The kitchen was dimly lit with the flickering light of oil lanterns, the three of their shadows shaking against the grimy brown of the wall. The vapor from the waterpot hung still in the air, the whistling sound occasionally being interrupted by the thud of a potato falling on the floor.
“Hey Armin, have you ever seen a circus?”
Armin looked at Marco quizzically, and Marco continued to speak to no one in particular, his knife dragging over the skins of the potatoes slowly “They came to my village once, the circus. The men and women were dressed in tinsel clothes and did lots of acrobatics, it was lovely to watch.” Marco switched the spherical vegetable over and over again in his hands, leaning against the table. Armin noticed Annie had put down her knife, and was looking at them with her usual expression, although he suspected she was listening with intent.
Marco smiled, “They came to our village when I was nine, and believe it or not, I planned to run away with them.” There were now three potatoes in his hands, and in an attempt to juggle them, they all rolled on the floor with a blunt noise. Armin laughed, and picked two up. One rolled away from his reach and landed near Annie’s feet; she picked it up and threw it upwards, catching it with her other hand. Marco continued “I went to the ring master and asked the old man if I could come with them and he asked me how well I could juggle. Get this, I sucked even more than I do now.” He sighed in a tone on mock defeat, “so yeah, have you ever seen the circus?”
“Well, no”, Armin began in a hesitant tone, “I suppose no entertainment group wanted to come to Shiganshina. It’s not really a place with such luxuries, well, it wasn’t"
The room fell silent, and sensing the change of mood, Armin began in a much more cheery tone “But get this Marco, I know how to juggle.”
Annie and Marco looked at him quizzically. Armin picked up three from the pile of unwashed potatoes, and in a matter of seconds they were spinning in the air. Marco looked at him with glee, “That’s so cool, Armin! Who taught you?”
"A drunk man and three bottles of beer”, Armin chuckled, “No, seriously, we knew a Garrison member named Hannes, and granted, he drank a lot, but he was kind to all three of us, and taught us how to do things like these in his free time.”
“Can Eren and Mikasa juggle too?” Marco asked with enthusiasm, and Armin almost felt bad having to nod in disagreement. “Eren found it kinda boring, and Mikasa’s grip was so strong, she spilt his stash of beer. She wasn’t allowed to go near the bottles after that.”
“I don’t know what I expected”, Marco shrugged, and turned to the blonde girl on his other side, “What about you Annie?”
“Huh?” Annie mumbled, “Oh. The circus. Haven’t seen it.” She picked up her knife and attended to her unfinished work, the silvery tip scrubbing off the dried mud sticking to the surface like a second skin. She stopped suddenly and looked down, thinking over something.
Armin looked over Marco’s shoulder, and his eyes widened. Annie sent the potatoes spinning in the air effortlessly, her wrists moving rapidly, in a fluid routine. Maybe he was mistaken, but Annie looked vaguely pleased.
Marco laughed, “Holy shit, I’ve been friends with acrobats the whole damn time”.
Annie’s eyes widened at the mention of the word “friends”, and her wrists slowed down. “It’s nothing to be impressed about”, she said roughly, but without her usual icy tone. Armin picked up more, five this time, and sent them flying upwards. Annie smirked, her arms picking up pace.
"Throw one over here, Bodt.”
“Huh?” Marco exclaimed, ‘Six potatoes?! You sure, Annie?“
"Yep. Throw one over.”
Armin’s wrists were in a flurry of circular movement; his eyes barely leaving Annie’s, and the latter did the same. Both of them had a glint of determination in their usually tranquil faces. Marco gulped and threw a potato at Annie, who caught it and sent it spinning so fast, Marco couldn’t pinpoint when the transaction happened. Armin signaled him to throw one more.
Things were heating up, and then Annie did something utterly reckless.
She asked for the knife. Marco gasped.
And then Armin asked for Marco to throw him a knife too.
“Wall Sina save us, you’re insane, both of you” Marco mumbled. Armin smiled at Annie, “You’re good at this, aren’t you Annie.”
“I can do better” Annie replied, “I bet you can, too.”
“Let’s do this, then.” Armin said, an edge of competitiveness in his usual soft voice. Marco gulped.
The boys barracks were noisy. These were growing teenagers, after all. Growing teenagers who spent a whole day training, and were now waiting for dinner; the boys barracks were noisy with grunts and groans and the occasional insult from Eren to Jean going back and forth.
The collective noise came to a halt when Connie swung the door open; disheveled (or as disheveled as one can look without any hair), and panting, “Armin and Annie are fighting it out on the training grounds, I’m not even joking.”
“Huh?” Jean released his grip on Eren’s collar, “That’s just unfair, Armin wouldn’t last ten seconds with that piece of ice.”
Connie sat himself down and sent Jean a look of amusement, “He might actually be winning, get this, they’re juggling kitchen knives.”
“What does he mean juggling with kitchen knives? Do you know anything about this, Jaeger?"
Eren had already started walking, “I didn’t think he’d remember after all this time…” He mumbled to himself, “But if he does, you guys wanna see this, trust me.”
The knives glinted dangerously in the light from the fire as the two of them walked slowly in circles, a crowd forming around the pair. Each technique, each twist and turns of the blades were met with ooh’s and aah’s from the sidelines; this was entertainment at it’s most unexpected.
"I didn’t raise him to be this irresponsible…” Mikasa mumbled worriedly, her hands tightening around her scarf every time Armin caught the sharpnels. Eren was the complete opposite, standing with Reiner, talking about how cool it would be if they could juggle with flaming knives. Bertholdt didn’t seem to keen about the idea, sweating profusely.
Well, more than usual, anyway.
The crowd was getting impatient, restless as they grew accustomed to the spins and throws. They wanted something more, something to decide the winner…
Annie was getting tired; her wrists felt raw and from the corner of her eye she noticed Armin’s fluidic movements slowly getting more rigid, his speed faltering. Her eyes glinted.
“Springer, stand against that wall, don’t move.” Annie said in an ordering tone, still not breaking away her contact. Connie’s confusion grew to fear as the crowd grew excited, “Hell no, Annie, there’s no way— Armin? Armin, help me out here—”
“That’s a great idea, Annie.” Armin said lightly, “Do the honors, why don’t you?”
“You blonde bastard” Connie mumbled, but stood against the wall anyway, shaking a little.
“It’s okay Springer”, Annie squinted to adjust her aim, “I know what I’m doing.” She pushed her hair back, and was about to throw her knife, when—
“Arlert?! Leonhardt!! You’re skipping kitchen duty? Goddamn rascals!” Instructor Shadis’s silhouette could be seen in the distance with what seemed like Marco being dragged by the ear. “What the heck are you doing there?”
Annie had already thrown the knife. A piercing scream shot through the night air. —————————————————————————————————————————————-
“So does this make Armin the only one to beat Annie?Ever?!” Eren asked next morning at breakfast. Jean shrugged and Connie ran his fingers over the stitch on top of his ear. Eren turned to his best friend, “Oi Armin, what do you think?"
Armin was too busy staring at the blonde girl sitting two tables away to listen to the question, something told Eren that he really didn’t care.
Connie groaned, “I don’t get fed enough for dealing with this shit”, and tipped the contents of his bowl down his mouth.
Eyy, this is based on textsfromtitanfood’s Aruani juggling headcanon. I hope she doesn’t mind!