Shit. Shit, shit, shit, there was no getting out of this.
Jean lay flat on his back, where he’d landed after a malfunction with his maneuver gear. He supposed he was lucky. All he had were some bruises, maybe a dislocated shoulder. Up ahead, he could hear screaming - his squad wasn’t doing much better than he was.
Of course, ‘lucky’ was a relative term. Perhaps he wasn’t dead yet, but considering that he’d just dropped twenty feet through the branches of a Titan-infested forest, he was going to be soon. He was in no shape to even attempt making an escape, and his gear…well, all that remained of it were the harnesses around his legs and waist, the hilt of one blade pressed into the palm of his good hand. He’d dropped the other one when a branch knocked his shoulder out of its socket.
For something between an eternity and a few seconds, he laid on the forest floor, pain throbbing through him. He was dead. The others were already gone, he had no way of escape, he was dead. The rest of his live would be spent waiting, waiting until a Titan finally meandered over, drawn by the sound of his crashing fall, or perhaps his scent. He kept still, kept quiet, though it seemed to him that his heartbeat was loud enough to alert an entire army of his presence.
Finally, it happened. He thought he’d been laying there for hours, or perhaps a few minutes, but at last, he heard it. The gentle sound of grass being crushed, of earth being pressed solid by a foot bigger than his entire body. As bile rose in his throat, Jean slowly turned to look at his demise. His heart pounded violently in his chest, a cold feeling spreading through his limbs. He wasn't sure if he could or couldn't move, at this point, but he didn't. All he managed to do was stare, register the sensation of blood drying on his scalp, tighten his hand around the hilt of his blade.
It was enormous. Sixteen…no, a seventeen-meter class, at least. Taller than Eren’s titan form, certainly. It was oddly well-proportioned for a titan - there was no noodle-neck supporting an over-sized head, or a distended belly like a toddler’s, balanced on thin legs and large feet. No, this titan was built evenly, almost muscular. It almost reminded him of Eren, were it not for the spots here and there, on its shoulders, legs, where its skin was missing, tendon and muscle showing instead.
It knelt, one massive knee pressing into the ground not a full two meters away from Jean. A hand touched the earth above his head. Another pressed below his feet, and the Titan bent down. Jean was still frozen, tears burning behind his eyes. He didn’t want to die. He had so much left to do, to be, and he didn’t want to die, not like this, not in a way that was so painful and pointless, as a meal for a creature that didn’t even need to eat. He didn’t want to die, crushed between teeth that were too large to cut cleanly, after living a life that was so much fear and hate. He didn't want to die - not that the Titan crouched over him cared about that.
Hot breath grazed over him, moving his hair back. As he saw that massive, shadowed face grow closer, Jean closed his eyes, a choked whimper the only noise he made.
Marco wasn’t sure how long he’d been here. He’d tried to count the sunsets, at first, but he lost track at seventy-three. He knew two things, acutely; the first was that he was a titan. That had taken some getting used to, as well as a few incidents that saw him running from other titans before he realized that they were no longer a danger to him. In fact, he stood at least head taller than any titan he’d met in this forest, which was as bizarre as it was frightening.
The second thing was that, somehow, he’d wound up in the forest, despite his last memories being of cobbled streets and shingled rooftops. He’d once traveled, over the course of a day, close enough to see the walls. However, the sickening knowledge that his friends and fellow soldiers would see him as a monster had kept him from coming any closer than that.
Not that this resignation kept him from feeling horribly, painfully lonely. Titans weren’t dangerous to him, but they didn’t socialize, even if they wandered in their little groups. So, no longer needing to eat, drink, or sleep, Marco wandered as well, trying to enjoy his freedom – as much as it had cost him.
And then, as he spent yet another day sitting by a slow-moving river, he heard it. Hoof-beats, from hooves that belonged to no deer or boar. These were horses, and – he listened closer – human voices. Eyes widening, he practically leapt to his feet, used to the way the ground trembled beneath his weight.
However, he was too late. In the time it took him to reach the humans, they were all dead. He recognized none of them, but he still felt wracked by grief as he saw the monsters he’d lived with tearing their bodies apart, fighting over the pieces. His one chance at meeting someone, talking to someone, and it was gone, as were the lives of yet more people. He almost fell to his knees…when a scent caught him, carried on the breeze from less than a quarter-mile away. He raised his head, hope, reluctant and small, rising in his chest. Could it be…could someone still be alive?
He headed towards the scent, some small part of him realizing that this was why the Titans could find hidden humans so easily – he could have followed this smell, almost floral, from miles away. Finally, he saw it; a small figure, laying on the ground, holding one of the rectangular blades he’d once fought with. He slowly approached, more conscious now than ever of his size. He’d thought watching deer go by was a humbling experience – here was a human that might have stood at his height, once, and Marco could barely even make out his face.
Slowly, he knelt down, trying to get a better look at the human. His chest was rising and falling, faster than was normal, and Marco realized with a start that his eyes were open, fixed on Marco’s face. He was too thrilled that this human was alive to realize what was probably going through the poor thing’s mind, placing his hands on the ground to lean down and get a better look. The boy closed his eyes as Marco leaned closer, turned his head away…
And Marco froze.
Jean’s name attempted to make it past his lips, but a different noise came out instead, something closer to a dog’s growl – amplified by a thousand – than any type of human speech. Jean, blood tracked down his face, flinched, letting out a shuddering breath. He kept his eyes tightly closed, brow furrowed in that way it did when he was scared and didn’t want to admit it. Marco had seen that look plenty of times, before and during missions…he never thought he’d be the cause for it.
Marco swallowed. What…what could he do about this? He couldn’t speak, couldn’t touch Jean for fear of hurting him, couldn’t do anything but sit here and loom like a monster. Slowly, he straightened back up, trying to work something out.
However, before he’d had more than a few moments, he heard something other than Jean’s panicky breathing; footsteps. Many footsteps, loud, making the earth below them quake. The Titans had finished devouring the rest of Jean’s squad, and they were on their way.