dead, then I don't think I really mind.
Hange gladly takes the offered hand and lets Moblit help them to their feet. Their head is still spinning a bit, but they don't care; they are just so god damn happy, and relieved, to hear their voices again.
"I'll listen to your story."
I sure hope you will.
Hange wants to talk about how they finally freed the island from the Titans, about the ocean, and the outside world, the flying boats and the cars and the ships and all their technology, the streets with the tall buildings – oh, dear, they think, you've made a mistake, I'm never going to shut up – they want to tell them all about this humanity and life they discovered, that they were… currently… fighting so hard… to protect…
There is suddenly a lump in their throat.
They can't answer. There is a weird, strong taste in their mouth, a mix of iron and salt. Their body is buzzing, trying desperately to get their attention. They can see Moblit's worried look, can see their hand on their arm, but they can't feel it. Instead, there is an all-consuming cold that's weighing down their limbs, little by little they can feel all their muscles lock up. And they can't breathe.
They can't breathe.
It feels suspiciously like dying all over again.
"Hange! Can you hear me?"
His voice is growing more distant by the second. All they can hear is a rushing sound, filling their ears. They don't quite know if it's their blood or something else. Anyway, isn't your heart supposed to stop when you're dead?
"It seems like they aren't completely with us yet."
These words sent a jolt of electricity down their spine. Hange raises their head, frantically searching for Erwin's eyes. How can he look so calm right down?!
"It's okay, Squad Leader. You can rest."
There is Petra next to them, smiling ever so softly. They haven't seen her sweet face in a long time, and their heart breaks a little.
"What if…" They have to choke the words out. "What if I don't want to?"
Erwin's voice again, ever so steady and collected. Now, as every time they are losing ground, Hange hates it.
"It's your time. You've done well."
Their tears are streaming down now. Actually, everything feels… wet. They don't understand what's happening; they were ready to die.
My time… has come… I want to go out with a bang.
It's an echo of their own voice.
No. I don't want to go.
I don't want to die!
Their voice dies down, but their mouth doesn't quite close. There is so much, just hanging in the air between them, so much to say, so much to do. To live. The enormous shadows of the Colossals threaten to drown them in.
There isn't enough time.
"I want to look as cool as I possibly can right now", Hange utters with a wobbly smile. "So just let me go, will you?"
Their eye is shinier than their glasses, and it's hard to tell if they are terrified or relieved. There is a plea in that warm brown gaze, but Levi would be damned if he knew for what. Usually, he could read them just fine, just as they did with him – he could see past the glasses, the loud cackles, and the too-wide smile, but since it vanished, he doesn't know what to do anymore.
Right now, that smile is just barely there, a thin trembling line, uncertain, more for bravado than anything. Their grip on their gear handle is tight enough that their knuckles whiten, and he sees their arm twitch, a sketch of a motion quickly aborted.
That's the first time in his life he knows that this, right and there, this is a farewell, and he has not the faintest fucking clue on what to do of it.
His hands ball up into fists – maybe that's where he got the idea of his next move.
Pain shots through his mangled hand, but he ignores it. The other lightly taps Hange's chest.
"Dedicate your heart."
By now the rumbling is so loud that he has to strain to be heard. But Hange's eye widens – they understand. A weak giggle escapes their lips.
He can feel the frantic beating of their heart against his still-closed fist.
His fingers loosen a bit and he has to fight the urge to grip their cape. Maybe they sensed it somehow because next thing he knows their slender fingers are wrapping around his wrist, gently pulling it down.
So that's it, that's how it ends?
There are a million things he would like to say, but none of them seems to matter now.
What good would it do, saying "I love you" to someone that's going to die? Hange can't back down, so he would rather let them go without regrets and "what ifs?" about what their lives could have been, in another time and place, where things didn't get so fucked up so quickly.
Hange lets go of his hand, gripping their blade handles once more. Before he has the time to add something – anything – they have shot their hook in the nearby wall.
"That's the first time I've ever heard you say that!"
Their words mix with the eerie whirring of the ODM gear and, just like that, they are gone.
He watches them soar above the buildings, their green cape billowing behind them. They ready a lightning spear on their arm. The weapon is a product of their genius, and he knows first-hand how much damage they can do. In the sky, Hange's movements are sharp, precise. He knows better than to hope they will make it out alive, though.
There's only so much skills and science can accomplish, only so much their frail human bodies can do against those monsters. Death in march. That's what the rumbling is.
Hange doesn't look back once.
Levi turns back towards the plane and the future. Maybe it will take off, maybe they'll make it to where Eren is. Maybe they won't all die. His injured hand grips his blade tighter. He doesn't really see himself amongst the survivors, not that he cares anyway.
He has survived enough times already; he knows how that feels. How much that hurts.
At least, Hange won't be the one left behind.
Hange's body is rolled onto its side as they sputter and gasp for air. The salty taste on their tongue is overpowering, their throat burns. They half-cough half-throw up water, so much water, onto the wooden planks.
Wait a second. What water? What planks?!
They try to open their eyes, but they can't move, they can't speak. Everything hurts. Everything hurts so damn much.
Please, make it stop.
It's dark again. There is a voice, somewhere, that they don't recognize.
"Hange… Let it go."
They are back on all-fours on the trampled earth. They are panting, their heart hammering in their chest. They cling to these sensations; it means they're still alive. Maybe.
Someone is crouching in front of them, extending a hand to gently pat their shoulder. Hange looks up and their eyes go wide.
"Dad?" they squeak.
"Come on, little frog. Come join us."
They raise to their knees, looking around almost frantically.
"Is Mom here too?" they can't help but ask.
They can feel tears prickling up their eyes. It's been so, so long… Almost twenty years. They remember vividly the day this man, dressed up in the Scouts uniform, knocked on the door on their family home – and told them they had no family anymore. Their parents' squad has been crushed by an abnormal when they were on a simple survey mission, a few meters away from Wall Maria. They hadn't spotted the Titan until it was too late – they were unable to get away fast enough.
"Yes, Han. Mom is here too."
Their father gently wipes their cheek. He looks just like they remembered – he's younger than Hange is now. He and their mom met as trainees, joined the Survey Corps, married, and had a child, all in less than five years. You didn't know how much time you've got left when you were a Scout.
(Hange had sworn they wouldn't repeat this mistake. They were enough orphans and broken hearts in the world already.)
They can feel the pain returning, and the wooden planks are back under their fingers, but somehow the image of their father floats somewhere in the afternoon sky.
"You and Mom are waiting for you. Your friends too."
There are tears trailing down Hange's face again – unless it's seawater. They aren't sure.
Dedicate your heart.
They have heard this countless times, but only once in Levi's voice. They grit their teeth. Do their best to will the darkness away.
They want to live. They will live.
Because someone else is waiting for them in this world.
They – the seven of them – they are back to Paradis.
It has been two weeks.
It was hard to find a boat amidst the chaos. So much of the world has been destroyed by the rumbling, so many people have died. It may have been just as hard to decide where to go – Marley has been completely flattened, except for the small fort where it has all go down, and the reception the Alliance would receive from the people of Paradis is… uncertain, at best.
For now, they are confined in the harbor, waiting for the peace talks and negotiations to decide their fate.
A lifetime of prison for having saved the world, that sounds about right.
He looks up to Mikasa, who has finally stopped pacing around the room. She's the only one from their small group that could have not been there, given she arrived on the island more than ten days ago on a tiny, one-person lifeboat and went straight to bury what remained of Eren without crossing anyone's path.
However, apparently, she wasn't elated at the idea of spending the rest of her life alone and in hiding. Which was understandable.
"What could happen to us now?"
"I don't fucking know. I guess Historia and the rest of the army must be on our side, since they are free of the spinal fluid shit now that this bastard's dead. But maybe the public could still demand our heads."
Mikasa sighs, runs a hand down her face.
"I hope Armin will convince them."
"If someone can, it's him."
He looks at the wall – just behind it are the Marleyan warriors. Pieck, Annie, and the two kids. They are even more likely than them to be executed. He hopes they don't – it's not that he especially likes them, but there have been enough deaths in this war already. And in the end, their hands aren't any bloodier than his and Mikasa's.
"I wish it was over already," she says, sitting back on her bunk.
"Even if these fuckers decide to kill us?"
"Ah… I don't know… probably not. I'm sick of the uncertainty, but mainly, I want to live. I think."
He only scoffs. She eyes him with a strange look on her face.
"You okay, Captain? I never asked you."
The honest answer would be "no". His body hasn't yet recovered; his bad leg can't fully support his weight and even breathing is still slightly painful. And that's the physical part – he doesn't want to think about the rest. About all the lives laid on a line to protect, then kill the same exact person. About all the lives lost, and-
No. He's definitely not going there right now.
"I'm alive," he finally answers.
(Which means that he's doing better than most of the people he has known in his life.)
She chuckles humorlessly.
"Yeah," she says. "Let's hope they, whoever they are, decide that it can't stay that way, um?"
"I guess so."