Episode Eight: Readiness (Ava's Turn: Part 1)Mature

*Time Skip: 3 days before expedition* 

     Everyone has been tense this week. Most likely, due to the fact that our big journey to Shiganshina was soon. Soon as in...3 days. I was patrolling around the outside of the castle, making sure everything was ready. No one was allowed to leave the castle grounds, in order to keep everything tidy and in their proper places for this Saturday. Levi and Erwin, my father, had made the announcement of my promotion to Squad Leader. 

~Flashback~ 

"And now, with great honor, I'd like to present...Squad Leader Ava Oliver Smith!" Erwin's voice carried throughout the large room we were gathered in.

"Those in her squad, once we enter Shiganshina, will be as follows. Eren Jaeger, Mikasa Ackerman, Jean Kirschtein, Armin Arlert, and Jared Oliver. You are all under her command from now on, and will do as she says!" Levi finished, earning more claps from the crowd.

~Flashback End~ 

     I inspected the horses to make sure they were all cleaned and their saddles were hung beside them, ready for the long and strenuous journey ahead. As I was doing so, I heard footsteps approaching me.

"Squad Leader, you've been requested inside by the Corporal and your father." It was Mikasa, who was accompanied by Armin.

"H-He says it's nothing bad, if that helps." Armin added in with a weak smile.

"I'll go now. Thanks, you two." I smiled, walking between them as my cloak flapped lightly in the breeze.

     With my new position as a Squad Leader, my friends and even Jared talked to me differently. The only other people whose image of me didn't change was my father, Levi, and Eren. Other than that, everyone else treated me like I was some sort of royalty. As I walked to my dad's office, I noticed Levi and him standing, talking lowly to each other. Walking in, they both ceased their conversation and turned to me.

"Ah, Ava, I see Mikasa and Armin delivered the message correctly." My dad smiled, motioning for me to come over.

"Yeah, they did. What is it you need?" I questioned the two, Levi still not speaking.

"Well...with you now being a Squad Leader, we see no need for you to still reside on the floors containing the new cadets. You'll be moving next door to Levi on his personal floor in the West wing of the castle." Erwin looked down at Levi, expecting a response.

"There's no need to worry, your father here has already cleared his stuff from that room so you can move yours in tonight. I suggest you do that before the expedition. That, meaning, tonight." Levi walked next to me.

     Just because I'm a Squad Leader, doesn't mean I can't hang out around my friends. Hell, I think I only got this position because I'm Erwin's daughter. Oh, well, I can't ignore direct orders. Plus, I'd enjoy greatly being that near to Levi.

"Alright. I'll go start now." I smiled, saluting.

"Make sure you move everything! Don't leave stuff behind!" My dad called as I exited the room.

     I walked down to the mess hall where everyone would be having lunch about now. Standing on a bench to a table, I cupped my hands and yelled above everyone. As the room fell silent, I proceeded with my message.

"Everyone in Squad Ava, with me!" I announced, seeing those who were in my squad rise.

"...you may now return to your conversations." I added on, clapping twice.

     As Mikasa, Eren, Jared, Armin, and Jean gathered with me outside the mess hall, I explained that I needed help moving everything to my new room location. Pretty much everyone except my brother and Eren blindly agreed. They were extremely hesitant and skeptical about my father's decision to move me. Once we got to my room, everyone was assigned things to carry. It took about 6 trips before everything was moved over.

"Alright, guys. That'll be it, please continue to go over your notes for Saturday's expedition. You're dismissed." Everyone saluted, slowly beginning to leave.

"Ava, you watch out for that sleazy Corporal. I see the way he looks at you!" Jared grabbed my shoulders, staring pleadingly into my pale blue eye.

"Pff, Jared. It's only Levi. He wouldn't do anything to me." I laughed, pushing him off.

     Everyone left, and soon I was alone to tend to unpacking. First, I went for the hangers and clothes to put in my expansive wardrobe. As I was doing so, I began humming a song I remember Alisha, my only true mother, singing to me to get me to sleep as a child. Her voice gracefully weaving through the air to accomplish a beautiful melody. I stopped unpacking, sitting on my bed. My nose sniffled, and I felt a tear drip down my cheek. Memories kept flooding back. I let out a sob, when a knock came upon the door.

"W-Who is it?" I managed, rubbing my nose.

"It's Eren. Can I come in, Oli?" His innocent voice asked. 

"Yeah, of course." I pushed some stuff over to Eren would have a place to sit.

"I just came by to check on you. Why're you crying?" He took the spot next to me, intertwining his fingers with mine and resting my hand on his heart.

"Ju-Just memories, Eren. Of Alisha." Scooting closer to him, he wrapped his arm around me.

"Remember that time we snuck out at training and found that spot in the woods? It was the day you also lost your eye. We sat there and enjoyed the scene together." Somehow, this was calming me down.

     Eren spent the next little bit of time talking about the stuff him and I did as kids, and the stuff me, Mikasa, him, and Armin did as well. Yes, Eren's mother died and his dad is missing. He could've chosen the option to relate to my sadness. But, instead he chose to try and make me happier, which succeeded. It had to be insanely late, and I had Squad Leader things to do tomorrow in prep for this weekend.

"Eren, it's late and I've still gotta unpack all of this jazz. I'll see you tomorrow, okay?" We stood up together, facing each other.

"Yeah, got it. No nightmares, okay?" Eren hugged me tight, and I returned the favor.

"Thank you, Eren. I don't know where I'd be without you." I smiled at the boy, as he began to leave my room.

"I said I'd be here." He finally said, shutting the door to my room.

     It took me about another hour or so to get everything organized and situated in their respected places. I entered my larger bathroom, undoing the braid in my hair. As my fingers pulled through the slight curls, Alisha's face flashed through my mind. Don't forget your braid, Ava. Stop reading those petty books and till the garden, Ava. Don't dirty your dress, Ava. Don't forget to pay respect to the Walls. Everything she'd ever attempted and sometimes succeeded to drill into my head came forth. I found myself thrown to the floor, my pajamas beginning to get soaked in sweat.

     My mind was racing, and my heart struggled to keep up. I swear, it was going to burst out my chest any second! Putting my now shaky palms against my sweaty head, my hands pulled on my long black hair. Images of Military Police, of jail cells, and the grand court played over and over. I'd never been there before, so why was I seeing it? Then, images of that day in The Underground. Me throwing myself in front of Levi so my father would stop beating him. Even though I didn't know who he was then, he knew me. My father, Erwin Smith, recognized me on that day yet never did a thing besides call me by my name.

"You worthless piece of garbage!" I screamed, punching the mirror. Blood trickles from my knuckles, as shards of broken glass stuck out.

"Ava?!" I heard a muffled voice cry from behind my locked room door.

"You're insignificant! There's a reason he abandoned you!" My image, in my eyes, was distorted. I screamed this at myself, unsure as to why.

     Running out of my bathroom, I found my 3DMG resting calmly on a table. Taking out one of the blades, I rushed back to the bathroom. Staring myself down in the mirror, I heard a barrage of screaming and banging against the door, trying to get it open. Levi was outside, trying to get in. I couldn't let him, he'd interrupt me! Using one hand to forcefully grip my mass of long hair, and the other to steady the blade, I sliced it through. Hearing the sound of the blade slicing off my hair was satisfying. The clumps of black strands continued to fall as I cut off more and more.

"Ava! Open the door!" Levi yelled once more, still failing to break inside.

"No, stay away! No one can keep me from this!" I yelled back, pinning the blade to my chest, above my bust.

     Pressing the blade against my skin, crimson began to percolate from the fresh wound. I drug it along below my collarbone, curving slightly upward. In my head, it felt like a rubber band had been stretched too far and finally snapped. I dropped the blade in the sink, placing my hands on the counter for support. Panting, I ripped my eye patch off and examined the horrendous scar left behind. I headbutted the mirror, causing blood to pour forth from my forehead. Looking at my now choppy, short hair, I yelled at myself. No words, just relentless screaming.

"Dammit, Ava!" I finally heard the door hinges break. I fell onto the bathroom floor as Levi entered.

"L-Levi..." I choked, my eye growing tired.

"Don't leave me, Ava! Please!" He picked me up, carrying me out of the bloodied mess that is my bathroom.

*Time Skip*

    After my psychological breakdown yesterday, Levi hasn't left my side. Major Hanji has been assigned all of my duties I had today as a Squad Leader. I've been in Levi's room all morning, and now, lunchtime approaches. I was standing in front of the large double window that looked out upon the castle courtyard. With my arms folded, I sighed heavily. What on earth could cause me to do that? I had a bandage wrapped around my head instead of an eye patch, which would be harder to pick off.

"So, how are you feeling now, Ava?" Levi entered the room, shutting the door.

"Meh." I answered with a melancholy tone.

"Here, draw the curtains. Come lay down." I did so, walking over and curling up in Levi's bed.

"Why did that happen? How, rather. It's like my mind just broke..." I looked at my hands, bandages still almost soaked in blood were wrapped around them.

"Everyone has their breaking point, Ava. You've just found yours." He got under the blankets as well, turning to face me on his side.

"What? Recollecting pointless memories? There were even some I didn't recognize, Levi!" I turned over, my back to him.

"I'm sure, with your mother being a member of the Military Police, you'd be seeing stuff like that." He scooted closer to me, causing me to turn back over.

"But prison? Why would I see prison?" I brought my hands to my face, running them through my short, shaggy hair.

     We laid there in silence for a long while. Levi simply looking at me, and putting his hand on my arm. At one point, he traced the scar across my chest, looking like he wanted to cry, but couldn't. I felt my body wanting to curl up against him, since it seemed comforting. I succumbed to the urge, meeting my forehead with his chest. Levi seemed shocked, but dismissed it quickly.

"I just wish you would've kept you hair...it was gorgeous." He twirled some stray pieces of my black mess.

"L-Le-Levi...there's something I've been meaning to bring up..." I whispered, burying my nose in his scent.

"Yes, Ava? What is it?" He placed a hand on the back of my head, bringing it out so my eyes met his.

"When I first got injured with the titan in the forest, my bandages were always insanely hot, and would have steam...why is this?" I raised my brows in a concerned look, to which Levi's grey orbs widened in surprise.

     Levi darted out of the room, leaving me with a large cold spot on the bed. I pulled the white sheets up to my face, and cried softly into them. Why'd he leave? All I needed was an answer... I rolled back over to face the window, who had its curtains pulled over the glass. My body was started to get flushed, such as it did last night. Panicking, I threw off the blankets and tensed up my muscles. None of the other symptoms I'd experienced from my episode appeared, only steam beginning to rise from my knuckles.

The End

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