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She was as graceful as a gazelle. Her movements free like a bird. Enchanting as a butterfly, floating delicately above in whimsical patterns.

A single light shone directly on the poised ballerina as she glided romantically around the stage, senses numb as she lost herself in the whirl of flawless arabesques and pirouettes. Accompanied by a deep crescendo flourishing from the strings of a cello, the pas suel was meeting a ceremonious end, falling elegantly succeeding the euphoric climax.

She lowered herself to the floor, arms in a halo above her head as the finale drew nearer and nearer still.

Grand red curtains slowly aligned to merge together.

Her world was spinning on a continuous axis, sparkling blue eyes gazing intimately at the audience in the majestic concert hall before disappearing behind the curtains.

It was beautiful. It was perfect.

Finito.

The audience rose from their seats, giving Prima ballerina Frieda Reiss's performance a standing ovation.

Roses were hurled onto the stage, petals hailing from balconies and strewn frivolously about as though it were confetti at a spectacular parade.

Among the masses of balletomanes, a curious young girl sat quietly in the front row, overtaken by a powerful wondrous awe. She was inspired by her sister's performance, and vowed to one day be up there with her on stage, dancing variations from classics like The Nutcracker and Coppelia.

When I grow up, she thought, I want to be just like you, Frieda.

Chapter Text

Historia fell to the floor in a crumpled mess, wisps of blonde tresses trickling down the sides of her flushed face from an untidy bun.

Muscles and joints ached from the long, grueling hours of repetitive motions in the studio. Pulling her lower limbs into an elongated stretch, she flexed the tender muscles until they had reached their limit.

The space reserved for rehearsal clamored with fellow dancers of the same company, each taking a much-needed rest from a long day of training. Dual mirrors on either side aided in ensuring they were implementing the proper techniques and aligning themselves in the correct formations.

Historia finally rose, fixing her hair neatly after tucking the loose strands away. The ribbons of her pointe shoes had been carefully adjusted, ready to execute sharp pliés and further pliable movements. Erected at full height, she bent at the waist to warm the muscles of her back.

She felt at ease in this place, secluded from the hustle and bustle of the outside world. Her cohorts were an eccentric group at times but having known many of them for years made the company feel like a second home.

At Ballet Mistress Nanaba's behest, everyone prepared to start their routine again, positioning themselves in a steady arrangement, hands firmly gripping the barre. Historia found herself in total control of her body, concentrating intensely as her legs accomplished well-rehearsed battements.

The door to the studio suddenly opened in drastic fashion, the sound of the squeaky hinge startling the serene setting. Historia gripped the barre in front of her tighter, slowly turning to look at the unexpected guest.

The appointed messenger of sorts came in the form of a petite woman with platinum blonde hair and silver eyes hidden beneath thick frames.

"The director is asking for everybody to gather up in the theater. Further announcements will be made shortly."

"Thank you, Rico," Nanaba expressed her gratitude cordially before turning to address the entire studio. "Well, let's get a move on. We'll pick up where we left off after hearing what the director has to say."

Historia nodded and quickly threw an oversized sweatshirt over her leotard ensemble. After collecting her personal items, she took a moment to fill up her bottle of water and promptly headed out of the room, trailing patiently behind her cohorts.

The Theater, also referred to as the main concert hall, was a couple levels above their current location. Rather than subject her already aching muscles to a few flight of stairs, Historia opted for a much safer route; the elevator.

Still waiting for the call button to light up, it wasn't long until she had company; fellow dancers indulging in gossip.

"What do you think the director has in mind?" One asked after letting out an exhaustive yawn.

Historia shrugged. "Not sure."

"Maybe the upcoming season," another dancer mused. "I heard he plans of nixing Romeo and Juliet for Sleeping Beauty."

*Ding*

The elevator doors rushed open, allowing for them to step inside and transport to the theater above. Their ride was interrupted when the doors opened a measly one floor up.

*Ding*

A couple more dancers stepped inside, this time of the masculine variety.

"How's it going, ladies?" A burly man with blond hair joined the seasoned ballerinas on the way up, his attempts at flirting with them causing his tall companion to face-palm in despair.

"Reiner…" The brunet groaned.

"Well if it isn't none other than the infamous Braun and Hoover," the girl standing idly next to Historia cooed. "You two look worse for wear. Galliard's training finally get the best of you?"

"I could ask you the same thing, Pieck," Reiner huffed. "You're the one who needed crutches for a week after rehearsing with him last month. From what I hear, your private lessons in his studio were pretty intense."

Pieck only scoffed at that. "You have no idea."

Historia rolled her eyes at their discourse. She too had heard the rumors of a prospective relationship developing between Pieck and Galliard, but in reality the injury was the result of a twisted ankle.

She'd been labeled a prude in the past by several of her colleagues for finding their gossip mundane and immature. Although it wasn't unheard of for dancers in the company to sleep their way to the top so to speak, Historia vowed to herself she'd never resort to demeaning tactics.

She trained hard for years back in the academy to finally earn the title of 'ballerina.' She wouldn't throw away her hard-work and lose sight of her goal by stooping to such a preposterous level of dishonesty.

She held herself to a higher standard.

Her sister had held her to higher standard.

The elevator reached the main lobby, the same floor as the concert hall. The group headed to the place of gathering and were greeted instantly with the voice of the director echoing in a commanding timbre.

Historia felt a rush of emotions consume her. She could remember the first time she came here, after her sister, Frieda, had promised she could finally see one of her performances. The ornamented front of the old building, constructed tastefully with statutes of deities from Greek mythology arranged from corner to corner, and the high columns supporting the roof had given her the impression of entering a magnificent castle. Fine paintings and portraits of dancers and ballerinas in various sparkling costumes hung on the walls, adding a lovely touch of the company's history to its decor. The enormous curtains were the same riveting shade of red as they were all those years ago, taking her back to the first night she watched as Frieda captivated the hearts of an enthralled audience, like a goddess giving life to her creation.

And now, as Historia entered the large theater to take her place among the masses of red-velvet seats, she felt as though hardly any time had passed at all. She was just as wide-eyed and excited as she was back then.

Ballerino-hopeful, Marco Bodt, sat next to her, bringing along a few others to fill the remaining seats of the same row.

He leaned in to whisper something in her ear. "You ever wonder what kind of étoile Director Smith must have been like in his prime?"

Historia titled her head in thought for a moment. The question brought to mind several possibilities, entertaining the likelihood Erwin Smith put on innumerable dazzling performances when she was still training at the academy.

Before she could reply, Marco pointed a few things out to her.

"See how the tips of his feet move like that… like they're gliding?" He whispered. "The out-stretched motion all dancers have after years of training. It's like it's ingrained into their muscles for a lifetime."

While Marco continued to marvel at the way the director carried himself, Historia mulled over his clandestine assessment. She envisioned the sharp movements, the flawless executions of turns and twists, and the confidence he exuded when the spotlight shone directly on him.

Fitting of his work-ethic and spectacular performances, Director Erwin Smith would forever be remembered as one the finest dancers the company had ever sponsored.

Said man, having taken helm of the company a mere five years prior, certainly hadn't lost his knack for leadership and professionalism, as his position of authority suited him very well.

Historia snapped out of her reverie when Director Smith commenced his formal announcement.

"Thank you all for gathering here this afternoon on such short notice." His brief introduction was met with a few claps from the middle rows. He nodded and then proceeded. "I wanted to share some exciting news with you all regarding the upcoming season.

"First, our repertoire will consist heavily of the classics. Giselle and Coppelia tend to be our most popular. However, we'll open the season with a new and improved rendition of Swan Lake." An enthusiastic round of applause indicated his decision had been well-received. When the cheers died down he resumed. "And for the end of the season, we will close with The Nutcracker. You will be emailed the full list by your respective instructors. Moving on, each ballet will be performed with a full orchestra…"

Historia drowned out the majority of the director's announcement - until he informed everyone in the hall of a startling surprise.

"And this year, we'll do open auditions for each and every ballet."

A wave of applause ensued, resounding throughout the entire hall. Historia had heard rumors of how the previous director had been known to only give the best roles to his favorite dancers, never taking their talent into account. Although that was before her time as a dancer for the company, she was grateful nonetheless everyone was given a fair shot at pursuing roles that interested, and perhaps even suited, them most.

Herself included.

Director Smith concluded the afternoon's announcements once all had settled down, mindful of the day's hectic agenda. "The auditions for Swan Lake will be held in one month. Again, further details will be sent to you via email." With a brief salute, he bid everyone farewell. "Thank you for your time. Let's make this another great season, ladies and gentlemen. Good luck!"

Still nestled complacently in her seat, Historia could feel her heart racing.

Swan Lake.

Her all-time favorite ballet. She knew instantly which part her heart desired most.

Odette. The white swan. The lead role.

All smiles, and spirits lifted, she headed back down to the lower level to resume rehearsal under the instruction of Nanaba, struggling to contain her stifling exhilaration.

Auditions in one month, she thought. That's plenty of time.


"Next stop, 45th avenue."

The intercom in the train car informed an exhausted Historia her stop was approaching, the statement further highlighted in the form of bright red words flashing on the digital screen above the railing.

She was accustomed to using the tramway system as her main method of transportation, the commute from her apartment to the concert hall no more than twenty minutes. Other days, she was fine with taking the bus… and on desperate occasions, she'd opt for a cab or uber ride.

When the train came to a stop, she stood up, swinging her bag over her shoulder, and walked through the exit doors. The last part of her route home consisted of walking a few blocks through quiet neighborhoods on the south side of the city. Her residence was a humble studio apartment in an old brick building; reminiscent of an old world charm she liked to think.

Her father had offered her a bedroom in the Reiss family mansion numerous times before, constantly berating her choice to move into what he dubbed the 'riff-raff' part of town.

Historia never felt like she fit in with the uppity 'old money' crowd of Sina; an upper-class neighborhood on the northside that flaunted just about everything ranging from meticulously manicured front lawns to exotic sports cars.

She remembered how Frieda often expressed her disappointment in the lack of empathy and compassion in the community, wishing the Reiss family and their associates would be a tad more charitable.

Historia liked to think Frieda would have adored her quaint little apartment; a modest way of living.

Slowing her pace down to heed the ache in her heel, Historia looked ahead and spotted the familiar lampposts established outside the brick building, decked with string lights wrapped from the base up.

At last, she had finally made it back to her humble dwelling, mentally and physically drained after a long and tediously eventful day.

Home sweet home.

Chapter Text

“Five, six, seven, eight! Come on, stay focused everyone!”

Historia could feel sweat trickling down the nape of her neck. She tuned out Nanaba’s commands to concentrate on her footing, ignoring the uncomfortable twinge of pain in her left ankle.  

“Back to the start!”

The ambiance of the rehearsal room was thick with heavy undertones of exhaustion and fatigue, charged with the typical smell of hardened lacquer.

Historia took her starting position, for the umpteenth time that day, and braced herself for what was to come, dreading the inevitability of repeating the same tedious movements over and over again as penalty for a mere slip, a slight wince, or other negligible error.

“Five, six, seven, eight!”

The large mirrors in the studio reflected the ornate array of dancers in tights and pointes, soloists and principal dancers alike. In unison, they commenced the structured routine, arms in crowns above their heads, legs fluidly pliable as the music hit a crescendo.

“One, two, three, four!” Nanaba’s voice managed to surpass the volume of the music, carrying on with her instruction. “Pivot! Stabilize!”

Historia arched her back, lowering her hands until they were sharply at level with her shoulder, keeping them flat and narrowed.

“Faster! You have to attack it!”

Chin raised, Historia examined herself in the mirror, furtively mulling over her composure. The group as a whole hadn’t surpassed this portion of the routine until now, meaning they’d made some improvements within the last few tries.

In some sort of divine form of intervention, Nanaba signaled for the music to stop and passively declared, “All right, relax. You may all take a short break.”

Historia guzzled down a bottle of water, wiping sweat from her brow before the small beads on her forehead could further accumulate. As the others dispersed into smaller groups to wretch in the despair of such a convoluted routine, the petite blonde gazed into the mirror, wide-eyed but slightly unnerved.

She tried to picture herself as Odette, the White Swan.

The lead role in Swan Lake.

Eyes still glued to the mirror, she imagined how she would execute the motions, fanning out both arms curiously. Thoughts turned to fantasies, the surreal became her innermost desire.

She wasn’t alone in her dreary reverie for long.

“Daydreaming as always, I see.” Nanaba strolled right up to her, impishly chastising the young ballerina. “How are you holding up?”

Historia let out a deep breath. “I’m okay. I’ve just… been thinking lately.”

Nanaba paused to hear her out, providing her full attention. “What about?”

Historia decided she could confide in the ballet mistress, given that their relationship was built entirely on trust.

Keeping her voice low, she replied with, “The upcoming season mostly. And… the auditions for Swan Lake.”

Still listening, Nanaba placed her hands on her hips, sensing a muted anticipation in Historia’s tone. “You nervous?”

Historia became minutely evasive, twitching her lips into a forced half-smile. “I’m more excited than anything else.” She looked away before finally revealing, “I’m going to audition for Odette.”

“Odette?” Nanaba raised a brow, then smiled at the young dancer. With the best intentions, she made an assertive remark; advice she could take to heart. “You’re not quite ready to take on a lead role, Historia.”

Historia felt herself internally deflate. In a combination of frustration and disheartened dejection, she accepted that she needed to learn to take criticism and use it as a means of striving for improvement.

Nanaba had years of experience with the company and had more than earned a respectable status as one of the best. It would behoove Historia to take her word for it, seeking counsel and guidance to help overcome this obstinate struggle.

She asked for Nanaba to expand, offer a full on critique of what exactly needed some serious upgrading.

“Is it my technique?” Historia frowned. Am I doing something wrong? I’ve worked so hard…

Nanaba shook her head. “I won’t sugarcoat it for you. The simplest way to put it, is this…”

Historia felt the knots in her stomach twist and turn, twist and turn...

“Your technique is perfect. It’s one of the best this company has to offer,” Nanaba resumed. “But you’re too obsessed with getting each and every move right. You’ve never… lost yourself in your dancing. All that discipline and for what?”

Historia’s frown only accentuated her disappointment. When she couldn’t come up with a response to the heavy revelation, Nanaba pointed something out.

“Perfection isn’t just about control. It’s also about letting go.”

The anxious blonde before her nodded, accepting the assessment.

The kid had heart, that much was obvious. If anyone in the company was truly deserving of the lead role, it was definitely Historia Reiss.

But she had to earn it.

"You lack emotion in your dancing,” Nanaba finally divulged after a fleeting silence. “Some days, you seem robotic, frigid even. You show nothing but technique. That's not what a real dancer is. That's what a technician is.” She sighed and then concluded with an urgent, “You have to find a way to let your emotions out."

Let my emotions out, Historia thought, contemplating deeply.

Truthfully, she had feelings. All kinds of emotions wreaked havoc to her psyche on the daily, but she buried them deep inside; locking them away to avoid the worst.

Because feelings hurt so damn much.

For so long, Historia had thought dance was supposed to be all about technique, precision, the movement of an arm, the extension of a leg, the flexibility of the body.

Combining emotions with her technique would prove difficult.

Still, Historia wanted to use Nanaba’s criticism constructively. Though she’d always been more of a realist, she succeeded in acknowledging the small glimmer of hope surfacing from the overgrowth of doubt and uncertainty.

“How?” She asked, seeking a possible resolution. How do I learn to let my emotions out?

Nanaba centered her attention to the pair of saddened blue eyes pleading with her. She figured if the young ballerina was willing to make the effort, perhaps she could be capable of achieving such an ambitious goal. It was a step in the right direction at least.

“You need to challenge yourself. Try new things. Step out of your comfort zone,” Nanaba listed off as she walked over to her bag and reached for a small folder. The inside of its contents were riddled with memos and slips of paper. She pulled out a few small business cards and a couple flyers, offering Historia a full variety of options. “Maybe one of these places can help you out with that.”

Historia mulled over the selection, slightly baffled.

Tap Dancing. Jazz Dancing. Ballroom Dancing…

“But these…” Historia’s voice trailed off, unable to articulate her muddled state of confusion.

“The art of dance can be interpreted in many ways,” Nanaba intercepted. “Perhaps you just need a little… perspective.”

At that, Historia nodded. If she dabbled in other styles of dance, it could aid in allowing herself to explore an assortment of expressions and sentiments.

She needed to at least try.

“Break’s over, everyone!” Nanaba declared, clapping her hands together. “From the beginning!”

Historia rushed to her position in the formation, having reached a decision.

I’ll check the studio out later tonight.

Music was engaged. Nanaba returned to her position of authority.

“And five, six, seven, eight!”


 

Historia compared the address on the flyer to the numbers above the current occupant of the small building, settled in between a couple small shops in the downtown plaza.

The sign outside read: Jaeger Studio - Ballroom Dancing. On the panel next to that were a schedule of classes, availability for private lessons, and upcoming events.

The flyer Nanaba had given her indicated the place had been family owned and operated for several generations; a quality Historia admired most about small local businesses.

With a subtle pep in each step, Historia walked into the place, the single chime of the bells above the door marking her entrance.

She stood motionless near the front desk in the entryway, looking like a lost puppy before she was greeted by a friendly young ravenette.

“Hello there. Welcome.” The girl appeared to be of similar age, tall, and possibly of Asian heritage. Historia found herself briefly imagining what her dancing looked like. “Are you here for the five o’clock fox-trot group?”

Historia shook her head and made a sheepish admission. “No, I’ve actually never been here before.”

The girl smiled, unassumingly so. “Newbie, huh?” She studied the petite blonde in her midst with intrigue. “Hmmm. You don’t strike me as someone who’s never set foot inside a studio before.” Her finger traced along her jaw, tapping it against the base of her chin in thought. “Let me guess. Line dancer? Tap dancer? You were on the drill team in high school?”

After shooting down each guess, Historia let out a soft laugh. “Ballet,” she revealed.

“My, my. A ballerina?” The girl tilted her head, a small smile tugging at her lips. “Suits you.” She extended her arm before continuing, offering the blonde a handshake. “I’m Mikasa by the way.”

The blonde gave her name in return. “Historia.”

“Well, Historia,” Mikasa stepped away from the front desk and beckoned the new arrival to follow with a slight nod, “allow me to give you the full tour.”

The tour only took about five minutes, given the cumbersome size of the studio and limited amenities encased within the establishment. Historia found the cozy interior rather charming, what with the oak-finished hardwood floors, the mirrors devoid of any imperfections, and collections of photographs capturing the sweetest of sentiments pertaining to the studio’s history.

People of all walks of life had come to this very place with friends and family to hone their skills, prepare for an upcoming wedding, or just to pick up a new hobby and have fun.

Though she felt perfectly at ease, Historia had yet to scope out the other studios, believing it would be best to keep her options open.

I’ll keep this place in mind, she thought, preparing to thank Mikasa for her time and then promptly head out.

Before she could, however, a guest of sorts barged into the studio, stumbling inside with peculiar urgency.

“Sorry I’m late!” He dashed past the two girls, tossing an athletic bag against an adjacent wall as he began slipping off his shoes.

Mikasa rolled her eyes, tone dull and unfazed. “Foxtrot doesn’t start for another ten minutes.”

“I know but…” An elusive pause intercepted his reply. The poor guy was stressing out. “Dad trusted me to take his place as lead instructor. We have a full class tonight and I want to make a good impression!”

Historia watched as he turned to face the mirror, fixing mussed up dark brown hair. Taking him in from top to bottom, she struggled to tear her eyes away from the rather enthralling sight. Warmly tanned skin complemented each feature, his muscles lean and well-developed. He was significantly taller than she, imagining her head to be at level with his chest if she were to somehow find herself standing next to him.

Mikasa was in the middle of yelling at him to use the dressing rooms when he suddenly threw off his shirt, his half-assed reason being: “I don’t have time! Besides, I’ve been dying to get out of that shirt all day.”

Still shirtless, he abruptly came to a stop upon catching a glimpse of the girl at Mikasa’s side. A well-meaning smile etched on his face, he turned and waved, keeping casual about the whole thing.

Historia felt her face turn bright red, realizing she may have been staring at his abs too long.

“Newbie, huh?” He chuckled, parroting Mikasa’s exact words from earlier. “Hi. I’m Eren.”

Mikasa facepalmed herself, berating her adopted brother’s carefree antics. “Eren is the village-idiot around here… but we love him.”

“Love you, too, Mika.” Eren, done with his frantic wardrobe alteration, approached Historia intently. “Nice to meet you, Miss…?”

“Historia,” the blonde finished for him, awkwardly accepting his handshake.

The guy was weird.

Cute.

But weird.

“Historia is a ballerina,” Mikasa hummed, elbowing Eren before wandering off to the front desk.

Eren’s smile grew wider. “A ballerina? Is that so?”

His hopelessly dorky smile was enough to convince a tentative Historia he had more than earned his title as ‘village idiot.’

“I was trained at Sina Ballet Academy for fifteen years,” Historia explained, wanting to keep it short and simple.

Eren whistled. “Nice.” With a smirk, he added, “but what kind of training have you had in Ballroom dancing?”

Historia blinked a few times at his question.

“Waltz? Swing? Rumba? Salsa?” Eren listed off a variety of styles as though he’d eventually hit the mark.

But Historia only shook her head.

“Then you came to the right place!” Came his enthusiastic remark. “In fact, you can sit-in and watch the foxtrot group lesson just to get a feel for-”

Historia cut in, not quite ready to commit to anything just yet. “Thank you, but I have a prior engagement to tend to this evening.” The harmless fib wasn’t entirely deceitful, as she required the proper nourishment and rest to recuperate from the day’s lengthy routines and strenuous exercise.

Eren rubbed his chin, maintaining an optimistic demeanor whilst taking a tactful approach to comprising a sensible offer.

“Tell you what," he began, "How about you join us tomorrow evening for the six o’clock Swing class and try us out. Free of charge." He paused, then quickly added, "and if it’s not your thing, then no hard feelings.”

Quite the charmer he was. Had it not been for his eager smile, his emerald green eyes, and genuine enthusiasm, Historia might have walked out of the place without so much as a second thought.

But he was asking her so nicely, so politely, so sweetly… she couldn’t reject his proposal.

Against her better judgment, she faintly returned his smile and gave in.

She needed to take chances if she wanted to transcend her limited way of thinking.

“Six o’clock,” she relayed back to him. “I’ll be here.”

Chapter Text

As promised, Historia arrived at the Jaeger family-owned studio precisely at six on the dot.

Earlier that day, she had endured strenuous training consisting of countless jetes and pas de chats, testing the limits of her hamstrings and thighs. Her balance was impeccably smooth, her concentration always right on the mark.

But under the supervision of Galliard, a choreographer filling in for Nanaba that particular session, he only conveyed his disdain for her lack of emotion, calling her dancing too technical, cold, and lacking stimulation.

Historia was determined to change that.

As the light footsteps of her pumps clicked in a trail inside the studio, she immediately gaped at the turnout. Several couples were already warming up and a few stragglers were filing out of the dressing rooms having changed into more fitting attire.

Historia glanced at the mirror to examine her choice of clothing for the evening’s lesson.

White button down blouse, the sleeves rolled half-way up. A flowy mid-length skirt, allowing the lower portion of her legs room to breathe freely. Small onyx pumps were to replace the current pair she had on now.

When she looked around, she realized she might have over-dressed for the event. Most of the dancing enthusiasts were wearing casual clothes, only a nominal few decked in skirts and sporting vibrant colors reminiscent of the roaring ‘20s.

They must have been a special kind of weird.

After slipping on her extra pair of pumps, Historia was startled by the sudden emergence of her temporary instructor for the lesson.

“Hey! You made it!” Eren pulled her in for a quick hug, way too excited than Historia thought her attendance had warranted.

Side note, Eren was a hugger apparently.

“Yeah.” The dubious look on Historia’s face reflected her internal crisis. In the ballet rehearsal rooms, she felt free like a nymph or a mythical sprite floating above air; because she knew what to expect and how exactly to execute the structured routines.  

She felt like a fish out of water in this place. The furthest extent of any ballroom dancing she’d had in her life was at weddings or pompous Reiss family engagements; events she either skipped out on completely after barely five minutes or sat down in silent agony, watching from a bland seated position on a chair or an elegant sofa as others danced the night away.

In other words; none.

Her determination to succeed came back when Eren let out a playful taunt, pulling her from her reverie.

“Think you can handle tonight, Angelina Ballerina?”

Normally, Historia played nice with strangers and people she had just met- If the amiable gestures were reciprocated. She figured Eren probably saw her as no more than the stereotype ditzy blonde, a snooty ballerina, or a feisty dancer barely reaching five feet in height.

She would gladly prove him wrong.

“Of course,” Historia replied confidently, fixing her hair into a low ponytail. “How hard could it be?” If she survived all those years of torturous training at the ballet academy, tonight would be a piece of cake.

Eren threw his hands up in defense. “All right.” He rubbed the back of his neck, a tranquil grin etched on his face. “Just remember that this is supposed to be fun. Relax and enjoy yourself. It’s the most important thing when it comes to dancing. Especially when dancing with a partner.”

Speaking of which, Historia realized she didn’t have a partner. The thought of being paired up with a stranger was unsettling. What if they couldn’t keep up with her? What if she couldn’t keep up with them? What if they were too tall? What if their rhythms were out of sync?

Before she could scout a possible companion from the large group of people ahead of her, Eren hatched an idea.

“Mikasa’s going to be teaching this class and she’s usually my dance partner.” He paused, hoping Historia would catch his drift. “Which means I’m available… if you want.”

Historia decided there were worse things that could happen to her. Besides, she was curious to see what kind of dancer he was. Clumsy and awkward? Or smooth and polished?

It had to have been one or the other. There couldn’t possibly be any sort of middle-ground.

Historia nodded in agreement. “Okay. Fine. I’ll partner up with you.”

Eren smiled like a kid in a candy store, catching her off guard when her heart briefly fluttered.

He’s so… weird.

Together, they walked to meet up with the rest of the group as class was about to start. That’s when instructor Mikasa turned on the music and began encouraging warm-ups.

“Let’s get started, everyone!”


 

Elvis Presley’s Jailhouse Rock was booming through the speakers as swinging hips and upturned lips filled the room with vivacious energy and liveliness.

Mid-dance, Eren had explained to Historia the basics of East Coast Swing, the variation Mikasa chose to focus on for the evening’s lesson.

“East coast swing has a six count basic step,” he informed her. “Follow my lead.”

After watching him demonstrate the pattern several times, Historia felt she was picking up on it fairly quickly.

Rock step, step, step…

Step, step, rock step…

“That’s it!” Eren commended her. “You’re getting there.”

On the downbeat of the music, Historia followed Eren’s lead to the letter, relieved that they were in sync with one another. As he stepped back with his left foot, she mirrored his movements precisely, stepping back with her right foot. Shifting his weight to his right foot, she reciprocated and shifted hers to her left foot.

Back and forth, rocking, leaning. Historia had the footwork down to a T.

Her tactical approach, however, had Eren comment on her mechanical-looking mobilization.

“Loosen up just a little,” he encouraged her. “You look so tense.”

So I’ve been told… Historia thought, not wanting to break her concentration.

When a new tune had fired up, On Revival Day by LaVer Baker, Eren declared they were ready to move on with the routine.

“Okay, ready to add a few turns?” he asked, taking her hands gently in anticipation.

Historia nodded, assuming the proper stance.

Following his lead once more, she was able to pick up his subtle cues and turned the moment his arm raised itself above her head. Their height difference made the execution ten times easier, the twists and turns impeccably flawless.

“All those ballet recitals certainly paid off, huh?” Eren chuckled, his playful remark earning a perturbed eye roll from the blonde. When he saw her expression become stone-faced, his soft laughter dissipated. “Relax, I mean that as a compliment. You’re doing well.”

Another turn.

Rock step, step, step.

Historia was fixated on her footing, focused more on herself rather than her partner.

Eren slipped a hand around her waist when she turned into him, causing her to jolt in a minor panic attack, barely managing to contain a squeal from escaping her mouth.

“You okay?” he asked, alarmed by her reaction. “Didn’t mean to startle you.”

Historia gulped and then resumed her position. “Let’s… pick up on the downbeat again.” She hoped she hadn’t come off as terse or brash. She also hoped he hadn’t noticed how red her cheeks were.

By the time Shake, Rattle, and Roll had begun, Historia quickly adjusted to keep up with the quickened pace.

“Lookin’ good, everybody!” Mikasa called out above the music, satisfied with the progress they were making. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Eren and Historia showing up the entirety of the class.

Historia’s dancing was nothing short of amazing and she seemed a good fit for Eren.

She was glad that they seemed to be communicating half-way decently having just met the day before.

In another setting, Eren watched as his partner pivoted on her heels, stepped in tandem with the rhythm, and turned at his beckoning. Initially, it was all so… formulated; like there was no feeling to her swayed motions.

She could dance that much was true, but something seemed to be holding her back…

She wasn’t smiling for one thing, her face blank and empty.

Eren wanted to ensure all was at ease. “How are you holding up?”

Historia looked up, obsessed with perfecting each and every single step. In an instant she looked away and mouthed a curt, “Good.”

At that moment, she missed the next beat, throwing her momentum off balance. She feared she might trip over herself, closing her eyes in despair as her legs gave way to the fall.

That’s when Eren, and all his god-given reflexes, caught her in his arms.

She gasped, eyes still glued shut.

“Don’t worry, I got you,” Eren smiled, holding her tenderly. When she opened her eyes, she realized his face was mere inches apart from hers.

Her heart was racing, thumping wildly against her chest. Slowly, she distanced herself from him, realigning her feet back to the starting position. She was about to reach for his hands again when she felt him release her hair from the restraints of her ponytail.

Another small gasp escaped her lips.

Eren marveled at her golden locks, finally taking her hands in his to resume dancing.

“You should leave your hair down,” he commented, hoping it would help her open up a bit more. “It looks nice.”

Historia was appalled at his bold move, but found herself loosening up with her hair freely flowing in all its glory. It felt more natural.

She averted his gaze and insisted they return to the lesson.

Step, step, rock step.

Turn. Shift. Pivot.

Rock step, step, step.


 

The hour was up. The class had ended.

Mikasa was talking to a group of regulars, announcing that next week would focus on West Coast Swing; her personal favorite. Eren joined them, a bottle of water in hand, and offered Mikasa a high-five for another great night as an instructor.

Historia gathered her belongings and slipped off her pumps in favor of more comfortable walking shoes.

She had yet to decide if she would come back, conflicted about whether or not she’d see any improvement. Still wary about the upcoming audition, she sighed deeply, fearing she’d come across a dead-end.

What am I supposed to do now?

Bag slung over her shoulder, she headed for the door but was abruptly stopped by an overly-enthused green-eyed force of nature.

“So what did you think?” he asked, puppy-eyed and a tad sweaty. “Think you’ll be sticking around?”

Historia gave him an honest response. “I’m not sure this is really my scene.”

Eren was quick to offer a thoughtful reply after a temporary silence. “You’re an amazing dancer. You have a gift… I can see that.” With a pondering smile, he shrugged and continued offering his perspective. “I don’t know what your intentions are exactly, but whatever reason you came here for is perfectly valid.” He paused cautiously before finishing off with, “I want to help in any way I can.”

Hearing him say that brought comfort. He seemed so sure of himself, like he genuinely wanted to support her and was confident in her abilities. This kind of solace was what she needed if she wanted to make progress and evolve in her dancing.

Amid her inward contemplation, the question suddenly shifted from whether or not she should to whether or not she would.

Should I?

Maybe.

I suppose I have nothing to lose…

True.

Except time…

Fair enough.

Would this whole endeavor be worth it?

Historia, thinking back on the memory of her sister, certainly hoped so.

She could imagine Frieda encouraging her to just go for it, insisting she ought to put herself out there and try new things.

Fine.

This was strictly for the betterment of her career, her future as a ballerina.

Albeit somewhat reluctantly, Historia ultimately relented.

“Where do I sign up for the next lesson?”

Chapter Text

Sina City Ballet Co.

"Okay, ladies and gentlemen. From the top. Plié, plié, cambré, ronds de jambes, tendus, fourth position and to start."

Historia took hold of the barre again, as Nifa, the ballet mistress, enunciated the exercises the dancers were to perform. They all started the same way, every day. Exercises at the barre, then center practice, until the dancers were dispatched in groups or for solo lessons. It was part of their ritual, to continue learning and maintain a prestigiously high level of technicity.

Historia Reiss was no stranger to pain. Hours and hours of training, of dancing on pointe shoes, of bending on barres, of stretching the muscles to the extreme, had reinforced the palpable fortitude of her muscles.

The choreography wasn't the most difficult she had performed, but it required so much concentration and strength- and she wanted to unapologetically dominate it; to prove she could do it, with the whole 'put your emotions into your dancing' critique.

It was becoming less of distraction day by day, but the occasional glance at the mirror was enough to revert her thoughts back to her obsession with control.

She failed to realize she was still in training when-

"Historia? You still with us?" Nifa's voice pulled her from her mindless reverie. She looked around, taking in the rest of the class casually waiting for the next routine, and realized she was still in demi-plié, having completely forgotten to go on with the moves.

"Yes. Sorry, Madame." Historia exhaled deeply. "It won't happen again."


Solo lessons were next on the agenda, about an hour's worth of one-on-one time for each dancer to be paired up with a personal trainer depending on their needs and level of expertise.

Historia was to train with Nanaba as usual, allowing for the taller blonde to check in on how things were going with her 'side training;' or so she called it.

Historia nursed the strain above her kneecap as she debriefed Nanaba as simply and quickly as she could, sparing her the monotonous details about her newfound… dance partner.

"Ballroom dancing? You don't say…" Nanaba seemed impressed with her choice, like it was the right choice.

"Yeah," Historia sighed. "It's not as easy as it looks. I have to follow the six-step count to the letter or the whole thing gets messy. And then if your partner is on a different rhythm-"

Nanaba allowed Historia to drone on for a bit, lost in the technicalities of it all. When she was finished offering her brief take on her experience, a question arose.

"Are you enjoying it thus far?" Nanaba enquired, hands on her hips.

Historia paused, realizing the whole point of her attending the lessons had been completely dismissed on her part.

"I…" Historia tilted her head in hesitation, opting to answer somewhat evasively. "I've just always been a perfectionist when it comes to my dancing. I enjoy it when it's done right."

"I can see that," Nanaba replied. "But don't be too hard on yourself when you make mistakes. Dancing isn't always about perfection, Historia. It's an art-form, of course, but it's only natural to struggle as you learn things along the way."

Historia nodded, unsure what else to say.

"Besides," Nanaba continued, "on a practical level, your dancing is perfect. It merely lacks the single most important element that any work of art must evoke."

Let me guess. "Emotion?" Historia pointed out dejectedly, accepting it as truth.

Nanaba smiled, satisfied with Historia's ability to receive criticism well. What she did with it, would ultimately be the deciding factor as to whether or not she would get the lead role in Swan Lake.

"You know what you must do," Nanaba affirmed. "Now let's get started, shall we?"


Jaeger Ballroom Studio

"That's it! Much better, everyone!"

Mikasa Ackerman clapped along with the music, its tempo rapidly rising as she commended the couples in attendance for their wonderful implementation of the West Coast Swing.

Historia had once again paired up with Eren, finding it a little easier to communicate with him during their partnership than in previous nights.

"Side Pass. Push Break. Whip!"

At the end of the song, Mikasa paused the music and addressed the exhausted couples before her, each using the opportunity to stretch and relax.

"Let's take a breather for a moment," she said, eyes wandering over to Eren and Historia. In an instant, a clever idea of sorts suddenly came to light. "In the meantime, I'd like to show you all something."

Mikasa gestured towards Eren, snapping her fingers to get his attention. "Eren. You and Historia come up to the front."

Eren obliged her request, looking back at Historia with an expression that encouraged her to follow his lead.

Historia curiously trailed behind Eren, wondering what the ravenette had in mind.

"Everyone," Mikasa declared, "Eren and Historia are going to demonstrate the proper technique. Watch their movements, and pay close attention to the way they align perfectly together." She looked at the pair positioned next to her, a dubious look on the petite blonde's face. "This is what the West Coast Swing should look like."

With that, Mikasa picked up the remote, and no sooner than she pressed the 'on' button had Buddy Morrow's rendition of One Mint Julep began.

Historia was no stranger to performing in front of others, but when Eren readied himself before her, smiling wide as ever, she felt strangely… nervous; her heart fluttering.

Eren could read her like an open book. "No need to be shy," he whispered, reaching for her hand. "There's a reason Mikasa is having you demonstrate the correct form."

Historia tilted her head curiously. "You mean us."

Eren shook his head, chuckling. "Trust me when I say these people couldn't care less about me." He nodded towards their newly formed audience. "All eyes are on you."

He was right. Everyone had their attention fixated on her, and the sudden realization was both shocking and flattering. When she turned into him, he was quick to sneak in one last sentiment, as though whispering sweet nothings in her ear.

"They love the way you dance."

Historia internally chastised herself for blushing like a crazed schoolgirl. These foreign emotions felt so juvenile; but a part of her felt liberated all the same. It gave her a boost in confidence, and all the jitters from before began slowly dissipating away with each step and each twist, finding herself wrapped in Eren's arms.

As she and the brunet glided along the hardwood floors, Historia naturalized the rhythm to her footwork, balancing the six-count basics with the patterns supplemented in underarm passes and push breaks. Her shoulders loosened up, her hair was falling at full-length freely, and much to her surprise, a small smile had played on the corners of her mouth.

At the end of their impromptu performance, the entire class gave Eren and Historia a round of applause, fascinated with the blonde newcomer's gifted abilities.

"And that, ladies and gentlemen," Mikasa praised, clasping her hands together, "is how you West Coast Swing."


Rain had been in the forecast for the evening, but even so, Historia was disappointed in such inclement weather. The downpour would prove difficult to walk in, given that her bus-stop was a few blocks away. From there, she would arrive at the light rail station and head home, adding a little over half an hour to her commute.

A single clap of thunder echoed above the night sky.

I get to walk in this mess. Historia thought dreadfully. Yay.

Mikasa was mopping the floor, preparing to close up for the night when Eren emerged from the men's dressing rooms, having stocked and cleaned up its utilities.

"Are you heading straight home after closing, Mika?" He asked, mid stride.

Mikasa shook her head, still tending to the mop in her hands. "I'm meeting up with a friend for dinner."

Eren rolled his eyes, laughing a single beat. "Oh. Right. That." He gathered the last of his belongings before wishing her well. "Have fun. Be safe."

"Will do. Always am," she replied stoically.

Eren might have overlooked Historia's presence, had she not bid Mikasa 'goodnight' before leaving. In a cordial gesture of well-meaning chivalry, he quickly leapt in front of the blonde and opened the door for her.

"I'll walk you out," he offered.

"Thanks," Historia said quietly, stepping outside onto the sidewalk.

The rain continued to pour in a flickering haze, devastating Historia when she realized she had forgotten her umbrella. Eren pulled up alongside her, offering cover from his own.

She conveyed her appreciation with an amiable smile.

"So," Eren began, walking in the direction of the parking lot, "where'd you park at?"

Historia momentarily slowed her pace down. "I took the bus."

"Oh," was Eren's only reply. And then, "well how long until the next bus arrives?"

Historia glanced at her phone, checking the time. "Another fifteen minutes."

"Fifteen minutes? Out in the rain?" Eren's voice carried a concerned tone, incredulity ridden beneath his captivating emerald green eyes. "I don't mind giving you a ride home."

His suggestion was tempting, and when another clap of thunder struck with a vengeance, it ultimately sealed the deal.

Historia didn't hesitate after that. "You're a lifesaver."


The drive to Historia's apartment was an eye-opener.

Eren navigated along roads she'd never travelled on, through neighborhoods she'd never seen, and past rows of small shops and cafes she'd heard of but never visited. Her family had warned her to stay away from this 'questionable' part of town, but by all means it was just a typical middle-class suburban district.

An eye-opener it was indeed, as well as another reason she distanced herself from the Reiss's.

"So you mentioned you trained in ballet for fifteen years." Eren's voice broke the calm silence, seeking to inquire more about the girl in his midst. "You still dance?"

Historia nodded, exuding confidence and pride with a heartfelt sigh. "I dance for the Sina City Ballet Company."

"So you're a professional ballerina?" Eren clarified. "Guess I shouldn't be all that surprised. I figured maybe it was only a hobby, but your dancing is far beyond any amateur I've seen. And you…" he paused for a moment, then chuckled.

"What?" Historia asked, raising a brow impishly.

"You look like that type," Eren finished off with an amused huff. Translation: You look like a ballerina.

Historia beamed in nostalgia at that, mumbling to herself. "People used to say the same thing to my sister."

"Your sister dances, too?"

Danced, Historia thought, despondent.

And when Frieda danced, it was like poetry…

Like a song. Like music from heaven above.

All of her performances were masterpieces, her strokes enchanting, her jetes mesmerizing.

Frieda could have been the Fonteyn of her generation.

Historia snapped out of her blurred trance when they came to a stoplight, Eren's question still hanging in the air, unanswered.

She nodded her head slowly, looking over at him with a wistful smile. "She's the reason I wanted to learn to dance," she finally said. "I wanted to be just like her."

Chapter Text

Rain from the night before still lingered in disparate remnants, leaving behind puddles riddled along the streets and muddying the earth in the wake of the storm.

The light breeze carried a rich aroma that evoked hints of cedar from surrounding foliage combined with the hefty scent of asphalt, lifting higher still above the air in light steam above the roads. It was almost as if the entire cityscape and terrain had undergone a cleansing.

The heavy rain offered solace to an exhausted Historia, having fallen asleep to the pattering of water droplets tapping against the window.

When she woke up that particular morning, lifting herself up into a stretch, the first thing that came to mind was her upcoming lesson at the Jaeger Ballroom Studio.

As per her usual morning routine, Historia carefully made her bed, turned on the radio to her favorite classical station, and headed into the tiny kitchenette. In preparation for the strenuous dancing activities on the day's agenda, she whipped up a quick breakfast, one commonly recommended for dancers in training at the ballet company.

Coffee. Eggs. Grapefruit.

With the eggs still cooking on the pan above the stove, her eyes wandered to the calendar hanging adjacent to an array of cabinets. The nerve-wracking date was circled and highlighted, assuming utmost importance among her long list of priorities.

Auditions for Swan Lake were three weeks away.

Contemplative over the matter, Historia reflected on her training thus far; both at the ballet company with choreographers and fellow ballerinas… and with Eren at the family-owned studio.

Though both were challenging in their respective ways, she pondered the possibility that maybe, just maybe, learning techniques from ballroom dancing had been proving more useful than she had initially presumed. Aside from attaining a newfound respect for ballroom dancing enthusiasts, a newfound admiration had also sparked.

As Nanaba and countless others had suggested, dabbling in simplistic treasures like Foxtrot, West Coast Swing, and the Tango were slowly but surely allowing Historia to gradually challenge herself. Truth be told, there were still a few things she feared were holding her back.

But at the very least, progress was being made. She could settle with that for now.

The eggs were ready to become a part of her nearly complete breakfast. Her fresh cup of coffee was steaming and the grapefruit had been divided into several slices. Prancing about the kitchenette in footsteps learned from the studio, she grabbed a plate from an overhead cabinet and retrieved a fork from a drawer below.

Rock Step. Step. Step.

At this point, it couldn't be helped. Most mornings, she'd frolic from her bed to the veranda to the kitchenette like it was ingrained in her brain; programmed from some sort of muscle memory. Even now, with a full plate of food in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other, her feet were still stepping to an inaudible beat, her head counting along with an imaginary six-step rhythm.

They say never take your work home with you, but Historia enjoyed performing mini-rehearsals in her small apartment, the occasional thud nearly knocking over a lamp or potted plant in close proximity.

She learned to be careful after a few mishaps.

Historia set her breakfast down on the counter and scooted up alongside in a barstool. Eating alone never truly bothered her, and she found the solitude peaceful at times.

She remembered mornings with her sister had been quiet, nothing more than gentle smiles and unspoken bonding exchanged between them. Between sips of milk and the layering of maple syrup over hot pancakes fresh from the griddle were soft giggles, Frieda's hands running through strands of her golden blonde hair, and the wiping of crumbs from the corner of her mouth with a napkin.

It was from Frieda that Historia learned how to act proper and ladylike. How to wear a smile with confidence. How to walk with a self-assured posture, poised and balanced with each step.

Frieda epitomized 'beauty and grace' like no other. Yet she was humble and kind.

Through her humility, Historia also had learned the 'Golden Rule,' and to always be mindful of the less fortunate. Charity had been another passion of hers.

A pure-hearted soul, too good for this world.

Historia was quick to dismiss the thoughts, popping another slice of grapefruit into her mouth.

Amid her nostalgic reverie, Piotr Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings in C Major carried its pleasant melody throughout her apartment, reminding her of how empty it felt at times.

She really missed Frieda.


Jaeger Ballroom Studio

Today's agenda… Mambo.

Historia caught an early bus and arrived at the Jaeger Studio half an hour before the next class. She had no idea what to expect from the day's upcoming lesson given that her knowledge on the style of dancing was limited to Lou Bega's Mambo Number Five, which at the very least, was a cover of the original mambo song by composer Perez Prado.

Still, it was hardly a sliver of anything to go on.

When Historia strolled inside the studio, she was welcomed with quite the curious sight.

Accompanied by slow sultry music reminiscent of a classy but bygone era, Mikasa was engaged in a passionate dance with a mystery partner. The man gliding along the floor with her had his gaze locked onto the raven-haired beauty before him, an intense look that Historia associated with that of feverish romance.

They were dancing so close, their wandering hands were held above trepid places, and the aura emitted from the heated affair radiated immense sexual tension.

Historia wondered if she should run off and hide somewhere, feeling as though she'd practically walked in on two people making love.

Before she could, the song had ended, with the man lowering Mikasa in one final flourish, catching her graceful fall with one hand gripped on her thigh provocatively.

They stayed entwined in one another's arms, hands cupping the other's face. Historia feared she was about to witness a full-on make-out session when the man suddenly caught a glimpse of the blonde in their midst.

With a prideful smirk, he whispered into Mikasa's ear, "It appears we have an audience."

At that, Mikasa turned around to face the unprecedented guest, only to be relieved it wasn't her adoptive brother Eren, come to tease her or thwart hordes of childish jokes her way.

"Hello, Historia," she greeted amiably. "You're early…" Her voice trailed off, separating herself from her dance partner so as not to make the situation anymore awkward than it may have been.

"I caught an early bus," Historia replied, unsure what else to say in lieu of the circumstances.

Mikasa nodded at her response. "I see. Well, feel free to begin warming up before class starts. Eren will be here soon."

The man at her side rolled his eyes and scoffed at the mention of her adoptive brother's name. "That would be my cue to leave."

He walked over to the coat rack by the front desk and reached for his jacket. Mikasa joined him, chuckling impishly. "Leaving so soon? Eren's going to be so disappointed. He was hoping you could be his dance partner for today's lesson," she teased.

"That's cute," the man huffed, then placed a chaste kiss on her cheek before turning to leave. "I'll pick you up for dinner at eight?"

Mikasa nodded and smiled. "It's a date."

With that confirmation, he strolled out the door and headed up the sidewalk, disappearing from view.

Historia watched as Mikasa's expression went from humored to lovelorn.

And that exact moment is when it dawned on her.

After examining their dance together, Historia pieced the evidence bit by bit, coming to a remarkable conclusion. Mikasa had looked so at ease, so trusting, so vulnerable in her partner's arms. The bond appeared unbreakable, the passion so heated, their movements in perfect harmony.

It wasn't their abilities or skills in the art-form that essentially allowed for her to revel in the release.

Rather, it was their deep emotional connection- conveyed not through the emptiness of words, but through the music and the motions of their dance.

Historia sought to confirm her theory by asking Mikasa directly.

"Mikasa?" Her calm voice had the ravenette's attention almost immediately, her tone inquisitive. "When you dance…" She paused, eyes filled with intrigue. "How do you… How do you manage to…?"

Mikasa tilted her head, waiting for Historia to finish.

"You dance with heart," Historia finally managed, sighing. "How do you get yourself to open up like that?"

Before Mikasa could answer, the familiar green-eyed brunet made his entrance from the dressing rooms, having heard bits and pieces of their conversation.

"It's because she's in love," Eren sang, taunting Mikasa with a playful grin.

Mikasa couldn't stop the blood from rushing to her cheeks, brushing Eren's comments off as she pivoted on her heel.

"I'm going to get a few things ready for class," she said, hastily walking away.

Historia looked back and forth between the adoptive siblings, noting the contrast in the dynamics of their relationship when compared to that of her own with Frieda.

Frieda wasn't much a tease or prankster, whereas Eren and Mikasa openly jested with one another, like it was routine.

Still, she found herself curious as to the meaning behind Eren's remark from earlier. Was Mikasa really in love with that mystery guy?

As if he had read her mind, Eren explained the circumstances involving Mikasa's minor case of embarrassment nonchalantly.

"Mikasa's been bitten by the love bug." He suppressed a laugh so as not to irritate a certain raven-haired dame. "Whether she wants to admit it or not, she was completely smitten with Levi at first sight."

Historia realized then and there, her theory had been confirmed.

Mikasa found it easy to open herself up in her dancing because of Levi.

"They dance beautifully together," Historia mumbled softly, to which Eren nodded in agreement.

"Well, when you meet someone special," Eren drawled, "it can open up your entire world."

His vibrant green eyes turned to look at her, the adorable expression on his face catching her off guard. Her heart fluttered at the smile grazing his lips, his words still sinking in.

A blush arose, her entire face burning bright crimson. Historia only wished she could tear her eyes away but couldn't, already too deep in his captivating trance.

And just like that, Eren broke the spike in tension by clapping his hands together, insistent that Historia follow his lead.

"We still have some time to spare," he declared, looking back at her over his shoulder, "so how about we get started with some warm-ups?"

Historia collected herself, trailing behind him with resolve.

"Sounds good," she stated affirmatively.

She found herself looking forward to this more than she had expected.

Chapter Text

White light slices the darkness.

It finds the White Swan poised on one foot, her arms rigid and her gaze downcast. Slowly, she glances up, and her vibrant blue eyes widen in awe, carefully appraising the audience.

Her tutu is opaque, decorated in white feathers and large rhinestones in addition to a crown with a tulle veil. She resonates grace, innocence, and purity with her dancing, qualities of a true angel.

A goddess.

The delicate harmonies of a harp punctuate her footsteps. The slow, hesitant build in the melody is complemented by an eager counterpoint, striving for balance.

The White Swan looks up once more, only to be taken aback by an emptied concert hall.

The vast space morphs into a blank void, not a single person in sight.


Historia brazenly jolted herself awake.

It was… only a dream.

A recurring dream.

Odette, the White Swan, once again came to haunt her in her sleep.

Her desire to fulfill her ambitions had been fueled ten-fold, her determination unwavering.

Auditions were just under three weeks away, but she vowed to claim the title of 'Swan Queen.'


Sina City Ballet Co.

Morning rehearsal proved especially difficult.

On top of the rigorous exercises, symptoms alluding heavily to the lack of sleep were taking a toll on the exhausted Historia, her usual sharp movements a tad delayed. The blame fell on the spontaneous pattern of her dreams, some more dreadful than others, evocative of painful memories of her past.

Sometimes, she'd be dancing in them, as was the case the night before.

Other times… Frieda would be in them, only to disappear as quickly and mysteriously as she'd appeared in the first place.

It was all so… emotionally draining.

Conducting a series of stretches with the other dancers, Historia turned her head at the sudden arrival of Nanaba, come to make an important announcement.

Everyone gathered around to listen, a combination of shock and enthusiasm swirling among them upon hearing the news.

For the audition pieces, the ladies would be performing 'Odette's Variation' from Act Two. The gentlemen were to perform 'Prince Siegfried's variation from the first act.

Finally, some relief for the frustrated blonde.

Memorizing dances down to the core came naturally to Historia. Being both a visual and a physical learner, learning the proper movements to varying sequences posed hardly any challenge at all.

Now that she was aware what piece would be required for the upcoming auditions, all that mattered was her execution.

"Ladies," Nanaba called above the eruption of chatter among the dancers, "follow me to rehearsal studio three. Today's emphasis will be on learning Odette's variation."

With that, the male and female dancers were separated into their respective groups. Historia ambled away with the intention of catching up to Nanaba but was greeted by a longtime friend and fellow dancer before she could make haste.

Loud-mouth and nonchalant as always, Ymir strolled up alongside her, a casual grin etched on her face.

"Not to put any pressure on you or anything," the tall, freckled girl began, "but rumor has it the director's been eyeing you for the role of Odette."

Historia slowed her pace down, skeptical of the remark.

"I've heard the same thing about Hitch," Historia replied. "I know she's been vying for the role ever since they announced open auditions."

Ymir shook her head. "Hitch is a good dancer, but she's not a great dancer. If I were you, I wouldn't worry about her in the slightest."

Historia rolled her eyes. "I'm not trying to turn this into a competition."

"You do realize that's basically the point of an audition, right?" Ymir scoffed. "You're essentially competing for a role that only one person can have."

Thanks for the pep-talk, Ymir. "Right."

"All I'm saying," Ymir chuckled, wrapping her arm around Historia's shoulder, "is that I'm rooting for you. You shouldn't stress yourself out."

Deep down, Historia knew Ymir was right. Unwarranted stress would merely distract her from the ultimate goal. Never mind the fact that it's not exactly great for one's health and well-being.

"You have it in you. You're dedicated and your technique is flawless," Ymir reassured her.

If Historia had a nickel for every time she heard that…

"But let me guess," Historia sighed dejectedly, making assumptions on what Ymir was about to say next. "I need to dance with more… feeling?"

"What the?" Ymir let out a small laugh, mocking Historia's supposition. "Actually, in the past few rehearsals alone, I've noticed some serious changes in the way you… express yourself."

Historia raised a brow, partially confused, partially hopeful. "You have?"

Ymir nodded. "You actually smile during rehearsals, for one thing," Ymir began, "and you seem less frigid." With a shrug, she chuckled and added a quick, "Whatever you've been doing, it's definitely helped you make progress in that aspect."

Another relief for the blonde!

Deciding she could confide in Ymir, Historia sought to share her recent experimentation in other styles of dancing with her, more than happy to divulge the details of it all.

"Well, I took up ballroom dancing to… enhance my perspective," Historia explained.

Ymir furrowed her brows. "Thanks for the invite! You've probably been dancing with nothing but a bunch of weirdos."

Just one weirdo…

"Actually," Historia hummed, "I have a… dance partner of sorts." Thoughts roamed around her head, thoughts of Eren and how their dancing complemented one another, like they were balanced. "He and I dance really well together."

"He?" Ymir huffed, an impish smirk plastered on her face after studying Historia's softened expression. "Ha! Now it all makes sense."

"What makes sense?"

"You're completely smitten by this guy, aren't you?"

"That's not even remotely close to what I just said!"

Ymir waved her off, laughing all the same. "Oh, honey, please! It's written all over your perfect little angelic face!"

The burst of laughter had every head turned curiously their way, to which the petite blonde face-palmed herself.

Historia groaned, muttering, "There's nothing going on. We're just dance partners…"

"Well okay, hon," Ymir cooed, giving Historia a sly wink. "I'm happy for you either way. We're always on each other's side, right?"

That they were, as Ymir was practically family; one of the few dancers in the company Historia considered herself close with. Their bond had been strong from that start, strengthened further still over years and years of training together. Although she was insufferable at times, Historia admired how genuine and supportive she was. Deep down, Ymir was a softie, and she had always stayed true to her word on looking out for her.

Ymir had even been there when Frieda…

"I'm aiming for the role of Odile. I think it would suit me very well," Ymir suddenly quipped, diverting Historia's inward contemplation on their relationship back to reality.

Her sudden remark had Historia briefly imagine Ymir as the Black Swan… seducing the audience with her dark and mysterious aura; reflective of several features of her own personality.

It was ideal casting, to say the least.

Historia nodded in agreement. "When auditions roll around, you'll blow them away."

Ymir smiled in satisfaction, arm still draped along Historia's shoulder. "We will."

The two entered their assigned rehearsal room synonymously, setting their banter aside to prepare for the impending training, but not before Ymir added one last sentiment.

"By the way, let me know if this guy gives you any trouble so I can kick his ass."

Chaotic good.


Jaeger Ballroom Studio

Historia had been sure to take it easy for the evening's lesson at the Jaeger Ballroom Studio.

Though the routine for the upcoming audition weighed heavily on her mind, she managed to maintain a neutral demeanor while learning the Waltz from Eren.

This style in particular instantly became her favorite. There was nothing classier or more elegant than the Waltz; possibly the most romantic dance any pair could partake in. Ever since she was young, Historia secretly admired watching couples engaged in rendezvous of the sort at weddings or at fancy galas.

But directly performing the classic dance was an experience unlike any other.

Maybe it was the rich classical music. Maybe it was the setting, or the evocation of nostalgic emotions.

Or maybe… it was a certain green-eyed dance partner that made her appreciate it all the more.

Like her, Eren was especially fond of the Waltz, convinced it was one of the few things in life that would never go out of style and stand the test of time. Their shared affinity for the dance remained unspoken, but was made crystal clear with the harmony of their movements, the balance in their complementarity, and the affectionate undertones when he would gently hold her, looking at her with a hidden tenderness beneath his eyes.

For a brief moment, Historia almost forgot where she was, lost in his transcendent gaze.

At the conclusion of the evening class, with a few guests still lingering on the hardwood floors to chat among themselves and others leaving in favor of returning home, Historia caught up with Eren.

When she approached him, she suddenly found herself feeling nervous, perplexed by the knots riling up in her stomach. It was strange; she'd never felt this before- and by now she and Eren had danced together multiple times, making it practically routine.

Historia thought back to her conversation with Ymir, remembering how hastily she brushed her suggestive comments off.

But… maybe it was a fair enough assumption.

Historia hadn't exactly been taken by Eren at first sight… but what was this feeling raging throughout her entire being now?

Falling short of something witty to say (or anything to say, really), Historia dismissed what she deemed as mere juvenile antics and chose to bid Eren a chaste 'goodnight' instead.

"See you tomorrow," she said with a wave, hoping the breach out into the cool night air would help clear her head.

Like she totally needed to further complicate the already convoluted mess that was her life.

She only expected a passive 'goodnight' in return, but was surprised when that wasn't the case.

"Hey, Historia," Eren addressed her spontaneously, catching her right before she reached the door to leave. "Mikasa and I are meeting up with a few friends at some pub downtown after we lock up in half an hour. It's a bit of a dive to be perfectly honest, but the drinks are good and it's not terribly loud like other places. Not that you have to drink or anything-"

He paused when he realized he was rambling again. No doubt about it, he had a certain charm on the good days. On others, however, awkwardness was bound to ensue.

Still, he wouldn't let that discourage him from finishing his proposal.

After clearing his throat, he continued. "Anyway, you should come… if you want."

Historia maintained a subdued expression, but was panicking a little on the inside. The same inexplicable feeling from before had returned, this time with a vengeance. Eren was asking her to socialize with them- outside of the studio.

No dancing. No music. No hardwood floors and pristine mirrors.

Just city-folk, drinks, and friendly conversation.

With Eren and his friends.

Historia was about to decline. She was so close to making up some sort of excuse, lying about how she was busy and couldn't make it for 'insert reason here.'

However…

Something began tugging on her heart strings, consuming her with inclinations far beyond her own understanding.

Historia decided in earnest that she would take a chance. Everything in her life prior to this moment had been all about control and playing it safe, but now it was as if a burden had been lifted; momentarily at least. She reasoned with herself to seize the opportunity and accept his spur-of-the-moment offer. After all, she wouldn't have to wake up early the next day, given that it was an off-day for all dancers of the Sina City Ballet.

But more importantly, Historia felt that this would allow for another part of herself to be challenged… and to put more of herself out there, rather than close herself off and retreat to her tiny, lonely apartment.

Putting her trust in someone other than herself was the next step- and this would perfectly exemplify that particular notion.

"Sure, Eren." She nodded. "I'd love to."

Chapter Text

Downtown Sina

Eren had been right about one thing.

The pub was definitely a dive.

The lighting fixtures were rather dim. Seating arrangements were limited to several barstools and a small lounge. The interior was devoid of any charming quality whatsoever, what with the walls a grim shade of russet brown and the sporadic array of vintage photographs of the establishment dating back to the 1970s.

Historia kept an open mind regardless, figuring there had to have been some reason Eren and his friends kept coming back.

The place seemed rather quiet for a Saturday night, with only the chatter of a few regulars and soft jazz music on the radio filling the stagnant ambience as Eren escorted Historia inside. A few steps behind them, Mikasa followed the duo, peeling her gloves off after segueing indoors to revel in the warmer temperature.

“Eren! Mikasa!” a voice called out, greeting their arrival with all-too-familiar enthusiasm.

Historia searched for the source of the call, eyes shooting straight ahead to the culprit. Towards the back of the lounge were five others convened around a table at the center of plush seating, their respective drinks settled neatly in front of them on coasters.

A girl with reddish-brown hair was snacking on pub fries. Sitting next to her (and sneaking the occasional fry from the basket) was a guy sporting a buzz-cut. Wielding an icy blue gaze in the middle of the group was a blonde only slightly taller than Historia, her demeanor insinuating a more stoic personality than the others. Across from ‘icy blue’ were two guys looking especially comfortable, both stretching out their legs in what was left of the cramped space. Another blond (whose resemblance to some of the men in her family was extraordinarily uncanny, therefore prompting Historia to wonder if they were long-lost cousins) and a tall brunet eyeing Eren with an unimpressed smirk, his hair styled in an undercut.

They seemed to be a nice bunch.

Curiosity sparked amid Historia’s ponderous daze, allowing for the initial feelings of uncertainty to slowly dissipate. It wasn’t that she disliked social interaction or settings, on the contrary, she enjoyed meeting new people and engaging in meaningful conversation. Her introverted nature, however, was often what held her back or caused her to second-guess herself.

It was a work in progress; an aspect of self she sought to reform.

Before she’d barely had any time to mentally prepare for the inevitable, Historia found herself thrown into the mix a bit more prematurely than she had hoped.

“Well, hello there…” was the initial welcome from the fellow with light brown hair.

That’s roughly when all eyes darted Historia’s direction, having been put immediately on the spot. Granted, she was a performer- so she was used to having people watch her, look at her, study her.

But god, she was so out of her element in this place.

Mikasa pulled up alongside her, introducing the blonde to the group. “This is Historia. She’s a regular at the studio.”

Ah, yes. She was a regular by now. She’d attended sessions often enough at this point.

Eren was quick to reverse the brief meet-and-greet, allowing for Historia to become acquainted with his small circle of friends.

The girl munching on fries was Sasha.

The petite blonde with riveting icy blues was Annie.

The buzz-cut jokester was Connie.

Jean was Eren’s frenemy with the undercut.

And the blond sitting next to him was Armin.

A friendly bunch they were indeed, quirks and all.

Feeling more at ease, Historia accepted Eren’s offer to sit next to him, draping her coat against the backrest of the velvety lounge seat.

Now to drink… or not to drink…

That was the question.

As Historia weighed her options, Annie was the first to resume the friendly banter among the group. “So Mikasa… will Levi be joining us?”

Amid a few rounds of winks and suggestive grins from Sasha and Connie, Mikasa merely sighed and shook her head, unfazed by the impish taunts.

“He’s working,” Mikasa replied casually. “So not tonight.”

“Bummer.” Annie shrugged. After taking a swig of her drink, (sticking with H2O for the night) she pried for a little more detail. “He still visit the studio?”

Mikasa suppressed a small smile, eyes emulating an unrecognizable warmth. “Every now and then he’ll stop by.”

“Mmm- speaking of which,” Annie began, setting her water aside, “how goes the family business?” Looking over at Historia, she was quick to add. “Must be doing well enough to bring in ballet dancers.”

Still registering the statement, Historia exchanged glances with Mikasa and Eren.

Do they… already know who I am? she thought, a bit puzzled.

Historia supposed it made sense that they would have at least mentioned her beforehand.

It indicated the impression they had made on her was reciprocated; a mutual affinity of sorts.

Eren smiled, offering Historia an explanation for Annie’s remark. “Mikasa likes to brag about you. She tells everyone you’re her most prized pupil every chance she gets.”

Mikasa raised a brow, stifling a scoff.

“Nice cover, Eren,” Jean snickered.

“You mean you like to tell everyone that,” Connie chimed in, grinning mischievously.

With Annie and Sasha joining in to throw the idiotic brunet under the bus as well, Eren threw his hands up in defense and waved off their aggressive accusations. An intense red suddenly flashed across his cheeks as he tried desperately to change the subject.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” he spewed out, hoping to avoid further questioning. In a somewhat urgent and impulsive move, he quickly stood from his chair and turned once again to Historia. “I’m gonna head to the bar. Want anything?”

“And he’s even buying her a drink,” Jean muttered. “Figures…”

“Oooh what a gentleman!” Sasha cooed, fanning herself.

Historia chose to dismiss the relatively strange comments, answering Eren’s question with a simple, “Just a…” Water. Go with water. “Water’s fine.”

“You got it,” Eren replied. “I’ll be right back.” And with that, he excused himself from the lounge, escaping the merciless torture from his peers.

Historia, meanwhile, was subject to their quirky shenanigans.

Of course, she was still struggling in her many attempts at processing the meaning of their careless taunts towards Eren. It seemed obvious enough… but had she missed something?

Eren had told his friends about her even before officially introducing them all. He shared his experiences dancing with her as well, few in number as they were. And by all accounts, it seemed that Eren spoke fondly of her… the way one would about someone they…

No.

I’m overthinking it… Was the conclusion she came to- or forced herself to come to, rather.

Still waiting on Eren’s return, Historia was loosely following the conversation between the longtime friends, her attention alternating between them and her own inward ruminations.

“Are you competing in the ballroom dance competition this year?” Sasha asked a pensive Mikasa, watching as she helped herself to the French fries in the small basket.

Ballroom dance competition… Historia’s head perked up at the mention, having no prior knowledge that Mikasa was a competitor in that regard.

Mikasa nodded in response, turning to address Jean and Armin. “Have you two registered yet?”

“We will first thing tomorrow morning,” Armin said confidently.

“We’ve been pretty consistent with our training for the past couple months,” Jean added, reaching for his drink. “You competing with Levi or what?”

Shaking her head, Mikasa let out a dry chuckle. “Unless you throw him into a sparring ring, he’s not much of a competitor.” With a shrug, she leaned against the back of her seat and elicited a sigh. “He said he’d be there to show his support and encouragement. Offered to be my coach.”

“You and Eren usually compete together anyway,” Annie mused. “You two make one hell of a pairing.”

At that, Mikasa looked over at Historia and half-smiled. That’s right. They haven’t seen Eren dance with Historia… yet.

Rather than bring that to everyone’s attention (and avoid putting the lovely guest on the spot), Mikasa accepted the compliment and pried into Annie’s plans for the competition. “And who will you be competing with this year, Annie?”

Annie’s previously passive demeanor suddenly shifted to that of ambivalence. “Sasha turned me down, so that means I’m stuck with Marlow,” came her reply, peppered with all-too-familiar sarcasm.

Mikasa’s eyes widened incredulously. “You sound unimpressed...?”

“He’s one of the best around,” Sasha reminded an unmoved Annie, equally confused.

“And I’m not denying that,” Annie said in return. “But I’ve always felt that he and I never really had chemistry. He’s a lot more technical, uptight, and borderline legalistic. I’m more… spontaneous in contrast. That’s why I was surprised when he asked me to enter in the competition with him.”

“Because you’re talented…?” Connie blurted out, not at all covert with his discrepancy. “He obviously thought you were up to his standards…”

Annie shrugged indifferently. “I guess I’ve always felt that our outlooks were vastly incongruent. He likes to go against the flow, whereas I’m fine going with it.”

“Well… that’s one way to put it,” Jean quipped. “Not quite sure how to picture that in regards to dancing, but I think I get what you mean.”

(He had no idea what she meant.)

The group carried on with the subject, while Historia considered both sides in a silent daze.

She decided her personal beliefs aligned more so with Annie’s perspective. While everyone else seemed perplexed at her frustrations, she could definitely relate to how she felt.

Dancing with someone, no matter how good they were, and having absolutely zero chemistry with them would most certainly result in disaster. Or at the very least, it would prove painstakingly difficult.

Whereas dancing with the right person… could be a work of art.

Historia thought about contributing her views on the matter, mostly to defend Annie’s position, but was caught off guard when Mikasa abruptly made a request.

“Historia,” she began, unaware that the blonde had missed most of the aforementioned conversation amid her contemplation, “I meant to ask you this the other night, but it must have slipped my mind. I was hoping I could chalk you down as an alternate for me or Eren in the event of an unforeseeable mishap.”

Woah… I was not expecting that, Historia thought sheepishly.

She ended up answering before allowing herself to think it through. “Yeah. Of course.”

“Is it required to have an alternate?” Jean asked, mulling over the competition’s rules and regulations.

Mikasa shook her head. “No, but it’s recommended.”

Sasha shoved another handful of french fries into her mouth before sharing a joke. “I’d offer to be your alternate, Annie. But Connie and I plan on taking the grand prize home!”

“Position’s already been filled,” Annie retorted. “But thanks anyway.”

“What position’s already been filled?”

The group of young adults put a brief deferment on discussing the upcoming event as Eren re-joined them with an inquiry of his own, mindful of the drinks in each hand.

“Eren,” Mikasa affirmed, “Historia’s agreed to be our alternate for the competition.”

The revelation brought immeasurable happiness to the green-eyed brunet, perpendicular to the delightful, albeit surprised, expression adorning his face.

After handing the glass of water to a grateful Historia, he allocated the proper wording to convey his approval. “Then we’re an extremely lucky pair, aren’t we?”

Historia accepted the compliment, but insisted otherwise. “You and Mikasa will fare just fine without me… but I’ll be there to root for you two.”


 

With the late evening at its peak, the group prepared to depart the small establishment and call it a night.

Sasha and Connie heeded the call for their Uber. Armin served as Jean’s designated driver. Mikasa and Annie opted to head out together, leaving Eren and Historia to their own devices.

“Nice meeting you, Historia,” Sasha waved before exiting the bar. Connie bid her and Eren goodnight as he vacated the premises with Sasha.

Armin and Jean followed their trajectory outside after saying their goodbyes.

Annie and Mikasa simultaneously shot Eren a pair of all-knowing smirks, side-eying the brunet with expressions that read ‘don’t make a fool out of yourself’.

“I’m gonna crash at Annie’s place,” Mikasa informed him. “See you at the studio tomorrow morning.” Then, in a gentler tone, she peered over at the blonde by his side and added, “Goodnight, Historia.”

“Bye, Mika,” Eren nodded. “Drive safe.”

I’m driving,” Annie clarified, jingling a pair of keys in her hand.

“May God be with you,” Eren sighed, feigning concern.

He’d had the displeasure of being Annie’s passenger before.

The memory still sends shivers down his spine.

Then again, Eren thought, Annie wasn’t drinking and Mikasa was definitely buzzed.

Better to get pulled over for speeding, as opposed to getting a DUI.

With the departure of his friends, Historia became equal parts flustered and bemused upon reaching a simple deduction.

She’d deliberately been left alone with Eren.

If it hadn’t already been made plainly obvious, from the looks his friends were giving him to the convenient exit by all of them at once, well, it was obvious now.

Still, Historia had no reason to complain. After all, it had been too long since her last night out on the town.

The evening had served as an escape from the demands of her hectic schedule, fraught with rigorous ballet training whilst seeking ways to improve her methods with the intention of furthering her career.

The other dancers at the company had always invited her to meet up for dinner or drinks after a long day of rehearsal. Ymir’s coaxing managed to work a few times, but Historia usually declined in favor of returning to her small apartment.

This time, however, it was Eren that persuaded her to indulge in this particular break from the norm.

And with how surprisingly well the evening had turned out to be, she would’ve only regretted not showing up.

They returned to the same seats in the lounge as before, watching as both Mikasa and Annie headed out and disappeared into the streets of downtown.

Unsure what to expect next, Historia looked over at Eren and sought to take helm of the opportunity presented before her, obliging a sudden arousal of curiosity in somewhat eccentric fashion.

“Can I ask you something?” When she received a nod encouraging her to continue, she didn’t hesitate. “How did you first get into dancing?”

Given that he had sobered up at this point, Eren realized he couldn’t dismiss the question with a half-assed drunken excuse or joke to distract them both. Though she had no way of knowing, the story behind his introduction to the world of dancing was a rather difficult one to explain.

A very personal one to explain.

“It’s a long story,” he finally replied. “Why so interested?” His tone wavered between playful and wary.

Historia shrugged. “It seems like you’ve been dancing for a while. I figured there must be a reason aside from the fact that your father owns the studio.”

“Fair enough,” Eren drawled. “Let’s just say… it took me a long time to take it seriously. I was… dealing with a lot growing up. Dumbass that I was sought other outlets to vent or cope with everything that was going on. If it hadn’t been for my father or Mikasa keeping me in check… who knows where I’d be right now.”

His voice trailed off into an ambiguously dark direction.

He’d tell her one day. About his… decorated past- and how something he once thought was frilly and beneath his rebellious ways turned out to be the best thing to ever happen to him.

Historia respected his choice to omit the details. Truthfully, she could resonate with the struggle of how to cope with circumstances beyond one’s own control.

She wasn’t aware what adversities he had to overcome, nor was he aware of her own.

But they seemed to have similar goals. Similar hopes. Perhaps they had been motivated by similar pasts?

Leveling her eyes with his, Historia concurred with Eren wholeheartedly. “Well it’s important to have a good support system. Without my sister, it’s hard to say where I’d be right now.”

Eren could sense the tension in her voice. This wasn’t the first time her sister had been brought up, though he expected her to drop the subject as quickly as she had the last time.

She’d tell him one day. About… Frieda and how something she once thought was all about perfection and control turned out to have a deeper impact on her life than the mere prospect of a career.

Until then, neither had any qualms navigating the untouched waters of this newfound friendship; it’s development slow, odd, yet… meaningful.

Eren sought to lighten the mood when the enduring silence had dragged on long enough. Amid his aimless pondering, he caught a glimpse of a possible candidate to satisfy that particular endeavor.

Hanging up on the wall directly ahead was a dartboard, the opportunity practically staring right at him.

“How’s your aim?” he asked, much too randomly for Historia’s liking.

Failing to stifle a single beat of laughter, she replied with a terse, “Why?”

Eren nodded over at the dartboard. “Just curious to see if it’s as sharp as your movements.”

When she caught on to what he was suggesting, Historia huffed. “Is that a challenge?”

“Look, I understand if you’re intimidated,” Eren quipped. “I’ve yet to come across any worthy opponents, but since it’s just you and me… well, I guess you’ll have to do.”

Oh really?

“You’re on,” Historia asserted, rising from her seat in resolve.

As the duo began collecting several darts in preparation for an all-out war, Eren couldn’t help but admire how the blonde had taken on a form he hadn’t quite seen before.

There was determination in every step she set forth, her concentration reinforced under a hardlined steely gaze.

But beneath the guise of her aggressive disposition, Eren could detect one intriguing, subtle detail.

Historia was in total control; the perfect balance of her fortitude only further exemplified as she aimed for the board ahead and released the dart with effortless precision.

It landed just shy of the outer bullseye, earning gasps and a small round of applause from nearby onlookers.

And that was enough to make the usually confident Eren Jaeger nervous.

Well then…

“Looks like I won’t be going easy on you.”

Chapter Text

Historia hadn’t been to the Reiss family mansion in weeks.

On a particularly cloudy morning, however, she found herself in the backseat of an extravagant town car, knowing full well its destination would be the familiar estate in which she grew up in.

A place she never truly felt at home- especially after Frieda had gone.

Peering out the window, Historia became consumed with dread as the car stopped just outside a silver gate, waiting to be granted access to the manor’s grounds. The driver hit a small buzzer in front of the gate, exchanging a few words with the receiver to announce the arrival of one ‘Miss Historia Reiss’. With that, the gates slowly opened and the car continued its course up the elaborate driveway.

They passed the fountain at the center of cultivated rose gardens, lining the driveway in colors of red and white. Wintry conditions would be in the forecast soon, surely to wither the flowers away to a dormant state and then cover the manicured domain in a blanket of snow. Until then, the grass was as green as she remembered, the terrace as pristine as though time had no impact, and the statue of Great Grandfather Reiss as daunting as ever.

Why am I even here? Historia wondered as the car neared the chateau-style property.  

She recalled laying sprawled across her own bed, in the comfort of her own apartment- only to be woken up by the incessant ringing of her phone. Her father, Rod Reiss, had sent a chauffeur to pick her up from her residence and escort her to the family estate for reasons that remained unknown.

And the town car had already been waiting outside her apartment by the time the call had ended.

So much for her morning walk around the neighborhood park. Granted, it was an off day for the company, and since she opted against alcohol the night before at the pub with Eren and Co, it wasn’t as if she had a hangover to nurse.

Then again, her father would’ve disregarded any excuse she might have attempted to use.

The car came to a stop, parallel to the double door entry of the elegant home. The driver stepped out of the vehicle and promptly opened the door for Historia, still strapped behind her seatbelt in the backseat.

“Miss?” he implored, looking at her with dutiful resolve.

Historia gave him a meek smile, unbuckling her seatbelt. “Thank you,” she said as she slowly stood up, breathing in the brisk morning air.

It was strangely toxic, she thought, and plagued with the typical arrogance most Reiss estates seemed to possess. Its only saving grace had been Frieda, and now that she was gone there was nothing redeemable about this place- nor was there any reason for Historia to return.

Yet here she was.

The driver motioned for Historia to follow him, accompanying her inside the home the way a servant would tend to royalty. She thought it to be completely unnecessary, but her father apparently believed that their family name alone had warranted a pompous level of entitlement.

To emphasize his belief further, Historia was quickly greeted by a couple of housemaids, offering to take her coat and sit her down at the dining table for breakfast. They asked what she would like for the house-chef to prepare, listing off an entire realm of possibilities ranging from fluffy scrambled eggs to crepes embellished with fresh fruit and cream.

Historia knew what this all meant. She’d have to wait for her father to reveal himself, but it would behoove her to admit that crepes were an impeccable distraction.

When the maids left to fulfill her request, Historia rested both elbows on top of the grand table and sighed, eyes flickering to an ornate candelabra. Her father’s beckoning had come so suddenly and so out the blue that it caused her to brood over the severity of its circumstances. Was there a death in the family? Was someone sick? Was there another scandalous article in the tabloids?

She hadn’t arrived at any feasible conclusion even after a plate garnished with strawberry crepes had been placed on the doily in front of her. As soon as the warm scent of buttermilk reached her nose, however, she was instantly reminded of how hungry she was and obliged herself.

A few bites later, she heard the clacking of footsteps descend from the grand staircase, growing louder and louder as it neared the dining room. Historia paused to sip from her coffee mug, anticipating the entrance of her kinsman, no doubt.

When he finally appeared, his face was devoid of the usual stoic expression he’d present before a roomful of people he thought to be beneath him. Rather, he appeared concerned yet astonishingly relieved to see his daughter; regardless of the distance she kept herself from him.

He casually ambled over to her, wearing a heedfully apologetic smile. Historia rose from her seat and greeted her father politely; the way she would any stranger. That’s what he was to her at times. No more than a stranger.

“Father, may I ask what-” Historia was unable to finish her question, as she was unexpectedly pulled in for a hug. Now she was worried. Her father rarely showed her any affection, much less hugged her as though seeking comfort. Not that it bothered her, truthfully. “Is everything all right?” she let out insistently.

After pulling away, Rod Reiss became gravely serious, concern still etched on his face. “You don’t call… you don’t write,” he began, lecturing her. “You resign yourself to that lowly apartment of yours in the seedy streets of the city. Therefore, I worry about you.”

Historia relaxed her shoulders a bit, having grown used to her father’s disdainful opinion of how and where she chose to live. “There’s no need to worry,” she stated apathetically, unconvinced that was the real reason he’d sent for her. “If you were that keen on seeing me, I would have appreciated you asking in advance.”

Rod huffed in disapproval. “Imagine that. I need to schedule an appointment to see my own daughter.”

No. Not this time, Historia thought. I’m not going to be guilt-tripped into anything.

As if he’d read her mind, Rod continued with a wistful sigh and finally addressed the elephant in the room.

“I sent for you this morning because tomorrow marks the fifth anniversary of…” His voice trailed off, clearly indicative of his discomfort. “Well I’m sure you’re aware,” he finished quickly.

Historia felt her stomach drop. “Yes.” She nodded. “I’m aware.”

“A vigil will be held at the community garden tomorrow evening.” He presented a formal invitation to her, that of fine parchment. “This is for you.”

Historia took hold of the invitation, noting her name at the top in bold cursive letters. In the past, she’d received these sort of notices in the mail, most referring to elaborate and indulgent affairs she wanted no part of. But it seemed as though her father felt obligated to hand this one to her in person, given its sensitive and delicate circumstances. For that, she persuaded herself to give him some leniency. The man wasn’t completely heartless or totally self-absorbed. At the very least, he respected the close relationship between his two daughters; one of his few redeeming qualities.

“Thank you,” Historia whispered, hard pressed for words.

Rod did his best to extend additional consolation. “I know this time of year is crucial for the company,” he said, in regards to the Sina City Ballet. “I understand if you’re overwhelmed with training or auditions-”

“I’ll be there,” Historia interjected. “For the vigil.”

Rod placed a hand gently on her shoulder, eyes never leaving hers. He nodded in understanding, a somber smile accentuating his appeasement.

“Of course,” he said. He retrieved his arm back to his side and assumed an austere demeanor. “I have to meet with the board of directors of the Tybur foundation, but please, feel free to stay as long as you’d like. After all, this is your home, too.”

Historia followed her father to the double door entryway, already bidding him farewell after they’d barely had any time to invest in conversation.

“I’ll see to it that my driver will accommodate you accordingly when you leave, although you are welcome to stay the night,” he informed her.

Historia shook her head. “I have rehearsal in the morning, but I’ll be back in time for the vigil.”

Rod frowned, but accepted her decision. “Until then, Historia.” He gave one last final wave, before disappearing down the driveway.

“Goodbye… father…”

 


 

Historia hadn’t planned on staying for long.

The only thing she wanted to do before her departure was visit Frieda’s old bedroom.

Slowly, she trailed up the staircase and ascended to the second floor, faced with elongated hallways on either side of her upon reaching its peak. Frieda’s room was a few paces down on the right, one door away from her own former bedroom. The closer she got to the room, the more apprehensive she felt about entering. In spite of herself, she proceeded to act on impulse, guiding her hand to reach for the door knob.

The door creaked as it made way for the blonde’s entry, revealing nothing more than darkness. With the flick of a switch, the room was lit up in a warm glow from a nearby lamp that brought the interior to life. Frieda had an affinity for pastel colors, as exemplified by the soft hue of the walls, the peachy sheets on her bed, and the simple lavender shade of the curtains floating softly against the window. A vanity mirror was positioned above a small desk, and Historia could recall when it had been neatly arranged with makeup and fragrances. It had since been cleared, devoid of any personal items.

Curiosity eventually got the best of her, compelling her to continue her exploration by peering into Frieda’s walk in closet. As a child, she would do so to roam through her collection of tutus and formal wear. Sometimes she’d find a tiara or other headdress amid her snooping and treat herself to a little dress up, vying to look and act more like her sister.

Historia cautiously ventured inside, sadness coming over her as she realized all of her old clothes were still just as she left them. Not a single article of clothing was missing, prompting her to wonder if their father had a hard time letting them go for the sake of sentimentality.

She was just about to turn and leave the closet when something sparkled from the corner of her eye, like crystals exposed to light. As she turned her head to meet the mysterious shimmering, her mouth fell agape in disbelief.

Hanging delicately in a secluded corner was Frieda’s costume from her first performance as a principal dancer.

It was a dazzling shade of silver, every bit as luminous as Historia remembered.

She reached for the soft fabric of the tulle skirt, weaving its contents between her fingers. Her hand moved up to the satin bodice, smooth and silky to the touch.

The heartbreaking discovery had Historia reminiscing in a pool of fond memories, only wishing her sister could be there to see how far she’d come in pursuing her dream.

Frieda… I miss you every day…

Historia felt so alone.


It was late afternoon when she was ready to leave.

Rather than head back to her apartment, Historia requested to be dropped off at the Jaeger Ballroom Studio, figuring she had time to make it for the lesson of the evening. She was clueless as to what the agenda was, but figured she’d show up unannounced as a way of breaking from the norm.

The obsidian town car pulled up curbside to the studio with time to spare. Historia unbuckled her seatbelt when a question arose.

“Your father insists that you are chauffeured to the vigil,” the driver informed her. “What time shall I meet you at the concert hall tomorrow?”

Historia contemplated an approximate time, deciding against arguing over her father’s demands. Training would begin at seven in the morning, and end at around two or three.

“Four o’clock should be fine,” was Historia’s recommendation, earning a nod from the driver. He quickly vacated the vehicle and opened the door for her, to which she replied with a well-mannered, “Thank you again.”

“My pleasure, Miss Reiss.” Following the brief exchange the car drove away, and Historia commenced a benign stroll towards the studio.

She merely expected a moderate-size group of people for the evening’s lesson, nothing too radical. What she hadn’t expected, however, was the plethora of kids sliding along the hardwood floors in colorful ensembles, some fiddling around in their socks, others saying goodbye to their parents.

Historia did a double-take, eyes narrowing in on a bright neon-colored sign erected by the front desk. She suddenly felt out of place when it dawned on her.

Tonight, she thought, must be…

“Historia! You came out for kid’s night?” Eren’s greeting pulled her out of her trance, unaware of her slightly embarrassed state. He obviously hadn’t expected her to attend, and unbeknownst to him, she might not have if she’d been aware of the minor detail. Was she even allowed to be here? Were adult guests permitted?

“This is great!” Eren continued. “The kids can learn so much from you!” He sounded as though he was only disappointed he hadn’t procured the idea himself.

Oh dear… Historia knew she couldn’t back out now- even if it was just a misunderstanding.

As if to seal the deal, Mikasa appeared from behind Eren and expressed her high hopes in tandem with his enthusiasm. “The little ones will be excited to have a ballerina teach them a few things,” she affirmed with a wink. “We’re really lucky to have you tonight.”

Historia attempted to mask her reluctance with a nod. She was about to voice her concerns when she looked over at the lively group of kids across the studio, watching themselves in the mirror as they dispersed into their assigned positions. Their innocent laughter and vibrant energy tugged on her heart strings, striking a chord within her. She suddenly felt the urge to stay- and soon the urge shifted to yearning.

It was almost as if working with kids was a part of some sort of calling in her life; an avenue she vowed to explore.

It brought a genuine smile to her lips to see the children clamoring in lighthearted affairs; considered it a privilege to teach such impressionable minds in fact. When all uncertainty subsided, she embraced the opportunity with open arms.

She established herself at the front, accompanied by Eren and Mikasa, and before long she was partnered with a curious child beaming with exhilaration.

“Dance with me!” the young girl pleaded.

Historia took her by the hand and politely bowed her head. “I’d be honored to.”

The other children momentarily stopped and watched as the two glided along the floor, playful yet intrinsic all the same. They resumed after studying their whimsical movements, learning through inquisitive observation before putting it into practice. Several sequences through, Historia’s impromptu dance partner almost bumped into a nearby duo, earning giggles from all parties involved.

Except Historia was quick to voice her initial uneasiness. “Are you all right?” she asked, alarmed.

All three youngsters nodded, assuring her with chaste smiles. When the music changed tune, Mikasa instructed the class to watch her and Eren demonstrate a different pattern of movements, synonymous with the easy-going and laid-back style of the Foxtrot. Historia was grateful to have at least some experience with the particular style, and was even impressed to find that her dance partner was surprisingly well-versed in it.

In mid-step, she figured an introduction was in order. “What’s your name?” she asked, allowing for the younger girl to rotate sides following a single measure.

“Sarah,” was her reply. “What’s yours?”

Historia took both of her hands with ease, starting from the first series of steps again before answering. “Historia.”

As they continued rehearsing the movements over and over, exchanging smiles and endearing eye contact with every successful rotation and in lieu of slight missteps, Historia’s mind wandered into nostalgic territory. Each and every twist and turn took her back to when she and Frieda would dance as kids, although back then their rhythms were off and their frivolous actions were sloppy given the limited knowledge either had on ballroom dancing.

But all that mattered to Historia was the memory of Frieda’s laugh and the warmth she naturally radiated with her gentle swaying.

It offered solace to an otherwise sullen day; a silver lining.

Meanwhile, on the opposing side of the studio, Eren watched as Historia danced among the multitude of children, leading the pack of youngsters with her sophisticated motions and effortless fluidity. The smile adorning her face was a look he’d yet to know- and he thought about how different she appeared than when she’d arrived at the studio for the first time, hesitant and unimpressed.

It seemed as though she’d come a long way; making progress in what she originally considered a peculiar endeavor.

He grew to admire that about her over time, and the way she danced was so mesmerizing…

Mikasa suddenly nudged his arm, thwarting his reverie aside. “Just so you know,” she whispered, leaning into his ear, “I approve.”

Eren gave her a crooked grin, attempting to conceal his bashful state. “Approve of what?” he asked, mildly oblivious.

Mikasa didn’t offer a response, merely walking past him with a satisfied smirk. She was perceptive enough to catch on to his furtive observations, frequently eyeing Historia in absentminded intrigue. Maybe he thought no one would notice. Maybe he hadn’t even realized it himself. Either way, it hadn’t been lost on Mikasa, and she was rather favorable of what had bloomed thus far.

He’ll figure it out sooner or later, she thought, amused. Hopefully.

Chapter Text

Historia was never one to engage in reckless behavior, but during rehearsal the next day she thought nothing of her bruised feet and stiff joints, forcing herself to dance in spite of the pain.

“From the top!” Nanaba commanded, her gaze scrutinizing each and every assigned pair as they performed a selected variation from Swan Lake.

For this exercise, Historia had been paired with Bertolt Hoover, whose performance thus far had allowed for him to demonstrate his strong potential for the role of Prince Siegfried. His tall yet lean frame effortlessly glossed each and every movement, and his flexibility was spectacular.

Historia also admired his gentlemanly qualities; respectful and always considerate.

“Are you all right?” he whispered, after taking note of her slight wincing. “The last sequence was a bit rough with the landing.”

Historia shook her head, insisting his worries were unnecessary. “I’m fine,” she lied. With an elongated stretch of both legs, she returned to the starting position and waited for Bertolt to align himself with her accordingly.

The truth was, however, Historia had been rather apprehensive since waking up in her apartment that morning. Her thoughts were solely consumed by a single notion.

The vigil for her sister was to promptly follow her training.

And this very day marked fives year since-

 “Stop!” Nanaba ordered for everyone in the rehearsal studio to cease all movement, shaking her head in disapproval. “Again!”

Bertolt and Historia simultaneously let out gruff sighs in frustration, both equally unnerved for having to repeat the same motions for what felt like the millionth time.

As they held themselves in the previous formation, Historia took a moment to scan the room, observing the other duos amid their exhausted states with an exceptionally keen eye. Some were faring better than others in that regard, and she wondered which specific qualities, if any, the accomplishment could be attributed to.

Ymir had been paired with Reiner for the lesson, and Historia was only surprised the pairing hadn’t yet resulted in explosive arguments or, at the very least, a tasteless exchange of sarcastic remarks jabbed back and forth. Maybe Ymir didn’t have the energy to chew him out. Maybe she pitied Reiner to a degree. They danced well together though, in spite of their disagreements. Perhaps it had something to do with what Ymir referred to as some sort of ‘solidarity’.

Pieck had been paired with newcomer Colt Grice, a quiet and unassuming dancer who had just moved to Sina City to join the company. They appeared perfectly at ease when rehearsing together, and although their movements were slightly out of sync, they remained calm and collected even with fatigue wearing them out. Historia figured Pieck just naturally had that effect on people.

Hitch had been paired with Marco- and they certainly proved to be quite the dynamic duo. Bertolt’s competition for the lead male role didn’t have to flaunt his abilities; as they ordinarily demanded an entire room’s attention on their own. His partner for the day’s lesson appeared as perky and confident as ever, a crafty smirk following each perfected movement, and she carried herself with such poise and control. Hitch had always been so sure of herself when it came to learning new things, and it showed in her dancing. Perhaps she wasn’t as graceful or elegant as some of her well-seasoned cohorts, but she beamed with sanguine resolve and executed the variation in dutiful fashion.

Confidence is key. Sometimes, it’s what makes all the difference.

In that moment, Historia remembered what she had to overcome.

She needed to have more faith in herself for one thing- as well as avoid comparing herself to others. That would definitely help in guiding her down the right path.

“Ready?” Bertolt asked, docile and patient like the true gentle spirit he was. Historia could only be thankful for how understanding and relaxed he was.

I must have been out of it for a sec there, she thought, internally chastising herself.

Historia nodded, giving him a smile in compliance. She wanted to succeed not only for her sake, but for his as well. After all, this was a partner exercise- if she were to fail, then so would he.

She wouldn’t feel right if her mindless daze had brought him down with her.

At Nanaba’s behest, Historia brought her hands to meet Bertolt’s once more and waited for the music to start up again. Soon, the percussive melody emanating from keystrokes of a piano accentuated each of her movements, each pull, each thrust.

But her ankle…

The pain tinged every time she pivoted on her heel; dull yet overbearing.

Five, six, seven, eight…

Historia carried on with the routine in spite of the ache, moving into the series of fouette en tournants, still spinning and spinning and spinning…

One, two, three, four

The next thing she felt was sharp, jerking her to the ground, her ankle ultimately giving way to the sudden spike in pain.

Historia let out a small yelp, expecting to fall and then find her ankle twisted, rendering it a goner for sure.

Before the disaster she had envisioned could manifest itself, Bertolt caught her fall with barely a second to spare, easing her back up on her feet again.

“Are you all right?” he asked, his concern far more serious and insistent. “If you’re hurt, you shouldn’t be over-exerting yourself.”

Historia shook her head, maintaining her composure by the narrowest of margins. “I’m fine,” she told him, dismissing his claims. “I was just…”

Distracted.

“Stop!” Nanaba’s command intercepted their brief exchange, scanning the studio with a stoic expression. Suspense hung in the air as she resumed her contemplative observation. Finally, she lifted her chin up once more, resolute. “Again!”

Historia braced herself.


After rehearsal, Historia retreated to the dressing rooms and sat motionless in a thinly padded armoire chair, gazing emptily into a vanity mirror.

Following a shower and a fresh change of clothes, she took note of the time.

3:34pm.

Her chauffer would arrive to pick her up for the vigil in half an hour.

As she dipped one hand below to nurse the slight ache around her ankle, she remembered she still had unfinished business to take care of.

Her thoughts suddenly shifted from the close call with her ankle earlier to that of Eren. Neither he nor Mikasa had been informed of the vigil; which would ultimately be the reason for her absence in the upcoming lesson.

I should call him, she thought. And let him know I won’t make it tonight.

Historia pulled out her phone and thumbed the Jaeger Ballroom Studio’s number from her contact’s list, having saved it a couple weeks prior.

Guilt inexplicably consumed her as soon as she heard the spirited tone of his greeting on the other end of the line.

“Jaeger Ballroom Studio,” he said. “Eren speaking.”

Historia paused before speaking up, emotions spinning on a turbulent axis. “Hey, Eren,” she said as politely as her despondence would permit. “It’s Historia.”

“Oh hey!” Eren enthused, further amplifying her guilt. “I take it you’re done with rehearsal for the day.” He chuckled before adding, “Hope you’re not entirely tuckered out for tonight’s lesson.”

“Actually,” Historia began, biting her lip, “that’s what I wanted to talk to you about.”

Eren wasn’t quite sure what to expect now, but judging by the tone of her voice, he wondered if there was reason to worry. “Oh, okay. Shoot.”

Historia chose not to beat around the bush. “I can’t make it tonight. I know I probably should have mentioned it yesterday, but I… I guess it slipped my mind.” She closed her eyes, and waited.

There was a brief pause before Eren spoke again, as though choosing his words carefully. “It’s okay if you can’t make it… but is everything all right? You sound…”

Historia interjected before he could finish. “I’ll be okay,” she affirmed, attempting but failing to assure him. “There’s just a lot going on right now.”

She merely expected that to be it. Until Eren pressed the subject further. “With the company?” he asked tentatively.

“That’s a part of it,” Historia replied quietly. “But there’s a vigil being held tonight. In remembrance of my sister.” She stopped herself from expanding any more than that. “I’ll, um, be there for the next lesson though. I’m sorry.”

“No need to apologize,” Eren assured her.

It became instantly quiet on both ends again, the silence daunting and uncomfortable. Somehow, it seemed to give away more than Historia had initially revealed- as though the stress and anxiety her voice exuded had communicated with Eren far better than the words she relayed to him.

It gnawed away at him, and he felt like he should say something, do something. The way any friend would.

Maybe she’d think him to be too bold or intrusive, but his concern for her weighed too heavily on his mind.

“Look, I don’t mean to overstep a boundary or anything…” He trailed off, quelling any second thoughts of extending such a bold idea. “…but I could go with you. Keep you company. If you want, that is.”

Historia was immediately stunned by his sudden offer, mouth slightly agape. “But…” She swallowed down the massive lump swelling in her throat, still processing the problematic scenario in what small window of time she had left.

“Eren, what about the studio? The lesson? Mikasa?” Historia felt her heart beat spike in elevation. What was the reasoning behind that?

Eren merely huffed at that, like he had everything sorted out in preparation beforehand. “Mikasa can handle being the sole instructor for one measly evening. Honestly, I think she prefers it when I’m not in the way.” His quip served its purpose in making light of the situation, but he still sought to get his main point across to Historia. It was as if nothing else mattered. “And I don’t know… I just… something’s off about you. You shouldn’t be alone. Not unless you want to be alone. Do you?”

Not at all, Historia thought.

There were times when she preferred solitude, but on days as particularly rough as this… loneliness scared her.

Luckily, Ymir had agreed to accompany her to the vigil, albeit on such short notice, but seeing as how Eren seemed more than willing to extend his support, it behooved Historia to accept.

Having Eren there, by her side, was a rather pleasant thought.

She felt strangely relieved.

“It would mean a lot to me, if you came,” Historia finally replied, leaning back into the chair. “I just hope it’s not an inconvenience-”

Eren was quick to cut her off. “You’re not an inconvenience,” he said a bit hastily, slightly embarrassed by his eagerness in responding. He cleared his throat. “I just want to make sure you’re okay.”

Historia warmed at that, feeling the tension within her body dissipate. “I appreciate that,” she said softly. “The vigil’s at five o’clock, at the community garden in the Stohess Neighborhood. When you’re ready I can give you the address.”

It wasn’t long before she heard the clicking of a pen and a quick swipe of paper on the other end of the line. “Ready,” Eren affirmed.


 

Historia had approximately ten minutes before her chauffeur was due to arrive.

She stood from her seat and was intent on heading for Ymir’s assigned slot in the dressing room when felt someone sling their arm around her shoulder, pulling her back to face them.

“Ymir!” Historia gasped. “I was just about to look for you. Our ride’s almost here, so we should probably head out.”

Ymir merely stared at the blonde, uneasiness marked on the tense lines of her face. “You almost wiped out back there,” she whispered grimly. “That fall could’ve seriously screwed you over.”

“It was nothing,” Historia contended. “I’m fine. Bertolt caught me.”

“Is it your ankle?” Ymir asked, ignoring Historia’s attempts at downplaying the mishap. “Do you need to see a PT?”

“I’ll see one tomorrow morning before rehearsal,” Historia relented, knowing full-well Ymir would continue hounding her if she wouldn’t let up. “Like I said, I’m fine. I just didn’t shift the weight to my foot properly. I was off-balance.”

“Were you distracted by something?” Ymir inquired, prying with the goal of addressing the real issue at hand. “Were you… thinking about tonight?”

Ymir could read her like an open book.

Historia lowered her head, avoiding Ymir’s gaze. “Maybe…” she admitted. Then… “It’s been five years, Ymir. Five years since I’ve… heard her voice.”

In an exceptionally rare moment, Ymir shut herself up, figuring it would be best to listen.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of her,” Historia whispered. “I miss her.”

That was all Historia would say for the time being; too exhausted to brood, too anxious to delve in the complexities of loss and grieving. Her emotions were still battling in an entanglement of ups and downs, only worsening the sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. 

Ymir offered her silent condolences by way of a gentle embrace, gathering the blonde in her arms. Historia reciprocated the warm hug in earnest, sighing in dejection.

“Thanks for coming with me tonight,” Historia said once she’d been released.

Ymir waved her off casually, smiling. “Don’t mention it. You know you can always count on me.”

Together, they commenced a brisk pace out of the auditorium and down the steps outside the building towards the street, where the familiar black town car was waiting for them.

“I’ve told you about my dance partner at the ballroom studio, right?” Historia asked while in mid-step towards the vehicle.

Ymir nodded in recollection. “Your ballroom crush. I remember. What about him? Are you two steady now or something?”

Historia blushed at her remark, wishing oh-so desperately she hadn’t. “N-no… anyway, he’s going to be there tonight. For the vigil.”

Ymir’s eyes widened beyond their maximum circumference. “Oh really?” The look of incredulity morphed into mischief when she came to her own conclusion on the matter.

But she kept her snarky witticisms to herself- opting to wait for a more appropriate setting to relinquish their current state of confinement.

“Interesting,” was her only reply.

Yet even after they were buckled into their seats, Ymir’s uncharacteristic silence prompted Historia to voice her confusion.

“What?” she asked innocently, knowing Ymir was holding something back. “Is that a… bad thing?”

Ymir chuckled, assuring Historia that was not the case. Quite the opposite actually. “On the contrary, I think the more support you have, the better.” Then in true Ymir fashion she added, “The more common folk there, the better.”

Historia gave her a small smile. “Believe me when I say I very much prefer the ‘common folk’s’ company.”


 

The numerous bright arrays and fixtures of flowers in full bloom, emanating rich and bold colors of red, pink, yellow, and white, were indeed a sight to behold. The caretakers went above and beyond in the services they provided; not a single blemish among the cultured lawn of the community garden.

Unfortunately, such meticulous efforts were unable to lift the mood; the atmosphere seemingly poisoned by the circumstances.

The vigil’s attendees were all dressed in black from head to toe. The charcoal canvas that was the sky maintained its dreary composition. And the music, of course- filled the already melancholic ambiance with somber melodies like those one would hear at a funeral procession.

Rod Reiss had hired a string quartet for the occasion. Only the best for Frieda. At least Historia hoped that was his motive behind inviting them to the vigil. Her eyes darted towards the musicians while ruminating on the past, quickly identifying the source of the sorrowful, but tragically beautiful pieces.

She remembered when they played for Frieda’s 18th birthday. The music was lively then, upbeat and full of joy.

Yet another distant memory.

Historia acknowledged the quartet with a polite nod as she walked passed them, earning her nods out of respect in return. She’d be sure to thank them properly later.

With the vigil’s formalities having concluded, guests were permitted to stay and consort amongst themselves. Conversations were only briefly centered around the dearly departed, until they quickly shifted to illicit gossip about the Reiss family and their dealings.

Historia wanted no part in either.

After greeting one of her supposed cousins on her father’s side (twice removed, he claimed), she scurried away out of view from the others, in search of Ymir.

She found her tall freckled companion near an elaborate fountain, indulging in fine wine from what Historia assumed had been imported from the lavish vineyards of France or Italy.

The Reiss’s were so incredibly pompous.

Ymir gulped down a hefty swig from her glass before turning to Historia. “Your daddy-o was looking for you,” she hummed. “Said to meet him by the funky gazebo thing.”

“You mean the alcove?” Historia asked. “Near the garden’s entrance?”

“I think so.” Ymir shrugged, setting her glass aside. When Historia displayed little concern, she huffed in amusement. “Not in a hurry to see your old man, or what?”

“I know what he’s going to say,” Historia replied, disheartened. “I just… don’t want to talk about Frieda anymore. I don’t want to hear any more ‘I’m sorry for your loss,’ or ‘she’s in a better place’…”

Ymir frowned. “Bit overwhelming?”

Historia nodded. “I don’t want to seem…”

Ymir stopped her right there. “Don’t. Don’t feel bad,” she asserted. “It’s obvious you’re still hurting. Still mourning and grieving. And that’s perfectly okay.”

“Maybe…” Historia whispered. “I guess I’d rather not be surrounded by all these… frauds.”

“Don’t blame ya,” Ymir huffed.

“All I know,” Historia began, “Is that Frieda wouldn’t want any of this. She wasn’t about showing off and flaunting the family name in hopes of winning the approval of others. I mean, for gods sake, this is supposed to be a memorial. A celebration of her life. Something that was supposed to bring people together. And look.” Historia motioned towards several groups of attendees, separated in cliques all the while mindlessly conversing over trivial matters like what clothes they had tailored specifically for this event, whether or not they’d be able to make their dinner reservations at some upscale restaurant downtime if they didn’t leave soon, and by god, some were criticizing the wine supply for lack of diversity.

I hate them. I hate them all.

Historia was seething.

But because she was expected to be ladylike and uphold the bearings of her family name, she had to keep her emotions bottled up.

Ymir’s presence was the only consolation.

That being said…

“Come with me,” Historia pled. “Please.”

Ymir’s face twisted in uncertainty. “I think your pops wanted to speak with you alone.”

“I don’t care,” Historia retorted. “I’m at my wit’s end.”

Ymir sighed, relenting. “Okay, but I’m just saying. If you were to just go off on all these high and mighty folks and call ‘em out on their bullshit; I’d be one hundred percent on board.”

Historia let out a bitter chuckle. “The only reason why I haven’t already done that, is for Frieda’s sake. Even if I’m the only one here to honor her memory…

The two headed for the alcove once Historia had composed herself. Just as Ymir said, her father, Rod Reiss, was there, clad in a black suit, paired with the usual patronizing expression on his face.

He greeted their arrival in formulated fashion, as though the exchange was scripted.

“Historia… and friend.” Friend being the oh-so-endearing title for Ymir. He seemed preoccupied, as their sudden emergence had coincidentally interrupted his previous discussion with a member of the Tybur family. “Excuse me, Ms. Tybur.” He pardoned himself and subsequently turned to face his daughter, hoping to shield the conversation from the former.

“Father.” Historia was interrupted before she could articulate any more.

“I don’t mean to sound cross with you,” Rod intervened, his tone belittling. “But for future engagements I would like to know in advance if you plan on inviting unsavory individuals.”

His cold remark had Historia reeling. “What on earth are you going on about?”

“I’ll allow your associates from the ballet company to attend our arrangements,” Rod continued, eyes briefly flickering to Ymir with disdain, “but please, refrain from extending invitations to anyone from that wretched Fritz family.” In response to Historia’s incredulous look of contempt, he droned on with even more demeaning insinuations. “I expected better of you, Historia. I’m disappointed that you’d fraternize with such hooligans. Let alone a hooligan with ties to the Fritz.”

Hooligans?!

“Excuse me?” Historia snapped. “You have no-”

“The riff-raff you invited,” Rod interjected, clarifying with a scoff. “He’s waiting at the garden’s main gate.”

With that, Rod Reiss turned his back and resumed his conversation with Ms. Tybur, washing his hands of what seemed to be an inconvenience.

Ymir gently placed a hand on Historia’s shoulder, silently urging her to move on. The blonde was on the verge of releasing her pent-up anger, but was stopped by Ymir’s soothing rationale.

It’s not worth it, Historia concluded. She told herself she shouldn’t be all that surprised.

Some days her father would play the nice card, perhaps in an attempt to make up for his lack of involvement when she was younger. But most days, like today, Historia was reminded of the kind of man he truly was.

“Come on,” Ymir urged. “Let’s go.”

Historia heeded the suggestion, eyes still glaring at her father. Together, they vacated the alcove and headed for the main gate, anger propelling the blonde’s steps. When they were out of Rod’s earshot, Historia briefly offered Ymir an explanation- one that was completely devoid of any classist bias.

“The ‘riff-raff’ my father was referring to is more than likely Eren,” she said. “Hopefully he wasn’t hassled by the ground’s security.”

Ymir snickered. “At least your old man didn’t run him off.”

“What a horrible first impression,” Historia groaned. She certainly didn’t want Eren to think she was like-minded and equally pig-headed.

As soon as they reached the gate, however, all cynical thoughts Historia previously had instantly dissipated. There Eren was, standing nervously behind the gate, rubbing the back of his neck in what Historia surmised was a nervous tic. His attire was a basic ensemble of a black shirt and black slacks. Poor guy must have felt out of place, among other things.

His head perked up the moment he caught a glimpse of Historia, who had approached him with a look of apprehension invading her features.

“Eren.” Historia quickened her footsteps, rushing towards him in a guilt-ridden pace. “I’m so sorry! I hope you weren’t waiting too long!”

She stopped about an arm’s length away from him, preventing herself from reaching out only because she was uncertain where to place her hands. Eren shook his head, smiling.

“Not at all,” he replied. “I was stopped here by security and then some guy, I think he said he was your dad, happened to walk by. I’m pretty sure the only reason why I wasn’t given the boot was because he knows my half-brother’s mom. My dad’s first wife…” Eren realized he was rambling, and was quick to seize his nervous banter. “It’s a long… complicated story.”

Damn, this was awkward.

I thought his name was Jaeger, was all Historia could think of at the mention of his family’s dynamic. But he’s… related to the Fritz family? How?

Before she could pry for more details, Ymir had moved forward with introductions.

“Name’s Ymir. Historia and I dance for the same company,” she said, shaking hands with the brunet. “You must be Eren.”

“Nice to meet you,” Eren replied. “And that’s right. Historia and I met through my family’s ballroom studio.”

Ymir nodded in understanding, smirking. “Mmhmmm. She’s told me all about it.”

Eren quirked a brow in amusement. “She has? Hopefully it’s good things.”

“Of course, it is,” Historia intercepted, intent on stopping Ymir from indulging in any more quips. She reached for Eren’s arm, imploring him to enter past the gate. Now without further ado… “Come. Ymir and I will show you around.”


 

Historia did her best to keep both herself and her entourage away from the presumptuous eyes of the vigil’s attendees. Neither Eren nor Ymir had taken notice of the stares directed toward them. It was quite possible that even if they had, they’d think nothing of it.

After reading the contents of the vigil’s official pamphlet (and through general observation alone), Eren had pieced a few things together in regards to who Frieda Reiss was. Though his knowledge on the subject was extremely limited, he’d gathered that she too had danced for the Sina City Ballet, was the eldest of Rod Reiss’ children, and was kind-hearted and surprisingly charitable. He now understood why Historia held a deep respect for her sister- and he could resonate with why her departure left her feeling… empty.

Dear god, he knew exactly what that felt like…

He was reminded of his own brother, and it left him feeling conflicted.

Eren wanted more than anything to test the waters. Regardless of the risks, he had the strong urge to converse with Historia about what he felt. What she felt. What they felt. How their lives had been affected in so many similar ways that it was uncanny. There was so much he wanted to share with her, so much he wanted to ask her, but he feared for over-stepping any possible boundaries, or inadvertently trigger some sensitive subjects. He could be patient, he reasoned with himself, and perhaps it would be better suited if she opened up to him first; on her own terms.

He was here for her, and to offer his support. The way any friend would.

The trio came across a memorial for Frieda in the form of a stone plaque, engraved with two separate dates and her name etched carefully in cursive. Candles were lit nearby, surrounding the memorial site in a soft, warm glow.

Historia was the first to pay her respects, head bowed, eyes lowered to the grass. The small crowd that had formed moments before suddenly began dispersing, and soon the memorial site had emptied into an adjacent part of the garden. Most attendees thought it’d be best to leave her alone and lend her some privacy. Ymir gently soothed her hand on Historia’s shoulder, then wordlessly vacated the site, reluctantly turning away to give her a moment in solitude.

That’s when it dawned on Eren that they were the last two left, ultimately deciding to follow suit and leave her undisturbed.

But before he could walk away, Historia had reached for his hand, gripping it with urgency.

“Eren,” she whispered, voice shaking. “Please. Don’t leave.”

The sadness he felt upon hearing the quiver in her voice, and the sensation raging throughout his body from the touch of her hand were unlike anything he’d ever experienced. A feeling he hadn’t the words to describe. Historia had been so closed off in the past, and had only recently began warming up to him; though merely in the smallest of ways.

But she no longer flinched when he’d hold her by the waist while dancing. She no longer avoided eye contact when he’d compliment her. And she no longer distanced herself from him when they’d engage in lighthearted conversation, brief as it usually was.

And now, in what he couldn’t discern was the heat of the moment or merely a moment of weakness, Historia was pleading with him to stay.

He didn’t think twice.

Gripping her hand in resolve, Eren acted accordingly and returned to her side.

“I’m here, Historia,” he whispered. “I’m right here.”

He had no intention of leaving her.

Chapter Text

Jaeger Ballroom Studio

The television screen flashed a whirl of images before Historia’s bewildered eyes, proudly displaying a montage of Mikasa and Eren’s performances in past ballroom dancing competitions.

Mikasa hit the fast-forward button on the remote after Eren roared with laughter at one particularly embarrassing clip.

“I still can’t believe you tripped over my foot that night, Mika!” he cackled. “Wait! Why are you skipping that?! Rewind it! Historia wants to see our fall!”

Historia shot Eren a look of bemusement. Mikasa on the other hand, paid him no mind.

“We were eleven at the time,” she explained to the blonde. “Our first ballroom dancing competition was… definitely a learning experience.”

“You two were so adorable,” Historia chirped, fawning over the precious sight of young Eren and Mikasa in fanciful attire as they swayed to upbeat classical music.

Eren, finished giggling at Mikasa’s (and his own) expense, sighed wistfully. “It was a complete disaster. But it was so much fun! And in the end, it encouraged us to take our training more seriously.”

Mikasa hummed indignantly, commencing a new search through a hefty box containing several VHS tapes and DVDs of rehearsal footage. She finally found the one labeled ‘2016’; the material that documented the previous year’s competition.

“This should be the one,” she mumbled, pressing the rewind button. She let go when the footage cut to her and Eren. “Here we go. Pay attention.”

Historia and Eren complied, watching as the figures on camera strode about the stage and readied themselves in the proper starting formation.

“This was last year,” Mikasa narrated. “Our routine was good, but it certainly could have been better.”

“We placed in the top five,” Eren said with a shrug. “Ahead of Connie and Sasha, at least.”

Mikasa sighed. “We are capable of doing better.”

“We improve every year, Mika!” Eren rolled his eyes. “I get that winning is cool and all, but we should enjoy ourselves and have fun!”

Mikasa scoffed at his goofy grin. “We’ll never make the podium with such a lax attitude.”

As the adopted siblings continued bickering among themselves, Historia kept a keen eye on their routine, scrutinizing every sequence. The pair were performing the classic waltz to the accompaniment of ‘Serenade for Strings in C’ by the esteemed Tchaikovsky. Through careful inspection, she determined their coordination was their strongest suit. Every movement was perfectly timed and executed, as though picking up on queues through eye contact and cleverly optimized gestures alone. Mikasa made good use of her long legs, each stride seamlessly aligning with accomplished footwork. Eren certainly proved himself her equal, emulating Mikasa’s refined performance with smooth turns while offering proper guidance as her lead.

Still watching their performance on screen, Historia was compelled to share her sentiments.

“You two were definitely underscored,” she mused aloud. “And from what you’ve shown me on other footage tapes, you’ve made significant improvements over the years.”

That being said, she was certain the adoptive sibling’s current training would be more than enough to get them on the podium- if not even have a shot at first prize.

Eren and Mikasa, however, weren’t nearly as optimistic as Historia in that regard.

After exchanging knowing glances with her green-eyed dance partner, Mikasa sighed and turned back to extract the DVD from the disc player, biting her lip.

“Mind if show you something before you and Eren rehearse the routine again?” Mikasa asked, peering over her shoulder towards Historia. “Won’t take but a moment.”

Historia nodded, unsure where the serious tone had derived from. “By all means.”

Acting on cue at Historia’s compliance, Mikasa replaced the previous DVD with that of one labeled ‘ice queen goes HAM’- a label that had Historia furrowing her brows.

Mikasa took note of her puzzled demeanor, and answered before the blonde could even ask. “Eren titled this one.” Then, lowering her voice, she quickly added, “He likes to think he’s funny.”

Eren huffed in amusement, downplaying his questionable humor with a shrug. “Just you wait,” he said, directing his flippant remark to both of the unimpressed ladies. “As soon as they start dancing, Historia will understand.”

“They who?” Historia barely managed to sneak in her query. No sooner than she’d finished asking had the screen turned on again, showcasing Mikasa and Eren’s biggest threat in the upcoming competition.

Annie strolled ahead on video, her dance partner Marlow by her side.

“I take it Annie is the ice queen then,” Historia mumbled.

Eren nodded slowly. “Keep watching…”

When the music began, Annie and Marlow allied themselves with one another through percussive motions, their eyes never leaving the others as the pace progressively elevated. Hisoria could’ve sworn she’d only blinked once- but as soon as she opened her eyes again, they instantly bore witness to what might have been the most immaculate rendition of the waltz she’d ever seen.

The couple on screen were graceful with every track, leaving behind a permeated trail of flawless turns and twirls that proved difficult to keep up with. Marlow gently tossed Annie from arm to arm, mindful of his own footwork as the blonde’s body pivoted on either side of him. Not only was their dancing aesthetically pleasing, but it was evident they adapted a certain tact in their routine- something that was clearly communicated through practiced gestures and cues from the rhythm of the music.

“This is the part where Annie goes HAM,” Eren voiced-over, arms folded across his chest as he wore an expression conducive to anticipation- like he was bracing for a slap.

Mikasa rolled her eyes. “Annie and Marlow are favorited to win the competition this year,” she said, leaning closer to Historia. “As expected of last year’s champions.”

“I can see why,” Historia mumbled, alarmed. Until now, she hadn’t seen Annie dance, and she was nothing short of amazed at how remarkable her performance with her suitor was.

“No doubt they’re going to tear it up this year,” Eren said. “They just get better with age. Like… fine wine.”

“Weird analogy,” Mikasa said, clicking her tongue. “But I get what you mean. Even when we were all in the junior division, they proved to be a formidable pair.”

“Annie’s like… a gazelle!” Eren enthused, as though he hadn’t seen her dance hundreds of times before. “Look at that! She’s a class all of her own!”

Historia’s a class all of her own, Mikasa thought, tearing her eyes away from the screen. Then again, the Waltz relied heavily on two parties’ involvement, whereas Ballet allowed for dancers to be more independent with their choreography.

Still, she was convinced if anyone had a shot at taking on the Marlow and Annie powerhouse, it was Historia and Eren. After seeing the ballet dancer engage in multiple rehearsals with him, it only further confirmed her belief that she was his true match. Other girls had come and gone in the past, but Eren had never seemed to form any sort of attachment whatsoever. No real connection.

Perhaps it had eluded his oblivious nature, but ever since he’d met Historia, there was a change in his bearings. Mikasa noted how his features would soften, how his eyes would gloss in amazement every time the blonde walked into the studio, and how he’d often ramble unintelligibly around her.

But most importantly, when they would dance together, he was so much more polished and he held a much more profound sense of confidence.

Historia had achieved similar accomplishments. Gone was the timid, hesitant demeanor she’d projected upon first arriving that fateful night several weeks prior. Here to stay was a young woman who exuded sentiments of self-assurance and carried herself with a quiet air of poise, albeit modestly. Though her progress could be attributed to several factors, Mikasa only considered the obvious one.

“Eren,” she said, holding up the remote towards the television. “We have about an hour before the next class.” She hit the large red button on the remote, turning it off. “You and Historia should rehearse while I get the studio ready for the lesson.”

“I’ve got the routine down,” Historia assured. “You two should get as much training in as you can.”

Mikasa shook her head. “We’ve been at it all morning. And the morning before that, and the morning before that… I can only put up with him for so long.”

“That’s just one of her many endearing ways of saying she loves me,” Eren quipped, winking at Historia. “Besides, she’s got a point. We gotta bring our A-game to the competition, and that includes mastering the routine with our alternate.”

“Well, I suppose that’s what I’m here for anyway,” Historia replied, rolling up her sleeves. “I’m all about perfection.”

“Perfection is subjective,” Eren said. “I think having fun is far more important.”

Winning is fun,” Mikasa called from her position behind the front desk. Before heading off into the dressing rooms in the back, she set up the music for Eren and Historia, adjusting the settings so it would play on a recurring loop.

Historia gave Eren a smile when she saw him deflate at Mikasa’s interjection. “This is a competition, Eren,” she reminded him, assuming her position.

At her behest, the brunet took hold of her hands and nodded dismissively. He kept count internally, waiting on the downbeat to pick up the routine when he thought of something.

“When the hour’s up, wanna join me for lunch?” he asked. “There’s this little place by the park that has the best sandwiches. It’s not too far of a walk from here.”

Any other day, Historia might’ve been perplexed by his offer. Maybe even a tad bashful, but any reservations she would’ve had simply unfazed her. She rather liked the idea of going on a casual stroll and exploring parts of the city she’d merely given a passing glance.

On another note, it presented the opportunity to pry into a few details that had troubled her since Frieda’s vigil. She’d been unable to converse with Eren about the convoluted details of their respective families due to lack of privacy.

Historia sought to gain insight on the matter through this outlet, ultimately accepting Eren’s invitation for a sandwich run. Their training would certainly build up her appetite, anyway.

“Okay,” Historia finally said, quickly adjusting the crooked collar of his shirt. “Sorry, the sloppy look was bothering me.” It was unbecoming of a gentleman, no?

Eren let out a single laugh. “I get it. Like you said. Perfectionist.”

In spite of herself, Historia smiled, then followed his lead with the beat of the music.


Eren held the door open for Historia as they exited the small café, carefully wrapped sandwiches in hand.

“Is that the park up ahead?” Historia asked, shielding her eyes from the sun as she nodded towards a paved walkway that circled along the perimeter of the lake.

“Yup,” Eren answered. “We can stop and eat at the gazebo on the other side of the lake. Mikasa and I used to feed the ducks there when we were kids.”

The fact that Eren had brought up childhood musings reminded Historia of her objective to ask about his upbringing. His brother. His ties to the Fritz family. She hoped her inquisitiveness wouldn’t come off as intrusive, and if it were any consolation, she’d be willing to open up and share details of her own family with him if he so inquired. Fair is fair, after all, although she admittedly was unsure just how detailed her explanations would be. It really depended on the nature of the question, she supposed.

When she looked across the still waters of the lake, she instantly spotted the wooden structure, finding it a pleasing sight.

“Looks nice,” was all she relayed back to him, as her thoughts continued to wander aimlessly from musing to memory.

“I know this place isn’t as luxurious as the community gardens in Stohess,” Eren began. “But the ducklings make up for it. I promise.”

Historia absentmindedly chewed her lip. “I think this place has a certain charm to it.” It was so calm and serene, whereas the gardens at Stohess required immense upkeep and the local swans were exceptionally aggressive. Nice to look at, but one would be wise to keep their distance for sure.

When the duo finally reached the gazebo, they settled themselves on a vacant bench and obliged their growing appetites. Historia hadn’t meant to moan after swallowing down the first bite, but the burst of flavors on her tongue cried out their gratefulness in spite of her best efforts to keep quiet.

Eren thought it was the most adorable thing. “Good?” he jested.

It was better than just ‘good,’ Historia thought, but the only response she was capable of offering was a shy nod.

“Told you they had the best sandwiches,” Eren declared, smirking proudly. “I’m pretty much a regular at the shop. Every now and then, I’ll pick up something for Mika on our lunch breaks. She gets so distracted with the studio sometimes, but I always make sure she eats something.” He shook his head with a bitter chuckle. “And she says I’m the irresponsible one.”

Historia half-smiled, then dove into her sandwich for another bite. “You two have a pretty balanced relationship,” she remarked. “You look out for each other.”

“It wasn’t always like that,” Eren said quietly, lips sinking into a frown. “I used to be a real pain in the ass.”

It was hard for Historia to imagine Eren as anyone other than the dorkishly optimistic individual she’d become acquainted with, especially by way of dancing of all things.

“What do you mean by that?” she asked, shifting herself on the bench to get a better look at him.

Eren rubbed the back of his neck, averting his gaze. “Used to be a troublemaker,” he admitted. “And that’s an understatement.”

His confession gave Historia an ‘aha’ moment. The pieces were barely beginning to form and take place among the puzzle she’d been riddled to solve with such minimal details. She recalled her own father had referred to him as a ‘hooligan’ at the vigil. But what exactly did Eren’s shady past entail?

“What kind of trouble?” Historia asked before she could stop herself. “If you don’t mind my asking…”

“You really wanna know?”

Of course I do. But the words wouldn’t follow. “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to,” Historia said, preventing herself from further prying by burying her face into her half-eaten sandwich.

Eren studied her briefly, eventually giving in to the sympathy sheathed in her eyes. He ran a hand through his hair as he looked away again, as though searching for words that eluded his grasp.

“Just the usual juvenile delinquent stuff,” he finally said. “Growing up, I always got into fights and stuck my nose where I shouldn’t have. But after…”

A pause. The silence hadn’t settled long enough for Historia to prepare for another deep revelation. 

“After my mom died, I just...” Eren let out a deep breath, one that was hard to discern between relief and unease. “I felt so pathetic and I was angry all the time. There was nothing I could do to bring her back and so I’d lash out, often in ways where I’d put myself in danger. I just stopped caring.”

Historia frowned. “That’s awful,” she whispered. She knew what it was like to have a mother absent from her life; how hard it is to grow up without any sort of maternal nurturing. Perhaps that was yet another reason why she clung to Frieda as a child.

“It was,” Eren continued. “Even so, it doesn’t excuse my behavior. My actions hurt the people I love, too. Dad tried his best to reign in my rebellious tendencies, and Mikasa was always worried. Said she was afraid I’d end up in serious trouble.”

Historia caught the slight quiver of his lips, the tender shift in his bearings.

“What changed?” she asked quietly.

Eren’s gaze finally met hers, a familiar ache lancing his chest. “I guess I… was lucky to have people in my life who wouldn’t give up on me.”

With a dismal grin, he got up from the bench and slowly walked up to the edge of the gazebo, resting his arms atop the structure’s railing as he looked out on the lake. “Here,” he said, beckoning Historia to join his side. “You’ll get a kick out of this view.”

She heeded his request and rose from the bench, meeting him at the edge for what he promised was optimal viewing.

Eren then proceeded with further enlightenment of his past, picking up where he’d left off.

“I had a real wake-up call after spending the night in jail when I was seventeen,” he confessed. “It made me realize that my mother would’ve expected better of me. Whether she was around or not, I hated myself for turning out to be such a letdown.” The memory weighed heavily on his mind, and he sighed in resignation. “I had to recognize that I was my own worst enemy… but I was also my own solution.”

His words struck a chord within her. Be it familial hardships or the uncertain future of her career, Historia acknowledged the same conclusion in that regard; that the most daunting obstacle of all was herself.

She was the sole reason for all the missed opportunities in the past, for all the setbacks that prevented her from reaching the soaring heights of her potential.

She was her own problem- but she was also her own solution. Eren’s disclosure of his past helped her make sense of it all, and the bleakness of her future was quelled with a single spark.

Historia only then realized how close they were standing together by the railing, having been previously lost in her inner musings. She couldn’t help but feel something in this moment. Under these circumstances, both unraveled in vulnerable states, Historia longed to reach for him again, interlock their hands together and relish in the warmth of his palm with hers.

She wouldn’t. Wouldn’t give in to what she considered a graceless desire.

“So after that night,” Historia resumed, stuffing both hands in her pockets, “what happened then?”

A smile resurfaced on Eren’s face, replacing his formerly glum expression. “Dad and Mikasa came to pick me up the next day. I thought I was going to get chewed out for sure, but they were mostly quiet the entire drive home. Mikasa only asked if I’d eaten. Dad said there was someone waiting to see me at the house.”

Historia tilted her head. “Who?” she asked.

“It didn’t even occur to me to ask, probably because I was tired. I also just sort of assumed it was a friend from school. Armin. Jean. Maybe Sasha… But, boy, was I wrong.” Eren let out a low chuckle, eyes drooping a bit. “It was my brother. As soon as I walked through the front door, there he was, waiting for me to return from my little stint in jail.”

Historia thought back to the vigil and her father’s harsh words regarding the elusive Fritz family. She’d heard bits and pieces of not-so-polite rumors about them, but every word had been tainted by her father’s obvious bias, so she opted to take his slandering of the Fritz’s with a grain of salt.

“Your brother, Zeke?” Historia clarified, having recalled he was Dina’s son, the matriarch of the Fritz’s family. So that’s how he has ties with them. His brother.

“Half-brother technically. Different moms,” Eren replied. Then with a questioning gaze he turned to face her and asked, “You know him?”

“I only know of him,” Historia answered. “The Reiss and Fritz families have quite the history… As in, Hatfield’s and McCoy’s kind of history.”

Eren’s eyes widened incredulously. “Well no wonder your dad didn’t seem too fond of me.”

Historia huffed in disdain. “The only person he’s truly fond of is himself.” Enough about him… “Are you and your brother close?”

Eren struggled with that question, as there was really no definitive answer per se. His relationship with Zeke had always been a massive grey-area, neither black nor white.

“He… was someone I looked up to as a kid,” Eren affirmed. “It’s hard to explain. He’s been in and out of my life for years…” His voice trailed off, until he caught on with, “But when he showed up that day, after I hadn’t seen him in a long time, that’s what ultimately sealed the deal for me. Convinced me I had to get my act together.”

“And why is that?” Historia pried, a look of concern on her face. What set him apart from the others?

Eren shrugged, unable to articulate anything more than: “He understands me. Maybe even more than I understand myself or the motive behind my own actions. The kind of person that he is… it’s odd, because he’s still a mystery to me in a way, but there’s always going to be a part of me that aspires to be like him.”

Historia thought for a moment, before rendering an admission. “I felt the same way about my sister,” she said softly. “Feel that way, I mean.”

“But you two were a lot closer,” Eren said. “And she definitely seemed more family-oriented.”

“True,” Historia agreed. “But she often expressed her disdain for our family’s dealings. She strongly believed the Reiss’s were capable of contributing more to the community and the less fortunate.” With as much conviction as she can muster, she concluded with, “In spite of her phenomenal abilities as a performer, the main reason why I looked up to her was for her character.” Genuine. Sincere. Benevolent.

By virtue of her upbringing and learning to take harsh criticism as a dancer, Historia had prided herself in maintaining a perfectly calm and collected composure under particularly stressful circumstances. Perhaps she had merely mastered the ability to repress her emotions, and over time learned to numb herself to painful memories.

Yet she had no explanation as to why tears were welling up in her eyes, or why her stomach sank at the sullen tone of Eren’s voice. Her heart shattered at the revelation of his deceased mother. How awful it must have been to feel so hopeless and so angry all the same.

“She’d be proud of you.” Eren’s remark broke her contemplative reverie, somehow sparing her from releasing the tears that had nearly brimmed to the surface. “I don’t know Frieda. Never got the chance to know her, but with all that you’ve accomplished and the kind of amazing person you are, Historia… how could she not be?”

Historia turned to meet his gaze, mouth slightly agape. “You think I’m… amazing?”

Eren’s smile was like a warm glow, beaming under the tenderness of his emerald green eyes. “Yes I do.”

Historia’s heart raced, and her shoulders tensed a bit. Faint pink colored her cheeks and all she could think about was how she absolutely loved his smile. How many others had fallen for such a troublemaker’s smile?

Is this what it feels like? Historia thought, ruminating on Eren’s words from before.

 

“When you meet someone special, it can open up your entire world.”

 

Before she could reciprocate his heartfelt gesture, they were momentarily interrupted by the passage of the lake’s inhabitants.

Small quacks followed closely behind a mother duck, the collective group of ducklings making their way from one side of the lake to the other, floating past the gazebo on route.

“There they are,” Eren noted, nodding at the ducks. “Historia, look!”

He’s such a kid at heart, she thought, finding his fascination with the family of ducks rather endearing. She had to admit the babies were cute.

“If only I had some leftover bread…” Eren mumbled, disappointed.  

His regret earned a few harmless giggles from her, to which he was initially perplexed.

“What?” he asked with a crooked grin.

Historia shook her head, still in between subtle laughs. “Oh, nothing,” she replied, leaving it at that.

She could tell his smile was a reflection of her own, and it wasn’t long before they were laughing together. It was a strange measure of support they’d provided each other with, one that she knew couldn’t be done solely with words.

So they watched as the ducks completed their journey to the other side of the lake, the tiny ripples of water fading in the stilled surface.