Limits and Lessons
Sunlight graced his face, warming his gaunt cheeks, brow, and the tip of his nose. It was a warm, almost heavenly feeling that made the skin at the corners of his mouth pull up in satisfaction. The beast let his body loosen further, ear flickering at the songs of frolicking birds. Rogue kept himself in his state of repose despite the sun's commanding presence. He was having another fine and pleasant dream once again – still rare experiences for the titan. This time he was running along a grassy field, lacking flowers and trees with his little ones bouncing and laughing upon his shoulders. With each bound, the grass beneath his toes and heels slowly went from the touch of the organic green to the feeling of almost a rocky powder. It wasn't dirt, the structure being that of a morphing surface that formed to round and fit his feet. What was this type of earth? It was hard yet it was soft. The easy earth was warm from the heaven's rays, accompanied by a sound that he couldn't quite place. Was it rolling water?
However, his incredible and intriguing vision was cut short when a small, but very blunt force assaulted the tip of his nose. Rogue grunted in annoyance, wondering what had dared to disturb his dream. Slowly, the titan forced his eyes to unveil, blackness peeling away to see the form of the short leader before his face.
"Get up brat. Time to wash up."
Instantly, Rogue snorted in defiance. Why? He was having such a good dream. The titan let his eyes roll and close once again, nestling his chin into his arm. Hopefully he could chase the same dream again. Of course, he had attempted the same technique to regain where he left off in a previous good vision in the past before with no success, but he could still try. Unfortunately, his plan was brought to a halt yet again when Levi violated his space once more – kicking his nose for the second time. Agitated, Rogue removed his chin from his flesh and hissed at the short human, warning him to back off, but to his unfortunate displeasure Levi remained emotionally unchanged and stagnant – face still reflecting the look of constipation as usual.
"Are you done with your pathetic attempts, Rogue? Quit fucking around. Remember you are to obey requests and orders. So get your big ass up and follow me to the river. We'll be waiting. Don't make me come after you." The man concluded as he simply rounded his bulk and exited the courtyard.
Rogue's eyes narrowed in distaste. He strongly disliked the man. First off, why had Levi even woken him up? They had just gotten back to their home and he was admittedly exhausted from the long journey. He would have loved to rest for a few more hours, lying in the nearby field to bask in the sun while enjoying some quality time with his little ones – general exchanges of catching up as they had called it. But no. Levi wanted him up and moving already! Why? And what did the human term 'washing up' mean? Why was he subject to it? Whatever it was, Rogue knew if he had to compare, he would rather be nestled with his precious babies and sleeping peacefully.
The titan then let his eyes wander down to the crook of his elbow where he had placed Armin and Mikasa the night before – only to see that they were missing. Instantly, alarm ran through Rogue's mind. The creature then elevated himself slightly to check between and under his arms, whining in worry. "AARRRNNIN! NNIKKASA!" Rogue called desperately. Surely he hadn't flattened them! The titan sat upright and looked beneath him, running his hands across the stone and fingering through nearby bushes. He couldn't have rolled over them with the lack of blood and bone. His babies had vanished! Why would they run off! "NNIKKASA! ARRNIN!"
"Relax Rogue," A friendly voice informed. "Armin and Mikasa are waiting for you."
Hearing the facts upon his ears, Rogue looked down to see the sweet redhead, the female called Petra, before him with a tender smile on her face. The titan calmed instantly, tilting his head to establish his silent query with ears forward in curiosity. Petra beamed and gently placed a hand to his knee, patting it in a tender gesture.
"The both of them are with the others at the river. The Corporal went ahead, so I can lead you there if you like." She smiled, making all the previous tension flow from his body.
At her invitation, Rogue immediately nodded and lowered his hand. He wasn't exactly well immersed in the flying human's territory so a guide was something desirable. Although he could have searched for his little ones by smelling them out, someone informing him about his surroundings along the way seemed like a great opportunity to learn about his new home away from home in the process. For a moment, Petra hesitated before carefully scaling into his palm. Rogue gave his best gentle smile he could muster as he lifted the human to his shoulder. The titan waited patiently as she got settled, watching her eagerly as she gripped his locks.
"You know, I can now say that I've ridden on a titan before." Petra smiled as he huffed and stood up to wait for direction. "Thank you for the lift, Rogue! Now Armin and Mikasa are in that direction." She pointed into a thicket of trees.
Nodding in thanks, the creature turned and headed in the route of her pointed finger. Within a few steps, Rogue entered the flying humans' forest – one that was very different from his own. The first differentiation was the tallness of the trees. They were roughly about a third of the stature of his trees – at their highest, his head nearly peeking out of the canopy. The titan frowned slightly; he had always liked the atmospheric feeling the towering trees gave in his forest. It felt almost as if he were exposed in this particular wood. The second difference was the appearance of the thicket's floor. Unlike his territory, this one was well kept, no it was manicured. There was a clear dirt path beneath his feet, the edges trimmed evenly along the sides. Lastly, he couldn't sense that many of the furry creatures around. There were a few of the hopping creatures and fluffy tailed creatures, but other than that there were no deer to be seen. He could defiantly smell their scent, but perhaps with the presence of humans here the deer kept within the safety of the deep underbrush. Perhaps he would find out later.
"So Rogue, I heard what you said last night. Are Armin and Mikasa who you call your little ones?"
Hearing her intrigue and interest in his two small acquaintances, Rogue released a purr as he turned to the woman and nodded proudly. "AAIIBBEESS TOOOO." He articulated, his eyes lighting up even further as she chuckled merrily at his report.
"I see. Armin and Mikasa are your babies as well, huh?" Petra inquired pleasantly.
Again, Rogue answered with a define nod. "AAAMMILLEEE." He smiled at the idea. "NNII AAMMILLEEE."
"Ah, so those two are your family." Petra smiled softly. "You raised your little ones well, Rogue." The flying human praised as she turned her attention ahead. "I apologize about Levi earlier. He's strict and a bit of a clean freak, but you get used to it."
Rogue grunted in acknowledgement at Petra's apology, but turning his head forward again to roll his eyes in annoyance away from her view. He really disliked the little man. The fact that he had disturbed his rest just minutes ago, made Rogue want to do something to get Levi back. Yes, the man was strict and smelled almost sterile. The short leader really hated it when he had 'generously' bestowed his saliva onto him. Sure, it was satisfying, but the punishment was damning. He would make good on his promise to get him back – somehow.
For several more minutes, Rogue continued to attend to Petra's words, listening to her spoken bio with each step until the sound of gentle rolling water filled his ears. The scents of the young flying humans presented themselves to him, along with the ever-familiar musk of his little ones that urged a pleased rumble from the depths of his throat. Maybe they were gathering to spend some quality time with him; maybe they would play with him like they had years ago! Finally! After so long, he was going to have some actual fun.
Petra then left his shoulder and sailed down to earth before he parted the limbs of the trees to reveal a large clearing that overlooked a vast field. The grass was covered in tiny white flowers and a wide but gentle river cut across the glade. There was a small human structure similar to some that he had seen in the quarry. It was a human residence with a big wooden circle on the side that moved in the water. The titan wasn't particularly sure what the odd buildings were used for, but it had to have some importance. Rogue's eyes then traveled to the grassy banks of the river to see Armin and Mikasa standing with the group of young humans. Spying their grinning faces, the titan knelt to his knees and greeted both his little ones with a rumbling purr – wiggling his ears as he bent over and nuzzled his face into their small bodies. It was his usual good morning greeting, although he wanted to question as to why they had left without a word, he let it slide.
"Well, good morning to you too, Rogue." His little one, Mikasa, greeted as she rested her head on the bridge of his nose.
"Did you sleep well?" Armin asked with Rogue releasing a tweet in response. He was going to deny the fact that he was restless and calling for them half the night, but like their sudden departure, he was going to push that aside.
Noticing the others approaching his little ones, Rogue lifted his head to look upon the other Scout's faces. There was the small blonde girl, Krista whom he liked when he had first met her – the small female's demeanor being kind and sweet. There was the nearly bald human, Connie, which he found offbeat and odd as well as the other female called Sasha that liked food. Although they were peculiar, they were amusing. He could safely say that he liked the two as well. Standing a few steps away from the group of small flying humans was the boy who had a face that he had determined was the mug of a horse - the creatures that the humans rode around on. Rogue felt his nose wrinkle slightly at the look of this Jean's face, arrogant looking just as he was when they first crossed paths. Although he didn't favor the boy, the titan put his dislike aside and greeted the others with a cheerful rumble, his skin around his maw pulled back in a smile and eyes closing tightly in a pleased fashion.
"Hello Rogue!" The small blond female addressed, voice like the melody of charming bells. "It's nice to see you again."
The titan nodded in reply, but then taking notice that the group of Scouts were wearing something quite different than before. Although they still had the straps that wrapped around their bodies, they lacked the brown winged coats and white pants. In fact, they all wore what looked to be old and worn out human clothing covered in splotches and stains. In their hands, they held things that the titan recognized as buckets, things his little ones had called sponges, brushes, and a few toothed brooms that he had seen humans run through dirt in the past. Rogue's smile slowly dissipated from his face as the realization quickly came to him. The human objects that the small humans and his little ones held – they were used in the act of…
"Alright, let's cut the bullshit. Greetings and good mornings are over with."
Rogue felt his shoulders tense at the familiar voice. He then turned to see the short leader, Levi, emerge from the strange human residence. Like the others, he wasn't wearing his tan garment, but most of his uniform was still covering his small frame. It was neat, tidy, void of spots, and it smelled just as sterile as the small man did. Rogue watched as Levi pulled a small white cloth that covered his face down to reveal his lips that were fixed in a firm line – reflecting no hint of whimsy. The titan felt his heart sink, he had been wrong.
"Okay big brat, time for your bath to clean your filthy ass."
The titan blinked in confusion. So the act of bathing was what Levi had meant when he said to 'wash up.' Rogue tilted his head in puzzlement. Wasn't the act of bathing just a human thing? His own Carla and Grisha had never done anything of the sort to him. The only times he had ever felt any sort of cleansing was when rain met his scalp or when he had splashed or let his feet rest in the river. He never once had his little ones or his humans scrub him down. Never. Rogue's brows sank in disappointment and aggravation. He didn't need a bath as far as he was concerned. He wasn't covered in dirt or mud and his scent still smelt like the forest and his natural musk that came with being a titan. Rogue saw no reason for such sterilization, so why should he need to participate in the humanly act of bathing? One thing was for certain. He didn't want to. For all he knew, the suds created by the white rocks that the humans used could be harmful to him.
"Now as far as what your assignments are," Levi began as he turned to the younger collection of Scouts. "Myself, Ackerman, and Arlert will be scrubbing his scalp. As we are doing that, the four of you are to work on the lower parts of his hair, which includes scrubbing and ridding tangles. After that we'll move onto the rest of his body. Now," Levi pressed on sternly as he faced the now anxious titan again. "Rogue, get in the river."
"NNNOOO." Rogue denied stubbornly as he heard the short man's instructions. "NNOO NNNEEEDD KKEEEEEAANN." The titan informed as he planted himself on his rear, arms crossed in defiance and emerald pools glowing in childish resentment.
Levi's hands trembled slightly, brow furrowing in revulsion. "Yes Rogue. You need a damn good and thorough scrubbing. Contrary to what you may think, you smell like a molding shower and your putrid breath smells like a cow died, rotted in the sun with vultures feasting on its rotten flesh – with the vulture dying on top of all that. Death basically." The stout man spoke malevolently. "To be in the Scouts, especially in my squad, you HAVE to be clean. No exceptions. Now get in the fucking river."
Rogue shook his head, denying Levi's request in a low growl, ears planting themselves downward and against his skull. The titan unfolded his arms to place his palms upon the earth, locking his arms at their joints in a fashion similar to a threatened animal. Rogue gave a low hiss, telling the man 'no' in a wordless bout. However, Levi only seemed to grow more upset.
"Do you not remember what I told you about listening?" The short leader began, voice even more venomous than before. "I said that you WILL listen or I will punish you like a dog. Remember that?"
Aggravated, Rogue lifted himself to his feet with the sort one shouting in protest. Knowing he couldn't exactly run away, Rogue paused in his retreat to bend over and take refuge behind a minuscule tree, a pitiful attempt to conceal himself and put a barrier between them. Levi merely folded his arms.
"I think that may be your most pathetic attempt to hide yet, Rogue. I was expecting something much more dazzling from you to be honest." The man mocked, producing a half roar from his throat at the insult. "Enough with your fucking around brat. Get in the water."
Frustrated, Rogue parted his teeth, clacking them as he gave his argument in several deep grunts before hissing once again, his tangled hair standing up on his scalp. God, how he just wanted to run off! The titan then rotated on his knees and sat with his back turned to the group of humans. So far, this day was less than enjoyable.
"Rogue! I order you to turn the FUCK around and get your smelly ass into the river!"
The creature let loose another low moan; raising his hand to express his displeasure with a middle finger without batting an eye. He could feel a smirk wanting to spread across his face, Rogue could practically sense the animosity coming from the short man. No. He was not going to partake in the act of bathing. Not even if he was threatened to do so.
"Rogue! I will fucking slice off your middle fingers over and over as they grow back if you do that again!" Levi yelled angrily but only making Rogue huff in amusement. "My god you're a big baby. I can hardly believe that you are the ferocious Rogue Titan."
Hearing the insult, the titan turned his head and delivered a snarl over his shoulder. Feeling the need to put his wants before him once again and firmly, Rogue braced his palms against the earth and prepared to turn around – however a soft touch to his wrist demanded his attention. Knowing just who it was, Rogue peered down to lay eyes on his concerned little one, Mikasa. She was smiling softly at him, giving him the very look that always broke his core.
"Hey Rogue?" She asked softly. "Will you listen to us? To live here, it shows a bit of decency if you're clean. Although you may feel unsoiled, you really aren't. You may smell like the forest to Armin and I, but to others you don't smell like a fresh field of flowers if you know what I mean Rogue. Your hair is so oily that it looks like glass. "
He frowned a bit at her statement. He did want to stay here, very much so. It was just the uncertainty of scrubbing. Rogue then nervously tried to get his point across in his own wordless language of grunts and grumbles – not caring if he appeared pathetic. Mikasa shook her head and leaned into his flesh, eyes gazing up at him in warmth.
"Oh come on now! She smiled. "Getting a bath isn't so bad! In fact, it feels great after you're done! Every living thing gets washed off, Armin and I do it all the time! Nothing hurts!"
Rogue raised a brow in question. Nothing hurt? Not even the small white stones? To ask, the titan performed several notions, picking up a small rock that fit comfortably in his palm and mimicked his little ones' scrubbing notions when they performed the act of bathing. Setting the stone aside and making a few more pained grunts in concern, Rogue then waited for her explanation.
"No Rogue, the soap doesn't hurt, burn your skin, or anything like that. The soap is what makes the whole idea of 'getting clean' work. You'll feel great afterwards. And don't worry, Armin and I are right there in the water with you." Mikasa smiled. "Now come on and get in the river."
The titan turned to watch the water, light reflecting off its moving surface like glittering gems. If his little one said it was safe, then it had to be. The suds created by the thing called soap weren't acid or anything that would cause any agony. And if his 'filth' was making his babies and the others uncomfortable then the act of bathing was necessary. Plus, he didn't want to leave his little ones. Giving in, Rogue let out a long steamy sigh and got to his feet. The titan then gradually waltzed to the river, each step weary until he paused at the water's edge. Rogue turned to gaze down at his little ones as if he needed permission – maybe a bit more reassurance. Emerald pools watched as his little ones waved him forward. Rogue snorted, he could not believe he had stooped down low again. For some reason, he always became putty in their hands.
Rogue then took a cautious step into the river and seated himself on his rear, the river's water swelling up onto the banks from the added weight. The water was lukewarm, almost cool to his toasty flesh. Unlike his little ones, he preferred icy water over everything. Rogue felt himself let out a slight rumble of likeness. The cool water felt like a silk sheet, incredibly comfortable and a relief from the humidity – if only the river could come up past his pelvis. Truthfully, he did enjoy indulging from the liquid resource, but he was quite sure that what was coming would be far less than relaxing.
"Now that you're in the water, lean back and get your head wet, brat." Levi demanded. "I'm pretty sure you want to get this over with."
Rogue let his eyes reel in his sockets, as much as he wanted to not listen to the stout man, he did want to get through the act of bathing quickly. With care, the titan leaned back slowly, every muscle in his torso stretching and pulling profoundly as he got into position. Water surrounded his back and soaked through his hair as he lay fully onto the riverbed. Rogue then looked over for any further instructions to find that Levi was wading into the water with a bucket and brush. Growing confused as to why Armin and Mikasa weren't following the man as of yet, Rogue watched fretfully as the short leader rounded to the back of his head. Not entirely sure what Levi was planning, Rogue let a small growl peek from his maw – a warning. However, the man simply ignored his gesture and began whatever work he was doing. The titan then listened intently to the gurgling sound of water being sucked into a bucket. Suddenly, a large amount of water was thrown onto his head, making him twitch and nearly turn to scold the man – only stopping to see his little ones wade into the river and prepare their buckets. Rogue remained quiet as he observed his two little ones continue to build up suds in their buckets and Levi proceed with dampening his scalp.
Without warning, he felt a few tugs on his locks. Rogue turned his gaze to his brow to see that the short leader had climbed upon his head – coming to rest where his hair sprouted from his temple in a widow's peak. What the hell was Levi doing! Both agitated and leery, Rogue growled again, louder than the last with the water rippling from his vibrating frame. To his dismay, the short man merely looked at him unemotionally and almost unimpressed.
"Oi quit your complaining." Levi spoke in disinterest. "Relax. If you fling me off I'm going to be sure I make this more unenjoyable than it already is. Now be still."
Before Rogue could growl a negative response, Levi began to run a soap-covered brush along his scalp, lathering up his hair as he scrubbed. The titan froze, eyes wide at the sky in shock – inner focus only transfixed on the scrubbing of his scalp. Back and forth, the feeling was so foreign. Rogue blinked; letting his tense muscles slack slightly. The sensation was unlike anything he had felt before. Although it was unfamiliar to his body – it felt good. More than good. Amazing even. The circular movements of the brush against his scalp and the scent of fresh human cloth made is eyelids flutter, sinking sleepily. So this was what the act of bathing felt like? Unexpectedly on instinct, Rogue let a loud purr escape from his chest, closing his eyes in utter bliss.
"Humph, all that whining and you actually like getting a bath. Not as bad as you thought was it?"
Hearing Levi's words, Rogue immediately ceased his signs of enjoyment and began to growl low in his throat to give off the impression of his displeasure. He would not purr for this man. He would only purr for people he liked.
Levi only scoffed. "Really, Rogue? Another sad attempt? You're a piece of work." He spoke with the titan hissing at his words. "Alright, Ackerman, Arlert, and the rest of you start working with me on his head. We need to get his scalp done before we move on to the rest of his hair." The man ordered sternly.
Rogue watched from the corner of his eye to see his little ones carry their buckets to his scalp and the other small humans join them. At once, the massaging sensation returned to his skin, easing every amount of stress within his veins and tendons. The titan instantly let himself sink into a sea of comfort. Yes, the act of bathing wasn't too bad, in fact it was heavenly. Again, he couldn't stop himself from emitting a series of repetitive purrs, sounding deep and cavernous. A small smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. As he decided, he would only purr for his babies and his new found little humans. Not for Levi or Jean. As for the short leader, he would get what was coming for him. He just had to figure how.
Armin found himself laughing for the umpteenth time in the hour that had passed, amused like his friends around him at the titan's loud and continuous purring. The boy was incredibly relieved and thankful for Rogue's reaction to bathing. He had been worried that the towering and somewhat temperamental creature would have had one of his 'episodes' of a hissy fit, but things had gone in their favor much to their surprise. As far as Armin knew, Rogue had never had any sort of bath at all. Truthfully, he barely noticed any sort of odor coming from the titan. The beast didn't sweat, just steamed. The only areas that Armin found to be an unpleasant experience for his nose was the titan's oily head if he was on top of it and certainly Rogue's breath. It was indeed foul, smelling strongly of carrion from slain titans. Thankfully, that problem would be taken care of. He just hoped that Rogue would tolerate Levi's prodding. Ever since Rogue was constantly around the Corporal, as he had noticed, Rogue was displaying a kind of behavior that he had never seen from the gentle titan. The willfulness yes, but Rogue made damn sure that Levi knew that he didn't like him. Rogue's actions had put him on edge, spitting on Levi the previous day made him especially vigilant. It worried the teen greatly. It was almost as if Rogue was pissing the man off on purpose. The thought made Armin swallow nervously. In the near future, Rogue would have to listen to the man whether he wanted to or not. No exceptions.
The blonde teen readjusted himself in his straps again, dipping his sponge into the bucket strapped to his belts before pressing it to the titan's scalp again. In the time that had passed, Rogue had since been instructed to sit up so that they could reach the other sections of his head properly. Armin, Mikasa, and the others were suspended by their cables that were embedded into the barks of nearby trees – allowing the group of teenage recruits to reach every part of the titan's head. Levi had since graduated from scrubbing Rogue's scalp to sitting on the riverbank to enjoy a bit of tea and observe their work, pointing out missed spots – having been forced to leave since the titan began to not cooperate by hissing and swatting the man with his ears. Hange had since joined the teens, not in cleaning but to sit upon Rogue's shoulder and observe.
Armin focused once more in his task of lathering the soap and running his coarse brush through Rogue's damp hair. The blonde sighed as he pulled the tool from the titan's wild locks; seeing that the tan bristles were tinting black from the amount of dirt. Quickly, he dipped the brush into his pail and began to scrub Rogue's head a bit harder than before. He wasn't so surprised at how dirty the beast's hair was. Besides the oil, there was a layer of dirt and even a few spots of bird shit. Armin had also expected for Rogue's locks to be infested with insects like ants and ticks, but there were none to be found. Likely because of the titan's hot skin. Rogue's hair was the equivalent of a homeless man's head. Of course, washing the creature's locks was proving to be no simple task. Compared too most titans he had seen, Rogue had a ton of hair that was incredibly thick. Thus, it made it hard for Armin and the others to get all the way down to the titan's scalp. Not to mention, when wet, Rogue's hair was incredibly heavy to lift and move to get to other parts. It was a nightmare to some of the others that kept joking that they should just shave the titan's hair off and let it all regenerate back. As practical as it sounded, there was no way that Rogue would ever allow such a thing.
"So Armin, how do you and Mikasa understand Rogue when he doesn't speak words?" Connie asked as he struggled with a piece of the titan's hair that was in a large knot. "I mean, you guys seem to understand him perfectly no mater what."
Hange snapped her fingers and pressed her pin to her paper. "Oh yes! Please do tell us! I'd love to know!"
Armin bit his lip, unsure of where exactly to start. "Well, Rogue makes a number of different sounds. It took a while for Mikasa and I to learn all of his vocals. There is so many." He replied as Rogue let out a deep and rumbling purr and leaned into him, begging to be scrubbed more. "Well for one, his purring means he's very happy or pleased."
"And I guess hissing means to back off!" Connie chuckled.
"Yeah." Armin laughed reticently.
"So what does he do to get your attention?" Krista questioned, getting involved.
Armin rubbed his chin. "That's a simple one. Rogue makes two short grunts when he wants to ask a question."
"What about the chirping?" Sasha asked as she began to help Connie with untangling the titan's locks.
"That's just a way he says hello to you after it's been a while. Rogue does it when he's happy too. When he squeals, that means that he's ecstatic to see you or he's pleased with something. Rogue has a lot of different vocals he makes when he's happy. He can laugh too, actually."
Hange smiled. "Rogue can laugh?"
"Laugh?" Sasha questioned. "How can he?"
The blonde teen found himself smiling despite the fact that he was currently struggling with untangling an unruly knot. "Yeah. It's an odd sound actually. When Mikasa and I first heard it, we weren't entirety sure what it was at first. It's a huffing sound he makes."
The scientist chuckled madly for the umpteenth time. "Ah! I will have to hear that soon!" She beamed as she reached up and began to scratch behind Rogue's ear, the titan letting out a soft squeal in pleasure. "So, I assume he likes his ears scratched?"
Armin nodded. "Of course." He began as Rogue suddenly leaned forward and started to run his hands through the river, splashing a bit as he tried to catch several silver fish swimming before him. "Rogue really likes it for some reason. Even though he's more than capable of scratching his own ears, he really loves it when other people do. I guess it's just the attention." Armin chuckled, but then hearing a groan from Jean. He turned his gaze to look down at the boy who was trying to untangle his own brush from Rogue's locks.
"If he's capable of scratching his own ears, then why doesn't he scrub his own rat's nest of a head." Jean grumbled. "Of all the titans, we get the one with a mop of hair. Damn it. It's taking forever to do this." The arrogant teen complained, receiving a hiss from Rogue who had paused in his current activity of toying with fish before returning to his merriment. Armin watched Rogue as he continued, noticing how the titan would glance every so often at Levi before returning to his current task.
"He does have a lot of hair." Krista agreed, giggling a bit. "There is so much you could almost tie it back in a ponytail or put it in pigtails."
"We braided it before." Mikasa added nonchalantly.
"He allows you do that?" Sasha queried. "A titan actually lets you braid his hair?"
Mikasa smiled. "Rogue will let you do anything if he's in the mood."
"We need to focus more on getting the big brat clean rather than what style of hair you plan to give him."
Armin turned to see Levi sitting up and pouring himself another glass of tea. "Do you brats have his scalp done?"
"How about the rest of his hair?" Levi quizzed as he watched Rogue in almost a look of disgust, the titan making a variety of short grunts and trills as he managed to pluck a fish from the water only for it to flop back into the translucent cover of the river – whining in disappointment at the loss of his catch. Rogue then took a brief moment to look at Levi before returning to his play. Armin blinked, the titan was definitely still hooked on a blissful high he was experiencing ever since their reunion. It pleased the two teens to see their friend who had been through hell, happy. Still, it felt as if Rogue was currently putting on a show. Why was he breaking his focus every few minutes to look at the Corporal?
"Everything is lathered, Sir!" Mikasa ensured. Levi took another sip of tea, his own form of acknowledgement at times.
"Right. Time to rinse." Levi continued with the teen's signal to remove himself or herself from the titan's scalp so Rogue could be doused.
Armin nodded as he stowed sponges and began to pull himself away, noticing a sudden smirk appear on Rogue's face. Instantly, his heart began to pound as the realization struck him. As Levi began to instruct the titan to lean back again, Armin observed and listened as Rogue released a loud squeal of false pleasure. To his horror, the titan swatted at the river's surface, producing a wall of liquid that quickly raced for the short man – hitting Levi with a massive swell of water. Armin's breath hitched as his eyes absorbed the sight of the temporarily stunned Levi and Rogue huffing in laughter. His eyes opened wider. Rogue had gotten creative. The titan had only pretended to be playing, in reality, he using his personality to fool his victim. It was a bizarre strategy, but one that Rogue wasn't shy about implementing. The Corporal had been caught off guard.
Levi's eyes narrowed as he slowly turned his furious gaze to the snickering giant who wasn't aware of the man's dead stare. The corporal's now wet body was seething, nearly trembling all over in rage as he marched up to the river's edge. If he would have had been wearing his maneuver gear, Armin was certain that Levi would have rocketed up into Rogue's face. The titan then placed his gaze onto the soaked second in command, putting on another act of an accident by trying to appear completely surprised – ears wilting with his eyes and maw open wide in shock. However, Levi wasn't buying the display.
"Quit acting like that was a damn fluke!" He hissed through his teeth. "Your fucking laughter gave you away you big brat!" Levi argued on the titan's seemingly deaf ears, the beast simply snorting and leaning back into the water. "You're unbelievably lucky I'm unable to come up there and that I'm already damp!" Corporal Levi continued as Rogue leaned further to get the top of his head wet before rising, hair plastered upon his face like a veil. "Did all of what I said to you yesterday –
However, Levi was cut short again when Rogue began to shake his head, wringing the water from his locks like a shaggy dog. Water rained in all directions, soaking trough Levi, Hange, and the group of recruits' clothes. Finally, after the translucent liquid had bled through the cloth to grace Armin's skin, Rogue finished his act of ridding himself of the unneeded water. The titan released a low hum, one of likeness as the corners of his mouth formed into a lazy smile with eyes half-lidded in bliss. The sound of a growl, not mistakenly from Levi, captured the titan's interest – the beast giving another played look in surprise.
"Rogue!" The short man grimaced, raising an unstable finger to the titan's mug. "I don't want to be fighting another war." Levi spoke heatedly. "Remember, brat. You are to obey me. Now, rest your head against the bank so we can take care of the rest of your filth. And don't you worry, I'll be chiming in later." Levi finished darkly as he began to head in the direction of the castle, making Hange's brows rise in question.
"Levi?" She called. "Where are you –
"Tea. To get more tea since 'Big Ears' here decided to ruin my cup."
Soon, the bickering from the chaos has quieted. Rogue had since retired to laying back down into the river's waters, the titan's head resting in the grass and daisies. The great beast was in a state of utter paradise. The titan was purring both continuously and loudly as several of Armin and Mikasa's comrades scrubbed his skin and other extremities. Cleaning the titan's backside had surprisingly went well, all except for Jean's chiding as a result for being ordered to scrub down Rogue's rump due to a few of his snark comments about Levi's misfortune and his own. Now on his back, the titan was indulging on the attention as the others continued with their orders. Armin and Mikasa were steadily running rakes through the titan's now pristine locks to rid the tangles. The blonde teen had to admit; he was amazed at the difference the soap and labor had brought. Rogue's hair had been coated in oil, dusted with dirt, and decorated with leaves and twigs from his nest. Now the titan's locks were free of debris, smelled like fresh linens, and were softer than a horse's mane. Krista and Petra, who had volunteered to join the demanding task, mopped the titan's broad chest. Sasha and Connie were scrubbing Rogue's belly, rising up and down with every rumbling purr. Oluo and the rest of Levi's squad were in charge of washing the titan's legs or tending to the titan's dirty toenails – a more repulsive task that even Jean had been ordered to do, picking the dirt out from Rogue's sharp fingernails. Hange herself was seated nest to Rogue, resting upon a blanket beneath the shade – still taking notes and excusing herself from Levi's orders on her own accord.
Armin then moved on to cleansing Rogue's tapered ear, rag sweeping through and along every nook and cranny with the titan rumbling in pleasure – near ecstasy it seemed. The blonde then chuckled a bit as Rogue craned his neck to lean further into the teen, crooning as the creature begged for more. The titan's ear flickered, nearly tipping Armin's soapy bucket onto the bank, a small disaster that was avoided by the boy's quick reaction. The blonde took a breath in relief, thankful that the lathered soap had not been spilled.
"I think you sometimes forget how big you are, Rogue." Armin spoke as he patted the creature's ear. "Let's just stick to purring during this to show how happy you are. Sound good?"
The titan huffed in reply, finding humor in his error before grunting in understanding – eyes still closed as he indulged from the constant scrubbing.
"So!" Hange began as she crossed her legs over one another. "Before we got a bit side tracked, could you two share some more intellect on Rogue's vocal vocabulary? Or perhaps some of his gestures?" The scientist alliterated, eyes wide in interest as she stared at the two teens expectedly. "You mentioned something about him licking and I saw him do it to the two of you last night. Could you start with that?"
Armin brushed his chin across his sleeve. "Like the chirping sounds he makes and his grunts, his licks can mean a few different things. Of course they are all out of affection and are his version of a kiss. When Rogue is really, and I mean really, excited to see you he'll lick – in fact when he first saw us in the cove after three years of our absence, he did it so much that we were drenched in less than a minute. Rogue will also lick you as a comforting gesture when you're upset or on the occasion to say 'good night.' It's not a common gesture and some will probably find it a bit repulsive, even Dr. Jaeger tried to break Rogue from it at one point in time. But of course, it was a bit of a packaged deal with him." Armin smiled with the titan wiggling his ears a little, obviously listening in on the current conversation.
"Very interesting! I'll have to look at his elongated tongue in a bit during my experimentation session with him after he's clean!" Hange smiled as she wrote furiously in her notebook.
Armin blinked, his breath hitched in slight horror. From his time living among the Scouts and observing Hange's experiments with Sonny and Bean, Armin knew they were considered torture. The scientist going to incredible extremes such as slicing flesh for tissue samples and spearing her 'children' through the heart. Would Hange do that to Rogue? The boy's eyes narrowed in suspicion as well as Mikasa's who had been listening in.
"Hange," She began. "When you say experiment, you better not do what you did to Rogue as you did Sonny and Bean." Mikasa informed sternly. "Like we said before, he's judgmental and sensitive. One wrong move and he might distrust you completely."
At her statement, Hange quickly shook her head in denial. "Oh no! I would never! I don't want my new darling mad at me! I'm just going to do an overlook which includes a close up examination of his ears, tongue, and his eyes. I want to do a few intelligence tests as well. The only thing you could deem harmful that I want to do is just a simple blood test."
Hange nodded. "Just a small one. Enough to fill a syringe. I want to look at his DNA and compare it to other previous samples I've taken to see just how special he is paralleled to other titans. Also, in comparing DNA samples, I'll be able to tell a few things about Rogue's origins."
Armin's brows rose a bit. Did he just hear her right? Hange could tell where Rogue had come from? Seriously? "You can – tell where he came from?"
She shrugged her shoulders. "Well… it's an experimental thing. New. It's something I've been looking at recently. I can explain more later if you like."
"Wait." Mikasa asked. "How are you able to look at his blood when everything from a titan evaporates?"
"Ah! I'm glad you asked! I found out that you could keep titan blood as a physical form for about two weeks if you contain it or freeze it. Of course as you know it doesn't last long once it's exposed to oxygen! Now! His ears, what do their movements mean?" Hange went on as she observed as Rogue wiggled his ears teasingly at their mention, nearly knocking over Armin's bucket once again.
For a moment, Armin found himself hesitating, still hooked on Hange's previous words before he found his voice. "Rogue's ears are probably among the most expressive parts of his body. Wiggling obviously means he's joyful, as you may have figured. When they prick forward that means he's alert or interested. If his ears are down that means he's upset and if they are planted flat against his skull, in some cases folded over marginally, which means Rogue is angry. When one flickers, he's amused. Of course, they are almost always moving around!" Armin informed as Rogue continued to move his ears a bit as if he was putting them on display, knocking over his bucket and spilling the less than clean sudsy water onto the grassy bank. In alarm, Rogue lifted his head slightly to look at his undoing. The titan swallowed as he saw the water quickly escape its container, ears wilting slightly with his green eyes adverting to the blonde, giving an apologetic grin in light of his mistake.
"OORRRREE." Rogue spoke almost sheepishly, shoulders naturally rising a little.
Armin only gave a soft smile in forgiveness. "It's okay. The water was dirty anyway." He educated as he stood and retrieved more water and returned to his seat. "Just be careful not to knock this one over."
At his words, Rogue nodded and laid his head back to the grass, closing his eyes again and soon purring. Hange then cleared her throat.
"Alright, now how about the kneading he was doing the other night when we all united? It's so bizarre. I've only see cats do it. Explain it to me!"
The blonde watched as Mikasa bit her tongue. "To be honest with you Section Commander, we don't truly know much about it. In the eight years we've known him, in the five that we've been with him, Armin and I have only seen him do it about five or six times – two in the last few days. In all those instances, he did it when he was –
"Exultant?" Hange beamed as she looked up from her notebook. Mikasa nodded.
"I see! Rogue, you're a very happy titan aren't you?" The woman asked the lounging giant, the beast giving a short nod and rumble in reply.
"Yeah, for the most part he is." Armin added.
Hange chuckled. "Ah! Alright now how abut his –
"Uggh! This is disgusting!"
Armin looked up to see Jean digging a clump of dried mud from beneath Rogue's fingernail. The teen's face was twisted up in a grimace as he pulled out more dirt. "First his ass and now I'm stuck giving him a damn pedicure." Jean mumbled. "Damn it. There is even moss growing on this dirt."
Hearing Jean's insult, Rogue gave a low but warning growl, eyeing the teen before relaxing once again. As Armin predicted, Jean couldn't keep quiet.
"Why am I the one stuck doing this? I can't believe I'm shoveling horseshit and now pampering a titan. He's just going to get dirty again anyway. Humph. Fucking life in the Scouts."
At Jean's monologue, Rogue opened his eyes yet again to deliver a dead stare to the arrogant teen. Without warning, the titan pulled his hand and fingers away from Jean's current workstation, surprising the upfront teen.
"The hell! What are you doing you big dumb –
Armin, Mikasa, and Hange observed as Rogue pushed Jean firmly with a single finger – knocking the older boy down to the bank, mud gracing his face. Jean groaned and angrily scrambled to his feet, provoking the titan to huff steam in laughter. Armin bit his lip at Rogue's behavior, keeping quiet as Jean finally managed to get his footing – facing the lounging titan with fury painted onto his face.
"WHAT THE FUCK! I have mud all over me now! What was that for asshole!" Jean yelled heatedly. Rogue tilted his head characteristically at the words, looking apologetic. The titan whined softly as his fingers cradled the teen's body in an almost nurturing way – patting Jean on his head with his index finger. Rogue smiled a bit, green eyes absorbing an emerging look of forgiveness on the male's face. Jean's brow relaxed, the teenager letting out a sigh. "You feel bad or something?" He spoke with a straight face, watching, as Rogue shook his head 'no' – forcing Jean's face to fall. Before Jean could react, the fifteen –meter titan shoved the troublesome soldier to the mud again with a single finger. As Jean impacted the earth, Rogue roared in laughter – tilting his head back and huffing madly.
Armin felt himself wanting to give into the urge to chuckle at the titan's amusement. Amazingly, the titan still had a sense of humor even after their years apart. If at all. Mikasa and Armin also found it incredible that Rogue was capable of pulling jokes or pranks – some even borderline offensive. There were instances in the past where Rogue would hide their belongings so that they would have to stress over finding them, move objects a few inches away at a time when they weren't looking, and try to mimic knock-knock or guess who jokes from the two teen's childhood – their content usually not making any bit of sense. Armin continued to observe Jean's sad attempts in brushing off the mud. He found himself slightly in shock. He had never seen Rogue express this type of displeasure with the Corporal – with Jean it was more in the form of mean pranks or perhaps bulling. With Levi, Rogue seemed to do the opposite of what he was told on purpose or use the man's cleanliness addiction to execute ways to break trough that particular barrier – the example being Rogue's spitting. The titan's behavior worried the creature's longtime companion greatly. Misconduct was prohibited strongly.
The rustle of the brambles' leaves commanded Armin's attention. Levi then appeared from the underbrush wearing fresh new garments and carrying several floor scrubbing tools in tow - face still molded in a look of disgust.
"Kirstein! Quit fucking around." Corporal Levi began as his steel eyes scanned Jean's filthy clothes. "Now go back and change your clothes. Since you've been goofing off obviously, I think it's necessary for you to run fifty laps around the castle." The stout man spoke sternly, face unchanging as Jean's mouth fell agape.
"What! Sir! I was cleaning! It was that big idiot who shoved me down!" Jean voiced sharply as he gestured to Rogue who was playing the innocent card by nuzzling into Mikasa. Levi merely shifted his weight on the balls of his feet as he continued to watch the titan before him.
"Jean, I'm not your damn mother so your bullshit is not for me. Now I believe I gave you an order." The Corporal spoke in a severe tone.
Jean hung his shoulders in annoyance before he began a slow waltz back to headquarters in view of Levi's gaze. When the teen vanished, Levi made his way to the three Scouts and a still innocently behaving Rogue.
"Hange, why are you not working? Like Jean, you're not helping whatsoever. Quit goofing off. You can run your tests and shit later." Levi scolded nonchalantly with Hange only laughing and continuing to ignore Levi's request to her own delight.
Levi swore beneath his breath. "If you are going to be here, you need to clean. I don't care if your questions are for science, you must work. Now as for you big brat," Levi directed to the titan who was watching and listening to the man's words and body language. "It's time for me to wipe your ugly mug and do some dental work." Levi put sternly as he sat down the tools he had and began to slip on a pair of gloves.
Armin witnessed as Rogue continued to stare at the man as he prepared himself, tying a crisp white bandana over his nose and mouth in a level that was tighter than he usual did when cleaning something foul. The titan blinked, head rising slightly as his eyes narrowed in suspicion. The blonde teen found himself swallowing nervously for the umpteenth time, knowing very well that Rogue was not going to be fond of what was coming. Seeing and soon anticipating the Corporal's intentions – and perhaps an impending negative reaction from Rogue, members of both Levi's squad and the new recruits, calmly evacuated from Rogue's form. Emerald orbs followed them in high alert before returning to the heavily prepared Corporal, the titan raising a brow in concern.
"Now I'm going to wash your filthy face and teeth, Rogue." Levi put as bluntly as possible, the creature's eyes widening at the news. "You are NOT going to give me any trouble or bullshit. Or else, Rogue." The man continued, frowning a bit. "Now get up and lay on your stomach with your head lowered so I can clean."
To Mikasa and Armin's surprise, the titan did indeed get up from his relaxed position and crouched in preparation to reposition himself – but that was where the beast stopped. Still hunkered, but with shoulders rising and head low in rebellion, Rogue growled with sheer dislike at Levi – ears plastered to his head and nose wrinkled in a menacing snarl. Armin gulped yet again; Rogue was going for round two of resisting.
"Don't give me that look." Levi spoke coldly with his brows sinking further. "Lay down. NOW."
Rogue answered with a hiss, shoulders rising higher like a giant cat about to pounce. Levi sighed.
"I can do this all day. So I suggest you hurry the fuck up and lay down."
The titan hesitated for a moment, face and frame relaxing slightly as if he was considering. Rogue's ears shifted a bit as his eyes glanced to the wet grass before looking up at the Corporal. Amazingly, the titan snorted and moved to lie upon his abdomen, lowering his head to where his entire jaw and chin rested upon the earth- Rogue still angrily staring at Levi. Armin's palms began to sweat. It was a relief that the titan had listened, but by the look upon the creature's face, he could tell that Rogue was unquestionably planning something.
"Good. Now Hange," Levi directed at the woman. "Make yourself useful and hold up Rogue's hair out of his face along with Petra and Oluo. We do not need it wet again."
"With pleasure, Levi!" Hange nearly cheered as she quickly scaled up the titan's head and gathered hair with the others assigned to the task. "OH MY! Rogue your hair! It's so soft now!" The scientist beamed as she began to snuggle her face against several of the locks held in her arms. "I just want to wrap myself up in it like a blanket!"
Corporal Levi rolled his eyes at the comment. "As I was saying, Rogue shut your eyes and keep them shut until I tell you. I'm pretty sure this isn't exactly tear free. After that, keep still until I give you my next order. Understood, brat?"
Rogue growled softly in annoyance before shutting his eyes. Armin was sure, since the beast was being cooperative; Rogue had to be lying in wait. Satisfied with the titan's actions, Levi then dipped a long scrubbing broom that was used for cleaning the floors, into his bucket before retrieving it to pour a bit of what Armin recognized as dish detergent onto the worn bristles. After letting the soap settle, Levi lifted the broom to Rogue's face and began to scrub. At first, the titan flinched as the bristles grazed the nook between his eye and beneath his brow, until he went rigid in static displeasure. Rogue grinded his teeth and continued to growl deeply in his chest as Levi proceeded to run the broom over the creature's eyelid. The titan's brow wrinkled several times before relaxing, over and over in a pattern as the corporal scrubbed. Rogue grumbled again, before releasing a jet of steam through his nostrils. The titan emitted a whine in frustration, clacking his teeth angrily as Levi went along without a thought.
" Quit complaining. Knowing just how you enjoyed the bit of body worship earlier, I'd say what you are doing now is all put on." Levi spoke with little emotion. "Besides, your face and teeth are probably the dirtiest areas on your body. Tearing into napes with your incisors and coating your face in blood, mud, and not to mention rubbing it into every tree like I've seen you do are some big reasons why." The short man continued as he attempted to get the broom into the folds of skin on Rogue's wrinkled nose. "Relax your face, brat. You're not helping."
With another cloud of steam coming through the titan's nose and corners of his mouth, Armin continued to scrutinize. The titan was aggravated no doubt, most likely unable to put up with Levi's harsh scrubbing for long due to his strong will. As the Corporal scrubbed, the teen took it upon himself to look upon the difference the washing of Rogue's eyes brought. The dark shade of skin around Rogue's eyes had grown even darker with the cleaning. Now that there wasn't a thin layer of dirt over them, the shade of skin was almost completely black – in fact it could have been classified as such. It looked as someone had almost taken a giant vat of black paint and brushed it over and around Rogue's eyes. The trait was incredible. No doubt would the deep coloration bring out the titan's green eyes even further. Armin then noticed that he was not the only one who was looking at the bizarre but natural markings.
"You know, I just thought he had two black eyes when I first saw him in Trost." Sasha examined. "But they're markings!" The teen continued as she angled herself to examine Rogue further. "It makes him look a bit like a bandit."
"You're right. It kind of looks like someone put makeup on him." Krista smiled as she joined Sasha in her examination.
Hearing their interest, Rogue hummed at the attention before registering his current displeasure. The titan snorted another cloud of harsh steam and began to growl louder as Levi moved on to pilot the broom across Rogue's brow. The titan hissed, jerking slightly to butt the Corporal in the chest with his nose. With the impact, Levi fell from his feet and nearly knocked his bucket over. Armin held his breath as Levi disinterestedly got to his feet and brushed himself off. To the group's surprise, the man only pressed the broom to the titan's nose and continued to scrub.
"The more you bitch and squirm, the longer this is going to take." Levi continued as he moved from Rogue's nose to the titan's chin and jawline.
For several more minutes, Corporal Levi proceeded to lather the suds upon Rogue's skin, with the titan throwing a grumbling fit that Armin could classify as a mix of feline and toddler. The titan jerked again, eyes nearly opening as Levi narrowly managed to avoid Rogue's nose for the third time. To the blonde teen, shoving the Corporal down repeatedly wasn't the creature's plan of harmless revenge. No, Rogue couldn't have been settling on the same punishment as Jean. He had to have been planning something bigger. The short second in command then grabbed another pail and dipped it into the river to harvest its bounty.
"Ackerman and Arlert." Levi began as he raised the bucket of new water to Rogue's face. "Empty your pails and fill them with fresh water. Use them to rinse these suds off." He ordered as he threw the water as high as he was able upon Rogue's face.
Doing just as they had been demanded, the two new Scouts joined Levi in ridding the soap from Rogue's façade. Within several minutes, the titan's face was cleared of all suds. Feeling the lack of bubbles and foam, Rogue gradually opened his eyes to reveal his paralyzing and astonishing greens. Against the titan's unique black rings, Rogue's eyes stood out brilliantly, fire filled emeralds against onyx skin. Now like the rest of the beast's body, his face was as fresh as a newborn's. Rogue adverted his eyes to both Mikasa and Armin, crooning a bit at their presence. However the titan's face changed and nose wrinkled in disgust at the odor of the liquid that Levi was pouring into a new bucket – the mysterious fluid obviously the strong scent of bleach.
"Now." Levi initiated with his voice carrying no nonsense. "I have something special for those yellow teeth of yours. It's strong and pungent, and it gets the job done. I can tell you now; you will not be fond of this. However, if you feel the urge to fling me to the ground, spit on, or even eat me I will make sure you receive a severe punishment." The man muttered darkly as he lifted his sponge. "Hold still and don't make a fuss." Levi concluded as he set to work upon the titan's filthy teeth.
To say that the bleach was working was an understatement. Within just a few strokes of the Corporal's hand, the powerful cleaner was eating away the discolored film upon Rogue's incisors. As Armin expected, Rogue was much less than pleased. In fact, the titan was much more angry and boisterous than before. The creature hissed, growled, and snarled through his clenched jaw, bright eyes watching Levi in hatred. For some time, the man continued his cleansing duty, or perhaps perform his pastime in the presence of the recruits and his squad. Levi appeared focused, barely blinking as he ran the sponge through each and every groove while vastly ignoring Rogue's loud complaints. The titan released a wave of steam through his teeth, making Levi wince from the uncomfortable heat.
"You do that again and I'll put in the extra effort to lob off your nose." The man warned while he wiped away a bead of sweat and moved on to scrubbing down Rogue's bottom row of teeth.
The titan grumbled, growling so deeply that the vibrating earth rattled the buckets and reverberated through Armin's body. Soon, the hard scrubbing was nearly finished, and the effort was clearly displayed by Rogue's nearly white teeth. Levi then proceeded to rinse away the bleach, making good on the task to ensure that not a drop was left. The corporal then took a few steps back to examine his work before nodding to himself and retrieving his broom for a second time to submerge it into the soapy foam.
"Now, I'm going to take care of your shitty breath, Rogue. Like I told you, I will go out of my way to teach you a lesson if you try anything. Keep that in mind. Alright, open your mouth and stick out your disgusting tongue."
For a moment, Rogue hesitantly looked off to the side before slowly opening his mouth and allowed his long tongue to slide out. As the titan exhaled, Armin's hand instantly snaked up to his nose. Rogue's breath was truly foul – smelling of death and rot. He was amazed that he didn't notice it in the chaos of their reunion. If put to the test, it would make milk curdle.
"Fucking disgusting. Remember brat, no nonsense." Levi put into place as he began to push the broom across Rogue's tongue. At the touch, the giant being instantly released his displeasure with a howl of irritation. Rogue's then placed his gaze onto Levi who was brushing the soap all along the creature's taste buds. The beast's eyes narrowed even further, irises nearly smoldering. Armin watched, as a flash of what he knew as ingenuity flickered in Rogue's intense eyes. While Levi scrubbed, the titan began to do something strange, inhale and swallow air. The blonde blinked in confusion, he had never seen Rogue do such a thing. What on earth was the titan planning? "This is a disgrace. Your breath is absolutely putrid. Can you smell it?" Levi mocked as he proceeded to edge closer into the titan's maw – a place where no man wanted to find themselves when they were interrupted by a normal titan.
Rogue however, did not respond as he continued to suck and swallow air as if he was dehydrated from it. Levi paused, sighing in aggravation as he looked up to the unhappy creature.
"You know you're acting just like a damn ch – what are you even doing? Why are you –
The cavernous sounds of a massive gurgling stomach, no doubt Rogue's, silenced Levi and every Scout around them. Armin's heart skipped a beat. Had the titan purposely made himself sick so he could vomit all over Levi? It was likely. Rogue had seen how the Corporal hated to be dirty. Taking a few steps back in horror at what was coming, Armin watched with eyes blown wide as the muscles in Rogue's throat expanded and contracted with the gurgling rising higher into the titan's esophagus. Suddenly, before Levi could take a step in retreat, Rogue released a low, loud, and long burp – right into his superior's face. The stench of weakened carrion and a large amount of hot steam hit the man full force. Armin remained still, frozen in place until the ugly belch ceased. Levi remained stagnant, eyes slightly wider than their usual appearance as Rogue began to huff in laughter. He should have known what the titan was doing ever since the creature began to intake an unnecessary amount of air. Armin had seen Connie do the same thing in their days as trainees in order to burp his ABC's.
The blonde continued to watch in silence with the crowd of Scouts awaiting Levi's reaction. Armin swallowed, Rogue was in big trouble and Levi was most likely not going to show mercy. All eyes watched as Levi slowly stood and dropped his broom roughly into his bucket, the pail falling over to give way to its soapy contents.
"Arlert." He began roughly as he removed his gloves and bandanna.
"Y…yes?" Armin asked warily, feeling his palms sweat even more at the Corporal's horrid grimace and tone.
"Finish the job."
"Sir?" He queried, but receiving no reply as Levi angrily brushed passed him, heading in the direction of the castle. The group of teens and the Corporal's squad remained speechless as the man vanished from sight, completely shocked that the man had turned on his heel and quit. Armin turned his attention to Rogue, who upon making eye contact, began to coo loudly – shutting his eyes tightly in bliss with the tip of his long tongue sticking out from his now white teeth and ears fluttering like the wings of a butterfly. Armin sighed as he picked up the broom and prepared a new pail with Rogue purring behind him. Once he was ready, he turned to the titan who had voluntarily opened his maw with his tongue out and ready. Armin then began to scrub, the titan making no fuss at all. "You know that's going to come back and haunt you right?"
His ears wiggled continuously as he, his little ones, his new little humans, Hange, and Petra walked back to the great castle. He felt so good! Rogue smiled, rumbling in pleasure as his fingers streaked through his now incredibly clean hair. The titan was amazed at how soft it was, feeling like the hair of the hooved creatures – free of twigs and any foreign object. Now he knew why his little ones loved the act of bathing. The polished feeling after the foam was freed from his skin was heavenly, even more so when the humans had massaged the thing they called 'soap' in. Being clean for the first time in his life made him realize just how dirty he had been. Although his flesh could make the average blade shatter, it felt so – smooth and forgiving. His skin wasn't carrying a layer of translucent earth anymore and he was in awe at its surface, constantly reaching up to feel the flesh on his chest or face. Yes, the bath was well worth it, the titan figured. Although he would get dirty yet again, he was all for the attention and clean feeling that had come with the washing's aftermath.
Granted, the only part of the activity that he found uncomfortable and less than pleasing was the act of bathing his teeth. Of course, he didn't feel a lot of discomfort; it was just the smelly water that Levi had used on them. It burned the inside of his nose with its strong odor and it made his head feel a bit light and fuzzy. True, the liquid had gotten his bloodstained teeth to be as white as a winter's snow, but it smelt fucking terrible! Levi had to have used it to get back at him for splashing the man for his own amusement! However, his heinous belch did just the trick in showing his disgust. Although it was uncomfortable to make, it did the job flawlessly – sending the clear message that he did not wish to cleaned by the man. Rogue's ears pressed against his skull briefly in slight aggravation. Yes, Levi was obviously trying to put him in his place. It was clear. Rogue found himself smirking. True, he was as 'asset' – very valuable. Levi could not harm him no matter what it seemed. Yes, he would make sure the man knew that he hated him.
Finally, after the several minutes of walking along the forest path, the titan and the humans had made it back to what he was going to call his nesting area for now until he found a suitable place to make a nest similar to his tree back in his cove. It was an odd area, looking like it had once been a pretty garden like those he had seen around some residences in the past, but now it was only a shell of what it formally had been. The flowers and landscape had simply been stripped away or some had died off. Stray pieces of grass grew from the cracks in the bricks that covered the ground. As to what the flying humans used this area for he wasn't completely sure. In the previous day, there had been two small titans sitting in his area bound by ropes. If he had to guess why they were there, he would say that they were presents – offerings. Perhaps they were stray titans leftover from when they passed through the wall that the flying humans felt that he should have the privilege to kill. Whatever it was used for, he found it a bit odd but at least he could call the place his.
"Well my dear titan, why don't you take a seat and get comfortable!" Hange beamed as she scrambled to retrieve several books and other odds and ends.
At the woman's words, Rogue grunted in reply and began to maneuver himself, crouching down and then seating himself onto his rump. The titan then crossed his legs neatly to give his little ones and the other Scouts more room. Rogue then let his hands rest into his lap, watching as another man joined Hange. He had seen the human before upon the flying humans' hunts. The soldier had dirty blond hair and always looked on edge. The man seemed to always be with the woman, scribing her words furiously. The human was trembling a bit, obviously nervous. Rogue blinked, he couldn't understand why. If he was scared of him, then why was he bothering to stay anyway? He liked his new humans. Didn't this one know that he meant no harm? The titan tilted his head, placing his gaze onto the unkempt woman. He wanted to know who the man was.
"HHAAANNGGEEE?" Rogue queried, the woman turning with her face coated in elation. As he expected, the woman squealed and began to jump up and down.
"OH MY! You said my name!" Hange cheered. "I was waiting for you to do that! You pronounced it pretty good too!"
Rogue simply nodded at her show of expression and pointed at the man, grunting twice to ask his query. Hopefully she would understand him just as well as his little ones did.
"Oh him?" Hange asked, brows rising. "Do you – want to know who he is?"
Rogue nodded, grunting again. Thankfully she had understood him.
"Ah! He's my assistant! He helps me! His name is Molbit! He's going to aid me in my examination and sketch you!"
The titan tilted his head. "SEEECCHH?" He questioned not knowing what the word meant.
"Yes, sketch means to draw! It's like making pictures with your hand, Rogue. Do you know what drawing is?"
The titan nodded, smiling a bit. Perhaps he could show his little ones and his new friends that he could draw as well when the time was right. Hange then smiled.
"Ah! Well, it will take Molbit and me a few minutes to gather some things before we are ready. So just sit tight!"
Rogue dipped his head in acknowledgement and reached for his ball to pass the time. The titan then began to indulge in a bit of merriment, pushing the ball across the brick earth with his finger. After a few moments of shuffling the ball around, Rogue began to bounce the ball with repetitive taps of his finger until it was high enough to where he could catch it with his other hand that rested atop his knee. The titan then began to toss the ball from one hand to the other, rumbling in pleasure. Rogue then looked up to his little ones and to check on Hange, still tossing the ball – used to the rhythm. A few months after his little ones had ventured behind the wall, he had found his old ball during one of his hunts. In some of his spare time, Rogue would throw the ball from each hand like he was currently doing. It was another stress reliever.
"You've gotten really good at that, Rogue."
The titan turned to see Armin grinning up at him. The creature smiled and thanked him with a bow of his head. Hange then looked up from her gathering and placing, eyes growing wide as they followed the ball in his hands.
"Holy shit! You're catching that thing without even looking at it! Your – hey toss the ball to me, Rogue!"
He found himself hesitating a little, the way the female spoke seemed almost suspicious. The titan stopped the object's constantly changing of hands, emerald eyes looking down at it in worry. He didn't want to lose his ball already. However, knowing that Hange was a friend, Rogue gently rolled the ball to the woman, watching warily as she picked it up and began to rotate it in her arms as if she had never seen it before. Hange then smiled cunningly as she held the ball straight out in front of her like she was in possession of something unpleasant.
"You're pretty good at catching this thing. Alright Rogue, let me see if you can get this!"
No sooner than she spoke her final syllable, to Rogue's surprise, Hange dropped his ball and punted it with her foot as hard as she was able to. Analyzing the ball's speed as quickly as he could, Rogue reached up and caught the ball in his open palm. In awe, the titan looked in his hand at the blue sphere. Sure, he could snag a flying human's wires easily, but he had never reacted so quickly before. The corners of his mouth elevated slightly, his little ones had been right, practice made perfect.
"Holy crap!" Hange squealed as she began to frantically gesture to Molbit to take something called notes. "Your reflexes are amazing! No wonder you're able to snag our wires!" The female exclaimed as she picked up a strange translucent circle on a stick. "Let's begin our examination! For things to be more effective and for a better flow, I'm going to scrutinize you assets and features, Rogue! I'll be taking measurements and looking closely at the things that make you unique. After that, me and your little ones here are going to do some simple intelligence tests to see what all you know! Now! Since we're talking about your reflexes, we'll cover that first!" Hange addressed as she came close to the titan's leg with Molbit fretfully following her with his writing stick and paper ready. "Armin and Mikasa! How long has Rogue been playing ball?"
Mikasa brushed a strand of her dark hair behind her ear. "Well, it was about a year since we met, so seven years ago. We got a ball for him as a gift. When we showed him what to do with it, he loved it immediately." The teen smiled. "In fact, Rogue was so fond of the game of catch that he constantly wanted to play it."
"Ah! Just what I thought!" Hange went on, making him raise a brow in question. He wasn't sure what this 'examination' was, but he decided to just watch and listen. The messy-haired woman then ran her hand cross the flesh of his thigh, fingers feeling the firm muscle beneath his skin. "Believe it or not, the simple pleasure of tossing a ball definitely strengthened Rogue's amazing reflexes. His body is big, powerful, and proportional. It's no joke that he has the capability for quick and swift actions, but I believe that those simple exercises with the ball only improved his abilities. Interacting with the two of you and the Jaegers also helped the great control over his motor skills. I imagine that maneuvering a massive fifteen-meter frame is quite difficult to do – especially making sure to not accidentally crush or destroy things. Besides knowing how to deal with objects his own size, due to his interactions with the downsized things, he has incredible hand and eye coordination and control. In other words, Rogue was originally, like other titans, made to interact with the word with the same proportions as himself. However, regular titans, aside from the fact that humans are their diet, are unable to interact with things much smaller than themselves. When they pick up a soldier – their bones are usually crushed instantly. Rogue is different. His intelligence allows him to adapt. He's able to be incredibly gentle enough to where he can safely interrelate with us or in recent cases snag us in midair. Of course, you two may have known that already!"
Rogue watched as Armin nodded vigorously at her words. "Yeah. We noticed the same thing. When Rogue first met Carla, he nearly cracked her bones as he picked her up. Since he started to interact with them, the Jaegers did say that he began to grow very gentle over time."
"See?" Hange smiled as she patted his leg. "And getting close with your little ones also made you develop or brought out some existing paternal instincts didn't they, Rogue!" She chortled, a waiting smile upon her face.
The titan tilted his head in question, confused as to what Hange meant by having these 'paternal' instincts. He had heard her mention the term before, but never questioned her about them. However, they had to be a good aspect about him if Armin and Mikasa were said following the words.
"Um, Squad Leader." The blonde began. "You might have to put that in simpler terms form for him. Rogue's vocabulary isn't that advanced."
Hange giggled. "Oh alright. Paternal instincts, Rogue, are the instincts that every Human or animal mommy and daddy have. They are instincts that tell you to nurture and protect your loved ones. And you, my titanic friend, certainly have them!"
Rogue felt himself rumbling in favor of the news. Petra, who was sitting with his two young humans, let out a tender laugh.
"He definitely does. When I asked him about his little ones this morning," The redhead explained as she looked from the titan to Armin and Mikasa who were completely indulged. "Rogue told me that the two of you were his babies."
The titan instantly felt his face and ears heating up in what his humans called embarrassment. He had never really told his two young humans that he considered them as his own. Rogue was well aware that his kind didn't reproduce, but he definitely understood what the term 'babies' meant. He had always watched his deer have them and humans walk with them from a distance. Although his humans, Carla and Grisha, were unable to have babies – they made Mikasa their baby after her parents were killed. So, when his little ones lost their and his humans, they had no one except for him. With no known law saying that a titan couldn't take care of them, he had decided on the night of the breach that Armin and Mikasa would be HIS babies to love and care for. Rogue let his ears droop sheepishly, knowing that his face was likely red. The titan then looked to his own, seeing that the two of them were smiling thoughtfully – not showing any ounce of suggestion that the fact was ludicrous.
"Babies?" Armin and Mikasa asked, looking to the blushing Rogue.
"Yes. He said it quite proudly too." Petra beamed. "He's the lion and you two are the lambs."
Hange laughed, looking at him in amazement. "So! You're their designated titan daddy!"
Rogue nodded, his face tinting a little redder.
"I think he acts more like a mom." Mikasa added, smirking slightly at the tease.
The titan huffed, only growing more crimson.
"Aw! Don't be embarrassed big guy!" Hange spoke before turning to Molbit to tell him to write that he showed the emotion. "It's absolutely adorable! Who knew that a titan was capable of such a feat! Admittedly, when I first laid eyes on you my friend, I didn't see you as the parenting type." The woman laughed, nearly snorting, as her levels of excitement only grew higher. "Now of course our main mission in this examination is to determine if you Rogue, are indeed a new breed of titan! I've made several theories since the beginning. You're the most different specimen that I've ever beheld! So the fact that you are a totally different type of titan is highly likely!" Hange began as she climbed onto his knee and turned to address the others seated in his area. "Although we've been watching our friend here for years, there is still so much we don't know about him! So far, Rogue's characteristics of intelligence, his mannerisms, physical features, and the fact that he doesn't eat humans points to the idea that he is a new species. We ourselves don't exactly know just how old Rogue really is. He could very well be a hundred years old, or be very young! He could be a part of a species that arose with the dawn of the titans themselves or he's the very first of his kind – or last! Maybe his species evolved from regular titans or the standard titan is a devolution of his breed! We don't know yet! But one thing that's very clear even now is the fact that his species is MADE for hunting other titans! A species that's on the top of the pyramid! Whether it's as a food source or for sport – he's a hunter! A predator to be reckoned with!" Hange giggled excitedly.
"Another theory, a less likely one, is that perhaps Rogue is the result of a genetic mutation in the standard titan – but with the evidence that's presented I think that the probability of the theory is highly untrue. Mostly because we have no idea how titans reproduce if not at all." Hange paused as she turned to Rogue again. "With that in mind, let's begin! First, I want to check out my favorite aspect about you! Your beautiful eyes! If you please Rogue, could you lift me up to your face?"
The titan found himself lost in thought before he compiled to her request. As he waited for her to board his palm, Rogue could not help but to think further. He could understand part of what she had said, but her words made him wonder. It was always a thought that pulled at the back of his mind every so often. Where did he come from? How old was he anyway? Was he the only one like himself? Maybe in time Hange could help him find out. For now, it was best to put the thoughts aside.
Once Hange was seated into his hand, Rogue gradually began to lift her with care – keeping her close. As the titan's hand came close to his chest, he observed as she began to grow even more excited as she bobbed up and down in his hand.
"Hold on, Rogue! Bring me a little closer to right there!" The woman pointed to his left breast.
Doing as he was told, the titan brought the woman to his skin. It didn't take him long to figure out what had piqued her interest once Hange flung herself onto him – pressing the side of her face into the firm muscle and hugging what she could. Rogue felt himself purr a bit, knowing very well that she was interested in one of the most special things he had. A wide smile spread appeared across her face as she sighed in bliss, each beat rocking her head.
"Oh! Oh my! You have a lovely and powerful heartbeat! And it sounds like you know it!" Hange teased with he himself giving a chirp and nod in reply. "Since I'm here," The female continued as she pulled out an item called a 'watch' of some sort from her garments. "I want to see how many times your heart beats a minute! Now hold still and just relax." Hange instructed. For a long moment, Rogue remained still as she had said – keeping quiet so Hange could listen. She then pulled away from his chest and looked at the watch in hand, smile still on her face. "Ah! Rogue's heart beats about fifty times a minute! It's a little slower than an average human heart beat, but the number makes sense due to his massive frame." Hange informed as Molbit scribed the information. "Alright, let's get back on track! Let's see those pretty eyes of yours!"
Rogue then lifted Hange to his emerald pools, the woman's face almost filling up his view. He watched as she wielded her strange clear tool and held it near his iris, looking at the details of the titan's eyes through it. "Very interesting." Hange grinned deviously. "Your eyes are indeed, truly the shade of green but with added hues of teal and gold. There are lots of human qualities here as well as some traits I've seen in other animals. Unlike other titans, your eyes actually dilate often. The dilation present resembles that of feline species. Your pupils adjust to the changes in light and to your mood. However, unlike a cat's they only seem to become slits when you're angry or presented with something you don't like. Otherwise, the pupils look very much human – except they get even bigger when you're excited like a cat following a string. Also," Hange continued as she began to move her tool back and forth with Rogue watching its every move. "A standard titan's eyes don't follow or move to see moving objects. They have to turn their entire head. Rogue's eyes are capable of movement – perfect for observing and hunting. His eyes also show vast amounts of expression. He is able to move his brows together or independently to portray most human like expressions. The pupil does the same. For example, when I saw Rogue frightened, the pupil shrinks substantially. As far as the iris goes, the coloration is just gorgeous. The extra layer of tissue behind Rogue's retina, called tapetum lucidum, literally makes those greens glow at night!"
"So that's why his eyes glow at night." Armin spoke as he rubbed his chin. "What about the glowing when he's extremely angry or berserk? Is it the same thing?"
"Good question. I'm not allowed to take samples of him but if I had to guess, I'd say it's the same thing. Otherwise there could be something there that generates the light we see, triggered by emotion perhaps. It's one of those things that we don't know for sure and may never truly find out since I'm sure nobody wants to purposely make him angry to see." Hange chuckled as she returned to her prodding. "Now Rogue, I would really like to see that other thing that makes your eyes so special. Could you possibly show me your third eyelid? I have to see it up close!"
Rogue watched as both his little ones looked at one another in question. The titan swallowed, recalling that the aspect he found about himself was one he had never revealed to them since it contributed to his once major secret that he had kept. If he had lips, he would be biting them guiltily. "Third eyelid?" They asked with Hange tilting her head in a similar fashion, facial features suddenly mirroring the deformation of theirs.
"Do you two – not know about this?"
Rogue's ears fell slightly as they shook their heads, eyes hooked to his in puzzlement. "We thought we saw something in Trost… but we were not sure." Mikasa began.
Hange nodded. "Ah well. It will be proof then! Now, if you would Rogue! Let's let them see!"
For a moment, he found himself still ashamed of his negligence before he decided to just put the concern aside and show off the feature proudly. Rogue then let the clear membranes slide over his naked eyes from their hiding place, making his sparling eyes have a matte finish. The titan then blinked the secret eyelid a few times before letting it cover his eyes yet again, looking down at his babies and Hange awaiting their reaction – unsure if they would be mad at him. Finally, it was Armin who spoke.
"That's bizarre. I can't believe he has it…" Armin stopped, the cause of his cease being elbowed by Mikasa. "It's actually pretty intriguing." The boy smiled feebly.
"It's a little creepy if you ask me." Molbit mumbled, visibly wincing a little. Hange laughed.
"True! It may be strange, but it's one of the main reasons why I think this feature of Rogue's is proof that's he is a different breed! Of all my years in experimenting on titans, I've never seen this in ANY of them! The only creatures that I know that have this trait are birds, reptiles, and amphibians. In Rogue's case, I believe it serves several purposes that I think he can confirm for me! Like most of his other physical features, it's a perfect accessory for hunting! Blinking is a real hindrance for a person or organism when in battle, but blinking is a necessity for the eye to not dry out. So that's where Rogue's third eyelid comes in! He can still blink and fight without losing track of his foe's movements. I also believe he uses it to see clearly through steam and fog. Since he lacks eyelashes, the membrane also protects the eyes as well. Is that right, Rogue?"
Astounded by her intellect, he grunted his reply as he dipped his head. Oh yes, he had full confidence in the messy-haired human finding more about him. If she had discovered all of the facts without him telling her, then he had faith in the female's abilities.
"Ah! Wonderful then!" Hange exclaimed as he let the clear coverings recede back into their hiding places while the flying human began to run her fingers along the dark skin around his eyes. "How intriguing! The black pigmentation around your eyes is just as your friends said, markings. Bruises look entirely different and titan flesh isn't capable of producing them! Cells multiply so fast for the titans to heal completely - never even having time to display a bruise." Hange explained as she continued to look closely with her circular instrument. "It reminds me of a tattoo actually. There is no difference in the skin's texture at all. I don't believe it serves any purpose, but I think it could be a skin pattern that could be relative to his species if he is indeed a new breed! Alright, Rogue! Open your mouth and stick out your tongue so I can look at that!" Hange ordered in her upbeat tone. Just as she asked, the titan complied and lowered her to the long muscle. Before he could even wonder what she had planned, the female jumped from his palm and onto his moist tongue, kneeling down on her knees and looking at it through her instrument. A muffled squeak of surprise came from his throat while his shoulders tensed. What on earth was she doing? "Compared to other titan tongues that I've cut – er retrieved, Rogue's tongue only has one type of taste bud much like his more hostile kind. The type that registers blood. Yet he has no desire to eat humans." Hange snickered. "Maybe you fancy the bounty of titans Rogue?" She teased.
Unable to shake his head, Rogue mimicked a 'nuh uh' sound that his little ones had done countless times before, a sound of denial. He hated titans, even the taste of their flesh and blood.
"The length of Rogue's tongue is something that intrigues me as well." She pressed on as she took a long string like thing and laid it along his tongue before shouting down a high number of sorts to her assistant. "I wonder what it's intended for. It can't be for speaking since Rogue's lack of lips even though he has mastered being able to use it to make words. Maybe, maybe it's for grooming!" Hange said excitedly, making Rogue mutter a groan of confusion and raise a brow. Perhaps he was wrong about her.
"Hange, in all the years that we've known Rogue, the two of us have never seen him lick himself. Ever." Mikasa put bluntly, Armin holding back a laugh.
The older flying human still upon his tongue sighed in slight disappointment. "Oh well, it was a fun theory though! I guess he only uses it to kiss the two of you!" She laughed. "Although I would like for Rogue to at least try it. Just to see if it feels natural to him." Hange beamed, but sounding as if she was hiding something beneath the words she spoke. Before he could even deny her request, she then began to climb further into his mouth, hands running along his teeth. "The shape of his mouth is just as foreign as his other features. Like we've addressed, his mouth isn't made for pronouncing words. It is absolutely made for ripping apart other titans! Peeling flesh from prey! Things like lips would only get in the way. Rogue's teeth mat be blunt like ours, but don't let the feature fool you. Now, if you look at the shape of a wolf's and bear's canines, they are curved so that their kill cannot escape. Rogue lack of canines is made up with that elevated row of teeth! They serve the same purpose. The skin of a titan's nape gets caught there! How astounding!" Hange finished as she emerged from his mouth and reseated herself onto his palm. "I'd never thought I could climb around in a titan's mouth and live to tell the tale! Thanks! Now, could you lift me to your ear?"
Letting out a previously constrained breath of steam, Rogue closed his maw and lifted Hange to his elfish extremity. Out of the corner of his eye, the titan observed as the female eagerly leaped to his shoulder and made her way to his ear. The titan remained patient as Hange pulled out her string once again and held it to the tip of his ear. "My god your ears are big! They are almost five and a half feet in length! You just keep getting more wonderful, Rogue!" She laughed. "Now, we actually do know a lot about your ears! They move to express your feelings, they move to follow sound, and you have incredible hearing – one of your keenest senses! Your hearing is a lot more advanced that a standard titan's. We've seen you locate the enemy in the past from at least five miles away and hear our whispering up in the treetops." Hange informed as she angled her head to peer far into his ear. The titan let out a grunt of surprise as the messy-haired woman then tried to force her head into his ear canal. Rogue immediately let out an aggravated growl to indicate his displeasure with Hange thankfully listening. "I'm sorry! I guess you're only fond of people scratching your ears instead of looking down them. As I was saying, Rogue's ears are further evidence of the different breed theory! Now, if you please Rogue, could you sit me back down to the ground?"
The titan nodded and quickly aided to her request, but deep in his mind he wondered how much longer he would have to wait before he could have some quality time with his little ones. He had a small list of plans he wanted to carry out with the two of them, and he wanted to act on those quickly. Rogue then watched as Hange nodded to Molbit – the male handing her a wooden brick and holding a metal brick filled with bits of frozen water. The titan tilted his head, wondering what the woman had devised. Rogue then turned to Armin and Mikasa to ask a silent query, but only receiving looks that showed a sense of being on edge. Just as the titan was about to ask verbally, Hange cleared her throat.
"Of course, the only way to truly tell if you are absolutely unique is by looking at what's inside!" She worded with enthusiasm, opening the brick and pulling out what looked like a glass tube with a stinger on the end.
Rogue instantly felt a bit of panic swell up in his chest. He recognized the device from Grisha's visits to human residents. Hiding within the trees, he would watch the doctor use the device to either put something into human skin or draw blood out. His human had called the object a shot, the titan knowing the fact from Grisha explaining the device to a young child upon one of his visits. Judging by the fact that there was a lack of fluids in the shot, Rogue knew that Hange was speaking about extracting the only other thing.
"Now I don't want to alarm you or anything, but I need to get a sample of your blood –
Acting on instinct, Rogue let out a short hiss and backed against the side of the castle. The titan hunkered down, his head low, and eyes hooked onto Hange and the syringe as he gave a further warning in a low growl. His little ones became alert at his sudden state, approaching his bulk warily and rubbing the back of his hand.
"Rogue! It's okay! She's just going to take a sample!"
"NNOO!" The titan hastily denied. "NNOOTT AANNTT!"
"Rogue!" Mikasa pleaded. "It's not going to hurt!"
"She's right my dear, you won't feel a thing! Come on! I've seen you tear apart titans with your bare hands and you've lost a few limbs yourself without a screech! You can do this little thing! Hange ensured as she edged closer with the shot ready and prepared.
"IIILLL UURRRT!" Rogue insured, remembering the distressed sounds of smaller humans when the needles pierced their skin. The titan hissed, the day was turning sour yet again. All he wanted to do was have a bit of leisure with his babies. That was all he wanted to do.
"Rogue, it's nothing really." Mikasa smiled kindly at him. "Armin and I have had them before. We were little then. So trust us when we say that it's not going to hurt in any way."
The titan remained still, heartbeat slowing. It didn't hurt? It really didn't? Rogue tilted his head, rumbling his inquiry and receiving a nod from his little one in reassurance. If his two longtime friends had them before, and they were standing before him with smiles, then their words were truthful. He could do this. Rogue then settled and offered his wrist to Hange, gritting his teeth in a sad attempt to tame lingering nerves.
"Atta boy!" Hange squealed as she lowered the long needle. "After this we'll do something fun!"
Instantly, the beast perked up, ears pricking forward and wiggling. Finally! He could have some merriment! His green eyes watched as the woman shoved the needle past his skin with a bit of force. As they had said, the pain was minimal – the equivalent of the titan stepping on a bee. Rogue watched as the deep crimson, his precious life juices, filled the glass container summoned by Hange's hand. When the device was full, the female pulled the needle free – the minuscule hole closing with a small puff of steam. Hange then quickly capped the syringe and placed it into the metal brick and onto the blocks of ice, her entire body bopping up and down in enthusiasm.
"Yes! Oh my! This is incredible! Look how beautiful your blood is Rogue! Marvelous!" The female explained. The creature simply nodded, playing along just to hurry to the impending fun that Hange spoke of. "This is exciting! There are so many stories your blood could possibly tell!" The flying human alliterated as she told Molbit to take his body's bounty away.
Seeing that she was finished, Rogue scooted further toward Hange, giving several hopeful grunts. He wanted her to hurry, his eagerness evoking a laugh from the unkempt female.
"Ah yes! You were expecting something weren't you?" Hange began as she pulled out several large pieces of paper. "Now lets do some more exciting things to peek your enthusiasm! I have some cards here that I want you recognize and share with me what you see! I as well as everyone here would like to see how far your knowledge spans!"
Rogue's attempt at a smile faded, brows sinking, and ears wilting. Tests, the idea that the activity that Hange considered fun was just another assessment it seemed. But could there be something new and exciting added to the things humans called flashcards?
"I have three sets of cards here! One is all about shapes, the other is color, one deals with counting, and the final set is objects. There is another, but we'll see how well you do with these before we attempt them. When I hold one up, just tell me what it is! Armin and Mikasa are going to tally your score while Molbit does a sketch of you!" Hange continued as she pulled up the chair to seat herself and prepared her cards. "Let's start with simple shapes Rogue! Can you tell me what this is?"
The titan blinked at the card before him. Carla had taught him shapes and colors in the same way just after he started to get the hang of speaking simple words. He remembered how long it took him at first to memorize the simplest of things – a month or two just to learn five shapes and a few colors. Over the years, he was proud to say that he knew all of the basic forms. Now however, flash cards were not the thing he wanted to do now, but he wanted to get them over with. "UURRRCCLE." Rogue spoke, turning his desperate stare to his little ones so that they would take the hint that he wanted to leave, but they only acknowledged him with a weak smile and writing down something on their papers.
"Very good!" Hange exclaimed. "How about this one?" She began as she held up a new card.
"SSSQQAAAARRRREE." He answered quickly, wanting to move along.
"Awesome! This one?"
Rogue sighed, transferring his attention to his toes as he put his fingers between them in disinterest. "TTRRRRAANNGGLE." The titan replied roughly, he had always had trouble pronouncing the particular pointy shape.
"My god! You're good at this, Rogue!" Hange cheered. "How about this one then?"
"Good! This one?"
"How about this shape then?"
The titan sighed, looking up from his feet to see a bizarre shape that he had never seen before. Rogue hesitated. The odd form on the card looked like some unworldly hybrid of a circle and square. The beast groaned a bit, trying to resist digging his nails into the dirt due to the flying humans' previous and tedious work. "UURRRCLE SQQAARRRE?"
The woman chuckled, shrugging her shoulders. "No, it's actually called a hexagon. Don't worry though; I didn't expect you to know it! Would you like to move onto colors?"
As much as Rogue wanted to deny her request and say that he wanted to run along, he decided that it was best that he just get through with it. He damn sure didn't want to go through this later. Finally, he nodded.
"Alright then!" Hange initiated as she held up a new set of cards. "Can you tell me what color this is, Rogue?"
The titan shifted to sit on his hip, trying to show that he was antsy. Rogue then looked to the card, keeping his expression as bored looking as he could manage. "UUUUEEE."
Hange nodded, her enthusiasm was still present despite his actions that his little ones were clearly reading. "That's correct! It's blue!" The female pressed onward as she showed another card. "Now tell me what this one is."
Rogue nearly let his eyes roll. "GEEEEEENNN."
"Good, this one?"
The female nodded, showing another card.
"Nice!" She continued, holding up yet another card.
"How about this one?"
The titan gritted his teeth. "UUURRRTTLLLEE."
Hange raised a brow. "Purple?" She asked with him nodding. "Great! I think you know more colors than shapes. How about this next one?"
Rogue moved yet again to sit on the balls of his feet. "IIIITTTEEE."
The woman then tossed the card into the pile and pulled up a new one, a color that he was the most familiar with. It was the hue wrapped around his little one's neck, the sky when the sun sank low in the sky, and the vital fluids necessary for life that spilled from his enemy. It was, in his own opinion, the most beautiful color of them all. He relished and loved it when it coated his arms. It was a powerful color, a color that meant life – death at points when it decorated the earth. It was his favorite color.
"Ah! Brilliant my friend! Let's go ahead and move on with counting. We can go through more colors in the future!" Hange smiled as she excitedly held up a new card, one that showed a collection of small circles. "These might be a little more challenging, but it's great to exercise the brain! Now how many dots do you see?"
Rogue groaned and roughly flopped onto his belly, making the nearby windows tremble and stones quake. The titan then pulled his ball to be between his fingers, dribbling and pushing it back and forth softly.
Hange sighed. "Come on Rogue!" She encouraged. "How many dots can you count?"
The titan moaned in a mild fit before finally turning to the card. His emerald pools swept in the information he could see. "TTHRREEE."
"Stupendous! Now how many dots are on this card?"
"Right! How many this time?"
Growing more and more objective, Rogue rolled onto his side and purposely pushed the leather ball to Mikasa, the toy hitting her dangling feet. The titan flicked his ears, eyes hopeful as he waited for her to give the ball back. To his dismay, his little one only shook her head, smiled softly, and sat his ball between her and Armin. Aggravated, Rogue gave a questionable whine, brows furrowing slightly. Why weren't they giving the ball back? Why were they not telling Hange that he wanted to quit!
Armin sighed. Using his writing stick to scratch his head. "Rogue we can't do that right now. You need to complete Hange's thing first." The boy insured.
The titan snorted, watching as the female held up another card. "TTTEEENN."
"Wow! You can count pretty high! Do you happen to know this one?"
Rogue yawned, intentionally stretching and placing his fingers onto Mikasa's shoes. The titan looked to her, silently pleading. But again, his little one denied his request with a soft and forgiving smile – simply shaking her head and mouthing that he was close to being done. Rogue released a snort and reluctantly turned to the card. At the sight of the scribed circles, his brow instantly tensed with confusion. The highest number that he could count to was twelve, a dozen. Looking at the card, it was obvious that there was way more than twelve. The titan looked closer, counting up to twelve dots, noticing that there were three extra. Unwilling to stall any longer, he would just have to take his best guess. "TEEELVVVE THRRRREEEE." Rogue eventually answered, hoping that he was at least close or by some miracle that he was right.
Hange only laughed. "Well, not exactly! But I'd say you were headed in the right direction! There are actually fifteen dots here. Twelve plus three is fifteen. Of course that is some pretty advanced stuff, something we call math – in particular addition. We'll get to that once you're ready! All right, let's move onto objects!
Rogue nearly rose to shout his unwillingness to go further, but he remained calm – moving to sit upright again. Yes, he just wanted to get things over with.
"What kind of animal is this?"
Resting his elbows against his knees, Rogue scrutinized the card. "KKKATT."
"Great! What about this? What do you think this is?"
"Yes! It's a house! Now this!"
"Perfect! You're doing wonderful! How about this animal?"
Rogue absorbed the animal on the card, suddenly getting an idea. The small animal was the tiny thing that his Carla called a mouse, but he had another answer for Hange's query that seemed to be just as acceptable. "EEEEEEVVIII."
His little one's faces froze at his response, stiff as stone. Molbit only looked nervous, Petra was holding back a snicker, and Hange had burst out laughing – nearly falling out of her chair. Rogue grinned, holding his head up and crossing his arms smugly.
"HA! Holy shit you're awesome! Who knew that a titan could have a sense of humor!" The woman cackled, laughing harder. "I guess you know the answer since you compared the Corporal to it!" Hange continued to giggle, taking a few minutes to catch her breath. "Okay, moving on now! What's this animal?"
Rogue huffed at the image on the card. He knew just who resembled the hoofed creatures. "SSSGGGEEEAAAANNN."
This time, Mikasa turned a bright red and buried her mouth beneath her scarf, obviously laughing. Armin too, was sniggering. Hange of course, was sent into a laughing fit once again with Petra tittering.
"You know," Armin began. "Rogue's kind of right! Jean does look a little like an equine."
"With his long face, certainly." Mikasa agreed. "He's full of horseshit as well."
"Now that you mention it, Kirstein does resemble a horse quite a bit." Hange noted. "We should just room him in the stables. I'm sure no one would be able to tell the difference!" She established with another series of laughs that were borderline annoying.
"What's going on here?"
Silence swept across his area at the sound of the cold voice. Rogue followed the source to see Levi leaning against the wall of the castle, arms folded in disapproval and mouth pulled into a tight grimace. The man's eyes were narrowed, clearly seen from his thin black bangs that hung over his face.
"We were just discussing Kirstein's close resemblance to a horse." Hange informed, smile still on her face.
Rogue could not help but huff at her forwardness. If he had learned anything from the past few days, he knew that the woman didn't seen to care about the short leader's strict rules and disposition. At all. He actually admired her for her attitude. The titan watched in satisfaction as Levi began to glare at both Hange and himself.
"Hange, you're only aiding to the current problem here. Were you actually doing anything fucking productive at all besides make fun of Kirstein's face, which I do have to agree with you, and myself?"
Rogue watched as the flying human bit her lip. "How long were you standing there?"
"Long enough. I got here right when the giant brat decided to make his little comment about my size."
"Oh." Hange replied quietly, but then perking up and running over to the man who instantly backed away from her as he covered his nose with his sleeve. "As far as productivity, Levi he's amazing! I was able to examine him without any risk, get measurements, take notes, and even take a blood sample comfortably! I'm going to gather my records and test the sample to give you results later! Levi! Like when you were brushing his teeth, he even let me climb around in his mouth!"
"It was awesome! We did some intelligence tests! Corporal, he knows shapes, colors, how to count, and what a dog and cat is!"
The man only blinked and placed his weight onto his other foot. "Great. He knows his shapes and shit. Riveting. But your session is over." Corporal Levi spoke bluntly as he turned to his little ones. "Ackerman and Arlert. Report to the training facility for 3D gear practice and laps with Mike."
"Yes, Sir!" His little ones saluted as they rose to their feet and began to fasten what the flying humans referred to as 'gear' to their waists and began to make their way out of the disheveled garden. Rogue arched his neck slightly in puzzlement. Where were they going? What did Levi mean by training? The sight of the two with the gear, meant that they would be flying, something that he was still uncomfortable with despite already seeing them perform the task. Rogue then slowly rose to his feet and began to trail them. Although he had confidence in them, there was still a chance that Armin and Mikasa could fall if bad luck would come. He wanted to be there to catch them if that happened. In the past, he had seen a lot of the flying human's gears stop working. To ensure their safety, he wanted to be with his babies to monitor them.
"Where do you think you're going, Rogue?"
Knowing the voice was obviously Levi's, the titan turned to plead his case – gesturing to himself and little ones to get his plan across, but the man's eyes only narrowed further.
"No. You are not going with them. You have shit to do, Rogue."
An angry heat began to form within the titan's chest. His ears pinned themselves against his locks. What the hell was this man implying? The titan grumbled, muscles tensing up. Rogue grunted and growled, pointing down at his little ones again. The titan swallowed to salivate his pipes, his throat tired from Hange's session. "EEII AATTCCH." He spoke harshly. "NNUUSST SSTTTEEEYY IITTH… NNYY AAAIIIBBEEES!" Rogue forced, his throat like sandpaper.
The man remained stagnant. "NO."
Rogue snarled, pointing desperately at Armin and Mikasa below him.
"Rogue Jaeger, last time I checked, Ackerman and Arlert don't call you Momma. I ordered you to follow every demand that comes from my mouth. You are NOT going with them. Right now, you are going to join –
The titan quickly knelt down to stare at the short leader face to face, green pools lit in irritation as he prepared to gather his saliva and give it to Levi as an ungrateful gift. However, the revolting production was halted yet again by Mikasa's gentle tough against his hand.
"Rogue, you need to do as Corporal Levi says. If you're worried about our safety, it's all right. Armin and I have been doing this for years. We're prepared for everything. So relax, Rogue. We'll meet up with you later, okay?"
The creature was at a standstill, still wanting to deny his little ones' request.
"You're lucky I'm going to be generous." Levi continued. "Rogue you are to join Petra. She's going to give you a tour of the grounds. After that, the two of you will join my squad with exercises."
The beast was torn, looking down at his little ones in concern. Rogue gave a soft drone, eyes tender as he asked the wordless query.
"It's okay!" Armin smiled. "We will be careful."
After a moment of contemplation, Rogue finally nodded to give permission. The two teens returned the gesture and then waved a temporary farewell. Still crippled with a sense of unease, the titan watched as Armin and Mikasa made their way around the castle and vanished into the thick but tamed grounds. Rogue let his shoulders sink a bit. He had a bad feeling that it would be a while until he saw them again. Suddenly, a small weight landed onto his right shoulder. Rogue turned to see Petra getting settled and gripping onto his now well groomed locks. She wore an understanding smile, face tender as it usually was. At least he was going to go with her for a bit.
"Petra, have Rogue over in our usual training field in two hours. Perhaps you can teach him some manners on your excursion."
"Yes, Sir!" She replied with a small notion with her head.
"Good. As for you Hange, I don't want you following them." Levi continued with a firm tone. The messy-haired female only laughed at his request.
"Don't worry Levi! I'm too excited about looking at the information I was able to get! I'm going to run some tests on Rogue's blood, so like I said, stop by later this evening so I can share my findings!"
The Corporal only sighed at her enthusiasm, giving a short and quick nod before walking casually in the other direction. Hange then waved a farewell before returning to her makeshift station that she had worked at moments earlier, excitedly gathering her supplies and the metal box – her trembling hands nearly dropping everything. Rogue sighed, releasing a jet of steam in irascibility at the recent encounter. As he had heard Carla use the term before, he would say that Levi was keeping him on one hell of a tight leash – to the point of choking him.
"Don't worry, Rogue." Petra spoke kindly as her small fingers traced the skin of his neck. "I know you wanted to go with them to make sure that Armin and Mikasa will be alright, but the two are fully capable in their abilities. In fact, Mikasa was first in her graduating class and is one of the best soldiers we have. Armin is one of our brightest recruits, not to mention their survival skills are second to none! So have faith in them, Rogue." The redhead exclaimed.
Rogue's brows rose at the news. A sense of pride fell over him. His little ones were among the best. He had raised them well despite the circumstances. The thought made him purr, provoking Petra to laugh and pat his neck.
"See? You made a good choice. The three of you are back together despite the odds. Now lets start by heading in that direction." The flying human finished as she guided him in the aim of her extended finger – pointing in the opposite way that Levi had gone. As they began their small trek, Petra began to narrate and describe the flying human territory. "The castle here has about two hundred rooms, but we only use about half of them. The Scouts live, eat, strategize, and sleep there, but I don't think it's necessary to disclose to you all the details since you can't exactly walk through the front door. So I'll just be informing where things are on the grounds for your convenience. Where you were this morning was the river where we wash our clothing. The mill, the building with the giant wheel on it, is where we actually do the washing. The river powers some of the devices inside so cleaning our clothes is possible. Of course, now it's also where we are going to bath you since that is where the river is the deepest."
Rogue simply nodded in acknowledgement. For several minutes, he followed Petra's finger as she showed him the lay of the landscape. They then began to round another part of the castle, Rogue unable to determine if it was the rear or front of the building. The aroma of the hoofed creatures, hay, and manure filled his nostrils. The scents reminded him of the human lands called 'farms' – places that humans grew plants, made animals had babies, cared for them, or raised them to be food for their consumption. He had always found farms to be strange, but interesting to watch. Humans put in a lot of labor in order to produce their needs, and his own little ones exhibited some of the farm practices during their years in the wild living with him. However, the area below him did not resemble a farm with fields or tall grass and spotted creatures. It was just what was called a 'stable' – shelter for horses from the elements. Along the sides of the wide stone path, were two long human structures with open fronts and sectioned into different spaces. Each one held a hoofed creature, heads peering out over a small gate that prevented them from leaving their pen. To his right there was a spacious fenced in enclosure that was nestled along the road and sheltered by a few large trees on the flying human property. A few horses were within the fence, a tiny wall, grazing peacefully and flicking away the buzzing insects. Near the stables, tending to the nourishing needs of a brown horse was a man wearing a white cloth upon his head. The human was doing something that the titan had never seen before, taking a tool and chipping away at the horse's hooves. Rogue blinked in alarm, didn't that hurt the creature?
"This is the horse stable, Rogue." Petra informed. "The Scouts store, raise, and breed our horses here. Our horses are bred to not be so skittish compared to others. They are made to not be scared of titans which you may have figured out already, Rogue!" She giggled. "You may also notice that this is actually the front of the castle. We used to store our horses in the back, but ever since the breach five years ago, it was necessary that we rehouse them in the front. That way we can respond quickly if there is an emergency."
The titan loosely absorbed the information, worried about the well-being of the hoofed creature below him. Rogue grave a worried grunt and pointed to the horse in hopes that the animal's abuse would be clear to the soldier, Petra nodded.
"Oh that's Ness! He's not only a skilled soldier but also our caretaker for our horses." Petra exclaimed, missing the argument that that the titan was trying to point out.
In light of her reaction, Rogue pointed again, moaning softly as he gestured to the horse in the man's clutches. The redhead looked to him upon hearing his concern – the man pausing in his task to follow her gaze as well. Again, he grunted and gestured to the horse with the woman finally following his finger just as he did with hers moments before.
"Are you – wondering what Ness is doing to the horse?" She asked only to receive an urgent nod from the titan. "I see. You think he's hurting the horse?" Petra inquired and receiving another nod and whine from Rogue – he liked the horses, he didn't want harm to come to them. "It's alright! You see Rogue, horses are not like deer. You have to trim their hooves or they will grow too long and become incredibly painful and make it impossible for the horse to walk. It's the same for humans actually. I don't know about a titan's nails, but humans have to cut theirs if they grow too lengthy as well. Understand? The process doesn't hurt the horse either."
Rogue tilted his head in surprise. Her fact was valid now that he recalled. His little ones would do the same thing every once in a while by biting or picking their nails. The creature then found himself glancing down at his own, scrutinizing their sharp points. He had never noticed any sort of growth from his barbed nails, and if there had been any added inches he would have never detected any for he always sharpened them against bark and stone. It was the same with his toes; he could not detect any development at all. Petra then retrieved him from his contemplating as she softly tapped his neck and pointed to the east.
"Let's head in that direction Rogue. I'll show you what the edge of the property looks like so you can be aware. I would take you in the direction we entered the day before, but you've seen that already." She smiled as he answered with a dip of his head and motioned into a grassy clearing next to the castle. "This area here serves as a number of things. In the mornings, it's used as a place for the Scouts to exercise. In the afternoon it's used mostly as a place of leisure. Now though, I was also informed that it would also serve as a place for Hange to experiment with you – doing things like tasks."
"AASSSSSKKSS?" He questioned, confused. What else did Hange wish to do with him?
The woman rubbed her chin. "Probably the more fun things, like maybe to see if you can build or make anything if I had to take a wild guess. Since you're a genius among titans, she's going to want to do things she never could with her past subjects. Of course, I'm not an expert so you'll see what she has in store in time."
Rogue sighed, reluctantly nodding. If these 'tasks' were as fun as the cards – then Hange had a weird definition to the word meant to mean merriment. For several minutes, both the titan and Petra casually made their way through another forest area. Unlike the thicket near the spot at the river, this part seemed that it was less lived in. Weeds and grass were overgrown and the trees were slightly taller and wider – a few of the giant variety like those in his home were scattered here and there. The wood had more of a dense canopy and sunlight didn't bean down harshly onto his scalp. However, the animal population still wasn't at the magnitude of his forest. The small creatures were definitely there: the fuzzy tailed creatures, singing birds, hopping creatures, and many others. There was the scent of deer, but it seemed stale – hours old. The lack of deer was a little bit of a disappointment, but Rogue remained optimistic. With the need of a new nest pulling at him, the titan kept his observation focused on the surrounding trees, looking at the selection of giant timbers to determine if any would fair for a suitable candidate. So far, none were naturally hollowed like his tree had been, but with his strength, he certainly had no problem hollowing one out himself either. He liked the privacy of the area, so the section of wood had great potential.
The titan's foot then broke the barrier of the thicket as he stepped from the tree line. Stretched among the vast landscape before him was field upon field with patches of trees. There were a few human residences perched upon the hills. Animals grazed and crops grew among the clear patches of earth. Rogue squinted; he could barely make out the shape of the mighty wall on the horizon – the vast structure merely a thin and hazy line. The rolling hills were alluring, but he knew that there was no place for him among them. The titan then turned his attention to his feet, seeing a low wire fence that stretched among the barrier of the Scout's territory. He found it strange the way humans marked what was theirs. They had already barricaded themselves behind the massive stone blockades. So why did they build other even smaller walls like the one below him to mark their lands from others? Weren't humans sick of walls themselves? Why didn't they mark their territory with scent as he did? The titan couldn't make sense of it, but he could do nothing. It wasn't his place to change their code of conduct.
"This is where the castle's grounds end, Rogue. We live on about a hundred acres of land here. But yes, don't ever go beyond this fence. It goes all around the grounds and serves as a guideline as to what's the local farmers' – and ours, plus it's here to keep others away from military property. There are a lot of thieves out there who would like to steal our gear. We've even had some try to in the past, but with you around Rogue," Petra teased as she playfully punched his neck. "They won't dare come close. Perhaps that could be a job that Erwin gives you in the future." She tittered with the creature grinning in return. "Now how about we go –
However, as Petra began to give new instructions about the next destination, the familiar scents of his little ones filled his nose. Their scent, like attractive nectar, forced Rogue to turn and breath in Armin and Mikasa's musk. The beast found himself purring a bit and looking to the direction of the source. Sure, they were safe and skilled as Petra had informed him, but he was curious. Rogue had never truly seen them in action. During their journey back to the wall, his babies had rode upon his shoulders instead of riding horses or flying like the others. Knowing that they were flying in the forest now, peeked his interest. Perhaps he could go watch them from a distance for a few minutes. There was no harm in that right? He could check on them and see just how skilled they were. Levi wasn't with them, so the timing was perfect!
With his mind made up, Rogue turned in the opposite direction of Petra's guidance and began to jog lightly through the forest in the direction of his little ones. The redhead perched upon his broad shoulder gasped at the sudden jolt and quickly grasped onto his locks, face lit up in shock and confusion.
"Rogue! What are you – where are you going!"
Knowing that he was currently doing his own thing, the titan didn't answer and continued on, nose being led by his little ones' scent.
"Rogue! If you're going where I think you're going, I can tell you that if Levi finds out you disobeyed him yet again he's going to put you to –
The titan interrupted the woman with a cunning snort of steam as he kept moving. 'FUCK…LEVI.' Rogue thought defiantly. He was going to see his little ones. Levi was not going to stop him. No matter what. He was going to do what he wanted for once.
With the scent of his own growing stronger, Rogue slowed his thundering pace and began to step lightly among the foliage. The sounds of invisible wings echoed among the trees followed by several series of voices. Pausing in his waltz, Rogue took refuge behind the biggest tree he could find in the area and after making sure he was hidden as best as he could behind the narrow trunk, Rogue peeled away a few branches to look at the sight before him. The titan's ears motioned forward with incredible interest at the scene. A soft rumble vibrated through his throat as his glittering greens observed the smaller flying humans soar through the trees, following the orders of the whiskered man. Rogue adjusted himself to see through the obscuring limbs, brows naturally rising as the landscape pronounced itself further. The smaller recruits were diving and swooping like hawks after their prey, wooden shapes that resembled titans. Rogue blinked, finding the contraptions peculiar. They moved but lacked legs, simply spinning in place like things his little ones had said were tops. Rogue watched as the smaller recruits, the little humans like Connie, Jean, and Sasha swoop down from the treetops and zero in on a soft patch upon the wooden titan's nape with their blades. Turning his attention away from the three, Rogue sniffed again to locate his little ones. He quickly spotted Armin who stood upon the branch next to Mike. The titan watched as the blonde received an order from the man in stride. At his words, Armin then launched from the tree and began to make his way to the larger wooden cutout. Rogue released another rumble as the small human carefully navigated his way around obstacles to his target, the boy was focused, more alert than he was used to seeing him as he angled his blades and flew toward the soft spot he was to puncture. In the next second, the boy cut away the wooden titan's nape. Rogue smiled at the boy's personal celebration. Compared to the others, Armin wasn't as fast when in flight, but he was calculative – judging the spin of the titan so he could attack at the perfect angle.
"See Rogue? Like I said earlier, they're all right. Armin may not be the fastest, but he has the best judgment I think out of all the new recruits. Armin is a very valuable soldier. In time, I think he would make a great commander." Petra smiled.
Rogue purred and nuzzled slightly into Petra at the meaning of her words. Deep down, he always knew that the small male was a weaker human – judging by how many times he came to his cove wearing a bruise made by another human. Many times did the titan wish to go after Armin's bullies, but of course he couldn't. The fact always pained him, but hearing that his little one's smarts could make him leader of the flying human pack one day – made his chest swell proudly. The titan then took a step forward, snapping a few tree branches as he searched for Mikasa. He soon spotted her, or at least the blur of her. Rogue grunted in excitement. He was in awe. The dark haired female was fast, nearly as quick as Levi. His eyes grew as he watched her acrobatics that were both beautiful and deadly. Rogue let a trill slip from his maw as well as a few eager piggish grunts and gurgles. The titan's ears wiggled as he trembled in excitement. Rogue edged further forward, balancing himself as he watched his little one in admiration. Mikasa then swooped low to the ground, inches from the grass before sailing skyward again. The teen then turned and sliced the nape of the wooden titan before repeating her process with another one of the timber beasts. Rogue purred in delight, just as Petra had said as well, Mikasa was talented – she always was. They were perfectly capable of surviving with the pack. The creature beamed, they were certified titan killers just like him. His little ones were strong and getting stronger with a way to fight back in the cruel world.
"What the fuck are you doing here, Rogue?"
The titan nearly jumped at the familiar tone and words, eyes shifting to the branch on his left to see Levi in a stony stance, arms crossed, and brows furrowed in both aggravation and disappointment. The Corporal then glanced to Petra before reverting his gaze back to his smoldering greens. A muted growl of warning reverberated through his vocal cords, a slight threat – but the man didn't seem to show any trepidation about his cautioning.
"Why did you disobey me again? You were ordered to stay away from this area, Rogue." Levi spoke harshly. "Unlucky for you, I just happened to come here and check on progress. I suggest you start listening titan. I think a good punishment that will keep you busy would be –
"Corporal, it's not his fault." Petra interrupted; silencing Rogue and making him hold his breath.
What was she doing?
"What do you mean?"
"I… just thought he would like a glance at what Armin and Mikasa do. He's been acting a bit nervous since I've been with him. I just figured it might soothe Rogue for a bit." Petra continued as she bit her lip.
Rogue blinked in astonishment; did she just lie to get him out of trouble? The titan slowly placed his gaze back to Levi whose face unexpectedly eased in the slightest. The man characteristically shifted his weight before letting out a goaded sigh.
"Tch, fine. But your time ogling is up. Petra, take him else ware and continue as you where. As for you Rogue, grow the fuck up and follow orders. My orders in particular. Now get out of here and don't let me catch you fucking around again." Levi concluded as he quickly left the branch to perch with the whiskered man.
The titan was then graced with Petra's touch upon his neck. Rogue rotated his head to see the young woman giving a tender grin. "You're welcome." She spoke softly before pointing in a new direction. "Let's head back to the castle, Rogue. I actually need to prepare a bite to eat for lunch later."
Taking one look back at his soaring little ones, Rogue nodded before he made his way from the trees. He walked further from the training place and out of the tree line several minutes later. The green grass of the clearing that Petra had informed him earlier snaked between his toes. Rogue motioned to the side of the castle glancing to Petra to see if she was preparing to give orders. But the female gave no order to halt.
"So, what do you think of the grounds so far? Do you like it here?" She asked.
Rogue hesitated; softly letting his fingers glide across the surface of the stone castle walls. He wasn't exactly sure as to how he could answer her query. It was fairly nice, although the setting wasn't nearly as magical as his cove or forest, but he liked the flying human territory. He liked most of the humans and he loved being with his little ones. The only damper was Levi and his damn rules. He disliked the man greatly. Sure, he was amused by his anger against him, but it seemed like the man was putting him in a pen and barely letting him out. True, he wanted to slaughter titans with them, but he wanted to spend quality time with his little ones after all the years of being alone. Realizing that he was taking too long in his thoughts, Rogue finally answered with the only way he could – a simple nod.
"Well that's great! You know I never thought I would be giving a titan a grand tour of our headquarters. I can also say that I'm thoroughly enjoying it."
Rogue gave a grunt in acknowledgement, but then his eyes caught sight of something that yet again peeked his interest. It was a large window upon the side of the castle, one of many. Normally, Rogue didn't think much of the windows that were mostly covered in rich cloth, but this window was different. This one was larger – and it was open. Curiosity overcame his state of mind as he took a step closer. In the past filled with looting human residences. Most in his territory were either very plain and dusty or just empty. This room though, was far from that. Rogue bent over to stare directly into the space, discovering something that was a feast for his eyes.
"Rogue? What are you doing?" Petra asked in confusion with the titan disregarding her, ears wiggling and a trill seeping from his lipless jaws.
The room was incredible, filled with human objects from wall to wall and floor to ceiling. Unlike the dusty buildings, this room was clean and smelled fresh with no speck of dirt or grime in sight. The walls were lined with neatly stacked books on wooden supports and human drawings sheltered by glass and frames. The stone floor was covered in a large rectangular object that looked as if it was a piece of recently cut grass except for it lacked the familiar green pigment. It was an array of colors like reds, blues, browns, and whites with patterns like flowers and swirls. Rogue tilted his head, eyes wide in awe as they angled around the room. There were other small human structures placed throughout the decorated den such as a tall wooded chest with secret little doors, a few small tables, and a long surface with a chair nestled into it – one that was bestowed with a few books, writing sticks, and other odds and ends. The titan let out another tweet, spotting something in the room that he desired.
"Oh, this is what one of the rooms in the castle looks like, it's quite a bit different from the abandoned houses in Maria isn't it?"
Rogue however, paid little head to her words. The creature's lustrous greens were hooked on two things in the rear of the room. Upon a wooden frame were both a fluffy brick and a larger fluffy brick. The titan's skin at the corners of his mouth pulled up in excitement. He could use a bit of stress relief from the day's frustrations. The titan then removed his head from the opening and raised his hand – the window was big enough.
"Hey what are you –
The titan then thrust his hand inside the open room as skillfully as he could. Rogue struggled a bit, large hand barely fitting and blind without his guiding eyes. A fit of rattling and clanging sounded throughout the room as the titan's fingers searched and reached, knocking over a horde of objects. Petra continued to protest in his ear, but he pain no heed. Rogue's fingers then pinched the cloth of the pillow, the titan pulling the object free from the room – looking at the object in wide and enthused eyes and rumbling in likeness.
"Rogue!" The redhead whispered hastily. "Put that back! It's –
Still, he refused to listen, raising the fluffy brick to his teeth before tearing off the corner. With a sound that could have resembled a cheer, Rogue then squeezed the pillow, feathers erupting from the cloth and flying like large flurries. The titan blew a breath of steam, upsetting the feathers more, making them rise and fall. Rogue looked to Petra, wearing an awkward grin as he spied the look of astonishment on her face as well as the tiny feathers sprinkled upon her hair. Before she could protest again, Rogue reached into the room once again to fish.
"Rogue! You need to stop! You don't understand! Those are –
The titan grunted repeatedly as he pulled the mattress free from the window frame, taking a few of the now displaced items from the room with it. Giving in to more natural adolescence and inquisitiveness, Rogue quickly dropped to his rump and began to marvel at the large fluffy brick, making a variety of noises as he quickly tore off one of the mattress's edges. A mixture of cotton and down spilled onto the titan's lap and escaped the gaps of his teeth to rest on his tongue. Rogue spit the cotton remains into the pile before scooping it up into his hands, tossing it into the air to watch gravity's work with interest. It felt so good to give into this side of him again, one that he had locked away for nearly three years. With another trill, the titan tossed a wad of cotton to the redhead, noticing her look of complete horror. Rogue tilted his head, why did she look so scared? Shouldn't she be having fun? Again, the creature tossed her another handful of cotton to see if he could shake a laugh from her frame. However, the female remained as she was.
"Rogue." Petra muttered. You are going to be in a lot of trouble."
The titan raised a brow. "EEEEIIIYYY?"
Petra swallowed. "That pillow and mattress – those were the Corporal's. That room is Levi's Rogue."
Rogue remained still at the news. So he had just destroyed a bit of the short leader's property? Really? The room lacked the man's scent. Was it really Levi's? Confused, the titan then turned to double check Petra's statement, looking for proof that the den really belonged to the man. But before he could take a whiff, Rogue's emerald orbs caught sight of the man himself standing upon the rooftop. His face was twisted into a mixture of rage and angst. His thin eyebrows were nearly meeting at the bridge of his nose that was wrinkled like the muzzle of an aggressive hound. His lips were peeled back with teeth grinding against one another and hair ruffled. Levi's hands trembled, dangerously hovering close to the hilts of his swords. The titan's eyes glanced down at the mess he had made before looking back at the man. Petra had been right.
"WHAT THE FUCK HAVE YOU DONE? I told you to follow orders and stay our of trouble!" Levi chided intensely. "You stupid titan! Do you fucking like getting in trouble? Why can't you listen!"
Rogue simply snorted. How was he supposed to know that the room was Levi's? The man's love of cleaning had wiped away his scent! The titan folded his arms, eyes narrowing in resentment. Rogue grunted and grumbled a wordless argument, giving his pipes a rest. Levi simply rolled his eyes.
"In case you forgot Rogue, I don't speak titan. Because of you, I'm going to have to get an entirely new mattress, which is expensive and hard to come by mind you, and a new pillow. Looks like I'm also going to be sleeping in my chair for a while which is something I try to avoid." Levi spoke darkly. "Did my stuff have your name on it anywhere? No it did not. I don't believe you were ever taught manners whatsoever by your two companions and the Jaegers. You're worse than owning an untrained puppy! And they shit everywhere!"
Upon hearing the insult unto his babies and his late humans, Rogue quickly rose to his feet and snarled, clacking his teeth. How he wished that he could just swat the rude little man away!
She bit her lip. "Yes Corporal?"
"I assume that Rogue didn't listen to you?"
Out of the corner of his eye, the titan observed as Petra shrugged. "Yes. But Levi I think instinct just took the reigns. He didn't know that this was your room either."
The Corporal discharged a harsh breath. "Damn it. You act like a toddler, Rogue. GROW UP. MENTALLY. If it's not yours, don't tear it up. Now, your leisurely tour is over. You and Petra follow me. It's time to start your training.
Bone grinded against bone as Rogue gritted his teeth in aggravation for the umpteenth time since the sun had risen. Currently, he was reluctantly following both Levi and Petra who had converted to horseback and had begun to gallop through the woods. The titan roughly exhaled a jet of steam, he wasn't happy in the slightest and desperately wanted to both run along and reunite with his little ones and rake his nails across the stonewalls of the castle in frustration. He could feel his hands twitching at the thought of his restriction – itching to tear apart a titan to calm himself and take out his hate. God, how he wished he could slaughter a thirteen or fourteen-meter monster, teeth tearing at the nape and greedy fingers ripping out whatever internal organs his kind possessed – all in the name of feeling better.
The hoofed creatures carried their riders from the bush and into another clearing. The circumference was surrounded by thick trees except for one side where the wood thinned and opened into a wide field. It was a quiet area, a good distance from the castle but with little wildlife. The grass was green as his irises, freshly cut, and a few patches of earth littered here and there. In the vast clearing's center, a group of flying humans sat near their horses that were gazing lazily without a care in the world. Hearing his footsteps, the three male soldiers looked up to meet him eye to eye. Rogue recognized them from the other day during introductions. There was the longer blond Eld and the short haired brunette, Gunter. As far as familiarity, Rogue wasn't too knowledgeable of the males. They were strong, having witnessed their potential and strength during the years and the Scout's first hunt for him. They seemed quieter than the others, but nice enough. The other man sitting next to the two men was whom Rogue considered as a poor copy of Levi. The man who was called Oluo, was sitting in what the titan could discern as an arrogant manner – leaned back casually with legs propped and crossed before him. True, the man acted closely to Levi, but he gave him no orders and his acts of interpretation were laughable. As far as Rogue was concerned, Oluo was no threat – just a sad sap like Jean.
The titan then watched as Petra and Levi dismounted their horses with the short leader taking the two animals by the reins away to be with the others. Rogue observed as the redhead took her seat next to Eld, looking up into his eyes and waving in invitation.
"Come take a seat, Rogue." She smiled.
Perfectly fine with listening to the woman's requests, Rogue delicately began to lower himself onto his abdomen and adjust to view the group of flying humans comfortably without having to strain to squint. Once settled onto his abdomen, Rogue folded his arms neatly and rested his chin on both of his hands. Piercing green eyes looked to each soul in the small gathering, waiting on the borderline of patience. Hopefully this 'session' would be quick.
"Good! You remember Gunter, Oluo, and Eld right?" Petra asked, receiving a nod from the titan. "Good. They are part of our squad that will be with us on missions. Every elite squad here has a certain amount of team members that cover special operations on treks into titan territory. We're the best group of soldiers out of all the elite squads. The most capable of success in other words. Understand, Rogue?
The titan dipped his head, registering that he was a part of a tiny pack in the big pack – a talented pack. With the information presented, a thought came to Rogue. Were his little ones part of this tiny pack as well?
"That's great! As you may know but also to remind you how skilled we are, Squad Levi is responsible for the most titan kills compared to any other team or soldier. For example, with each of us four combined, we have over seventy titan kills. As far as Levi though, we don't know for sure, but we think it's over a hundred – if we had to agree on some sort of number."
"As far as Rogue goes though," Eld smirked with cunning. "It'd hard telling how many of his kind he's slaughtered. If I had to estimate at all I'd guess the number could very well be a thousand or more."
"Yeah," Gunter agreed. "Just watching him brawl with his kind in his territory, seeing how he mows them down with ease, it's possible. He's probably killed more than every Scout combined."
At the unexpected praise, Rogue grunted in thanks and held his head a little higher despite being in a somewhat foul mood. Deep down, he did sometimes question himself about his total count of how many titans he had sent back to hell. In all of his years hunting, he was never able to keep track. Even in his first day, hyped on both rage and adrenaline, he knew he had slaughtered more than a mere dozen. In truth, he didn't think that numbers mattered. Killing a titan successfully was what did. Hearing their pitiful wails of agony and watching their blood spill onto his hands was the reward.
"Pshh! The Corporal has been killing titans long before he has." Oluo chuckled sarcastically, receiving a glare from the titan at the insult, the man flinching immediately.
"Oluo, you don't know that." Petra sighed, looking back to the titan tenderly and shaking her head at the ridiculous accusation.
Rogue huffed in return, but still in question. Why were they just sitting here? Why weren't the humans flying? What was he supposed to do? Were his little babies going to join him soon? "EETTRAA?" He asked gruffly, receiving more than just the redhead's attention.
"AAATTT DOOOEENNGG?" Rogue spoke with difficulty, reaching to rub his throat a little.
"You're going to be learning the technical basics of how our missions work and behaving as you do so."
The titan looked from Petra to see that Levi had finally joined the small group, holding a large roll of parchment in hand. His frustrations immediately fired up again as his livid greens watched the man pull out a silk cloth and sat upon it neatly, blocking him from the dirty earth. At Levi's action, Rogue took his hands from his jaw line and placed them against the grass with his head and brow low as he initiated a stern glare at the man with the others taking notice, nervously biting at their lips. The titan was on the verge of growling; he was in no mood to be given any gifts of bullshit.
"Lunch is scheduled soon, twenty minutes to be exact so we have time to start." Levi began with no change in expression while he looked deeply at the titan. "Now Rogue," The stout man pressed on as he began to unroll the parchment before his eyes. "This is the Commander's fine work and best strategic plan for when we go through the hell hole that is now Wall Maria. "This is the Long Range Scouting Formation."
Rogue angled his head as his eyes scanned the paper before him. He could not have been more confused as to what this thing was. The shape was unlike any that Hange or his humans had ever shown him. It looked to be a half circle but with several odd shapes nestled into it, a cylinder, triangles, and little squares. What? How ornate could shapes be?
"Rogue, you are to memorize this through and through." Levi sustained, voice retaining its unyielding tone. "As I said, we use this on every mission – including the one coming up in two months that your ass better be ready for. So I suggest you pay attention. Now," The man pointed to the inner area of the strange shape. "Our squad is located at the center rank. It's the safest position in the entire formation. We are on standby for the most part until we're given orders." Levi paused as his steel eyes took the time to peer into the depths of his green orbs. "In other words, we WAIT until we're told to attack."
When the words fell upon his ears, Rogue immediately sat up in disgust. His nose wrinkled as he attempted to grimace. What! Why was he there! He was the strongest and could take the most damage! He should be in the front paving the way! It didn't make any sense! Why! Were his little ones there too? Rogue dithered, quickly placing his pointer finger onto the spot that Levi had indicated. He swallowed, the group of soldiers looking at him in question. "AARRNNIINN NNIKKAASA TTOOO?" Rogue demanded, glaring heatedly at the little man.
Levi's eyes only narrowed, but falling into a split second delay. He then watched as the man continued to stare. "Erwin has not assigned them a position yet, and I honestly don't know if I should even tell you when I find out since you tend to wander." He scoffed, a single brow rising in a mocking manner.
A sliver of anger ran down the titan's spine, making him give a sharp and abrupt growl in return. He despised the man more and more with each passing minute. He had good reason for his previous actions!
"Now, the outside here is where the majority of our regiment is located. They are called spotters." Levi articulated. "They watch for approaching titans and fire off signals to ward us away from them. They only engage a titan if need be. The colors they fire off are yellow, blue, green, and black. Hange said that you could recognize color, so now I'm going to inform you of what they mean to us. So pay attention. I do not like repeating things over and over to dumbasses. Yellow means…"
As Levi continued to explain, Rogue found himself falling into a state of unwillingness. He didn't need to learn what the damn colors meant! He knew them all too well. The titan groaned; shoulders sinking as he let an impartial yawn come into play. He didn't care if Levi got mad at him. He wanted to move on. He wanted this to get over with so he could go off on his own and fulfill his desires of whimsy with his two children.
"Rogue!" The small leader barked. "Pay attention! As I was saying, the supply wagons are stationed…"
The titan only became more detached. From his years of watching the flying humans, he knew that the wheeled rectangles carried human things, stayed behind when the flying humans began to sail and hunt in the forest, and stayed near the rear of the pack when running. Not willing to hear any more or be keen to participate in the learning of the formation thing, Rogue casually flopped onto his back with his view inclined to the sky and legs awkwardly arched over the small group of humans. The titan gurgled in favor of his own joke. Rogue arched his head to the side, hair draped like a dark curtain over his face as he looked through the gaps to discover that the five humans had stood from their spots. Eld and Petra were speechless, Gunter was holding back a snicker, and Oluo mirrored Levi's furious façade. Rogue opened his mouth and allowed his long tongue to slide out – giving his best version of blowing a raspberry as he could. To his amusement, Levi's face tinted red.
"That's a new way to show your ass." Gunter muttered, hardly able to keep his composure.
"It's a new level of disrespect." Oluo corrected. "Right, Sir?"
Levi inhaled deeply, hand shaking as he reached up to adjust his cravat. "Right." He spoke coldly. "Rogue Jaeger. You have tested my patience! Now sit your fucking ass up and pay the fuck attention to what your superior officer is informing –
Not wishing to hear anymore about things he was certain he knew, Rogue quickly got to his feet and began to walk across the clearing similar to the way a high strung man walked into a tavern as if he owned the place. The titan rumbled with utter enjoyment as he made his way to the largest tree he could find in the area, ears filling with the angry bouts of Levi. Rogue then paused, looking over his shoulder to the group of flying humans that were trailing his heels. His eyes sank lazily as a smirk came to his deformed face, he would make the short leader see how much he hated him – by doing the exact opposite the man anticipated.
"ROGUE! Sit back down! You have to memorize what I told you!" Levi yelled as he came closer.
The titan snorted and placed a hand onto the tree, daring the man to continue.
"Don't you fucking –
With a cheerful grunt, Rogue began to scale the tree- only that it was much smaller that those in his forest, let alone wasn't the biggest in the Scout's territory. The titan climbed the limbs carefully, slower than before with the tree's creaking stress meeting his ears. Now with his limbs awkwardly wrapping around the trunk that was even thinner than his own ribcage, Rogue peeked around the tree to grin down at his temperamental pursuers – ears wiggling at the crimson flesh of Levi's cheeks.
"How immature, but very intuitive." The Corporal sighed face softening and the red transforming into a warm cream, his tone surprising the titan. "Climbing a tree to escape a lesson. It's brilliant." Levi continued. "I have no gear on and you're way up in that tree. What a shame. I can't do a thing."
Rogue grinned and rumbled loudly in triumph, jaw forming into a smirk. He had outsmarted Levi just as he had done before, the incredible feeling just as amazing as it was at that time. Now Levi had to give in! He had to let him see his little ones! Rogue adjusted himself again to stare at the man with expectancy, ignoring the opposing tree as he waited. Rogue continued to observe as Levi unexpectedly turned on his heel and began to walk away with the others following close behind. Unhappy with the lack of response and the fact that he was being ignored, Rogue shifted to receive his audience with a roar, but making a crucial error. Before the creature could emit his cry, the old bark of the tree snapped like brittle bone. Startled, Rogue's nails dug into the aged pine and his eyes grew wide as the trunk split and rotated. The earth's invisible strength then pulled the great pine to the ground. The titan let out a shriek as the tree crashed to the floor of the grassy clearing with Rogue still frozen upon it. Loose leaves and wood sprinkled across the grass like confetti. The titan moaned as he laid against the fallen trunk, opening his eyes to see Levi standing just a few feet before him, arms crossed and a single thin brow raised.
"Karma. It's a bitch isn't it? If you weren't so stubborn, you probably would have realized that tree was far too small for you to climb upon. See what happens when you don't listen?"
A heavy blow of mortification seemed to smack across the titan's face. He was such a fool! Too ignorant to notice the oak's size and how his weight would affect it. Rogue then began to produce a few short whines as he struggled to get to his feet, embarrassed to the point that he wasn't focused fully on getting up, falling onto his rump in the grass. Rogue then snarled at his stupidity and source of his troubles. Fuck the tree! Fuck whatever the hell karma was! Fuck the formation shapes! Most of all, FUCK Levi! The titan then finally managed to get to his feet, ignorance still strongly coursing through his mind as he plopped himself in the shade of another pine, arms crossed as he turned his gaze to the ground – staring with great intensity at an anthill between his thighs.
"Since you wasted quite a bit of time, I and my squad are going to have our lunch. You can join us as long as you grow up and behave." Levi concluded as he and the other flying humans walked out into the field where a wooden table sat several meters away from what looked to be a human residence. Rogue watched as the five seated themselves and began to take out human food and liquids, soon indulging on them in near silence. The titan remained beneath the shelter of the pine's needles, contemplating. Although he was invited, he really didn't want to join – not with Levi seated among them. However, he felt sorry for Petra who would find herself glancing over her shoulder to check up on him. Yet he felt so stupid, but if he was good could he make the session pass quicker so he could see his little ones? It was noon and he barely had the chance to really spend some quality time with them. If he could behave, then maybe – just maybe he could quit and be with them. With his mind made up, the titan prepared to stand, but a soft conversation fell onto his ears. Rogue paused, hearing his name being mentioned in a quiet and secretive manner, he waited with ears angling to decipher words.
"His attitude is a disgrace. Rogue has to be whipped into shape. He's not going to walk all over me." Levi grumbled as he sipped from the lip of his tea. "I don't know what the hell is wrong with his attitude."
"I don't think he's used to this kind of setting if you ask me, Corporal." Petra objected. "He's never had to be under such restraining restrictions before."
"She has a point, Levi." Eld added as he shoved a piece of bread into his mouth. "He may have been under some form of rules before, but this setting and everything is –
"I don't care." Levi cut in. "He has to be able to obey."
"Corporal, like Hange said, he has the mind of a child plus some instincts and characteristics that are so different and far from human." Gunter began. "He's sensitive, you have to go about it a little differently than you would."
The short leader glanced over to the brunette, lifting his tea to savor it before turning away, eyes seemingly focused on the horizon.
"Not to mention it Levi," Petra spoke so softly that it was barely audible to the titan's ears. "Rogue REALLY does think that Ackerman and Arlert are his babies. He said it to me this morning and it was brought up again with Hange. He's really protective of them so it's natural that he wants to see them and make sure they're okay."
The man sighed, turning to glance at her before looking into the wood grain onto the table. "He needs to be controlled and watched, Petra. Zackley made that my job. Rogue is my responsibility."
The titan grumbled softly to himself at the man's words. He really disliked him. The rest of his squad though, except for Oluo, seemed to be the opposite especially Petra. The fact that she knew his wants and needs told the titan that she understood him completely. With that in mind, Rogue arose from his patch of grass and began to make his way to the rest of the group. Upon hearing his thundering footsteps, the others looked up from their rattling dishes as Rogue approached. The titan then seated himself at the end of the tiny table as close to the redhead as he was physically able. He watched as she smiled up at him, returning the kindhearted gesture.
"So did you decide to behave?" Levi spoke from the rim of his glass, steel eyes looking from the white porcelain to the titan.
Rogue responded by looking back at Petra and giving the man the cold shoulder. But upon doing so, the creature's gaze came across something that yet again intrigued him. He had seen similar objects before, ones with one sharp point and one with several sharp points on the ends. The titan knew that humans used them when they ate or stirred their dark liquid. He had seen his humans use one similar to what he was looking at now, round and blunt at the tip. This one though, was made from a material as shiny as a fish's scales and a pair of blades. The stick connected the round part was carved with shapes that made up a bird. The object was also smaller than the ones he had seen his little ones, Carla, or Dr. Jaeger use. With pupils growing in innocence, Rogue lightly tapped Petra with the woman abandoning her next bite to answer his asking touch.
"What is it, Rogue?"
The titan let out a few friendly grunts as he pointed to the object. Following Rogue's finger, Petra raised her brows and gestured to the article.
"That?" She asked with Rogue nodding excitedly. "That's a spoon."
The titan parted his teeth. "SSSSTTOOOONNN?" He tested, unable to pronounce the letter 'p.'
Petra smiled. "Yes. Actually it's a tea spoon to be exact. It's used to stir tea."
Rogue blinked, in awe at the craftsmanship on such a miniscule thing. Sure, he had seen Carla stir her tea with a spoon, but the spoon was bigger. Perhaps it was because she had once said that they 'didn't have too many utensils.' However the size of the item was what mystified Rogue. He wasn't aware that humans could make something so small. "TTEEIINNYY." Rogue assessed. "EEEETTTYYY."
She chuckled. "Yeah, it's a small spoon, pretty too. My father had two of these made for me when I joined the Scouts. Hence the reason why it has a bird on it to represent the Wings of Freedom crest we wear on our backs in a different way. You can take a closer look if you want to, Rogue." Petra informed as she scooted the spoon close to the edge of the table.
The titan nodded excitedly as he bent over as best as he could to examine the object with incredulity. As careful as one could not think possible for a titan, Rogue lifted a finger to the silver utensil and lightly tapped it. With great care, Rogue then reached his finger over and attempted to scoop the small spoon into his hand, not noticing how his large digit was disrupting the human meal. Levi hastily removed his tea from his lips at the sight, setting his cup down so roughly that it was a shock that it didn't crack.
"Rogue, get your damn fingers off the table." Levi hissed. "It's rude and not to mention you're contaminating everyone's food. Plus you can see that just fine from where you're sitting."
"It's okay, Corporal. He's never seen one like this before."
"He can see it just fine where he is." Levi reminded as he lifted his teacup, looking closely at the bottom for cracks before raising it to his lips once again.
Rogue droned quietly as he looked back down at the small spoon, more focused upon the small object than the Corporal's body language that reflected a man that was at his wits end – eyes constantly glancing at the behemoth and fingers fretfully pulling at his pant leg beneath the table. The titan continued to stare down at the little spoon on the oak surface of the table, ears angling as forward as they could possibly be as his green eyes scanned every detail and groove. Of course, his height didn't help much with the engaging of the finer things, and he was unable to lie on his belly to have a closer look for his long hair would taint the food. Rogue groaned slightly as he tried to bend down further, arching his back so uncomfortably that he had to return to his upright position. The titan then began to weigh his options. He didn't want to disturb Petra while she was consuming her meal to ask if she could put the spoon into his hand. He blinked; the only way he could get a closer look was to quickly push to spoon into his hand. If he moved swiftly enough with great precision, then perhaps he could retrieve what he wanted with no disturbance. Rogue hesitated, looking at the others who had started a conversation about a coming mission. Yes, he was certain he could succeed. The titan looked down at his hands, unaware of the hard stare upon him as he prepared himself. As quickly as he could, Rogue held one of his hands at the edge of the table and hurriedly reached up to brush the spoon into his possession. The action however, was one of error. The titan did indeed successfully retrieve the small utensil, but the weight of his pointer finger upon the table's edge forced the platform to tilt – food sliding onto the ground and into the wrong hands.
Rogue winced at his error, sensing the amount of upset from his new allies. Knowing that it was only right to apologize, the titan gave a meaningful grunt before looking into his palm at the spoon with a pleased rumble – unaware that most of his accidental victims would not be so forgiving.
The jarring voice was so sudden that the titan jumped, spoon leaving the safety of his palm and landing in the grass. Rogue turned to hiss at the short leader who had risen from his seat before attempting to retrieve the spoon for a surprised Petra – the titan's digits too big to pick the small thing up. Without warning there was a blunt hit to his smallest toe. The titan snarled, leaving his failed attempts and turning to his attacker who had dared to hit him. Levi stood, an arm tight to his side with the other pointing directly to him – the man trembling, noticeably now, in rage.
"YOU BIG FUCKING IDIOT! I TOLD YOU TO OBEY MY ORDERS!"
Rogue's face twisted into a dark glare that was close to appearing completely dangerous. The titan's hands twitched and steam steamed from his pores. His nails began to seep into the dry earth, a sad attempt in trying to keep a lid on himself. It had been so long since he actually felt like harming a human. So long. He was at his breaking point with the man, blood boiling as he thought about throwing a punch into the man's face. Rogue growled deeply, ears flat against his head. The titan then began to itch for revenge. A harmless, but effective revenge.
"I'VE BEEN FAR TOO GENEROUS WITH YOU. IT'S TIME THAT YOU LEARN YOUR –
Rogue roared and pounded his fist into the earth, wishing that he could rip apart something suitable. The titan's eyes then caught sight of the maneuver gear that dawned every flying human. A smirk nearly came to his face as he figured up an execution. Rogue sniffed, selecting the Corporal's gear among the others. Perfect!
"ROGUE! YOU BETTER –
Levi was unable to finish his words as the titan suddenly got to his feet and raced for his target. He then kneeled down and plucked the man's gear from its spot on the low incomplete fence surrounding the small human structure. Rogue then pulled the cables from their hiding spots on the device before dangling it in the air in a taunt, taking pride in the man's reddening cheeks.
"DON'T FUCKING –
Rogue merely snarled and fed the cables of the device into his mouth, seemingly turning the usually reserved Levi into a banshee. The corporal's cries of vulgar vocabulary only provoked Rogue further – the titan taking the cables in hand and threading them through his teeth and managing them like floss. In and out between his giant teeth, the titan didn't care. Revenge was so sweet. When Rogue completed his so called dental work, the titan took the cables from his teeth only to place the strong steel between his incisors once again, biting down with little force to snap the cables in half. Then, like an angry ape, Rogue expressed his loathing with another resounding bellow and threw the set of maneuver gear nearly fifty meters straight to the ground. Eyes watched as the equipment rolled and tumbled violently against the earth before coming to rest just before a tree in nearly a thousand pieces. Rogue hissed, sitting on his heels in an aggressive position – hands and feet planted firmly to the ground, joints tight, back arched, ears folded over, hair standing on end, and face in a manic snarl. Levi would NEVER lay a hand on him. EVER.
Breathing hard, Rogue observed the scene before him, a few of the squad members had risen from their seats in alarm at what had transpired and Levi himself was standing still, face red as a beat as his cold eyes gave the titan a deadly glare. Rogue nearly grunted in satisfaction, he could practically smell the man's fury. The Corporal had taken him away from his little ones for the day, so he took away his wings. An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.
"Rogue." Levi began, voice soaked in poison. "As I said, I've been too generous and too easy on you. Purposely breaking a piece of expensive equipment was the last straw. It's time that you receive the same punishment that all Scouts endure. And trust me, you're not going to find this fun."
"STUPID… THIS IS… STUPID." Rogue thought as he observed Levi fill a large wooden tub and begin to pour the foul smelling liquid into the water. The man spoke no words as he stirred the concoction, leaving Rogue to ponder as to what exactly the man was doing and his own thoughts. The titan looked at the cloth tarp in his hand, angrily trying to count the stitches of the repair patches decorating it. Why was this man not letting him see Armin and Mikasa? Why was he so against their visitation? It didn't make any sense! They were all Scouts! So why weren't they together? They were a pack weren't they? Why was Levi telling him to grow up? He was big enough! What the hell was going on!
Levi's clearing throat captured his attention away from the loose stitches. "This is what you're going to do every time you disobey me, Rogue. Cleaning. Since your bath this morning, I'm confident that you know what such a thing is. Now. You are to clean every one of the high windows and the roof on this side of the castle. No broken windows and no missing tiles. I want no speck of dirt left untouched. Dip your rag into the barrel; and if you get water on me, I'm making you clean the entire castle. Do it now."
The titan frowned at the man's order before growling and dipping his makeshift rag into the barrel. Rogue then retrieved the dripping cloth, hesitating and debating if he should just sling the profane smelling water onto the man or dump the barrel entirely.
"Now, put the rag on the roof and start scrubbing."
Rogue gritted his teeth, deciding that he just wanted to get it over with – the titan obeyed Levi's command and unwillingly slapped the drenched cloth to the shingles with the sound resembling a step in wet shoes. The titan moved the rag back and forth, eyes still narrowed and hooked on the stout leader.
"Good." Levi began simply. "Now keep that up. I'll be back in an hour." The man concluded as he walked off towards his previous post.
For nearly a minute, Rogue kept up his lazy scrubbing before turning to glace in the direction that Levi had gone. The beast's greens watched as the Corporal ventured past the far tree line. Once he vanished, Rogue snorted and snarled, releasing a hard jet of steam in frustration. The titan then angrily picked up the barrel with ease and slung all its liquid contents across the face of the castle and smashed the wooden barrel beneath his foot with a weighty stomp, not giving a damn about the splinters that pierced his flesh. Rogue clenched his fist, having the desire to cause more destruction to ease his suffering. Much to his own surprise however, the titan returned to the rag and began to cleanse the roof, mentally cursing Levi once again.
He hated that man. He really did.
Noon had come and gone, the day crawling towards the afternoon with the sun beginning to sink ever so slightly. The sky was still a brilliant blue with not a cloud tainting its beautiful hue. Rogue grunted in annoyance, his mind barely settling from the recent events and their outcomes. The titan groaned as he continued to guide the cloth in a smooth, lethargic, but repetitive circle in the very same spot he started on. The creature could not understand why Levi seemed to favor the particular activity of cleansing things. Since he began, the titan constantly found himself straying from the task he had been ensured with due to boredom. At first, he had become distracted by several air circles, 'bubbles' as his humans had told him, which had formed in the smeared liquid and on his rag. Easily entertained, he had proceeded to pop them by tapping them as quickly as he could with his fingers before the bubbles combusted themselves. Rogue had also gotten preoccupied by several birds nesting nearby that had begun to swoop at him. The titan had swatted and hunted them with the skill of a domestic house-cat until he had a few feathers under his nails and between his teeth before the annoying creatures left to select another tree. He had also detected a few interesting scents nearby that he had followed to discover a half eaten piece of stacked human food on a windowsill, an odd liquid from a strange bottle, and an insignificant pile of dust on an old window.
A small flare of testiness flashed through Rogue, making the creature push the rag from the roof in frustration. The titan ran a hand over his face, trying to keep any nerves he had left. The need to settle down for a moment to gather his thoughts was tugging at the strings of his marionette. Rogue wanted to go find his little ones and cradle them in his embrace, but with the chance of Levi being with them, the titan resisted. He was in no mood for the man. Just as he was about to sink to the ground, a whinny and two young voices graced his ears. The titan tilted his head in consideration. He had always felt comfort with his animals and he liked the Scout's horses. Plus the two young humans there could possibly keep him company until he would have to go back to work. With the goal in mind, Rogue turned and began to motion toward the stables that he had seen before the sun was at its highest.
The titan stepped lightly as the two voices steadily grew louder and the scent of manure grew stronger. Slowly and with great care, Rogue rounded to the castle's front where he found the horse stables that he and Petra had visited earlier. The man known as Ness was gone, replaced by the oddball named Connie and unfortunately Jean. Of course, at the moment, the beast didn't care about the arrogant boy's presence, he was desperate for the comfort of an animal and nothing was going to keep him from carrying out his wishes. The two males were doing what he had seen horse owners do in Maria, using a giant spoon like object to pick up and remove dung from the stables. He found the practice odd, but he supposed that it was necessary. Several horses were out of their pens and tied to wooden beams nearby as their spaces were refreshed. The titan then stepped from behind his hiding place behind the corner and gradually navigated to where the tied equines were feeding. The two teens looked up from their crude labor and watched as Rogue judiciously took a seat. The behemoth then lifted a finger to pet the spine of a mare, the small animal paying no mind as the titan purred and stoked her gently. Connie then scratched his temple.
"Hey Rogue, you uh… how's it going?"
The titan glanced up from his fine handling to meet eyes with the boy before giving into a nod; he wasn't in the mood to explain everything. Then a thought crossed his mind, why were the two humans here and not with the others? "AAATT DOOIINNG?" He asked, trying to find an answer.
Connie's cheeks tinted slightly pink. "Ah well, Levi caught Jean and I slacking off –
"Well it was actually you." Jean corrected as he threw a pile of feces into a bucket.
The shorter boy laughed anxiously. "Well anyways, he made us come here and shovel some horse crap out of the stables as punishment. He's a clean freak if you haven't figured it out yet. It's what you're ordered to do if you fuck up one way or the other."
Rogue nodded. "ARRRNIN NIKKASSA NNOOT TTRROODDLE?"
Connie dipped his head. "Nope, they're pretty focused on things so they are still back in the woods training. They probably won't be done for a while." The teen informed as he shoveled another pile, suddenly perking up. "I thought you were supposed to be with Levi and his squad today?"
The titan halted his show of affection to the gentle mare, hesitating for a moment before letting out a small cloud of steam. "EENNN TOODDLE."
"Wait, you got punished, too?"
The titan nodded. "EEVVII NNADE CLEENN."
Connie's brows rose. "So – he made you clean? Are you done?"
Rogue hesitated, stopping once again mid stroke before resuming. "NNNAATT CLEEEN. NNOO IKKE EEVVII." The creature spoke simply as he observed the two humans' faces drop slightly. Why were they so shocked? Were they amazed that he had dared to disobey the man?
"What were you told to clean?" Connie continued to quiz.
Rogue pointed to the roof of the castle and gestured to the windows before returning to the horse, wishing that the conversation would change.
He nodded, releasing a slightly rough breath for the two males to get the message, to his dismay – Jean turned in his direction.
"So you just decided that you'd rather look at horses?" The long faced teen spoke in a revolted tone, eyebrows drawing together.
Rogue nodded clearly. He was past the point of caring.
Jean folded his arms. "Well then, it would be a lot better for us if you went back to your post, Rogue. If Levi finds you here he'll assume we're all in the same bolt and give us even more of a workload."
The titan sat back, offended by the human's words. "NNOO!" The giant being retorted gruffly. "EEIII SSTTEEYY EERREE."
The young Scout frowned. "F.Y.I Rogue, you can't do whatever the fuck you want around here."
The titan hissed and planted a palm firmly before him as he bent lower to give a menacing glare at Jean, making a bead of sweat appear onto Connie's brow. "EESSSS! EEII TTOO AATTT EEEII AAAUUNNTT!" Rogue argued, words borderline gibberish. "OOOTTT KKEEEENN!"
Jean frowned. "Your English is terrible. I can barely understand you."
The titan gritted his teeth at the insult. His human tongue was fine! It was the best he could do without lips! As far as he knew, no other titan could talk! "EEEIII TTAAKK GOOOD!"
The teen laughed smugly. "Your grammar sucks, too. I feel like I'm arguing with a two year old for crying out loud! It's hard to believe that you're The Rogue Titan that slaughters his own kind mercilessly."
Rogue flinched, temperature rising as his frustration was put up front once again. The titan desperately searched for something he could point out, trying the biggest negatives in the list. "OOUUU AAAADD AAT EEVVVRREEETHIINNNGG!"
"Yeah." Jean shoved aside carelessly. "Right. You suck at insults too apparently."
The titan's pupils fixated into slits, digging deep into the foul words of his head to use them as weapons. It was true, insults were never his forte, beating the daylights out of his foes was. But he had to try anyway. "NNOOTHERR UUUCCKKERR." Rogue snarled, using one of the first sets of foul words he had ever heard, hoping that it would make an impact. To his amazement, the two teen's eyes widened again.
"I thought he just knew how to flip someone off." Connie muttered with Jean's eyes narrowing further, throwing his shovel to the ground.
"Fuck you too you big angry elf!"
Rogue roared. "AAAASSSSS!"
The titan breathed, silence briefly coating the stables with a thin blanket before Connie snickered.
"You know, that was actually a good one."
Jean, now red-faced turned to the other teen. "Shut up Springer!"
Rogue remained livid, ears cocked against his head. He had come here for just a bit of peace and quiet, but no! He couldn't even have that! He was so sick, so sick of everything…
"Damn it! Fucking hard ass!" Jean began again and quickly following up his words with more insults, calling him a 'big baby' or idiot.
Steam seeped from the corners of the creature's mouth. Not wishing to hear any more, Rogue initiated production on a disgusting revolt. Saliva formed in his mouth, slivers seeping past the gaps in his teeth, but his target took no notice. The titan's stomach rolled and gurgled as he aimed and prepared to unleash his vexations upon the arrogant male. Jean however was still trapped in his conjuring of curses while Connie had nervously taken a few steps back.
"Er… Rogue? Are you sick or…
However, the titan answered the boy's query before he could finish, sending a hard stream of saliva onto an unsuspecting Jean – soaking the new recruit in a thick translucent paste. Rogue roared in insolence, windows trembling and nearly cracking as his victim struggled to wipe the vast amount of spit from his face. The titan then backed away, shoulders hunched as he growled, preparing to repeat his foul action if needed. He was pissed. Nothing had gone right! Living with his little ones was supposed to be great! No! It was not! It was horrible!
"ROGUE! WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON HERE! WHY ARE YOU NOT AT YOUR POST!"
At the all too familiar voice, Rogue turned to glower daggers at Levi who stood upon the rooftop with a new set of gear and an uncompromising face. He had enough. The titan stood and stomped his foot, shaking the foundation and making Connie and Jean as well as a few equines fall to the stone path. He was going to lie out his demands. "EEEIIII SEEE AARRNNNIN ANND NNIKKASA! I SEEE AIIIBIIEESS!"
"NO!" Levi put coarsely. "I told you to clean the roof and windows! You did nothing! So you can't see them until…
The titan howled in rage, mind compromised so much by his intense need that rational thought wasn't entirely holding his leash. Rogue then spit again, hitting Levi the same way he had hit Jean just a moment ago. While the man began to recuperate and gag, the titan screeched, caught in a paroxysm of epic proportions. He was full of anguish and now regrets.
Levi's breath shuttered like a dead leaf, anger coursing throughout his frame as he marched through the stony corridor. The man's footsteps echoed among the surface of the walls, signaling a warning to nearby soldiers to retreat to their quarters. His wet bangs dangled over his eyes, still soaked from the cleansing shower – the third that he had taken in forty-eight hours. Now dawned in his third uniform he had changed into since the day began and motivated by resentment, Levi was heading into a difficult conversation.
He then came before his destination, a large wooden door upon the high floor of the castle that served as a barrier between chaotic affairs and Erwin's office. Without bothering to knock, Levi let himself into the large room. The Commander's quarters had nearly the same identical floor plan as his own, a bathroom in the back, bedroom off to the side, and a desk facing away from a large stained glass window. As Levi stormed to the desk, Erwin looked up from a pile of paperwork and notes, large brows knitted together in confusion as the Corporal began to pace to and fro several times before placing himself in his signature stance. He swallowed, trying to keep his nerve –what little he had left at least.
The Commander leaned back in his seat, face still questioning. "Your new recruit; how is he?" The man asked deeply, picking up his wooden pen and tilting it in his hands, eyes barely blinking as he waited for an answer.
Levi exhaled a rugged breath, scowl deepening. "I'm trying my absolute best not to kill him."
Erwin nodded. "I trust that something happened, I heard a commotion earlier from the front of the castle."
"You don't know the half of it. That titan has literally done everything in his power to agitate me. This is my third uniform today and I just had another fucking shower to get the saliva off of me! Erwin, that THING is like trying to tame a monkey!"
Commander Erwin sighed. "I see. Take a seat, Levi."
The Corporal found himself biting the inside of his cheek in irritation. "I'll stand, thank you. Last time I checked, this wasn't a shrink's office." Levi denied, ignoring the fact that he really did want to sit, kick back for just one moment, and have a cup of hot tea to wind down. As far as he was concerned, the titan was the main priority. Even if he was on the inch of death, the problem was so severe that it was first on his agenda. "Erwin, Rogue is completely out of hand. His demeanor is… the furthest thing from what could be called domestication. It's been hell ever since this morning."
Erwin leaned forward. "How so?"
He took another great breath, tugging at his fresh cravat. "Sir, he doesn't listen to a single order no mater how much I threaten him!" Levi began, his volume rising. "During his bath, he purposely splashed me with water, and the fucker even pretended that he had done it on accident! He would hiss and snarl so I couldn't touch him. Then when I began to clean his teeth and take care of his putrid breath – he purposely belched in my face. After that, I found him fucking around during Hange's session. I was watching from inside and I saw him restless and making jokes. He threw a fit when Ackerman and Arlert had to train and he wasn't allowed. Later I found that he had gone to see them even after my commands. Petra told me that it was her fault, but I know that titan dragged her there and she took up for him."
"Hmm, that is an issue." Erwin scratched his chin after returning the pen to his desk, but Levi wasn't finished.
"After that I caught Rogue red handed destroying my room and bedding while reaching in to retrieve my pillow and mattress – which are history now. During our session with him, he refused to listen to my justification of the formation and the upcoming mission to the point where he retreated up a tree – his weight making it snap and add to more property damage. During lunch he was fussing over looking at a damn teaspoon, like going to visit Arlert and Ackerman, he picked it up anyway after I repudiated him permission. When I confronted him about it, he threw a fucking tantrum and destroyed my maneuver gear to the point where its only use is scrap metal. Not long after I set him to clean, I found him arguing with Kirstein before he proceeded to spit on the two of us and have another outburst – wrecking part of the stable in the process. Sir, I fear that we need more time. There is no way in hell that Rogue will be civilized enough for Zackley's inspection soon!" Levi included, nearly out of breath. He then tugged once again on his cravat and reluctantly pulled up a neighboring chair. The Corporal roughly took his seat, legs overlapping with one hand gripping the arm rail in a stronghold. "We may need more time, at the rate things are going –
"I can't extend our time, Levi." Erwin interrupted, glancing off to the side. "The government was generous and gave us the max amount of time allotted. We spent most of that trying to capture Rogue." The man suddenly paused, turning his gaze back to Levi, softening in the slightest. "I believe however, that it's possible."
The Corporal nearly let himself give in to his desires brought on by irritation. "After all that, you think we can get that damn thing controlled in two months? Erwin, it's going to be extensive. Tsk, this particular titan just seems like he would rather chase fucking butterflies with a few kids and hunt on his own rather than listen to any order given to him. Rogue is a big piece of work! What makes you think we can fix this?"
Erwin remained silent for a moment, face impassive and hard to read. The man then swiveled lightly in his chair, side facing the Corporal as he peered at the pieces of colored glass. "Because I have figured out the reason why there is a vast change in his demeanor, Levi. Firstly, do you remember when Arlert debriefed us on Rogue's behavior, particularly the part about the titan's keen judgment of people? Tell me, has Rogue only expressed this behavior with you and Kirstein?"
Levi crossed his arms tightly once again. "Yes and yes."
"Alright then. The reason for this is because, that night around the campfire, the two of you introduced yourselves with a crude and rude tone. Nonetheless, he's been watching you for years, Levi. When you and Jean began to interact with him as if he was an ornery animal, Rogue immediately decided then and there, or even before, that he was not fond of you."
He began to grind his teeth. "Erwin, Rogue is a fifteen meter TITAN – a beast. Animals have to be put in line in order for them to obey."
"Levi, Rogue is an intelligent titan – having the mental capacity of a young human being. Ackerman and Arlert, they treat him as such. Petra, Hange, and a few of the other new recruits have picked up on the fact that kindness goes a long way."
"Erwin," Levi uttered beneath his breath, unaddmitedly-having trouble grasping the obvious truth. "He's been established as a Scout. I'm not going to baby him into doing what I want."
The commander exhaled a heavy breath and reached over to pour himself and the Corporal a cup of tea, making Levi wish that it was alcohol. "Levi, you know very well that might be the case. Like what's been determined, Rogue's mind has the intelligence of a five to seven year old. Like all children, he responds positively with tenderness and encouragement. Ackerman and Arlert are the best evidence of this. Treating him like a person will get you results."
Levi's shoulders relaxed in the slightest. "Let me guess. Arlert told you all of this?"
A small smile came to the taller man's face. "Most of it – right after yesterday's episode, but some was observation." He paused sipping his tea. "If you really think about it Levi, the two of you are alike in a lot of ways."
The Corporal immediately placed his cup to the Commander's desk, suddenly not at all in the mood. "Alike? You – think I have something in common with a titan?" He demanded; Erwin had to be joking.
"It may sound a bit unorthodox, but it's true. I undoubtedly don't need to say no offense since you're probably well aware. The two of you are both stubborn, strong willed, have a strong dislike of titans, and you protect your own. Not to mention Levi, you both have suffered great losses that shaped you into who you are today."
Levi remained in his own cone of thought, trying not to remember his first mission as a Scout or any time before that. Erwin was one of the only people he had opened up to about his past – mostly because he was there for an important and crucial chunk of it. If it were up to him, he would have just been silent about it. Erwin then poured himself more tea before picking up his pen to return to his work.
"Just take what I told you into consideration Levi. Rogue is indeed a Scout, a supersized soldier for humanity. But unlike our other men and women, he has very specific and special needs. I hope that terms get better between the two of you. Soon I want the new recruits to train among your squad. There is an issue that Rogue himself brought to our attention that he could be the perfect teacher for."
Corporal Levi gave a sigh and retrieved his tea, sitting back in his chair. As stupid as it sounded, he would have to try something far from his comfort zone. Very far. The man then took a sip before removing his cup to pour more tea. "So, how much time left do we have before Zackley and Nile's ass comes? What exactly will they be looking at?"
"We have a little less than two months. They will come on the first day of the third month in the morning. As far as what they are looking for, Pixis is going to debrief –
However, a barrage of footsteps in the hall captured Erwin's attention and brought a sense of dread to Levi for he knew what was coming. The door to the commander's office then swung open to reveal Hange, but her body language brought forth alarm. Her hair was more chaotic than usual, eyes wide, mouth agape, sweaty and completely out of breath. Levi exhaled; the woman was probably excited about something she had found in her experiment. Despite knowing this, Levi couldn't help but feel a sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach.
"Commander! Levi! It's Rogue! He's gone!"
Upon the news, both of the men stood. "What do you mean gone?" Levi pressed, watching intensely as Hange made her way to the two of them.
"I mean we can't find him!"
"How the fuck do you loose a fifteen-meter titan, Hange!"
"I don't know! He was here one minute and then… he just disappeared!" Hange explained frantically.
Erwin rounded his desk, strapping his gear to his waist. "Where are Ackerman and Arlert? Are they missing as well?"
The scientist shook her head. "No. They are downstairs trying to see if anyone else has seen him."
Levi heaved a breath. "Damn thing probably got pissed and wandered off." He suggested, but then receiving an alarming signal. "Do you think he could have decided that he wanted to go back to the cove in Wall Maria?"
Hange shrugged. "It's a good theory, but it doesn't make sense. Why would Rogue leave without Armin and Mikasa? He cares so much about them."
The Commander began to tighten his belts. "I know it doesn't, but remember, for their safety, Rogue was the one who brought them here in the first place. If that is the case, then he's going for the wall."
"Shit. You wouldn't think that bastard would go through Katness district to do so would he?" Levi continued with Hange gasping.
"Oh my! He can't! The Military Police, the Garrison, they could kill him if he strays into town! They will think something's wrong and he's attacking!"
"If that's the case, then we better hurry." Erwin spoke sternly. "There is still a chance that he hasn't left the border yet. Gather everyone and put them into groups. We have to find Rogue quickly or the consequences could be great."
The sky was bathed in orange and red, signaling yet again another afternoon and a coming nightfall. It was quiet, no soul around except for grasshoppers that sang an annoying tune. Rogue sat in a reserved state before the very gate to the Scout's territory, right at the edge with his knees against the barbed wired fence. The titan sighed, sinking further into his thoughts. After being blinded by his own obstructions and destroying something that he was too far gone to remember correctly, he had abandoned the idea of cooling off with creatures who couldn't chide. Instead, he had decided that he needed to be alone, far from civilization, far from Horseface, and far from Levi. It was one such time where Rogue actually wanted to be alone, one of the few.
The titan looked up from his current task of studying the pebbles and earth of the dirt path and to the road that stretched to the horizon beyond. Rogue squinted, noticing the human city beyond. For the past few hours, he had been roaming among considerations and ideas. The rules made the flying human territory nearly unlivable. He wanted to go back to his forest and his beautiful cove. Yes, he wanted to just grab his little ones and vanish. There was the matter of his kind however, monsters that would snare his own within stonewalls even smaller than where they resided now. Sure, he could climb the wall if they needed anything – the soldiers wouldn't attack him, none that he knew of at least. But the idea of confining Armin and Mikasa once again in an even harder life disturbed him. They were trapped no matter what choice he made.
Rogue let out a soft whine, his hand snaking up to his scalp and coursing through his soft hair. Yet, he hated to return. He hated Levi. He hated him with a burning passion. Sure, he had lived under rules before. His humans had a few: do not go past the tree line towards the gate, do not kill humans, and stay away from people – all of which he had to break. Levi however, had far too many rules and regulations that seemed both important but mostly unnecessary. There was the fact that he couldn't see his little ones whenever he wanted, he had to listen to unnecessary statements, he couldn't make any little jokes, he had to learn the meaning of a strange shape, and more. The short and seemingly insignificant man was far too – controlling. Rogue sighed, steam billowing from his maw and onto his crossed feet. Living with the Scouts was supposed to be great! He would be with his babies and actually be a little – happy. But no, nothing was right. Being with the Scouts and being an honorary member of the pack was not what he thought it would be at all.
He just wanted to scream.
The familiar voice brought him back from his mind's domain, making him almost cringe. The titan hung his head in shame as his ears picked up a few sets of equine hooves and muffled voices, knowing very well that he was caught and going to be punished yet again in some way. Still, he did not turn to face them, ears sinking and back hunched. He had been backed into a corner despite the open road before him.
Troubled emeralds shifted to see that Mikasa had climbed over his knee to place herself before him. Her face was coated in worry, eyes shiny with surfacing tears – ones that she had obviously held in. He whined softly, guilt flowing through him. The titan gradually lifted his hand in a way that looked as if the appendage was difficult to even elevate and gently pressed his knuckles against the dark-haired teen – wanting any ounce of forgiveness he could get.
"Rogue? What are you doing?" Mikasa asked, voice muffled with her grey eyes looking up to his sheltered face. "We've been looking everywhere for you."
The titan dithered, finally turning his head to peer over his shoulder. To his surprise, Levi was nowhere to be seen among the small group of humans. Instead, there was Armin, Hange, and Petra – a great relief. Rogue then returned his attention to Mikasa once again, giving a low drone and grunt – vocal cords exhausted from the day's encumbrances.
"If you're hiding, it's not the best idea to sit out in the open, Rogue." Mikasa beamed tenderly, brushing away her emotions and lifting herself up to sit upon his foot. "What's troubling you? I can tell you're rather upset."
Rogue hesitated, knowing that if he had a lip he would be biting it. "AAASSS UUSST… TTIIINNNKINNNG." He swallowed, trying to salivate his tired pipes and rid the lump forming in his throat. "EEEVVIII NNEEEN."
To his surprise, Mikasa chuckled softly. "Yeah, he's a short little bastard isn't he?" She commented, making him huff slightly. "However Rogue, you have to listen to what he says."
The titan sat up with a snort. "NNO."
"He may be rude, but trust me he means well."
Rogue turned to see Petra and the others rounding his frame to seat themselves upon his folded leg. "OOWW?"
Petra rubbed his skin. "It's because he's looking out for you, Rogue. It may not seem like it, but he's protecting you."
The titan huffed once again, looking away at the trees. There was no way Levi was defending him. He was more than capable of taking care of himself. As far as he was concerned, the little man was just torturing him.
"Rogue do you remember back when we lived with you in the cove?" Armin began, making the creature turn back to the group. "Do you recall how dead serious you were about us not leaving the cove, using knives, and wrapping up in the winter?" Armin continued, bringing memories of his own constant bickering and orders during that time to Rogue. The titan nodded.
"Well, it is a bit hard to believe, even after you saw all the support from people in Katness, but there are still government officials that want to get rid of you. Levi, Erwin, and a lot of us are trying to prevent that. The Corporal is just – very dedicated to his assignment." Petra clarified. "He's just like you and your relation to Armin and Mikasa's safety."
Rogue growled in the slightest. It was bullshit. The resemblance to his own actions was far strung. He had been on his little ones in the past, but he never made them clean!
Petra rubbed her neck. "It may not make any sense to you now Rogue, but I can share with you something that will help you understand why he is the way he is if you like."
Rogue snorted, he didn't want to hear it at the moment. There was a long pause before Hange cleared her throat.
"How about we all head back now. There are a lot of people worried about you, Rogue! Some of us were scared pretty shitless!" She laughed. "Myself majorly! We were absolutely frantic! Yes we where!"
Rogue whined, on edge. He didn't know what to do.
"Please come back with us Rogue." Mikasa smiled. "We have a big surprise for you that we've been working on for quite some time. Won't you please?"
The titan blinked, looking from the two seasoned Scouts to the soft and understanding faces of his little ones, feeling needed. Rogue exhaled, letting himself calm further. The more he pondered, the more he realized that he really didn't have a choice and he was being selfish. He was thinking more about himself rather than the fact that Armin and Mikasa were happy where they were. Rogue breathed a breath of steam, finally nodding in agreement. He didn't want to disappoint.
"I think you're really going to like your surprise, Rogue!" Armin encouraged upon his shoulder as they neared the castle. "The Scouts have been working on it for quite a while."
The titan simply grunted in reply, rubbing his face slightly into his little one. For the past thirty minutes, words of thankfulness and encouragement were all that met Rogue's ears. The long walk back to the castle had aided him, lifting his spirits with the company of his tiny family. The rage that had boiled and burned in his mind had ceased for now – leaving neutral thoughts. Whether he liked the circumstances or not, he would stay. All those lonely years were another factor that pushed him to his ultimate decision. That, and his heart ached for tender love. He couldn't leave, even if the short leader's guidelines were incommodious. As they had made their way back home, Petra's words had begun to echo in his mind. What did she know about the man that could help him understand?
Rogue was too transfixed in his own reflections to notice the large number of seasoned Scouts peering at him in both worry and relief as he rounded the side of the castle and entered his area. Upon reaching where he had unceremoniously made his resting place, the titan slowly descended to position himself. However, a firm tug on his earlobe forced him pause and look to Hange, who was seated on his opposite shoulder in question. What did she want?
"Oh you're not going to sleep there on the hard ground anymore Rogue!" Hange exclaimed with enthusiasm before she launched herself from his shoulder – his other small riders soon following her action. "We have something better for you! Just follow us and we'll show you your surprise!" The woman concluded as she began to lead the group proudly.
Rogue tilted his head in wonder as he watched his new humans and little ones make their way towards the big red human structure, a 'barn' as humans called it. Confused, the titan got back to his feet and followed the small party into a trifling thicket of tall trees to the door of the large building. Wondering why they had wanted him to gander at the structure, Rogue placed himself onto his knees and gave a common grunt in question – receiving eager smiles and a laugh from Hange as she placed herself before the sliding door.
"Alright my titanic friend! Here is our little welcome gift to you! We hope you like it!" The messy-haired woman concluded as she heaved on a thick rope connected to the door, peeling the barn open. "Here's your new nest!"
The titan's brows rose at what the wooden door had reviled. The interior of the barn was spacious and open. The floor was lined in a thick layer of fresh hay, light, airy, and the scent was strong – one that was interesting but would go away in time. Rogue smiled, rumbling in likeness. He had forgotten that the flying humans were making him a nest, having been far too focused in making his new residence just like it had been at his cove. The titan turned and gave a grunt in thanks, jaw forced into a crooked grin and eyes shut tight as he continued to show his gratitude.
"Why don't you go check it out?" Armin suggested.
Rogue nodded at the teen's proposal and proceeded to crawl into the wide opening in the barn, one big enough for him to fit through comfortably. The titan purred, the hay feathery beneath his weight. Green eyes then traveled around the large barn, taking in the sights of the nest's features. An opening covered by glass was crafted into the center of the vaulted roof, allowing sunlight to pour into the spacious area. There was what looked to be a small room in the far left corner and at the far end of the barn there was a lone desk where Hange had obviously been working. Rogue then sat up on his knees in the spacious barn, looking in favor of every detail. There was definitely lots of room to spare, the nest slightly bigger than his old one. Rogue purred; it would certainly suit him and his little ones.
"So how do you like it?" Hange asked with the others meeting the titan in the center of the room. "I hope you don't mind that I set up my workstation here, Rogue. There is also an empty bedroom that Armin, Mikasa, or myself could rest in if needed. And there's a little housewarming gift for you there in the corner as well." She smiled as she waved a hand to the opposite corner of the room.
Following her direction, Rogue discovered that the opposite corner held a pile of used fluffy bricks. Immediately, childish instinct flowed through his veins, the titan let out a cheerful sound resembling a squeal as he flopped onto his side. Curling up with his head at the back of the barn, Rogue pulled a pillow from the pile and began to spill its feathery insides with his ears wiggling in content. As silly as the act was, it did ease any amount of stress. The creature grunted repetitively, blowing into the air and tearing more pillows to pieces, the effect of the cause being laughter.
"I'll take that as a yes!" Hange beamed with the titan pausing in his merriment to nod.
Rogue then halted his act of enjoyment and settled lazily into his new nest, purring loudly. Yes, he would be staying – no matter what. The titan then outstretched his arm, rumbling an invite to his little ones to come and join in his rest. Knowing just what he wanted, both Armin and Mikasa came to his side. Rogue watched as the two teens laid into his open palm against his chest. Once settled, the titan rested his head on his right arm, green eyes peering down at his two babies in nothing but love.
Sunlight soon ceased, the luminous rays from the skylight replaced with a clear view of the black night. All was peaceful and just in his new nest. Hange was engrossed in her work at the desk, constantly taking notes while Petra was seated against the opposing wall reading over a book. His little ones were still in his hands, having been lulled to sleep by the constant and gentle stroke of his thumb. The skin at the corners of Rogue's mouth pulled into a soft smile as he continued to stare with half lidded eyes at the two young recruits. Admittedly, the titan himself was on the verge of sleep. His body was tired, his limbs feeling as if they weighed thousands of pounds more than usual. A puff of steam seeped from between Rogue's teeth as he nestled further into the straw. After all the chaos, he was feeling at peace.
Hearing the crisp sound of a turning page, Rogue looked from his little ones to Petra. Her words then came to him again, making curiosity swell in his chest. As much as he didn't like Levi, he did want to know what information the redhead knew about the man. Was there really some bit of reasoning behind Levi and his behavior? With her statement reeling his interest in like a fish, he decided to take the leap. Voice still somewhat restrained, Rogue gave two easy grunts as he lifted his head. Upon hearing his wordless query, Petra looked up from her reading.
"Hey Rogue. Do you want something?" She acknowledged, taking a moment to stretch.
The titan swallowed, thinking of how to word his inquiry. "EETRA?"
Rogue dithered. "AAAAANNNT SSTTTOORREEE AADDOOUUTT EEVVIii?" He spoke, voice beginning to strain.
Petra became silent for a moment, leaning forward at his words. "You want to know the story I mentioned about Levi?"
He nodded, waiting.
"Well," Petra began. "It's quite a long tale but I'll shorten it as best as I can. When I first met him, I used to not like him as well, Rogue. Shortly after joining the Scouts, I came out and questioned Erwin about Levi in a private conversation. What he told me was tragic – a sad story like yours. In the innermost wall, called Wall Sina, is where most of the rich live – including the king. Beneath the city of Stohess, lies what's called The Underground. It's a horrid and dreary place, where the poor live without the presence of sunlight. Most that are born there die there for it's too much money to go to the surface. A lot of people fight for survival since goods like decent food are scarce and the people are not the kindest. Corporal Levi was born in The Underground. I don't know anything about his childhood, but I do know that he came from horrible conditions and transformed into a thug to survive. As far as the crimes he committed, the subject was foggy except that he was a great thief."
The titan raised a brow, perking up in the slightest at the news. "EEiiiiff?"
She nodded. "Yes. Levi lived with two other people that had been abandoned or cast aside, their names were Furlan and Isabel – the three of them were both the most notorious gang of the Underground and the only people who had maneuver gear. They were like family. Although it may not seem like it but they cared for one another like you do for your little ones, Rogue." Petra paused, tying to grin, but then reverting back to a neutral look. "As I was saying, one day Levi received an odd assignment – one that was an order to steal some mysterious documents and kill Commander Erwin."
Rogue blinked in disbelief. Erwin? The short man had been told to kill him? They seemed to be such great allies. If they were enemies, how did they become friends?
"However, before Levi could make his move Erwin, Mike, and a few other Scouts ambushed him and his gang and made them join the Scouts for their skill with the gear was exceptional – especially Levi's. Living among the Scouts, Levi strategized and planed of how to exactly carry out his assignment and get the secret documents." Petra then paused, swallowing hard. "Disaster struck upon Levi's first mission outside the walls."
The titan edged his chin a little closer, vastly interested. "AaaatttT AAPPeeeN?"
Petra hesitated, spending what seemed like an eternity in silence before letting out a sigh. "It was storming, there was fog and titans were everywhere. Levi, Furlan, and Isabel were in a squad that had been separated when the formation had broken. Unable to see where they were going, Levi was told to go ahead to survey. That was the last time he ever saw Isabel and Furlan. A mile ahead, Levi had found what had been a bloodbath – a squad wiped out by a titan. While he was there, he made the alarming discovery that the titan, a large one, was heading right for his squad. Knowing this, he raced back as fast as he could – but he was too late. An abnormal fifteen-meter had ambushed the squad from the side; the massacre left no member alive. By the time Levi arrived, he witnessed the consumption of Isabel and Furlan – just like you with Carla and Grisha. And even more like you, he defeated the titan that killed them in an assault fueled by angst and rage. Levi was the soul survivor." Petra continued, taking a much-needed breath. "Somehow, Levi abandoned his assignment to kill Erwin or steal the documents. Instead he wanted to keep fighting for Isabel and Furlan – just like how you continue to fight for your loved ones, too." She smiled widely, emitting a quiet laugh. "You see Rogue? You and Levi have a lot in common. So give him a chance because you never know if you'll become friends." Petra concluded as she stood to her feet and stretched, giving way to a yawn. "I'm going to head in, but remember what I told you Rogue. Like I said, think about it."
The titan watched as Petra discreetly exited the barn, making sure to not wake the sleeping teens. Rogue remained stagnant and silent. The creature returned his gaunt cheek to his firm elbow, eyes wide as he fell in deep thought. The development was almost troubling but nonetheless surprising. Levi, the man that he had determined that he thoroughly hated, really was like him. Alarmingly so. Nearly everything was identical, except for the before. Before the breach, his life with his humans was happy and when his little ones came it was wonderful. Complete. Rogue yawned, fatigue pulling him towards repose. Gradually, his dark eyelids fell lower over his dimming greens, but he still wondered. What was his life like even before the before? Did he just appear in Maria out of thin air? Did he come down from the heavens? Emeralds slowly concealed, blackness obscuring his vision. Where had he come from if everyone and everything had a beginning? Maybe – perhaps one day that question would be answered. As for Levi, there were possibilities.
Feeling a wave of sleep wash over him, Rogue nuzzled further into his little ones – his precious babies, and succumbed to his dreams.
His hands slithered up to the fastener upon his cloak, shifting the fabric before letting his arm fall unceremoniously to his side. The courtyard was quiet, covered in feeble moonlight. Levi sighed; the day had been absolute hell due to Rogue's attitude. The titan was difficult, having a demeanor unlike any that Levi had ever encountered. From a distance, sure. However, he had never lived with anyone let alone a titan with the mindset of a child. When Rogue had thrown his appropriately named tantrum and had run off, he had nearly performed a fit of rage himself. He was in charge, and it was very clear to him that Rogue needed quite a large amount of work – a lot of work.
Almost reluctantly, Levi began to make his way across the courtyard to the large barn. Despite being occupied by reading detailed reports and future planning, as much as he hated to do so, he had to follow up on Hange's request. It had been a relief that he had avoided her for the majority of the day, but now it was his duty to check in on the titan crazed woman and her research. Perhaps she had found something of value. Secretly, deep down, Levi was curious as to where in the hell Rogue had come from and how he ended up in Maria.
With a forceful tug, the Corporal slid the weighty door open to unveil the barn's fresh interior. The room was dimly lit by a few lanterns and candles, making the titan's new lair feel almost tranquil and warm. A low but gentle snore echoed among the wooden walls. On his right, Rogue lay in a deep sleep, loosely curled up in the crisp hay. Levi closed the door and ventured further into the nest. Passing the titan's knee, he noticed that the great beast held the two titan adopted teenagers resting in Rogue's palm. The creature's unsightly face was affectionately nestled against their scalps, breath rustling a few strands of straw and a great amount of small white feathers scattered all around the floor. Levi raised a brow at the sight; never in his lifetime did he think that he would see such a sight.
The short man then adverted his gaze to Hange's desk, seeing the scientist hard at work looking through a microscope and recording things in a notebook. Strangely though, the woman was quiet – a sharp contrast from looking at data and results from other titan experiments. As long as he had known Hange, he had never seen her as quiet as what she was before him. The view made a small spark of worry form within him. Taking one look back at the titan and the two recruits before turning forward, Levi then placed himself on Hange's left side. For several pensive minutes, he continued to observe her, bags forming under her eyes and strands of oily hair falling from her ponytail, until he announced himself with the clearing of his throat.
"So how is the brat and work?" He asked bluntly, making the woman jump. As quickly as she was frightened, Hange settled. Levi waited somewhat impatiently as she adjusted her glasses and turned her attention to the slumbering giant.
"Humph," She grinned slightly. "Our titan daddy has calmed quite a bit, he's been sleeping with Armin and Mikasa for the past few hours. Work itself has been… revealing." Hange answered at a whisper as she turned in her seat to face the man.
"Revealing as in how?"
The woman quickly gathered her notes. "Well, it's been quite telling. I was able to confirm one of our big questions about Rogue." Hange informed, oddly remaining civilized and controlled.
Levi naturally shifted his weight, trying to resist leaning onto Hange's unkempt work space. "What?"
"After looking over all of the physical things I was able to gather, it's very clear. Rogue is indeed a different species of titan. Looking at everything, even some previous samples I salvaged from Sonny and Bean, I can safely say that the cause of Rogue's uniqueness isn't a mutant gene tracing to a common titan. Everything about Rogue, including his blood, is significantly different."
Levi sighed, containing any positive reaction. He was going to be in for a long speech from Hange Zoe. "As tired as I am, tell me everything."
She nodded. "I'll start with my observations during our session. Rogue's breed is practically made to hunt and fight. He's perfectly equipped to do so. His frame is built for speed, strength, and endurance. Of course the best physical evidence is his nails and facial features. Rogue's nails grow in a point for tearing flesh, gripping the ground to gain good traction when running at full speed, and to grasp and scale objects. His sense of smell is much sharper than a standard titan, and his big jaws with exposed teeth are absolutely perfect for tearing off huge chunks of flesh and ripping out napes. The third eyelids in his eyes allows him to still be able to see when engaged in combat when he has to blink as well as helping him retain his sight in steam. Rogue's ears are a thing of beauty." Hange continued as Levi watched the titan's freakish features flutter in his sleep. "They are able to pick up practically any sound – even those that we humans can't hear. The fact that they move independently means that he can monitor everything in his surroundings and use them to track prey. Rogue lacks any taste buds that lust for human blood and his overall demeanor rivals a dog or cat. His affection for humans is incredible." Hange sighed, forcing a weak smile. "Rogue has incredible nurturing instincts and his intelligence with the ability to name colors and shapes is second to none. But I guess you may already know most of what I'm telling you."
Levi quickly nodded. "I do. What did you find out that's new and going to slap me in the face as a wake up call."
The man observed as Hange quieted down even further, the muscles in her face going lax. She then turned and glanced at the iced syringe, letting out a distressed sigh. "The real – strange stuff began when I studied Rogue's blood. What I found is troubling."
Levi's thin brows elevated slightly, glancing back at the titan to see his ears flicker again. "What do you mean troubling?" He demanded, voice barely above a pin drop.
"Well, firstly I found an odd substance in Rogue's blood that isn't in any other titan's and it looks like it's – flammable. I tried boiling it at the temperature of Rogue's body, but I didn't get a single spark. I'm suspecting that whatever it is must ignite at an incredibly high temperature. The second thing I found is what really made me begin to question and theorize. Levi, I think I may know how old Rogue is – or his species at least."
More interest suddenly began to grow within him. "Let me guess. Rogue really is an overgrown baby and his breed is as new as they come."
Hange gulped. "No. It's not. I was running some DNA comparisons between Rogue and a few other past titan experiments like I said and – well… Rogue's breed is ancient."
The Corporal blinked in disbelief. "Wait so you're saying Rogue is most likely a hundred years old?"
Time ticked by painfully as Hange stared at the resting beast. "It's very possible. Levi, I also found components that suggest that Rogue could be from another region rather than the area outside of Maria – like incredibly far. Those two finds in particular just gave us more unanswerable questions. Rogue's species is old, he himself may be close, is, or over a hundred years old. Since he's the only titan of his kind we've ever seen, it leads me to two theories. One being that Rogue was somehow separated from the rest of his kind and somehow ended up in Maria – or was walled in. The other theory is that Rogue's species is almost extinct and Rogue is the last of his kind."
Levi's face tensed at the news, crossing his arms as he thought. His icy eyes then caught Hange's throat bobbing nervously. An idea then came to mind. "The two skinless titans that we've seen, do you think they're intelligent?"
His words pulled Hange from her observation of the titan before them. "I've been thinking about that as well since the attack on Trost. I highly believe that both the Colossal and Armored Titan have a degree of intelligence like Rogue – except they are hostile. If I could ever get a sample I would know for sure. It does make since though."
Levi's brows furrowed. "Is it possible that the skinless titans came from the same region as Rogue's species?"
Hange was still. "I don't know. We may never know. But as far as Rogue goes, he's still a big mystery for the most part. His memories from before he got into Maria are lost and he'll likely never recollect them. It's so sad." She concluded as she rested her gaze onto the gentle titan. "But at least he's happy."
Levi remained speechless as he joined Hange in watching the slumbering behemoth. Rogue shifted slightly, purring quietly as he nuzzled further into his 'self per claimed' babies. The titan exhaled deeply, rustling the straw and blowing a few feathers to his boots. In light of everything, a questioning thought came to the Corporal's mind.
'What the hell happened to you?'