Chapter Fourteen:Cold and Warm
Training with Levi was, in a word.... Confusing. Perhaps because you couldn't really come up with another word to describe it. He was cold and efficient, just as he was always expected to be. And you'd lost count of the times that he had dragged you out of bed or even during the middle of eating to train, sometimes literally dragging you when you resisted. Which you often did at first out of habit and then out of bitterness.
However, despite your resistance, you secretly looked forward to your training sessions with Levi. Initially you had voiced annoyance, but that was only when he opened your door at four in the morning for almost a half hour of "warming up" (by which he meant making you run laps until your legs were numb and doing push ups until you couldn't feel your arms either) followed by an hour of the actual hand to hand combat. And one day he surprises you by extending your usual hour and a half sessions to two hours by adding an additional half hour of combat acrobatics.
The first month or so had been hell for your unprepared body. You were strong enough to endure a few things, but after the expedition your training had gone far beyond any kind of physical challenge you had faced before. Most cadets trained for three to four years before officially joining. Instead four years of training were thrust upon you in what soon became four months. As the time dragged on, your excitement faded, instead being replaced by dread and exhaustion.
You went to bed with sore limbs and woke up with heavy ones. By the time it was night again you were shaking like you'd drunk a bucket full of coffee. You could barely feed yourself, and your usually high appetite dropped unbelievably fast. Your weight dropped at an even more rapid pace.
After training ended, you dragged your beaten, cold, shuddering form into the mess hall, carelessly flinging the door open and stumbling in, the harsh winter air taking this time to burst into the room with you. You saw the heads of everyone in the room turn at the sudden rush of cold air, but you were convinced their eyes were on you. "Look at how pathetic I am. Levi, the goddamn Devil, hasn't broken a sweat and I can't even walk right."
You glare and grit your teeth, straightening yourself as best you can and stumbling in. "Look at them, I can only imagine how hilarious they're finding this. Argh, why won't they look away!?" You breathe and continue towards the table, the walk seeming even longer with all of the unflinching gazes upon you.
Suddenly Petra is there in front of you. How did she get there? You blink a little, did you miss something?
"[Y/N]? You look a little pale are you ok?" Petra has a look of concern on her face. No, no she doesn't, she's mocking you!
"Yeah, yeah." You wave your hand and pull away a little. "It's just cold."
Petra's eyebrows furrow, she's laughing at you! You just know it! "Are you sure?" She reaches out. "You're shaking!"
Oh, so she doesn't think you're strong enough on your own huh? You'll show her. "I'm fine, for the last time. Look, sadistic shortie is fine! I'm fine, we're all fine in this fine little world that is currently freezing our asses off!" You laugh sarcastically, and yet it somehow comes out as a demented cackle as you stumble back. Is that really what you sound like? Is this really your body?
"Look, see? Nothing wrong with me here!" You swear they're still laughing. Wait, where are they again? You blink, things are kind of blurry, you can't make out which table is the superior's anymore.
You walk forward, ignoring your legs that shudder as if they're about to snap. This must look hilarious for them. "See Petra? I can walk just...... fine." Finally your legs do snap underneath you. Or do you just fall? All you can feel is the sensation of falling forward and pain exploding in your knees and the rest of your body as it makes contact with the cold wood floor.
Your world continues to spin as you struggle, now on your hands and knees. You feel your insides turn in on themselves and you clutch them. With nothing left to support you, you fall onto your side.
You grasp a bench and pull yourself onto it, before your stomach does a sudden dizzying flip and you vomit onto the floor. Now your mouth burns from the vile taste of the bile and you shudder, the world spinning and spinning until it finally stops and fades from blurry to black.
As it does, you can make out shapes surrounding you and noise. But then finally the ache and noise fade along with the light, and you're enveloped in a peaceful darkness. Much better.
You come to in a comfortable bed, but also find that your headache is back and your limbs feel like they're full of lead. Not as if you feel like moving anyway.
"For crying out loud Levi, you've really gone too far now!" You recognize Hange's distinctive (loud) voice.
You hear Levi click his tongue like he always does. Well hello again human brick wall. Ugh, it feels like a brick wall crushed you, which isn't too far off. "Oh come off it Shitty glasses! She needs to learn alternatives to magic, there's almost four years of training to make up for."
"That doesn't mean cram it into four months! You're supposed to make sure she DOESN'T die! Not kill her yourself!" So you're not the only one who noticed. Hange definitely sounds angry. Angrier than you've ever seen her. Or in this case heard her.
Levi rolls his eyes, your vision is stabilizing now. "Quit being dramatic, she's alive."
"Depends on your definition of alive." You groan.
Suddenly Hange is right in your face. "[Y/N]! You're awake! Oh what a relief, are you feeling ok? Where does it hurt?"
You wince and rub your head. "Loud."
"Oh, sorry." She pulls back. "That was quite an event huh?"
"I'll bet." You grumble. "Did everyone get a good laugh in?"
"Actually," You turn your head to see Erwin, whom you didn't even notice before. "Everyone was quite concerned. I've seen a lot of cadets have a tough time, and I have to say, that definitely looked like one of the least pleasant. Several of them have asked about your condition, and Cadet Ral even came forward requesting that your workload be lessened."
You blink. They were... concerned? And Petra actually asked the superiors to lighten up. You really couldn't believe it.... They did that for you. "Wow I... didn't know."
Hange nods. "You've been out for a day or so, so if that doesn't scream 'breaking point,' I don't know what does." She chuckles and sits at the foot of your bed. "You're getting a break, and Levi has agreed to lighten up."
"Really?" You raise an eyebrow, still slightly bitter. "I thought he fed off of pain and despair."
Levi's eyes narrow. "Watch it, I'm still your superior."
"Oh leave her alone!" Hange turns to him. "You were there when she collapsed, she basically had a mental breakdown too! Who knows what mental problems you gave her."
"I already had mental problems and if that was a breakdown, you'd know." You correct her in a tired, slightly sarcastic manner. "Even if he broke my body, my mind was already all over the place."
"Aww," Hange walks over and rubs your back. "Poor thing." You aren't really sure what to think of that, so you just let her do so.
"We all have something." Levi says, completely devoid of emotion.
"Oh I can tell!" You shoot at him, despite him not provoking you. "Why else would you torture me!? How does a human mind even come up with that huh!? Oh right, you're the fucking devil!" You howl.
Everyone in the room flinches, before turning to look at Levi. He keeps his gaze locked on you before breaking it. "The rest of the day is yours, we'll continue training next week." He speaks in the same emotionless tone and exits the room.
You blink. Nothing? No icy glare, no warning, no retort? Instead of feeling some drop of satisfaction at this small form of revenge, you just want the pillow and bedsheets to swallow you whole. You almost regret lashing out.
Surprisingly, Erwin had been the mind behind your training regimine. Hange finally explained it all to you. Erwin had devised the plan to cram your training and Levi executed it on his orders, which Erwin apologized for. This new information threw you.
What you had thought was cruelty had actually been deep loyalty. Levi wasn't at all who you thought he was, but the more you thought about it the more you realized something. You had been crueler to him than he had ever been to you. And for the rest of your stay in the infirmary you mulled over this realization, as waves of guilt, shame, and regret battered against you.
Not once did Levi shift the blame to Erwin to even complain, he just shrugged off your misplaced frustrations and turned a blind eye to when you attempted to seriously injure him in training.
Upon hearing this new information from Hange you felt what could be perhaps called a newfound respect for this man, and subsequently a rush of shame for your actions in yourself. He was only following orders, he didn't deserve to bear the brunt of your frustrations. Many of which you doubted even related to him or the training in the first place.
You had never met, or even heard of such a person as the Captain. He really did deserve the title of Humanity's Strongest Soldier. And you really did deserve the title of Witch Brat.
So now you found yourself awkwardly standing in front of his office door as everyone else ate dinner in the mess hall. You shook yourself to get a grip on your nerves and knocked at his door. You almost jumped when you heard his firm voice pierce the air.
"State your name and business."
You breathe out and answer as calmly as you can. "[Y/N] [L/N]."
There is a brief pause before he responds. "And? What is your business?"
"I... I would like to speak with you, Captain." You had never really been particularly fond of using titles or honorifics to address someone, but in this moment you decided that it would be best if you did.
There was another pause before he answered. "Alright. Come in."
You enter his office, fidgeting slightly. It's just as orderly as one would expect, aside from a large stack of papers on his desk. Is that really how much paperwork the superiors have? Levi was sitting at his desk with several of the papers in hand.
"Well?" Your former tormenter, as you had once thought, looks up. "What are you here to say?" You can't help but study his face and features. Specks of light dance in his gunmetal eyes as the candle flickers and casts shadows over his already sharp, hard features. They even bring out the dark circles under his eyes that you hadn't noticed before.
By candlelight the severe, cold man is melted away to reveal a tired soldier carrying so much weight and expectation without flinching or complaining. No human deserves that, and you can see small bits of the toll it takes on him.
You feel a knot form in your gut and you look down, as the guilt intensifies and you once again hear your own harsh words ringing in your ear. If anyone caused any mental damage to someone here it was you. "May I... sit down sir?"
"Asking politely, no sarcasm, and addressing me as sir?" He sits back. "I think you should go back to the infirmary, you're either really sick or not [L/N] at all."
Maybe it was meant to be a joke but you just sit and look down, sniffling a little.
Levi immediately leans forward and you hear concern in his voice. "[L/N], are you alright?"
"I...." That deals the final blow. How can he ask such a thing after you had lashed out so harshly? You lift your head up and meet his eyes. "I'm so sorry!" You feel like crying and yet you just can't. "Hange... Hange told me how... it wasn't your idea at all to train me like that. And yet you never said otherwise. I thought you were this horrible person but really... I was." You look down and sigh.
"I don't have a good reason, or even an excuse other than I was frustrated. I took everything out on you and you didn't deserve a single bit so....." You stand up and bring one fist to your heart, the other behind your back, saluting him. "I'm so sorry sir!"
You meet his eyes and see something..... surprise. Real genuine surprise. He stands up and looks at you with the same emotionless expression he always does, except it isn't. You understand now... it never was emotionless or empty. By candlelight, you once again see more. You see his eyes. Silver grey eyes you never even paid attention to until now.
You can see... he has seen things. Many many things, things you don't doubt he would like to forget, but in the end he shoulders his burdens and battles alone. You see your own eyes... and your own flaws. You see your pain, pain you swore never to cause. And here you fear you might have broken your vow and done just that. Slowly, from your eye one single tear falls. Just one.
"At ease." He finally speaks, calmly. "I owe you an apology as well, I pushed you much farther than I should have, and I knew that. But I still did. The soldier isn't always at fault, sometimes the superior must take the blame."
"No!" You shout, your fire returning. "None of that crap! You heard me, I already have my own problems! And I took them out on you because I was a bitter immature little shit! Maybe you were rough on me, but I don't get to treat you badly either! Most of my anger wasn't even really at you! You aren't entirely at fault here, and I'm going to make sure everyone knows that, including you." You look at him more kindly. "I pushed because I thought you were pushing back. Really you were just doing your job and..." You nod determinedly. "I'll work to do mine better now."
Levi stands up and walks up to you. "I've never heard such an aggressive apology before." You don't expect anything this time. But you're still surprised when he places his hand on your shoulder. "Well said though, soldier. I meant it when I said we're all messed up. You're still adjusting, give it time. Now go eat. You need your strength." He walks back to his desk.
"And watch your language next time, you swear like a drunk teenager." He picks up his pen again. You scoff playfully and raise an eyebrow.
"This coming from you? Your favorite words is shit." You cross your arms and smirk.
"I knew the sass would be back. Finally, I was starting to think you were really sick. Go." He gestures to the door. "Take care of yourself, you have a lot of meals to make up for."
"Actually..." You pause. "I was wondering if it would be ok for me to stay."
Levi stops working and looks up with a raised eyebrow.
"You have a lot of paperwork, would it be ok if I helped you with it? That looks like it'll go late." You suggest, knowing that he, like you, responds to logical clear statements.
You can't quite tell if Levi's expression is skeptical, confused, or surprised, so you continue.
"I already ate plenty in the infirmary, Hange and Petra basically force fed me." You make a short noise of amusement. "Besides... I'm pretty good at making tea." You look at him hopefully.
He sighs. "Fine. You can stay. But you better not fool around." He nods towards the couch.
"Yes! Thank you sir!" You pump your fist and sit on the floor. He shakes his head and mumbles an, 'Of course.' You take some of the papers and light another candle.
"Also..." Levi speaks again. "I would... like some tea later."
You nod. "I can do that."
"Hm." He looks at you before going back to his work as you start yours.
There's one thing you didn't mention though. You had pushed him away on purpose before, because every time he treated you as an individual you felt warm. That was absolutely terrifying. But as the two of you worked together you found you enjoyed the warmth a lot more than you did the cold.
That might be my longest chapter so far
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