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Ephemeral

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{ love is patient, but it is not kind. }

 

 

They’d told him that love did not last. Especially not in this world- no, love was only a fleeting thought, an emotion as naive as she was beautiful.

And she was beautiful.

The little angel of a girl did not escape his attention that day at the ration stand. He took his portion with a gentle nod, flaxen hair matted and falling before his eyes. His gaze fell upon the child barely a moment later. His breath was stolen at the flash of her ocean eyes, and as quickly as she was brought to his attention she was gone.

Her image remained in his mind for but a day, and hunger later consumed everything inside of him, even the memory of those crystal blue eyes.

He didn’t remember her as he stepped into line all those years later. He’d been broken and reborn so many times, beaten down and back up. His thoughts- concealed for survival- only ran stronger with the wind. He could almost taste the ocean.

He swore he could see a glimpse of what he desired most when they glanced upon each other for the first time in those three years. There was a flick of a smile, an almost word, but she was gone again, and his memory of her was as empty as the space she left behind.

They only spoke briefly from time to time. He asked her name at first and it came barely above a whisper.

Annie Leonhardt.

He replied with his own, but she scoffed and said “I know.”

She liked to avoid him, but whenever he could he tried to pull some sort of conversation from her. Small talk. (At first.)

You like listening to the rain?

Why do you skip training every day?

Where did you learn how to move like that?

He laughed to himself at her bitter responses, at her quiet and stern replies to his curiosity. He told her why he was there when she hadn’t even asked. She frowned, tucking hair behind her ear, not even bothering to spare a glance at him. She asked him if he thought he would make it to the top ten. He was flattered, somehow, by her interest. He said no.

She stood, as far away from him as his hopes for the outside world. Her tongue ran over her bottom lip. He swallowed.

She turned on her heel and told him he was too honest.

He smiled again and watched her go.

She didn’t seek him out, and he stopped trying to find her. There was an attraction, and he could feel it. He didn’t know how to name it. If he’d counted the hours of night he’d spent trying to think of it, it would far extend the hours he worked during training, but he did not count.

He noticed her a lot more now, around him, standing not to far off, embarrassed when he caught her staring.

They spoke more often as time went by. A year passed, and then some months. They became something like acquaintances, something like friends.

What do you think will happen to us?

What do you think is outside the walls?

How do you feel about me?

She lead him away from the training site from time to time. She showed him meadows and pastures he’d never seen. They climbed trees together and sat in the dust.

At first he was uneasy about their parting from training, but her rare but lovely smile soon eased him from his anxiety.

He liked to call it his own secret affair, an intimacy that no one had ever had with her before. After a while, he heard her laugh.

They laid together in the grass at sunset and dusk and they counted the stars. He told her about constellations. She listened like she always did. One night his stories weren’t enough, though, and she scooted closer.

He raised a brow and began to speak louder, thinking that perhaps she couldn’t hear him clearly. In a moment’s time, she was on her side, leaning over him. He bit his lip and stared into her eyes.

She asked him if she saw something different in her now that he’d known her.

He replied that he barely knew her at all. She didn’t react but to lean closer.

I am ephemeral, Armin, you know me more than any ever will."

He’d never kissed a girl before but that night things changed.

They grew older, they grew stronger, they fell further.

Annie liked to touch- to be touched. She liked to listen, to hear and to learn. Armin liked to speak, to voice concerns, what he wanted, what he saw and felt and liked.

What he loved.

No, he never told her he loved her, but he wanted to.

Now that he’d found the word, mumbled in her sleep one night, he knew exactly how he felt.

They were discrete, of course. Not even her closest friends, allies, knew of them. Eren and Mikasa were oblivious, but Armin thought that Mikasa had noticed something was wrong. Especially when he and Annie both missed certain events at the same times.

Night time was their only time to be alone, all other meetings were tense and short. He smiled at her but she remained stoic. He admired it sometimes, but other times it frightened him.

What was she thinking? Would she let him know?

It had been nearly two and a half years since their training began. Their visits were frequent, long, and heavy. He waded farther and farther into uncharted waters, into an area that he’d never been an expert in.

It was clear that she didn’t know what to do, either, but she was certain of what she wanted. Annie Leonhardt gets what she wants.

They were alone in an abandoned cabin, tangled together on a cot. Armin was smiling, like usual, but her gaze was clouded, curious, mystic.

His smile was wiped away with her bruising and sweet kisses, fingers gripping the collar of his shirt, tugging him up as she straddled his waist. His fingers wavered around her hips, untucking her shirts, sneaking upwards as the desire for bare skin became increasingly hard to conceal.

She let got of him and rested her forehead against his. He noticed his body heat raising, blood pumping throughout his body as her gaze and touch caused his heart-rate to quicken.

He breath was hot and sticky but he drank it in and stared back at her, challenging her with a blush and a half smirk. She didn’t back down.

Her nose buried itself in his neck as she arched her back into him. Her voice is much too quiet to be intimidating. For once this is a decision they make together, something they will do as one person instead of two. Annie gave herself in the moment, and he decided to give himself in return.

Make love to me, Armin."

He wasn’t scared to tell her he loved her then, blonde strands beaded with sweat, fingernails digging deep into his skin, noises he never thought he’d ever hear from her mouth, words he never thought he’d say.

I love you.

I love you, Annie.

Annie— I—

They fall together for a time too short for him to comprehend.

It did not happen again.

But he told her every day.

She only told him once.

But it came much too late.

When did you begin to look at me with those eyes?"

He heard “my love” at the end of her question, but he knew this was not the time.

Love does not last in a world like this, little one.

But he does not believe that. It is much later that he comes to realize that if love is not eternal, than love was not what they had.

Her crystal is almost as beautiful as the ocean, but he dared not think that she will never see it. He aged, grew and trained. When the time came for the titans to leave the earth, he was there. He wondered why she was not beside him, but he did not criticize her.

One day she would tell him.

A truth, a feeling, a belief is fleeting.

He stood before her once and whispered,

No, Annie, you are my forever, and forever I will wait for you."

His back turned to her but his heart remained by her side.

And it stayed there until sleep took him in the night when his hair was grey and his heart was withered.

It seemed to him that a lifetime was but a brief glance into the span of time one could love another.

She woke the day after he parted from the world, and took her own life a day later to be with him.