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The mission has gone to shit in every way imaginable.

Well, not every way. Levi has been on a mission or fifty and he's seen the very many ways it was possible to colossally (no wait, bad association) fuck things up, and he comforts himself that while his new squad may be made of stupid children, and they may have run out of gas and blades, and Eren has lost consciousness after fighting too many titans, and Jean's arm is probably broken, and they are off course and unlikely to receive aid in the near future, and they are stuck in a stand of trees with about ten titans surrounding them which is nine more than Levi can probably take out without any gear – well at least he can comfort himself that they are alive for the moment.

His hapless squad doesn't seem to appreciate this fact much. They are perched on branches of varying heights and one and all are giving him these hopeful looks, like a puppy who pissed on the floor and is looking guiltily for the owner to clean up its mess. Like Levi will pull a rescue out of his ass, or at least some food because it's been hours since their last meal and hungry people often think of food more than titan-fighting strategy.

"It's not fair," Sasha moans. "I joined the military so that at least I wouldn't have to die hungry."

"I was supposed to be in the Military Police," Jean complains. He brings that up every so often when he's feeling particularly obnoxious. It appears to make him feel better, so Levi doesn't tell him to shut the fuck up about the fucking Military Police who are a bunch of useless murdering bastards anyway. Levi tries to be considerate.

"Nobody's dying until Eren's safely back," Mikasa says grimly. The implication being, obviously, that they should feel honored to sacrifice themselves for Eren's wellbeing. Which, well, they would because Eren has his Hope-Of-Humanity fancy-ass powers, but nobody says they have to be happy about it.

They have all learned that Mikasa is best ignored on the topic of Eren, or at least humored, so nobody rises to the bait, though she gets dirty looks from Connie and Historia.

This was just supposed to be a training mission, Levi thinks. Shame they're all going to die pointlessly and ruin humanity's hope for a future. He's going to be laughed at for years, assuming humanity lasts that long.

"We're going to starve," Sasha moans again.

"We can eat Eren!" Connie suggests. "Since he regenerates-"

"We can eat you," Mikasa growls.

Levi sighs. Time to try and pull a miraculous rescue out of his ass, right. "Okay, children, inventory. Empty your pockets and let's see who's hiding some spare gas or a horse or something."

Bam, hope, as if Levi could actually do something with whatever odds and ends turned up. They comply with alacrity. As it turns out, Historia actually has some spare gas on her, and Armin has a replacement cable. Jean has a piece of what looks like bone (not asking!) which he shows and then stuffs back in (seriously, not asking) and some bandages. Connie has a mostly-full skin of water, as does Armin, and Levi has flint and steel, some twine, and various other things good for survival when ten titans weren't standing around watching you hungrily.

Sasha has a carrier pigeon with a small tag around its ankle.

"Rose Pizza,'" Connie reads. "'We deliver.'"

"Let's order one!" Sasha says immediately.

"We're outside the walls," Armin points out.

"It says they deliver, doesn't it? Come on, let's do it!"

"I'm in," says Jean. "It'll be funny. The last message from the doomed 104th. Can I have mushrooms on mine?"

"Pepperoni!" chimes in Sasha, ever for meat. The kids have gone bonkers, Levi thinks sadly, as they fill up the reverse side of the pigeon's tag with their requests. Three pies, one with mushrooms, one with tomatoes and onion, one with pepperoni and-

"Pineapple," Levi says. What the hell. If they're ordering death-pizzas he might as well get in on it.

"Isn't pineapple expensive?" Sasha asks.

"What the hell is a pineapple?" Jean mutters.

"Let's worry about the expense when the pizzas arrive and we're back at the walls and able to pay," Levi growls. "Who the fuck cares if it's expensive. Pineapple is this yellow fruit that all the fancy-ass nobles put on their pizza. I have no idea what it tastes like."

"Fruit on pizza sounds weird," Connie dares to say.

"More for me," Levi snaps.

"I'll eat it, too!" Sasha says. Sasha would eat anything. "If it's expensive it's gotta be good."

"Sasha gets the idea," Levi says approvingly, and Sasha flushes at the compliment. If Eren were awake he'd probably bristle and do something outrageous to get Levi's attention back. It's ridiculous and weirdly cute at the same time.

Though, ridiculous and weirdly cute kind of sums up his whole squad.  Levi once again questions his judgment.

"Pineapple and pepperoni it is!" Sasha crows, and adds it to their order. "Where should we tell them to send it?"

"Stand of cypress two kilometers northeast of Chlorba District," Armin says promptly, as if anybody but him has a fucking clue what the hell a cypress is.

"Big-ass trees two kilometers northeast of Chlorba," Levi corrects. Armin looks put out when Levi's version is the one that gets written.

With great pomp and circumstance Sasha releases the pigeon into the sky. They all watch as the bird vanishes to a pinprick somewhere in the direction of the walls.

"I bet the dumb bird won't even go to the pizzeria," Jean says. Levi has to agree.

"I stole a pizza, once," he says, reminiscing. They all perk up their ears, and boy won't Eren be disappointed he missed a story of Levi's Shadowed Past. "I mugged one of the delivery guys. Wasn't very hard, he didn't put up much of a fight when I held a knife to his throat and said 'the pizza or your life'. It was from a swanky place in Upper Sina, called Margarita's or something. Shitty pizza. Lucky I didn't pay for it."

The kids all nod gravely, as if he's imparted some deep, meaningful piece of knowledge. Jean looks calculating; Levi knows he will store it away and taunt Eren with it for as long as he can possibly milk it.

They settle down to wait. Levi sits down where the branch meets the tree and leans back, gazes at the horizon where Wall Maria is an only-just visible dark line. The sun is still high in the sky, and will not set for another eight hours or more. If they can hold on until dark when the titans aren't active, perhaps they can make it back to the walls. Two kilometers is only half an hour's walk, less if they run it. Not so possible with titans chasing them, but without…

Well, time enough to get maudlin over their possible deaths later.  


As it turns out, three hours later when things have gotten kind of nervous with the way the titans have been tearing at the trees and threatening to knock them down, and Sasha's not the only one complaining about the lack of food, Levi spies a flare cutting the sky off in the direction of the walls.

He sags in momentary relief before turning to the rest of the squad, who have let out a ragged cheer and are now cavorting ridiculously. Armin and Historia are hugging each other, Jean is smiling magnanimously around at all of them over his splinted leg, and Connie seems to be dancing a polka on his branch.

"Oi," Levi calls, and he has to repeat himself a few times because the kids are too busy partying to remember that they're soldiers. "Oi!" They finally quiet down and look at him, listening for instructions. "For the love of all you hold dear – yes Mikasa, that includes Eren – if you don't want to be the laughing stock of the Legion forevermore – play it cool."

There is no time to say anything more because the rest of the Scouts have arrived and are making reasonably fast work of the titans. Bless them, they even brought spare horses.

Levi watches the proceedings with carefully cultivated disinterest and hopes Hange won't sense his mortification because she would be on it faster than a dog on a piece of meat.

"Took your time, shitty Glasses," he calls out when she's in hearing range.

"I'm late because I nearly laughed myself to death on the way here," she shouts back. "Pizzas, Levi! I can't believe you. What the hell are you doing out here? How many wounded?"

Other soldiers have gathered around, and his squad are preparing to descend, two of them ready to assist Jean, and Levi holds his breath, because while he will not respond more than giving Hange a bland look, his squad...

But at that moment his baby Scouts prove that, despite everything, he'd chosen them well.

"Nobody's wounded," Jean says, allowing himself to be helped with as much grace as the king himself. "We just thought it would be a great place for a picnic."

"Did you know these cypress trees are older than the walls?" Armin chirps.

"Eren wanted a nap," Mikasa says grimly, as if it justifies anything. Perhaps to her it does.

"I was watching butterflies," Historia says, regardless of the fact that there is not a single one in sight and they wouldn't be up in the trees anyway.

"How do you train them so well?" Hange marvels as she hands the reins of his replacement mount over to Levi.

"Pizza!" Connie and Sasha yell together, and Levi thinks they're just adding to the beautiful picture, but no, they're galloping their horses over to a terrified and miserable looking young man who's huddled on his horse with tear streaks on his face and no gear to speak of. On his lap he's clutching three boxes of what must be pizza.

Hange's saying something but Levi ignores her completely, urging his horse forward. "Pineapple is mine!" he bellows.

The poor courier doesn't resist and allows Levi's hungry squad to tear the pizza boxes open and get at the insides with no complaints. Levi does indeed get a slice of his coveted pineapple, and decides that it's rather odd and might not necessarily be his first choice next time but damned if he'll say so.

"I didn't quit being a barista for this," the pizza courier sobs. Levi relieves him of the last box, because if it got tears on it that would be gross.