The night that they return from the failed 57th Expedition beyond the walls is laced with a grief that is felt throughout the entire Survey Corps. Hanji Zoe, Squad Leader, can feel the tension as the troops file sullenly through the open gate. Crowds of people, having just seen them off that morning are milling about, muttering obscenities about what a waste the corps is, how useless these missions are, and how much life is lost with each excursion. Commander Erwin takes the brunt of the responsibility, but looking around her, Hanji can see that there isn't one soldier in the Corps who feels like a hero that day.

Once they finally make it back to the military grounds that the Scouting Legion calls home, Erwin pulls Hanji aside.

"Hanji, I need you to lend yourself to the infirmary to assist in tending to the wounded. I've already been informed that they are still understaffed since the Battle for Trost."

Due to her training not only as a soldier and a brilliant scientist, but also as a field medic, Hanji has lent her services before, but, being given this task prevents her from checking on the person she is most eager to make sure is all right after the day's events. She had seen him briefly riding ahead of her in the column as they returned through the gate, and she had seen him being approached by Petra's father, but there were too many people between them for her to make her way through the crowd.

"Would it be all right if I just - " Hanji began,

"No, Squad Leader that is an order, not a request. Report to the infirmary immediately." Erwin was rarely ever so brusque with her, so Hanji only nodded before Erwin took his leave and began to make his way back to headquarters.

Handing her horses reins over to a battered Moblit, Hanji wove her way through the crowd to the carts full of wounded soldiers. She knew that it was hard enough to lose people on the battlefield, but in her opinion, it was even worse to bring them home and have them succumb to their wounds. It was draining emotionally when there was nothing left you could do to save them. It was a job that people like Hanji were made for; compassionate but clinical in the face of death, she knew she would labour until the wee hours of the morning, and that through many trying hours, she would hold dying soldier's hands, stitch wounds, offer sedatives or painkillers, and speak soothing words or last rites over many.

What felt like days, but was only hours after reporting for duty and providing her services wherever she could in the over burdened medical wing of the Survey Corps, Hanji, looking and feeling completely exhausted; hair tangled and face smeared with blood and dirt, and having divested herself of her jacket and harnesses hours earlier, was finally able to drag herself out of the infirmary to make her way back to her room.

The training grounds were dark, cold and ghostly silent as she walked across them towards the officer's barracks. Looking up, the night sky was filled with stars, and the moon shone brilliantly above her. Rubbing her arms against the chill, she strode more quickly once the barracks were in sight. Once she was inside, the halls were lit mutely with low burning torches, everyone in this building long since having retired to their own quarters. Shadows played on the stone around her as she pushed herself further into the building towards her own room up on the third floor. Turning the final corner and walking down the final corridor to her room, she halted as she passed by Levi's door, a mere two doors away from her own; she noticed the candlelight flickering beneath the wood.

Levi was a known night owl, and with the events that had transpired today, he would undoubtedly be awake. Despite his cold exterior, Hanji knew that his heart was not made of ice. Levi put up a resilient front because it was expected of him as a superior officer and as Humanity's Greatest Soldier. If his strength crumbled, she didn't know what hope would be left. But his Squad, whom he had hand-picked from the best, had died today, and in her opinion, today of all days he was entitled to show a little weakness.

Hanji could only imagine the emotions that could be roiling inside of the small Lance Corporal. His squad had died in pursuit of their mission to protect Eren, and some of the most skilled and important people to the Survey Corps were extinguished by a single Titan. Hanji was certain that his mind must be weighing heavy, but she wasn't sure if his grief would want any company. She herself was exhausted, but not having had her opportunity to check on him once they had returned, she raised her hand to knock on the door.

"Levi," Hanji whispered after tapping the wood softly, so as not to be obnoxious or draw attention to herself in the hallway. "Are you still awake?"

Several moments passed before she heard the scraping of his desk chair against the stone floor and his footsteps making their way over to the door. With a creak and a groan, the latch was lifted and the door inched open to reveal Levi's face – his usual somber, blank faced expression was marred by even darker circles under his eyes, and a distinct slouch to his normally straight shoulders.

Hanji observed him as his eyes flicked over her fatigued exterior and took in her serious countenance. Normally, they would joke or share verbal barbs, but they were both lacking the energy, emotionally and physically, to partake in any witty banter. He was completely silent, but he stepped away from the door and pulled it open further to allow her entrance into his quarters. Rubbing the back of her neck, Hanji stepped forward into Levi's room and walked over to his desk. Scattered across its surface were his debriefing notes on the mission. Playing with the edge of one of the documents, she heard him close the door and walk over to his bed where he sat down heavily upon the mattress.

Turning to look at him, she took in his defeated posture. He was slouched upon his standard issue wooden bed, cravat gone, shirtsleeves rolled up, and his eyes staring at nothing in particular. Hanji could honestly say that she had never seen him like this...Lance Corporal Rivaille was always so composed...and never this dishevelled looking.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Hanji inquired quietly.

Sighing, he brought his cold grey eyes off the floor to look directly into her warm brown ones. The look they exchanged spoke volumes of words that she knew he could not bring himself to say out loud to anyone. She saw the disappointment of failure, the sadness of losing his squad, the heartbreak of losing friends, and there was also a small bit of relief, for what she didn't know.

"Not really shitty-glasses," was all he said.

Exhaling loudly, Hanji rubbed her hands down her face. It was a typical Levi response; an attempt at non-chalance to avoid showing any weakness, even to someone who had known him longer than anyone else in the Corps, except maybe Erwin. Moving away from his desk Hanji sat down on the mattress beside him. He had his elbows on his knees, hands dangling lifelessly over the sides of his legs. He didn't move an inch when she sat next to him. Leaning her head against his shoulder, she looped her arm through his and took his left hand in her right, intertwining their fingers.

Not really knowing what words to say to comfort her comrade, Hanji tried to speak reasonably. "It wasn't your fault Levi, you had orders, and you followed them. Your squad had orders, and they followed them. Every member of the Survey Corps knows the risks when they join, and we all understand that we might not come back. It doesn't mean we care any less about the people we serve with; it just means that we have to be willing to let them go when the time comes." Hanji's voice was steady, but her hand gripped his tighter as her spiel went on. Really, she was at a loss to know what to say to alleviate his pain, and she really didn't cope well with silence.

Though he didn't speak, Hanji could feel Rivaille's thumb rub along hers, a simple attempt to make contact and let her know that he was still there, listening to her, present in the moment.

Taking a deep breath, Hanji ploughed on. "I saw on the way back to base that Petra's father found you in the crowd. What did he say to you?"

"Tch," Levi sucked his teeth, whether in annoyance or anger Hanji wasn't sure yet. "Where do I even start...?" Levi spoke softly, and Hanji felt his head lean against hers. "Before I could even open my mouth to say anything to him, I was being told how much Petra cared for me. How she wrote to him explaining her devotion to me. When he'd heard we were re-entering the city he had rushed to speak with me so that he could propose a marriage between her and I..." Levi was obviously troubled by the whole situation. He ran his free hand over his face before starting again.

"It hadn't escaped my attention that she held certain feelings towards me," Levi explained. "She was as transparent as they come when it came to her emotions. But I had hoped that my lack of encouragement would help her move past her inclinations and focus her attentions elsewhere...I was blindsided by the proposal to say the least..." Levi continued stroking Hanji's thumb.

"I'm sorry; I didn't realize she felt that way about you...How did you break it to him then?" She inquired.

"Is there a way to do it adequately?" Levi questioned. "If there is I don't know of it. Hundreds, maybe thousands of soldier's families have received my letters offering meaningless condolences, but it's been ages since I had to deal with a family member face to face in their moment of grief," he was whispering now. "Especially not one who was there to offer me a marriage. In turn, I offered nothing but death."

Sitting up, Hanji unlaced their fingers and pulled on Rivaille's shoulder so that he was looking her in the eyes. It was difficult enough to return to the wall a survivor, all the guilt and questioning you brought back with you, she could not imagine being confronted as Levi had been with Petra's father. He had come to greet the returning party in hopes of offering a proposal, and instead he was told that his beautiful daughter would not be marrying anyone, let alone the man she idolized and wrote to her father about. Bringing her hands up to his neck, Hanji brought their foreheads together.

With their breaths mingling, she struggled to keep her emotions in check. She recalled the amount of relief she had felt knowing that Rivaille had successfully retrieved Eren and returned to the main group, and how agape she felt at her realization. Unfortunately, there had been no time to discuss what had happened; it had been such a mad dash back to the wall. Now that she finally had the chance to breathe and just be in his presence, Hanji found that she couldn't keep her relief to herself any longer.

Hanji and Levi had been on countless missions together, hell, they had been in the corps for almost 20 years. Their relationship might have been rocky at first, but they had learned to understand each other. Their Squad's fought alongside each other for most of their missions, and they had dealt with countless deaths of subordinates, and they had always done it together. Each time they returned from an excursion, Hanji was grateful that she had Levi to lean on for support. But this mission, his elite squad, their friends, this one was particularly hard, and the situation with Petra's father only made their short lives that much more vivid.

"Levi...," she whispered, "I know that today was a shit show and a failure, but I want you to know that I was actually really terrified when I realized you had gone after Eren. And words cannot even begin to express how grateful I was when I heard you had returned with Mikasa and Eren both. You're not just an important asset to the military; you're important to me as well. I couldn't wait to see you for myself...I'm sorry you had to face Petra's father alone, and that I couldn't come to you straight away..."

"I would have said no," Levi cut her off quietly.

Hanji raised her head, but their faces were only inches apart. "Said no to Erwin?" She questioned with her eyebrows raised.

"To her father's proposal, I would have declined Petra's hand in marriage," Levi's piercing stare was boring into her and Hanji couldn't help but stare blankly back at him.

"Petra was a beautiful girl Levi, I'm sure she would have made you very happy, and she was shorter than you, I would have thought that would have been a plus," Hanji attempted to joke her way out of the imminent seriousness of his tone, but her heart wasn't really in it. It was too heavy with the loss of the beautiful young girl who had idolized Levi, and was such a caring individual to all those she came across.

Bringing his hands up to remove hers from his neck, Levi brought both sets down onto his lap, grasping hers firmly in his. "That was horrible timing shitty-glasses, really and truly. But there was a reason I brought up my answer in the first place."

Hanji couldn't help but be nervous at the way he was looking at her, so she grasped his fingers tightly to prevent her hands from shaking. "And that reason would be what exactly?" She questioned him, not entirely sure she was prepared for the answer.

"Zoe," Levi hardly ever used her real name unless he was being serious, "we've known each other for many, many years," he paused then, and leaned closer towards her. "When this war is over...when you've finally figured out how these Titans work and provide to me their weakness so that I can destroy them all, you know there is only person I plan to marry."

Despite all the sadness of the day, Hanji couldn't help but feel a shimmer of hope creeping up her spine. There was no way to help but be elated by the words that she was finally hearing from her tiny Lance Corporal's mouth. "I have no idea shorty, why don't you enlighten me?"

Looking straight into his sad eyes, she waited for Levi's answer, only to be shocked by what came out of his mouth next. "Mikasa Ackerman is clearly my match made in heaven, and once I show her how superior I am to Eren, she is bound to come around," he deadpanned.

Releasing his hands abruptly, Hanji propelled herself from the bed so quickly that she was across the room and leaning against the windowsill before Levi had a chance to snatch her back. Deep in her heart she knew that he was joking, but at a time like this, with emotions high, and exhaustion plaguing her body, it would have been nice if he'd taken this confession seriously. Leaning her heated face against the window pane, Hanji takes a deep cleansing breath. Internally, she is scolding herself. Realistically, this wasn't the time for any of this, and she was getting overly emotional over a simple jape.

A few moments later, she felt his strong wiry arms snake around her waist and his forehead lean against her shoulder blades. Truly, she knew that he was just trying to lighten the mood and she instantly berates herself for her over reaction. They had been together for years, secretly, since it wasn't really acceptable to sleep with a fellow officer, but it was hard for her not to be jealous of younger, and in her mind prettier competition.

"Oi, Hanji," Levi begins over her shoulder, "I know you know how I feel about you. The whole fucking Survey Corps knows, despite our discreetness, and the fact that we've never actually verbalized it. Petra definitely knew. It was just her father that didn't know. And you know that Mikasa Ackerman has an umbilical cord attached to Eren. It was just a joke. The only girl I'm going to marry is you, and you know it." She feels his lips press against the side of her neck, and she contemplates that he must be standing on his tiptoes to do it, which makes her heart soften.

Running her fingers along the backs of his strong, scarred hands as they rest on the front of her stomach, Hanji leans back into Levi's embrace. "I know you were kidding asshole, but you always cover over your emotions with sarcasm and's ok to feel you know," Hanji spoke frankly.

"I know, but I don't always want to feel Hanji...especially not after the events of today...but you always bring me back to earth," Levi squeezes her a bit tighter and she can't help but appreciate that he is trying to open up to her. There was a time when the only comfort they offered each other was a warm body after a hard day.

Turning in his embrace, she drapes her arms over his shoulders so that they are facing each other once again. Leaning forward, she presses a kiss against his forehead, then his nose, and then gently against his lips. Her lips are soft and comforting, like how she meant to come to him in the first place, instead of dredging up all these heartfelt confessions.

Caressing the back of his neck, Hanji separates her lips from his slowly. "By the way, I don't think the whole Survey Corps knows how you feel. I'm quite certain that at least half of them think your preferences lie elsewhere," she attempts to smirk but fails miserably.

"Tch, and how would they come to that conclusion?"He raises one eyebrow in question at her.

"There may or may not have been a rumour started by someone who didn't want any other female competition," Hanji continues stroking the back of his neck while she bites her bottom lip in contrition.

Hanji watches as Levi rolls his eyes at her and leans his head against her shoulder. Wrapping her more tightly in his arms, he begins to press feather light kisses up her shoulder, across her clavicle and then up her neck, where he stops to nuzzle and then leans up to nibble her earlobe. "Stay with me tonight Zoe," he says as he takes the lobe between his teeth.

"I will," is all Hanji can manage to say before she can feel her shirt being tugged out of her pants and pushed up her torso. Raising her arms to be of some assistance, she feels Rivaille pull away the filthy garment and let it fall to the floor at their feet. Pulling herself away for a moment, she stops Levi's advances momentarily. "But I should probably wash up a bit first..." she motions to her face and hands.

Leaning back to take in her appearance once again, Rivaille nods and motions his head towards the bathroom. "Be quick about it then," he caresses her hips as he steps back towards the bed.

Dashing for the bathroom on the other side of the room, Hanji disrobes quickly once inside and grabs a wash cloth. She does her very best to freshen herself up after the long day of travel and fighting, and then her even longer evening of working in the infirmary. Luckily, Levi always has the nicest smelling soap, so once she has scrubbed herself satisfactorily, she emerges from the bathroom naked and clean.

Levi has also disrobed, and is in his bed, under the covers. Once she emerges, he holds up one side waiting for her to climb under. Slipping into his wonderfully soft, clean sheets, Hanji feels a rush of excitement. The horrors of the day are finally at an end, and they have both survived. She sends a special thanks to whatever higher power has allowed them this short reprieve. Settling down next to Levi, Hanji finds herself engulfed by his body as he covers hers with his own.

The skin on skin contact is intoxicating for the both of them, she can tell by the way his lips search hers out and the way his hands caress her skin. It reminds her of their first time together, similarly occurring after a particularly gruesome battle, but she banishes those thoughts as quickly as they come. Once he is settled between the cradle of her hips, Levi's lips leave her own to trail kisses down her neck, over her chest, nipping and sucking as he travels south, slowly traversing her skin until finally catching one of her nipples between his teeth. Hanji arches towards him, hands tangling in his straight black locks.

Levi's hands seem to be everywhere at once, stroking and caressing her sides, kneading her breasts, sliding down her long legs and tickling up the insides of her thighs. Hanji can always tell when there won't be much foreplay, and right now, they both need and want to feel joined, to have the comfort of being connected to each other.

Regaining some of her senses as Levi kisses across her chest making his way to her neglected bud; her own hands come into play. Hanji strokes down Levi's strong back, squeezing his ass and kneading the taut globes. The feel of his soft skin beneath her fingers is her reassurance that they are both still here, both still alive, and safe, for now. She slides her hands up his sides and pushes one hand between them to caress his length. This has always been one of her favourite aspects of Levi. He may be short, but he was definitely well endowed. It is has long been one of favourite parts of their intimate encounters, to stroke his hard length and feel his shaky breathing as she controls his pleasure. As she strokes upwards, the pre-cum gathered at his tip tells her he's ready for her.

The panting and moaning between them is increasing in frequency and volume when Hanji pulls Rivaille up from her breast for a deep kiss, tongues dancing, dueling together in her mouth. Breaking apart from his hungry lips is a difficult task, and when Hanji gazes into his grey eyes once more she can see his need, his want, his lust and most importantly, his love shining back to her. It compels her to draw him close and whisper, "Take me now Levi."

Not requiring any further instruction, Levi kisses her again as he positions himself with practiced ease and slips inside of her. Trailing his hand along her leg, he guides her to hook the limb in question over his hip to allow him better access. Her whine of pleasure as he slides deeper inside of her is all the encouragement Levi needs to proceed in thrusting against her more fiercely.

Wrapping her arms around him, Hanji allows her hips to cant and undulate in time with his thrusts. The steady rhythm that they set is one that they are both familiar with. Despite the late hour, and the tiredness of their bodies, the heat between them and their desire to seek comfort in each other outweighs the need for sleep. The slide of Levi's chest against her breasts, the press of her foot against his ass, and the heavy panting between them is proof that they still have a connection to life.

There is no outside world in this moment; there are no Titans, no dead friends, no broken proposals and no failed mission. There is just the two of them, and that simplicity is what they need to get them through to the next point in time.

The two of them set a leisurely pace, neither eager to finish, neither ready to bring their connectedness to an end. The push and pull is enough to lull their troubled minds and satisfy them until their muscles begin to cramp up from over exertion from the day's events.

Writhing and panting underneath him, Hanji tilts and thrusts her hips more vigorously as she can feel her climax getting nearer. "Almost there Levi," she gasps against his neck. Her hands slide down and push against his ass so that his pubic bone grinds down against her clit on each thrust.

Grunting into her shoulder, Levi thrusts more forcefully into her with each stroke, letting her hands guide him in his thrusting. The only truly gentlemanly aspect of him in the bedroom is that he always does his level best to make sure Hanji comes first, and she knows that he'll wait for her before he lets himself go, something she has always been appreciative of in all their time together.

After a few more particularly harsh plunges, Hanji feels herself slip over the edge of bliss, walls contracting around Levi's shaft, drawing him deeply inside of her while she arches up towards his chest, arms holding onto him for dear life as she rides out the wave of her peak. The force of the contractions around him while he is pulled insider of her is enough to set Levi off, and soon he is pulling out to jerk himself a few more times while looming above her, releasing himself onto her taut stomach as he murmurs curses into the air around them before collapsing next to her, burying his face in her neck, trailing wet kisses down and over her shoulder.

She waits a few minutes for her breath to regain some semblance of normalcy before she slithers out of the bed and hobbles over to the bathroom to clean herself up. Her muscles feel like jelly, and it's getting closer to dawn by the looks outside of Levi's window. Being courteous, she brings him back a towel and crawls back into bed to lie on her side facing him.

Once he has tidied himself, Levi falls back against the mattress, looking up at the ceiling. Hanji reaches out her hand to brush the bangs from his face, running her finger along the outline of his brow, down his nose and over his lips, tracing them. She knows he hates to be observed or studied like one of her titans, but he truly is a beautiful specimen to behold. He turns his head to face her, tired and emotionally drained, and she knows they need to sleep, but doesn't know if they will actually be able to shut their eyes without seeing the faces she knows are waiting behind their eyelids.

Scooting closer to him, Hanji presses herself up the length of Rivaille's body, his hand slowly coming around and caressing her hair. It doesn't take long, and without even really meaning to, the steady and even beating of Levi's heart under her ear lulls her into a dreamless sleep.

The heavy handed banging on the wood of Rivaille's door is what startles both of them awake. Hanji sits up suddenly clutching the sheet of his bed to her chest, while he stretches and then rolls out of bed to pull his pants on.

"Who is it?" He yells at the person on the other side of the door.

"It's Mike." They both hear from the other side. "Erwin is looking for you and Hanji, you've got a meeting to attend in one hour. If you're up, I'm moving on to Hanji's room." Mike states.

Finally reaching the door, Levi cracks it open to see Mike standing in the doorway ready to turn and walk down the hall. "No need Mike," Levi answers. Pushing the door open further to reveal Hanji in the bed, she waves at Mike from her awkward position.

Sniffing the air, Mike looks at the two of them, smirks, winks and then turns to walk back from whence he came. Closing the door, Levi turns to look at Hanji sitting in his bed. She knows her hair is ruffled and her eyes are bleary from lack of sleep, but the way he is looking at her, makes her heart flutter in her chest.

"Time to face the music," Levi sighs and then proceeds to head towards the bathroom.

"Yeah, I guess that cat's out of the bag...time to face another day," she laments as she flops back against the mattress.

"The good news is, for me at least, that my status will be clear now," Levi responds while picking up her shirt and throwing it so that it flutters over her face.

"Hey Levi," Hanji says while stretching out on the mattress of Levi's bed, "Erwin will have another plan to capture that Female titan, we'll get her."

"I don't doubt that we will," Levi states.

"And about last night..."she inquires from underneath the sheets, "any doubts about that?"

A few moments pass, but nothing but silence greets Hanji's ears. Just when she thinks the stoic outer shell of Lance Corporal Rivaille is back in place, suddenly the sheets are pulled from around her face and Levi is looming over her. "Oi, Shitty glasses, I've got none," he states as he pulls her in for kiss. "Do you have some you'd like to share?"

Waiting a few beats, Hanji pulls Levi in for another brush of her lips against his. "None," she states.

"Good. Now get dressed so we can get some coffee before the Commander tells us how we avenge our fallen comrades," Levi bends over and grabs her pants off the floor, and chucks them at her head.

"I'm coming you moody elf," Hanji smiles to herself as she slides out of bed to dress. Sometimes, from great tragedy, new hope arises.