“Heart, cover your tracks. The blood that you’ve spilt will wash what you lack. Soul, sew up your wounds. Test out your engines. Give it some room.” – A Boy And His Kite, Cover Your Tracks.
When Eren woke up, the first thing he noticed was that his head hurt. Like holy-fuck-is-my-skull-splitting-in-two kind of hurt. This (alongside the occasional soul-wracking fever) is what he gets for staying shifted for ten hours and fighting.
The second thing that Eren noticed was that it was dark as fuck.
The third was that he was alone.
Where was he? One second he had been fighting alongside his friends, taking down the titans that remained in Shinganshina, and the next…he woke up here.
Slowly, as his mind pulled further away from the haze of unconsciousness, Eren began to remember.
He remembered someone shouting his name…no, several people.
The cry still echoed in his mind, drawing a horrible, ice-like dread through the brunet’s body. Eren gave an involuntary shiver.
He remembered huge eyes and a great, gaping mouth full of teeth. He remembered the horrid hell of scorching saliva that seeped into his clothes as jaws snapped shut, sealing off any and all light.
The day before…
Thunderous blows echoed out through the desolate remains of Shinganshina. The source: a small gathering of titans. The only titans left inside Wall Maria, apart from a few stragglers being dealt with by several Survey Corps squads.
Three years had passed since the female titan had wreaked her terror on humanity. Three long, gruelling years. The war criminal, Annie Leonhardt, remained in her crystal to this day, buried in the deepest and darkest pit of the underground beneath Wall Sina’s Capital. Even if she were to emerge, rock and heavy darkness would surround her on all sides. It would be twice as bad if she were to burst free in her titan form. The surrounding earth consisted entirely of stone; she would be trapped either way.
Above ground, however, life had moved swiftly on. With the help of Eren Jaeger and an allied Ymir, the titans wandering within the confines of Wall Maria had been killed off one by one. Having one shifter on the side of humanity had given the human race hope. Having two shifters actively working together all but secured their victory. There were many titans to face and the task of reclaiming Wall Maria was nothing short of terrifying. But with the aid of the Survey Corps and some transferred volunteers from the Military Police, the enemy was steadily defeated.
The losses…were heavy. Eren hadn’t been able to save Connie when that aberrant came tearing out of nowhere, nor had he been able to stop Sasha in time from rushing off to take her vengeance…only to be slapped from the sky by that very same deviant. He had been able to take down the abnormal before Jean could swoop in and do something stupid. Like get himself killed too. Many more soldiers had died before Eren’s eyes, all fighting in the fierce pursuit of survival. And they struggled on…even when more than half of all the Corps had perished in the battles to reclaim their land. It was this very perseverance that pulled MP troops from their safe lives to join their fellow human beings on the battlefield as comrades in arms.
And now here they all stood, every able fighter in the Survey Corps and the transferred soldiers of the Military Police, fighting alongside Eren and Ymir to take down the last enemies in the area.
At this point their end goal was to drive the titans back beyond the breach in the wall and hold them off until sufficient rubble could be moved in to fill and block up the gap.
The content of the Jaeger family basement, whatever they had been, had been consequently crushed into nothingness by a boulder from the very first assault on Wall Maria by the colossal titan. The colossal titan, Bertholdt Fubar, and his accomplice Reiner Brawn, had been found by a patrolling Corporal. He had discovered the pair preparing an ambush not far from the ruins of the Jaeger household. This time around Mikasa had not hesitated to remove their heads from their shoulders. It had been over in seconds.
Eren couldn’t even find it in himself to be sad.
With nothing left to search for, the Corps and the shifters had moved on to the last remaining task: getting to the hole in Wall Maria. Eren would seal it if he could, would spend days collecting enough boulders to fill the gap if need be. But first they had to clear the area of titans.
And there were many. More than twenty in total were found wandering about within the town, and more sauntered in through the breach every few minutes.
The crack and smash of giant fists against flesh rang out louder than thunder. By now the soldiers and shifters had formulated a system for taking down titans with minimal casualties. Eren, being the larger of the two shifters, was responsible for selecting and holding in place a titan while the more agile Ymir distracted and held off the other titans in the area. The Corporal, who had been working with the Jaeger brat to perfect this technique, would keep a close watch as a squad member would swoop in to slice out the nape of the captured titan. It had gotten to the point where Eren could keep two titans pinned by himself, leaving one to the mercy of the soldiers while he bit out the nape of the other. Ymir also preferred this method, tearing her lesser kin to pieces with her terrible jaws.
The titans were falling one by one, leaving steaming corpses in their wake. Victory could practically be tasted on the soldier’s tongues.
When the last titan within the walls fell to steam at Eren’s feet, the troops let out an almighty cheer. They had won. At least in this part of the battle, humanity had taken its victory over the titans.
The remaining members of the 104th trainees rushed for Eren and Ymir’s titans where the gigantic creatures had crouched to release themselves from the confines of their shifted forms. Both appeared weary, as was expected after fighting in shifted form for as long as they had today. Eren had gotten a lot better at commanding his titan and never fell unconscious when he emerged from his titan. This, of course, was all thanks to Ymir’s guidance. She was a decent mentor, harsh but effective.
Stumbling a little, the brunet found his balance as his friends reached him. Eren was swept up into the arms of Armin, the blonde boy weeping joyously onto his childhood friend’s shoulder. Mikasa seemed equally happy in her own way, enveloping her boys in a crushing hug, coal eyes shining as she looked up at the sky.
From a distance, the Lance Corporal loitered atop a tower. He was relieved in the face of their triumph, but Levi knew that he would not be able to blend in with the celebrating brats and troops below. So he stayed put, keeping watch and allowing himself the tiniest of smiles.
They had won.
Below, many cheers and tears were passed around. The more time passed, the more grateful Levi was of his initial instinct to stay put away from all the emotional mumbo jumbo. Although there was a certain brat that the Corporal would have to remember to thank later. With this victory, Levi had the closest thing to a free world than he had seen in years. Eren had promised to show the raven a world without walls, without titans, back when the brunet had been several years younger and a lot more naïve. To this day the Corporal refused to admit to himself that the pledge had been the most insufferably adorable display he had ever seen. Teenagers were meant to be a pain in the ass, and Eren was just that. But they weren’t supposed to make promises of world change and peace.
Yes, Levi would need to pull Eren aside later and pass on his thanks. With this ray of hope, the Corporal wondered if he might just get to see a total victory against the titans before he grew old and frail.
Just the thought that he might live to grow old and frail had the raven-haired man blinking in surprise. Here they had only just won back walled-up land and Levi was already planning his retirement. Heaven help them.
A dark shape registered in the raven’s periphery and gunmetal orbs snapped over to find the source of the movement.
Apparently retirement would have to wait.
“Jaeger!” Levi barked the boy’s name to get his attention, already on the move himself. “Titan spotted by the breach!”
Eren’s head snapped over at the sound of the Corporal’s voice, his fierce teal gaze zeroing in on the gap in the wall.
Sure enough…there stood a titan. It was tall, dark-haired…and strangely normal looking unlike its disproportional kin. But a titan was a titan and Eren was flying off with his 3DM gear in a heartbeat. He was closer to the new threat than the Corporal was and Eren hoped that he would be able to at least get the beast still by the time Levi came in for the finishing blow.
Eren bellowed Ymir’s name over his shoulder as he tore off, failing to notice how his taller comrade was rooted to the spot. Had he turned, the brunet might have wondered why Ymir looked so shocked as she stared at the titan standing by the breach.
Standing. Not advancing. Weird. Eren did not like the look of this. It would appear that they had yet another aberrant on their hands. Just great. No matter, Eren would destroy this fiend. He flew through the air, feeling the wind whipping his hair back, the sound roaring in his ears. He was in range. The brunet let out a war cry as he brought a hand up to his mouth and bit down.
Only this time there was no great explosion. No phenomenal transformation. No titan…other than the one that Eren was flying towards. Teal eyes blinked wide, shock flooding the boy’s system as he realised that those last few days fighting must have drained him more than he had thought.
The name was screamed in several voices, Mikasa’s, Armin’s, even Jean’s. But the closest voice was Corporal’s. The brunet had just enough time to twist his body around in mid-air, his wide eyes meeting alarmed grey…all too far away to help him.
Eren’s protocols failed him, his fear pushing out his superior’s name rather than the title he was meant to use. Levi couldn’t have cared less. He gunned it towards the beast and the boy as quickly as he could manage, feeling a cold dread seize up in his chest when the enormous monster coiled in preparation to spring up.
With a jump and a terrible snap of jaws, Eren’s body disappeared. There was no blood, no screams or missing limbs. The titan got all of the shifter in one fell swoop.
Within seconds the boy shifter was gone.
Levi couldn’t shout as he saw those awful jaws snap shut, sealing away his subordinate. He couldn’t do much more than surge forward, even as the titan turned its head…and looked right at him.
It’s eyes were a light brown in colour.
And then it turned…and ran. It ran like it had planned to run even before biting Eren out of the sky. And it ran with far too much speed and precision for any normal titan. Even an aberrant.
The Corporal’s eyes narrowed as he wrenched his body to one side to swing himself around a building. He should have guessed it sooner; the musculature, the all too human appearance with no flab of disproportionate limbs, even the keen awareness in its eyes.
Shifter. It had to be.
“Rogue shifter!” Levi shouted back at his comrades as they finally snapped out of their shock and into action.
The Corporal had to scale the wall to avoid any other titans that might have been waiting outside the breach, quickly followed by Mikasa and several other soldiers. By the time Levi was standing at the top, staring out across the vast expanse of land beneath them, the titan that had snatched Eren was already too far away for them to catch on foot. There weren’t enough trees to go after the fucker with their horses either, not that the troops had enough resources for an expedition anyway, much less an impromptu one.
Three years, it had taken. Three whole damned years to push the titans back. And now their hope, humanity’s most capable weapon to defeat the titans, was gone. Stolen away.
Levi wondered if Eren was still alive in the titan’s stomach? For the brat’s sake, he hoped that Eren died in the mouth.
“Man down.” The Corporal murmured. “Call it, Arlert.”
Sobbing, Armin managed to push words past the hot tears that ran down his face.
“Eren Jaeger died on the field of battle on October twenty-sixth while valiantly defending his comrades from harm.”
“His efforts have won humanity back their home.”
“He will be remembered.”
Three years after the true fight against the titans began; Eren Jaeger became a casualty of war.
The hole in the wall was sealed with stones with the aid of Ymir, who refused to give reason for not moving to assist Eren immediately. She remains under the surveillance of the Survey Corps.
No titan has entered the walls since.
When Eren woke up, it was with a splitting headache and a thousand questions.
Where was he?
Where were his friends? His Corporal?
Why was it so damned dark in here?
The brunet pushed up from his uncomfortable slouch with a groan, rubbing at his head as he glanced about, peering into the gloom. Eren had been leaning against a wall, that much was clear. So he must have been indoors, then?
But…why could he see so many tree branches just outside the window? The sky outside was darkening, a dull and deepening purple fading into navy, but the bushy black boughs unmistakably belonged to fir trees.
“Where…am I?” Eren mumbled to himself.
“Well that’s an interesting story, if you’ll let me tell it without punching me.” A voice said suddenly.
The brunet spun about on the floor, his eyes darting around to search every space. At last the squinting teal orbs spied the shadowy shape of a person leaning in the far corner. It had been a male voice, so this figure had to be a man.
Unless it was just a butch as fuck woman or something. Whoever the fuck it was, the brunet hoped that they were ready for him to open a can of Jaeger whoop-ass.
“Who are you?” Eren growled out the words, his hands curled into fists so that he could start swinging if necessary. “How the fuck did I get here? Where the hell even is here?”
“You still have your temper.” The stranger sounded amused, but not mockingly so. If anything, the voice sounded warm. “I’ll answer all your questions. Just do me a favour?”
“What?” Eren sneered, suspicion heavy in his tone.
“Don’t freak out.”
Somehow the brunet just knew that whoever this guy was, they were smiling. The shadow took a cautious step forwards, not towards Eren, just enough to get away from the darkest part of the room. Reaching into some pocket, the stranger drew out a small, glowing piece of stone which they promptly held up to illuminate their face.
The brunet’s mouth went dry.
“Hello, Eren.” A nervous chuckle sounded and the figure ran an anxious hand over their nape. “It’s been a while.”
Teal eyes opened wide, unable to look away, unable to even blink.