“....How long are you gonna lie there, brat?..”
The voice echoed faintly in your mind. Cold as it sounded, it was familiar to you. However, what seemed strange was how it went dry, lost of liveness, and there was a hint of miserable and gloomy that you had never expected to hear.
Where.. where am I? You wondered.
You tried to move in an aching darkness. First, your fingers. That was when the great sharp pain, like an electric shock, struck every bit of your nerves, causing you to flinch.
“Agh!...” You cried then coughed. There was something warm and bitter metallic in your mouth. Every time you breathed, the sharp pain burgeoning in you chest. But those breaths you drew proved you alive.
Heaven wasn’t so cruel after all. Feeling grateful with the fact, you released a long sigh.
Oh.. that’s right, now you remembered. That occurred shortly after you had received the retreat signal; your 3D Maneuver Gear decided to betray its owner.
The mechanism jammed and, throwing by your own momentum, you had got the merciless high-speed flight ticket downright to the destroyed city.
During the fall, you thought, this might be your last minute of life.
But it wasn’t.. Not just yet.
The impact struck you hard enough to sent you many metes away from where you first hit. In process, several ribs of yours apparently had been broken. Parts of your skin cracked open, bleeding. You had also got plenty scratches and bruises as solid memento.
It was totally no hope for someone to secure you since the retreat signal had been fired. No one was mad enough to waltz into the abandoned city roamed by Titans in all categories just to find one maybe-dead soldier in the first place.
However, in the mist of partial-consciousness, you swore you heard the furious hissing of 3D Maneuver Gear. Not far off, someone landed his or her boots on the stony ground.
And it was him, the last person you could imagine, standing besides you at this moment.
When things all came to sense, you found yourself laugh, wryly.
“What’s so damned funny? Get your ass up already,” he snapped. There was no denying the unusual agitation in his tone, even though his best attempt couldn’t quite conceal it which only managing to widen your bloody-stained smile.
“I.. had hardly expected anyone here. Honestly, sir, especially ...you.”
You slowly opened your eyes so you could get the view of Lance Corporal Levi reflected in your vision field.
“Don’t get full of yourself, [Last].” His dark eyes slit as he looked down at you. So, he had apparently regained his cool. “I was just passing by.”
Your brow raised a bit. “And.. by any chance, happened to succeed pointing me out ...of those numerous corpses?.. I supposed, sir.. you’ve got pretty sharp eyes...”
You wasn’t joking about that detail. There were numbers of fallen soldiers scattering all over the area you had been resting. With your initial stage; eyes closed, bleeding, wounded everywhere, you looked no different than a corpse yourself. It could have been a sheer miracle otherwise if someone from the bird-eyed view could figure out that much.
“Still got some shitty talk back to spare, huh?” Levi raised his manual gun. The black smoke arose toward heaven; an emergency signal.
The short man sank down on his knee beside you. His expression was as cold as ever. Seriously, Corporal, that wasn’t the one to show when acknowledging other’s injuries and bad shape, you bit back your pain as you tried to recover the posture which barely succeeded.
The next moment had come to you surprise for the corporal offered his hand.
You blinked, your impacted brain processing hard at his action. Once the result came out -- rather delayed, you became dumbfounded. “A-are you sur--?”
But the look he threw was enough to shut up your question short. “...Yes, sir,” and just took his hand.
Best known for how freak he was over cleanliness, a moment ago you had prepared yourself for some disgust he might show in his eyes. When your hand found his, however, you spotted none of if. Only some kind of anxiety and troubled, in the slightest hint, were displayed there.
Troubled, over the issue you had no idea about.
It was tough enough to keep balance on badly injured body. Your arms were intact and well functional even though had been wounded. Apart from that, your right legs hurt so much you couldn’t stand on it. Heavy pain hit pain again and again every time you moved, trying to steal your consciousness away, and you strived desperately to hold it back. Of course, you didn’t want to be a dead burden. At last, with your hard effort and Levi’s big help, you succeeded in standing up.
Yet again, your chest still hurt like hell you couldn’t even get your back straight. “T-thank you, sir..,” you murmured with a mixture of pain and relief and... a little awkward.
With his strong grip at your right hand, your arm wrapping around the back of his neck and his side supporting your weight, they kept you from falling over. That said, the proximity was also snapped close to the level of discomfort, which you found yourself feeling deeply accepted and welcome. Secretly, of course!
Geez, how shameless of me! You cursed to inwardly as your face became unusually feverish and your ears felt hot.
Levi had been wearing that not-so-cool-not-so-troubled look all this time. You had no idea on what he thought.
“Tch, just look at you. Stink. Disgusting.” Ah.. here they came; his mean compliments. “Not graceful if you ask me.”
You shook off your fluster and, despite the pain, simply drew the most playful grin you could best managed.
“But alive..., aren’t I?”
It took him few seconds before he broke their eye contact. You didn’t know what he was thinking. He neither replied nor even gave a nod. Just listened.. quietly.
Of course, how could he complain? After all, you were thoroughly right. Shitty demeanors asides, the fact that you were here, breathing, was enough to meet his satisfaction. It was unbelievable how the world seemed to fall apart when he first heard of your missing state.
“I’m leaving,” he proclaimed and Petra turned pale.
“But, Corporal, it’s extremely dangerous out there! The security squads will be on duty soo--!”
Not wasting his time for further protest, he sprang his heels, throwing himself into the ruined city once again.
Leaving you to those lowly security squads? The hell he would! -- because no one of them probably found you until it was too late. Dead or alive, he alone was the first one allowed to prove that!
Not too long after that when he finally found you, laying there, covered with blood. The gear once you had owned smashed into pieces. At first sight, he thought you were dead. Lifeless. Cold. Empty. The worst scene he wished to witness.
Back then when he whispered; “....How long are you gonna lie there, brat?..”, it was like he had forgot how to speak. His own voice became unexpectedly dry and lost..
But now it was you who told him you were alive. Talking back. Spreading that goddamned grin of yours. Hard to admit as it seemed, he felt as if he was touched by a miracle.
The call snapped Levi back to reality. Both of you looked up at the source of the sound. A small group of soldiers landed their feet firmly to the ground. Erd Jinn was one leading the team. Seeing his superior, he looked rather relieved. You noted the others wore rose emblem on their chest and they were also carrying a stretcher with them.
The Garrison Security Squad.
“So you’ve noticed my signal,” said the corporal in his steady monotone as the blond approached you two, throwing his salute.
“Yes, sir. I’m in charge of reaching your position. Petra resisted I bring the Security Squad. I suppose she’s prepared a elevator at the nearest wall for [Last],” Erd reported. He casted a quick eye upon you.
With your right arm wrapping around Levi’s neck, you placed your left fist weakly over your chest. “I hope... you don’t mind a left-hand salute, sir...” Your voice sounded oddly distorted.
Erd nodded for a reply as the Security Squad members started their job. Here came the time you had to let Levi go. You knew he could never hold on to you forever, yet couldn’t help feeling a little lonely over the issue.
Now that you were handed over to the security squad’s regard, his warmth and his faint scent were quickly fading away.
That said, the memories were still there. Vivid and living in your most precious corner.
You was therefore to cherish them forever...
----- BONUS -----
You woke up in the most unfamiliar atmosphere. Infirmary wasn’t the place where you often went in and out. You were informed you had wasted one day and a half sleeping as hell due to exhaust and analgesia from an operation. Despite your gradually healing state, you had still got a huge pile of pain killer dispensed.
Hearing of your recover, many beloved comrades had came to see you. They brought fruits, flowers, and even games! They totally knew how to switch the sick boring room into a kind of heavy laughter fest. King game, they called. You laughed so much you choked and coughed your blood up. Because of that, the strict-looking nurse threw them out of the place. You still remembered how hopelessly they were fleeing in the directions.
And five days after your last encounter, Levi finally paid you a visit.
What he brought was only mere unenthusiastic questions about your being. Once the conversation ended, the room left in silence, you uttered, “Sir, I’m totally sorry.”
“At this rate, I’ve missed all my cleaning duty for quite awhile.”
“That won’t be a problem,” he replied without any missing beat. “You are to fulfill your task shortly after you get kicked out of the infirmary.”
Then he added as if the thought had just occurred to him. “Two-fold of it.”
Two silent second had passed. “......Y... you’re joking, right?”
“Do I look like joking? Brat.”
You wished you didn’t bring this up in the first place.