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Calm Before the Storm

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Hello! And welcome to my very first Shingeki No Kyojin/Attack on Titan fanfic! I've watched the show since its first premier and have loved it ever since. However, it wasn't until just recently did I fall absolutely head over heels for the Levihan fandom! It's taken over my life! Someone help me!! But on the serious note, I hope you all enjoy my work. Writing this fanfic has helped calm my obsessiveness over these two amazing characters. In case you don't already know, it is my personal opinion that Hanji is female. In the anime, Hanji's character is clearly a woman. However, in the manga, Isayama clearly states that Hanji's gender is not identified and is up to the reader. I have therefore written their relationship as heterosexual. And speaking of sexual, the last few chapters do have sexual scenes and that's why this fanfic is rated M. That's about all I wanted to say, so without further ado, here's my story!!

Prologue: Set a few years before the rest of the chapters...

The most recent expedition beyond the walls had returned. Less than 3/4 of the original group alive and majority were wounded badly. The other soldiers that had stayed behind at the military barracks watched in remorse as their comrades entered the grounds, bodies and spirits broken. Even their newest member, Levi, hung his head, having lost both Isabel and Farlan, the two cadets that had joined the Survey Corps with him. His eyes bore that of intense fury, but deep down, he was scarred, having lost his only friends in the world, and no one left to talk to. Hanji Zoe was amongst those in the crowd and took notice of Levi's appearance. She looked around for the other two that were normally with him and realized, in despair, that they would not be returning. She had just met them not too long ago and took a liking to their spunk, along with Levi's impressive skills. Hanji sighed sadly, knowing that this was a common occurrence with the Survey Corps. But no matter how many times she's witnessed this, there was no amount of experience that made you become numb to the reality of it all.

Frowning, she turned to go back inside the barracks, heading to the library. She was determined in her research to find a better way to understand these Titans. Therefore, one day, she could help humanity purge the world of them and ultimately save themselves. Hanji grabbed a few books from the library, whatever she could find. Many books she had already thoroughly read through, even memorized. However, she was sure that she could find something useful for the Survey Corps purpose. Her selection was limited, but she figured she would be better off pairing some of the books with those from her own personal collection. She checked out what she could carry, and headed to her assigned quarters. As she kicked her door down, she startled her roomate, Nanaba.

"Aii! You scared me, Hanji!" chided Nanaba. As Hanji stumbled into the room, Nanaba gave her a disapproving stare. "Tsk. More books? As if you already haven't crowded both your and my side of the room with them!"

"Ah, sorry Nanaba," Hanji apologized, dropping the books down onto her already cluttered desk. "I just need to look over some things."

Nanaba gave her a skeptic glance before realizing the time. "Neh," she asked quietly. "Did the others return from their recent trip?"

"Ah," answered Hanji sadly. "Disastrous, as usual...even that new cadet...Levi."

"That short, grouchy one who only hangs out with those other two?" Nanaba asked.

"It's just Levi, now," Hanji replied, sadly. Nanaba regarded her words with silence.

"How awful," Nanaba whispered. "Even with Levi's skills, they couldn't-"

"I'm not sure what happened," Hanji replied sadly. "But even with Levi's advanced skills, it wasn't enough...that's why..." Hanji looked at her messy desk scattered with books and research.

"I got it," Nanaba assured. "Do your best Hanji." She stood up from her bed and walked towards the door. "Are you heading down for dinner?"

"In a minute," Hanji replied, sitting down at her desk to look over some of the library books she borrowed. Nanaba smiled and left the room, closing the door behind her.

Levi sat alone, haphazardly stirring his spoon into his soup. His appetite had left him, but he knew he would need his strength. He took a bite from his bread, recalling Erwin had stopped him near the stables shortly after they arrived back, hand on his shoulder.
"If you're serious," Erwin said. "About fighting for something'll need to train harder than you ever would've imagined." He let go of Levi's shoulder, leaving him with, "We begin tomorrow morning."  Levi continued to eat, mulling over Erwin's words. However, desperately, he wanted to take his mind off of his loss. Hanji finally stepped into the mess hall, retrieving the night's selection of dinner, which consisted of a watery stew and bread. Although she had been nose deep in research, she wanted to come down to eat and give her mind a break. As she walked towards the tables, tray in her hands, she spotted Nanaba with a few of their comrades. Nanaba noticed Hanji and waved her down enthusiastically. As Hanji made her way to them, she noticed Levi sitting alone at one of the tables. She paused and observed how small he made himself, stirring at his soup absentmindedly. Hanji noted how cute he appeared, tiny and alone at the table. However, she cringed as his intense, angry eyes made it almost impossible for anyone to mistake him for adorable. A feeling of sympathy fell over her and she found herself turning towards his direction instead.

Hanji set down her tray, the metal hitting the wooden table, its sound startling Levi. He looked up just as Hanji sat in front of him.

"Oi," he muttered lowly. "I don't want company."

"Do you remember me?" she asked, ignoring his words. He glared at her for a few moments, realizing with annoyance that she was not going to leave. Yes I remember you, he thought to himself. You were that strange, friendly one that first approached me, Isabel, and Farlan.

"Didn't you hear me?" he snarled. "I said I don't-"

"I'll leave you alone, I promise," she interrupted. "I just wanted to..." she looked down at her plate nervously, grasping for the words. Then, she snapped her head up to look at him intently, causing him to jerk backwards in surprise. "I'm sorry about your friends: Isabel and Farlan!"

Levi's eyes widened for a moment, not sure what to say. He looked down, fists clenched and suddenly stood up. His icy stare boring into her. Dangerously quiet he spoke, "Yes, I remember you, the one with the Shitty Glasses." He picked up his tray and stormed off, breaking his stare from her. "Do me a favor, and leave me the fuck alone. You look and smell disgusting! Don't come around me anymore!" He turned heel and stormed off, leaving Hanji blinking after him.

"Shitty Glasses?" she asked, taking her glasses off to observe them. "That's kind of rude..."

"Hanji!" Nanaba called, running towards her. "Are you ok?" She sat down next to her, giving her a concerned look.

Hanji nodded and smiled at Nanaba reassuringly. "I'm fine, I think I just dodged a bullet with that one."
"You're crazy to approach him," Nanaba warned. "Keep away from him. You know Erwin picked him up from the dangerous Underground city." Hanji nodded at her but said nothing.

Levi paused to observe from the shadows of the mess hall entrance and hallway. His eyes narrowed at that strange person. "Tch."

Training commenced as ordered by Erwin. It wasn't just Levi who had to participate, but the other soldiers of the Survey Corps. Everyone had been running drills that following morning. Although Levi felt it was a bit beneath him, Erwin insisted he follow through with them just the same.

"In order to minimize casualties beyond the walls we need to maximize your skills and potential!" Erwin roared as he supervised the troops using their ODM gear to maneuver through the trees and obstacles that were set up. Fake Titans were set up in the forests, and as usual, the soldiers were required to slice at the cushioned nape placed at the back of their necks. Feeling as if stuck in a broken record, Levi flew to the ground.

"What the fuck is the point?!" he yelled towards Erwin. Some of the soldiers paused and Erwin thundered at them, "Do not stop!" and they reluctantly flew off to continue their drills. Hanji paused in a nearby tree to quietly watch.

"Levi, you told me you wanted to serve this purpose," Erwin answered calmly.

"But how is this helping?!" Levi argued. "Day in and day out, soldiers do this shit, and even the most experienced don't come back alive!! If we really wanted to to make a difference, shouldn't we be preparing differently?!"

"Levi, what-" Erwin began to speak.

"I agree with Levi!" Hanji shouted, soaring to the ground. She landed more agile than expected and Levi took a moment to take in her ability with the ODM gear.

"Hanji?" Erwin asked, amused.

"This little guy has a point," Hanji replied, earning a quiet, annoyed "Oi," from behind her. "How are we ever to make progress if we don't update our training?" Hanji protested.

"What do you propose then Hanji?" Erwin asked, curious.

"I've been doing my best to research Titans, given what limited information we already know!" she began. "But what about abnormals?"

"Abnormals?" Levi asked, curiously.

"Many of the soldiers aren't prepared to handle their deviant behavior and that's what our disadvantage is!" Hanji continued, disregarding Levi's question. "Shouldn't we integrate our training with preparing for those encounters as well?"

Erwin regarding Hanji and her proposal. "Although I understand your notion, Hanji, we don't know enough about them to integrate 'abnormal training' into our regime."

"I know about them!" Hanji blurted out, then retracted. "Well, at least somewhat. But if I can just observe them, I bet I can take enough notes to formulate a means of understanding and therefore...defeating them!"

"So," Erwin answered, "You're saying you're willing to risk lives to leave the walls just to observe these abnormals?"

"Yes!" Hanji replied. She saluted her fist against her chest. "But we don't have to sacrifice many lives. I volunteer to go in their place!"

Levi regarded Hanji in surprise. "Oh? You must be really stupid to want to do something like that."

"If it means getting closer to preserving our existence," Hanji said, turning her head around to face Levi. "Then I think it's worth some sacrifice. Don't you?"

His eyes widened in realization. Not bad, he thought.

"Hanji, as honorable as your enthusiasm is," Erwin reasoned. "I can't let you do this alone-"

"This idiot won't have to," Levi cut in, stepping forward to stand next to her. He glanced up at Hanji to see that she was watching him and he looked to meet Erwin's gaze. "I'll go too."

Erwin smiled, interested in what was happening before him. "I see...I'll assemble a small team to accompany you two." He watched their faces lift with his approval. "However, I don't want casualties. You go, you observe, you avoid any fighting, and return back."

"Yes sir!" Hanji saluted before turning to resume training.

Levi watched Hanji leave and looked back at Erwin, who was smiling at him. "What the fuck you smiling at me for?"

"You like that one," Erwin said, amused.

Levi scowled angrily, approaching Erwin. "What did you say?"

"Easy Levi," Erwin said, standing his ground. "I'm just glad that you've found a friend."

"I'm not interested in making fri-"

"Commence training." Erwin ordered. "Be on the lookout for my signal. I will be giving the order to suspend it soon."

"Tch" Levi said before turning to activate his ODM gear, pulling himself in the other direction. Friend my ass! he thought as he glided ahead. Levi realized with a pang of frustration that he had caught up with Hanji, watching as she flew gracefully through the trees. A soldier had approached one of the Titan dummies near her, attempting the appropriate slice depth on the fleshy nape, but failed. Levi rolled his eyes and went to cut it properly but was cut off by Hanji, who cheered happily as she soared through the air. Levi growled as he had to shift his weight to avoid colliding with her. Her cut was perfect. She cheered as she nimbly flipped backwards and landed on a nearby branch.

"Oi, watch it Shitty Glasses!" he grumbled, soaring past her to land on the trunk of the tree she was on. "You almost knocked into me."

"Why do you keep calling me that name? I told you my name is Hanji!" Hanji cried impatiently, stomping her foot down.

"Shitty Glasses," he continued, coming down from the trunk to land on the same branch as her. "You're serious about all the shit you spewed out to Erwin?"

"Of course I am," Hanji answered, confused. She looked at him, smirking. "If you didn't believe me, you wouldn't have put your faith in my reasoning too, neh?"

Levi took a swig from his water pouch, glaring at her. Some of the liquid dribbled onto his hand as he screwed the cap back on. "Fuck off Four Eyes," he said, flicking the excess water on his hand towards her face. She cried out in surprise as the water droplets clouded her vision. Levi took a moment to survey the soldier in front of him who was able to fly so gracefully with the ODM gear. "You know, for a man, you've got a feminine build."

Hanji removed her goggles, "Haha, is that so?" she asked. She used her sleeve to wipe the droplets from her goggle lenses. "You don't have to call me Four Eyes. I told you my name is Hanji," she stated, looking up from her glasses to observe him.

Levi looked back up at her, "Shit..ty..." his eyes locked onto hers. He took note of the attractive shape of her large eyes. Their brown color shimmered gorgeously and for a moment, Levi found himself stunned. He continued to stare at her, lost in thought before uttering, "You're...female?"

"Yes," Hanji answered. "You really didn't know?"

"Why the fuck didn't you tell me?!" Levi snarled, feeling stupid.

"It never came up," she answered, putting her goggles back on. "Feeling bad that you've been insulting a woman this whole time?"

"Tch," Levi replied. "Doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman, you're still a shitty four eyes..." He stared at her eyes again, then paused to look at her flat chest. "It's easy to see why others mistake you for a man," he muttered.

Hanji looked up in thought and said, "What's funny is a lot of people don't realize I'm a woman until they've seen my eyes clearly. Weird huh?" she looked down and smiled at Levi brightly, causing him to avert his attention elsewhere. "Are they that pretty?" she asked, curiously.

A whistle sounded in the distance, distracting their attention from each other. Levi turned around to face Hanji. "More like shitty. Let's move Four Eyes, that's the signal to return back to the barracks." He shot off into the trees with his ODM gear.

"Hah?!" Hanji called, launching her lines after him. "I told you, my name is HANJI!"

That evening in the mess hall, the soldiers gathered as usual for dinner. The sounds of chatter and the clinking of metal can be echoed from the walls. Hanji sat down at her usual table with Nanaba. She was joined with Mike and Moblit, laughing and
discussing various topics.

"So," teased Nanaba. "I heard you gave the Commander quite an earful today,"

"Don't you always?" Mike added.

"I needed to," Hanji reasoned. "We're never going to progress if we don't start changing our training tactics." She lowered her voice. "Besides, you saw the results of our last expedition..."

Their conversation muffled out to idle chatter as Levi sat watching from his table. Again, he sat alone, eating his meal. However, he found himself staring at Hanji curiously. For some reason, unknown to him, he found her persona intriguing. As he lost track of what he was doing, someone had sat down directly next to him.

"Levi," Erwin greeted.

"Do you normally like sneaking up on people like this?" Levi asked, irritated on having been snuck up on.

"I just came to fill you in regarding that observation mission you volunteered for." Erwin stated.

"Right," Levi replied curtly. "What about it?"

"Since I already have you and Hanji assigned to it," Erwin continued. "I figured I'd let you in on who else will be joining your group for support."

"Who?" Levi asked, indifferently.

Erwin nudged his face towards Hanji's table. "It's important to have trust amongst your comrades. Those sitting with Hanji are close to her and work well together. Nanaba and Mike are especially skilled at the ODM gear and have taken down multiple Titans, along with assisting." Levi listened to Erwin, bored. "And Moblit works great when paired with Hanji for some reason," Erwin added. "They have a great rapport and I think he would be of much help in Hanji's research."

Levi turned to observe the table, surveying the people who sat there and who he would be working with. Hanji was sharing her piece of pie with Nanaba since it was rare for the dinner selection to have desserts. As Nanaba took a piece
with her fork, Mike grabbed the small plate it rested on, making the motion to take a bite. Nanaba cried out angrily, grabbing for it but Mike held it just out of her reach. He called out to Moblit, making a gesture that he was going to throw it towards him. Moblit hesitated as Mike tossed the plate and Hanji was quick, shooting upwards to catch it instead. The pie collided with Hanji's face and the fruit filling began to drip down, the pastry crumbling away in small chunks.

The others watched her quietly, not knowing what to say. However, Hanji used her fingers to clear the pie off of her face. She licked her fingers and laughed, causing the others to also burst into a fit of laughter. Levi continued to stare, unimpressed, when he heard Erwin give a small chuckle next to him. As Levi glanced at him, Erwin met his eyes and said with a smile, "Kawaii." Levi shot a distasteful look at the table and breathed out a 'humph'.

"Erwin," Levi said. "Did you know...?"

"That Hanji's a female?" Erwin finished for him. "Yes." Erwin noticed Levi's sour demeanor. "You're not the only one to have mistaken her. It's not very obvious at first." Erwin stood up to leave. "I'll inform you when that observation mission will take place. In the meantime, get to know your teammates. It might come in handy."

Levi rolled his eyes, turning his attention back to the group of laughing soldiers he would have the pleasure of working with. He let out an annoyed sigh and stood up. He went to go return his tray and stopped at the exit. Contemplating for a second, he turned to walk towards the table with Hanji, Nanaba, Mike, and Moblit. Their voices hushed when they saw Levi approaching. Hanji turned around, face covered in bits of pie. Levi eyed her and gave a small grimace. He cleared his throat as the group regarding him silently. "Has Erwin spoken to you regarding our upcoming task?" Levi asked, finally.

"Y-yea," Nanaba replied nervously. She looked towards her comrades. "It looks like we'll be accompanying you and Hanji on that mission."

"Good," Levi replied, motioning to turn away. "Looks like we're all on the same page then."

"It's good to know if we can trust each other," Mike commented, giving Levi a stern face. "Erwin asked that we attempt to know each other better. And seeing as you're the only one away from the circle..."

"I have no interest in doing that," Levi responded cooly.

"You sure have a big ego for being such a tiny man," Mike challenged, standing up to his full height.

"Mike," Moblit warned, placing a hand on his shoulder before Mike shrugged it off.

"Mike don't," Nanaba warned. "Remember where he came from..."

Levi narrowed his eyes. "Ah," he said, stepping forward aggressively towards Mike. "How can you trust someone like me with my background?" He paused in surprise when Hanji stepped in front of him. She put her hands up, attempting to calm the situation.

"Neh, neh," she said, glancing back from Mike to Levi. "It's not important where he came from. We're all on the same team, fighting for the same purpose, remember?" Her eyes flickered to Levi's. He stepped back, relaxing his stance, eyeing her as her face was still littered with fruit filling and pastry crumbs. He raised an eyebrow at her. "Erwin's right," she continued. "Let's try to get to know each other. Why don't you join us, Levi? I can fill you in on what I already know about the Titans." There were some groans from her comrades behind her. Confused, she turned to face them. However, when she turned back, Levi was already walking away.

"Wipe that shit off your face, Shitty Glasses," he called. "You look ridiculous."

"...Rude, that one," Moblit said once Levi was out of earshot.

"Well you guys could have been more welcoming," Hanji retorted, looking mostly at Nanaba and Mike.

The next day, after a brief training exercise, Levi found himself wandering the barracks. After washing off the sweat he had built up, he didn't want to remain in his room any longer than he had to. The empty bed of Farlan was too painful to look at. Levi was testy that day, haven't not been able to sleep well since the loss of his two friends. All the chatter in the barracks was annoying him, so he searched for somewhere quiet to go. He passed the library and stopped just outside the door. The library should be somewhere quiet , he thought and opened the door. He walked in and saw that it was devoid of anyone, much to his relief. As he walked in, he noticed a desk in the corner with a mountain of books piled on top. Other than that, the rest of the desks were clear. He shrugged and settled onto a comfortable chair on the opposite side. He sighed quietly in content as he shifted to a more suitable position and closed his eyes.

The sound of pages flipping caught Levi's attention and his eyes opened. He took a moment to observe his surroundings and heard the sound again. Irritated, he noticed that the sound was coming from the pile of books he saw earlier. He shifted to a more alert seating position. Some of the books had been moved to the side by somebody. As more books were rearranged as the person was looking for a particular volume, Levi recognized the soldier as Hanji. Of course the Shitty Glasses would be in the library , thought Levi. He continued to stare at her, thinking that she would look up at any moment and call out to him. However, to his surprise, she never noticed that he was even there. Hanji's attention was fully engrossed in the books she was pouring over. Levi watched her in mild interest before standing up. He approached her desk and even when standing right in front of her, she didn't acknowledge him.

"Oi," he called in a low voice. Hanji jerked in surprise, an arm knocking into one of the towers of books, sending a particular large one to topple down towards her. Levi caught it before it hit Hanji on the head. He eyed the book's title as Hanji stammered out, "You surprised me, what are you doing in the libr-"

"So, all this stuff you're reading is about Titans?" Levi asked, ignoring her words.

"Yea," Hanji answered, fixing her glasses from the crooked position on her nose.

Levi opened the book and thumbed through the pages. "Is this where you find all your Titan research?"

"Well," Hanji replied. "Yes and no. The library is where I start. But I've found books in the local stores, along with various reports and excerpts on the expeditions beyond the walls."

"I see," Levi replied, setting the book down. They locked eyes for a moment, both curious about the other until Hanji asked. "Would you like me to tell you about some of my findings? It...may help us on our mission..."

Levi continued to study Hanji curiously before settling down on a chair next to her desk. He sat down, arms and legs crossed. "Why not?" he said. "I have some free time at the moment."

Hanji beamed and started gathering some of her notes from in front of her.

"OI," Levi warned, "Don't get too excited and piss yourself or something."

He watched her as she began explaining to him everything she knew. She began opening various books to certain pages, making a show of pointing to them, waving her other arm around animatedly. Hanji shook her papers of scribbled notes around and even opened up a children's book with pop up Titan characters. She laughed all the while, blushing at the adorable movements the characters did when she pulled certain tabs.

Levi watched her intently, listening, but making no effort to respond to her words. As his gaze continued to fix on this strange individual, he found himself thinking to himself, She's cute when she lights up like that. He covered his mouth to stifle a yawn, finding himself oddly at peace.

Levi awoke with a start. He glanced around and realized that he had fallen asleep on his chair in the library. He looked towards one of the windows and noticed that the sun's direction of light had changed significantly, meaning he was out for at least a few hours. His stomach grumbled and he looked down. When he glanced back up, he saw that Hanji had also fallen asleep, folded over on her desk. Levi stood up and stretched. He regarding her silently for a minute, noticing her glasses crookedly positioned across her face. He reached down and took them off, holding them up for his inspection. Shitty Glasses, he thought, before folding them and placing them down on the desk in front of her and turning to head towards the mess hall for some food.

Levi sat down at a lone table to eat, as usual. As his head was down, focusing on eating, he felt a sense of being watched. He looked up and noticed Nanaba, Mike and Moblit watching him from their table. He sighed and continued to eat, trying his best to ignore them even though he knew what was coming next. He cringed as he heard their footsteps approaching.

"Neh Levi?" Nanaba asked, quietly.

"What?" Levi asked, not bothering to look up.
"Well," Nanaba hesitated. "Tomorrow is our trip and we wanted to see if we can...sit with you and prepare..."

Levi looked up at her before flickering his eyes to regard the others. "Fine."

They all took a breath of relief and sat down, their trays clanking on the table.

"Wait," Moblit said, looking around. "Shouldn't Hanji be with us for our discussion?"

"Well where is she?" Mike asked teasingly. "Don't you normally take it upon yourself to always be around her?"

"T-That's not true," Moblit stammered. "Erwin asked that I accompany Hanji as much as possible to assist her with her research."

Levi pinched the bridge of his nose, thinking Geez they're annoying, before shouting, "Oi, she's in the library!"

They all turned to look at him. "How do you know that?" asked Nanaba, curious.

"Because she just bored me to death with her Titan talk, even talking herself to sleep," Levi explained with a wave of his hand. "We don't need her present. There's not much to discuss. This mission is purely observational and we're to avoid fighting the Titans as much as possible."

"And what happens when we encounter the abnormal?" Mike asked, testing Levi's plan.

"We observe," Levi answered. "We pretty much ride out until we find one, take notes, and head back. Then, we're done."

"We'll need to be somewhere where we have the advantage," Nanaba replied. "I think Hanji has some maps in our room. We could find an area with many tall trees so we can avoid being on the ground as much as possible."

"There we go," Levi said, standing up dismissively. "I'm retiring for the night. Be ready to go tomorrow morning." He turned and headed off. He took note of the amount of soldiers leaving the mess hall. Also, the ones in charge of cleanup duty were already beginning their tasks. He headed towards the kitchen and found some soldiers already beginning cleanup. "Oi," he called. They turned to look at him. "Is there anything left?"

"Oh," answered one of the female soldiers. She went towards a table in the back and brought him a tray with the night’s dinner on it. "There's not much, but here. Still hungry?" Levi took the tray without a word and walked out of the kitchen.

Hanji awoke with a start as the library door was kicked open with force. She touched her face for her glasses and found that they weren't there. She searched the desk she was at, and found them, putting them on quickly. Her vision returned and she found Levi with a tray in his hands standing before her. "Levi? How long was I out?" she asked. Levi set the tray down on her desk.

"Eat," he ordered. "We go on that mission of yours tomorrow morning and you need your strength, seeing as you're the brains of the matter."

Hanji stared at the food and then at Levi gratefully. "Thank you!" she said with a smile.

Levi's eyes softened for a moment as Hanji's face appeared to light up the room more than any candle. Then, he frowned at her and retorted, "I'm just ensuring my survival tomorrow, which means preventing you from collapsing from hunger." He turned his heel and headed towards the library door. As he opened it, he took one final glance at her.

"Oh, and Shitty Glasses," he called. She looked up at him. "You better have a good plan tomorrow. Our lives depend on it. Also, Nanaba will be asking you for a map. Pick the best spot for us to rendezvous." He closed the door and returned to his room.

The next morning, all 5 soldiers were mounted on their horses and ready to leave on their expedition beyond the walls. Erwin was with them, ensuring he see them off properly. "The smaller the group, the less attention you'll draw to yourselves," Erwin boomed. "I don't want you guys out for too long. I expect you to return before nightfall. Hanji," he turned to address her. "This is your mission to lead. I expect no casualties, do you understand that? Your priority is the lives of you and your men. Nothing else. If you can't find an abnormal, or if the situation proves too precarious, you are to retreat immediately."

"Understood Commander," Hanji answered.

"The rest of you are to accompany Hanji. Protect her, protect yourselves, and if circumstances allow, you are to observe and note any information that the Survey Corps can use. I'll see you when you return!" The soldiers saluted and waited nervously for the gate to open.

"Do you guys remember where I told you we're going?" Hanji asked her squad.

"Yes, the one you circled on the map in red over and over..." Mike teased.

"Right," Hanji answered. "We head in that direction and use our ODM gear to post up in the safety of the trees. Hopefully, we don't encounter any Titans before we reach that destination. After that, we wait for an abnormal and see what we can find out. If we don-"

"Ok, OK Shitty Glasses," Levi cut in. "We already heard you this morning."

Hanji paused dejectedly and returned her attention to the gate that was almost open enough for them to pass through. Nanaba gave Levi an angry look. Everyone turned to observe Erwin, waiting for his signal. Once the gate was all the way up and the coast looked clear, Erwin shouted, "Advance!" and the squad rushed out of the gate.

The early morning was cloudy, but visibility was not an issue. The squad stayed in formation tightly and kept their wits about them. Hanji opened her map to check their bearings and made a mental note of the location. She lead the formation, heading off to the forested area. The only sound was that of the horses hooves pounding on the ground as they traveled in silence. Normally, they traveled in a much larger group, so their lack of security weighed heavily over their heads.

After a few minutes of silence, Moblit perked up. "Squad Leader," he announced calling out. "I can see our destination!"

"Good," called Hanji. "Keep your eyes out for Titans. The moment we approach the treeline, use your ODM gear to get to a branch just out of reach, but not too high so that we can't observe well."

"Roger," Mike, Nanaba, and Moblit called. Levi kept looking around for any signs of danger. Just as they were within a few hundred meters of the forest treeline, two Titans came into view from the west of them, running quickly in their direction.

"Smells like a 5 meter and a 8 meter titan," Mike called aloud, sniffing the air.

"Shit," Levi growled. He was about to turn and engage them when Hanji called out, "No! We are not to attack unless absolutely necessary!"

"Do you see how fast they're approaching?" He argued. "We need to take them out or we won't make it!"

"Moblit, Levi, stay with me!" Hanji called after a moment.

"Nanaba, Mike, do you think you can take those Titans and make it to the meeting point?"

"Roger that," Nanaba called, shooting off towards the Titans, followed by Mike. Levi snarled and called after Hanji. "How come they can take them and I can't?"

"Because I need your skills in the event an abnormal pops up!" Hanji called. Levi gave her a knowing look and nodded. She, Levi and Moblit made their way to the treeline and launched themselves off of their horses, landing on corresponding trees next to each other. They watched as the previous two Titans fell and Nanaba and Mike returned to their horses. When they met up together, Hanji thanked them. "Well done, you guys did great!"

"What do we do now?" asked Moblit. "Just wait here?" He looked down as a couple of Titans emerged from the plains to gather at the foot of their trees.

"Well, we're safe up here, for now." Hanji replied. Just as she said that, a larger 12 meter Titan rammed into her tree. She stumbled, but grounded herself with her ODM lines. They looked down and noticed the larger, more aware-looking eyes on that particular Titan, staring up at them. It was deftly quick as it continued to ram at their trees.

"Looks like we found our abnormal," Mike said. "Hanji? What now?"

Hanji squinted at the ground. "It's hard to observe with those other Titans getting in the way." She turned to look at the others.

"Why don't you guys travel together to see if you can lead them away from me. It will give me a chance to observe the abnormal alone."

"Don’t be an idiot," Levi argued. "That's a stupid idea!"

"Hanji-san," Moblit offered, "Levi's right. I'll stay here to protect you while the others go."

Hanji smiled at Moblit. Levi felt an unfamiliar tug in his chest and frowned. "No," he stated firmly. "I'll stay". He looked from Moblit to Hanji. "You stand a better chance of surviving if I stay here instead."

Hanji looked at Levi, surprised, and then at Moblit apologetically. "He is better at the ODM gear," she said with regret. "Thank you Moblit. Please go with the others and be safe." Hanji turned to the others. "Don't go too far," she ordered. "Just a hundred meters away or so, granting the abnormal some space!" With that, they took off together into the forest. And to Hanji's relief, the Titans followed suit. And to a higher degree of relief, the abnormal stayed behind, eyes trained at Levi and Hanji. Hanji took notes on the fact that the abnormal was not attracted to the larger group like the other Titans.

"What now?" Levi asked, watching the others leave.

"As planned," Hanji answered. "We observe and take notes. She closed her notebook for a moment to face Levi. "Fly over to the next tree. I want to see if this abnormal has a preference to which one of us it wants to eat."

"Ugh, fine," Levi replied and took off to the next tree. Sure enough, the abnormal switched its attention from Hanji to Levi and changed direction to his tree. Levi landed on the branch and gave Hanji an annoyed look. "So this proves...what? It has a preference for men? But then again, it could easily have mistaken you for-"

"I don't think it has a preference for which sex we are." Hanji cut in. "Maybe it senses something inside us. You're very talented, maybe it craves your power."

"Right," Levi replied, rolling his eyes as the abnormal Titan began to ram the tree Levi was on, causing him to anchor himself with his ODM lines. Levi glowered at Hanji as the abnormal continued to do this for some time. All the while, she scribbled in her notebook.

"Fuck this," Levi said, releasing his anchors from the tree and flying towards the abnormal. "Take notes on this: I'm engaging the Titan."

"Levi wait!" Hanji called, but she was too late. Shit , she thought as she closed her book and prepared herself to launch after him. Levi soared in the abnormal's direction and aimed, as usual, for the nape of its neck. However, just as Levi was about to begin his signature spin with his blades, the abnormal turned fast, unexpectedly fast. Levi made a grunt in surprise as it reached out and trapped him in its fist. He made a look of horror as it pulled him to its open mouth.

Levi braced himself, trying desperately to free his arms. Suddenly, he was splashed with blood. He felt himself fall but was caught and then soaring back towards the trees. As the steam cleared from the heat of the Titan's injury, he glanced up and saw Hanji was carrying him under her arm. He turned to the abnormal and saw that Hanji had sliced off its hand at the wrist. They landed on the branch of the nearest tree, high enough out of reach. "You ok?" Hanji asked. Levi walked over and rested his hand on the trunk, regaining his composure as he fought to control the shakes, having been almost eaten. "Ah," he replied quietly. He stared downwards, grasping at the fact that he almost died, but didn't. And he had Hanji to thank for that.

"Dammit," Hanji replied as her goggles fell off her head, one of the straps had been severed so that she could no longer secure it place. "Looks like I might have cut it by mistake." She looked over at Levi, back turned, still bent over by the trunk. "You remember everything I told you about the Titans?"

"Before you bored me to death?" Levi asked, gaining his sass back. "Yeah...why?"

"None of that applies to abnormals," Hanji answered. "That's why they're named as such. Most Titans are oblivious when you go for their neck. They're...dopey and almost childlike, unaware of our intentions. Abnormals, they have a better sense of awareness, which makes it harder for them to take down. But I've noticed...if we act as a team, create a diversion to distract them...they can be taken down much easier."

Levi turned around to face Hanji, "Shitty Glasses...what are you-"

The Titan rammed the tree they were on with such force that Hanji lost her footing. As she slipped, Levi ran to catch her hand but she was already falling to the ground. He held an arm outstretched for her in vain. She's not reacting, he thought in a panic. "HANJI!!" he cried. Hanji snapped out of her stunned state of mind and activated her ODM gear to catch onto the tree, twirling around the large trunk. She was suddenly swatted by the abnormal's hand in an attempt to grab her. She was sent with force to the tree, hitting it and falling to the ground. Hanji recovered quickly, searching for her goggles which she figured had landed closeby. She found them and ran her finger over the lenses. Damn, she cursed. Cracked. The abnormal crouched down to observe Hanji. "Oi! Get out of there!" Levi yelled. "Shitty Glasses!" He stopped when the abnormal stood up again and its attention was focused on Levi. He gulped in surprise. So it is after me, thought Levi. Hanji took the opportunity to shoot her ODM gear back to the trees, but she landed too low. The abnormal turned again and went for the easy capture and Levi found himself again crying out, "Hanji!! Look out!" Hanji turned in surprise and jumped out of the way. She saw Levi make the motion to go after her but she shouted at him.

"Stay there! I'm fine! This is getting too dangerous. Levi! Distract the abnormal and I'll go for the kill!"

"You?!" he cried in disbelief. "You don't have your goggles!" He dove downwards and the abnormal surged after him. Hanji shot her gear and went for the back of it, preparing to slice at its nape. Levi panicked and turned to go after Hanji protectively, catching her in his arms to return her to the tree. "Hanji you can't see! I got this, idiot! Stay here and I'll get the others for help!" The abnormal grabbed hold of Levi's line, causing them to change direction and slam into a nearby tree branch. Both tumbled forward hard but managed to grab a hold, securing themselves.

Hanji picked herself up and shot an angry glare at Levi. "I may have poor vision but I'm not blind, you asshole!!"

Levi felt a lurch in his stomach and found himself staring, amused, at this woman who just insulted him. A strange sensation formed in his throat and let out an unfamiliar choking, cough sound.

Hanji's ears perked up and she watched him, confused. "Levi...are you...laughing?"

Levi cleared his throat. "Don't be stupid," Levi spat. "I got the wind knocked out of me and coughed." Hanji stood up and started to laugh but jerked, grabbing onto her side.

"Oi Shitty Glasses, you alright?" Levi asked, walking towards her.

"Think I bruised a rib," Hanji grunted. "But I'll be ok." She looked at Levi. "You ready to take out the Titan?"

"Well I was, before you interfered," Levi muttered. "How are you so damn calm in these situations?"

"Seeing as its interest is on you, be the diversion." she said, ignoring his question, earning a miffed look from Levi. "I can't see too well, so try not to get caught this time. Remember, their awareness is heightened, so it's like dealing with an actual person. Once its attention is on you, I'll go for the kill."

Levi eyed her warily. "Shouldn't we just get the others?"

Hanji shook her head. "It's getting late and we need to return. I got what I need."

Levi breathed out a sigh, "Don't let me die, Four Eyes."

"Trust me," Hanji replied. Levi locked eyes for a moment with her, recalling when she saved him from certain death earlier.

Someone I can trust, huh, Levi thought recalling Erwin's words. "Yeah, Ok," Levi agreed, squaring his shoulders. "Let's do this." He leapt off the branch, launching his ODM gear and heading for his horse. He landed on its back gracefully and the horse took off quickly, riding along the tree line. "Come on ugly!" Levi called towards the abnormal as it sprinted after him. Shit, it's too fast, thought Levi as it was gaining on him quickly. I should have stayed in the trees near Hanji with the ODM gear. I'm just making this harder for her.

Levi headed into the forest, trying to maneuver around the trees and dodge the abnormal’s approaching advance. Levi realized in horror that he wouldn't be able to outrun the abnormal as it began reaching for him. Just as the abnormal was inches from grabbing Levi, it froze, falling to the ground in a thundering heap. The steam cleared and Hanji walked off the back of its head and jumped to the ground. "Levi?" she called, searching for him. "Are you alright?" She stumbled to the ground, tripping over a nearby root and Levi brought his horse over to her. He took a moment to give her a look of admiration before throwing his leg over to dismount and land on the ground next to her.

"Come on, Shitty Glasses," he said, stooping down to help her up. "Let's head back already." He guided her to his horse and helped her mount it. He hopped on afterwards to sit in front of her. "I'll have someone get your horse. I don't think you should be riding in your visual state." She nodded and wrapped her arms around Levi's waist. He stiffened in surprise calling out, "O-Oi!" The touch was a shock to him, but her warmth on his back was...oddly welcoming.

"Sorry!" Hanji cried, removing her hold and warmth quickly. "I was just trying to hang on!" She placed her hands on his shoulders instead as he guided the horse back to the clearing.

"It's OK," he said quietly, fighting the urge to take Hanji's hands and wrap them back around him. Levi stared forward, confused on why he suddenly wanted her to touch him again. "If you feel like you have to hold on to me Shitty Glasses," Levi stated hesitantly. "You can."

"Eh?" Hanji asked, confused. "It's fine, I can just hold on to you like this."

Levi remained quiet, pulling into the clearing. He shook his head of the disappointed feeling at her words. What the hell am I thinking? he thought. Mike, Nanaba, and Moblit came galloping  towards them on their horses.

"Oh, we're so glad you guys are OK!" Nanaba cried. They were all stained with blood.

"Yeah, we're fine," Hanji smiled. "How about you guys?"

"Just a few average Titans," Mike explained. "Nothing we couldn't handle. "Where's your horse, Hanji?"

Hanji whistled for her horse, which came trotting over from where she initially left it. "I need you guys to take it for me. My goggles broke."

Moblit looped a rope around Hanji's horse as it approached. "Hanji San, do you still have your map?" he asked her. Hanji dug in her pocket for it, and handed it over to Moblit.

"I can take it and guide us back," Levi mumbled.

"Looks like you got your hands full with that one," Mike teased. "Let Moblit handle the map and you can handle our injured squad leader. Let's get back before any other shit happens."

Levi agreed and they got back in formation, following Moblit back to the barracks. Nanaba eyed Levi warily as they trotted along and called towards Hanji. "Are you ok over there? You can ride with me if you want, Hanji."

Hanji opened her mouth but Levi answered, not making eye contact with either of them, "I've got her, it's fine."

Hanji looked at Nanaba and shrugged her shoulders. "I'm in good hands apparently."

"Apparently," Nanaba repeated, giving Hanji a smile and doing the same for Levi, who gave her a side glance before returning his eyes forward with a 'humph'.

"So with abnormals, we know one thing's for sure," Hanji said over Levi's shoulder.

"Yeah, and what's that Shitty Glasses?" Levi replied, keeping his eyes forward.

"They're not what you expect, huh?" Hanji answered.

Levi contemplated her words for a moment. He thought about the abnormal Titan and found that Hanji, herself, was nothing like he could have ever imagined either. "Not what I expected at all," he answered. Abnormal...

Hanji was in the hospital ward, resting on one of the beds. Her injured rib had been inspected for breakage, but it was determined to be just a bruise, as previously thought. The area was wrapped for support and she was given a painkiller to help. However, because it caused drowsiness, she was to remain until the effects wore off. Nanaba had brought Hanji her glasses and stopped by to check on her.

“So how are you holding up?” Nanaba asked.

“I’m doing great. But I’m on bedrest until my drowsiness is gone.” Hanji replied. “Did you guys all turn in your reports?”

“Yeah, I think so,” Nanaba said. “Has Erwin stopped in?”

“No,” Hanji answered. “But it’s OK. My injury is nothing to worry about and I’m sure he’s busy looking over everything.”

“So,” Nanaba began nervously. “...about that Levi character.”

“Hm?” Hanji thought. “What about him?”

“I honestly couldn’t stand that little guy,” Nanaba replied. “He seemed so rude and uncaring...but with’s’s like he’s different.”

“Haha!” Hanji laughed. “You think so?”

Nanaba laughed too. “I just hope he becomes more easy to work with.” She stood up and waved to her. “But with you around, I don’t think that will be too hard. Get some rest and I’ll see you soon, neh?”

Nanaba left and Hanji could hear her speaking to someone just outside her curtain. The curtain around her bed rustled and Levi stepped in. Hanji smiled and asked, "To what do I owe the honor?"

Levi threw a new pair of goggles at her lap. "From Erwin," he explained. "Try not to break these ones."

"Well, it was your fault it happened. And also why I'm here," Hanji teased.

"What the hell are you talking about, Shitty Glasses?" he asked, taking a seat on the chair beside her. He took a moment to give her a once over, relieved to see that she was going to be fine.

"By having to save you, I accidentally damaged them," Hanji explained.

"Being a clumsy ass with the blades is no fault of mine," Levi yawned, covering his mouth. "And how is it my fault you're here?"

"You sent me flying into that branch, injuring my rib." Hanji pointed out.

"That was because of the abnormal," Levi retorted. He took note of Hanji watching him, smiling happily. "What are you so damn happy about anyway?" he asked, amused.

"Because back the forest," Hanji said, smiling sweetly. "You finally called me Hanji."

Levi stiffened in realization, the corners of his lips twitched. "Oi, you must have hit your head harder than expected Shitty Glasses." He reached towards her head affectionately, but hesitated midway and retracted back, feeling awkward.

"I didn't even hit my head," Hanji denied, but took his hand in both of hers, giving a tender squeeze.

"Oi," Levi muttered, feeling uneasy. "What are you-"

"I like you Levi," Hanji admitted, continuing to smile at him while holding his hand. "Do you think...we could be friends?"

Levi's eyes widened in surprise. He felt color rise to his cheeks as he stared at her in shock. Then, he pulled his hand out of hers and stood up, leaving her bedside. Hanji watched him leave with a discouraged look. However, she perked back up when she heard footsteps approaching moments later. Levi returned with two cups of tea and handed one to Hanji.

He sipped his quietly, watching Hanji as she drank hers. His lips curved into a smile, hiding behind his tea cup. Friends with you, Huh?  Levi thought. Not bad...

"Erwin plans on discussing your findings with the King's council in hopes of increasing our funding to include 'abnormal training'."

"Really?" Hanji cried, excited.

"Ah," Levi answered. "And he needs you there with him. So hurry up and get better." He turned to make his way out.

"U-um" Hanji called out. "Levi, about my question?"

"I don't like titles," Levi replied, giving her his poker face.

"So...then?" Hanji wondered aloud. She smiled in realization, causing him to avert his face and walk away. "Interpret it as you will Shitty Glasses." He left her room towards the hospital exit with a slight smile on his face, taking in how much brighter the world now seemed.

And that’s it for the Prologue! I actually wrote this after the other Chapters. I wanted to include more of an introductory insight into Levi’s and Hanji’s early relationship with each other and I figured a good time to do this would have been after Levi lost his two friends. He would have been at a vulnerable state and I can only imagine Hanji being there to help him heal, along with realizing he found another friend in her. Hope you liked it! The main story now begins in the next Chapter, which takes place years after the Prologue.