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Author Topic: All the Little Lights  (Read 537 times)

Re: All the Little Lights
« Reply #30 on: June 06, 2020, 05:36:11 PM »
‌“Hmm, I suppose you're a little easier on the eyes than old Milly,” Annie teased in a characteristically flat tone, delighting in Bertholdt's jest, finding in it a glimpse of his growing confidence.

‌“I can see that,” she murmured as he kissed the top of her head, enjoying the mental image of Bertholdt as a baker.  As though sensing how close to melancholy they strayed, she was quick to add her own elements. ‌"You’d come home streaked with flour. I’d be thicker in the middle, all thanks to you. No way in hell you’d be able to wrap your hands around my waist.”

In a life where they were pushed to their physical limit almost every day, Annie didn't think once of her waistline as she helped Bertholdt devour the cake. Nor did she care when quizzical looks were cast their way. To hell with anyone who didn't appreciate a baked treat, or the savage pleasure that came with eating with one's hands. By the time they were done, and she had enjoyed another sweet sip of hot chocolate, Annie was sure her blood had turned to syrup.

‌“You don’t have to keep thanking me, idiot,” she grumbled, after Bertholdt expressed his gratitude. There was no real reproach in her tone, however, not when she felt a certain warmth in knowing he was happy, and that he was enjoying his birthday. With their hands linked and Bertl beaming down at her, Annie found a rare sort of peace. ‌“But thank you, for sharing your birthday cake with me.”

I hope we get to be with each other for every birthday we've got left.

‌“I hope so too.” Annie gave his hand a light squeeze, peering up at him, but the weight of impending heartfelt words caused her focus to drift to the carefree crowd, the passing figures bathed in muted, kaleidoscopic colours.

‌“I… don’t know how you manage to do it.  To be so nice all the time.  I don’t think you’ve ever hurt me, or even said an unkind word.  Not even once.” There was nothing derisive in the observation, just a quiet sort of awe. She had kicked Bertholdt in the shins more times than she could count, in rebuke and play both. That, and she frequently called him an idiot, even if it was meant less and less as an insult, and more and more out of fondness. They had never scrapped physically, not in the way she and Reiner sometimes came to blows, but she had surely stung him a thousand times with careless words and murderous scowls. He had always been gentle. Even when they had been young, when her body was all hard angles and thin, sinewy limbs.

‌“I’m glad I met you. I’m glad you noticed me. I’d endure everything all over again if it brought me here, to this moment. To you. And I think…” Annie trailed off in thought. She felt remarkably calm, despite the tenderness of her words. Fighting or denying the rising emotions was akin to trying to turn the ocean’s tide, so she simply accepted them, and let it all wash over her. Just like the shimmering glow of the lanterns. ‌“… I think you’ll either be the making or the death of me. And that’s okay, Bertl. Whichever it is, however this ends for us, I'll be happy we… got to be.”

She just hoped that, when all was said and done, when all the blood had been spilt, Bertholdt still looked at her the way he did tonight. It would be soul-destroying if he ever gazed at her the way their enemies did, like she was a monster. Which she was, underneath it all, but with the green-eyed boy she got to explore another part of herself. « Last Edit: June 06, 2020, 06:32:26 PM by Annie Leonhardt »

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Re: All the Little Lights
« Reply #31 on: June 06, 2020, 09:17:31 PM »
The faint howling of the wind echoed across the village, barely audible over the somewhat dispersing crowds. Bertholdt wasn’t at a lack of words, he simply didn’t want to ruin the sweet moment by opening his yap. Instead, he released her hand and wrapped his arm over her shoulder, pulling her ever so slightly closer. The serenity, the understanding that her words held was remarkable. She seemed to have come to terms with the relationship they maintained sooner than he had.

Whichever it is, however this ends for us

Bertholdt certainly had a preference for how it ended, with them escaping the island alive and living in as much of a bliss as they could. Though, in all reality, after they returned with the founder, the Warrior unit would likely be deployed in the next war Marley found itself squabbling in, taking the territory and conquering more foreign lands.

In the off chance war didn’t find its way back into their lives, peace would be a harder hill to climb than anything else. The guilt they all bore was incredible, it would surely cause an insatiable appetite for redemption. No price lower than death, and maybe not even that, could repay the debt they owed for the countless lives they’d snuffed out. Maybe if they produced any children, peace could follow in their wake. Practically speaking, bringing any children into the world would be unfair. Bertholdt and Annie would perish before the children would even know their names, and would likely then be raised by Bert’s parents. Stories would be told of the heroic Warrior Trio that took back the Coordinate, but that was all their children would ever hear.

The Mighty Colossus and Cunning Crystal Titans, tales of their deeds in the name of Marley would be known far and wide, but how many people would know the names Annie Leonhardt or Bertholdt Hoover?

“What would our kids names be?” Bert wanted to muse further on the imaginative lives they shared, in which he provided for their make-believe family as a baker. “No way would we name a son Bertholdt Jr.”

Re: All the Little Lights
« Reply #32 on: June 07, 2020, 01:20:46 AM »
In this precious moment, Bertholdt once again demonstrated his innate ability to read people and situations.  No words were needed, but the comforting weight of his arm was welcomed warmly by Annie.  She sidled closer, leaning into him a little.  It was odd to think about this imaginary life, one where they hadn’t been thrust into a military career, but it was strangely soothing as well.  Annie allowed herself to indulge in the fantasy.

Even if she was gentler and sweeter in this alternate reality, she would likely still have been the stern parent.  Bertholdt would be the soft touch and it would be to him the children would run; they would accost their father at the door as he returned home from work, out of love and a fierce desire to relieve him of any tasty morsel brought home from the bakery.  He would be surrounded by a small sea of raven and golden heads, a collection of spring-coloured eyes, all rejuvenated green and azure skies.

Thoughts of motherhood reminded Annie, distantly, of the fact that she both admired and disliked her own body.  It was strong enough for her to bring powerfully built, full grown men sobbing to their knees, but she knew she would be capable of even more if she had been born taller or broader.  She had resented what puberty had done to her, softening the angles of her coltish figure, giving her hips and breasts that were useless at best and a nuisance at worst.  After her first blood, some of the male candidates were suddenly less enthusiastic about sparring with her, and an elbow to the chest became a breathtakingly painful thing.  Loose clothes helped.  Unfortunately, upon inheriting the Crystal Titan, Annie was faced with a weapon that mirrored her own silhouette.  It wasn’t exact, but it was close enough to shame her, especially in the earliest days of wielding her newfound power.

But in the life they imagined, she would never have been given the name Leonhardt, and would probably have never thrown a punch.  Stripped of her athleticism, her muscle, she would be a delicate little doll of a woman, and all her bloody battles would be waged in the marital bed, bringing new life to the world.  No less wondrous than breaking bones and toppling people twice her size, Annie supposed.  Still, she didn’t dwell on this aspect for long.  She didn’t need to in order to appreciate the picture they painted together.

‌“What’s wrong with Bertholdt Jr?  I thought most men dreamed of a firstborn son who shared their name.”  It was a genuine query, asked as the tiny blonde leaned her head lightly against his chest.  ‌“I have a girl’s name that I like.  It’ll make you laugh though,” Annie admitted, pausing for only a brief moment before divulging.  Really, it didn’t matter if Bertholdt was tickled by her choice.  ‌“Myrtle, like the flower.  It’s really old-fashioned, I know.  I bet Mildred has a friend named Myrtle.”  She made a quiet, breathless sound that was almost a laugh.  ‌“What names do you have, hm?  And how many kids would you want, if you could choose?  With it being just me and my father, it always felt kind of lonely…”  Thinking unduly about her father wasn’t wise so, almost as an afterthought, Annie added cheekily: ‌“I bet you were a big baby.”

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Re: All the Little Lights
« Reply #33 on: June 07, 2020, 04:35:31 AM »
“Not all men want that…” His voice held a twinge of sorrow. If he was forced to pick between having a son with the same name or no children at all, it wouldn’t even be a question. One lesson his father taught him many years prior, beggars can’t be choosers. Bert would name his son whatever the hell the world forced him to, so long as a child from his and Annie’s bloodlines existed. Still, as long as they were discussing this hypothetical existence in which everything was perfect, they could have kids named whatever they so pleased.

The name Myrtle was gentle, too gentle for them to possess. “I wouldn’t laugh at something like that…” And he didn’t, laughing at her choice for a child’s name seemed cruel and unlike anything he’d do.

“Pfft, I wasn’t that big. At least, not any more than a normal baby boy. I didn’t start growing so much until I was... five, I think.”

“I’d probably want.. at least two. Maybe more if we could handle it.
” The image of Bertholdt setting down a cake he’d baked at work for a large family seemed ludicrous, but not so much that he couldn’t even picture the scenario. He and Annie both sat at the head of the table, sharing the duties of parenthood equally. On either side of the table were children, with varying features from the two of them. A boy with blonde locks and grass-colored eyes, a girl with a raven head and two sky-blue irises. Both, as Annie had so accurately predicted earlier, had large noses.

It dawned on him that he had asked a question of her without having an answer for himself, causing heat to rise in his cheeks even more. The name’s of these two visualized children hadn’t come to him yet.  “I’m not sure. If it was a girl.. Kiera maybe…” He blurted, but realized that Kiera Hoover was a name that had more of a ring to it than his own. “And a boy.. Marcel. Though, I guess we’d have no reason to memorialize him in this fantasy…”

Bertholdt frowned, thinking of the one time leader of their since fallen apart operation. A tear formed in the corner of his eye, not for Marcel’s sake, but for Porco’s. The younger Galliard was stuck back in Liberio, the only of the seven candidates to not inherit a Titan, thanks in part to Marcel’s trickery. Reiner was never meant to take up the Armor, but in order to save his sibling, the boy with brown hair had lied to officials. The last conversation they all had together had included this revelation, before the horror induced by that titan’s appearance occurred.

Oftentimes, Bert would forcefully push those memories to the back of his mind, but he couldn’t tonight. As they sat on the bench, enjoying the body heat given off by one another, Bertholdt’s green eyes turned dark. “I miss Marcel, but I realize now… I hate him. It’s his fault we’re stuck here.” His words contained a certain venom, “If he had just let the government pick Porco for the armor… we wouldn’t be in this shithole. Reiner wouldn’t have a fractured mind, we would probably have the Founder already, and we’d probably be home.”

Re: All the Little Lights
« Reply #34 on: June 07, 2020, 10:54:58 PM »
There were times when Annie would bet everything she owned on the mistaken belief that she had the measure of Bertholdt, but then there came moments when he surprised her, humbled her, reminded her that still waters run deep.  That he did not possess the same ego that compelled men to dream of sons bearing their name was in keeping with what she knew, but she had expected Myrtle to warrant a chuckle at least.  In this as everything else, Bertholdt was unjudging, endlessly kind, and he did not sting her.

‌“Funny, you started growing at five, while I reckon that’s around the time I stopped…” Annie almost smiled as she savoured a sip of her hot chocolate.  ‌“I’m relieved for my alternate self that big babies don’t run in the Hoover family, otherwise I’d be as round as an apple.”  She would probably be useless too, especially towards the end.  Unable to reach high shelves, unable to bend to pick things up from the floor.  Bertholdt would probably rub her back, and help put her socks on.  He would likely stay with her while she laboured, instead of trotting off to the tavern as some expecting fathers did.  Annie knew, undoubtedly, that he was the only person she could tolerate in a time of vulnerability and pain.  In their fantasy, that meant childbirth, but in this world it more likely meant death.  If she had to die, she hoped she could do it in his patient, loving arms.  There could be nothing more intimate or soul-baring than that. 

She knew she didn’t deserve him, in this life or any other.

‌“Kiera is nice, Marcel too…” Annie hummed, treasuring these little insights.  It didn’t matter that they would have no reason to commemorate Marcel in this vision - it was fantasy, something for them to build as they pleased. 

The shift that followed in Bertholdt’s tone came as a surprise.  She was unused to hearing such vehemence in his voice; hate was not a word he uttered often or lightly, and it was rare for him to swear.  His sentiments, however, were entirely justified. 

‌“You’re not wrong,” Annie agreed, setting her mug down on the bench beside her, and reaching for one of Bertholdt’s hands with both of hers.  ‌“I sometimes wonder if he figured dying in a titan’s mouth was the easier option.  Maybe he knew how hopeless this all is.”  She fidgeted with his hand, her fingertips tracing and exploring the contours of his palm.  ‌“Or maybe he was just that much of a noble idiot, a true leader…”  That was more likely the truth.  Marcel had been selfless, not suicidal, and he had a family at home who loved him, who he wanted to return to.  To think anything else was unkind of her, and said more about her own fears than it did the dead boy’s intentions.  ‌“But if we had Marcel here with us today, maybe one of us would have had to die, then or later.  We would never have kissed in the clearing, and we wouldn’t be drinking hot chocolate right now.”

Annie paused.  They hovered on the edge of a dangerous conversation, one they probably shouldn’t have in the street.  Glancing about now, she saw it was getting quieter, with fewer people milling around, and some of the stalls beginning to close.

‌“When we… when Wall Maria fell, who carried me to the refugee camp?” Annie asked suddenly, gazing up at Bertholdt again.  Why that mattered, she couldn’t say, only that it was a question that returned to her time and again.  That day, after exhausting herself on the inhuman sprint to the gate, she had hovered on the edge of consciousness, long enough to witness Bertholdt’s transformation and to recall the onslaught of titans she had summoned.  Then there was nothing, darkness, oblivion, until she had awoken within the safety of Wall Rose.  She remembered she had a bedroll to herself, and that whoever had laid her in it had taken the time to remove her boots and coat, to make her comfortable.  Reiner cared about his comrades - that was irrefutable - but there was an attention in these details that made her believe it was Bertholdt.  For whatever reason, she felt compelled to know, whether Bertholdt had carried her in his arms like a bride or Reiner had slung her over his shoulder, as though she weighed nothing.

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Re: All the Little Lights
« Reply #35 on: June 08, 2020, 03:24:46 AM »
The sudden and unexpected question brought back a once forgotten memory, the aftermath of their arrival. That day took unexpected turn after unexpected turn, including the moment he should've been in control the most, when he had transformed and was the Colossal Titan. When he was exiting his form, a titan with a sickening, horror inducing smile had crept up through the steam, but for whatever reason, it passed him by after giving a momentary glance.

"Well... technically we both did." Bert responded softly, ensuring nobody else would pick up on their words. "After I kicked the hole, he carried both of us to the top of the wall. I watched over you for about ten minutes while Reiner broke the other gate, then he ran with us for... I don't even know how long. By the time we got near the gate, he was worn out too."

Bert had been worried the titan horde could catch up to them, but luckily, they were rushed nearer to the wall by others, proclaiming that the children needed to be saved first. "I carried you into Wall Rose, to that camp. Reiner passed out as soon as we got there, so I had to take care of the both of you."

Bertholdt has sat between the pair of blondes, struggling to stay awake himself. The rest of that night was a blur, sleep came at some point, as did the eventual reawakening. He was snapped back to the present, looking down at her to meet the icy gaze. “It’s not like I was doing anything special… I’d been useless for most of the operation before then.” Bert mumbled.

Then he took notice of the clearing out streets. It had to be nearing midnight now, most cadets would be hitting the hay, and obviously, the villagers weren’t going to stay out if no customers were available. “We should... leave." The word held an all too apparent reluctance. Though, of course Annie knew how infatuated with her he was. All this talk of children she could never bear, professions he could never hold, and lives they could never lead... was heartbreaking. Even in the best case scenario, the two of them would die before they turned thirty, no time to properly raise a household, under either of their names.

The large boots of his pushed off the ground, bringing Annie with him. "We'll get home. I already made you too many promises that I won't break." The comment came with it a bright, beaming smile, his personality having settled for the night. It was, after all, his birthday.

Re: All the Little Lights
« Reply #36 on: June 08, 2020, 04:19:36 PM »
Annie watched Bertholdt carefully as he spoke, her pale blue eyes drinking in every expression that stole across his face, the glimpse of his tongue between his teeth, the tone and pace of the words shaped by a mouth she longed to kiss.  There was a lot she had missed, she knew.  The destruction of Shiganshina was not something she had witnessed firsthand, rather it was a nightmare she had visualised countless times since.  Bertholdt and Reiner had both suffered more profoundly than she, and had more cause to be haunted.

At least now she had a better grasp of the sequence of events, as far as the three of them went.  Reiner must have been burnt out by the time he stood within the shadow of Wall Rose, and Bertholdt must have been overwhelmed, left with his two exhausted comrades to care for.  In a way, he had been left alone for a time, in a strange place, surrounded by grief and uncertainty.

It’s not like I was doing anything special… I’d been useless for most of the operation before then.

Annie frowned.  Bertholdt was so humble, and seemed sincerely unaware of his rarity, of the heart of gold that beat within his chest.  Very, very few people could be so consistently selfless and kind.  ‌“Tsk.  You were doing something special.  And you weren’t useless.  You opened the gate and, right now, you’re the stitching holding this team together.  Don’t think I don’t know that, Bertl.”  For an instant, Annie recalled Reiner’s bloodied face, and how he had weathered her furious beating.  When she woke up in the refugee camp, the first thing he had done was embrace her and Bertholdt, and offer them an apology.  Even her cold heart had been stirred by a sense of solidarity.  ‌“Thank you.  For looking after me, and Reiner too.  It’s… something that’s been on my mind for a long while now.”

And now it was time to go.  Time always ran out too soon.  Bertholdt stood, bringing her with him.  Annie might have grumbled, save for the fact that seconds and minutes would continue to tick by regardless of how much she protested.  Besides, it was impossible to feel too disheartened when Bert was beaming at her, offering a reminder of his promises made.  There was the weight of a promise on her tongue too, but Annie bit it back.  For now.

The ground was slushy beneath her boots as she binned the cake box, and took their mugs to a table, near where the stall proprietor was sweeping and cleaning.  She murmured quiet thanks before returning to Bertholdt, slipping her hand in his.  Goodbyes, even if they were only for a few short hours, were getting harder to say.  With that realisation, the thought of their looming graduation almost choked her.

‌“I don’t think, in this life or another, I could enrol any child of ours into the Warrior program,” Annie murmured as they walked through the largely deserted streets, acknowledging a thought that had lingered on the periphery of her mind.  ‌“I don’t know what that says about me.  Maybe that I’m more sentimental than I realised?  Or that I’m weak.  I guess nothing changes if people aren’t willing to make sacrifices, or to stick their heads above the parapet.”  Perhaps she wouldn’t have been such a bad mother after all.  Only a year ago, she would have said with absolute conviction that she would make a terrible partner.  Yet good, kind Bertholdt was at her side, and he seemed genuinely happy, willing even to plan for a future together.

Still, maybe it was time to move on from their conversation built on dreams.

‌“How does eighteen feel?”  Annie asked with all the brightness a girl as dour as her could manage.  ‌“You’re all grown up, Bertholdt Hoover.”  There was a wry humour to that.  They both knew they had matured far beyond their years long ago.  Maybe that was why they could have such heavy conversations - about all the beautiful, terrible possibilities open to them - without balking.

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Re: All the Little Lights
« Reply #37 on: June 08, 2020, 08:12:51 PM »
"I don't think I could either..." Bertholdt replied, thinking back to his days before the Warrior Program. He faintly remembered an argument between his parents, something about his involvement as a child soldier. His mother had wanted a simple, quiet life, nothing to worry about, just keeping their heads down. His father, on the other hand, preferred they send their only son off, in the hopes he'd become a Warrior, and grant their family the status of Honorary Marleyans. They'd ultimately decided it was in his best interest to sit out, but he wanted to make them happy.

Bertholdt came to them, and claimed he wanted to be in the program, to serve their nation dutifully, and give their family a proper living, free from the limits inside the internment zone. They signed him up, he took the Colossal Titan, and destroyed the walls, because he told his parents he wanted to. Unlike Annie, nobody forced him into this predicament. He'd fallen into a trap, however inadvertent, of his own design.

"It feels the same. Nothing really changes with age, at least, not immediately." They walked at a slow, pattering pace, soaking in every moment they could spend together. "When we get home, I'm sure they'll start treating us like actual soldiers. Not kids.... not trash."

He then peered over his shoulder, feeling a sudden paranoia of being overheard. If anyone ever overheard the private discussions of their lives outside the walls, it would surely result in the death of either the eavesdropper, or the infiltrators. Thankfully, they were alone, walking the winding path back to their respective cabins. The next day would come, then the next day, and then the next, training would continue, the lies they held up would keep on deceiving their supposed friends. Only after graduation, when they capped off the years-long plan and Wall Rose had fallen, would change finally occur.

Before they had reached the steps of his own residence, which was slightly closer than Annie's, Bert stopped in the snow, pulling both of her hands into his grasp. "I'll try to make your next birthday as great as you've made this one." He completely disregarded her prior order to stop profusely thanking her every few minutes. Kneeling down, just as he had the night they first 'got together', Bertholdt cupped her cheeks and gently kissed her, his green-as-grass eyes fluttering shut.

Re: All the Little Lights
« Reply #38 on: June 08, 2020, 10:45:14 PM »
Annie practically dragged her heels, trying to prolong and protract the remaining movements of their evening together.  Easy enough done, given how short her legs were.  It was getting colder now, the wind having dropped away to leave the still bitterness of a mid-winter’s night.  Cloudless, the sky above them was resplendent with stars.

‌“Actual soldiers…” she echoed, wondering what that would even be like.  Would they be respected?  Would their opinions on military matters - or anything else besides - hold any weight?  At least her father would be proud, she supposed.  He would have his golden ticket to Marleyan citizenship and his dead-eyed daughter returned to him, it would be everything he had ever dreamed of.

Bertholdt glanced over his shoulder, and Annie mirrored him, feeling a sudden, icy spike of fear.  It was a relief to see they were alone, that the dark pathway was empty.  To be overheard was unthinkable.  In this moment, she couldn’t even begin to imagine what the consequences would be - for them, or for any unlucky eavesdropper.  All too soon, they arrived at Bertholdt’s cabin, the green-eyed boy clasping her hands.  His were warm, where hers were cool.

I’ll try to make your next birthday as great as you’ve made this one.

This time, Annie did not answer his gratitude with rebuke.  Secretly she was relieved - reassured - that her haphazard and unpractised preparations had paid off, that she had made him happy.  He deserved it, and not just on his birthday.  Snow crunched softly as Bertholdt knelt before her.  There was something immensely endearing in him making himself so accessible to her, and she delighted in the small sense of dominance that came with suddenly having a few inches on him.  The hands she adored cradled her face as he leaned in to kiss her.  Annie’s eyes closed, savouring this small tradition shared between them.

‌“Happy birthday,” she mumbled against his mouth, scarcely able to pull herself away to say the words.  Thanks for spending it with me, she thought as she pressed into him again, arms snaking around his neck.  The windows of the shadowy cabin were dark, but that didn’t mean they weren’t being spied on.  Annie didn’t care.  She kissed him long and deep, unashamedly hungry for him.  By the time she broke away, she felt warm.

‌“I know what I want for my birthday,” she whispered.  As a rule, Annie never asked for anything and, even now, it felt wrong.  Especially to ask something of Bertholdt, who she wasn’t sure was capable of denying her anything.  Especially when it was his birthday.  His day.  But she felt compelled to speak, if only in an effort to dampen her own growing desire.  Standing here all night, with the taste of him on her lips, wasn’t an option, as much as she wished it was.

‌“One of your shirts or sweaters.  Long-sleeved, short-sleeved, hooded or not.  It can even be something you were planning to rag.  I don’t mind, only that it’s something of yours.  Something I can get lost in.”  By her reckoning, the hem would flutter around her thighs, and the fit would be loose enough for her to feel hidden and comfortable.  She could sleep in it, lounge in it and, more importantly, feel close to him.  Especially if - when - they went to separate regiments.

‌“I’m demanding, I know,” Annie murmured, pushing her deceptively delicate fingers through Bertholdt’s raven hair.  Although flatly delivered, they were words spoken more in apology than in humour.

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Re: All the Little Lights
« Reply #39 on: June 09, 2020, 04:13:28 AM »
As Annie leaned into his large, encompassing frame, Bertholdt shifted his arms, wrapping them around her small, slender waist. The conversation wasn't halted even as their lips were intertwined, her birthday wish was replied to with yet another, "Thank you.." When they broke apart, just as always, a sense of longing filled the void her lips had created within him.

“Hmm..?” Bertholdt’s ears perked up as she mentioned her own birthday, and the accompanying gift he’d be presenting her. “I suppose… I mean, I’ve got so many of them…" He rambled slightly, pulling one hand away to rub at the back of his neck. By her telling him what she desired, she was also saving him hours, maybe even days of work designing some intricate tool or item of apparel for her to wear.

Still, in addition to one of his shirts or sweaters, whatever it may be, Bertholdt could always surprise her with an additional present. In fact, doing so would seem to be in line with Bertholdt's optimistic and often times eager attitude when it came to pleasing Annie.

"Anything for you."

The now adult brushed his nose against hers gently, before rising back to his full stature, looming above her. In silence, he walked up the steps, reaching the door, and gripping the knob. Bert didn't turn, and he didn't speak loudly, so whether or not Annie heard his next words was entirely up in the air. He didn't care, and went ahead, saying, "I love you." It was the second time (ever, and that night alone) he had mustered the courage to voice these all-too-powerful words, and unlike earlier in the night, he maintained a steady, confident tone throughout the entire phrase.

Afterwards, he opened the door slowly, quietly, and slunk into his quarters, bidding farewell to his partner until the sunrise came the following morning. His bed felt lighter, or maybe, it was just the weight taken off his won shoulders that made him feel this. Proclaiming the ultimate affection for the holder of the Crystal Titan was an enormous relief, though, he felt Annie likely knew he felt this way already. And for all the promises Bert had been making for Annie, he decided to hold himself up to one, and that was to ensure Annie's 18th birthday was the single greatest day of her life, no matter what it took, or what he had to do. He would make it so.

Re: All the Little Lights
« Reply #40 on: June 09, 2020, 03:51:12 PM »
Maybe it was too personal, her request.  Bertholdt seemed almost hesitant, given the way he scuffed a hand along the back of his neck.  Although, judging by his faltering words, it wasn’t necessarily a big ask.  Perhaps he was just picturing her swamped in billowing fabric that once lay next to his skin.  Or maybe he was stunned by her selfishness.

Anything for you.

Annie released a breath she hadn’t realised she was holding.  There was so much weight in those words they almost crushed her.  Distantly, she wondered if he truly meant it, whether he felt that sentiment with the same ferocity as she did.  Would he single-handedly raze Paradis, to see them safely home?  Not that she wanted that from the kind, green-eyed boy.  Truthfully, of the three Warriors, Annie was confident she was best equipped to dispense death and ruin, having long ago learned to detach, to yield to the ruthless dark that lay deep within her for brief, destructive spells.  If given the chance, she would stain her hands with blood to keep Bertholdt’s - and Reiner’s - clean.  Or as clean as possible, at least.

Not that anyone would suspect, if they saw the two lovestruck teenagers in this moment, Annie making a small, uncharacteristically soft sound as Bertholdt nudged his nose against hers.  She then watched impassively as he turned to leave, a bland counterpoint to the feeling of yearning that choked her.

I love you.

She barely heard him and, for a moment, she almost thought she had imagined it.  Yet it was uttered with such steadiness, such easy confidence.  Grass was green, skies were blue and Bertholdt Hoover loved Annie Leonhardt.  A heart of gold in exchange for the mangled thing that beat in her chest hardly seemed a fair trade to Annie.  Being lion-hearted apparently meant having next to no heart at all.  Yet there was something in Bertholdt that papered her innumerable cracks, filling the blank spaces surrounding the shattered fragments of humanity which formed her foundation.  For better or worse, he made her more human.

And she loved him, fiercely.  For his unshakeable kindness, endless patience and quiet caution.  For his strength, intelligence and his resolve.  For the literal and figurative warmth that radiated from him.  Bertholdt was a mystery to her.  While Annie couldn’t say that she understood him entirely, she knew that she didn’t deserve his attention or his affections.  That she didn’t deserve him.  But she wanted to try to remedy that.

‌“Good night,” she whispered simply.

Bertholdt’s broad back disappeared into the shadowy doorway of the cabin.  Annie lingered for a moment longer, before tugging up her hood and shoving her cold hands into her pockets.  A faint, suppressed smile played on her mouth as she stalked her way back to her own chalet.  There was no cause to fear the dark when she was a loaded gun.  First her father’s finger had rested on the trigger, then that of the Marleyan Military, now it was Bertholdt Hoover. « Last Edit: June 09, 2020, 03:55:21 PM by Annie Leonhardt »

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