levi, petra, and the many lives they lived after the scouting legion. — reincarnation au
characters/pairings: levipetra with cameos from from eren, armin, mikasa, hanji, mike, auruo, erd, gunther, annie, and erwin
notes: crossposted from ao3 and my writing blog
two days after
He sees her again just after the war ends. They are mere children clutching their parents’ hands, wide-eyed at the open world, at the soldiers of the Scouting Legion as they parade through the town. The girl next to him is no older than five, a good two years older than himself. She has auburn hair and hazel eyes and she looks up at the Scouting Legion with the utmost trust in her eyes. She turns away from him to ask her mother a question, and he cannot help but to think he knows this girl, somehow. Eren Jaeger glances over at them and stops dead in his tracks, eyes wide and disbelieving. The Commander of the Scouting Legion goes and retrieves him, her red scarf blowing in the wind. Eren shoots him and the girl one last glance, mouthing I’m so sorry.
His name is no longer Levi, it’s Hugo, and his earliest memory is of a girl whose name is always at the tip of his tongue. His next earliest memory is of the celebrated war hero Eren Jaeger looking him in the eye and apologizing.
one hundred twenty one years after
She sees him at her local grocery store. He’s the bagger the next register over, putting all his weight on his left leg as teenage girl’s baking supplies are getting rung up. His face looks familiar, but she can’t quite place where she’s seen him before. She lets her face scrunch up in confusion as her cashier gives off a laugh.
“Oh, Maurice?” he says. “If you’re wondering where you’ve seen him before, they say he looks like Commander Levi, you know, before he was killed by the Ape Titan.”
Cassandra thinks it’s strange how the boy so freely talks about one of the Great Heroes of times past—Levi, who was Commander Erwin Smith’s successor. She mumbles something about having a lecture about Commander Levi last month before summer break. Her cashier laughs again, but his eyes aren’t.
Cassandra thinks she hears a distinct sadness in the laughter.
When she gets home, she thinks of how those eyes were as blue as the ocean.
two hundred twelve years after
He nearly spills coffee on himself when he sees her. He’s at the local café, his laptop in front of him and his scarf wrapped tight around his neck. It’s already been a week since classes have started up again, and he misses his mother’s casseroles. He has a paper due in four days and his roommate is too damn loud, not to mention a bit creepy.
The usual barista—her name is something Japanese, one of those old, dead languages that civilization lost after the titans drove them into the safety of the walls Maria, Rose, and Sina—looks at her like she looks at him, face twitching in recognition. The auburn haired woman orders herself a cup of tea, and turns around to grab a table. She opens up her computer and that’s when he sees her face, something familiar, almost like he should know her.
She does not notice him staring, and he quickly turns away after her name is called.
“Lydia!” Misato calls, but he can hear a fumble in her voice, almost undetectable if he didn’t visit so often.
He feels sick, and his paper on Annie Leonhardt never gets written.
three hundred sixteen years after
She has always been extraordinary at history. She likes to read about the titans, about the Scouting Legion, almost as much as she likes to write about them. It’s been well over three hundred years, but she envisions the events as though she lived through them. Sketches of the Great Heroes have long since been lost and are considered very rare, and the most the history books have left are the medical records of soldiers.
There’s Eren Jaeger and his titan-shifter status, brown hair and blue-green eyes, and his adopted sister Mikasa Ackerman—their blood runs through anyone of Japanese heritage. The hardened war tactician Armin Arlert, physically weak with a brilliant mind, who Jean Kirschtein gave his life for—she knows, she’s read what’s left of his diaries.
Her editor is named Zoe and ever since they met, Zoe is always eagerly awaiting her latest draft. Zoe likes history from before humanity’s freedom more than anyone Kyra knows, and she knows Zoe was named after Hanji Zoe, the only scientist who thought of researching the titans, one of the biggest keys to humanity’s success.
When she goes to drop off her latest draft of her Battle of Trost book, there is a man with Zoe, almost as short as Kyra herself. He has a permanent scowl on his face and he holds a cheap cup of coffee in his hand.
“Oh, Kyra!” Zoe says. “This is Noël, he’s doing an internship with me!”
She smiles and introduces herself, but is greeted with a grunt. Zoe looks at her sympathetically while Noël looks at her with calculating eyes.
“I don’t agree with you,” he says. “Eren Jaeger was dangerous because he was unpredictable. But that didn’t make him a liability.”
Zoe gives her a look, and, well, she’s never been one to reject a challenge.
Later, Kyra swears Noël could’ve been Commander Levi’s doppelganger. He matches the descriptions of the Commander in the medical records—besides, she can’t help to think that he looks very, very familiar.
four hundred twenty four years after
He hates his job, he really, really does. Between the short jokes and the comparisons to Commander Levi, he can’t take much more. He’s his own person, dammit, not a hero and not a former thug. Honestly, even if he had the choice, he’d never want to be a hero. But he’s broke and he needs to pay rent for his apartment, not that Ian will help at all.
Not to mention, he really hates the meetings.
The language department isn’t really all that bearable, especially Michael. It’s partly because the man needs a goddamn haircut, but mostly it’s because his desk in the language office is cluttered and there’s paper everywhere and it drives Olivier insane. But there’s also something familiar about Michael and his strange as shit habit of smelling everything; it’s almost endearing.
On the other side of the spectrum, there’s the new Greek teacher, a short woman with auburn hair and hazel eyes who Michael treats like a doll, like he’s afraid of breaking her. On days they have meetings, she brings them all some of her special coffee, and on rare occasions she has little pastries from the bakery by her house. When she does this, Olivier notes Michael’s apprehension, as though if he were to take the coffee she’d disappear.
Olivier is well aware of the rumor going around that the two are dating—and he has the greatest desire to smash it down with all his might. Michael’s treatment of Alysia is brotherly, but Olivier knows he does not give her his trust.
He asks the shaggy-haired man about it, one day.
“Olivier,” Michael says, his voice serious and somber, “one day, you’ll understand. And on that day, you will understand why this world is cruel but beautiful.”
five hundred years after
She is confessed to on the first day of the five hundred year anniversary of humanity’s freedom. Her best friends from college are sitting on her new couch in her apartment. Hers is deemed the nicest, its balcony facing the ocean out on Cape Armin. There is wine and beer and her famous coffee, and they are preparing for the celebration—it’s been five hundred years since they were free from the titans.
Aaron stays up the latest, and she watches the fireworks with him while Ed and Graham are passed out on the floor—they’re not sure where Jacques went, but they assume he went down to the beach. They’re both half drunk but she’s more sober than she appears to be when the fireworks wend and Aaron opens his mouth.
“It’s not fair,” he says, and she can feel the confusion warping her face.
“It’s not fair,” he slurs again. “I liked you first, I think, anyway.”
She cocks her head to the side, eyebrows knit together. “Huh?”
“You like him, you’ll always like him more than me,” he says. “But that’s okay. That’s okay.”
“What the hell are you talking about, Aaron?”
He shakes his head slowly and sighs, “It’s always been you. Back then, I thought I was going crazy—there were, there were dreams. We kept dying, all of us. We’d die these deaths and I’d wake up in the middle of the night half-screaming and Jacques would always be like this close to slapping me but I was so terrified he didn’t because I didn’t know what was going on but something is wrong, so wrong I just don’t know. And then all these—these things flooded into my mind, are they memories? But. I think. I don’t know what I think.”
Ophelia stares at him a long time. This Aaron is very different from the one she is used to, the one who copies Jacques down to his haircut. He’s rambling and she can hear the rising panic. Aaron takes a deep breath, and she goes into hug him, patting his back as he sobs into her shoulder.
“You were dead, you were dead and I never told you I love you but it never mattered because you always loved him and—and trust killed us, oh my god, I’m going to be sick.”
He scrambles to go to the bathroom, and she can hear the sound of retching and Graham’s snores.
When Jacques returns, and she can tell he had gone down to the beach—he is barefoot and there are wet footprints behind him, but not a trace of sand. He scrunches his nose at the sight of his friends and the smell of vomit before telling Ophelia he needs to borrow her couch for the night.
six hundred thirty seven years after
He knows something isn’t right when he catches sight of the new student volunteer in the library. She has blonde hair in a French twist and a rather large nose and when she glances over at them, her face goes very, very pale. Talia looks up and he thinks she’s either going to cry or start a fight in the middle of the library. It’s terribly awkward when she stiffly walks by to begin to shelve books by the window they’re sitting at.
Their history textbook is perched upon their touching thighs and Talia’s notebook is in her lap and this blonde girl is staring at them. She’s probably two years younger than them, just a little freshman but her eyes are hard and cold as though she’s been through hell and back. She stares at them and Victor thinks she looks like she’s going to puke, but it’s only a split second because she twists herself to face the opposite direction. He can’t quite place the emotion on her face, so he looks to his right and he notes how Talia looks distant, staring off into space, unaware of anything around her.
Minutes later, Ethan pokes his dirty blond head through the bookshelves.
“Yo, did you guys do the history homework? Who the hell’s Marco Bodt? Did we talk about him in class? He’s mentioned in some of these primary documents, especially Squad Leader Kirschtein’s diaries.”
Talia snaps out of her stupor and grins, “Don’t you mean journals?”
Victor thinks the emotion in the blonde girl’s face was regret.
seven hundred sixty two years after
She’s at her favorite restaurant with her two childhood friends and she can’t help but feel something is terribly, terribly wrong. Antoine is next to her, his grey eyes cool and calculating as always, and Elliot is across from her, his thick blond eyebrows knit together. He stares at them both, and Megara thinks that something is wrong. She’s known Elliot since they were very young, but she’s never seen his face twist into a strange mixture of realization and horror.
Elliot excuses himself often, citing his need to use the restroom and Antoine cracks shitty jokes every time. It is familiar and calming, but something about it all feels off. It’s especially weird because the entire dinner is for Elliot finishing grad school, and though they don’t see each other often, he normally doesn’t act so out of character. It upsets her, really, and she knows Antoine has caught on to that, because his attempts at jokes gets a little better each time, and she knows he’s putting effort into it.
When they go to pay for the check, Elliot insists on paying, and Megara and Antoine let him because it’s Elliot and he does not take no for an answer. As they exit the little restaurant and begin to wander the streets of Cape Armin, Elliot looks to the sky and clutches his right arm.
“I’m sorry,” he whispers, “I’m sorry.”
Megara and Antoine share a look and say nothing. Elliot clings to the comforting knowledge that they don’t remember anything.
eight hundred forty five years after
They meet each other again at the local park in Stohess. It’s wide and open and there are monuments for historical figures like Erwin Smith, Mikasa Ackerman, Eren Jaeger, Armin Arlert, and Levi.
She’s waiting for her sister and brother-in-law, and he’s doing research for a history paper his university professor assigned earlier in the day. Her name this time is Rhea, and she cuts her copper hair a little above her shoulders, and she sits underneath the statue of Eren Jaeger. Ever since she was a small child, the statue has been her favorite. There’s something familiar in his metal features, something childlike and innocent but hardened and war-torn all the same. She thinks of how it’s unlike all the other statues of him, his right hand decorated with a bite mark.
Pierre has his laptop in front of him, quickly finishing the last words in his paragraph. He knows his roommate is probably wondering where he is, but Mitch is the only one who hasn’t figured out that he goes to this park every time he has to write a paper. He likes it there, and he finds something compelling in the remainder of the wall, where Annie Leonhardt had tried to climb up, where the first Titan in the Wall was found.
He shuts his computer and looks up, only to make eye contact with the girl under the statue of Eren Jaeger and he is hit with a wave of memories. Things from back when 3D Maneuver Gear was still used, when he first saw her in a crowd after the defeat of the titans, when he was a bagger in a grocery store, when there was a coffee shop with a barista named Misato, everything comes back and floods his memories. He knows she feels it too, because she’s walking towards him, almost in disbelief.
“Do I know you?” she asks, whispery and delicate, as though his answer might break her. She stares into his grey eyes and she knows the answer to that question, he heard it in her voice—she flings her arms around his torso and says Levi like a prayer. It’s strange and familiar, having her whisper his name instead of his title, and it reminds him of lost nights in the past.
“Corporal,” she finally says after she lets herself look at his face, “it’s you.”
Pierre does not know what to say, because images of her broken body weave themselves into his mind. Every history textbook he’s ever read rise to the surface and he remembers that her name was only mentioned in passing, because though she was one of the Scouting Legion’s best soldiers there wasn’t proof of her existence besides medical records. He’d locked her letters up and buried them long ago, before his run-in with the Ape Titan.
So instead, he lets himself return her embrace.
“Petra,” he says, hard and quiet and she feels the tears prick at her eyes as she clutches the back of his t-shirt.
This time, they are home.
one thousand eight hundred twenty days before
“Corporal!” she says as she approaches the stables, coffee in hand. “You missed breakfast.”
Levi looks up from where he is feeding his horse and looks at her. His eyes are grey and steeled and he can’t help but to feel like something is going to eventually go very, very wrong very, very soon. He watches as the wind blows at her copper hair and the steam from the coffee moves. The expedition to determine Eren’s fate is tomorrow, and Levi has an inkling of what Erwin is planning. As always, soldiers will die—that’s inevitable. But there’s something in the way that the Commander looks at him these days that rubs Levi the wrong way.
“Petra,” he says, and he knows the she knows all of his unspoken words. She bounds over, and he carefully takes to coffee from her. She smiles at him like he means the world, and he wants to lock it away in his memory. He trusts Erwin’s decisions without question but he is human all the same, and he is unwilling to let some things go. Every mission could be one that his soldiers do not come back from, and with this one, the stakes are especially high.
“The expedition is tomorrow,” she notes. “Everyone’s so nervous, especially Eren.”
Petra fidgets, lowering her eyes to the ground, and Levi wants to comment on the bite mark on her hand. To him it was stupid, but he is not Eren, and for Eren, it’s trust—trust that he does not have from other officials. He takes another sip, savoring the taste before saying, “You shouldn’t baby the brat so much.”
“I’m not babying him!” she says. Levi wants to argue, but she’s flushing brightly, almost as brightly as when she sneaks into his room late at night, and he wants to remember the color forever.
She wins this argument.