Winning is bittersweet. The empty battlefield is full of blood and guts, and at the end of it all, all that’s left is a hollowness residing in the stomach that never truly goes away. Mikasa had thought that - well, she had thought it would be so much more different than this. Just that feeling of finally, it’s over, that everything they’ve worked for has proven fruitful, but that’s not what she feels.
She stares at the mangled corpse of a baby - no older than perhaps 14 months - and she feels nothing. She walks away.
The after is just a flurry of administrative problems. First they stay in Marley, ascertaining their victory and placing Eldian flags as far as the eyes can see. A message, they say, a warning, Mikasa thinks. Armin is dead, and so is Connie, just another few numbers added to the heavy casualties this war brought on, and Eren has been thrown into a cell to spend the rest of his life there – as is the usual case for traitors.
Once, Mikasa would’ve ran and cut through anyone who would try and stop her from helping Eren escape. Once.
She’s not that person anymore. She’s too tired to run anyways.
Hanji has lost both of her eyes and has placed glasses tinted black over them. Levi helps her often, from what Mikasa can see, and despite his own permanent injury, a maimed leg, guides her through streets and hallways, hand clasped in hands. And if only for their case, Mikasa is happy to know that at least something good has come out of all this death and destruction.
Out of everyone, Mikasa is the only person to get out of the war physically unscathed. They sing of her victories in the streets, the woman-worth-a-thousand, and her attack on Marleyan camps, her use of guerrilla warfare bringing thousands to their deaths.
Mikasa doesn’t like talking about it. She hates it all, hates this stupid game of war. She doesn’t want to be renowned or immortalized in stories, she just wants to go home.
But where is home, a voice inside her head asks her. Armin is dead, and Eren is as good as. Where is your home now, Mikasa?
They meet up with officials from all around the world, with Mikasa taking lead and using an iron fist to intimidate all those who oppose Eldia to face her wrath. Many still have objections, and some are too quiet for Mikasa’s liking. She needs to intimidate them yes - but she needs them to like her as well. They manage to build up trading agreements, and Mikasa has to order ships to be made and going through the costs of the materials and shipments just make her head ache. But she needs to do this. She is Paradis’ ambassador, Queen Historia’s right hand, and she needs to get the world to believe that the Eldians are not the monsters history has portrayed them to be.
With Levi and Hanji more or less retired, at least from fieldwork, it is Mikasa who has taken up the unofficial role as Eldia’s diplomat. Historia still rules in Paradis and raises her son as well as she can. Yelena helps her with ruling Marley, squashing down any rebellions that threaten to rise, and the days pass by.
Sometimes, if only to entertain herself, she wonders what Eren must be doing. How he must be feeling. Is he starving in his cell, being given only just enough food to pass by? Is he being spat on by his guards, do they treat him poorly? Mikasa shakes these thoughts out of her head, for Eren is a traitor now, and it doesn’t matter how people will treat him. It isn’t any less than what he deserves.
If Eren ever decides to use his titan power in order to escape, Mikasa has been charged to cut him down and kill him once and for all. Hanji explained this in a grim tone after she had come back from a summit meeting back in Paradis, and Mikasa laughed at the ridiculousness of it all. To kill a man, a man she had always sworn to protect - that’s the reason she gave to levi when he pulled her aside to question her reaction. He had given her a sad, almost pitying look, as close as Levi can get, and Mikasa remembers that she is not the only one who suffered from this war.
But then she recalls Aunt Carla’s worried face, as blurred as it is beneath her memories, and the promise she made to her. She wonders what Aunt Carla must be thinking now.
But Levi has Hanji now, and Jean has gone back to Paradis to hand over the traitors and criminals of the war to Queen Historia, who will announce their judgement, and Mikasa is all alone in a world that she has no place in.
She closes her eyes and pictures Louise’s innocent face from a day so long ago, knowing that it will be her head amongst many other’s rotting on spikes on the Castle’s main entrance.
I should never have saved them, Mikasa thinks. I should have just let them all die, let the titan kill them. But Mikasa cannot cry over spilt milk now, and she moves forward, handling issues she is too under qualified to deal with.
War boils down to money, Mikasa realizes. Money… and food. Farms had been razed to the ground during the war, and it’s taking time to have them repaired. The price of grain has sparked up and civilians are taking out loans and loans from banks in order to buy a loaf of bread. Meanwhile, Mikasa eats the finest of steaks and seasoned vegetables every day and wonders why they taste like ash.
Rebuilding happens surely, but slowly. There are too many corpses hidden beneath the ruins; men, woman, children. They burn the corpses in public outings for the living to mourn the dead, and though it is done miles away, Mikasa can smell the burning of the flesh as though she were standing right next to it.
I want to go home, she thinks one day after they have had to put down another rebellion when another failed attempt had been made on Hanji’s life. Marley and its strange people and strange customs and strange buildings, it is not my home.
Neither is Paradis.
She ponders on Kiyomi’s offer countless of times. Go back to Hizuru, stay there and live out the rest of your life. And then do what? Kiyomi’s bidding? I have had enough of people trying to use me as a pawn. Besides, there’s too much work to be done now for me to run with my tail in between my legs like some craven.
Zeke Yeager as always, is an enigma. After his own treachery had been brought to light, a missive went out for his capture, dead or alive. He’s disappeared for too long now, and with two years having passed since the war ended, they will claim him dead within a week. There’s no use in trailing after a man most likely dead, is what the council decides on. Zeke Yeager cannot hide forever and besides, it’s not as if he has many years left to live anyways. Maybe one or two. However, after the council meeting Mikasa is left with queasy feeling her stomach, knowing that if he is alive, whatever Zeke Yeager is off doing, it isn’t anything good. She addresses her concerns with Yelena who in turn has had the same thoughts as Mikasa has. The war… has destroyed some part of everyone, with Yelena’s own hopes of Zeke being the hero she thought he was to come crumbling down. It’s the fire in Yelena’s eyes, the determination that has Mikasa saying yes when Yelena asks for her permission to search for Zeke. She doesn’t need Yelena for now, most of the administrative issues she’s handles, and anyways, Yelena promises not to take long, just to search for Zeke in the places she thinks he might be hiding in.
They’re discussing the prospects of Zeke’s whereabouts and whether to kill him on sight or let him live just long enough to confess his crimes, when suddenly -
“Captain Commander!” A soldier barges into her office. “In the prison cells - an attack has been made on Prisoner Yeager’s life!”
With a nod from Yelena, Mikasa walks hurriedly with the soldier who guides her to the prisons, and Mikasa tries to ignore the smell of shit that invades her nose when she enters. Levi is there already, standing by what seems to be the corpse of the attacker - which Mikasa curses, they could have used him for interrogation instead and even with a maimed leg, Levi is a clean attacker, so it only leaves her to the conclusion that Eren must’ve killed him.
It’s been a good two years since the time she’s seen him last. His hair has grown out longer than it ever was before, strands of it escaping his bun, and the clothes he wears are tattered and ragged, and he’s all skin and bones. The light in his eyes has dimmed, but that’s no new occurrence. They’ve been dimming ever since he witnessed his mother’s death. Her breath has been caught in her throat and he looks at her almost like he doesn’t believe that she’s actually here.
It’s one of the things she hates about Eren; his ability to make her forgive him for anything with just one look.
Levi coughs and Mikasa is the first to break eye contact. Mikasa raises and eyebrow in a motion to say ‘explain’, because now she is captain commander and technically she is higher-up than Levi so fuck it. She can do whatever she wants.
Levi just rolls his eyes. “Apparently,” he kicks at the bloodied corpse. “this isn’t the first time a someone has appeared to kill our traitor.”
“What?” Mikasa hisses because if that’s the truth than it means that her subordinates have been keeping secrets from her and damn it all to hell! She’ll have a word with the guards, probably gut them like a fish till they double over and die, and she’ll make it a warning to anyone who dares to disobey her.
And under her own roof. God, has she been so self-absorbed so much so that something like this was happening right under her nose?
Levi shrugs. “It’s what he told me when I asked.” He jerks his head in Eren’s direction. Mikasa starts, but Levi cuts her off. “I dealt with the guards already just so you know.”
“That wasn’t your jurisdiction.” Mikasa says pointedly and Levi just shrugs again.
“Doesn’t matter,” Mikasa would like to tell him that it very much fucking matters but it’s not the time. Anyway, she trusts Levi, but still, it’d be nice if he fucking told her.
“How did you find out?” She asks.
“Remember how you asked me to take charge on interrogating the second uprising dealers? Yeah, well, I was going to the cells and I heard some sort of… commotion, saw these two grappling it out like a bunch of kids, guards nowhere in sight, and well…” They both look at the corpse. “Then I called out for somebody to get you here immediately, fucked up the guards that were responsible to keep an eye on him, questioned him a bit and now you’re here.”
“Did he have any weapons on him?”
Levi just raises his eyebrow in a ‘what do you think’ gesture. He pulls out a knife, handing it over to her. “It’s poisoned.” He tells her matter-of-factly. “Seen this type before - even a knick and your withering away at the ground in a matter of seconds.”
Mikasa swears under her breath, and then glances at Eren who’s been too busy catching his breath to have any idea about what she and Levi are discussing. A part of her heart swells with concern, but then she remembers Sasha again, and the feeling disappears as soon as it left. “I’ll let you deal with this one, afterwards come to my office. We’ve got - we’ve got a lot to discuss.”
Levi inclines his head and Mikasa is off, stumbling into an empty hallway and clutching at her chest, blinking away her tears rapidly. “Fuck,” she says, her hands finding their way at her hair, pulling them so tight she fears that they’ll tear. “Fuck.”
Levi gets to her in about two hours or so. She’a explained the situation to Yelena just before she left to go pack up her things, to get her input but nothing truly useful came out of that. Mikasa can’t blame her though, Yelena is too busy with finding clues about Zeke’s whereabouts to truly give a shit about Eren. Still, she hopes that out of anyone, it is Levi who can give her the answer she needs.
He closes the door behind him as he takes a seat, the two of them facing the other with a large wooden-oak desk sitting between them.
“I think you should marry him.”
Mikasa is so glad that she isn’t drinking her cup of tea at the moment because she’s certain it all would’ve ended up in Levi’s face.
“What?” She asks, hoping what he said is a fucking joke.
“Did I stutter?” He raises an eyebrow, pouring a cup of tea for himself. He pauses for a second before bring the cup to his lips. “I think you should.”
“Why the fuck do you think that.”
“Seems like the best course of action.”
He sighs. “Listen, this whole shit with the war and Marley… hasn’t been easy, least of all for you. If my leg wasn’t fucked up I’m sure I would’ve handled most of the uprisings and any other shit that popped up, but things stand as they are. My leg’s fucked up and most of the burden of keeping everyone safe and in line has fallen to you. And now with this… I’d be laughing if I weren’t pissed to know that we’ve got even more traitors in our midst, fucking hell, as if we haven’t enough already.
Anyways, barring me, you’re the most dangerous person in the world. People won’t even think twice to fuck with you which is good on your ambassador skills, don’t get me wrong. He marries you, not only does he get protection, but he’s also under your eye. He thinks of doing anything funny and you’ll slice his throat in a second. And also… it’ll do good for those back in Paradis to know that their hero,” Levi says the word mockingly. “is in safe hands and isn’t being treated like a prisoner.”
“Hitting two birds with one stone, huh?”
Levi raises his cup to that as he drinks. “Exactly.”
Mikasa sighs. True, things back at Paradis haven’t been going smoothly with civilians rallying and going on strikes, some even going on hunger strikes for Eren’s freedom. Historia and Jean haven been trying to placate them, but the journalists and newspapers have made Eren out to be some sort of Messiah and Mikasa to be the cruel bitch to hide their hero away from them.
Fucking idiots, the lot of them. She can’t help but let bitterness take over her heart. Eren almost lead everyone to their deaths. If it wasn’t for her taking care of things, they would’ve lost the war, but apparently she’s the evil monster.
And then comes the other reason - Levi’s right about it. If she marries Eren, no one would think of touching him, and he wouldn’t think of doing anything untoward. Mikasa knows him enough by now and she doesn’t think Eren will be so stupid to betray them again.
Another part of her, the one she’d squashed down ever since she saw the life slipping away from Sasha’s eyes, is happy, thinking about all the times she daydreamed about a day like this to happen. Mikasa flings these thoughts away because she’s not that girl anymore. So much war and death and fucking paperwork - love doesn’t exist. She knows that know.
She sighs, half because she doesn’t want to give Levi the pleasure knowing that he was right about something. “I guess your idea has merit.” She relents. “But how would it even work out?”
“Well we talk to Yeager for one. I’ll be the one to talk to him - don’t give me that face. I’ll let Hanji know about it too, get her input. Maybe send out a missive to the Queen. It’ll be done. Easy.”
“Nothing ever works out easily.” Mikasa says.
“It’ll be damn easier planning out a wedding than it’ll be planning out a war.” Levi points out. “We’ll get into the specifics later - are you willing to do this?”
Mikasa thinks on it. Worst comes to worst and she kills Eren. If anything… at least this will ensure that Paradis will be satisfied.
Mikasa squashes down the queasy feeling in her stomach, not knowing if it’s dread or something else entirely. She thinks of the ocean and of red scarves and says, “Alright, I’ll do it.