A/N: I know I'm supposed to be on hiatus, but I'm not really busy until next month so I'm occupying my time with as much writing as I can produce (and since I've been obsessed with SnK lately...). This is my first attempt at an actual Eren x Annie romance. I fail at maintaining serious stories; I literally always have to make it sassy or humorous somewhere between the line. Since I'm still getting used to writing with the characters I decided... let's make this easier by playing off of Annie's interactions with Eren in the manga (you know, because he actually does make her smile).

But anyway, review and let me know what you thought!

Inside the Red Zone

An Eren x Annie one-shot by: Euregatto

Annie doesn't know what love is. That, right off the bat, is her father's fault.

Since she was able to walk he taught her to fight and defend herself, which unfortunately included being home schooled – secluded from the other kids in her district, learning to push away conflicting, unnecessary emotions, and taking to the world as a lone wolf with rocks in her heart and nothing but disinterest in her features. She is stone now, and there is nothing that can break down her walls.

Well, y'know, then Eren fucking Yeager had to just waltz right in to her life.

It started with that bastard Reiner who was in the mood to push her buttons, nothing new really, but instead of approaching her with his fists held high he shoved some other boy in her direction. And she dare say – he was something else entirely, and kind of cute. Not cute enough to save him from having his ass handed to him, but she still felt her heart beat a little more firmly then she was used to, and her face seemed warm when he complimented her on just about everything she did that impressed him. On one occasion he had even asked if she was sick and touched her forehead because, "You look really hot. Do you have a fever?" Oblivious, sweet, now on the ground Eren.

This is, to her, a foreign feeling in need of being studied.

Her immediate source of understanding it falls first on actually attempting to engage in a conversation with the girls in her unit. Their eccentric gossiping about the cutest boys, the hottest boys, and how annoying it is to have dirt under their nails eventually grates on her nerves with comments like "Isn't Armin such a sweetheart?" and "Did you guys see Reiner today? He's so hot I want to melt ice cream on him!" and even worse yet, the remark that was spoken by the one and only Mina who knew she could get away with such an accusation: "Aw Annie, you and Eren would make such a cute couple!"

"Not gonna happen."

"Then why are you blushing? Hmm?"

Beating him into a bloody pulp is apparently cute now.

For the sake of her sanity she then resorts to plan B, her back-up that falls on studying two of her classmates. Watching Franz and Hannah shyly interacting from afar, however, doesn't quell her worries either. It is literally like observing two deer contemplate if they're perfect partners for each other and prance around in circles endlessly. It's sad. It's awkward. It's, according to Mina, adorable.

Why is everything cute all of sudden? Is this seriously what being a real girl means? She assumes so.

In fact, as soon as she sees Eren coming towards her, expression bright and emerald eyes alive with a joy that puts a small smile on her face, she's sure the heart palpitations in her chest aren't what normal people should be experiencing. Hannah and Franz don't get this, do they?

Annie keeps telling herself, over and over and over again as she flips Eren into submission, that she's just been hanging around the other girls – especially Mina – for way too long.

Dinner tonight is pork, although Annie was never raised on meat aside from chicken so she finds herself separating it from the rest of her meal with her fork. To be honest – she isn't interested in eating at all, really, so pushing the food around proves to be to best option for occupying her time. Mina, at her side, is discussing about her day with Reiner as a sparring partner despite Annie's obvious lack of caring; Annie had been paired with Eren because, according to dear old Shadis: "it's hilarious to watch you beat the ever-living shit out of him."

Hilarious, he said with a straight face.

It hadn't gone well though. Her leg was still tender from straining it two days before and a simple touch from him nearly made her keel over, and once when she pinned him he had accidentally elbowed her in the face, throwing her off her entire game (otherwise he'd be dead). The day had thankfully been concluded when she flipped him and he landed on the back of his neck, as always, and they haven't been close enough for another fight since.

Damn him and everything he does to me.

Franz and Hannah are now sharing their accounts of the day, but Annie is even less interested in that than her dinner. Seriously, how in the hell did she even wind up sitting with these guys? They make her want to kick kittens. And she loves cats.

Annie pushes the tray away in disgust and turns her azure glare to the table across from them against the wall. Eren, Mikasa, Armin, Sasha, Thomas, Connie… Eren had certainly gathered a whole crew of unfortunate souls. But she knows they're drawn to him like birds to crumbs because he's such a likeable guy. She's drawn to him for a-whole-nother reason entirely.

"Are you OK?"

Mina's question catches Annie off guard and she nearly jumps. "Oh, I'm… fine. Don't know what makes you think otherwise."

"Maybe it has something to do with the stories I heard from earlier today," Reiner remarks from the other end of the table. Everyone glances at him except for Annie. If she looks she'll end up breaking his neck. "Seems a little someone has a thing for the Yeager boy!"

Annie visibly stiffens. "I do not."

"That's not what Bernholdt said." The man parallel to Reiner chokes on his drink. "He saw you guys during combat training and how easy you were with each other."

"No I didn't!" He shoots back. "Stop making things up!"

"Oh, I'm not." Reiner turns his body to face her, glancing around Mina. "You two are seriously the epitome of young love. Do your hands shake when you spar? Or does your heart beat into your throat when you meet his gaze?" He wraps his arm around the poor girl next to him and tries to pitch his voice so it's not so deep. "Oh, Annie my love, your hair is so golden in the sunlight! And my Annie, what blue eyes you have! It's like staring into the sky!"

"Reiner let go of me!"

Annie's fists are clenched so tightly they're shaking. He knows how she feels about the topic, as aggravatingly playful as he's trying to be. "Shut the fuck up!"

"Knock it off," Franz interjects finally, gesturing to the older blonde with his fork. "You're antagonizing her. If she breaks something I'm not bringing you over to the infirmary."

"I'm just curious!" He grins manically. "What does he taste like? Mint?" He releases Mina who punches him painlessly in the chest. "And is his grip firm? He's probably been with another girl before… but tell me, is he a good kisser?" He doesn't anticipate the sudden projectile that is her tray; it connects with his forehead, knocking him off the bench and to the floor.

"I said shut the fuck up!" She screams, silencing the room. All eyes are turn to them.

"Way to go asshole," Mina scolds, leaning over a still dazed Reiner whose head is swelling from the impact. He promptly lays still.

Boots scuff the floor as Eren jumps up and darts for them. "Reiner!" He kneels down to the older boy's side, Bernholdt taking the other. Eren slaps his friend's cheek. "Hey! Answer me, Reiner!…Holy shit, Annie! You knocked him out cold!" He glances up at her, emerald stare wide with shock.

An acute stab of pain jabs into her chest – Reiner was being an ass, yes, but maybe she did take it too far – because that look is one her father had given her once, years ago, when she had stolen some meat from a store because they couldn't afford it that month. It was one of disappointment, anger, hurt; she never wanted, after that, to see that look again. But here it is, in Eren's eyes.

His awe ebbs into a grin. "That's fucking awesome! This asshole's had that coming to him for weeks!"

Annie isn't quite sure what to feel in that moment – pride, guilt, embarrassment, relief – but the blood instantly rushes to her face and she looks elsewhere, brushing her bangs out of her diverted eyes. Mina and Hannah notice, of course, which earns her a set of muffled giggles. "Eh, I could've hit him harder."

"Only if you wanted to kill him." Everyone freezes and dares to look at the source of the voice – the one and only Keith Shadis. His hardened gaze sends a chill through the room. "That, Miss Leonhardt, has just earned you twenty laps around the entire training field! And since you found this amusing, Yeager, you can join her! NOW GET GOING!"

The duo sprints out the door before their punishment worsens. Everyone else pretends to go back to eating and leaves Reiner exactly where he is.

He wakes up because the terrorizing, hellish chaos in his dream is all too real – the way he tries to save his mother again and again but her blood is still on his hands and on his face – and his mind and body are too spent to deal with another restless cycle.

Eren rakes his fingers through his matted hair, detangling the extended chocolate locks with ease. He groggily sits up in the bed, a top bunk he has to share with Samuel thanks to the randomized placing (not that Armin's doing any better, since he is stuck with Bernholdt who tosses in his sleep and takes up the whole mattress); the thin blanket falls away from his bare chest, exposing ripped muscles, noticeable bloodied scratches, swelling bruises, and violet bites. Tarnished gold from the rising sun streams through the window and dances across the hard wood floor, setting it aglow like fire.

The peaceful form beside him inhales sharply, shifts a little, and then settles again.

"Shit," he utters under his breath, clawing at the crust gluing his eyes shut. He knows he's up earlier than he had hoped, but his nightmare this time was particularly nasty (the screams of his mother sound so real and reverberate inside of his skull), so he has no intentions of lying down again. The only option? Climbing over Samuel – who thankfully sleeps like a box of fucking rocks – and going outside to see if he can occupy himself for the next few hours. And to think we finally have a day off, no air horns at four in the morning or the clanging of pans one hour after curfew.

He dresses into his uniform because that's all that is in his drawer, unfortunately, and he treks towards the door, legs still on fire from yesterday's sprint with Annie. Armin is snoozing on his side facing the aisle, teetering on the edge of the bed because Bernholdt is taking up the rest of the space and then some, arm folded over the blonde's shoulder. Eren shakes his head and leaves, shutting the notched door quietly behind him.

He traverses the station to the field. Mikasa isn't up yet, thankfully; he just wants some time to himself and his thoughts, which is rather difficult to have when you're constantly being shadowed by your own worry-wart sister.

His emerald gaze spots something, however, in his direct line of vision – a familiar figure takes shape, petite body moving to a familiar tempo as she stretches her limbs wide, chest gradually rising and falling as she inhales the faint, mingled scent of dew, dirt, and wildflowers. Eren remembers her smell like he does the back of his hand; lemons. Lemons and sugar, specifically. He doesn't think she knows this, though, and he certainly doesn't have the heart to tell her.

"Annie?" He remarks and she looks at him, normally stoic expression softening as he approaches. "Hey, are you alright?"

She tucks a stray wisp of saffron hair behind her ear. "Despite the fact that there are colossal cannibals threatening to break down the wall at any second… of course I am." Her sarcasm doesn't falter, not even around him. "Why wouldn't I be?"

"Oh, you're just… up awfully early is all." He massages the bruise on his shoulder when it begins to ache beneath the thick material of his shirt. "I'm still sore from that beat-down you gave me yesterday."

"No surprise there," she dead-pans.

He stares down at her curiously, eyes wide and gentle despite his normally violent streak. "Is your leg doing any better?"


"That's good…" He moves closer to her, gradually, to avoid sparking a fight. "So what are you doing out here, anyway?"

Annie's too short bang falls out again and she finds herself tucking it back reflexively. "Why is it any of your concern what I do, Eren?" She turns on the ball of foot, cerulean gaze elsewhere. He wants to snap back at her but it won't do any good – she'll just floor him with a single throw and keep at it.

"Listen, Annie, since we're alone there's something I need to ask you." She looks at him, but doesn't respond. That's all the permission he needs. "Don't punch me for this, but I need to know – why won't you let anyone close? You don't hang out with anyone unless they're sparring with you. For fuck's sake, you broke Connie's nose when he gave you a pat on the shoulder – a friendly pat, might I add!"

Annie scoffs. "I don't need anyone. It's easier if I'm alone. And I punched him because he was pushing my buttons beforehand knowing that no one is allowed to touch me." She pauses. "Without my permission, at least."

"You let me touch you."

She frowns. "Only because we spar a lot."

"You know what I mean."

By the way her features tense he knows that he hit a nerve. She doesn't like the remember the event from last month – when her gear jammed and she hit a tree mid-swing, falling to the floor thirty feet below…right onto Eren who swung down and slid along the slick leaves, catching her against his chest to break her fall and one of his ribs. He had held her until she stopped shaking from the pain and the confusion and the fear. He had been scolded by her for it later that night, but she didn't even dare to raise her fist in his direction.

He still wonders why she's mad at him for it, which is what brought up his inquiry in the first place.

"I didn't let you," she says finally, shoving her hands into her pockets. "But I didn't have a choice… Also, the lack of a punch was my payment for helping me."

"More like saving you."

"Get off your high-horse, Orphan Boy." She watches him wince as the comment hits home. A pang of guilt fills her gut; his eyes harden as he remembers something she will probably never understand, and in turn her glare softens. "Sorry, Eren, I didn't mean it. I never mean it." She knows deep down that she should mean it – she has to drive him away, just as her dad always told her.

"Treat the whole world as your enemy. You can't get close to anyone, baby girl."

I can't help it, Dad… I like being close to him.

A smug grin etches its way into his face, starting with a twinge of the corner of his lips that curve up on one side, and his adjacent eyebrow arches in synch. "You have a weird nose"—her fists clench within her pockets—"and I think it makes you pretty." Now her teeth grind together and her glare narrows dangerously, but he doesn't notice because he's still aggravatingly smug. "That I do mean."

He doesn't register that's she moving at him until he hits the ground back-first, lungs collapsing and skull connecting with a misplaced rock. She stomps on his chest as he tries to sit up. "I'm getting real tired of your shit, Yeager. We're not friends, so quit acting like you're entitled to-!"

She doesn't expect him to kick out her knee so she topples; he fists her collar and traps her beneath him, legs locking down her own and his hands pinning her arms above her head by her wrists. "Mikasa taught me that one," he remarks when her lips part to form a question.

"Not bad," she whispers, shifting beneath him. His mass is sandwiching her to the ground – not that she minds, really; he's warm and has a thick, attractive musk that tingles her nose when she breathes. The outermost flesh of their noses brush lightly. She knows that he's leaning in closer than she's comfortable with, though.

"Really?" He retorts, expression brightening. "I've been practicing for a week!"

She rolls her eyes upwards, squirming beneath his weight because he's leaning a little too heavily on her hips. "Yay for you. Now I think you should let me go before I shove my fist down your throat, Orphan." This time she means it – and she says it bitterly. But much to her dismay his smile – or grin, rather – doesn't falter. In fact, he still seems caught up in his little victory over her. Way to stroke his ego, Annie.

He suddenly gazes down at her, expression falling blank. "Do you want to keep sparring?"

"No. I want you to get off of me."

She makes a move to shove him off but he captures her lips, instantly stilling her. Heat spreads across her body, to her cheeks and to her stomach, spanning to her fingertips and toes. She involuntarily presses back, parting her jaws and allowing his tongue to glide in. He's not bad at it – not bad at all. His hands grapple her waist and she grips his lanky hair, moaning into his mouth as he massages her tongue with his. She wants to fight back, to tell him to stop, to push him off; but she can't. Her body is disconnected, submissive, unresponsive to what she wants but eager for his hands to touch something other than her hips.

She's as equally scared as she is content, and Annie Leonhardt does not. Get. Scared.

I'm sorry, Dad…

He breaks away to trail kisses along her jaw and down her neck, finding a sensitive bundle of nerves along her pulse point. She immediately dismisses her emotions and wraps her legs – now freed from his loosening grasp – around his waist, growling in her throat.

I just can't help myself…

"You learn this from your sister too?" She mocks, sighing into his mouth when he kisses her again.

"Nope," he answers after pulling back. "This is all Jean."

She laughs light-heartedly at one of the first jokes he's made since they've met; the gentle timbre of her voice feels genuine in her chest and tastes bittersweet on her tongue. Then she remembers – she hasn't laughed in years. Probably since her father disappeared when she was nine, even. This boy brings out the best in her. She hates it almost as much as she likes it.

She wonders if this is what sparks love. "We both know he has it out for Marco."

Eren leans down for another kiss, brushing their swollen lips lightly together.

She suddenly tightens her grip around his waist and throws him off with such force he can't catch himself and lands on his back; he tries to jump to his feet but she pins him down by kneeling into his upper arms and resting her weight on his torso. "Shit!" He hisses, thrusting his knee up against her back. She's too far forward for him to reach and he merely ends up tapping her spine. "Fucking hell, Annie. That was uncalled for!"

"Called for." He flushes when she crosses her arms and hovers over him, expression as serious as it always is despite the sudden clarity in her cobalt gaze. "We're not the only ones awake now. Look up."

He tilts his head back and observes the moving forms of several of their classmates coming for the field; they're recognizable as the ones who always go on early morning jogs before roll call (at first it was theorized that they were trying to keep fit and make the many mile run later into the day easier, but after a while it didn't prove true). "That certainly ruins the moment," he mutters under a sigh. "Alright, let me up."

"I'm not going to willingly move."

"Of course you're not."

"You need to work for it." She fists his hair and pulls taught, earning a noticeable grimace of pain. "And you only have one option – so I suggest you act quickly, or they'll"—she nods in the direction of the others—"notice us."

"Not like they're gonna get the wrong idea or anythi—OWOWOWOW stop pulling so hard!"

Annie feels his hands on her thighs, and an acute stab of searing pain rockets up her body when he jabs a pointed rock into the pressure point below her hip. She cries out, leaning enough weight to that side in reflexive attempt to grab at it and he bucks, throwing her off. "FUCK!" She snaps, sitting up and cradling her throbbing leg. "Why the fuck would you do that?!"

"I'm sorry!" He exclaims and kneels at her side. "I didn't mean to do it so hard! Armin showed me where a sensitive pressure point on the leg is that's almost impossible to guard during combat and that was the only thing I could do!"

Annie snarls under her breath. "Dammit, Eren!"

"I'm really sorry," he reiterates, moving an arm to her back. "I wasn't thinking! OK, just, uh… walk it off! Come on I'll take you to the infir– OWOWOWOW ANNIE STOP!"

Annie tells herself, as she flips him into submission despite her leg, that it's hard not to fall in love with Eren Yeager.