Dangerous Territory

BY : Rhov
Category: +. to F > Attack on Titan /Shingeki No Kyojin
Dragon prints: 2537
Disclaimer: I do not own “Shingeki no Kyojin” and do not make money from this fanfic.

Chapter 42

Sad Hero

 

Eren barked out, "Stillgestanden!"

The platoon in front of him snapped to attention, heels together, shoulders squared, and eyes forward.

"Gewehr, Ab!"

Their rifles went down.

"Das Gewehr, über!"

In unison, they raised their rifles directly in front of them and put them on the left shoulder.

"Achtung, präsentiert das Gewehr!"

They presented the rifles out directly in front of them, eyes firm and focused.

"Das Gewehr, über!"

They again brought the rifles up to their shoulders.

Eren turned to Moblit. "Unteroffizier Berner, have them march. I want to see those legs up. Springer, that means you!"

"Jawohl, Herr Oberleutnant!" Connie shouted out.

Moblit took over, barking out orders that sent the platoon into a stiff goose-stepping march around the barracks. He lingered near Eren, who leaned on his cane and dabbed his forehead against the glaring sun. "Should you really be out here, Herr Oberleutnant?" he asked quietly, waving down to the cane. "You're on rest for a week, right? It's only been, what, four days?"

"I'm just off combat duty. I can still come out here and make sure the men are in shape. How are you handling your new duties?"

"We have a couple of troublemakers, but most of the men are well-trained and take their drills seriously. I must commend Stabsgefreiter Arlelt. He's really stepped up."

Eren smiled, knowing Armin was a good man and excellent soldier.

"Well, well! Look who came out of his cave!"

Eren turned and saw Jean coming forward. He smiled to see the man now in an officer's uniform. "You're one to talk. I've been out drinking with Reiner while you're jerking off in your room."

"Go lick a dog's ass!" Jean glanced at the cane. "How's the leg? I was worried it'd fall off."

"It's healing quickly, and I'm bored sitting in my room alone."

"Alone? I saw you bring that girl in last night."

Moblit chuckled. "Oh, you've got a girl, lieutenant?"

"Gotta keep in shape," Eren said with a sly chuckle.

"Have fun, but don't overdo the leg. Let her have a go riding on top once in a while."

Eren laughed, but his face looked awkward.

Jean caught the tiny grimace right away. "Moblit, go chase those men. If you leave them alone for a minute, half of them will goose-step their way to a beer hall."

"I was thinking, since we've finally got a dry day, I'll take them out into the field, put them through some drills."

"That sounds good," said Eren. "I'll be along." He watched as Moblit jogged off, and then Eren turned to Jean. "Mentioning Louise? Really?"

"Are you really sitting in your room alone?" Jean asked, keeping his voice low.

Eren frowned and glanced around the barracks courtyard, making sure no one was nearby. "Yes. Alone now."

"Then you got him out?"

Eren's lips pulled into a barely-suppressed scowl. "He's somewhere safe, with people who will help him."

Jean gritted his teeth and leaned in close to Eren. "If the French Resistance is in this city, I don't like the idea of leaving them there. If you know where they are—"

"I don't," snapped Eren. "He left on his own. I don't know where he is."

"Armin mentioned a letter. Didn't that Jew say anything?"

"He's smart enough to be vague."

"And you seriously don't know where he is?"

"Why?" shouted Eren. "Would you turn him in, now that he's not connected to me?"

"Keep your voice down!" warned Jean.

"You know, if he gets caught, I'm dead. I…" He cut off sharply as a soldier passed by, saluted the two officers, and continued on his way. Eren waited until the man was away, and then he hissed out, "I lied to Captain Woermann. I said I shot Levi. If he gets caught, someone could realize who he is, and I'll get in huge trouble."

"That's purely on you, Jäger," said Jean. "That was the risk you took."

"I know, and I accept it. I just want to make sure my former Unteroffizier doesn't turn on me."

Jean pulled back, his face battling between loyalty to Germany and loyalty to a friend. He sighed and shook his head. "I swear, you're a suicidal idiot. I guess if you don't know where he is, that's for the best. I'm not going to cause trouble, but I don't like knowing there are terrorists in Metz. That's a danger to everyone: you, me, Armin, the entire company, every German in this city."

"I don't like it either, I'd rather purge the French Resistance from Metz, but at least for now, if they can get him out … if they can help…" His head dropped. He knew this was treasonous, but he no longer cared. "He left, and I don't know for sure who took him in. It could be the Resistance, it could be a church, some random citizen, it could be your aunt for all I know." His heart ached, and his throat choked up. He spat out softly, "I hate not knowing where he is!"

Jean took yet another glance around to make sure no one was near enough to see Eren looking so heartbroken. He patted him on the shoulder. "You're safer ignorant. Let him go and move on. We have a war to win."

Eren turned and began to limp toward the grassy field where the platoon was doing sprints, running and dropping to the ground on command. "I need to attend to my men."

"You're trying to escape."

"I'm trying to move on," Eren said in mockery.

Jean followed, keeping pace with him. "How's Moblit Berner handling things?"

"He seems to be doing well. He's competent and less of an asshole than you."

"Hey!"

They strode together to the field just as the men were finishing up. Many of them cheered to see Jean back, and after being dismissed by Moblit, a group came up to the two officers.

Franz punched Jean in the arm. "Look at who misses his brothers."

"Who would miss assholes like you?" teased Jean.

Connie declared, "Since you're an officer, you should buy us lunch."

"You should go blow a donkey's cock."

"What a useless officer you are, Jean."

Eren laughed as they all teased one another. It felt good to be back in uniform and with his men, a simpler life where he knew his duty and what he should do: just follow orders, give commands, and everything would work out. He could keep his mind busy and off emotions.

Thomas suddenly slung an arm around Eren. "Yeah, Jäger probably hopes the Americans will attack now so he can sit out of the battle and spend his time drinking with ladies while we dodge bullets."

Eren pointed down to his leg. "If this is the best Americans can aim at close range, you'd have no problems without me. Maybe I should go mock General Patton about his ugly sister so he'll attack now."

Connie burst into a laugh. "You missed the parade yesterday."

"Parade?" asked Eren.

"Hey, no, no, no!" the others shouted. "Don't tell him about that, idiot."

While the others tried to gag Connie, Eren turned to Armin. "What are they talking about?"

Armin shrugged. "I wasn't here, I missed it. I only heard about it."

Jean grumbled, "I saw just the tail end. A bunch of these idiots were parading around in their underwear in the pouring rain. They then turned it into a mud brawl. Are you guys trying to catch pneumonia?"

Connie laughed, "We'd get to flirt with pretty nurses, so why not?"

Eren shook his head in amusement. "I've been to the military hospital. There weren't any pretty nurses, just ones with faces like horses. Jean would love them."

"Neigh!" someone whinnied, and the group laughed.

Jean raged, "Seriously, you guys are such assholes!"

"Drinks! We need to drink."

"Beer, beer, beer!"

"What you need is to drill more," said Eren. "We won't win with you stumbling around drunk."

They all let out groans.

"While it's sunny, you drill. When the next storm hits, you drink. Break's over! Line up!"

The men dragged their feet while Moblit shouted out commands to get back into formation.

Jean leaned over to Eren and teased, "They're gonna mutiny on you."

"Hey, if you could keep them in line, I trust Moblit can too. What are you waiting for?" Eren barked to his platoon. "Kette bilden!" Line formation!

* * *

After a long afternoon of drills, Eren’s voice was hoarse and his men were drenched in sweat. He let them go to shower before dinner, and Eren finally allowed himself to flinch at the pain in his leg. Floch brought the truck up for him, and they drove to a building that was becoming familiar.

The outside was unassuming, other than a small group of soldiers hanging around. Inside was clean, scented with perfume, with luxurious red drapes and suggestive art hanging on the walls. All around were ladies in scanty clothing, wearing slips, bras, or blouses that hung off their shoulders. Some were already paired with a soldier, sitting on their laps and sharing kisses. Eren walked past them, ignoring the sensual sounds and lewd comments. Amid this hedonistic whirlwind, a busty brunette smoking a cigarette sauntered up to him.

“Welcome back, Herr Oberleutnant,” Carly said with a silky smoothness to her voice. “And I see you have brought your adorable adjutant.” She caressed Floch’s cheek, and his face went instantly red. “Will you have a room here, or shall I have a lady delivered to your hotel?”

Eren privately hated that this even happened, that it was so common for an officer to order a woman to his room, like ordering any sort of room service. “I’ll take her with me. Floch, do you want to stay or…” He saw a woman in a bra come up to Floch, grinding up against him right away. “I guess that answers my question.”

Carly puckered her lips. “You never stay with us, Herr Oberleutnant.”

“I prefer to keep my business private,” Eren said stiffly.

“Will this be hourly, or all night?”

Eren caught a glance of Louise already coming forward, a homely woman overall, skittish around all the sexuality, but her eyes lit up with hope at seeing him. He smiled lightly at her.

“Yes, all night.”

Carly beckoned Louise to come closer. “Please take good care of her, Herr Oberleutnant.”

He nodded, and Louise joined him. They stepped out into the clear, chilly night. She walked by his side but looked down at his leg as he leaned on the cane.

“Is it doing better?” she asked.

“I may have overdone it today.”

“Were you walking a lot?”

“Mostly standing around.”

“You’re supposed to be on rest.”

He rolled his eyes. “That’s what everyone keeps telling me. So, did you want to go anywhere?”

“Oh,” she mumbled. “Madame Carly says I probably shouldn’t. It’s not normally allowed.”

“I see,” he muttered. “What if we just take a stroll? It’s a nice night.”

“You probably shouldn’t walk.”

Eren hummed in reluctant agreement. “I hate to pull Floch away from his fun.”

“Jäger!” someone whooped, and a noisy motorcycle pulled over beside him. Eren saw Greiz riding with Surma in a sidecar, both officers laughing from a night of joyriding.

“Get in, get in,” Surma shouted. “Bring your lady too.”

Greiz squinted in the evening darkness. “Hey, she’s one of Madame Carly’s girls.”

“Good evening, miss,” Surma said with a tip of his cap as he scrambled out of the sidecar and motioned for her to take a seat.

“Come on, ride with us,” urged Greiz.

Eren walked over to the sidecar. “If you two are already riding…”

“No, it’s fine,” Surma assured, and he sat on the motorcycle seat behind Greiz. “We’ve fit as many as four on this thing before, and your lady friend is tiny. It’s totally safe.”

Eren shrugged and climbed in. He held a hand out to Louise, who climbed into the sidecar. It was tiny, and she had to sit on Eren’s lap.

“Is this okay?” she asked, glancing back at Eren in worry.

“Scoot down a little bit.” He held her hips and slid her to a more comfortable place on his lap. “Is that good?”

She chuckled softly with a tiny smile as she nodded, looking excited to have another new experience.

“Drive nicely for her,” Eren warned Greiz.

“Hey, joyriding is for men. With a lady in tow, I’ll drive like it’s my own sister sitting next to me.”

Still, as the motorcycle roared down the road, Eren felt Louise tense up. If she had been scared riding in the truck, the tiny sidecar of a motorcycle was even more terrifying to her. Eren wrapped his arms around her to comfort her fears.

“You’re safe,” he whispered calmly.

She bit her lip as she leaned into him and felt the warmth of his arms around her.

They drove across town, and as they went, Louise loosened up and began to laugh, which made Greiz and Surma laugh as well. They made it to the hotel, and Greiz parked the bike in an alley behind the building. Surma was quickly by the sidecar and took Louise’s hand to help as she stepped over the edge of the car. She smiled bashfully at his politeness.

Merci,” she whispered, keeping her eyes down.

“Hey,” Greiz said, eying Louise. “Vous êtes du coin?” Are you a local?

She looked stunned by his French. “Oui.

D’où venez-vous?” Where are you from?

“Mécleuves.”

C’est au sud d’ici. Êtes-vous venu ici volontairement?” That’s south of here. Did you come here voluntarily?

She gulped, looked away with a shudder, and shook her head in fear.

“What are you saying to her?” Eren snapped defensively.

“Do you like her, Jäger?”

“What?” He looked down to Louise, then back over to Greiz in confusion. “What are you talking about?”

“This is the third time you’ve asked specifically for her. Now, when I find a lady who really knows what she’s doing, I’ll hire her as often as possible, but it seems different with you. You’re more serious about her. You should marry her.”

“Whoa, whoa!” Eren cried out, and Louise’s eyes went massive. “Where did this come from?”

“She’s a local girl. When Metz was declared a fortress, they brought in a bunch of women from the surrounding area to accommodate the increase of troops. Personally, I don’t like it. I’ve served here in Metz for two years; the people of this area are good and hardworking. I don’t like the idea of their daughters being forced into prostitution.”

“Every prostitute is someone’s daughter.”

“Yeah, but I don’t care about Jews, and the Slavic whores are almost as bad. She’s local, and look at her: blond hair, speaks perfect German.” Greiz glared over at Louise. “You’re not part Jewish, are you? Is your bloodline pure?”

Louise whispered nervously, “I … I think so. My family has always been Catholic. My grandfather is from Mannheim, and on my mother’s side, they were originally from Saarbrücken.”

“See! She’s a German girl. She shouldn’t even be in that brothel. You should talk to Madame Carly about freeing her through marriage.”

Surma joined in, “It sounds like a really noble thing to do.”

“Plus you can have all the free sex you want,” Greiz said, punching Eren in the shoulder. “Marry her, have some fun while you can, maybe get her pregnant, then send her back to her parents before the battle begins, that way she’s safe. After we beat the Americans, you can take her home to Germany and start a family.” He laughed as he turned to the hotel. “Think about it, Jäger. You’d be her hero.”

Greiz and Surma went into the hotel, but Eren remained planted where he was, staring ahead in a daze.

Louise came up, and even in the darkness Eren could tell that her cheeks were bright pink. “Well, he’s quite the character.”

“Yeah,” Eren mumbled. He shook his head and snapped out of his daze. “Come on.”

They slowly made it up the stairs, with Eren sneering with slow, labored steps by the third floor and nearly sick with pain by the time he reached the top of the fourth floor. Louise fretfully followed beside him. Greiz saw the two down the hallway, chuckled to himself, and sang out to them:

“Treulich geführt ziehet dahin,
wo euch der Segen der Liebe bewahr’!”

Eren shot him a glare while Louise blushed at the Bridal Chorus. Other officers standing around burst into laughs. Eren reached his door, unlocked it, and stormed in.

“Asshole,” he growled, and he collapsed onto his bed. “Sorry about that. Maybe next time I really should stay in the brothel just to avoid those idiots.”

Louise said nothing, taking a seat while Eren pulled off his boots and set his cap on the nightstand. There was an envelope there, and Eren picked it up.

“By the way, I got this. It’s for you.”

Louise took it, and when she saw the address, her eyes widened as she gasped.

“I wrote to your parents and let them know you were safe. I got this response today.”

She burst out in a sob and clutched the letter to her chest.

“Oh, come on now,” he said with a gentle laugh. “Read it first, then cry.”

She ripped open the envelope and pulled out the letter. “It’s from my father.”

Louise read, looking wistful as her mind imagined her father’s voice. Eren watched her face making many emotional expressions, some smiles, but mostly sadness, longing, and loneliness. She was so close to home, yet she could not escape this dismal fate. If not for Carly personally protecting her, there was no telling how many times she might have been forced to give her body over to men.

She suddenly grabbed her mouth and burst into tears.

Eren sprang right to her side. “Is everything okay?”

“My grandfather … I told you, he was shot trying to keep me from being taken.”

“Oh no,” he sighed.

“No, no, he’s alive. He … He’s alive,” she whispered, and her face collapsed into her hands. “I was so scared! They dragged me away, and he was on the ground, bleeding so much. I didn’t know if he was dead.”

Eren pulled her into a hug and let her cry into his chest so others would not hear her sobs and wonder what was going on. He hushed her and held her for many minutes, stroking her hair, until she calmed down.

She finally leaned back and dabbed her eyes. “Sorry.”

“It’s fine. Look, I need a bath. Do you mind?”

“Oh! No, of course not.” She looked down at the letter. “I’ll finish this while you bathe.”

“I won’t be long.” He began to walk to the bathroom, but Eren paused to look back to her. “Do you need anything? Food? Wine?”

“No, I’m good,” she said, sniffling back tears and managing a smile.

He looked concerned, but Eren also reasoned that she needed time to cry and be emotional without feeling like she had to hold back in front of him. He closed the bathroom door and stared forward.

He still could not look at the bathtub without remembering being in the water with Levi, the heat of his kisses, the sliding movements of his body, and the lewd sounds of Levi panting with soft moans. It was all so clear in his memory, it gave him a chill up the back of his neck.

His heart pained him to think about that happy moment.

He heard another soft sob out in the main room, and it pulled him back into his current predicament. He turned on the faucet and undressed. He was extra careful to remove the bandage off his leg. He inspected it and saw that it was healing well. The scab was shrinking, with new pink skin growing in the place that had been ripped by an American bullet. In two or three days, he should be fine. It was only stairs that still hurt him.

After a quick wash and soaking his aching leg, Eren stepped out with fresh bandage supplies, wearing his undershirt and boxers. He saw Louise had moved to the desk with a lamp on as she read The Count of Monte Cristo.

“Pardon my dishevelment,” he muttered, limping over to the bed. “Are you done with the letter?”

She nodded and set the book down. “Thank you. It must have been risky, sending a letter to some nearby farmer.”

Eren uncapped a jar of medicinal cream. “I didn’t think twice about it.”

She smiled diffidently, knowing that was the way he was. Eren helped without questioning.

Eren spread on the antibacterial cream and measured out some bandage. “I hope it’s all good news.”

“Mostly. Grandfather is healing. He’ll pull through. My mother of course is worried for me. My father … well, he knows I had no choice in this. He said he’ll forgive me, because God will forgive me.”

Eren eyes lowered, thinking back to Levi’s words: “If it ever does come down to you needing to do something like that, just know … I will forgive you. But only if you beg on your knees.

“It’s good that your parents will forgive you,” he muttered, wrapping the bandage around. “Sometimes we do things—things we swear we would never do—to protect others. You were trying to protect your grandfather.” He finished off his bandage and stared straight ahead. “I’ve done things … things that haunt me. I did it to protect someone I love.”

The glint of dungeon light on Abel’s glasses as a gun kicked in Eren’s hand flashed through his mind.

“I have to believe that God will forgive me, because I know I’ll never be able to forgive myself.”

Louise looked at him with pity. Eren yanked himself out of that nightmare still fresh in his mind.

“Anyway, it really is good that your parents are understanding and forgiving.”

“Yes. Luckily, I don’t have that much to worry about. Madame Carly has been protecting me, keeping me out of sight so men don’t ask for me. It’s not easy for her, though. She has to keep records, and sometimes the German military checks, since we’re reserved for officers only. The fact that you’re calling for me has made it easier. I’m thankful to you for that.”

“Then maybe I should keep you here.”

Louise chuckled awkwardly. “I don’t think that’s allowed.”

“We’ll ask Madame Carly tomorrow, and if it’s not allowed … well, Greiz might be on to something.”

“Greiz? The motorcycle driver? What do you mean?”

“Marrying you,” he said calmly.

Louise’s breath caught in shock.

“As the wife of a Heer officer, you’d have protection under German law. They would never take you away again. You’d be free to go back home, or even go to Germany and be safe there. In fact, the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Why use the French Resistance to smuggle you out, forcing you to stay hidden on your family’s farm, when I can marry you and request that you be escorted back home before the battle begins? You can live on your farm without fear.” He smiled, although it did not quite meet his eyes. “I could protect you better as my wife.”

Her cheeks flushed scarlet. “That’s kind of you, but what about afterward?”

“After?”

“After the battle. After the war. I would still be your wife.”

He knew that was right. Being a married man would help Eren to blend in with society, but Louise deserved to find a husband who would love her and want a family. In a sense, he would be enslaving her again.

“We can figure it out later,” he muttered. “First, we’ll ask Madame Carly if it’s even allowed. I’m honestly not sure if there are rules about this. That is, if you’re okay with the idea.”

She glanced down at the book in her hands, the French words swirling and blurring. “You only want to do this to protect me.”

“Yes,” Eren said bluntly. “I would do anything to make sure you’re safe.”

Louise’s face struggled with a reluctant smile. “You really are a gentleman.” However, she realized he was only offering out of chivalry, not love.

Eren finished bandaging the leg and pulled his trousers back on. “How about some food? I’m hungry, and I feel weird being the only one eating.”

She happily nodded in agreement.

Half an hour later, they had a meal on the table, eating quietly and sipping wine. Eren tried to think of conversation, but he was not good at this sort of thing.

“I’m sorry if it’s boring,” he said. “I know! How about you teach me some French?”

Louise looked startled by the sudden request. “Teach you French?”

“Yeah. I was trying to study it over the summer, but I’m not very good. Bonjour. Comment allez-vous? Arrête ou je tire.” Hello. How are you? Stop or I’ll shoot.

Louise let out an awkward, almost fearful laugh at that last one, wondering just how many times he had needed to shout that.

“I’d like to be able to speak to people in town.”

“I don’t know how to start. I guess … well, do you know the numbers?”

Un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq, six, sept, hup…

Huit. Eight is huit.”

Eren laughed awkwardly at the elementary mistake.

They spent the evening going over language basics, with Eren happily learning the language. It helped to pass the hours.

Next door, Eren and Louise could hear that Daz was back and had a woman with him. As the groans filtered through the wall, they tried to focus on greetings.

Bonjour. Bon après-midi. Bonsoir. Au revoir. Bonne nuit. Bonne journée. Bonne soirée.

“Try to work on your vowels. Bonne journée.

“Boon…”

Bonne.

“It feels weird in my throat.”

She laughed, and Eren saw some genuine happiness in her eyes. He felt so sickened by her sad fate. Levi’s words again echoed in his ears: “I want to get out of here as soon as I can, not because I don’t want to be with you, but because I don’t want to fear for you.

Levi truly must have been scared since he left like that, without a word of goodbye. Now Eren wanted to get Louise out, no matter the price, before Carly’s protection failed and she was forced to have sex with a man who just wanted to use her body for a night.

“Are you ready for bed? You can borrow my toothbrush again.”

She excused herself to the bathroom to wash up and change. Under her dress, she wore a modest white slip with a tiny white bow in the front. She hurried around to her side of the bed and hid under the covers, embarrassed to be seen wearing only the thin undergarment.

Eren turned off the lights and climbed under the covers. They had slept together the previous night, at the suggestion from Carly to keep Louise with him all night to protect her. Eren faced the wall, Louise faced the window. She stared out into the darkness, but she heard Eren muttering a prayer. She rolled around, yet she could only see his broad back. She began to reach forward, wanting to touch his shoulder, but as she heard him say Amen, her hand flinched away.

Biting her lip nervously, she whispered, “Eren, may I ask you a personal question?”

He remained facing toward the wardrobe. “Sure. What is it?”

“Well, I don’t mean to sound like a … a naughty girl, but … if you want to do anything … with me … maybe a touch, a kiss … more.” She reached out again, and this time her hand boldly rested on his shoulder. “I know you’re trying to protect me, but … if it’s you … I … I’m okay with it.”

Eren felt her hand, and he glanced over in confusion. “Okay with what?”

She firmed up her resolve and looked him in the eyes. “What I’m trying to say is, I like you, and despite the situation I’m in, I … I wouldn’t mind if we … you know,” she muttered, turning red.

Eren let out a sigh. “Louise…”

“You don’t have to protect me that much, is all. It’s okay if you … if we…” She laughed timidly. “I’m afraid I don’t know enough German to explain myself.”

“No, I get it.” Eren struggled to not show his frustration and disappointment. He realized he had only been avoiding her advances, making up excuses why he did not want sex, mostly blaming it on his leg hurting, not firmly telling her he was not interested. “Look, I…”

“You offered to marry me.” She blushed as she moved in a little closer, putting her body flush against him. “Just pretend I’m your wife.”

As her hand stroked up his shoulder toward his neck, Eren instinctively grabbed it to stop her. Louise looked stunned as Eren held her wrist.

“I can’t.”

She pulled back, and a sinking realization came over her. “You have a girl back home, don’t you?”

Eren hesitated to answer.

“It’s the only thing that makes sense. The way you avoid me, you keep making excuses, you acted so strange that first night when I tried to take my blouse off, yet it’s not out of disgust. It’s more like you’re trying to be loyal to someone else. You must love her very much.”

Eren smiled to himself and admitted, “My sweetheart is very precious to me. Look, I will do anything to protect you, Louise, but I will not cheat or be disloyal.”

She shifted in closer. “You’re alone, far from home, from her. No one would know.”

He looked at her coldly. “I would know.” He sighed and looked away. “Is this a problem for you? Are you going to report me?”

“What? No!” she cried out. “No, no, I just wanted to … I mean…” She rolled back around to hide her humiliation. “I’m so sorry.

“Don’t be. I’m flattered, really.”

“She must be special, this sweetheart of yours.”

Eren smiled sadly, thinking about the last night he and Levi spent together, cuddling all night long in this bed. “Yes, my sweetheart is amazing. I don’t deserve love like that.”

“Of course you do! Especially being so loyal to her. I would say that few girls deserve a man as amazing as you. However, in times of war, many women spread their legs to any man still around while they wait for their soldier boy to come back home. Do you really think your girl is going to be as faithful to you as you are to her?”

Eren chuckled at the irony. “I know for a fact, my sweetheart won’t cheat on me with another man. Now, go to sleep.”

* * *

Come morning, Eren read a newspaper while Louise read The Count of Monte Cristo through an awkward breakfast. After her confession and Eren’s rejection the previous night, Louise could barely even look at him and answered as briefly as she could.

He then called Floch to drive him back to the brothel. He once again walked into the sumptuous foyer, far less crowded than the previous evening, with no officers around and the women looking more casual, if weary and devoid of emotions.

“Cheer up, girls.” Carly stepped through the foyer and caressed Eren’s cheek. “A real hero is in our midst.”

Eren’s shoulders stiffened. “May I speak with you alone?”

“Of course, Herr Oberleutnant. Louise, go clean up and rest. There’s no telling how busy our lieutenant kept you last night.”

Louise blushed at the insinuation, glanced up to Eren, but took off toward the stairs in a trot. Carly waved Eren to follow her. They walked through a long hallway to a room at the far end. To Eren’s surprise, it was set up like an office, with a typewriter on a large desk, filing cabinets, stacks of paperwork, and a telephone with a notepad full of names and addresses, lists of officers and where to send her girls. It reminded Eren that prostitution, especially a large brothel, was very much a business despite the ribald services they offered.

“It looks like you run a tight ship.”

“I’m a businesswoman. Not that I wouldn’t prefer to use this desk for more pleasurable things,” she said, sitting on her desk and spreading her legs invitingly.

Eren scowled at her antics. “Can we speak freely here?”

“Of course,” she purred.

Eren’s eyes narrowed, and slower, almost growling, he repeated, “Can we speak freely here?”

She caught his austere tone, and her face equally lost its guise of playfulness. She sat up and pulled her legs back together. “Within this room, you may speak freely. It is my parlor room that the Gestapo bugged.”

“Are you positive this room is clean?”

“Let’s just say, I know someone who knows a thing or two about spying equipment. He checks all of my rooms weekly. He has never found a device in my office. The Gestapo don’t care about the business side of running a brothel. They care about the pretty little secrets officers may let slip while trying to impress a lady.”

Eren still wanted to be careful about what he said. “Just how long do I have to keep this up?”

“Are you not having a good time?”

“Do I have to keep her with me every single night?” he shouted in frustration.

Carly’s eyes held his sternly. “For the moment, yes. Yelena said seven to ten days.”

“What if I could get Louise out sooner and safer?”

Carly slid off the desk and down into her office chair, looking every bit of a businesswoman now. “You’ve got my attention. What’s your plan?”

“I’ll marry her.”

Her brow furrowed with shock. “Are you drunk? Did you get into any of my drugs?”

“As a German officer’s wife, she would be allowed to leave the city freely. I could even have her escorted home.”

“Do you really think that will protect her? What happens a month from now, three months, a year? What do you think will happen to her when the Americans come knocking on her door and learn she’s a German officer’s wife? What do you think other Frenchmen will think of her, being married to the enemy?”

“Germany is not the enemy.”

She burst into a disgusted laugh. “Do you honestly think that? You invaded this country, killed our men, enslaved our women, and you don’t think we see you as the enemy?”

“Do you see me as your enemy?” Eren had asked Levi that same question, and the reply—Only if you try to stop me—had troubled him for days.

“Let me tell you something, Oberleutnant.” She slapped the armband that marked her as a Jew, and her face took on a determined grimace. “I do what I have to just to survive. I slept my way up the chain of command until I found a man powerful enough to keep me safe. I would suck Hitler’s dick if it was a matter of life or death, and for a Jew like me, it is always a matter of life or death! I admit, my business has prospered under the Reich, but I will celebrate the day you retreat from Metz. One day, I’ll face God’s wrath for sleeping with Nazis. Until then, I’ll be damned if I allow a French girl to be raped under my roof when I could save her.”

Eren’s gaze dropped, and Carly slowly composed herself out of her disgusted rage.

“Germany will lose France—that is inevitable—and when they do, if Louise is the wife of a German officer, she will suffer great humiliation and abuse, all so she can leave a few days sooner. If I did not have Yelena’s help, I might agree, but as it stands, my answer is no. I will not release her from my employment. It’s noble that you’re so willing to help, and I’m sure marrying her will help you with your own situation, but I don’t need—”

Just then, there was a knock on the door. Eren jolted around, his hand already on his gun. Was the room bugged after all? Carly also looked worried, opened a drawer, and slipped a tiny pistol into her hand.

Qui est là?” Who’s there?

C’est moi, François.” It’s me, François.

Carly sank in relief, put her gun away, and rose to answer the door. “Don’t worry, Herr Oberleutnant. Louise will be safe soon. Until then, I will put you down for another night. Pick her up around the same time.” She opened the door, and Eren was stunned to see an exceedingly tall person with a thin blond beard standing there waiting. Carly immediately hugged the person and tiptoed to give kisses to each cheek. “François, mon très cher ami.

Désolé, j’interromps quelque chose?” Sorry, am I interrupting something?

Il allait partir. On parlait de Louise.” He was just leaving. We were talking about Louise.

“Louise?” The tall person turned to Eren and, in perfect German, asked, “Are you Oberleutnant Eren Jäger?”

Eren’s heart again pounded in momentary terror.

The fear showed on his face, and the bearded person named François chuckled, “Don’t worry. I come with news from Levi.”

Eren’s mouth dropped, and the thudding heartbeats of dread turned into a fluttery light skip of excitement.

The blond chuckled and muttered, “He’s right. Your face is too honest.” François stepped in and glanced around. “I take it the office is not bugged.”

Carly closed the door and locked it behind her. “Your cousin recently inspected the whole building. It’s still just the parlor.”

Eren cautiously inspected the newcomer, glaring distrustfully, a scathing look François ignored. Carly pulled out a silver case with rolled cigarettes, speaking in French to François, but offering Eren a cigarette in German. She held her lighter out all around, and they settled into the aroma of Carly’s high quality cigarettes. Eren had to look at the white stick, honestly amazed at how superior it was to what he normally got.

The tall person finally glanced over. “I wanted to meet you, Eren.”

His eyes narrowed. “Who are you and how do you know Levi?”

The blond chuckled while blowing out a stream of smoke. “Calm down, lover boy.”

Eren barely stopped from gasping.

“Oh yes, I figured out about you and him before the first day was up. The only time that man smiles is when he’s talking about you. I would say you both have too-honest faces.”

Carly sat elegantly behind her desk again. “Herr Oberleutnant, this is my old friend, Yelena.”

His eyes grew massive as he stared at the thin, lanky person with a beard. Then he remembered what Armin had said, that the person Levi had been with when he delivered the letter was dressed as a man but Armin got the hint that it was a woman in disguise.

Yelena chuckled at his reaction. “If you like crossdressing, you should see miner klai Frend.”

“See what?” That almost sounded like German, but not quite.

Yelena pulled her seat up close to the desk to rest an elbow and slump over. “We have a problem. If it’s okay, I will explain in German so our lieutenant can understand.” She glanced over to Eren. “I take it you don’t speak French. Levi said you only speak German and English.”

“He told you that?”

“He won’t stop talking about you.”

Eren felt his cheeks warm up.

“Yes, well, you may have to help us, Eren. Levi did not want me to drag you into this, but I don’t want to put his life at risk. As soon as I found out what he is, I realized I needed to keep him alive at any cost.”

“What he is?” Eren snapped, not liking the sound of that.

Yelena stared at him for many silent seconds before finally whispering, “Do you know who he really is? Do you know anything about his past?”

Eren’s eyes narrowed grimly. “How do you know?”

Carly chuckled and leaned back in her desk chair. “This sounds like juicy gossip. Care to let me in?”

Yelena shook her head. “It’s probably best that I don’t tell you, no offense.”

Carly merely shrugged and took a drag of her cigarette. “Keep your secrets, then.”

“Anyway,” sighed Yelena. “The man I’ve used in the past to forge papers is now refusing to help. He got called into the Gestapo recently, and it scared him witless. He was already packed up and ready to leave town when I went to visit him. There’s some new criminal director in charge of the Metz Gestapo, a man named Theo Magath, and apparently he’s terrifying everyone who used to give us help.” She scowled as she looked down at her cigarette. “Levi offered to convince the forger to work, but I’m afraid that if we start to use fear tactics, our old allies will turn on us. In summary, I can’t get them out the usual way. Smuggling them out always comes with risks. Levi is useful to us in the meantime, but your innocent little maiden is an issue.” She looked over to Eren. “You hiring her every night is a big help, but it’s not complete protection.”

Eren looked over at Carly, who was pouting as she eyed him back. She shook her head but finally conceded. “Fine, your plan will work.”

Yelena raised an eyebrow. “You have a plan?”

“A horrible one,” Carly grumbled. “He plans to marry her.”

Yelena’s eyes went huge. “Levi’s going to kill someone.”

“Please don’t tell him,” Eren said sharply. “He wouldn’t understand.”

“No, I think he would. I’m also going to make sure he doesn’t have any guns or knives in reach when he finds out just how Louise will escape when he can’t.” She took a deep inhale from her cigarette and let it out slowly. “So, when is the wedding? The sooner the better. The Americans freed Nancy just yesterday. They’re heading up from the south as we speak.”

Eren recalled what Armin had said. “Ein Flankenmanöver.” A pincer maneuver.

“A what?” asked Carly.

Yelena told her in French. “Un mouvement en tenaille.”

Carly shrugged. “I still don’t know what that is. Battle was never my interest. Only bedroom brawling,” she said with a suggestive wink to Eren.

Yelena explained, “Imagine it like two men, one above the woman, one below, and they each attack her at the same time.”

Carly hummed sensually. “I do love a good ménage à trois.”

“Yeah, except as soon as the northern and southern wings of the Third Army are in place, Metz is fucked. It’s partly why I came back to this city. I want to get you and my cousin out.”

“How is your sweet cousin? He won’t tell me anything.”

“That’s probably for the best.” Then she looked firmly to Eren. “If you are set on this choice, I recommend you get a priest soon. Catholic, Protestant, it doesn’t matter at this point, just anyone who will marry two people in a hurry. I’m guessing there’s official paperwork required. Germany is strict about who you can marry these days.”

“I’ll get to work on it today,” Eren said, looking coldly determined. “What about Levi? How does he get out?”

Yelena paused, and they stared at each other as seconds ticked. Carly glanced between the two, fascinated by the confrontation. Finally, Yelena admitted, “I don’t know yet.”

“He needs to get out.”

“We’ll find some other way.”

“Like hell you will!” he bellowed, leaping to his feet. “You’ll want to use him, just like the Resistance in the last town wanted to use him. They didn’t care about the other Jews, they just wanted him, for his skills, to fight for them.”

“He’s a skilled assassin.”

A sneer curled in Eren’s lip. “What are you forcing him to do?”

“Forcing? Nothing. He volunteered. He’s very good at his job.”

Eren turned away sharply, his eyes burning with anguish. Jean’s worries about the French Resistance being a threat to all Germans in Metz seemed to be of real concern, especially if Levi was the one out there slitting the throats of his fellow soldiers. It also stung Eren with a deep sense of betrayal. Levi had made it clear, Germans were still his enemies, but Eren hated to think that he might have to choose between his loyalty to his countrymen and his love for a single person.

Also, he had seen how that bloody past left Levi with nightmares. Now his heart ached to think that the French Resistance had him doing their bidding.

Suddenly, Eren’s fist came down heavily onto Carly’s desk, almost overturning a lamp. His eyes burned fiercely at Yelena. “If he dies…” He seethed to even think of the possibility. “If you think he’s dangerous, you have no idea what I could do. I would crush half the world to save him.”

Yelena rose from her chair, and Eren had to take a step back to gaze up at the towering woman. Her face was calm, cold, and ominous as she whispered, “If you were any other German, I would gleefully shoot you where you stand. The only reason I will let you walk out of this room after threatening me is that I know your little boyfriend would slit my throat, probably in a way so I’d die slowly over many days. I will tell you this, though, Eren Jäger. After he is gone and you are no longer under his protection, if I feel you are a threat to either me, my men, or to Carly, I will not hesitate to end you. I suggest you don’t threaten me again.”

Eren’s fingers itched to grab his gun and kill this Resistance leader, but the fear that she was Levi’s only hope for escape made him hesitate.

“I will make sure Levi doesn’t die. As I said, he’s too valuable. While I would love to keep him here and work for us until Metz is free, he would probably also kill me if he thought that was my plan.” She scoffed and shook her head. “If we could just break down those damned walls.” She faced Eren again. “There are a few other people I can try. It may take a little longer. Levi is free to stay with us in the meantime. He’s safe where he is.”

“And where is that?”

“Underground. That’s all you need to know.”

“I want to see him,” Eren blurted out. The letter was nice, but he wanted to tell Levi goodbye. If he was going to be stuck in the city a while longer, Eren at least wanted to separate on better terms.

“I’ll let him know, but tomorrow. I’m rather busy today and won’t be back to the hideout. I suggest you marry that girl as soon as you can. Tonight, if possible.”

Eren eyes dropped. Tonight? He never thought he would marry, certainly not to a woman. Now, he was forever going to be marked by this day.

Yelena slapped a hand on his shoulder. “You’re doing an honorable thing. I know you don’t want Levi to know, but I think it would be better if he heard about it … from you.”

Eren’s eyes lit up out of their gloom. “Then you’ll let me meet him?”

“I’m not holding him prisoner. He’s free to come and go. I’ll tell him tomorrow when I return to the hideout. Marry that girl, send her back home, and tell Levi what you did.”

Eren grimaced. “He’s going to be so mad.”

Yelena softly chuckled. “He’s adorably jealous, but he trusts you. Don’t lie to him, and don’t keep secrets. That’s the only relationship advice I can give to a husband-to-be. Now, if you’ll excuse me.” She grabbed Carly’s case of cigarettes, pulled out another, and struck a match to light it. “I have a long day ahead of me, and it sounds like you have a wedding to plan. Félicitations pour vos fiançailles. J’espère que vous serez très heureux ensemble.” Congratulations on your engagement. I hope you will both be very happy together.

With that sarcastic wish, Yelena marched out of the office. Eren removed his cap and ran his hand through his hair. Meanwhile, Carly pushed her silver cigarette case across the desk toward Eren, realizing he was stressed. He gladly accepted another cigarette and leaned in toward her lighter.

“I know a priest,” she offered with an ambivalent smile.

Although he had been the one to suggest it, the reality of his choice was hitting Eren. He felt a weight getting heavier and heavier on his shoulders, and he slumped under the pressure. Softly, he asked, “Can I use your phone?”

Carly looked sympathetic and nodded. “I’ll get Louise. I have a dress she can wear. It’s white.”

“Thank you,” he breathed out, staring ahead blankly. He waited until Carly left the office, and then he picked up the phone. “Operator, put me through to Nordpol Barracks. This is Oberleutnant Eren Jäger. I need to speak to Stabsgefreiter Armin Arlelt. Yes, I’ll hold.”

* * *

That evening, Eren stood in front of a priest, not really listening to the words, with Louise beside him wearing a white dress that would have been too scandalous for a church, except for a knitted shawl with glittering pearls that covered anything exposed and clasped at her throat with a silver brooch, all compliments of Carly. Armin stood to the side as a best man, and Carly was there as an unexpected maid-of-honor. Everyone in the company who heard about Eren getting married had rushed over and filled the church pews with a small sea of German uniforms.

Armin looked on with barely-concealed sympathy. Eren had to explain the situation to him, away from the ears of others. In a way, telling Armin was a dress rehearsal for when he faced Levi and explained why he married a woman he had only known for five days.

He repeated words he did not mean. The ring he gave to her was a gift from Carly, a filigree silver band with a giant pearl. It was too big for Louise’s tiny hands, but it was all he could get for a rushed wedding.

Sie dürfen jetzt die Braut küssen.” You may now kiss the bride.

When Eren leaned in and gave her a kiss, a piece of his heart shattered.

With that, it was over. Like a dream, it did not make sense and did not feel real. The priest further blessed them, but Eren stared ahead, eyes determined. This was a mission, and he would complete his mission, no matter the battle plan.

To roaring applause from the men who had followed him into battles, he walked back down the aisle arm-in-arm with Louise and led her out of the church. The men followed, cheering happily for him. Eren managed to smile, even laugh at some of their crude comments. He put on the mask he wore so often.

The rain had started up again, so they celebrated by going to the restaurant Eren had eaten in with the other lieutenants. He saw the manager named Niccolo and his Black servant Onyankopon. Although the restaurant was nicer than a beer hall, the men still got rowdy with many cheers for the new bride and groom.

Someone brought a camera, and he wanted to take a picture of the two of them sitting at the table. Louise beamed a bashful but happy smile. Eren looked stoically forward with a smile that did not reach his eyes. Armin sat by his side without any smile at all, while others gathered behind the two, cheering, grinning, holding up steins of beer and goblets of wine. The camera flash blinded Eren.

* * *

A tank shell hit mere meters away. The flash blinded him, and the percussive explosion left his ears bleeding with a piercing ring. Hellish howls of agony filled the air. Something hit Eren’s arm with burning pain. Before he could react, a splash of blood hit his face. He watched as the man next to him collapsed with shrapnel pierced into his skull. Not even a second later, he heard a grotesque scream and turned to see the soldier directly behind him had been hit with the same spike of shrapnel that ripped through his arm, only it embedded deep into the man’s gut. The young man, not even eighteen, grabbed hold of the spike, too afraid and in pain to pull it out. Blood spurt in pulses as he shrieked over and over, writhing in pangs, until he collapsed and convulsed in an inhuman way.  Men were falling, falling, one by one, some lifeless with eyes gazing blankly into the void of death, others probably wishing for death. Eren dropped to his knees, watching helplessly as the man who had been behind him stopped convulsing and lay there, stabbing breaths twitching his chest. His eyes met Eren’s, and he muttered, “Not … worth it.” Then he fell still and his eyes rolled up. Suddenly, Eren screamed in a moment of terror, yet he was nothing more than another body crying on the battlefield, wondering if his loyalty to Hitler and Germany was worth anything at all.

* * *

Eren jolted out of the moment and back into the party. Louise glanced over at him, sensing something was wrong but not sure what to do. Then the fake smile was back, and Eren laughed like nothing had happened.

He was an actor, and this was a role he had to play.

Finally, the two left the restaurant, and the soldiers followed them out, cheering with more lewd comments about the honeymoon night to come. Floch started up the truck, Eren and Louise sat in the back together under the canvas top, and they drove off to shouts of congratulations.

Floch laughed as he drove. “That was my first time seeing a wedding. Rather rushed, but life is short, right?”

“Right,” Eren answered, staring straight ahead as they drove down the road.

When he stepped into the hotel lobby and men saw him with a woman dressed all in white, the rumors spread instantly. Eren still struggled up the stairs with Louise helping when his leg hurt. By the time they reached the top floor, the rumors had reached the Lieutenant’s Floor, and the other officers were there to cheer on the bride and groom, all except for Jean, who stared quietly. Between Greiz shouting how glad he was that Eren took his advice and Holger complimenting Louise on her dress, Jean pulled Eren aside and leaned into his ear.

“I hope you got smart enough to take a woman, and this isn’t another idiotic stunt of yours.”

Eren looked at him with those eyes devoid of anything except determination. “I’ll tell you about it later.”

“Shit, Eren!” he hissed.

Just then, Wim and Oliver came up, the two other married men in the group. They gave Eren handshakes as well as marriage advice. Eren continued to put on a smile as he slowly made his way through their small mob and to his room. He slipped inside with Louise, locked the door behind him, and let out a sigh.

Louise looked at him with concern. While she had felt happy the whole day, she knew this was all fake. Eren’s mirthless smiles and moments of empty stares emphasized the fact that he was only playing a role.

Eren saw that Louise’s belongings had been packed up by Carly and delivered to his room, along with a bottle of expensive wine and a letter showing an official termination of employment for Louise.

“Well, it’s over,” she said, reading through the letter. “Can you believe the Wehrmacht thanks me for my service? Like I had a choice!” She put the letter down. “Thank you, Eren. I’m free because of you. You’re a true hero.”

With cold words, Eren said, “I’m sending you home tomorrow.”

Louise’s mouth dropped at the bitterness in his words. “So soon? Won’t it be suspicious?”

“That I want to send my pregnant wife out into the countryside for her protection? That’s not suspicious at all.”

Louise blushed and dropped her head. “Pregnant?”

“That’s what I’ll tell anyone who asks. We’re not going to be around in nine months for them to know otherwise.”

She frowned at the fatalistic sound of that, like he had already accepted they would all be massacred. “What if you are around in nine months?”

“Then I’ll tell them you lost the baby. It happens in many stressful pregnancies.”

“But … us? What happens to us in nine months?” she asked with a diffident smile.

His eyes were cold. “There is no us. If I die in battle, you will receive a letter from Berlin and inherit anything that is mine. If I survive and I’m taken captive, I will petition to divorce you. Under German law, the inability to conceive children is allowed as a reason for divorce, and obviously I cannot give you children while I’m in a POW camp. Divorcing you would be seen as me nobly sacrificing for the greater good of Germany.”

“Divorce,” she whispered. “But my family is Catholic.”

“An annulment, then. Since we will never consummate this marriage, the Catholic Church would allow an annulment.”

“But you said we’ll tell people I’m pregnant.”

“No, I will tell anyone who pesters me about why you aren’t around anymore. You don’t have to lie to anyone. I doubt these German soldiers are going to tell a French Catholic priest that some random lieutenant said you were pregnant. In any case, we will end the marriage, and you’ll be free.”

“And you? You have to tell your sweetheart.”

“Yeah,” he mumbled. “It’ll crush his heart.”

His?” she cried out in shock.

Eren realized too late what he had said. “Shit.”

Her mouth was dropped as she thought back through their conversations. “You love a man. That explains a lot: why Madame Carly trusted you, why you never wanted to touch me, why you have never once seemed interested in me.” She looked up to Eren in confusion and whispered, “I thought Germans don’t allow homosexuality.”

“We don’t,” he said bitterly. “I’d be killed if anyone found out.”

She gulped as a shiver went through her arms.

“My sweetheart is still in Metz. The Resistance is protecting him. You two were supposed to escape together, and while this marriage rescues you, he’s still in danger. Now he’ll have to be told he’s not going to be able to leave, and I got you out by marrying you. It’s going to crush his heart, and it may destroy his trust in me.”

Eren collapsed onto a chair by his table and dropped his head down into his arms, cradling it as guilt washed over him in burning waves. He thought about what Levi once said, to do whatever was needed and beg for forgiveness later. He never imagined that might mean marrying a woman he barely even knew.

Louise slowly stepped up to him and patted him on the shoulder. “I’m sorry.”

“None of this is your fault,” he mumbled into his arms.

“I’m sorry I flirted with you when you were just trying to protect me. Even now, all through that ceremony, I felt so happy, but I could see that this was miserable for you. You were doing it out of duty. You truly are a gentleman, and I’ve been a horrible woman for thinking I could take advantage of that.”

Eren raised his head up. “Again, it’s not your fault. You’re a lovely lady, I’m grateful for your company, and if life was different, you’re the sort of person I’d like to have as a friend.” His face drew up as he considered something. “This area will be a war zone soon, and Carly made a good point. If the Americans find out you’re married to a German officer, it could go really bad for you. If you face any sort of trouble, if the battle reaches your family’s farm or if other people harass you because of me, escape east to Germany. Your grandfather was born in Germany, and through me now you are a German citizen as well. There’s a place … here, let me write this down.” He grabbed a piece of paper and his pen, scribbling down an address and instructions. “You can stay here. It should be safe.”

Louise looked at the paper. “Is it a house?”

“Yes, the house I grew up in. The estate is still in my name, so as my wife, you have a claim on the whole property. It’s on the northern coast, but it’s not a big port, nothing the Allies would want to target. It’s … a really nice place to live,” he said with a wistful smile.

“Is that where you’ll be returning to after the war?”

The question stunned Eren, and he gazed out in blank confusion. “I’ve never really thought about it. After my mother was killed, I lived with my guardian, Captain Hannes, and then I was in Napola, followed immediately by officer academy. Hannes was killed in Russia, so I can’t go back there, and I haven’t been back home since that day. It would be hard to go back. So many memories…” His voice faded away.

Louise reached out and touched the top of his hand. “I hope I don’t have to leave my parents, but if I do, thank you for the offer.”

“Write to me,” he blurted out.

Louise blushed instantly.

“Let me know how you’re doing, if you’re safe, or if you’re in trouble. For one, it’ll keep up the charade of being a married couple, and two … well, I really do want to be sure you’re okay. If you need anything—help getting to Germany, military assistance, money—I have plenty of money. My father was a doctor and I inherited quite a lot from him. So write to me, let me know that you’re okay, and tell me if you need anything at all.”

She laughed softly as she shook her head. “Just when I think there’s no way a man can be so nice, you go even further. At this rate, I’ll never find a man who makes a better husband than you do.” Her hand gripped his tighter. “Fate played a cruel trick, bringing the man of my dreams into my life, and making him a homosexual.”

Eren flinched and began to open his mouth.

“Don’t be sorry,” she cut in before he could say the words. “You are who you are. Never be sorry for that. Let’s just go to bed. We’ll figure the rest out tomorrow.”

She took a nightgown out of her supplies and went to the bathroom to change, while Eren got out of uniform, moving slowly with the weight on his shoulders growing heavier and heavier.

Just after he got out of his trousers, there was a knock on the door, startling Eren’s morose thoughts. He went over, cautiously opened it, and saw a few of the lieutenants had gathered around.

“Hey, is everything okay?” asked Samuel.

Daz said, “Yeah, we haven’t heard any honeymoon happiness.” He gave a suggestive wink.

“Assholes,” Eren muttered. “Are you standing around trying to listen in on me?”

“It’s your honeymoon!” Oliver said with a goodhearted laugh. “We’re just trying to make sure you’re having fun.”

Surma explained, “The French call it a charivari.”

Eren rolled his eyes and shook his head. “I should have taken her to a real hotel, not back here with you nosy idiots.”

Holger tried to peek through the door. “So, where is the beautiful bride?”

“She’s freshening up, and stop trying to peek.”

Phil broke into a laugh. “Ooh, I bet she has something naughty to wear.”

Greiz chuckled slyly. “She won’t be wearing it for long.”

“Get out of here!” Eren shouted, shoving them back.

Behind him, he heard Louise call out, “Eren? I’m ready for bed.”

“Ooh, she’s ready!” they taunted. “Give her a good honeymoon. Don’t break the bed!”

Eren slammed the door shut on them as they sang raunchy songs. Then he saw Louise standing by the bathroom door, frowning as she guessed the problem.

“We have to … act,” he said, sneering at the repugnant idea.

She understood and whispered, “I can make some noise, but it’s rather embarrassing.”

“Would it be easier if you were in the room alone?”

She tilted her head. “Perhaps, but how?”

Eren pulled the chair up under the attic hatch and pushed it open. “I’ll sit up here. How long should we entertain them?”

“Half an hour. At least in the brothel, the men never last that long. They’ll think you have good stamina.”

“Make it believable.”

She laughed quietly. “I’ve been living for over a week surrounded by those sorts of noises. Trust me, I know how it sounds. Can you maybe … plug your ears?” She tittered awkwardly. “It really is embarrassing just thinking about making noises like that, especially knowing they’re out there listening.”

“They just want to listen to something to jerk off to, but sure, I’ll plug my ears. No offense, but I don’t like listening to that kind of stuff.”

She tiptoed up and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “I’ll do it to protect your secret, Eren. Count on me.”

He felt a warmth in his heart at how nice of a girl she was. With that, he pulled himself up into the attic. He closed the hatch and cautiously moved through the darkness, regretting that he had not thought about taking a light with him. Rain pelted down on the roof above, making the attic frigid. Wearing nothing but his boxers and undershirt, Eren began to shiver. He turned back to the hatch, wanting to grab a jacket, but he heard the first sensual moans from Louise. She really did sound like she was being slowly, carefully pleasured, and her groaning words were all in German so the men listening in would understand.

Eren shook his head and gave up the idea of getting a jacket. He crept onward, maneuvering around crates that Levi had left behind to mark squeaky boards. Against a wall, he found a blanket folded on top of a crate. He pulled it around himself as he carefully made his way to the chair by the window, now covered in a dust cloth. He pulled the white cloth aside and sat in the 19th century chair, gazing out at the city of Metz and the traffic below. He could barely hear Louise, but she was obviously trying to be loud enough for the men to hear her.

Then he got a whiff of something familiar. Eren pulled the blanket up closer, and it was definitely Levi’s scent. This must have been one of the blankets he used as bedding. His cheeks warmed up, and he closed his eyes to picture Levi’s face once again.

Then he heard Louise getting audibly louder and crying out sensually, not holding back at all. Eren sneered, not wanting to listen to that. He pulled the blanket over his head, smothering himself in the scent of Levi, and plugged his ears.

His mind drifted back to the bathtub, Levi on top of him, his smooth body gliding over him, their cocks rubbing together. He reached down as the memory stirred him, touching cautiously at first, but after a day like this, he needed to take his mind off things and slip into a fantasy. He needed to think of Levi and how much he loved him.

He eased his cock out of his underwear and began to stroke. However, with one hand down, he could hear Louise crying out his name. He used his shoulder to block his right ear while the other hand plugged his left ear. With the noisome sounds blocked, his right hand began to stroke himself.

He let his mind stray from what really happened that day, and instead he imagined Levi doing more, taking him, thrusting into him, right there in the bathtub, splashing water with each slam of his hips. Eren reached down to tickle his asshole as he imagined it. He also pictured himself flipping Levi over, being the one on top, pleasuring him in every way. Although Levi had said he doubted he could be fucked up the ass without bad memories, still Eren liked to imagine how it would be, and how much he wanted it.

Yet in reality, he would be respectful. His mind drifted back to Levi caging him in. He liked that thought just as much, to allow Levi to seek his own pleasure, watching him sweat and listening to his carnal moans. Eren rubbed around his asshole some more, teasing it, not wanting to poke in—not up there in the attic—but indulging in his imagination. If Levi said his ass was off limits, Eren would happily give over his whole body, a small sacrifice to please the man he loved.

He bit his lip, knowing he had to stay quiet. He also had to hurry before Louise was done with her performance. He began to pant heavier to thoughts of sex in the tub, on the bed, across his desk, pinning Levi to the wall and frotting up hard against him. Oh, he loved that fantasy!

Then came a vision that plagued his dreams: Levi on his knees, his mouth stretched around his cock, sucking as those narrow eyes gazed up, and then his voice, so low and surly, commanding Eren to give him something to drink. That fantasy always undid Eren, and his hand stroked faster and faster. The more he stroked, the more clearly he could picture Levi and his hungry mouth.

He wanted him! God, he wanted him so much!

They had separated just as their relationship was growing, but Eren wanted more. More! He selfishly wanted Levi back so he could pleasure him, at least once, just one memory of wild passion to get him through the lonely nights. He wanted Levi to touch him and to feel their naked legs entangled together, their bodies so close, groping, stroking, kissing, biting, devouring!

“Levi,” he moaned quietly into the night. “Ahh!”

He had nothing to catch the mess, and he did not want to ruin the blanket. He looked around frantically, straining to clench back. He saw no tissues, washcloths, handkerchiefs, nothing at all. Then he realized the dust cover was rumpled on the ground. Desperate, he grabbed the white cloth, wrapped it around his cock, and made the last rapid jerks to get himself off. His mouth dropped open as his body stiffened, carnal pressure pulsing out. He was completely silent through it all as he succumbed to pleasure.

Weariness replaced passion. He stroked slower, milking all of it out, not wanting the fantasy of Levi with thick whiteness dripping from his lips to fade away into nothingness.

Finally, Eren slumped to the side. His head rested near the window, and he pulled the blanket tighter around him as his body buzzed.

“Levi,” he sighed, watching the rain.

Somewhere below, Louise was still acting like Eren was giving her a honeymoon to remember, but the sounds depressed him. A single tear slipped down his cheek as he realized this had to be one of the most miserable honeymoon nights in history.

After what felt like an eternity, Louise’s voice reached a crescendo, with rhythmic cries followed by a long, weary moan. Eren stayed where he was for another minute before putting the dust cover back over the chair, careful of the wet mess and trying to hide it away from view. He folded the blanket and put it away, then crawled back over to the hatch. He lifted it, slid the rope ladder down, and climbed back into the room. Then he tossed the ladder up and put the hatch down into place.

He hesitated before turning around and actually looking at Louise. She was in bed, the blankets up to her nose, yet a scarlet blush covered her whole face. For a moment, Eren wondered if she had gone ahead and masturbated like he had, but he decided it was rude to ask.

Without a word, he went to the bathroom to act like he was washing up after a vigorous romp. When he came out, Louise had her back to him. He slipped into the bed and lay facing the wardrobe.

“That was embarrassing,” she whispered.

“I plugged my ears.”

“Everyone else probably heard.”

“You’ll never see them again after tomorrow.”

She was quiet for a moment, then muttered, “Are you really sending me away?”

“It’s for your own safety.”

“But wouldn’t it look better if I stayed, even if just for a week?”

“The Americans could attack before then. They’ve proved that they can mobilize swiftly. As soon as they sort out their fuel shortage, their tanks could roll out and surround the city in a matter of hours. You don’t want to be in Metz when that happens.”

Softly, she admitted, “I wish you could come with me.”

“I’m a Heer officer. My duty is to Germany. I will protect you, but I cannot abandon my men.”

After a moment, Louise whispered, “You truly are a hero.”

They said nothing more, and after a while he heard Louise’s breath go heavy with sleep. Eren continued to stare out sadly into the darkness.

What use was being a hero if it left you feeling so miserable?

# # #

# #

#

It’s important to remember that not every soldier was a monster. Not every Russian soldier raped 8-year-old kids. Not every Japanese soldier slaughtered POWs. Not every American soldier took home body parts of their enemies as trophies. Not every German soldier was a Nazi and wanted to massacre Jews. It is important to keep a balance in humanizing these soldiers regardless of which uniform they wore, just as it is important to hold them accountable for war crimes regardless of if their side won or lost.

With that clarification, here are some pictures of German soldiers goofing around on their off-time, from stereotypical “big schlong” jokes, reckless joyriding, crossdressing, being dorks, or posing in their underwear with a kitten on their head. These were mostly teenagers, being typical teenagers. Never believe a person who says “back in my day, kids weren’t like this.” They totally were! (Also, there is a Pinterest for everything!) Note: pictures are on AO3. This site does not allow images.

  • https://www.pinterest.com/dougstrong1/germans-in-underwear/
  • https://www.warhistoryonline.com/world-war-ii/the-funniest-pictures-of-ww2.html
  • https://historyimages.blogspot.com/2009/10/funny-photos-german-soldiers-human-side.html

Rifle Drill – Unlike many other armies around the world, the German army shoulders the rifle to the left shoulder instead of to the right. There are more drills, but you get the point.

  • http://www.dererstezug.com/RifleDrill.htm
  • http://www.panzergrenadier.net/article-wehrmacht-drill-orders.php
  • https://youtu.be/MFm5Yb2LKMI

"What a useless officer you are, Jean." "I wanted to meet you, Eren." – straight out of Chapter 105 and 106 of "Shingeki no Kyojin." I love to throw in direct quotes from the manga.

Treulich geführt – Known in English as "Bridal Chorus" or "Here Comes the Bride," this song from Richard Wagner's opera Lohengrin has been a staple of weddings for over a century, ever since Queen Victoria walked to the altar to the song to marry Frederick III of Prussia in 1858. Wagner's music was especially beloved by Adolf Hitler, who felt the operas of Teutonic fairy tales and German legends embodied his idealistic view of Aryan pride. Hitler would force high-ranked members of the Nazi Party to attend opera performances with him, which the men found mind-numbingly boring, yet no one was going to go against Hitler and his taste in music. Lohengrin is around four hours long, only moderate by Wagner's standards. His Ring Cycle takes 15-17 hours (depending on how fast the conductor takes the tempo) and is performed over many days.

On a personal note, I fell in love with Richard Wagner’s music in high school after finding a CD of his opera arias in my school library. Later in college, I was upset that my music history professor refused to even discuss Wagner and told us to “rip those pages out of the book.” It was only then that I learned that some Jews despise Wagner because he had antisemitic opinions (to be fair, most Christians did in 1800s Europe) and Nazis blasted his music in the concentration camps to keep prisoners from sleeping well, so there’s a generational phobia of his music now, passed from one traumatized parent to their kids and grandkids. I strongly disagree with Wagner’s opinions about Jews, but I still love his music. I’m able to separate one from the other, but it’s okay if other people cannot make that separation. We all handle things in our own unique ways, and no way is superior to another.

Slips – Since wool or other stiff fabrics could be itchy and washing clothes was time-consuming, women wore an undergarment called a slip, or chemise, or other names for it. They were often made from satin or very soft cotton, but could also include silk, lace, or be knitted to be more breathable in hot weather. The idea was to protect the skin from irritation, hide lines from bras and panties, and absorb sweat, keeping it off the more expensive, harder-to-wash dress.
Personal note: my mother insisted that I wear a slip under my dress. She was ultra conservative and believed that not wearing a slip to hide your bra and panty lines was sinfully suggestive. I had a weird childhood.

Krupp Protze – I’ve been calling what Floch drives just a truck for a while now, but in my mind it is a Krupp Protze, a 6-wheeled German armored truck used during World War II. They could transport troops or have a machine gun mounted to the back for mobile artillery. They came with a canvas top that could be slipped on when it rains.

Marrying in Nazi Germany – Germany instituted rules about whom a person could marry: 1) could not mix blood, like a Jew or person of color, and each person had to bring proof of heritage like an Ahnenpaß (Ancestor Pass) that listed parents and grandparents; 2) had to be genetically healthy, so you could not get married if you had epilepsy, autism, schizophrenia, chronic depression or anxiety, or alcoholism; 3) could not be sterilized, and divorce was granted if a wife could not conceive a child. On top of that, couples got a 1000 Reichmark loan (equivalent to 3/4 of a year’s pay) so they could start off their married life right, and for every child born, one quarter of that loan would be forgiven. This promoted couples to have large families, which was the point. The Nazis wanted more Aryans to strengthen their Third Reich. As for ceremonies, the Nazis honestly did not care HOW you married. Have it in a church, at home, a civil agreement without a priest. They even legalized having a pagan ceremony in the middle of the forest. This was a big deal back in the 1940s.

  • http://content.time.com/time/subscriber/article/0,33009,802832,00.html


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