The halls were empty that night, the cafeteria was silent despite the soldiers that resided in it. The week long expedition that the survey corps had departed on a week earlier was at its end, but with its costs.
Many a family grieved tonight after those who had fallen in battle. Unclaimed bodies sat in the wagons out in the back of the headquarters. They would be disposed of soon, forgotten like trampled flowers.
And a lone figure sat in the pavilion, clutching a emblem in her hands, tears soaking her cheeks.
You whispered a name, your voice choked with emotion. You could hardly contain the loud sobs that wracked your body, despair and grief blossoming in your chest. You had never lost a friend before. You had always been under the impression that your friends were survivors, that they would live forever. They were too strong to be devoured by those monsters.
You were wrong.
Now, you sat, curled into yourself, hugging your knees close to your chest. Your cheeks were slick with salty tears. You sobs could be heard throughout the courtyard.
You knew Corporal would scold you for staying out in the cold night air this late, crying as you were. "I don't want to take care of you when you get sick, brat." he would say to you. Right now, you didn't care. Your friend was dead, and you couldn't contain yourself.
Footsteps sounded in the corridor, muffled by your sobs. You ignored them until the came to a stop in front of you. You looked up, your gaze meeting a certain commander's. You swayed to your feet, giving the commander a stiff salute, tears still coating your cheeks. You couldn't stop the sob that escaped your throat as you tried to avoid the commander's stifling gaze.
"At ease, cadet."
The voice was gentle, a sigh, almost. You could tell Erwin was tired. Fatigued by the expedition and the loss of his comrades.
You relaxed, biting your lip to try and stop yourself from sobbing.
"She was a good soldier."
You looked up at him, eyes going wide at his words. Fresh tears blurred your vision, as they spilled uncontrollably down your cheeks. Your salute faltered, your hands falling limply to your sides. Unsteady legs wobbled and collapsed, sending you to your knees.
You cupped your face in your hands, tears spilling through your fingers. Your breath hitched, and you exhaled shakily before a loud hiccup escaped your throat, followed shortly by a burst of sobs.
Erwin continued to stand in front of you, staring down at you blankly for a moment, before bending down in front of you. You didn't look up at him.
But suddenly, strong arms were holding you close, pressing you against his chest, making you feel like the child you really were. Your surprised stopped your sobs, your eyes going wide again, then closing, causing a new round of tears to escape your eyes. you clutched at his cloak, the material bunching in your hands. You cried quietly, mourning the loss of your friend.
"Shh." Erwin hushed you, stroking your hair.
Under normal circumstances, you would be mortified at the closeness of contact the commander had with you. But now, all you wanted to do was cry, and have warm arms embrace you.
Your tears stained his cloak, not that he minded much.
After your sobs had slowed to a stop, you wiped at your eyes and leaned back, giving the commander an apologetic smile. Before you could speak again, Erwin spoke:
"They are not truly dead." Your brows furrowed in confusion for a moment, giving the commander a chance to continue. "She lives on." A large, calloused hand came to rest on your heart. "In here."
His words made emotion flood your chest. You wanted to cry and laugh and smile all at once. It hurt to know your friend was gone, but knowing that your memories of her would never fade made happiness brighten your smile.
You wiped at your eyes, tears of joy escaping them. You smiled ever so slightly and looked up at the commander.
"Thank you." you whispered.
Erwin smiled gently at you. He stood, and offered you his hand. You took it, feeling worn skin under your hands. However, as soon as he pulled you to your feet, his arms were around you once again, his face buried in your hair.
"Your welcome, (Name)" he breathed.
And you knew then, another person would also live in your heart forever.