Fell into a hole and my ears were ringing
Followed every rule and kept repeating
Could I be a fool?
They stand next to each other as an officer walks down the aisle, checking their gear and its conditions. Hers are tip-top, perfect, well-oiled and maintained and she almost thanks the freckled boy for his attention to detail. She had always been a reckless cruiser anyway.
This is the day she starts to feel a distance forming between them, leaving a crack in her armour and a widening gap she can't seem to cross.
From the corner of her eye, she can see him; in the small distance between their arms she can almost feel him, his presence familiar and tangible and easily molded into anything of her convenience. I'd be able to tell where you are from miles away, she thinks.
One day, she muses, your innate sainthood is going to get the better of you and be your ruin.
"Annie, you're actually pretty nice, aren't you?"
His eyes skim past her and at her gear, and almost imperceptibly he freezes – almost imperceptibly. By now she's seen enough of him to be acutely aware of the easy shift between perspectives in his head, and for a second she almost forgets herself to glance at him. His jaw sets, body rigid, and she can practically see the gears moving in his mind, everything clicking into place.
(Sometimes he forgets to check himself and she can read him like an open book, watching emotions chase each other across his features – the constant play of expressions on his face is one thing that has always fascinated her.)
His eyes are unfocused; this time she cannot read him at all. She wants to bash his head against the wall and crack open his skull, feed on his stream of thoughts. But if there's anything she knows it's that he knows. Her breath hitches in her throat; he's seen right through her. He knows she knows and she is almost genuinely terrified, because it is much, much too soon to blow her cover and her blunder would not have been such a big issue if she hadn't stood next to Armin fucking Arlert.
She thinks of choosing her words, but in the end it's the cold hard truth that crawls up her throat and eats away at her mouth, spewing words she never thought she'd want to refute.
(He makes her want to tell the truth; he makes her want to lie. He makes her want to wrap him in reassurances of her sinlessness.)
"It's only that I want to survive."
He knows, but he won't tell. He knows, but he won't ask. It scares her because what do you think you're doing, why don't you turn me in right now, whatwhatwhat could you be thinking why won't you look at me – and for a second she thinks she could be safe and in the clear, and she forgets and turns to look at him and there is a new look in his eye.
When he comes to meet her later at night, the firm pressure of his fingers at the small of her back, she sighs almost in defeat as she leans into him, eyes closing. She sees in her head the vast body of salted water and the lands of fire he murmurs to her about, and she forgets, for a little while. Puts it in the back of her head behind all other things because his dreams come first.
She forgot but he remembered, remembers, and she thinks he might have meant it to be that way.
It didn't take much for her to be deluded into thinking he didn't know.
This time when she catches up to him and carefully slips his hood back, seeing him from the eyes of her titan form, she realizes she had been wrong. She thought she knew him well enough to sense his presence, but maybe that was another thing she had deluded herself into believing, too. He looks up at her, shock evident on his features.
She doesn't think about it any longer – she stands and falls back into a jog, running from him and focusing on the task at hand. But he just won't leave her be, just never thinks about himself, never had a thought of his self-worth cross his mind, how fucking frustrating – and when she looms over him again, his eyes are steeled on her face and full of emotion. She revels in it. Fear, confusion, denial – she watches as they chase themselves across his features, settling eventually into an open-eyed awareness. He has come to a conclusion, and so has she – this time there is no doubt about it, he knows.
She could've crushed him right then and there, reduced him to nothing but another casualty on the battlefield – and she tells herself she didn't stop to think about it, that she would've if it hadn't been for the boy with the blonde hair and brown roots trying to off her.
He catches her off guard with his words, though, she'll give him that. And then she remembers herself and who this boy is and what his words are capable of, and she realizes maybe she had never known him after all.
She lets him go. There is no accusation in his eyes, only concern. They haunt her, she wavers –
She fails at her task.
He comes to ask her for help the next day. His eyes are stoic, his posture rigid, relaxing a little, almost reluctantly, when she heeds his call. He didn't have to call her; she had known he was there, the feel of him reverberating through her when she sensed his presence in the dark; he didn't have to call for her, but she wouldn't have come if he hadn't.
She can't hold back the shock of seeing him again, like this – on his guard, safe, steady on his feet – and it paints itself on her face. She knew she would eventually have to confront him, but not so soon – her head hurts, a migraine rooting itself onto the right side of her brain. He mocks her, lies to her – his tone is pleading, full of the gentleness his voice always possesses, but his body betrays him; she sees how his fingers occasionally curl in on themselves, digging into his palm, leaving moon shaped marks on pale skin. But his eyes are the worst of them all: underneath the facade she sees the hurt caused by her deceit staring her right in the face. This time, he knows she knows he knows. There is no other way to go around it.
"If you don't help me... then to me you're a bad person, right?"
She wants to hurt him, carve wounds into his body to see how much more honest he can get. It's not fair, it's not fucking fair. He challenges her, almost, and she is nothing but resigned to this fate. As long as he steers her (as long as she lets him steer her –) she will lose something important to her.
She sighs. Drops her weapon, in a vague gesture she hopes he'll interpret as something good from her. It's a goodbye, almost, to her years of playing soldier. She takes up her ring, shedding off one skin and stepping into another – the role she was meant to play. This is the reason for her living – she had just lost her way a little, is all.
He plots and she willingly walks with him, if not for the sake of his sanity then hers; she needs a little peace of mind, an ending to all the anticipation that had weaved between their bodies, leaving their fates intertwined.
He's ready to play, and so is she.
It had been nothing but a little contentment while she played soldier - was she not entitled to some things for herself? - but the way her heart clenches, squeezing painfully in her chest so she almost exhales a gasping breath, biting down on her tongue to blind herself of it, stumbling over her thoughts and her breath coming out harsh, hesitant and holding back words - tell her it wasn't just that, after all.
Those eyes burn holes into her and she wishes they were bullets coming to drill holes into her lungs instead, because that was what they felt like anyway.
"I'm hurt. When did you start looking at me that way... Armin?"
His eyes are wide, blue as a clear sky, and there is no accusation in them. If anything she can see him struggle to wrap his head around the truth, and she almost laughs because this is just as hard for you as it is for me.
Hopefulness blooms into his eyes and it hits her like a punch. She cannot anymore look at him. He wants her to prove him wrong but she can't, and this time she doesn't have the heart to lie.
"You didn't kill me back then... and that's why this is happening now."
"I think so, too. I never expected you to push me this far." (But she had, she had, and she let him push her into a corner –)
Her words are her last resort, hoping to instill a little guilt, maybe pity, into him – but she knows he couldn't lie to himself any more than she could, and her words are weak, a self-inflicted blow.
"Why didn't I kill you then?"
The answer hangs in the air between them. For one fixed point in time that belongs only to them, it does not anymore matter which side each of them are on, nor that they are opposites. This is a personal matter and nothing else. She can almost feel the shaking that works its way up his arms, anticipating the blow her words will feel like.
(What good would killing you have brought? What good would it serve me? What good would it have been to not have you see me anymore, even if they are with your hate filled eyes?) is what she thinks. But there is a lie in those thoughts – there is no hate in those eyes, only a profound look as if he could understand her, as if he still cares enough about her to try. She lets her eyes close for a moment, and those eyes are seared behind her eyelids, a new memory to keep. She could let him open her up and read her thoughts like a book, but instead she steels herself and looks straight into his eyes; he can make of it whatever he likes, but she knows he can tell what she means.
I couldn't have done it.
She laughs because it's funny.
His stare hardens, eyes steeling themselves over, and this is where it ends. Goddamn it, it feels like a fucking bitch.
"Armin, I'm glad I could be a good person to you."
It was when his eyes had turned on her that she knew she had lost it all.
The flaw in her plan had been a weakness for a certain boy with honest eyes and hair the colour of gold. He knew her presence from a mile away, and she had been too blind, too caught up in herself to notice. She had failed once, and let herself fail a second time – let him dig himself deep into her heart, write himself into her bloodstream, and it was this affection that had held her back from killing him right there and then, when she could've had him. From there she had gone into freefall, with no safety net to catch her.
(She supposed she had hoped he would.)
She was a fool for ever having thought he couldn't see right through her, and after that deluded herself into believing that he would keep her secrets and stay on her side. She couldn't blame him; it had been her mistake. She had gambled and put her guard down, put her heart on the line - only to lose everything.
This time when she rebuilds the walls around her, she makes sure they are nothing less than impenetrable.
a/n: get it? do. you. get. it. impenetrable because... crystal? if you haven't read the manga you probably don't get it, but hey i put a manga spoiler warning.
okay i really tried to look cool and not have an a/n but man, i figure if i spent time to write formulate an idea, write it out, edit it and take hours deciding on a title and summary, i get rights to do this.
please tell me what you think. even if you just liked it, tell me! this has like 21 notes on tumblr and 3 reviews on here and i'm not complaining, just... i like to hear from readers how you've felt about someone's work. tell me what you liked/disliked, constructive criticism is good, they make me a (hopefully) better writer :)