Here we are chapter three! Thank you to everyone who put this story on their alerts or their favorites, and big thanks to everyone who reviewed. Keep them coming! :D
Also Big thanks to Euregatto for beta reading for me! (L'pasta has been served!)
Ummmmm...what else? oh yeah, i do not own Shingeki No Kyojin, like at all. Haha
Iridescent streaks of reds and oranges gradually overcame the indigo hue of the twilight sky. The sun was just emerging out of the horizon, barely peeking over Wall Rose, and its scintillating rays began to warm the air. A stream of light gradually began to radiate throughout the city, piercing through the transparent window panes. The sunlight dawned on Annie's face.
Heat burned behind her eyelids, forcing her out of her subconscious mind; she brought her twitching fingers up to shield her eyes as they fluttered open. She fought to ignore that errant sunbeam. The last remnants of her dream were being chased away by its omnipotent presence.
'Why', she paused in confusion, 'Was I dreaming about Eren?' She attempted to remember any and every tendril of her dream that lingered behind but the details were fading faster with every rapid blink and every quickening heartbeat. 'Tch. Not a chance.' She sighed to herself; ever since Eren was revealed to be the coordinate everything she did revolved around him: mission briefings, written reports, hell, she even had to take shifts watching over him to make sure he didn't die from tripping on a leaf or getting eaten by a damn Titan.
Now he was growing on her, and it felt forced.
She rubbed her knuckles into her eyes to drive away what was left of her sleep, arching her back to relieve herself of the stiffness in her spine. She extended her arms to do the same, joints popping and muscles straining with newfound release.
As her limbs stretched out she noticed an unusual amount of space residing in the bed beside her. 'Wasn't he…' Her eyes immediately widened in fear as she glanced over to realize Eren was no longer at her side. Her elbows pressed into the bed to support her weight as she jolted up to survey the room expectantly, hoping to find him in the corner somewhere, possibly moving some stuff around. Instead there was nothing. Nothing but black mold dotted walls and a fireplace drowned in old ash where the fire had died hours ago.
"Eren!" She called out, her voice shaky with uncertainty and accented with panic. And then she waited – for a response from him, whether he shout back or enter the room or what have you. She quickly jerked her feet off the bed, frantically shoving her boots on. 'How could I let that bastard take advantage of my trust again?!' She reached over to the nightstand grabbing the silver ring, sliding it back on her right index finger. 'Dammit, I should have known better!'
She dashed for the door with her heart in her throat and the recurring thought of the consequences she would suffer if the idiot had really snuck off.
Annie booted open the wooden division and briskly trekked outside, craning her head in all directions to observe the landscape. There was no Eren, just lingering trees that stood utterly still. Her fist clenched and her face paled. "Was it all for nothing?" She mumbled to herself, closing her eyes and remembering her father's words.
"Annie…Annie! I'm wrong for placing such a burden on you, but without the coordinate all the lives we take will count for nothing"—he pulled his daughter flush into his arms—"Even if this whole world will hate you for it… I want you to remember that your father will always be on your side."
The floor starts to shake as her senses begin to betray her, buildings and houses seem to shoot up from the ground where the grass once laid. She can see children playing and adults doing their daily chores, everything was so peaceful and yet so familiar. "Wait, this is...this is Shiganshina!' A sudden shock wave of what felt like an explosion sent many people flying before her eyes, houses crumbled while she stood unaffected. Her body angled it self around, and as she expected Wall maria had been taken down, by her partner's leaving death and destruction in their wake. Once the dust cleared, bodies and blood scattered everywhere like splash of paint, a silhouette appeared before her...Macro Bott.
She shudder's once she recognizes the boy, and as she blink's not once but twice and the hallucination vanishes as quickly as it came. This vision happened once before back in the forest of giant tree's, when she first failed in capturing Eren. The realization of everything they had done being in vain brought her to tears, when that bastard of a captain carved her up and took Eren away from her.
Clouded in her thoughts, her right pointer finger instinctively raised to her mouth ready to bight down. A voice, something she welcomed (or desperately hoped for) snagged her attention, any distraction from this situation would have sufficed, but none had such an unbridled impact as Eren's abrupt voice.
"Sleep well?" He questioned from afar.
She turned her head to see the edge of Eren's back; he was resting against a side of a tree facing away from her. He was toying with the golden key in between his forefinger and thumb, gaze studying the object quizzically, almost like the answers to the world were hidden in its finish. As she drew closer, she could see he had kept the key positioned so her image would reflect in its glowing sheen.
As soon as she got close enough her left hand reeled back – Eren's primal reflex was to quickly tilt his head to avoid the blow but she saw right through him, and she successfully thumped him right on the top of the head, sending his senses for a loop.
"Gahh! What the hell Annie?! What was that for?" He questioned, grasping his throbbing wound. He was completely oblivious to the slight torment he put her trough just seconds earlier.
"Why didn't you wake me up?" She asks tonelessly, not daring to admit she had been deeply shaken by the thought of him abandoning her. She saw Eren as a brick weighing her down, someone in her life who she claimed constantly annoyed her, who suppressed her and everything she was capable of doing. The thought of him leaving her, causing her mission to fail, however… well, maybe the brick wasn't so bad after all.
"Because you looked so exhausted, and besides, you were the one who woke me up," he shot back.
"What are you talking about?"
"Ya know… you punch and kick in your sleep, and you kept snuggling near me." He says tiredly, his lack of sleep clear in his eyes. He notices the slight flinch in Annie's figure which caused him to grin in amusement of the moment, wide smile reaching his emerald eyes, lighting them like a goddamn holiday tree. Who did this bastard think he was?
She quickly cast her glare in the other direction to avoid his immaculate gaze, but she couldn't hide the anger which took form as a red hue that painted the plane of her face. Her lips moved but the words couldn't escape; they always failed her in her time of need. Damn him.
"Let's get going," she hissed, walking away, not giving him a chance wallow in his little victory. She wouldn't give him that pleasure, not in this lifetime.
He kept watching her until she disappeared into the cabin. 'Guess this is it,' he thought as he tenderly touched the grass beneath him, 'Mikasa, Armin… once I deal with myself and learn the truth behind the Titans, I'll come back and we all can live free… I promise.'
He made his way into the cabin just as Annie's figure navigated through the shadows – she was carrying a spare hoodie, a pair of boots and a questionably lengthy roll of parchment paper. "Here," she said dejectedly, shoving the clothes into his arms, "you'll need these to walk through the city discreetly."
"No 3D maneuver gear? Wouldn't it be faster than walking?"
She huffs under her breath. "Knowing the Military Police they already have more Garrison guards patrolling the Walls than normal and probably stationed more officers to the streets. Plus, the use of 3D maneuver gear is prohibited within the Walls, it would be suicidal to even consider using it… and it would make us very, very noticeable targets."
"Tch. Whatever, I was just tryi-"
Her hand shot up to cut him off, and her fingers moved to beckon him over. She snatched the parchment she had folded under her arm and unfurled it along the length of the floor. The dog-eared, brown-edged paper displayed geographic lines of all three walls and was covered with hand writing; perhaps it was Annie's own, Eren thought. "We calculated this situation many times; this route is our best shot to escape undetected." She slid her finger along a series of marked up streets, their escape route.
"We? Who else is with you?" He questioned with an entranced look, pondering the meaning of her statement. He always imagined Annie as a lone wolf… the thought of her working with someone else, or perhaps multiple someone-s, seemed preposterous.
Images of Reiner and Bertholdt rushed into the front of her mind. 'He'll just have another emotional outburst if I tell him, now's not the time. ' She could easily deal with Eren in a sparring match, being the essence of a true fool, and would prefer to keep it that way - anything but an emotional confrontation that risked bringing out feelings of guilt she so despairingly tried to suppress deep within her.
"Hey Eren?" Her voice was lowered to a barely audible whisper, enough so that she successfully brushed off his question with her own. "If we do get compromised, could you handle it? I mean, being called a traitor, a lowlife, a murderer…?" The last emphasis has him arcing his eyebrow quizzically. It seemed like something she was already used to… it disturbed him.
He peeled his eyes from the map and gazed at the blonde, stunned, mortified. He felt a sudden shortness of breath, the rhythmic heartbeat in his chest beginning to pound faster. He didn't understand, as if his brain short-circuited and needed to be rebooted. Annie's glacial stare was dead set on him daring him to say yes.
"I can handle anything you can," he muttered under his breath. Within that moment Eren had realized some levels of what Annie had to go through – all the guilt she harbored and the blood of the victims of Wall Maria on her hands – and although he couldn't find it in himself to forgive her, he felt as if he had taken a step in her shoes, in her life.
"Very well, just know it's not as easy as it sounds." She knows he believes her… and doesn't really care right now. He would learn just how cruel the world could truly be soon enough. "Let's get going."
They leave the home behind without so much as a last glimpse good bye, and venture down the city roads cloaked in their hoodies, backs to the sun and shadowed faces shielded from the weary gazes of the opposing passersby. The road seemed almost deserted with the occasional splotch of people scattered every now and then. Annie noticed that the poor were the only ones visible; perhaps they couldn't get into Wall Sina for safety like the rich corrupted people.
The air was filled with an eerie atmosphere; everyone was far enough on edge a single bang would have caused their harts to beat out their chest and run for cover. Annie observed the Wall in the far distance; silhouettes dotted the outer lying plateaus of Rose, the passing words of the people died down into a baritone chorus of whispers, and finally faded into nothing.
"Did you hear? Those two monsters are free somewhere within the Walls."
"They should've known that boy was trouble! He's probably somewhere with that other murderer eating more people as we speak!"
"They'll be sorry for what they did to Stohess, when the Police capture them they ought to feed 'em to their own kind."
He couldn't help but agree with the sudden outburst's, in matter of fact he knew he was no different from them. He bore a similar if not more concentrated hatred towards titan's and knew when every signal titan is wiped out, they'll still be him, an outcast no longer needed in this world. Eren's face dropped as he found the crevices in the gravel road fairly interesting. 'Why would someone attract such hatred towards their own life.' He pondered to himself, but unaware of his soundings and everything in his line of sight, he abruptly rammed into Annie's back. Her short stature caused the top of her skull to collide with his chin, his head previously titled at a downward angle.
"Watch it asshole," she hissed frigidly.
"S-Sorry I was thinking about what they..." He paused searching for what to say.
"It's okay, you know. People will always hate those who go against the flow of this brainwashed society, incapable of seeing the motives of those who truly strive for change." Her voice was lowered, as usual, and he moved to her side to hear her better. "Don't pay too much attention to it."
"Hey!" The shout earned a startled gasp out of Eren's throat. "You two, come here!" The voice echoed out from somewhere behind them – a guard, perhaps, most likely but hopefully not.
Neither Eren nor Annie turned around to meet the person demanding their attention, but Eren noticed Annie anxiously fiddling with the silver ring wrapped around her right index finger. His hands felt clammy as his adrenaline surged through his bloodstream. 'She wouldn't break her promise …would she?' He observed her every other move carefully, hoping she didn't do anything rash, praying she wouldn't throw this whole plan to waste.
"Are we breaking any laws?" Annie questioned, tone run thick with sarcasm.
"You two are the only ones we've seen heading away from Wall Sina since the red alert was issued. Just seems suspicious given the circumstances. Now reveal yourselves!"
Annie reluctantly turned to meet the mysterious owner of the vaguely familiar voice – and her eyes widened slightly in shock, fingers immediately moving away from her ring. Marlowe and Hitch stood there placidly, the trio of gazes connected together with equal intensity and bewilderment.
"Annie!" Hitch exclaimed, shattering the silence, "Where in the hell have you been? After you didn't report back to HQ we thought you were dead!"
Eren's shoulders sagged, thoroughly relieved that they were Annie's friends and not a pair of dimwit guards fro- wait friends? It couldn't be. Annie was a lone wolf, why in all seven levels of hell would she have friends?
'Screw it.'Eren followed Annie's prior movements to face the duo as well. Regardless of Annie's nature, friends were friends–
Marlowe's pupils swelled as primal fear exploded through his veins. He grappled Annie by her collar and pulled her behind him before she could react. "H-Hitch, Annie, get back!" In the same fluid motion he brought his musket up on an ascending arc to aim directly at the center of Eren's forehead, opposing boy already with his teeth planted against the bridge of his palm. The rifle was unsteady as Marlowe's hands shook ruthlessly, the rattling of the sling wrapped around his arm growing louder and louder.
"It's him, the Titan boy we're looking for!" He declared, forefinger dangerously unstable against the trigger.
"Hm, how can you be so sure?" Hitch questioned, but her fingers were already twitching towards her own Military Issued weapon strapped over her shoulder. Her glare was narrowed the closer she drew to her gun however; Annie knew for a fact Hitch was unsettled, regardless of her quizzical remarks. "If he's with Annie he can't be the right person. He's probably her boyfriend or something."
"He's not my boyfriend," Annie hissed.
Marlowe tch'd under his breath. "They have his damn picture posted everywhere, there's no way in all of Sina I wouldn't recognize that murdering son of a bit-!"
Annie stepped into the perfect halfway point between the barrel and Eren. "That's enough Marlowe," she coerced, unfazed, eyes hardened over with a determination that made her blue hues appear like real sapphires. "Put the gun down before you hurt yourself."
He clenched his teeth together, tensed his shoulders to steady the quaking rifle, and dug the stock into the crevice of his arm. His mind was in a disarray of decisions, battling between what he was witnessing and what he knew should be done… and he remembered what this girl before him had said, a winded a speech about good and evil within the system and every soldier's heart, and taught him, within that moment, to overcome his struggles by facing the Military Police corruption and rebuilding from the ashes of the ground.
His eager finger clamped down on the trigger, nearly clicking it out of place.
"Marlowe!" Hitch snapped. "Put the damn gun down! Even if he is the shifter, are you seriously going to shoot Annie too?!"
Annie allowed her gaze to falter, switched it over to Hitch as her colleague, her friend, moved her hand to Marlowe's forearm, grasping his worn sleeve but not daring to yank him in any direction in attempt to knock the gun from his grip. She, despite every despicable act she had done to snake her way into the Military, had a profound sense of loyalty. It was admirable. It was equally stupid.
"I'm not the enemy!" Eren shot back.
Marlowe's heart was in his throat. Everything was fast-forwarding, like his very own existence was flashing before his eyes, while he was motionless in the middle of it all. Too many people were yelling at him, would be yelling at him if anyone found out how he was hesitating to shoot down the monster right in front of him, his own thoughts mingled within his head. He couldn't hear himself think, dammit!
"Marlowe," Hitch whispered this time, "if he really was our enemy… he would have killed us already."
There were approximately five hundred different replies he could have voiced within that moment. His gaze connected with Eren's – emeralds widened with adrenaline, unmoving, as if studying him, and filled with an ornate truth.
Gradually he went against his better judgment and, with a throaty sigh that gratefully escaped from his chest, he released the trigger and lowered the gun to his side. He relaxed his usually uptight posture with a growl of displeasure, muttering his own feint stupidity under his breath. Hitch may have been loyal, but Marlowe was definitely more human than any of them could ever be.
Hitch's shoulders dropped in relief as her hand left his arm. "Whew, jeez, you sure know how to stir things up. That was a show!"
"I won't stop you," he remarked finally to the shifters, raking his shivering fingers through his obsidian locks in exasperation, "but I must inform our superiors whether you like it or not." He remembered his plan to rise high up in the ranks to change the corrupt system, to change everything about the Walls and to divide equal opportunities to the lesser classes. Doing this was probably going to hinder that goal, if not, destroy it all together. "Think of it as giving you a head start."
Annie opened her mouth to reflexively thank him when Hitch reeled her into a rather unnecessary, bone-crushing hug. Annie didn't pull back, nor did she hug in return, only struggled to breathe in the officer's arms. "You'd better come back to pick up on all the work you skipped out on, slacker! And I expect you to be in one piece too, okay?" Her suddenly frigid glare turned up to Eren who swallowed the dry lump in his throat.
Hitch half-released her half-shoved her away and returned to Marlowe's side.
"If you're thinking of heading towards Trost they have ample amount of security guarding the wall day and night, it wouldn't be wise to head in that particular direction." There was no concern in Marlowe's comment, but by the way his eyebrows were furrowed he was a little more worried than most would catch on.
"Good to know." Annie said indifferently. Yeah, she was grateful.
Hitch gazed after them as the duo trekked down the street and out of sight before she turned her piqued expression up to Marlowe. "You're just a big softee, ain't you?"
He stubbornly turned away from her. "L-Let's go! We have an incident to report!"
Approximately ten minutes after the encounter, an interim of silence between her and Eren, Annie spotted an abandoned house they could settle in. She snatched Eren's sleeve, ignoring his immediate protest and leading him into the storage shed. She whisked open the map on the dusty work station table, searching for alternative routes thanks to Marlowe's information.
After another prolonged interval of silence she detected Eren's scrutinizing stare from her peripheral vision. She picked her head up and met his stare from the corner of her eye; he had an amused grin creeping onto his lips, the smug bastard.
"What?" She asked as more of a fact than a question.
"After all that name-calling and teasing… you stepped in front an armed rifle for me. I think that makes you just as suicidal as I am."
Annie failed to hide her faintly bemused smile; his resounding laugh was short but it was a pleasant distraction to their present predicament. "I called his bluff. Marlowe's too easy to see through. I knew he wouldn't have pulled the trigger; had I sensed any different you'd have been shit out of luck."
"Tch… thanks, I guess. So what are we going to do now?"
"If you just be quiet for a minute I can actually think." She answered blithely and bitterly at the same time, like a comment bordering sarcasm without the intention of being cruel or hurtful.
'If Armin was here he'd probably go underground using the tunnels,' Eren thought to himself – "W-wait I got it!" He exclaimed, leaning over Annie to view the map, chest pressing complacently against her back.
"Enlighten me," she mused, placing her hand on his cheek, attempting to push him out of her line of sight. He was so damn close… and still she wanted him closer. Shaking the accursed memory from her head, she forcefully shoved him over a few feet, not that he seemed to notice nor care.
"Hope you weren't serious when you said you were scared of the dark."
"Jaeger, don't you dare tell me we're thinking the same thing…"
Oh and if by any chance you don't remember Marlowe and Hitch, they were members of Annie's military police squad.
I've been practicing my action scene's (fighting and titan killing) so the next chapters will contain a lot more of that! :D
I'll give you guys a teaser since this chapter took a little longer!
Annie and Eren will soon reach Trost, maybe next chapter, will Erwins plan work!?
Until next time, and happy early thanksgiving to all!