a/n: more like a continuation of the first one. because this chapter and the last are more like a prelude, i'll try to get the next one up soon! (hopefully. it's a busy weekend for this gal.) my sister hates me because apparently all my fics are 'retellings'. um i'm trying to capture the essence of a character's emotions. just kidding i have no originality... except maybe in the last three chapters

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So when she wakes up, she thinks nothing of it. There is a moment of confusion after her eyes open – in which she looks down and finds nothing out of the ordinary, squinting in the dim light at her own tiny frame and finding nothing there. Her subconscious puts the memory away into the deepest corners of her mind, where all things children choose to forget go – and instead she replaces the memory with the notion that she had fallen asleep and slumbered through the hours. There is, however, a phantom ache in her right side, an almost non-existent throbbing, that she cannot account for.

The men yell. They talk of her monetary worth, how important her mother was to them, as if it had been no cost to them to discard their humanity and kill two strangers, if only to benefit them. She tunes them out.

But their yelling turns urgent. And one man falls, the other coming to his aid, only to lie beside the other. Her eyes widen; suddenly she is alert. There is a boy, about her age, wielding a knife and telling the other man to die, you deserve this, and warmth rushes through her body, her senses burning at the sight before her, a guilty relief in her veins.

The boy's eyes turn towards her. They are surprisingly soft. "It's gonna be okay now, don't worry."

He easily cuts through the ropes binding her hands, leaning over her and coaxing her to talk. "You're Mikasa, right? I'm Eren. I'm Doctor Jaeger's son, we came over so I could meet you."

She rubs at the sore spot on her wrists where the ropes had cut through. A friend, she thinks. A friend who has killed for me. But it comes back to her, and she remembers too late – "There were three of them –" because the footsteps are already approaching –

The man easily takes Eren, holding him by the neck, way above her head. She cannot move; she is paralyzed with fear. The cold once again takes a hold of her, lacing its way up her fingertips, to her arms, until her whole frame is wracked by violent shaking. She is defenceless, and she will have to watch, again. She will have to see another person – Eren, she tells herself, a boy, a friend, who had come to her aid and shown her kindness – die in front of her eyes.

The man's hands are wrapped around his neck, but Eren turns his gaze towards her, eyes blazing with something she cannot comprehend.

"Fight." His voice is strained, and he struggles still, but the man's grip doesn't relent even a little and she knows, with a dread that weighs her heart down, that his efforts are futile. "You must fight. If you win, you live. If you lose, you die. If you don't fight, you can't win!"

Her fingers find the knife and close around it. Her legs are sore from disuse but they force her up, anyway; her hold on the knife is flimsy, her hands are shaking so hard – her heart beats so fast she thinks it might just stop, but the sound continues to drum inside her ears and her feet are glued to the floor and what if I drop the knife, Eren's going to die

His arms fall limp at his sides and it triggers an onslaught of memories, of her father smiling and warm welcome homes and the basic principle of nature, of life, of everything – a revelation, almost, unwrapping itself around her – it is a struggle to survive. We all struggle to survive. We have to do what we must to survive.

Something like electricity flows through her, charging her muscles and an idea, a resolve starts to take form in her mind, building itself up until it encompasses her and it is all she can thinkseehearfeel

I can do anything.

She charges.

She screams.

And her aim is on point.

One stab from behind, right through the heart. Did those kids really do all this?

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Doctor Jaeger finds them eventually, two officers from the Military Police in tow. Such is the state they find both children in; both with bloodied hands and huddled together in a corner, with Eren's tiny arm around her. She had thought she was invincible for a while, after she had conquered fear and put the last man down, but the rush had gone away when it dawned on her that nothing had changed – her family was gone.

His father had pried Eren away from her gently, and only at the loss of contact did she realize how warm he had kept her, how his body had radiated warmth to her in waves; the cold was settling in again.

There she had been, a girl of nine, thankful at a second chance of life but resigned to a bleak one made of bitter days in solidarity; she had seen it play in her head, seen a life of fending for herself and working odd jobs to meet ends, to have no one of authority guide her; a life of growing up alone, of cruelty, of bitter truths that would unfold themselves to her as time trudged on.

But that night Eren wraps his scarf around her, and with her fingers numb the warmth it emanates is all she can feel. But it is when he takes her hand – "Let's go to our home" – that her nerve endings ignite once again, and the feeling radiates through all there is of her. She lets him lead her away in silence; her heart swells with gratefulness. But she doesn't dare open her mouth to speak, because when the words tumble out of her mouth – and she knows they will come out ungracefully – she fears they will lose its sincerity, and no words could ever do justice to the magnitude of what he had done for her, was doing for her, and in the compassion she sees in his eyes and the squeeze he gives her hand in reassurance, a promise for the future, of a beginning companionship.

It is then that she feels truly alive.

Here is a new home. Here is a new family. Unfamiliar, and could take a while to get used to, but a home and family willing to accept her nonetheless.

And here was a boy. A friend. He saved her life. He killed for her.

Eren, she thinks. And I killed for him too.