Armin wasn’t sure exactly when he first started going to see her. He wasn’t sure WHY he had begun to see her either. But he kept finding himself here. The others didn’t know. He didn’t know how to explain it at it’s most basic, let alone the other thing that happened when he was down here.
“So, what’s on your mind today, Armin?” She was leaning against the wall, her arms crossed.
“Hello to you too, Annie.” He wasn’t entirely sure what exactly she was. She wasn’t the normal Annie, as he could still see her in her crystal. The likeliest explanation was that she was some figment of his imagination, or a hallucination. It wouldn’t surprise him if he was finally starting to go around the bend. But, given how strange his life had become over the past year, he couldn’t rule out that she wasn’t something else. That she wasn’t real. After all, he only came down here by himself, so he didn’t know if anyone else ever came down here. He couldn’t prove that no one else could see her.
“Still sticking to those pleasantries? You’re determined, I’ll give you that.”
“What does that even mean?” She sure sounded like Annie.
“We both know you only come down here for one reason, so out with it, little solider boy.” She smirked.
“And you said you couldn’t flirt.” He smirked back.
“You’re trying to deflect again.” She stood up straight. “Is it the nightmares?”
“I’m used to those, I’ve had them forever.” He shrugged his shoulders.
“Alright, I guess we’re playing a guessing game. If I guess right, what do I get?” He just shrugged his shoulders again. “How about a kiss?”
He looked at her then. “A what now?”
“You have heard of kissing before, haven’t you?”
Armin frowned at her. “I’m not even answering that.”
Annie laughed and stepped closer to him. “Armin, are you blushing?” He hadn’t noticed, but now that she mentioned it, he could feel his cheeks grow hot. “Have you never kissed someone before?”
“When exactly have I had time to be kissing people?” He crossed his arms.
“You little heartbreaker.” She laughed. “Everyone has wanted to kiss you at some point. But I get to be the lucky one to first claim your lips?”
Armin flushed even more. What did she mean, EVERYONE wanted to kiss him? “Can I even kiss you?”
“Why couldn’t you?”
“Because I’m still not convinced that you’re not some sort of byproduct of my very stressed brain.”
Annie stepped right up next to him, making Armin retreat a couple of steps. “If I’m a figment of your imagination, then that means you’re making up this entire conversation right now, and therefore you WANT to kiss me. So, I’ll ask again, why couldn’t you kiss me?”
“I have a headache.” He groaned.
Annie stepped closer, making Armin step back again. He backed into the crystal and was effectively trapped. “So…” she began
“You still have to guess.” Armin said quickly. “That’s the game, right?”
Annie paused, and it looked like she was pouting for half a second. “Fine. Let’s see. If it’s not nightmares that brought you to me, is it the other source of your problems? Is it Eren?”
She was close enough to him that he could feel her breath on his face. What was she that she was breathing? “Wrong. No kiss for you.”
Annie raised an eyebrow. “Really? There’s not a thing involving Eren that you want to talk about with someone who you know won’t accidentally let it get back to Jaeger?”
He stared into Annie’s eyes. They had always reminded him of ice, or maybe steel. Cold and unforgiving, but also beautiful, in a dangerous way. “Okay, there IS, but it’s not why I came down here.”
“I guess we’ll circle back to Eren then.” She put a hand on her hip. “Let me think. The only thing I can think of if it’s not the first two has to be those titan powers of your’s.”
“I almost feel like you should be more specific, as that’s such a broad subject.”
“Ah, ah, ah. Those weren’t the rules. I won the game, so give me my prize.”
Armin didn’t think, he just moved, leaning forward and pressing his lips to her’s. She wasn’t what he had expected. She was warm…and soft. She seemed to be taken by surprise, but recovered quickly. One of her hands cupped his cheek briefly, before her fingers lightly traced over his face to become tangled in his hair. She deepened the kiss. Armin’s arms circled her waist, pulling her flush against him. She sure felt like a real person. Her skin felt warm and alive as his fingers slipped under her shirt.
But then Armin pulled away. What was he doing. He dropped his hands, and they felt the cool crystal behind him. Just what the hell was she? Annie tsked as she took a step back. “You lied to me.”
“There’s no way you kiss like that on your first kiss. So, who have you been kissing?”
“I didn’t lie to you. And that’s none of your business, is it?” He turned around and studied the crystal. It appeared intact, and that Annie was still sleeping inside it. But what if THAT was the illusion? And Annie was actually standing here? Now he definitely had a headache.
“You’re so mean to me.”
“No I’m not. I’m not mean to anyone.” He spun back around to look at her.
“You were pretty mean to Bertolt. I mean, you bit his head off.” Armin felt his body go cold. It made him feel sick when he thought about it. Of course, he hadn’t been in control of himself, but still…He had no memory of it, but he could picture it well enough. And he had Marco’s death as a guide. That had come with Bertolt’s memories. “Armin, wait. I didn’t mean that.” His body had started to move towards the stairs, though his brain hadn’t told it to. Annie grabbed his arm and spun him around. “I shouldn’t have said that.” She pulled him into a hug.
“How do you live with it?” he asked as he clung to her.
Annie tangled a hand in his hair again as he buried his face in her neck. Tears filled his eyes. “I don’t know. You just do.” She said softly. “You just keep living, and try not to think about it, and maybe one day it won’t hurt so much. I think there’s a reason we don’t remember when we first turn. Because it’s such a violent, primal thing, often against someone you know, maybe someone you love. It would be too painful to relive it through your own eyes. It might even tear you apart.” Armin felt the tears slip down his face as Annie tightened her grip. “I’ve got you my love.” He began to sob, let out the emotions he’d kept pent up for so long. “It’s going to be alright, my beautiful boy.”
Armin decided he didn’t particularly care what she was, because she was here and she understood, and that was enough for him. He wished he could tell the others about her, how much she helped him, how much she loved him, but he knew he couldn’t. They wouldn’t understand. They’d think he had finally cracked. Or worse, they’d come down here and find out that she was real, and out of the crystal. No, for now, he’d keep quiet. Keep visiting his dirty little secret.