The outliner district of Shiganshina bustled with activity at the rise of the sun. Everything went on as it usually did, a pattern that had not been disrupted in nearly a century. Sure, it wasn't as glamorous as the interior cities of the three walls with its wooden and lacquer buildings, but it was leaps and bounds better than nothing. Still, like most of the lesser districts, it was always plagued with problems – something that mankind had grown very familiar with over the years. However, it was home.
Armin sat with Mikasa on the Jaeger's doorstep eating breakfast, a simple loaf of bread, but thankful for nonetheless. The blonde glanced over at the girl who was reticently picking at the crust on her bread. Quite a bit had happened in the following week after her parents' murder. Amazingly, the Jaegers had taken in Mikasa with open arms. Armin had known Mrs. Carla and Dr. Grisha Jaeger since he had been small. The family name was well known amongst Shiganshina despite the couple not being nobles. Dr. Jaeger was incredibly inapt in medicine and medical practices. He was always making house calls, but his biggest feat that everyone knew the doctor for was his success in curing a deadly plague that had swept through Shiganshina a while back. Dr. Jaeger was a soft spoken and mild mannered man; to those who knew him well he was also a quiet and reserved person – the opposite of his wife Carla. Mrs. Jaeger was a beautiful woman with a warm personality- the ideal mother figure. It was no surprise to Armin that the Jaegers would accept Mikasa as their daughter. For one, they had known each other well. Two, being that Carla was unable to have children. Although, Mikasa had a new family, Armin was worried for her. Since that night, the young girl was still stoic. She still remained somewhat restricted, only talking about things other than the events of the incident – except for the only thing they had kept between themselves, the titan.
In the past week, Armin had found himself in denial. His mind could not decide if Rogue was truly real and a miracle – or a severe illusion brought upon by trauma. Sure there was the evidence such as the scarf, but Armin's mind wanted to believe otherwise. His doubts about the titan had all began three days prior during a special lesson at school:
Armin sat in silence at the back of the small schoolhouse in Shiganshina, listening intently as his teacher introduced the uniformed guests, Scouting Legion members. Every great once in a while, different soldiers from different military branches would come to educate and persuade students to join the cadets when they came of age. Usually during these visits, Armin would do his best to ignore them and read a book in secret, but the Scouts were different. Though they were often ridiculed, they were the very few that were brave enough fight titans and venture beyond the walls. It was Armin's dream to break free of humanity's cage and see everything the world had to offer. Perhaps one day, the Scouts could give him the chance.
The boy watched eagerly as the teacher gestured to the two officers. The first was Section Commander Hange Zoe, an energetic looking woman who seemed to be a bit of an oddball. She had very oily and messy hair that bounced every time she rocked excitedly on her heels and glasses that hugged her face. The man next to next to her was none other than Captain Levi, Humanity's Strongest Soldier. Everyone had always said that he was a brigade all himself and the way he slayed titans was legendary. To Armin, so far Levi did not seem to meet his expectations. He was a short-statured man with a black undercut and he wore an ugly scowl upon his stony face – making it painfully obvious he'd rather be elsewhere.
As Levi retreated to a seat in the front corner in both exasperation and boredom, Hange began lecturing with great enthusiasm about the Scouts but even more so about the biology of titans. Both Armin and Mikasa listened intently as the Section Commander informed them of their encounters and even about her experiments with titans. While time passed on as she spoke, Armin kept Rogue on his mind. The more he heard Hange go on, the more he became skeptical. The titan in the cove was truly unique.
"So! Do any of you have any questions?" The officer concluded with a few minutes to spare. "Don't be shy! I'm not a biter!" Hange laughed with her eyes shining deviously.
Not surprisingly, very few students raised their hands – the majority not wishing to sit through Hange's constant abuse of knowledge. After she answered their questions merrily, Armin brought up the courage to raise his hand.
"How about you then!" Hange gestured to him. "You'll be the last person." She smiled widely as she waited almost impatiently.
Armin slowly stood from his seat, biting his lip nervously. "Ms. Hange – have the Scouts ever heard of an intelligent titan? One that wouldn't want to eat humans?" He asked, his voice nearly catching in his throat a few times.
The room grew quiet and Armin could sense Mikasa eyeballing him harshly. He felt his cheeks heat up and more questioning eyes upon him. The silence and tension in the room was broken when Levi scoffed and stood, simply walking out of the room in disgust. Hange continued to speculate, rubbing her scalp and staring at the floor before looking to Armin.
"During the years that we've ventured outside the walls, the Scouts have never encountered any titans that displayed intelligence." She began; suddenly serious which was a definite change from before. " Quite frankly, from the evidence we've seen, we don't think it's possible – especially a titan that wouldn't feel the need to eat us." Hange paused, now rubbing her chin. "An intelligent titan would be incredibly dangerous." She informed with a long pensive sigh. "But if a docile one were to ever exist, I would love to study it! A girl can dream right?"
Armin's train of thought was cut off by a sudden sigh from Mikasa. She had since placed her bread in her lap. He swallowed roughly for she only gazed ahead in silence – her breathing almost undetectable.
"Armin?" Mikasa began as she still kept her line of sight forward. "I want to go to the forest – to visit Rogue again." She spoke softly with Armin barely able to perceive the last part of her sentence.
Hearing her, he stalled in taking another bite of bread. The blonde knew that Mikasa was bound to ask the question, and he had almost been dreading it. Armin gulped, unsure of how to place and organize his opinion. "Mikasa, with what happened in class the other day – I'm not sure."
At his words, she turned her head sharply to face him, her eyes lit up in question. "What do you mean?" Mikasa asked almost defensively.
Armin bit his tongue fretfully, still trying to untangle his words. "Well, I've been wondering about it since I asked Hange my question. Mikasa – I'm not sure but I'm starting to think that we may have just been in so much shock that we imagined Rogue. I mean, you heard it – an intelligent titan is impossible." Armin muttered, watching as Mikasa's eyes abruptly illuminated with a dangerous glint. "For all we know, you could have just got that scarf from Mrs. Car –
"No." She interrupted sternly. "Armin, I know you tend to doubt things such as yourself, but what happened that night was real." Mikasa spoke seriously with her eyes narrowed at the blonde in revulsion. "Rogue was real. He gave me my scarf. He kept us warm all night from the freezing rain. Most importantly, Rogue saved us from an uncertain future – from men that would likely do the very same they did to us to someone else." The dark haired girl continued, clutching her crimson scarf in a stronghold as she spoke passionately. "Armin, you know that night was real. Trust me, I was questioning myself after class as well, but the fact that we both experienced the same thing is undeniable that there really is a titan living within Wall Maria right under the military's nose. You've surrounded yourself with a false theory in order to suppress what really happened." Mikasa sighed bitterly, but then softening as she noticed that Armin had brought his knees to his chest with his face buried in his arms. Mikasa knew this was a pose that he would only make when he was distraught. The girl let out a breath as she leaned over and placed her hand upon his shoulder, the first expression of encouragement that she herself had conveyed since that fateful night. After several tense seconds, Armin looked to her, the girl's grey eyes presenting a long absent warmth. "Come on. Let's get a picnic together and head to the forest. Hopefully we can find the cove or Rogue himself."
Armin loosened as he saw a weak smile upon Mikasa's face, making him feel culpable. Though it was small, it was nice to see her smile again.
"Okay." Armin nodded as he stood to his feet. "Let's go."
The boulder's texture was incredibly smooth to the touch, worn from weather and time. Although it weighed several tons, it felt like a pebble in his palm as he gently tossed it repeatedly in boredom. The titan sat in the middle of a shady clearing in the remote part of the forest, trying to entertain himself. It was a warm day, the warmest day of springtime thus far and the forest was bustling with activity. Every animal had emerged from hibernation with many of them crowded around or beneath Rogue's massive form, but he paid little attention to them. In the past week since he had met his little ones, the titan had been patiently waiting for them to return. With each passing day, he was starting to give up hope.
Rogue let out a sigh, steam leaking from his teeth as he paused in tossing the rock. The titan's ears drooped a bit as he continued to let himself get lost in his own depression. With his humans away and now his little ones, Rogue had finally realized after the many years that he had spent in the forest that he was truly alone. Sure, he had his animals, but humans could convey thoughts and feelings. Though he was mostly mute and sometimes had trouble understanding things, he craved the kind of attention where if he responded – the other would reply back.
The titan finally dropped the boulder dejectedly to the ground, the weight of the stone creating a crater in the earth. For a long moment, it was silent as Rogue continued to wallow until he lay back onto the grassy forest floor. The titan placed his hands over his sensitive nape, the only part of his body that the doctor had told him to be extra weary of, in a fashion similar to what he had seen resting humans do. Rogue's green eyes fluttered bit as he stared upward at the peeking sky, letting the descending rays warm his leathery skin. Releasing steam once again in a small-disgruntled growl, the titan shut his eyes and proceeded in wondering about his true purpose.
"Well there you are my dear, Rogue."
The titan's eyes flew open in shock; he knew that sweet voice anywhere. He remained still for a moment, contemplating if it was just his imagination until he tilted his head back. Although viewing from the wrong way up, Rogue's eyes widened at the sight of Mrs. Carla standing before his nose with the doctor next to her. He had been so distracted by his thoughts that their scents had slipped by him. Feeling himself tremble eagerly, the titan rolled over onto his stomach to face the two. Shoving his previous thoughts to the back of his mind, Rogue let out a loud rumbling purr as he pressed his face against the petite woman in longing – nearly knocking Carla off her feet. Finally, after so long, his humans were here!
"Ooof! Well it looks like someone is a bit excited!" The woman gasped, smiling warmly as she patted the titan's nose. "I take it that you missed us?"
Rogue gave an enthusiastic nod in return before nuzzling into Carla again in a much more gentle manner. As best as she could, the female hugged the creature's nose, the titan's heat soaking all throughout her body. In return, Rogue carefully wrapped his fingers around Carla with utter softness – knowing that in the past he was too rough and had pulled her tiny muscles on accident. The doctor smiled.
"Looks like he's controlling his strength well, too." Grisha chuckled softly. "I'm proud of you Rogue. You've been practicing."
At the man's words, the biddable titan gave his best smile he could form his jaw into. Before the man could react, Rogue decided to share his affection with his other human as well – by giving him a sudden lap across the man's face, an action the titan admittedly had trouble suppressing when his contentment reached its peak. With the force of Rogue's abnormally long tongue, Grisha stumbled to the grass with his face coated in hot saliva and his glasses resting next to him. Carla laughed warmly, a sound that was incredibly pleasing to Rogue, as she helped her husband to his feet.
"That," The doctor began with a sickened grunt. "Is something that we're going to have to work on." Grisha continued as he wiped his face and glasses
"He's just happy to see us, dear." The amber-eyed woman beamed tenderly. "It's been such a long time since our last visit so let it slide."
Seeing that the doctor had rejected his display, Rogue's elfish ears wilted a bit until the man's mouth became a weak smile. The titan purred, knowing that the human had forgiven his antics. Still, he could feel his face heat up slightly in embarrassment. Why was it that he always seemed to lose himself in his feelings with his longtime humans? But of course, the titan didn't care. His human companions were the only ones that he could express himself with.
"So!" Carla smiled as her small hands proceeded in scratching Rogue beneath his chin with the titan's eyes shutting tightly and ears flickering in complete content. "Have you been working on your talking lately?" She giggled.
"CcurrrLA!" The titan practically chirped, obviously proud of his difficult accomplishment. Carla's smile grew as she praised him; to her the fifteen-meter titan was like the son she never had. Ever since their initial meeting, the couple had always treated Rogue like he was their own child – with incredibly special arrangements and needs. Titan or not, the two didn't care. They loved him all the same.
"Carla, you know his vocal chords aren't suited for such a thing." Grisha grinned softly as he approached the titan and gave a pat on his cheek, with the creature beginning to purr from the added attention. "It's painful for Rogue to do so." The doctor reminded kindly with Carla replying with a slightly disappointed sigh.
"It would be incredible if he could though. Imagine the things he could possibly tell us." Carla responded, her mind obviously drifting off as she looked into the titan's green eyes with longing.
"Anyways, I was on my way to a house call when I mentioned you Rogue, to Carla. When she found out that we were passing through the area, she had to tag along to visit." Grisha continued warmly. "So how have you been old friend? It's been quite a while. I apologize that Carla and I have been unable to come to the cove for so long, work has been busy."
Recognizing the words: friend, work, and Grisha's apology, Rogue gave a slight nod and began to make a variety of happy and understanding grunts and rumbles all the while the titan gleamed. The doctor and Carla would sometimes meet him on the way to a client. In the past, Rogue had wanted to tag along with them, but of course he only followed and watched from a safe distance for obvious reasons. The titan felt a little bit of sadness and disappointment pulling at him again, knowing that these kinds of visits were always short.
With a soft thump, Rogue rested his chin upon his folded arms, getting settled as the doctor's wife approached the titan again. Carla then grabbed locks of the titan's hair, not caring that it was oily, and parted it from the creature's deformed face. "Rogue," Carla began softly as if she was speaking to an infant. "What were you thinking about before we got here? You looked a little troubled."
With Carla's query sinking in, Rouge's gaze ventured down at his hands. The titan hated for his humans to worry about his well being. He knew his humans were busy and didn't always have the time to pick up whatever they were doing and visit. The titan's mind then thought about his little ones. Surely they would fill the void when it came to his loneliness. However, as much as he loved his humans, he wasn't sure –
Rouge's thoughts were abruptly stopped when he felt a firm prick. Out of the corner of his eye, he spied Carla holding his earlobe and smiling in an almost playful manner.
"You're hiding something, Rogue!" The woman chortled tenderly. "The tips of your big ears are red!"
The titan scoffed, secretly scolding himself for another one of his strange quirks. This one bothered him the most although the titan didn't have secrets to often keep. One thing for certain, he didn't want his humans to know about his little ones and that he was the one to rescue them. That night, he had broken his promise to the couple, to not kill humans among other things. Rogue did not want his best friends to be ashamed of him. He didn't want them to be so angry that they stopped their visits. The titan responded with a soft gurgle, trying to reassure the female that there was nothing wrong. The doctor then let out a prolonged sigh.
"Carla, like I said, he can't convey anything to us." Grisha spoke, his voice heavy and melancholy. "All we can do is try to comfort him through whatever it is that's disturbing him."
At the man's statement, Carla gave a short sigh and nod knowing very well that her husband was right. To reassure his humans and hoping to change the subject, the titan pressed his face into her small body again and released another series of rumbling purrs. For a long moment, it was still as Carla continued to rub the bridge of Rogue's hooked nose. An Awkward silence fell upon the peaceful clearing and surrounded the three with tension. Suddenly, the woman's eyes lit up again and she turned to the doctor with a hopeful look upon her face.
"Maybe one day we can bring your new little sister to visit you, Rogue." Carla began with her tone an almost devious one. Confused at her statement, the titan's brow raised with the other slightly furrowed. Quite a long time ago, his human had told him that she was unable to make another human for some strange reason. Thus, that was the cause of why they sometimes called him their son. The doctor had taught him words and titles used to describe a family. Although he forgot most of the words, he knew what "sister" meant. Rogue's massive green eyes looked hard at Carla in question. Could she possibly be able to make more humans now?
The titan's obvious dumbfounded expression provoked a lighthearted laugh from both Grisha and Carla. The doctor then cleared his throat, a traditional practice before he was to explain something of importance. "What Carla means is that we took in a little girl whose mother and father were killed, Rogue. Her name is Mikasa Ackerman. She lives with us now and is part of our family." The doctor informed gradually, making sure the words were absorbed and understood.
With that, the titan's eyes widened. Mikasa! That was his little one's name! His humans had made her their human! Rogue swallowed, feeling the tips of his ears grow hotter and redder; the titan pressed them further against his skull in a poor way to hide them. Knowing this, a wave of uncertainty washed over the creature. The last thing he wanted was for his little one to get in trouble as well! To steer the couple away from the truth, the titan simply gave a slow blink and grunted. Much to his relief, it worked.
"Of course," the doctor continued. "That won't happen for a while. Now, my appointment time is approaching so Carla and I must get going. Of course, you're welcome to follow us Rogue." Grisha paused with a small smirk. "If you like you can give us a ride to the tree line."
Hearing the doctor's words, Rogue chirruped cheerfully as he sat up and placed an open hand before his two humans. Once they were securely in his palm, the titan arose to his full height, placed them on his shoulder, and went in the direction the doctor desired. As his footsteps vibrated throughout the wood, his humans talked quietly amongst themselves. The elfish ears of the monster angled accordingly in an attempt to pick up their human tongue, but although he was able to hear, Rogue could not understand a single word. Therefore, the titan returned to his thoughts. Now that one of his little ones was with his humans, the titan decided that he wanted to give no indication of their friendship in fear of he, Armin, and Mikasa getting in trouble. In the pit of his stomach, he hoped that his little ones would keep him a secret, too. To humans, two children with a terrifying fifteen-meter titan was an alarming idea.
Rogue kept to his thoughts as he weaved through the towering trees, completely unaware of his humans that were smiling up at his red ears.
A loud growl erupted from Armin's stomach as both he and Mikasa fought their way through the thick brambles. The sun had peaked at its highest point in the sky, signaling that it was noon and lunchtime. For almost two hours, the children had been wandering through the forest, trying their hardest in retracing the titan's steps back to the cove. By now, Armin and Mikasa were exceptionally famished. Many times, the blonde suggested that they take a break to sit and eat, but the girl was stubborn – insisting that they get to their destination first.
Armin let out another sigh for the umpteenth time. The more that they went along, the more he doubted that the cove and titan were real. So far, their journey just seemed completely pointless. The two had to backtrack numerous times and rethink their steps. Still, there was no sign of the high rocks that formed the secret cove and Armin was giving up hope.
"Mikasa." He began solemnly. "I think we should head back to Shiganshina. Dr. Jaeger and Mrs. Carla could be on their way back by now."
The dark haired girl only huffed in annoyance and pressured forward. "Come on Armin. It's not much further." Mikasa spoke sternly with her eyes remaining in a fixed glare ahead.
He sighed. "This is hopeless."
Mikasa paused in her step to face the boy. "Armin, believe in something for –
However she was cut off as the two stumbled into a rocky clearing covered in moss and flowers. It was a beautiful yet mysterious scene, life flourished here more than any other part of the forest that they had come across. Small mammals and reptiles scurried among the boulders, paying no mind to their new visitors. In the center of the landscape were the rocky walls that surrounded the secret cove, hidden greatly by the massive trees and their tangling root systems.
"Looks like we finally found it." Mikasa began as she carefully ventured forward, careful not to fall on the rocks.
As he warily followed his ascetic friend, deep down Armin could not help but feel a sense of hope. If the cove was real then perhaps the titan was too. Maybe that entire night that was seemingly a dream was indeed true. He looked upwards to the entrance, an incredibly high climb that was impossible for two eight year olds.
"I forgot about that." Mikasa muttered from beneath her scarf. "I don't know if he's here to help us either." She concluded as she began to call the titan's name, her small voice echoing off the rocks in an almost derisible way. Several minutes passed, but the footsteps of the giant could not be heard among the wood. Mikasa sighed in great disappointment, her hands drooping to her sides. "Perhaps he can't hear us. Maybe he's asleep or something. There has got to be another way in. " The girl pondered aloud as her grey eyes scanned the rock wall.
Armin bit his lip, still wanting to believe that Rogue wasn't an illusion, he began to scrutinize the natural structure. "There has to be an opening other than that one." He started with the raven-haired girl turning from her observations to listen. "There were deer and other animals in the cove right? They are coming and going somehow so there must be a small entrance somewhere in the seams." The boy suggested. He knew he lacked strength, but Armin was strategically smarter than nearly everyone. Knowing this, Mikasa nodded in agreement.
"You're probably correct. Come on Armin, let's hurry." She spoke eagerly, but still not lighting up in excitement.
The two small children then began to circle the perimeter of the cove, looking for any clues to an opening in the impenetrable rock. Just as all seemed lost, Armin spotted a narrow crack in the stone. If it had not been for his keen eyes, the boy would have missed it for it was nearly covered in vines. The boy swallowed nervously as they neared the opening, hoping their search had not come to a dead end. Mikasa then bravely entered the small fissure. Before Armin let out another sigh in defeat, the girl turned and waved for him to follow her without so much a word. The two small children navigated the trifling tunnel easily, guided by a bright light at the very end. Mikasa and Armin then emerged from the tunnel into the mysterious cove that they longed to enter.
"It's just as I remember it." The girl whispered behind the security of her scarf. The two then began to venture further into the scenery, soaking in its radiance openly. Just as it had been before, it represented a picture perfect fairy tale with the abundant wildlife and blooming flowers. However, the main attraction of the cove was nowhere to be seen.
"Looks like he's not here." Armin began after a long moment of contemplating the facts and theories. The boy's head hug a bit. Perhaps the scientist from the Scouts had been right. With the great being absent, his hope was hanging by a thread. Just as Mikasa spun around to defy his words, a vibration swept throughout the earth. The two kept silent, watching the water ripple in the pond. A deep repetitive thumping filled the air, sounding like a vast heartbeat – loud and great. Armin's heart leaped into his throat as he realized what was coming. From the corner of his eye, he spied a smile creep into Mikasa's impassive face.
"For once Armin, you're wrong." The girl beamed as they observed small rocks and pebbles get dislodged from the entrance.
In awe, both Mikasa and Armin watched as the titan from before emerged from the sheltered entrance. Unaware that the two small children were there, Rogue carefully scaled down the rock face to the grassy floor with ease. The titan then scratched his thigh to satisfy an itch before turning to meet eyes with the boy and girl. A smile spread across Armin's face at the sight of the titan before him. Quickly, he pinched himself to ensure that he wasn't dreaming before concluding that everything had really transpired and it was truly a miracle.
Rogue continued to stare at the two children in what was definite shock for several gratifying seconds. Suddenly, the titan let out a shrill sound resembling a squeal and charged right for the small humans. Instinctively, Armin covered his head in protection. Perhaps he had come to conclusions too soon. The titan then landed on all fours over the two, knocking both Mikasa and Armin from their feet and making the cove tremble. Hot, foul, and steamy breath spilled over the two forms as Rogue's face became just a few feet from them, a stance that would make a normal titan's victim soil their pants and plead for mercy. Slowly, Armin opened his eyes to see the titan's luminous green ones that were glowing with warmth. The two smiled, the titan looked elated to see them.
"H…hi?" Armin articulated, his voice surprisingly shaky.
Hearing the greeting, the titan swiftly nuzzled his head gently into them, making a variety of cheerful squeaks and rumbles; paying no mind to his size or how ridiculous the unfolding scene looked.
"Looks like he remembers us." The girl spoke kindly with her face softening a bit and the tension flowing from her body, looking at peace with herself despite all of the inner turmoil that had been placed there a week ago. Armin watched as Mikasa laid her hand on the tip of the titan's nose with the creature closing its bright eyes in content. Within the short time that they had known each other, the titan and Mikasa had created quite a bond that could rival a couple or a pair of longtime friends that had known each other through thick and thin.
"Yeah," Armin trailed off as he watched them. "Mikasa, I believe it now. Despite what Hange said, he's real and a miracle." The boy smiled as he got to his feet with his friend simply nodding and giving a cunning look in reply as if to rub it in further that she had been right.
Carefully, Rogue lifted himself and then gradually settled into a comfortable position upon his stomach with his arms folded neatly in front of him. The titan then rested his head upon his muscular arms to peer at the children with incredible interest, looking like he was waiting for them to make the next move or say something else. Now that the boy was just a few arm lengths away, Armin found himself looking in amazement at the details of titan's face. Although it was equally ugly and horrifying, it was astounding to view. Rogue's complexion was a deep tan, the skin tough looking from exposure to the elements over a course of many years. Beneath the tough hide of the titan, Armin spotted a network of veins that shone through in various areas of the titan's skin, their structure far different from any living creature that he had ever seen. Curious, Armin raised his hand to the titan's flesh, feeling the leathery texture and heat beneath his fingers as he traced over one of the veins in the creature's face. The blonde watched as Rogue kept his astonishing eyes upon him. Despite the titan's looks, those green emerald eyes were gorgeous. Seeing them up close, Armin noticed how the titan lacked eyelashes and eyebrows although Rouge had a full head of messy and oily hair, the dark rings around his eyes emphasizing the titan's expressions instead.
Suddenly, the titan lurched forward again; it's wet tongue emerging from its lipless maw, as it looked like it was about to give them a sloppy greeting much like a dog. Again, Armin winced as he prepared for the unpleasant experience along with Mikasa, but just as the large muscle was about to coat them in saliva, the creature's tongue retreated back into its mouth with just the tip sticking out from its teeth. Rogue then produced a rumbling purr in exchange; giving them a more appropriate greeting that Armin was thankful for.
"It's really nice to see you again as well, Rogue." The boy began as he too, let himself relax and his troubles flow from his body. "For a long time, my mind was trying to tell me that you weren't real and you were just a dream. But seeing you here has convinced me that you're not an illusion but a wonder in itself."
Rogue responded with a low but understanding growl. The titan then forced his mouth into another crooked smile and unfolded one of his lean arms. A large finger pressed into Armin's belly gently, making the boy wonder about the beast's next move. The two children watched as the titan began to focus.
"Arr… Arrninn." Rogue grunted, making the boy light up enthusiastically at the titan's attempt. "ARninn!" He smiled, like a child proud of their accomplishment. The titan then turned to Mikasa and repeated the same notion with his finger. Rogue's face then twisted up in concentration, letting out a few failed attempts. Armin almost chuckled. Exotic as she was, Mikasa's name would be incredibly difficult to pronounce for the titan lacking lips, but Rogue looked far too determined. Although he clearly couldn't pronounce the letter 'm' he tried anyway. "NNiiikaa. Niikaassa. Niikassa!" Rogue practically chirped, satisfied enough that the name was close. The titan let out another rumble as he tilted his head, looking at her expectedly much like a dog waiting to be praised.
The raven-haired girl then stepped forward, and with no regard as to what Rogue was, placed her head affectionately upon the titan's pronounced chin with the titan almost flinching in surprise.
The two small children sat upon an old blanket that Armin had pulled from the depths of the Jaeger's closet, eating lunch and talking amongst themselves. Rogue lay next to them; simply content at observing the two eat. Armin scrutinized as the titan began to look around the cove curiously, the first time Rogue had removed his focus from the two since they had first sat down. Armin took another bit of his bread, watching as the titan's attention was drawn to a small butterfly before his face – Rogue watching it in wonder with his ears angling about.
"You know Mikasa. I can't decide if he acts like a puppy or like an overgrown kid." Armin spoke beneath his breath as the small flying insect landed on the titan's nose. The boy almost chuckled as Rogue's eyes crossed to look at the minuscule bug, his irises full of inquisitiveness and making the monster look like the most innocent being. Armin could feel his smile grow bigger. The titan, if he wasn't so grisly, could almost be called cute.
"Like you said Armin, he has to be a different type of titan or something. The Section Commander of the Scouts stated that this kind of behavior is unheard of." Mikasa began as Rogue breathed a breath of steam, watching as the butterfly fell to the ground from the intense heat. The titan let out a quiet grown in what seemed like disappointment before turning back to the two children to try and listen to their words. "He's just different." Mikasa smiled to the titan. "Rogue's unique."
Armin nodded in agreement and then put his attention to the titan once more, suddenly drawing up another theory about one of his questions on the fifteen-meter that needed an answer. "Rogue?" The blonde began with the titan turning his gaze at his words, the creature tilting its head at Armin's query. "I know you can speak. You can say your name and our names, but can you say other words?" He asked hopefully, wanting to know desperately.
Rogue shifted, lifting his head a bit higher and brows furrowing in concentration. The titan then gestured to the two children again with a finger. "UUmmann. Huumann." Rogue grunted, making their eyes grow larger. He then turned and pointed to himself, the creature's thyroid shifting. "Iitann. Tiitann." Rogue spoke deeply, making Armin's breath hitch.
'It's so self aware that it knows exactly what it is. It knows exactly what we are as well.' Armin pondered as the titan continued.
'Someone. Some one had to –
'Someone had to teach him.'
"Trreeee. Allll." Rouge continued as he showed and gestured, his voice growing more gruff and strained. After the two simple words 'sun' and unfortunately the word 'kill' the titan stopped and began to massage his throat – his attempts obviously causing anguish. Armin blinked in disbelief, his new theory had to be right.
"Mikasa, most likely we are not the only humans he knows." The boy began with Mikasa absorbing his words like a sponge. "Someone had to teach Rogue how to talk and some general knowledge."
Mikasa bit her lip. "What if he only heard people from a distance? Like he could have just listened in on their conversations."
Armin shook his head in disagreement. "Mikasa, someone had to name him."
The girl's eyes widened at the fact. The ground shifted and quaked as Rogue suddenly decided to get to his feet, stretching a bit before making his way toward the pond. The children observed as the titan carefully seated himself against a tree, taking a moment to scratch his broad back on the bark like a bear before settling. The titan then fully relaxed with his green eyes half lidded as he stared at the sparkling water.
"I sure wish I knew his story." Mikasa uttered after a long and pensive moment of silence. The girl quickly ate the last of her bread and stood. She then motioned for the titan, with her body language as still as it had been. To his amazement, Mikasa gradually climbed into the titan's lap with the fifteen-meter looking down at her in likeness. The girl shifted and lay herself into a position where it looked like she was preparing for an afternoon nap, the titan's skin pulled to where it looked as if he was smiling softly in tenderness. Several minutes passed and Mikasa looked to have drifted off with the titan still watching the water and all the life within it.
Armin's attention was then thrown to the picnic basket that the two had also borrowed from the Jaegers. The boy pulled out his favorite book that his grandfather had given him long ago and had told him to keep secret. It was an old banned book that told of what was outside the walls. Armin had always loved to bring it with him on trips inside Wall Maria to have something to read once he grew bored. Looking back at the titan, the small boy had an idea.
The titan simply could not believe his day's luck. His humans had come to visit and now his little ones were in his cove! His depression had returned after he had dropped off his humans at their destination, but when he heard a small and pleading voice – his anticipation grew in hope that he wasn't imagining things. Seeing the two children before him, Rogue had been so overjoyed that he nearly lost control on his excitement. For the moment, he wasn't alone.
The titan sat quietly, soaking in the peace, tranquility, and sunlight as he watched the sparking crystal-like surface of his pond. He had been intrigued by his little ones' activities upon the cloth. Although he couldn't understand most of what they were saying, he was happy just to be with them and even happier when they asked him to join in on their human tongue. Soon after, Rogue had decided that he wanted his little ones to join him in one of his favorite activities. Unsure of how to ask, he had simply gotten up and moved to the pond, hoping that his little ones would soon accompany him. The titan adverted his eyes from the pond to his lap where the little girl lay asleep, indulging from his warmth. Rogue could not help but release a pleased rumble. He was happy that this little one, Mikasa, had come to be with him. Although she was asleep, he was glad she was in his company. The titan then returned his attention to the water, watching the swimming creatures in avid curiosity and amazement as he waited.
"So you like to watch the water?"
Rogue's ear flickered at the small voice. The titan then turned to see that the blonde boy had taken a seat next to him in the exact same fashion, looking up to him and expecting some sort of answer. Taking one last glance at the water's sparkling surface, Rogue nodded eagerly in reply.
The titan watched as Armin suddenly smiled. His little one then pulled out a square object that he recognized with clarity. His humans would sometimes come to his cove to do something called 'reading' to him. They had also given him a few of these objects to him as gifts that the titan loved looking at. Despite being unable to read, he always admired the pictures upon the pages – humans were such adroit creatures.
"I'd like to show you something Rogue." Armin began excitedly as he prepared to open the aged cover.
"OOok." The titan grunted as he pointed to the object in his little one's arms. He watched as the boy's brows rose in astonishment.
"You – know what a book is?" His little one asked.
Rogue gave an enthusiastic dip of his head and pointed next to the great tree. Any object that the creature found on his treks around the forest, he would return and place it next to his nest for safekeeping along with the various gifts from his humans. Excited that his little one was going to share his own book with him, the titan prepared to stand. Not wanting to disturb his other little one, Rogue gently shifted Mikasa into his hand and cradled her tenderly but securely. Determined to share his own books that his humans had shown him, the titan got to his feet and made his way to his pile with an extra spring in his step. After a bit of digging through all sorts of odds and ends, Rogue salvaged three books and carried them back to the pond. The titan gradually sat back down, placing his little one back in his lap before plopping his own books next to Armin. "OOk." Rogue repeated with a happy gurgle.
His little one's eyes grew even larger in question as his small hands retrieved each of them. The boy began to flip through the pages of every book with the titan observing patiently, waiting for his little one to perform the task of reading. Surprisingly, Armin closed the cover to the book in his hands without speaking a word, making Rogue tilt his head in question – somewhat disappointed.
"I recognize these." His little one smiled up at him. "They are children's books. My – mom and dad used to read these to me." The boy spoke, his voice becoming strained and his face falling into a disheartened expression.
Sensing that his little one was upset, the titan gave a soft moan in concern. Could he have somehow upset him by mistake? Before the titan could question or pity himself further, Armin abruptly perked up – looking at Rogue's sad green eyes in surprise.
"Oh, it's alright. You didn't do anything Rogue. It's just that my parents disappeared years ago." The boy paused, thinking for a moment before holding up the old, thick book that he brought. "That's enough of that though. I see that you really like water so I want to show you something." His little one beamed as he opened the worn cover.
As the blonde human flipped through the pages, the titan's eyes grew with great interest. He had never seen such beauty beyond his forest. In fact, he hadn't recalled ever seeing landscapes like these before. There were pictures of bare hills covered in deep red earth, mountains of ice, and many others depicting furry four-legged creatures that he had not seen before. The titan let out a trill, completely in awe. Finally, his little one stopped on a page that displayed the most incredible image yet. It was glittering water, but instead of ending like his pond, lake, or river the water stretched far beyond the horizon. It went on and on forever. The titan had never seen anything more amazing.
"This book shows what the world is like outside the walls." His little one began enthusiastically. "This water is something that we call the ocean! It spans all over the earth and it's filled with something we call salt. It's also full of fish like your pond but several times bigger." Armin continued with the titan listening so intently that he was nearly bent over. "Someday – I'm going to see it." The boy concluded after several minutes of describing and informing.
Rogue could feel himself forming a broad smile. This water called the ocean sounded amazing. With sparkling waters further than the horizon, it was something that the titan now desperately wanted to see for himself – an idea that made him purr at the thought. At first, he was so lost in wonder that he failed to acknowledge his little one's tap on his thigh. Rogue then looked to see that Armin was looking up to him with uncertainly again. However, the blonde's expression quickly changed for the better.
"Well Rogue, I'm very happy that I can share this book with you. Would you like to know more?" Armin asked hopefully.
With that, the fifteen-meter titan released a deep rumbling hum that echoed amongst the cove and performed animated nod to proceed. For hours, Rogue sat with his little one by the banks of the pond as the boy read from his book, completely entranced at all the beauty there was in the cruel world. He loved his little ones dearly, and he would for years to come. However, little did the titan or children know disaster was yet to strike.