Armin Arlert trudged gloomily across the lawn, his feet trailing slightly on the grass and purple and black bruises covering a good portion of his arms and legs. He ached all over, and he had his thoughts fixed on the boy's cabin, with it's cozy, not so warm, slightly uncomfortable bunk beds.
However, despite his barrack's quality flaws, it was still a safe haven for him at the moment, judging by the fact that he had been combat training for the past few hours with his best friends, Eren and Mikasa.
Come on, Armin, just a little while more…
Who was he fooling? It had taken the trio almost two hours to get to the little clearing in the forest where they trained. Besides, based on Armin's current state, it was going to take much longer than that to get back to the little loop of cabins. Plus, he had been walking for about ten minutes, at the absolute max. There was no way he was close.
Even so, Armin was glad he departed from his friends when he did, otherwise he feared he would have been in an even worse state walking home. It was common knowledge that Armin was the weakest, physically. Fortunately, Armin was told often that his mind was the quickest in his group of friends; they always relied on him to find a foolproof strategy. At least he wasn’t worthless to them. Not that it matters anyway. Brains can’t kill a titan.
Dejected, Armin's eyes wandered across the field, and he pushed waist-length grass to the side as he walked onward. The meadow grass was overgrown from countless summers with no cattle to feed on it. The field used to be for grazing, but the cows were long dead from some sort of disease, courtesy of the confines of the walls. The clearing ended at the edge of what seemed to be an endless expanse of trees. Forests and cities . Armin thought, are the best places for fighting titans. Armin highly doubted that the titans would suddenly break through the walls again, but the slim chance of a victory if they did comforted him. Slightly.
Armin scanned the line of trees, looking for nothing in particular. Armin always found himself scanning for no reason. He always assumed it was because he was "naturally observant." His friends had confirmed it, stating that he observed anything and everything in the radius of his vision.
So it was no surprise when he noticed the figure almost hidden from view, matting down the vegetation. Her messy blonde bun was barely visible between the waves of long grass, but it was her brown vest with the sword studded patches that really stood out against the golden meadow.
Armin’s first thought was why she was lazing about in an open field. She always seemed to be on her toes, ready to kick ass whenever she was even the least bit annoyed. Except during training, of course. In training, she barely even tried, often resting to the side with a don't-talk-to-me-or-you-die glare. Even so, it's quite odd to see you like this…
He started towards her, curiosity buzzing like bumble bees in his brain. The new discovery put a bounce in his step, which always happened when a new question was hacking at his brain. Unlike others in the 104th trainee squad, unanswered questions didn't frustrate him, they lit him up. He wouldn't stop searching until he found answers, which was one of his only features he took pride in.
Armin approached the girl cautiously, suddenly reminded of her cold, bored demeanor. If he could help it, he didn't want to piss her off. Armin’s voice cracked softly when he spoke. "Annie?" He inquired, wringing his fingers like a wet cloth. No reply. The boy carefully inched forward, hoping to get a clearer view of her face. Armin found that she was not just gazing at clouds, she was in fact asleep.
Armin recoiled in surprise. Not because she was snoozing, however. It was perhaps her expression that startled him. Most people fall asleep with a peaceful, almost happy expression on their faces, and maybe their lips will twitch up when their dreams are sweet. But Annie's expression was quite the opposite. the corners of her lips were turned down into a frighteningly unpleasant scowl, and her eyebrows were scrunched together, as though she was downright furious.
There was no doubt about it. This was the famous Annie death glare. Eren had described it with an enormous amount of detail after he had (accidentally) gotten himself into a spar with her. Eren had been covered in terrific purpling bruises when he told the tale to one of the boy's cabin, and now the whole 104 was wary of her gaze, if they hadn’t been before.
Armin breathed heavily for a moment, willing himself to calm down. He peeked at her face again, and once he confirmed to himself a second time that she was indeed asleep, Armin settled into a crouch and began his standard observation session. You’re always so uptight, Annie. You’re hiding something, I can feel it. But what is it?
Annie Leonhart stirred, awaking from her rest with a stifled yawn and a quick swipe of her lips with her tongue. Grunting mildly, her eyes flickered open, and she was greeted with a pair of large, petrified cerulean irises.
Annie cursed loudly and sat bolt upright, instinctively slamming her forehead into the person above her.
" OW!" The offender yelped, and fell backwards awkwardly, their back hitting the earth with a soft thump.
He struggled to sit up again, his hand reaching to touch his bruising skull (not that it wasn't bruised before). Annie regained her composure almost immediately, a result of years of rigorous training with her father. Annie wiped the surprise off her face and replaced it with ice, only allowing herself to narrow her eyes menacingly at the boy who was rubbing his scalp nervously.
"What are you doing?" She snapped, and Armin stuttered, encountering a total loss of words. "I-I was just walking back to camp after a training session with Eren and Mikasa, and I saw you lying here, so I came over to check if you were okay…?" Armin's words trailed off awkwardly, hoping desperately that she wouldn't punch his face in. But Annie just stood up briskly. "I don't need you to watch over me. I can take care of myself just fine." And with that, Annie sauntered away, back in the direction of the camp.
Though Annie appeared casual, thoughts were sprinting circles through her mind unrelentingly. Even Annie had to be completely honest with herself: Armin Arlert scared her to death. Not physically, of course. It was painfully obvious that Armin was weak. In fact, Annie could probably beat him to a grease spot with a flick of her little finger. However, it was that big-ass brain of his that truly terrified her.
It was also common knowledge that Armin Arlert had a mind of pure gold. He aced every classroom test and could almost always be found reading or studying his unbelievably detailed notes with his unbelievably legible handwriting. He was the master of strategy and observation, and was the designated "plan designer" of the 104 trainee squad, although he flushed and denied it when others called him out on his smarts.
Annie was scared that his lightning quick mind would see right through her masquerade. He looked at her like her mind was some sort of package marked "fragile," and he needed to open her up without breaking what's inside.
It freaked Annie out that someone thought of her like some sort of present.
Armin was definitely afraid of her , that's for sure. It was a small comfort, but he never looked at her like he would completely back away. His face always had curiosity written all over it, like there was a question he was determined to answer. She had noticed his love for questions.
And Annie was afraid that next question was her.
Annie quickened her pace. No matter what happened, she would not let him in. If he figured out her secret, she was screwed. Annie rubbed her plain black ring, a habit she claimed after months of suppressed nerves.
Meanwhile, Armin gazed after her as she walked away, the telltale flush of pure curiosity placing a small smile on his face. There was no way he was letting this question go unanswered. She was a mystery waiting to be unraveled, and Armin was ready to grab a pipe and begin some detective work.
He brushed the dust of his pants and trotted after Annie's receding figure.
"Hey! Wait up!"