He watched as she tended to her duties as loyally as only she could. Petra went about doing things in a way that captured the attention of her squad mates. Even before she'd been hand-picked for the special operations squad, Auruo often played witness to her loyalty and perseverance. In this case it was cleaning the castle.

Levi ordered the four to busy themselves with cleaning. But Auruo was stationary, leaning against an entryway, acting aloof. He watched the others work diligently. He wanted to help them, he really did. But there was something stopping him. And he hated that it was a barrier.

Petra seemed to finally take notice of the man's behavior and shot him a look. Auruo prepared for the scolding. It was worth it though, so long as she noticed him.

"Auruo, get back to work. Captain wants this place spotless by nightfall." She said.

"So? Anything we do isn't going to live up to his standards anyway." Auruo practically spat out. This wasn't even true. The four of them had all learned the difference between clean and Levi clean.

"Will you do us all a favor and drop the act. It's getting real tiresome." She said, getting back to sweeping.

Auruo scoffed, "You aren't my mother."

"The Levi imitation act needs to end. It's starting to piss me off." She shot back.

"I'll act however I damn please." He said coolly.

Petra made an annoyed noise and got back to work. Weird. She usually kept at him for a few minutes at least.

"Auruo, get back to work." Came a voice from behind him. Shit.

He spun on his heels to face the captain, "Yes Captai-"

With a stifled curse he brought his rag up to his mouth to prevent blood from getting everywhere. Why the hell did this always happen?! Especially in front of Petra and the captain!

"That's what you get for slacking off, Auruo" Said Erd, laughing. Gunther was next to him, attempting to conceal his own laughter by wiping a tall shelf down. Auruo growled and set to work.

It wasn't five minutes later that Petra announced she was finished and was going to start on the next floor. After the three finished the room, it was agreed they'd take a quick break. Auruo went upstairs to find Petra. He walked down a hall and heard her talking. He followed her voice and then halted. She'd begun to talk about the captain. Again. After a minute, he let out an annoyed noise and made his way back downstairs where he told the other two she'd pass on their break.

(-)

And that's how the days went. Wherever Auruo went, he'd see Petra trailing either Levi or Eren. Every time he'd scoff and busy himself with something else. But every time he did that, his mind would attack itself. Wasn't he tired of this routine? For the past few weeks, he had to put up this front. And even before that he'd been too cowardly to do anything about these feelings. He thought back on days past. Back when he first met Petra.

He and Petra joined the Recon Corps about the same time. It was a few years ago now, but he still remembered the day he met her. And ever since she'd befriended him, he made sure to stick with her. And now they were both expert titan killers, each with an impressive kill count.

Auruo got too used to seeing her brighten up when he came back from a mission or when she found him waiting for her after one of hers. Sure they bickered often, but it wouldn't fool a fool. And while that brightness was still there, most of it was given to their captain. According to Erd, Petra was head over heels for the man. Not without good reason. He was humanity's strongest soldier after all. The man with the highest titan count in the history of the Corps. Probably in human history. He was calm, collected and caring at the best of times, while also being a resilient strategist and merciless fighter.

Something Auruo was striving to accomplish.

That night, Auruo sat outside on the steps in the courtyard. A cup of tea in hand, he watched a small group of birds fight over some sort of bug they found on the ground. After today, he was fighting himself harder than ever to just tell Petra how he felt about her. Something about today seemed to give him a push he didn't have before. The 57th expedition beyond the walls was set to begin in just a few days. Tomorrow morning they were to move out and regroup with the main force to finish preparing.

That would leave very little time to tell her. Auruo knew that it was very possible that not all of them would return from this fight. Every time one or the both of them were sent out on a mission, Auruo got this feeling. But this time, it was much stronger.

"I've killed a shit-ton of titans and I can't even tell the girl I-"

"Auruo?"

A sharp pain and a mouthful of blood later, Petra was beside him. He cursed and took a sip of tea to be rid of the metallic taste. He glanced beside him to see Petra staring at him, worry pinned on her face.

"What is it?" He said monotonously.

"The others were wondering where you got off to so I came to find you. We're leaving tomorrow so the others wanted to spend our last night here together." Said Petra.

"Tch. I don't see why you all bother. We'll probably all be dead by the end of the week." He responded, downing the rest of his tea.

Petra frowned, "All the more reason to enjoy each others company while we can." Auruo made to retort, but she cut him off.

"What the hell happened to you Auruo? Everything you've done lately seems to imitate Captain Levi. And a bad imitation at that. Everything from the way you act and speak to the way you cut your hair! I miss the old Auruo, what happened to him?"

That Auruo left a month ago when you started fawning over Captain Levi more than ever.

Auruo stood up, Petra did too. She moved in front of him to prevent him from walking off. Which was fine. He had no intentions of running away this time.

"I want my friend back." Said Petra. And they stood in silence for a minute. Auruo's mind raced, trying to think of a way to change the conversation in a direction he could use to finally confess his feelings. After that minute, he found one.

"Petra, what do you fight for?" He asked, losing his usual cold tone. Petra seemed taken aback. Auruo knew the answer to his question. Petra told him before.

"I fight for humanity." She answered.

"No, I mean personally. We're all fighting for humanity. I mean who do you personally fight for."

"Well there's my dad. There's my squad mates and Captain Levi."

There it was. Even right before he confessed, she was talking about Captain Levi. It took all he had not to show his annoyance.

"Why" She asked.

"Because... I-" Auruo paused, heart racing. This was his chance. So why couldn't he take it? He sighed and fell back to his original seated position, the familiar feeling of self-loathing returning to his chest.

"I don't really have anyone like that." And he could almost feel the annoyance coming from her. That was another thing they had in common; getting annoyed at Auruo.

"You have plenty of people like that Auruo. And you need to realize that." Said Petra.

Auruo smiled to himself and said, "I do, Petra. You're the reason I fight."

But she'd already made it back inside. Auruo laughed at his continued stupidity. Regret accompanied the self-loathing. Tonight was among the worst night's the young man had experienced thus far. Maybe Petra was right though. Maybe it was time to drop the imitation act.

He nodded to himself. The upcoming mission would be a good start. He would treat the brat- ah Eren, nicer than he had been since the kid arrived. He decided that he might also get his hair cut back down he could grow it back out like he used to.

He looked down into his empty cup. Time for a refill.

(-)

Auruo watched on in horror as Erd, snatched up in the female titan's mouth, was cleaved in two. How the hell did it regenerate its eyesight so quickly? It'd only been half a minute! He didn't have time to think on it however. Auruo watched Petra flee the scene. As both halves of Erd's body fell to the ground, the female titan turned its attention on her.

Auruo's heart burst several times in that single moment. The female titan was in pursuit only seconds after it killed Erd.

"Petra!" He called out to her, shouting for her to get the hell out of there, but even he knew the titan was too fast. It only took another second for her to slam that foot into the girl Auruo loved and smash her body into a tree.

And so it finally happened. Auruo looked down on the body of the girl who had always been there next to him. The girl who he ultimately fell in love with. And the girl who would now never know his feeling for him. The girl who would never love him back. He only had a few second from that moment to react. Keeping it together, he shifted course straight for the titan.

"I'm gonna slice you open!" He screamed as he swiveled around for the kill. He broke through her defenses, position his blade and brought them down hard on her neck. And they snapped off. Having hardened her weak point, Auruo couldn't get through to kill her. And he knew that this was it. His eyes scanned around for Petra. Finding her, he kept his eyes trained on her body until he felt the impact of the titan's fist slamming into him. All the air exited his body and he felt every bone inside him shatter.

Who knows how long it was later when he opened his eyes again. It couldn't have been long. Not long at all, no. His injuries were too extensive to support him for much longer. His eyes scanned his surroundings. Nothing but big ass trees for miles. Except for one. At the base of a tree far off, he saw her. His only solace was that she died on impact. The girl had felt none of the pain he was feeling right now. Despite that, Auruo managed a smile. Finally something worked out the way he wanted it to. And the last thing he saw as life faded away, was Petra Ral smiling back at him. And he let go.