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Deep Breathing

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EREN POV 

 

I try and avoid chewing my lip as I stare, unblinking, at the woman in front of me.  I need to stare her down. 

She must be about seventy. Old and wrinkled and obviously done with all of our shit. She's probably should have retired years ago, I don’t know what it is that makes her think she’s still in any fit state to be dealing with hyperactive children. But she obviously does. 

I think I hate her. 

"You see, Mr Jaeger," The old woman sighs, chewing her lip. "I don't know which one to believe. We don’t tolerate fighting and both of these children are adamant that the other started it. However, there seems to be more evidence that your son started it and I don’t think we can keep him on here." She tells me, her voice patronizing. 

No, I definitely hate her.

She’s so far up her own arse. Evidence? What does she think this is? An episode of Law & Order?

To be honest, if it wasn't for the two toddlers sitting in the room with us, I wouldn’t have held back with telling this witch what I thought of her. Fucking battle-axe.

She’s not the only woman in here though, the other is sitting on the same side of the table as me. The mother of the other child and must be early thirties- I'd say. Just as a vague judgement. She's got her lips pursed to. A snotty face that matches her snotty child’s; a frown deep set on her face as she listens to the old hag. 

She seems to like her though, probably because I’m getting the brunt of this just because of my age.

They’re both cows and I hate them both.

I narrow my eyes at old woman, feeling my jaw clench slightly. I know that she's doing this because she thinks I'll break easier than the other bitch. Yes, I maybe younger, and I know she probably doesn't want to deal with Armin but fuck her. I'm not about to sit back and allow this woman to put the blame entirely on my son’s shoulders when it’s completely obvious he didn’t do anything.

I doubt it was even a fight, Armin probably just cowered away and let the little brat next to him have a go at him. It makes me angrier really. Armin wouldn’t have done anything wrong. And I’m not just saying that because I’m one of those parents that think their children could do no wrong; mine genuinely couldn’t.

Yes, I’m that kid.

The kid with a kid.

His mother and I made mistakes, who doesn’t? Last year of high school was where I made mine, though I guess mistakes need to be regretted to be seen as mistakes.

I don’t regret Armin.

A night of experimenting with my sexuality and rebelling against science class, was all it took to thrust us into parenthood. They don’t joke about that shit; wrap it, kids.

But when I say us, I mean me.

She buggered off when her parents told her they would take her back if she got rid of her son. She took that offer. It had been the plan to raise him together. We didn’t love each other, we weren’t going out or think we’d be married in five years. But there was something about her growing part of me that I couldn’t hate.

Her parents had been more willing to accept than mine. They had helped her to start with, my father had kicked me out when he found out.

It was when she told me she had found a family for our child that things went tits up. She’d been working with her family behind my back, planning on giving our baby up.

 She had told me the day she’d given birth, told me that she hated me. Hated our child that hadn’t done anything wrong. He hadn’t asked to be born. It was either look after him myself or give him to the family they had lined up.

 Sometimes I wonder if I chose right.

 But I couldn’t. I couldn’t leave him.  The moment  I had seen his blue eyes, his blonde hair and fallen in love. The moment I held that fragile, little body in my arms and seen the rise and fall of his chest. Pressed my lips against his cheek and felt his hand grasp mine, I had put my life to the side.

 Armin was my world.

 There’s three things I've learnt since high school that high school never taught me.

1) I'm about as straight as a circle. Sure, past me experimented. I hadn’t known if I was straight, gay or somewhere in between but now I do. It comes as a surprise, I know, I have a kid but I'm gay. Definitely gay.

2) Science class isn't a joke. People laugh at the word ‘cock’ and can’t talk about vagina’s. But experiments have consequences and things like that aren’t funny three things down the line.

3) Parenthood is fucking difficult. They don’t teach you that.

I think this is all why what she’s saying is pissing me off so much.

She understands nothing.

Armin’s not a fighter. Not in the way she’s telling me anyway. As well as his poor lungs, he’s thin and what other bastard parents would call ‘sensitive’. He likes listening to stories of knights and dragons and princesses rather than battering another kid with a wooden stick. He likes to draw and wishes we had a garden so he could grow peas. He’s not a fighter and he wouldn’t have done anything to this kid.

They just don’t want to deal with him here because he needs more attention than the other kids. That’s not his fault; Armin didn’t ask for shitty lungs. I had just asked them repeatedly if they would be able to look after him and now this. Now they’ve turned on him.

I bet it’s because this shitty woman does want to retire soon. Can’t be bringing on more staff to help one sick child when she’s so close to escaping to cruise after cruise. Better use any excuse to get rid of him. Even better yet, bring in the kids and the other kids mother to keep me from kicking off at her. Shitty woman using my own kid as a shield.

“So what?” I practically spit at her.   It’s hard, but I have to try and ignore the huge, blue eyes that turn me. Looking up at me, sensing my anger.

Fuck her. Fuck this woman and her shitty nursery. I just want to collect my son into my arms, bring him close, politely tell her to go fuck herself and leave.

 “So,” She starts but like hell I’m letting her continue. I’m pissed.

 “So, you're just going to blame my son for some fight I can promise you he had nothing to do with and what, we’re out? I can’t bring him back?" I question. "Armin wouldn't start anything- do you even know him?" 

 The other kids mother speaks up then and I shoot a glare at her too.

“Well my son wouldn’t start anything either.” She tries to defend. Oh, yeah fucking right. Go on, pick on the sick kid.

 “I’m so happy for you. You must be so proud of you birthed such a perfect child.” I sneer at her. I literally couldn’t care less what a little angel her child is. “It doesn’t change the fact that you’re telling me my son can’t come back here, because of something he wasn’t involved in.” I snap.

 “Your son was involved.” The old bat tells me again. Fuck me, I want to punch this woman. Who gives a shit about respecting your elders and all that crap. If the two toddlers weren’t in here, I’d be the youngest, but I’m not about to bow down to bitches and let them walk all over me.

 “Oh really?” I raise my eyebrows, trying to- I don’t even know. Challenge her? Intimidate her? It’s not like I would actually smack her one, no matter how much I wanted to. But-

 "Dada," his small voice starts and I feel the tiny hand on my arm. Armin’s wriggling his little feet together nervously.

 Those red shoes are his new favourites. He had been desperate to wear them today because they looked like a pair I had too. Like tiny converse. He’s like that, Armin is. Likes to have matching things with me so often I’m forced into doing things like wearing wellies to my lectures if it’s raining. No one else in my theatre is, but Armin wouldn’t have worn his if I hadn’t worn mine.

 He’s looking so sad right now. So sad that it makes me want to rip both of these woman's throats out. 

 "Are you okay?" I check, my voice softening completely as lean down to his level and gently stroking the back of his head. His little feet wiggle together again and he nods, knowing I’m checking his breathing.

 "Ya.” Armin tells me, which does relax me slightly. On his health front at least. I’m still angry as fuck. Armin’s sensing this though. Which adds to it. This bastard woman made sure he sat in here and now it’s upsetting him. He doesn’t need to be here for this, neither of these kids do. “Is dada mad?" He asks me, so innocently.

I have to almost force the soft smile as I shake my head. 

"Not at you, squirt." I tell him, honestly. My fingertips gently rub into his hair again and I soften my gaze before turning back to the women.

 “I don’t think there’s a place for your son here anymore, Mr Jaeger.” The old woman says, trying to sound sorry. Sorry my arse. “We just feel that there would be day care centres…better suited to his needs.” She tries to phrase. Tries to ease me in; like I don’t know what’s going on with my own son.

But at least we’re finally getting some honesty.

“Ah. The truth at last.” I sneer and she sighs again. The other woman is being annoyingly silent. I honestly don’t know why she’s still here, nosing around my business.

“We just feel that his condition is a little too…delicate to be so involved with other children.” She continues.

“So what do you suggest?” I ask, my eyebrows raising in mocking curiosity. “I lock him up in a tower somewhere so I can keep an eye on him? Never let him interact with other children. You assured me his medical problems wouldn’t be an issue. He’s not had an issue here.” I point out, but she just shrugs like that makes it all better. Shrug off the fact that I asked her I don’t even know how many times before I even allowed Armin through the doors if his lungs would be a problem, if she recommended anywhere else. If she had the staff and the time to keep an eye on him in case, he struggled and didn’t tell anyone.

She had promised that it would be fine. That they had. That she agreed Armin should be able to meet and play with other children like normal, and I should be allowed to continue my studying and my work.

She had lied.

It had been more than she had bargained for, I guess I can’t blame her for that. I’m just pissed that she chose the option of pinning the ‘bad guy’ badge on him instead of just politely addressing me. Just talking to me like a normal person and telling me honestly she couldn’t do it.

I would have respected her. This? This was an insult to both my child and my intelligence.

I maybe a young parent, but I’m not stupid.

“No, Mr Jaeger.” She says, but to be honest, I’m pretty much done with this conversation. “I will be able to forward you a few names and numbers of day care centres in the area, or you could contact the local hospital and ask what would be best for Armin.” She tells me but I roll my eyes and stand.

I’m stubborn, what can I say? She’s pissed me off so I’ve already decided I don’t want her help. I’ll do it on my own, like I’ve done everything else in my life so far. Like how I’ve raised my child this far and how I live. I’ll do it without help and I’ll probably do it better that way. Definitely do it better.

“Don’t worry yourself.” I reply, Armin putting his arms up in the air as I pick him up followed by his little dinosaur backpack which I sling around my other shoulder. “I think you’ve done enough, thanks.”

“Mr Jaeger-“

“We’ll be leaving now. Thanks for nothing.” I say, holding Armin on my hip as we walk out of the door. Ignoring the other day care staff who I partly think were in on this. I take just a moment to grab Armin’s jacket from his peg and his little oxygen tank from under it and head out without another word.

Fuck them. Fuck every single one of them.

Armin’s snuggled himself into my chest as we walk towards the staff car park where I’ve cheekily dumped my car before attending the meeting. I’m used to juggling a million things and Armin by now, so I manage to get my keys out my pocket without too much hassle. We’re instantly greeted with the sounds of a dog barking as Schnecke (a wonderful name for our wonderful but fucking massive Leonberger dog) starts getting excited that we’re back.

He’s huge. Another mouth to feed, another living thing to worry about, but I fucking adore him. He’s all thanks to my God-father, Hannes. He’s the only one of my family, other than Mikasa, who stuck by me after Armin was born. Dad fucked off claiming that I was no son of his, and Ma had been dead for years prior to Armin.

Hannes, although not blood related, stuck with us. That seemed to be how it was with me though. Blood relations didn’t really stick around. My family lay elsewhere. Other than Armin, of course.

Hannes was good though. Sending me money for rent and bills and Armin; he spends half his time here in shitty Shiganshina and half his time in Germany.

I laugh at Schnecke though, rubbing the top of his head as a hell before I focus on Armin and making sure he was safely buckled him up in the back. It doesn’t take too long and as I head to the boot to put his tank and backpack in there with my own, I take a few moments to just breath.

I’ll have to stay off university until I find a replacement centre for him. Means I’ll be even more behind my studies, more steps behind my fellow pupils. A few days but how far would that add to the distance between me and my dream? I want to be a midwife. I’m just behind, far, far behind and I’m losing hope of this ever becoming a thing.

On top of university, I still have to work. I won’t be able to miss that. Bills have to be paid, rent, fuel for the car, books for my studies, university fees, medical fees, food needs to be bought and the Christmas month is closer and closer every day. I’ll have to ask someone to babysit tonight, perhaps Sasha- or Mikasa might if she’s not too busy with her own work.

I already feel the headache coming on as I slam the boot shut and walk around the car to the front again. I get in, glad to be out of the cold actually. Armin’s babbling away to himself, singing some song I don’t know for a minute but then I recognise as the Maisy mouse theme tune. It’s enough to relax me, soften my jaw, my head and my heart all at once.

“Should we go straight home or go for ice cream?” I ask, turning in my seat to look at Armin, who widened his eyes.

“S-cream!” He calls happily, instantly giggling and yeah, my headaches gone and I just grin along with him.

“I scream! You scream! We all scream for ice cream!” I sing as I swivel in my seat again, turning the car on and cranking up the heat and then the music. It’s the classic Disney songs, that I (of course) know all the lyrics to and Armin tries his best to sing along too.

Bless his little three-year-old heart.

There’s only one place crazy enough to sell ice-cream mid-November in Shiganshina and only two people crazy enough to buy it. One of them being me, the other being my son. The place selling it, however, is a small hut in the middle of the park that’s there all year round. Rain or shine, snow or sun. So that’s where I head, singing and driving my son to the park so we could walk our massive dog and pretend like nothing was wrong in the world.

Or at least, I could pretend.

Nothing was wrong in Armin’s world, I made damn sure of that.

The drive doesn’t take too long, and for once nor does parking. I pull straight into one and sort out getting out.

I don’t think people don’t appreciate how hard it is to do things when you have a child, until they do. Even getting out the car. I unbuckle myself, head to the back to get out the buggy that’s stored away in there. The coat, the hat. I set up the buggy before putting a changing bag that’s permanent residence is also the back of my car in the bottom basket of it, followed by the oxygen tanks. Just in case. After that’s set up, it’s back through to the front of pull the front seat forward and access Armin in the back, trying to keep a massive dog calm at the same time. I have to unbuckle him, wiggle him into a coat, a hat. Fight with him about swapping his favourite shoes to a pair of wellies that now don’t match mine, convincing him with the promise of puddle splashing and mud stomping if he’s feeling up to it. I then have to glove his hands, pick him up and place him in the buggy. Wiggling all the while, complaining that he wants to walk while I remind him that I don’t want him to lose breath and hurt. Still trying to control a massive fucking dog that’s already clambering out of the car. I have to buckle Armin, again, into that and catch up with the massive fucking dog to get a lead around him, and then and only then, can I close the doors. Lock the car and try and forget that I have to do the whole thing just in reverse when we get back.

Being a parent is exhausting. Being a single parent is even more so.

Honestly, I’m ready to just roll into bed at the moment. But Armin’s excited, and to be honest, the promise of sugar is a motivation to me too. So, I start on our little walk around the park towards the stupid, fucking hut that sells ice cream in the middle of fucking winter.

It quickly turns nice though, and despite myself, I once again relax listening to Armin blabber away about anything and everything. Sometimes I understand what he’s going on about, sometimes I don’t, but I’m patient and attentive and listen to his every word. Even if it’s complete nonsense.

The hut’s a little bit further than I originally thought, but as expected, there’s no one buying ice cream so we can go straight up. I think the man’s finally taken the fucking hit this winter, as I look over the menu, I see he’s added hot chocolate to the list. Ice cream’s still there, sure, but least he’s not completely dense.

As tempting as hot chocolate is in the chilly wind, I promise ice cream so it’s ice cream that we get. Two, single scoop strawberry cones, as I know Armin will want whatever I have and secretly strawberry’s his favourite. It’s easier to just get that and have him happy than me attempt to get anything else.

I hand him his and he holds it adorably with two hands. Licking away at it happily as I pay before walking the three of us over to a bench a little way off. The hut’s near the lake so the view isn’t bad, and despite the cold, it’s quite pleasant really. I’m just in the world of Armin, laughing at him as he messily eats. So much so that I almost forget I have my own until I feel the drip of it down my hand and Armin yelling ‘dada waste!’ to remind me.

It’s perfect. Wonderful.

Until we’re disturbed by a smaller dog thinking he could take Schnecke on. He’s pretty laid back over all, thinks the little shit that’s actually trying to attack him is playing and with both off their leads, chaos ensues. The owners simply wind up my dog before fucking off with their own and shooting me glare after glare, and it’s practically impossible to calm him down after that.

He bounces, trying to jump up onto me which ends up knocking Armin’s ice cream out of his hands.

Yeah, so much for relaxing.

Armin’s crying, the dogs thinking I’m about to throw something as I lift my ice cream out the way of him and stand to control him slightly better. He’s well trained, good with Armin, gentle and wonderful. He just gets excited. I move my hand  down when the ice cream is safe enough but Schnecke honestly thinks I’ve thrown something and is now bounding off towards- oh fuck.

“Oi! Schnecke!” I yell, the screaming child below me also a main prioity. Armin and crying don’t really go very well. Too often he’s found himself unable to breath midcry and fuck- my dogs in the lake, my son’s crying and I’m trying desperately to be a parent.

Schnecke get back here.” I yell to him again, like he’s fucking listening. He’s already in the damn water.

I bend down to Armin quickly, stroking his hair with my other hand and shushing him.

“It’s okay, it’s okay.” I’m whispering, trying to calm him. “Here, have mine. See, it’s all okay. Silly Schnecke, eh? What a silly doggy.” I hear myself saying, getting Armin too look at me and slowly stop crying before I have to get the oxygen out.

 It’s half working.

He’s not crying any more, holding onto my ice cream with one hand but his breath is ragged and sounds painful and that in turn makes him panic. I try my best to sooth him.

“Dada-“ He mumbles, his eyes welling up.

“Don’t worry, squirt.” I say softly, as calm as I can that hopefully will calm him as I kiss his forehead before going under the pram and pulling out the oxygen. I really hate this, I know he hates it. But it’s needed, and I work quickly. Used to it by now.

I slip the tube behind his ears, loop It and help it onto his nose just as he starts crying again. It’s split just under his chin and I hate how- well sick it makes him look- but It’s okay. I just remind myself what the doctor said every time we went.

Could be worse.

He’s not that bad.

Don’t worry as much, it’s not as bad as it seems.

He’ll be alright.

He’s young.

There’s things we can do.

I relax only when I hear his breathing even out some more, giving him a soft smile as I stroke his cheek again. Wiping away the tears.

“Better?” I ask and he gives a little nod. A little not that both relaxes me and breaks my heart.

“Oi, brat.” I hear from above me, drawing me back to reality and I turn my head up to see a man stood over me. A large, muscular man, with an undercut, my dog at his side and an ice cream in his hand. “You want your dog back?”

I guess  I was wrong.

There isn’t just two people in Shiganshina crazy enough to get ice cream in the middle of mid-November.

There’s three.

 

Chapter Text

EREN POV 

 

I blink once.

Twice.

Taking the man in front of me in for a few moments as the world around me seems to slow. I have to blink and force my thoughts straight- what a joke. The very reason I’ve been staring at this man is because of the very un-straight thoughts coursing through my head.

He’s handsome. I guess maybe not in the conventional way. His face is square, the jaw line strong and chiselled. Like some sort of fucking Greek God. He looks a mixture between fucking hot and terrifying, but holy shit-

“This is your dog, isn’t it?” He asks, forcing me out of my thoughts and dragging almost kicking and screaming back to reality.

Oh shit, yeah. Life.

“Um-“ I start. Wow, smooth Eren. Fucking smooth as shit. “Oh- yeah, yeah it is. Sorry. I’m really sorry.” I hear myself saying, still kneeling near Armin with this guy towering over me.

“You don’t sound too convinced.” The man replies, giving me a smirk. His voice is like velvet, an accent attached that I can’t pin down. It’s curious, not strong but still there. Like he’s been living away from where ever the accent it from for a long time.

Fuck- focus Eren. He’s talking about your dog, focus would you.

“I can promise you he is.” I say, matter-of-factly. “He’s just…crazy.”

“So’s his owner, apparently.” The man instantly hits back, not missing a beat. I, however, am a disappointment and feel my mouth open and close stupidly as I try and search for something- anything- to say in reply.

I settle on the worst thing I could possibly come up with.

“I-I’m not crazy.”

Jesus, can I just ask for my award now? This years ‘best comeback’ goes to; Eren Jaeger.

He doesn’t seem impressed with it either. Not impressed, but amused.

“Could’ve fooled me.” He replies and I’m about to reply before Armin’s wriggling again, getting my attention right back to him. He doesn’t need to do much. I know I’m protective. Sometimes probably overly, but I don’t think I could help it even if I tried.

I turn to him to see him trying to rub his nose, attempting to free himself from the tubes that’s keeping him attached to the oxygen tank.

It’s an all too familiar sight.

Armin hates it all .Tubes and wires; all the shit they would hook him up to in the hospital for check ups, or if he fell sick, or just generally needed to be in there due to his shitty lungs. I hate it too, hate to see him all wired up. I just pretend not to for his sake.

“Hey, don’t.” I tell him, my voice is soft though and I’m almost completely forget about the guy who’s stood there. If he even still is.

“Wann-a off.” Armin mumbles too me, bringing his hand up again to try wipe it on his sleeve. I just fuss over him, one hand trying to gently move the arm away again as the other hand starts stroking his hair again.

“I know, baby, I know.” I whisper, kissing the top of his head. “Are you okay? Does it still hurt?” I ask, wondering if it was actually safe to take it off yet. His breathing has evened out, doesn’t sound as ragged and painful so if he’s okay I’d prefer not to waste any more of the tank.

Those things are bloody expensive and even more important.

“I’ll leave you to it.” The man starts up from above us, and a flick off my gaze assures me I’m correct in thinking he’s expression is now somewhere between awkward and concerned. Like he’s on looking some super intimate thing or that- perhaps- he thinks my son’s a freak- no.

I’m just way too over protective.

There you go, Ma, you always said I would understand why you never let me do jackshit as a kid when I had my own. You were right.

“No-“ I say, almost to quickly. He notices; fuck. But least he stops in his tracks and pauses, hand that didn’t have the ice cream in his jacket pocket. It’s still bloody freezing out here and he’s with out a proper coat. “Just wait a second.” I tell him.

“Alright.” He replies, but diverts his look when I turn my head back to Armin.

“Does it still hurt?” I ask him again, stroking his cheek gently.

He shakes his head though- thank fuck.

“M okay.”  Armin mumbles but he’s got that little pout on his face. The one that both kills me and makes me do anything for him.

Armin’s not spoilt. I don’t have enough money to really, not that I wouldn’t if I could.

“You sure?” I double check, gently turning his head up to meet his gaze. “You can tell me if you’re not, yeah? Dada doesn’t want you to still be hurting.” I say softly, staring into his huge, sky-blue eyes.

He looks so much like his mother and hardly anything like me. It’s quite surprising really, hard to believe he’s actually mine but he is.

Armin pauses for a moment or two, taking a few more almost experimental breaths before he nods again.

“Ya. All better!” He claims and I feel like he’s telling me the truth as he gives me a huge grin even a three-year-old couldn’t fake and puts his arms in the air.

I’m fucking relieved, to be honest, and laugh at him happily. My arms go up too, beaming and copying him.

“All better? It’s a miracle!” I tease.

“M-ir-cals!” Armin copies and we both laugh, me properly and him with his magical little giggles. “From Papa Chris-a-mass!” Armin adds, leaning forward a little in his pram, his nasal tube forgotten for now. At least that means he’ll get a few more good breaths before it’s taken away.

“From Father Christmas?” I ask, eyes still wide but can’t help but smile. Armin’s been excited for Christmas since early May. “Already? I thought he only worked on Christmas day.” I chuckle and watch as Armin shakes his head.

Mr Know-It-All.

“No, no, no! Today and, and Chris-a-mass too.” He says which I nod along to.

“Ah, I see. Well we’ll have to thank him on Christmas then, won’t we?”

“Ya.”

“Good boy.” I say softly, leaning into kiss his head gently before- oh. The guy.

I pull away and give him a soft smile, blushing a little, having almost forgotten how- well- how good looking this guy was.

“Sorry about that.” I say to him, giving a smile but he shakes his head. His expression is a million times softer than before though. The harsh edges are still there, but somethings softer. Fuck; what am I even on about?

He shakes his head though, a smirk pulling at his lips again.

“It’s fine. Just wondered how long you were going to keep my hostage.” He teases me again as I slowly stand up from where I had been crouched on the ground, my thighs crying for a change of position that I gladly give them. It’s only then when I take in this guy to his full extent.

He’s shorter than he looks from below. I guess that’s a given though, most people do, but he’s- well he’s short.

“Fuck me,” He mumbles, obviously quiet enough for Armin not to hear but especially for me. “You’re a giant.” He notes. I can’t help to laugh; ah, so he noticed too.

“Well, I’ve never been especially tall- I mean, maybe you’re just-“

“Don’t say anything.” He cuts off, the smirk gone but his eyes hold some amusement. Or maybe it’s just Armin’s charm still rubbing off on him.

“Okay, okay.” I smirk, suddenly remembering; I own a dog. My eyes turn to look down to where he was before and my heart instantly sinks to see he’s not there anymore. My next point of call is that fucking lake again because that’s just what I need, Schnecke dripping all over my car making it smell like wet dog. “Fuck-“ I mumble but the guy I front of me gives a light, half chuckle.

“Don’t shit yourself. It’s fine, your dogs over there.” He nods, moving slightly to the side to show me my massive fucking dog going ape-shit crazy with some equally as crazy woman. High pony tail bouncing as she played with him and a stick.

I don’t know who she is, but she seems to be keeping my dog entertained. My very muddy dog. Great.

“Um-“

“It’s okay. I know her, she’s not trying to dog-nap it.” The man explains, rolling his eyes at my expression. “This isn’t some A Hundred and One Dalmatians shit, I can assure you.”

This relaxes me, make my give a little snort of laugher.

“Oh, I see.” I reply, turning my gaze down to Armin again. He’s getting restless again. “I wanted to say thank you.” I say, getting straight to the point so I wasn’t ‘keeping this guy hostage’ any longer than I had already.

“You don’t need to.” The guy says, taking an absent mind lick of ice cream off the spoon (he’s a pot haver instead of a cone goer apparently) and- fuck. Sure, he’s hot, but fucking focus.

“Well, you did rescue my dog.” I point out. “It’s kind of you to do that.” He just shrugs.

“So, what are you; some kind of damsel in distress?” He smirks, but I can’t help the grin, nodding at that.

“Fundamentally.” I say. “And with what name should I refer my valiant knight with?” I can’t help but ask, jokingly fluttering my eyelashes before I move to sit back down on the bench to start unwrapping Armin from all the things he’s currently tethered too. The tank, the push chair; he’s clearly done with them all and currently trying to wriggle free. He keeps looking over at all the fun Schnecke is having, obviously wanting to join in.

The man looks between us all; down at me and my son before over to his friend and the dog, obviously awkward, unsure if he should still be here talking to me.

“Levi.” Levi tells me, eventually his gaze settling on me again as I start by unhooking the tubes from Armin’s nose and from around his ears.

Levi. It’s a nice name. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it before; I guess other than the jeans. But I’m not overly familiar with the origins of the brand, nor do I know if this guy’s history has anything to do with it anyway. It doesn’t stop it being nice.

Sir Levi.” I correct, as Armin is now also flickering his attention between our conversation. Obviously interested in the fact that there was a knight in our midst.

“Ah, of course. Can’t forget the titles.” Levi smirks, rolling his eyes at me.

“Are, are you a knight?” Armin asks, wide eyed and hopeful. I just hope this guy doesn’t disappoint him but I’m pleased when he nods.

“I am.” He tells him. “The best. They call me ‘Humanity’s Strongest’.” He says, Armin giving a small gasp that my heart instantly panics is something worse but no- it’s just a gasp of admiration and amazement.

I force myself to relax again.

“Would you like a seat, Sir Levi?” I ask him, giving Armin the wide my eyes and gasp ‘wow’ to him. He looks so interested, hanging on every word of this conversation. Levi raises a slow eyebrow, checking on the mad-woman before nodding and coming to sit down next to me, his eyes following my hands as I continue to pack up the oxygen tank.

Armin’s looking a lot healthier now he’s not attached to it, to be honest.

“Thank you. And what should I call you, dear princess?” He asks, obviously the choice of words was very deliberate. Despite my amusement, I still shoot him a glare.

 Fuck, I know nothing of this guy other than his name is Levi, he eats ice cream during winter and he’s pretty good at catching run away dogs but still, I’m enjoying this conversation more than I’d care to admit.

“Eren.” I tell him, allowing him the princess comment as it makes Armin giggle adorably.

“Ah, the notorious Princess Eren. Your highness.” Levi adds. “And your name, sir?” He asks Armin, who’s far less shy with this man than I’ve seen him with new people for- well ever. The conversation’s gained his trust, quite clearly.

“Ing!” Armin claims, leaning forward again and the little straps keeping him in the buggy pull with him.

“Ing? What an odd name.” Levi claims, one eyebrow falling as the other- fuck- this guy is honestly far too hot.

“No no no,” Armin starts though, distracting my admiring. “Ing!” He says again and I can’t help but laugh.

“This is no ‘sir’, dear knight.” I explain, understanding what Armin was trying to say. “This is the one and only King Armin of Shiganshina, first of his name and born protector. I’d hope you refer to him as such.” Armin nods in confirmation and Levi’s mouths a little ‘oh’.

“I am so sorry, your majesty. Please forgive me.”

“Dung-on!” Armin yells as I unclip him and he takes his new freedom to wriggle straight down onto the ground and his attention is taken by the maniac dog and it’s apparent new adoptive mother. He abandons us with that, starting his waddle-run over to them.

I half stand, about to go after him. I guess it’s just protectiveness. He’s still in my line of sight, but I don’t know this woman and on top of that I’m worried about his lungs. I think about it for a few seconds but remind myself he’s in sight. I’m not a bad fighter and we have Schnecke, who even if he’s enjoying himself now, wouldn’t have a problem turning if he thought Armin was in danger.

I can see him, it’ll be okay.

I sit back down and busy myself with the oxygen tank again, winding the tubes back up safely and making sure it was properly turned off before wiggling it back into it’s place under the pram. I almost consider keeping it out in case he got into trouble now but- I can’t. I have to let him do this. Trust that he’s being honest with me that he’s okay. Keep an eye on him, but I want him to be have a normal life. Not be held back by this. Have fun. That includes now.

My thoughts briefly touch upon the nursery, but I’m saved from the deep, never ending torrent of thought by Levi’s voice.

“Looks like I escaped the dungeons. Close call.” He says, but when I look over I see his smirks no longer there. The stony mask back in place. “He’ll be okay with her. She may look like a mad witch but she’s alright.”

I nod. I dunno why, it makes me feel a tiny bit better.

“She seems to have taken a liking to Schnecke.” I chuckle, rearranging the bags below to fit in the canister. Everything’s seemed to have slipped and I don’t really want to risk dumping it and having it roll out. As previously mentioned, those little shits are expensive.

“Sch-what?” Levi scoffs. “What kind of fucking name is that?”

“It’s German.” I tell him, shooting him a half glare. Well, fuck him too.

“I see.”

“It means slug.” I tell him before; “Armin chose it. Apparently, it’s because he looks like one.”

“Oh lovely.” Levi says. I sense the sarcasm, but wave it off. We’re silent for a few minutes, Levi leaning over to chuck the now empty pot with a sigh. I only see it out of the corner of my eye, but he checks his wrist watch and stands.

“Oi, Hanji.” He calls to the woman, who’s head turns at her apparent name the same way I’ve seen Schnecke look over a million times. It amuses me. “We have to get back.” He tells her. I swear I hear the grown woman whine.

No, I do.

“But Levi-“

“No buts or I swear to God I’ll kick yours.” He snaps.

Armin seems to understand. His play buddy has to leave.

“Five more-“ Hanji continues but Levi hardens his glare. Yeah, if I ever see this guy again- which I doubt I will anyway- but remind me never to get on his bad side.

“No. We’re already late- unless you want Erwin to murder you? I can arrange that.”

Fine.” She whines again, petting Schneckle on the head. I secretly hope all this running about has both tired him out and dried him off. I’m exhausted.

I stand from my seat too as the three of them come back over, Armin a waddling behind, his little disappointed pout back on.

“I think it’s time we headed home too, squirt.” I said to him. Armin gives me the look. “Oi, puppy eyes don’t work on me.” Lies.

“Well we have to leave now, little man.” Hanji says, bending down to his height and offers him a hand. Armin’s a little confused for a moment before she gently takes his and shakes it and the grins back. “It’s been lovely.”

“Ya!” Armin giggles, happily bouncing a little. It’ll be easier to take him home now he’s back in a good mood. Hopefully they’ll be no melt downs when we head back to the car.

“Your majesty.” Levi says instead, not bending down to his height like Hanji but instead he gives him a little salute. Not really aimed for kings, but it does the trick. Armin’s grinning from ear to ear, giggling.

“Majest!” He repeats and I can’t help but laugh, Hanji does too. We’re graced with another one of Levi’s small smirks.

“It was nice to meet you.” I say as they both get ready to leave. I feel the big form of Schnecke plopping himself down next to me, also upset with the departure of his new playmate.

Well I am sorry, looks like I can’t please either of them.

“You too, brat.” Levi replies, and Hanji gives me a grin. We’ve not been properly introduced so I do the same.

“Thanks again for saving my dog.”

“Any time.” He half grunts before they turn and start walking away.

I guess it’s kind of amusing that Levi’s shorter than the woman next to him, but it doesn’t stop him from putting her in her place. That’s even more amusing to watch. Her trying to put an arm around him and smack to the side and some choice words that I don’t catch later and she’s recoiling. Laughing loudly but leaving him to his personal space.

They’re odd, but I find myself liking them. They’d at least turned the second part of the day around.

I turn my attention back down to Armin, scooping him up into my arms and holding him against my hip again.

“Let’s go then. I think it’s almost time for our feast and then the king’s bath time.” I say with a gasp, pushing the buggy with one hand, Armin in the other and Schnecke walking along side us happily.

“No, no no!” Armin claims, shaking his head again. I had expected the answer.

“What, no feasts?” I question innocently. “Giving your food to the princess tonight?” I smirk.

“No prince-ess. Fat dragon!” Armin ‘corrects’ and I don’t take any time in pausing our walk back to the car to give his side a little tickle.

“The cheek.” I gasp.

“No, no, no!” He laughs, his giggling squeals being heard probably though out the whole park. It makes me so happy to hear him like this, I can’t help grinning.

“I hope this isn’t learnt from sassy knights.” I tell him, raising a knowing eyebrow as I surrender his side in favour of walking again.

Armin shakes his head with a giggle, but I just hum.

I think that ‘sassy knights’ left an impression on him. He certainly has on me.

Chapter Text

LEVI POV

“So,” Hanji starts for about the millionth fucking time, “do you like him?”

I don’t hold back the exasperated sigh; to be honest, I make damn sure she’s heard it as I roll my eyes too.

“No.” I reply bluntly, giving her a sideways glance as we head back to the office.

We had been sent out over an hour ago for food, specifically take away as Erwin and I were working the long haul in the office tonight. Hanji had been there ‘moral support’ as she'd put it, and had come with me to pick up our meal. Except, it was her that had decided to take the short detour into the park for ice cream.

Honestly, who ate ice cream in the middle of fucking winter? It’s not like I needed the extra help in freezing my damn balls off, but she’d been adamant about it and to keep her quiet, I had agreed.

Part of me is glad that I had. I’d been lucky enough to bump into that brunette with what I was sure were the most beautiful pair of eyes in the whole of Shiganshina. But fuck- I’d said about ten words to the brat in total and now I’m considering if the meeting was even worth it.

I don’t think it was with the amount Hanji’s going on about it. She’s latched onto the fact that I’d fucking spoken to anyone that wasn’t her or Erwin and was running with it.

Good luck to her; she’s running alone.

“But you must.” She half whines as we- finally- walk through the automatic doors of Survey Corps, the law firm that Erwin and I co-own. The heat instantly hits me, a stark contrast to the outside air that’s bitterly cold now the suns gone down.

Hanji doesn’t work for us- I guess that’s one saving grace. It just doesn’t stop her from being worse than a stubborn shit stuck to a toilet and clinging to us all the damn time.

“Why ‘must’ I?” I huff, pressing the button for the elevator with my free hand. The other is busy with the take away bags. Luckily, the little LED screen that informs us what floor it’s on instantly starts to descend.

There’s not many people here after five, and even less now. I like it a hell of a lot better like this. Quiet, comfortably warm with only the smell of cleaners actually doing their fucking jobs filling the air. Freshly cleaned and sparkling.

The elevator pings, the woman announcing in her shrill, annoying ass voice that the lift had arrived.

Thanks love, not like I’ve got eyes or anything.

We step in as soon as we can and the short pause in the conversation was broken. Ah, and there I was hoping she’d fucking dropped it already.

“Well, because he was cute for one.” Hanji says, at least having the sense to press our floor while she annoyed the ever loving shit out of me.

“So?” I reply, monotone and trying desperately not to even mentally agree with her.

“So? I can’t remember the last time you were interested in anyone, Levi! This is great! Did you give him your number?”

She sounds hopefully. I’m almost sorry to burst her bubble.

“No.” I say, with a shrug. “It was awkward as fuck. If you hadn’t been all over the mutt, you would’ve noticed that. And besides,” I continue, letting out another audible sigh, my nerves definitely on edge right now. I’d ended up forgetting to eat lunch today and now being trapped in a small metal box filled with the smell of freshly cooked Chinese cuisine was not helping my mood.

I got even more pissy when I was hungry.

“Besides what?” Hanji pouts a little and narrows her eyes at me when I glance over. “I swear to Jesus Christ and everything holy, Levi Ackerman, if you say ‘he has a son’ I’m going to throttle you hear and now.”

“He has a son.” I say simply. Surprise, surprise; thirty seconds later, I’m still not throttled and have only received a slap to the arm.

So?” She tries again.

This damn lift is being so slow.

“So he has a child” I snap at her, rolling my eyes dramatically. “So, he probably has a wife or a girlfriend or is just generally not into the dick and balls that I happen to have between my damn legs.”

It takes her a minute to reply. I stupidly think she might have given up, perhaps my snapping at her was enough to let her drop it. But fuck me, how wrong I am.

“He’s not married.” She claims.

“And you know this how? Did the dog fucking whisper it to you?”

“No.” She says and I get another slap to my arm. “He wasn’t wearing a ring.”

“So?” It’s my turn to ask. “Maybe he doesn’t like to wear it. Maybe the dog fucking ate it. Maybe he’s divorced. Maybe he’s engaged. Maybe he’s still got a child which means that his dick has been in a vagina which once again, I don’t have.”

Hanji blesses me with an exaggerated sigh; stealing my techniques, I see.

“Do you mind? We have limited oxygen in here as it is. Don’t need you fucking wasting it.” I add, grumbling.

“Look, Levi,” She says, an uncomfortable seriousness coming across her. Serious Hanji puts me on edge. “It doesn’t stop the fact that you liked him. I’m just happy, it’s proven your cold, dark heart isn’t as cold and dark as you like us all to believe. And, on top of that, his son was an absolute cutie.” She says with a smile, and suddenly as she had disappeared, Normal Hanji is back. “All I’m trying to say there’s not  that many kids in Shinganshina who need oxygen tanks. If you want me to, I’ll do some digging tomorrow and see if I can’t get you a list of the patients who require them and then I’ll go through the list of names on the system and see if I can’t match a name to a face.”

I swear to God, I don't know why the police force even let Hanji anywhere near that system. She abuses it far too much. It's just lucky for her she's a damn good cop.

“Great.” I mumble, rolling my eyes but I’m so fucking grateful that the elevator stops and opens its doors for us. “That’d a pick up line and a half; Hey, you met me once but I stalked your kid and found out your name, your address, any crimes you’ve committed and your son’s medical history. Wanna grab a drink?” I huff, striding out of the lift and abandoning her there.

Literally, it’s times like this that I have to question our friendship. I also have to question myself with how they ever allowed this woman to work in a police station when she quite clearly was meant to be the one in the damn cell.

“Perfect!” Hanji laughs, jogging after me to catch up as I make my way through the rows of desks to Erwin’s office. We’ve chosen his to work in tonight; mainly because when take away was suggested I told them mine was out of bounds. Like fuck I was going to stink the place up with Chinese that’d be hanging around for weeks.

“What’s perfect?” I audiably groan when I hear Erwin’s deep voice chime in. He’s walking over to us from the water cooler, a shit-eating grin plastered across his face. He knows he’s missed something but like fuck I’m telling him.

In my opinion, he’s missed nothing. Nothing happened between my and that brat. Nothing. I just saved his fucking dog- which now I was regretting- and sat with him while his sick son played with my friend for ten minutes. Nothing more, nothing less. Sure, he was hot but I wasn’t about to pursue anything with someone so obviously straight.

Been there, done that, had the heartbreak.  

Besides, there was nothing to pursue. I was never going to see him again.

“Nothing.” I tell him, heading straight past him and into the office. I’m just so fucking thankful all the shitty employees have buggered off home. Least whatever Hanji starts spouting now won’t be going round the office tomorrow.

“Levi’s fallen in love!” Hanji sings happily to Erwin and they both grin. I swear I’m going to punch them both.

“Oh? In an hour and half? That was quick Levi.” Erwin teases, following me into the room where there were already three seats stationed and the work we had abandoned previously.

I flop down into a chair, dumping the bags onto the table but being weary of the paper work. It’s not my job to dish out the food and even if it was I wouldn’t do it. Luckily, it doesn’t matter as Hanji jumps onto the job almost instantly. Pouring our orders onto three plates and basically using it as an excuse to nick most of the prawn crackers before the meals even started.

I don’t give a shit though; they’re too greasy for me. It’s only Erwin that’s grumbling at her for that one.

Once again, I’m lulled into a false sense of security with the conversation topic turning to food while it’s being dished up. It’s not until we’re all settled down, starting to eat and I’m about to ask about the case when Erwin- the bastard- starts it all up again.

“So who’s the lucky man that’s gained Levi’s love so quickly?” He asks, smirking. Hanji’s grinning again instantly and I just flip him off.

Traitor.

“You’re dead to me.” I snap back. He’s too used to me though, just snorts and glances at Hanji with a raised eyebrow.

“Oh, just this super cutie we met in the park.” She beams.

“Park?”

“Yeah, yeah, sorry. I remembered ice cream and we took a little detour.” Hanji explains.

“Ice cream? It’s the middle of winter.” Erwin tells her with a snort and finally I’m nodding.

“Exact fucking thing I said.” I defend, flicking an eyebrow up at Hanji as a ‘told you so’, but she waves me off.

“Not important. The important thing is this super cutie was the one the stole Levi’s heart.” She says, beaming but I roll my eyes. Hopefully that’ll be enough to make him see that it’s complete bull crap. I’m not lucky though. Of course I’m not because Hanji’s still got a voice box and a working tongue. “He smirked Erwin!” She gasps, a mouthful of rice. “He was super soft and fluffy and it was adorable.”

I have to question whether she's talking about the brat or the dog.

“In case you’d forgotten,” I sigh, “he still has a son.” I point this out, once again hoping for Erwin to nod and side with me but alas, I made yet another mistake. I didn’t deny the shitty ‘fluffy’ comment and now Erwin’s beaming that shit-eating grin all over again.

“Oh, I see.” He smirks, winking at Hanji.

“Would you both fuck off?” I try but honestly, Hanji’s dug her teeth into this and she’s unrelenting in her mission to not let this die. Ever.

“They talked and Levi pretended to be a knight for his son and- oh, you should have seen him, Erwin. The little boy, he’s so precious! Looks kind of like you; blonde hair and these huge, blue eyes.” She gasps, going all gross and broody on us. I guess that’s what it is because she’s going fucking crazy.

I guess I don’t have the same excuse though when I hear myself speak.

“He was pretty cute.” I mutter. Before I even know what I’ve said, Hanji’s squealing and Erwin’s laughing.

“Which one? The kid or the guy?” He chuckles. I feel my cheeks betray me and go a nice, embarrassing red.

“Neither.” I grumble.

Both.

It’s too late though, Hanji’s off.

“This is the greatest thing ever!” She’s squealing.

“Fuck off.” I huff.

“Did you get his number?” Erwin asks. I have to use my dramatic eye roll for what feels like the hundredth time that night. This is getting tiring.

“No. Fuck off.”

“I’m going to find them.” Hanji claims.

Fuck off.” I repeat again. I’m honestly at the end of my tether and I’ve barely started my dinner, not even started the work.

“I’m happy for you. It’s nice that you’ve found someone- or Hanji’s going to re-find them for you.” Erwin says, trying to sound like a proud older brother. He’s not my brother, not really. His parent just took me in when I was a teenager, so that gives him basically zero rights to use that tone with me.

“She’s not going to re-find anything. Except maybe her way home when she fucks off.

“Can I be a flower girl to the wedding?” She asks, definitely trying to hold back full on laughter right now. I know they’re joking, doing it because it pisses me off. I guess I’m just more fucking touchy about this because- well fuck- I guess I did like the kid.

Not that it fucking matters. I didn’t like him, just appreciated his face for the few minutes we’d met each other. I do that a lot; see a hot guy and appreciate them. Sure. It wasn’t like wedding bells played every time I walked down the damn street and checked out a guy’s arse- or face, for that matter.

The brat was nothing to me.

“No.” Erwin says, suddenly serious. It catches me by surprise, catches Hanji by surprise. We’re both looking at him, his stern face that’s now pulled almost into a frown. I feel my annoyance lessen somewhat. Well for second anyway. It’s back full force when Erwin can’t help but smirk. “I want to be the flower girl.”

They both start laughing.

Oh Jesus Christ- Lord give me fucking strength. Or even better, just smite these two down so I can keep the blood off my hands and my arse out of prison.

What have I ever done to deserve this?

“Right.” I say quickly. Sharply. Like I’m speaking to children; I guess I am. “I’m leaving.” I claim, standing as I give the both my best glare.

“You’re still eating.” Hanji points out. She’s biting her lip as she tries her best to hold back the laughter. A quick glance to Erwin and he’s pulling the exact same expression.

Honest to God, fuck them both.

I pick up my plate and cutlery.

“I’ll eat in my office.” I tell them, moving towards the door before either of them could stop me. Hanji can’t help herself now and burst out laughing which pisses me off even more, but now as much as the small ‘aww’ that she gives after.

“Levi- come back, we’re teasing.” She tries.

“Eating in your office? Where’s the Levi I know and love?” Erwin snorts, at least he’s slightly more successful at hiding his laughter.

“Fuck off.” I grumble, opening the door.

“Love has changed him in so many ways.” Hanji finishes and with that I leave, having to be annoyingly careful not to slam the door behind me. As much as I want to, I would rather keep from the glass walls and door of the office smashing.

They’re meant to be sleek and soundproof. Glass walls so you can see the whole floor as well as having your own space. Tonight, they just piss me off.

I can still hear Hanji howling as I practically stomp across to my own.

I can still fucking see them both as I sulk in my own shitty glass office. I send them a glower whenever they catch my eye, but I get a wave back.

Fucking arseholes.

Chapter Text

EREN POV 

 

My night with Armin was cut short when eight o’clock rolled by and I was collecting my car keys, dressed for work and ready to go.

We’d had a pretty relaxed night after the park. Basically just gotten home, had some dinner, bath time and then a little cuddle while Armin watched the kids channel’s story time to wind down. It was my favourite time of my day, always was.

When I could just collected my son into my arms, hold him close to me. When we just settled on our little, old couch and watched our almost too small TV. The smell of bubble bath clinging to his soft skin, his warm body held close to mine, all cosy in whichever onesie he had picked out for the night. He’d be holding his little soft toy lamb, hugging it close to him as he watched with awe. Schnecke would settle on the floor below us, sometimes attempting to lie with us but although stupid, he knows that he can’t really fit.

It was perfect. Always is.

It’s just a little upsetting there’s the awareness I have that as soon as Armin goes to bed, I’ll have to leave him with Mikasa and head to work until the early hours. But it was needed and I made sure to make the most of my evenings with Armin like this.

We did the same tonight and once the story had finished on the TV, I picked him up and gently carried him into his room to continue our cuddle party there.

Our apartment was small. Not in the greatest area or the nicest apartment block. The people above us spent a lot of time banging around, both stomping and noises that I’m glad Armin doesn’t understand quite yet.

The people below us have dogs, they wind Schnecke up if he’s in the wrong mood but I don’t think they look after them that well.

The people next door shout a lot. That upsets Armin and I’ve been over multiple times to ask them to please keep it down. I’d been greeted with angry faces and angrier words but it didn’t stop me from snapping back. The walls were made out of cardboard and the last thing I wanted was for my son to pick up any of the names they would yell at each other in the dead of night.

This is why I had bought Armin a pair of headphones, a little portable CD player and a bunch of audiobooks that he now couldn’t sleep with out. It helped though, made him be able to relax and sleep so I would often buy him another CD for little presents here and there so he could hear new stories.

He loves them and I love him so I don’t mind.

I read to him for half an hour, enjoying my last time alone with Armin before I have to go to work. It’s actually amazing how in sync our routine is as the sound of a knock on the door sounds as soon as I’ve kissed Armin gentle on the head and promised to him that I’ll come and see him again when I get home.

I will. Even though he’s asleep, I always promise the same. Despite the fact I will come back at half three in the morning, exhausted and ready to roll into bed but I’ll pause to quietly enter Armin’s room and kiss his head again. Watch him for a moment or two. The little rise and fall of his chest, his blond hair spread across the sheets. The little lump that his body makes in the duvet.

I’ll fall in love all over again before finally giving into the need to sleep and trudge my way to my own room, flop and instantly fall asleep. Sometimes I forget to even change out of my work clothes until I’m waking again to take Armin to day care and head off to university.

Day care. That’s one thing that’s on my list to search for when I’m on my break later tonight. If not, I’ll have to take tomorrow off university to look after him.

The knock on the door sounds again, dragging me out of my thoughts as I slowly close the door to Armin’s room. I let out a tired sigh, watching Schnecke head over to the door. He’s not a loud dog, not inside anyway. Just patters over to it, sits there and waits for me to open it so he can give the person on the other side a proper greeting.

I do it for him, giving my sister a soft smile when it’s opened to her.

She’s stood there, her arms full of books, revision tools and a pizza. The usual, huge scarf draped around her. In fairness, it’s bloody freezing, so I don’t blame her.

“Thanks for this.” I say instantly, stepping a side so she can walk in. Schnecke stands looks up happily to her, his tail wagging and his mouth open so it looks like he’s smiling this massive shit-eating grin.

Mikasa walks in quickly, obviously pleased to be out of the cold too, and although I’m leaving soon, I close the door to keep what little heat this flat can keep hold off in.

“It’s fine.” She says softly, slipping off her shoes and leaving them at the door before she bends to stroke Schnecke. “Can’t say no to coming and spending some time with my nephew, even if he’s sleeping.” She chuckles lightly as she re-stands, quickly going to dump her things on the kitchen counter top instead of accidently dropping them all over the floor.

“True.” I smirk, watching her. “Dad didn’t have anything to say about it?” I ask. I haven’t seen my father for four years now. I know he’s still around and about, Mikasa’s still ‘lucky’ enough to live in his presence and he’s still lucky enough to have his perfect child.

I only know what’s going on with him from Mikasa, but we have to keep our meetings to the downlow. It fucking sucks, and Mikasa assures me she’s trying to find a job so she can move out and see more of me. We’d even discussed living together with Armin- two incomes is better than one- but I can’t put that pressure on Mikasa. She’s studying hard for her own course, following our father’s foot steps in the medical profession- and I understand that she relied on both his income, his knowledge and his contacts to complete her course as best as she could.

All I knew was Grisha Jaeger was over the moon that his adoptive daughter was becoming a doctor, and was completely unaware and uninterested in his biological son’s wishes to become a midwife.

It’s fine. I’m getting by fine without him.

Mikasa shot me a small smirk though, giving a shrug.

“I told him I was going to the library.” She says and although it hurts that she has to lie to my own father, I smirk at her.

“Wow, sneaky.” I tease but she waves it off.

“It wasn’t a complete lie.” She chuckles. “I have a test in a few weeks so I nipped there first to pick up some study material and  then food.” She laughs, before her expression becomes a little more serious. “I thought we could share it.” She says.

I know she’s eyeing me up, trying to mentally weigh me and compare it to my height. She’s trying to see if I’m eating, which- yes- I am. I just perhaps don’t eat as much as I should. Not for any reason other than the fact I either forget or my main concern is Armin.

I give her a smile though, trying to ease her worry.

“Thanks Mikasa.” I say honestly. “I can’t just yet though, I’ve got to get to work or I’ll be late. Eat as much as you want and I’ll grab any left overs when I get back.” I tell her, trying again with the smile as her lips purse a little.

“Have you had dinner though?”

“Yes.” I tell her, which isn’t actually a lie. I might have missed lunch today, but I ate with Armin. “We had pasta so try not to worry, okay.”

That seems to please her enough though, gets her to back off from the mothering just a little, as her frown loosens a little and she nods.

“Alright then.” She sighs, admitting her defeat on this one. But I’m safe in the knowledge that even if she raids the washing, she’ll see I wasn’t lying. I also know that she’ll still save me some pizza for when I get back home, despite the fact it was going to be far too early to eat pizza and I’d be far too tired to even remember it.

“Okay, so Armin’s in bed.” I tell her, making sure I had my keys and patted down my jacket to make sure my phone was there before pulling on the coat. “He’s only used the oxygen once today but keep an eye on him. The current one’s in his room and the others are stored-“

“In the wardrobe. If anything happens; call an ambulance first and then Doctor Pixis second. Keep the oxygen on and try to keep him calm. I know, Eren.” She reels off, making me blush a little but it’s soft. Not snappy or exasperated. “I’ve done this plenty of times before and it’s the same every time.” She points out.

My cheeks are still fresh with embarrassment. I know I don’t have to lecture her about it all, don’t have to go through this all like I do. But I can’t help but worry.

I just give a soft smile, a half jerk of my head as a nod.

“I’ll be back at usual time, if you’re tired or anything feel free to head to bed. Mines all made and ready for you.” I tell her, watching her give me another soft smile. Yes, I think I tell her this every time too, not that she ever does. Even if she stays the night, she ends up making herself a little bed up on the couch and leaves me my bed to roll into when I return.

I feel a little more relaxed now that I’ve gone through the motions though.

“Don’t worry, I have a lot of revision so I’ll probably still be awake when you get in.” She says softly as I bend down and say my farewells for now to Schnecke, who’s looking at me a little upset now but I remind him softly that I’ll be back soon. Kiss his head and head to the door.

A quick pause and I turn my head back for a moment.

“Thanks for this, Mikasa.” I say honestly. I’m grateful she does this. Mikasa doesn’t babysit that often, but when she does I genuinely feel happy about it. We’re not as close as we used to be; college, parenthood and dad has come between us, but when she comes over like this, it just reminds me that- yeah- she still is there for me.

Me and Armin now.

“Don’t mention it.” She replies softly, giving a small nod before waving me off again. “Now go, otherwise you’ll be late.”

I can’t help but laugh; yeah, I’m definitely more relaxed now. I know Mikasa is more than capable of taking care of Armin while I’m away, and it’s not like it’s for very long. I’ll be back before I know it.

“Bye.” I call as I open the door and take my leave, closing it behind me but not before I heard her reply.

The walk down from our floor to the ground is a tedious one. I don’t trust the flat lifts, they’re out of order more than they’re available to use, so even when the black and white sign is no where to be seen I tend to avoid them. I take the stairs, which considering we’re on the thirteenth floor of a thirty story building isn’t horrendous. I’m just exhausted.

At least I get to drive to work, and don’t take any extra time in jogging to my car and shuffling inside. It’s fucking cold out there, so I’m instantly cranking up the heat and trying to warm my now frozen hands before I take the wheel.

I work at a Jazz bar in the centre of Shiganshina. Although heavily themed, it’s more popular than I had originally thought which is good as although I’m just working on the bar, I still get good pay and tips to add to it. The owners, Connie and Sasha, are high school friends of mine who had skipped the whole college slash university stage of their lives to open this place.

Good on them too.

Sometimes I feel a little jealous of them. They’re doing so well for themselves, and on top of that I wouldn’t be surprised if they announced their engagement at any point. But I’m just happy that I’ve got this job, grateful they had requested me.

Jazz is my thing, especially the piano. However, I mean I’m nothing special but I had been originally asked by them to come play for them in the live band, however the hours and pay didn’t fit with what I had been after and they had agreed to let me bartend instead. 

It was a nice place, they were nice. It was just nice in general and I didn’t mind spending my night mixing and serving cocktails with the soundtrack of the live band in the background. Tonight, the jewel of this place was in fact up on the stage singing. Petra; she had a fucking great voice actually, sweet and beautiful makes me glad I wasn’t the one on the piano as fuck- I definitely would have ruined her performances.

Especially with tonight’s numbers which she seemed to be singing mostly in French to tunes I recognised but words I could not understand.

But it made the whole night go quickly, which I was definitely thankful about. I spent my quick break doing as I had planned; sending Mikasa a quick text to check that everything was still fine, before scrolling through local day care centres and their reviews. I’m aware that even if I found one tonight, I would have to contact them and organise bringing Armin in. Which meant I would still miss the day of university tomorrow. But I guessed a day off with him wouldn’t be too horrible an idea. In fact, I was quite looking forward to it.

A lie in. A late breakfast which would lead to either a lazy day where neither of us would change out of our pyjamas, or I’d think up something fun that we could go do. Maybe we could go back to the park or- well, anything.

The world would be our oyster and I was definitely excited.

 

-x-

 

I managed to stay awake when I got home long enough to down a glass of water, eat a slice of pizza to keep Mikasa (who was currently sleeping on the couch with Schnecke) and write out a mostly coherent email to three different day care centres, asking if they had any space and explaining his circumstances.

Practically drunk on lack of sleep, I didn’t pay much attention to what was written, and didn’t proof read the email before I sent it off. I barely cared though, my bed was my only worry, so I headed straight towards it with the short pause to go in and kiss Armin gently as I had promise.

I didn’t expect to hear back from the day care centres so set my alarm for eleven, allowing myself a little bit of a lie in. If Armin let me, that was. I knew it was cheeky, but Mikasa was just revising at the moment and didn’t have lectures to attend, so I kind of hoped she’d wait around until I’d woken to keep an eye on Armin.

I only realise my mistake when I wake with my alarm. I lie sleepily for a moment or two, listening to the sounds of Armin babbling away in the kitchen and Mikasa’s slightly more muffled replies. I am actually relieved she stayed, so I don’t rush out of bed. Just lie there for a few more minutes in the half light, flicking through my phone.

There’s a little red bubble over the email app, and I click it expecting some form of spam.

It’s not. In fact, it’s from ‘Little Titan Nursery & Day Care’ which instantly makes me raise an eyebrow, wakes me up faster and I click on it.

Dear Mr Jaeger,

Thank you so much for getting in contact with us. We’re delighted to say that we do have free spaces available to take your son on. Regarding your son’s medical condition, this would not be a problem and we agree that he should have the same start and opportunities as any other child.

 We’d love to offer your son a day here, free of charge, so you can both decide if we are what you’re looking for in a nursery. I can assure you that we have nothing but dedicated staff members, lovely children and wonderful reviews.

If you’d like to bring Armin in today, we’ll be happy to introduce him to the other children we have here and we can discuss his joining us more permanently this afternoon if the day is a success. Our day starts 8:20 with breakfast.

We’d love to see you both there!

Kind Regards,

Isabel Magnolia
Little Titan Nursery & Day Care

p.s 4am is no time to go to bed, Mr Jaeger! Get some proper sleep ;D You better not be late!!

I read the email again, my heart instantly thumping in my chest.

Fuck- 8:20am. Well I’ve fucked that one up.

I bolt up. Sure, we’ve missed the start of the day, but it’s not too late for me to make my second seminar if I can and I know I’ll be able to grab the notes from the first from someone else or work on the powerpoint during lunch.

“Mikasa!” I practically yell, sticking my head out the door. I see her, her head turns with a concerned frown. Armin also looks over.

“I’m here.” She replies. “You okay?” She calls back to me as my head disappears away. I need to get dressed.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” I say, starting to dig out a clean t-shirt and then remember it’s bloody freezing so change it for a hoodie. I don’t really care about my appearance; I don’t want to throw this opportunity away. This centre had the best reviews out of the lot online and I was just kicking myself that I hadn’t woken sooner. “Can you get Armin dressed for me, please?” I yell.

This confused her even more as she’s outside my door as I’m trying to tug on a pair of skinny jeans.

“Why? Are you sure you’re okay?” She asks through it.

“Armin. Dressed.” I manage, wriggling socks on and trying to tame my crazy fucking mane of hair.

“He’s already dressed. I thought he was going to nursery but he said something happened yesterday.” She says and I tug open the door at the exact moment, giving a grin.

“He is.” I explain, pushing past her quickly. “Just not the one before. We’re already late.” I tell her, but have to pause when I make it out into the room.

If I rush, I’m going to forget something. I can’t afford to forget something. So many things we have to take with us, Armin relies on. There’s things I can’t afford to forget because if I do they might be the very thing he needs to keep him being able to breath.

Deep breath in. Hold. Out.

“Okay, okay.” I mumble, my eyes flicking around before I see Armin and softly smile at him. He looks a little worried at my flittering. “Good morning, Squirt.” I say softly, stroking his hair back and I’m very pleased to see he is, in fact, dressed. Sporting an adorable mustard jumper and a pair of blue dungarees over the top.

“’Ello dada!” He greets back, squirming in his chair to give me a hug which I return.

“You remember nursery?” I ask him softly, stroking his hair through the hug. He gives a little nod; of course he does. “Well we’re going to go to nursery today. But a different one.” I tell him, watching as he looks up at me.

“New?” He asks. I nod.

“Yes, new. With new people and new friends.” I tell him. He’s looking a little nervous now, wriggling his lips and his socked feet. He’s always nervous around new people, but I already know that this place is going to be a million times better than the last.

Least they won’t frame a fight on him, and this Isabel Magnolia assured me they would be able to deal with his condition. Be able to look after him properly. I would make sure to go over it again when I saw her in person, double checked with her. But it was only a trail day so if Armin hated it or they found it too difficult or I didn’t trust them or the kids were little shits, it would all be fine.

Just one day, just to test.

“It’ll be fun, and you’ll meet loads of lovely people.” I tell him, trying to ease his discomfort at the prospect. I know I’m rushing, I can still hear the million things I need to do screaming in my head but I take a deep breath and try and slow down for my son. I gently crouch down so that I’m on his level again, my hand coming up to stroke his hair back off his face. “How you feeling today?” I ask, the finger of my other hand coming up to gently stroke his chest.

He always worried me. Always. And as much as I wanted to go to university today and make sure I didn’t fall more behind, if Armin wasn’t feeling well enough to go to the nursery today, or just genuinely didn’t want to go, I would put my life on hold once again for him and stay home.

He gives me a smile though, giggling as I gently tickle him.

“’kay dada!” He tells me happily and my expression softens, pretty relieved with that fact.

“You sure? Doesn’t hurt?”

“Iddy bit.” He admits, which makes me frown a little. His lungs aren’t good; cause even breathing to be painful for him. Luckily it’s not too bad most of the time, only when his lungs are aggravated. But as Pixis has told me; it’s not getting better. He’s just going to get worse.

That kills me.

“Iddy bit?” I hum. “How iddy?” I ask and watch him as he pulls his hands up to show me a tiny space between two fingers. “Iddy enough to need the tank?” I ask him softly, but he shakes his head almost instantly. I know he hates it as much as I hate seeing him in it.

“No, no, no. Too iddy.” He assures me, so instead of continuing, I move to stand again and kiss his forehead.

“Tell me if it gets more.”

“Ya dada.” He agrees, giving me the most adorable grin.

I’m just glad he’s young enough that I know he will. He’s not hiding anything at this age. Adults do that shit too much, but kids- especially Armin- their emotions are right there for you to see. If he’s really struggling or it really does hurt, he’s too young to hide it.

Every smiles genuine, but it means his pain is too.

“Okay, well how about you pick out what shoes you want to wear today and I’ll wash your bowl up and we’ll get going?” I say to him, asking him like a question but it’s not really one.

I hate to admit it, I really do, but I don’t really know how the hell to do this. This whole parenting thing. It’s basically just me stumbling through life blindly pretending to know.

The scary truth is I’m flying blind and I’m making it up as I go.

Mikasa can tell- she looks at me with a soft smile. I can tell- I run a hand through my hair as I try and mentally sort through my to do list. Armin, thank fuck, doesn’t seem to know- with my help he’s off the seat and waddling over to the little pile of his shoes next to the door to pick out today’s favourites.

“Want me to drop you off home?” I ask Mikasa, returning her smile as I start washing Armin’s breakfast bowl that takes about thirty seconds before moving to sort out the oxygen tank, pack his bag, my bag, find my own shoes, feed Schnecke, do everything on my list.

She chuckles lightly, waving me off Armin’s bag to do that one for me. It’s not difficult, it’s got the main things already in there. He’ll just want his little toy lamb and a drink in case he needs extra. Se takes this off me, though, and starts to sort it so I can do my own.

“Well, I don’t know if home is a good idea.” She points out but I shrug.

“Dad doesn’t know my car. It shouldn’t matter even if he’s home.” I reply. “Plus, you can just use the excuse that it was some course buddy or something.” I chuckle.

“Dada!” Armin cuts in, holding up his chosen pair off shoes just as I’m zipping up my bag.

“Good choice.” I praise, grinning widely at him. “Now put them on.” I tell him, which he nods, sits and does. I would love to just stand and watch him being so adorably cute, but we’re close to being able to leave now so I make sure to quickly finish the last few jobs before grabbing my own shoes and coat.

Mikasa’s finished too, doing the same.

“Well if you don’t mind.” She says softly regarding the lift and honestly I don’t. She’s been so kind helping me out so taking her home again is the least I can do.

“It’s fine.” I say honestly.

 

-x-

 

It takes us about five more minutes to be completely ready enough to leave the flat, and another ten minutes on top of that to drive to Mikasa’s and drop her off. She insists on my stopping outside a neighbours instead of our own family home, which I do.

I’m in too much of a rush to fight her really. I don’t have long left till my seminar and I need to get Armin to the nursery- or at least see if they’ll take him even though I’m way too late for the start of the day.

She says her good byes, blowing kisses to Armin and we’re on our way.

I have to use my sat nav to find exactly where the day care centre is, and once again cheekily use their staff parking instead of finding somewhere else. It’s just a hell of a lot quicker and a hell of a lot easier. Means I don’t have to worry about Armin walking too much or being later or finding the car again once I’ve dropped him off.

It takes us half an hour from home to here and now I’m stood in front of Little Titan Nursery & Day Care fully aware I have about ten minute to drop him off and make my seminar.

Armin’s hand is in mine, insisting on walking and caring his own back pack. So, instead, I carry the oxygen tank, my stomach churning nervously. I’m probably as nervous as Armin and it wasn’t even me.

I was just used to this. Meeting people and seeing first their judgement. I’m young, they judge me for that. Then comes the pity. They see that Armin’s sick, see the oxygen and I have to explain it all to them and their brows frown, their faces fall. They treat him different. Which I mean, is good in a sense. He is different. But he’s not stupid, he notices and he doesn’t want it.

I just prepare myself mentally, put on my ‘dada’ brave face and lead him into the nursery.

The first thing that surprises me is that it’s lovely.

I mean most nurseries are, but this one- no wonder it’s got good reviews. It’s got a big room, spacious and colourful. A sand pit. A table with paints and crayons and other craft bits. A reading corner that Armin’s instantly getting excited about.

The main feature, however, is the white wall that’s covered in small hand prints. Not all over it yet, but there’s a lot of them. A few adult sized ones too, but mostly small, childlike hands.

I don’t realise we’re stood there staring until I hear a voice to my right.

“Hello?” It sounds kind, makes me turn. I expect to see an middle-aged to old-ish woman, something like the last one. Someone who will instantly start the familiar feeling of self-consciousness in me.

Instead, there’s a woman who can’t be much older than me. Ruddy, messy red hair that’s pulled into short pig tails that’s obviously to keep kids hands from pulling it and it off her face. She’s cute; got a nice smile that’s sort of subtle but real. It’s nice.

And on top of it all, there seems no judgement in her eyes. Just excitement- like she’s genuinely pleased to see me.

“Oh- hi.” I start. I have to mentally put myself back on track. I don’t have long and I really need to get down to business and see if Armin’s still allowed to stay here for a few hours.

“You must be Mr Jaeger.” She says, her smile growing. I’m actually so relieved to see it that I can’t help but laugh.

I shake my head.

“No. Well techniqually yes, but please- Mr Jaeger is my father.” I chuckle. “It’s just Eren.” I finish and she giggles happily.

“Well, hello ‘just’ Eren.” She laughs, before looking down and seeing Armin. Her smile grows at the sight of him but I feel his hand clench around mine a little harder. His body press into my leg. “And this must be ‘just’ Armin?” She asks him, but notices his nerves so slowly crouches down next to him. “Hello there, I’m ‘just’ Isabel.” She tells him.

Damn, she’s good.

Although he’s not fully let go of my hand, Armin stops trying to borrow his way into my leg and gives her a small smile back.

“You’re super adorable.” She tells him, which makes him blush and- bless him. I can’t help but smile.

“I’m so sorry we’re late.” I say, resisting ever urge to check the time. I honestly don’t even want to know. I’m going to be late.

Isabel stands again, shaking her head.

“Don’t worry about it. You sent that email quite late last night so I’m not surprised if you have a lie in.” She chuckles, still lacking the usual judgement in her eyes. It’s refreshing. I can’t seem to reply though, so I just end up giving an awkward nod, feeling my cheeks light up a little. “You’re still welcome to complete the trail day, if you’d like.” She says, obviously guessing why we were here.

“Really?” I check, it’s all I need to go back into panic ‘I don’t have a lot of time’ mode and I hear myself embarrass myself even further by talking at a million miles an hour. “Thanks, that’ll be such a help. I’m really sorry to come in so late. It’s so rude, I know, I only saw the email when I woke up. I don’t mind paying for the day, especially after springing this on you now. But if you’re totally sure then that would be such a help, I have a seminar in ten minutes so I kind of-“

“Need to get going.” She finished, laughing but her expression is soft. Not the usual pity, just understanding.

I nod. I can already feel it; my own expression is probably horrendous. Even looking at myself in the mirror when I’d cleaned my teeth. My hair’s a mess, I look tired, and now I look flushed and flustered and probably just downright crazy. And on top of that, I’m giving an almost painfully ‘sorry’ expression, feeling utterly awful for both abandoning my child and thrusting him upon her.

I know deep down, that a) I’m not abandoning him, this is needed. And b) this is her job. I’m not thrusting him on him, she offered.

I still feel like shit for doing it.

“Something like that.” I mumble eventually and get a nod from Isabel.

“No problem. How about we sort out everything official at pick up? No need to pay for today and if you’d like, I can give you half of tomorrow for free too to make up for the missed morning.” She says, waving me off when I start to open my mouth in protest. “I insist.”

“Thank you so much.” I hear myself say. God, I sound so breathless and exhausted. She waves her hand again.

“It’s no problem. You got here just in time for story time.” She says with a small gasp, looking at Armin. “Do you like stories?” She asks him, her voice changing to talk to him.

Armin nods, giving her a small smile.

“Ya.” He says honestly. I know he’s still shy, but he’s coming a little more out of his shell at the sound of stories and I think Isabel can sense it.

“That’s good then. What kind of stories do you like best?” She asks, smiling still as Armin wiggles his lips in thought and shyness.

“You like knights, don’t you?” I prompt him, which he nods at. “And ones about-“

“Merm-aids.” Armin finishes, smiling up at me and I return it. God dammit- it makes me honest to God never want to let go of his hand. He’s so precious; there’s a physical ache in my heart for how much I love him.

“That’s right.” I say as Isabel gasps.

“Mermaids! I love mermaids.” She giggles, before flicking her pigtail. “My hair’s like Ariel’s.” She points out and instantly wins Armin over. His shy shell has been cracked open and he’s in love with this place, I know it.

“Ya!” He squeals in excitement. “Riel’s!”

“Exactly.” Isabel giggles, before giving a dramatic pout. “Except I was silly and got it all chopped off. Do you think I can still be a mermaid?” She asks him, and once again Armin’s wriggling his lips. This time with a lot more confidence.

“Ya!” He eventually agrees, wriggling his hand out of mine too which makes my brows raise. He’s a shy kid; took him a couple of days to settle into the last place. But here he is, all sunshine and smiles within the first ten minutes.

Never mind a mermaid, this woman’s a witch.

“Oh goodie!” She gives a happy clap.

“Me too.” Armin insist, which she nods at.

“Of course. We can be mermaids together. And what’s this?” She asks, nodding to the tank that I’m holding. I’m about to butt in and go full force explaining everything but she’s engaged with Armin and I hold back my parental protectiveness and don’t break the magic.

“It,” Armin starts, turning to look at it and it physically hurts to see the smile waver. He hates it so much. It’s so obvious, even to this woman who’s never spoken to him before. But she doesn’t miss a beat, gasping again as soon as she’s noted the wavering expression.

“Wow!” Even I raise my eyebrow at that. “Is this to help you explore the ocean?” She asks him, smiling and suddenly Armin’s smile is back ten-fold. “Every mermaid dreams to be able to dive the deepest depths of the ocean but you’re special, with this you can!” She says and he nods along with her.

“Ya, ya!” He says happily. “Helps- um- me breath.” He explains but instead of the pity, she continues with her never ending smile.

“Ah, that’ll definitely help underwater then.” She says, before nodding to his backpack. “How about you go hang your coat and back up over there. You can pick any peg you like and we’ll make you a name tag later if you like it here and I’ll finish up talking to your daddy.” She tells him. We wait for a moment for him to accept and head over to the pegs to do just that. I follow him with my gaze and watch him for a moment or two before she continues. “He’s so sweet.” She giggles.

I can’t help the bubble of pride at her compliements. He is. I made that. I raised him. It’s lovely to hear.

“Thanks.” I chuckle. No- protective dada is back and I turn to her with a more serious expression. “Um, about the tank.” I start, placing it down.

“Yes. You said in the email he had bad lungs.” I nod.

“He does. It means that sometimes he needs to use this. It’s pretty simple to work; just remove the nasal cannula which- um- goes in his nose obviously. Close the cylinder valve by turning it clockwise. I’m so sorry if you think I’m patronizing or anything but I have these sheets the doctor gave me, it just explains how to use it properly. He said it’d be best to give them to the day care centres in case he needs it. It just explains in full how  to use it and then it’s basically just a case of keeping an eye on his breathing and making sure he doesn’t run round too much. He’s okay a lot of the time but it can bad if he’s crying or coughing. Sometimes it just starts up hurting but although he hates the tank, it hurts so he’ll tell you. Especially if you make it sound as exciting as you already have.” I laugh, hearing myself go off on one again and honestly, I feel bad for her.

She simply listens to me though. Doesn’t interrupt and just nods along with it. Engaged and paying attention, which I like. I trust.

“Okay, thanks. We’ll take the sheet and I’ll make sure to tell all the staff too.” She says as I start to fish out a couple from my backpack and hand it to her. I end up getting a glance at the time as I do though and I have to swallow back my time pressure.

“Thanks. I’ll leave you my phone number and the number to our doctor as well in case you need to contact either of us but he’s been okay recently so hopefully you won’t have any need to use it this afternoon.” I say, which Isabel smiles at again, taking the sheet and nodding.

“Sounds good to me. I’m sure he’ll be okay too. We’re having a pretty lazy day. Story time then lunch then a bit of crafts.” She says. It relaxes me. Yeah, nothing too strenuous; Armin would be fine. I just have to keep repeating that to myself.

“He’ll enjoy that.” I smile.

“I’ll make sure he does.” She laughs, turning her head down to see Armin coming back over. “All done, little man?” She asks him, which he nods happily.

“Ya.”

“Good good. Ready to have some fun then? We’ll make sure to have a great day that you can tell your daddy all about when he comes to pick you up later.” She says happily, captivating him instantly with what she was saying.

Honestly, this woman has some sort of mystical powers with him. He’s hanging off her every word.

Maybe it’s as simple as him thinking he’s legitimately met the Disney princess, Ariel.

I wasn’t about to crush that dream for him.

“Ya! Bye bye dada!” Armin says waving and going over to take her hand instead. I can’t help but laugh at that, but give a little gasp anyway.

“Oh, I see how it is. I introduce you to a mermaid and you forget all about your dada.” I tease but Armin looks a little upset by it- which definitely isn’t my intention. Doesn’t last long though, as he lets go of her hand and runs to hug me.

I can’t help my protective ‘careful’ at his run though, but soften my expression at his hug.

Bless his soul.

I bend properly to return it, kissing his head.

“Won’t forget dada.” He tells me, snuggling into me and kisses my cheek like I do to him. It melts my heart.

“Love you, Squirt.” I reply.

I hate this part. Leaving him, even if it is just for a few hours. I hurts every damn time but I know I have to be a man about it. I’ll see him soon.

“Love you too, dada.” He says and I have to pull away before I pick him up and take him home and never let him leave my side again.

“Have a good day. I’ll see you later. I love you.” I repeat, he giggles.

“Love you too, dada. Again.” He laughs, extending the last word to just prove to me how often I say it.

But fuck I can’t help it.

“He’ll be alright.” Isabel assures me. I know he will be.

I trust her.

Trust her enough that not three minutes later, I’m stepping back out into the cold, winter air and walking away from Little Titan Nursery & Day Care to head to the seminar I’m already late for.

Me and my damn time keeping.

Chapter Text

EREN POV 

 

I'm running.

 

Literally running, panting, sweaty. A continuous mantra of 'fuck, fuck, fuck' circling my head.

 

I'm late. Not hugely late, but still late enough. Late enough that I'm kicking myself and feeling incredibly guilty for this.

 

It's quarter past five. Pick up is between half four and five and things have just been going from bad to worse. Ending with me being unable to find a parking space in the staff car park and having to dump my shitty car in a public parking lot and leg it down the street to pick up my son before I got into any more shit.

 

The blame, however, is at least not on my shoulders. Not entirely anyway.

 

It's technically my tutor's fault. He's half aware of my situation, knows why I'm missing so much but he decided today of all days to call me back after our last seminar to have 'a discussion'. I mean, it was nice of him; basically, just him asking me if I was keeping up and talking to me about what I'd do about placements and the such like. I appreciate it, but when I saw the time I almost shat myself and had to excuse myself in favor of picking up my child and relieving Isabel of the duty.

 

I also need to check if he's alright.

 

Like really need to know.

 

I think this run has just brought light to me with how fucking unfit I am. I'm practically gasping for breath by the time I see the sign above the door. With just a quick pause outside to catch my breath, I'm in the building before I know it. Thank fuck.

 

The doors open with my weight and I'm in, looking around almost desperately to try and see what was happening. Least the doors weren't locked- means they were still here.

 

"Armin?" I almost instantly call out, but am instantly relieved when I spot him.

 

He's sat in what looks a lot like 'crafts corner', crayon in hand and is busy with whatever he's drawing. He looks so interested in whatever he's doing. A tiny bit of his tongue is sticking out of the corner of his mouth in concentration, just like I find mine doing without me knowing when I'm completely engrossed in some form of writing or studying. I, however, instantly notice the fact that the cannula is in his nose, the oxygen tank sitting next to him.

 

I freak out. Cross the floor as quickly as I can and find myself next to him, bending next to him.

 

"Armin-" I start again, concern completely taking over my expression. I don't see Isabel. She's not here. Not looking after him while he's got the cannula in. He's hurting and she's not here.

 

I'm a little taken a back though, because I'm greeted with a gasping squeal and Armin flinging himself forward. At first I don't understand but then I see him trying to cover his picture with his arms.

 

"No, no, no dada!" He yells and I pull back, my eyes widening a little.

 

"Oh- shi- sorry, Squirt." I chuckle, realizing he doesn't want me seeing his work, so I don't push it. Just gently pull back so he can turn over the page. It's literally so fucking cute.

 

"Armin?" Isabel's voice sounds, coming over with a little plate of chopped apples and a beaker of juice.

 

That relaxes me a lot. Makes me a hell of a lot less angrier at her.

 

It's not like she abandoned him completely.

 

Just  got him something to eat while he was obviously so focused on his art. That sounds a lot like Armin too. I guess it's probably because I've gotten here later than expected and for that I feel so bad.

 

She doesn't seem too pissed off though; her eyes light with a smile as she comes over to us, obviously relaxing herself as she realises it's me and not some weirdo who's broken in.

 

"Oh, hello you." She chuckles, softening her expression at me as I stand and instantly start my apologies.

 

"I'm so sorry," I start, all the guilt surfacing. "Honestly- my tutor needed to talk to me and I got caught up and didn't realise the time. I'm so sorry for keeping you late and-" I had to stop, mostly to stop myself from swearing.

 

Isabel also cuts me off with her laugh, gently laying the snack down in front of Armin as she does.

 

"Aww, don't worry." She says softly. "I would be here anyway, so don't stress about it. Got to get this place as tidy as I can or I'll be murdered by my own family." She giggles. I don't really know what she means but as I glance around, I do notice the surface cleaner and disinfectant wipes on one of the close tables. "Armin and me just had a bit more fun together while we waited, didn't we?" She asks him, glancing down to see Armin who's already tucking into the apples, happily munching away.

 

"Ya!" He says, smiling with his cheeks stuffed despite the cannula.

 

He's honestly the cutest fucking thing in the entire universe.

 

"Armin's been drawing a little something for you." She continues but- God bless his soul- Armin lifts a finger and puts it to his lips as he shakes his head.

 

"No, shush." He whispers to her, eyes wide. "Surprises."

 

Isabel giggles, raising her eyebrows knowingly.

 

"Oh, okay, sorry." She says, shooting me a quick wink. I can't help but join in the laughter at that really, calming down a hell of a lot now that I wasn't running and she didn't hate me for being late. I still felt guilty, but she didn't seem in a rush to get us out. "I'll keep it a secret then." She promises, which obviously pleases Armin grately.

 

I'm still behind him so I gently place my hand on his head as he starts on another apple segment, stroking his hair gently.

 

"Had a good day then, Squirt?" I ask him despite the fact it's completely obvious that he has, indeed, had a wonderful day. He's comfortable here and I actually hope he's been able to make some friends.

 

Armin replies with nod so full of happiness that it makes my chest swell.

 

That's all I want for him. For every single day of Armin's life to be filled with such happiness he can barely control the smile even if it's pushing against cheeks full of apple.

 

He swallows before answering.

 

"Ya!" It's paired with a giggle, my hand doesn't stop it's gentle playing with his hair. I can't help it, I'm actually so looking forward to just collecting him up in my arms when we get home and snuggling with him for hours on end. It's a good thing Armin's a cuddler too, otherwise he'd probably get annoyed with my inability to not snuggle into him.

 

"Really? That’s so good." I grin.

 

"Ya- we, we- Izzy said stories 'bout merm-aids and, and I put my hand on the wall!" He says with another little squeal. I frown a little at that for a moment, worried that he'd got grub somewhere. I almost snap my head to Isabel, widening my eyes a little.

 

"I'm so sorry if-" She instantly waves me off again, laughing.

 

"No, no." She giggles. "He was allowed to. Our feature wall," she points to it. The wall with all the hand prints on. "We allow every child who comes to put their hand on it. Even if they come for a day or half a one. They're still part of our family, so Armin's put his on there." She explains. "Everyone who helped make it and decorate it or who has ever worked for us has too. It's a nice way to remember people." She says and my expression instantly softens at that.

 

Hell, it actually was a super cute idea. Almost sickeningly sweet, but lovely none the less.

 

"Oh." I say, blushing a little with embarrassment of how quick I am realise my mistake. "That's adorable." I chuckle. "Where did you put yours?" I ask him Armin softly, but the fact that he points makes me a little more aware of how he must be in some pain with his lungs. Normally he would have gotten up and shown e himself, but he stays seated, pointing but none the less, grinning away still.

 

I guess that makes me feel a bit better.

 

"There!" He beams. "In y-y-'lellow." He tells me, which I laugh at softly.

 

He's been calling it 'lellow' for years, only recently have I tried to sway him to the correct way by breaking it down for him.

 

'No, Armin, it's y-y-yellow.' I had tried countless times; I realize my mistake now as my son now thinks the stutter on the word is the correct way to pronounce it.

 

What did I say, I honestly don't have a clue how to do this parenting thing.

 

 

"Oh wow, I see it!" I tell him happily, bending to kiss his head softly. "It's lovely."

 

"Ya!" Armin says again happily, and having finished his snack now, he takes a moment to look down at the turned over piece of paper. His little lip wriggles again before he waves his hand. "Gotta go dada." He tells me, twisting a little to push me gently away from him.

 

It makes me laugh but I don't resist him. Just take a few steps back for him with a soft him.

 

"I see how it is. " I tease again.

 

Oh, look déjà vu.

 

"No dada, present." Armin tells me, shaking his head at my joking pout, but I soften my expression and give him a small nod.

 

"Ah, I see." I chuckle. Isabel is watching us, a soft smile on her lips which tells me that she too has fallen in love with Armin and his charm, character and just general adorable attitude. Who doesn't though? He's honestly perfect.

 

"How about I take dada over to the other table while you finish your surprise and we'll have a little boring, adulty chat?" She suggests, which Armin and I both nod at.

 

"Ya, no boring here." Armin says, waving his hand as if to wave us both away from him. I laugh, quickly steal another gentle kiss to his head before heading back round the table to Isabel's side. We will have to do very boring, adulty stuff now like talk about whether Armin should continue here and if so how payments should be made and medical care and all that shit.

 

Super boring adulty shit.

 

"We'll sit here, then you can still keep an eye on him." Isabel tells me softly as she pulls out a chair for me and then one for her.

 

I feel ridiculous. These chairs are designed for someone Armin's size, not mine. I'm all limbs; dangling legs and arms. So much so that my mother used to complain about me being a human-form of a daddy long-legs. I think of this as I'm perched on this tiny seat, my knees practically up by my ears.

 

Isabel's slightly better. She's obviously used to it, knows just how to sit herself and present herself on the chair that's surprisingly graceful. She laughs at my attempts, which although I'm a little self-conscious about it, I don't really mind. It's only her, Armin and me it seems in the nursery anyway so I just push the thoughts to the back my head and pay attention instead.

 

She basically covers everything. From weekly fees, term times, my term times, my daily routine, her views on how Armin got on in the first day. She explains what happened to make him need the cannula and how he got on with the other kids. Nothing makes me concerned. The incident with the cannula is normal, doesn't surprise me.

 

Just Armin getting a little over excited, but she had done the right thing in giving him oxygen. I liked to live by the idea of better being safe rather than sorry. Definitely that to be honest- I don't know what I'd do if anything happened to Armin.

 

We're just talking, Armin sitting quietly over on the other table working on the rest of his drawing. Whatever it is.

 

I'm unaware of the time really until I hear a voice from behind us. It makes me jump, almost fall off the tiny chair. Luckily I don’t though- I save myself that embarrassment. Just get the wonderful experience of looking like a hot mess when I turn to see the hot as fuck guy from the park stood behind us.

 

His face stern, dressed- as he was the day before- in a tight fitting suit. Except this time, he's taken off his blazer and his shirt is now stretched across his muscles.

 

Honest to God, I'm almost drooling just at the sight of him.

 

"What are you doing here?" He asks me. I can't tell if he's pissed off or if this is just him. I remember him being quite blunt last time.

 

I open my mouth, about to ask him the same thing but Isabel beams and cuts me off.

 

"Ah! Levi! You're late today. Before you kill me; I was distracted from the cleaning." Isabel says happily, moving to stand up. She reaches over the desk, hands the cleaning supplies to him and gives a nod. "You can finish it while I wrap this up with Eren." She tells him.

 

I notice the eyebrow raise, but he takes it despite it.

 

Isabel has said 'family' when talking about being murdered for not cleaning. Family. A quick glance between them and a tiny evaluation of her soft expression and I've come to the conclusion that by family she means her husband.

 

They look nothing a-like, so siblings are off the card. But now I look, she's wearing a diamond ring.

 

Engaged.

 

Or perhaps it's just-

 

No. Why am I even trying to Sherlock Holmes this shit? I don't care. I just have to remind myself that a) I don't give a shit whether this guy is gay or not because there's no way that he'd ever be interested in me anyway, and b) I don't like him. He's just aesthetically pleasing and my attraction to him begins and ends with his looks.

 

"What did your last slave die of?" He asks her sarcastically, but doesn't resist the cleaning supplies. The look he gives to the room illustrates perfectly how much a day of germy children running around here really disgusts him.

 

"Underwork." Isabel chuckles, re-taking her seat next to me but Levi dramatically rolls his eyes.

 

"This is just what I fucking need." He grumbles but Isabel waves him off.

 

"Oh, quit complaining. The faster you do that, the happier you'll feel and then you can go play with Armin." She says, which makes Levi's eyebrows raise again in realization. I guess maybe he's just a little slow today as it's kind of half obvious that that's why I'm here.

 

I've only met this woman once; don’t worry, mate, I'm trying to steal your girl.

 

He flips her off, but even I- who barely knows this man- notices the softness in which he looks at her. She obviously means a lot to him. It kind of just confirms my suspicions; these two are engaged.

 

Isabel turns back to me to complete everything, Levi takes his cleaning products and goes round to diligently start scrubbing every surface, and I force myself to focus on the conversation again. I can't help but feel my eyes occasional drift across the room to see Levi and watch him clean.

 

He had disappeared for a few seconds,  coming back with his tie off, a mask, gloves and a bucket full of cleaning products. He gets to work, and is surprisingly efficient. I seem to be the only one paying him attention as Isabel continues running through everything with me.

 

Though our conversation draws to a close just as Armin puts his crayon down.

 

"Done!" He claims happily, a wide grin spread across his face. It's adorable to be honest and I can't help but beam as I turn to look at him.

 

"Wow, already?" I gasp, looking over from our table as Isabel starts stabling sheets together and filing them into some that she brought over to us. Armin nods though, looking down at his creation proudly.

 

"Already." He repeats and then places the sheets down on the table. "All done."

 

God, he's too cute. I grin and Isabel gives me a little grin that I know is sharing my thoughts.

 

"Is he allowed to come look?" She asks him. Armin does the little lip wiggle again in thought again and then makes his decision.

 

"Not- not yet." He tells us, moving his head around to find Levi. "Um, the knight first!" He claims, having obviously recognized him enough- as I have- and Levi turns his head at the sound of his previous 'job'. The mask if pulled down from his face, revealing that perfect smirk again that I can't help but admire. Everything this guy does is hot. It’s like he's aware of the perfect way to smile.

 

Fuck- stop looking at him.

 

"Oh, me?" Levi asks, raising his eyebrow at Armin but the smirk stays put. It gets something inside me jittering away; instead of paying it any attention, I choose instead to smother it with a metaphorical pillow and pay attention to my son, who's now holding one of his sheets out to 'the knight'.

 

Levi strolls over to him, removing the gloves as he goes. Honest to God, I almost just surrender right then and there. He may be short, but his height is not detrimental to his level of attractiveness and I'm trying desperate to wrack my brains for a distraction. All the hot men that I'd ever seen.

 

Ryan Gosling.

 

Chris Hemsworth.

 

Kit Harrington.

 

Anyone. Fucking anyone other than this guy right here. I don't like him. I don't like him.

 

But the way he takes off the gloves- even if they're marigolds. The way his hair falls. The way his shirt strains against his muscles, or his trousers against his thighs. Pulling tight in all the right places- particularly around his arse. The way the medical mask is now hanging loosely round his neck-

 

Fuck, I like a straight man.

 

Why does God have to hate me in such ways?

 

I try my hardest to keep my eyes off him as he comes up behind Armin, but he places a hand on the desk as he leans over. Like a teacher or some shit, peering over my son's shoulder as he looks at the drawing.

 

"Wow, did you draw this?" He asks and his fucking eyebrow does the same one up, one down thing that if I weren't sitting on a chair, would have me weak at the knees.

 

Armin nods, turning his head to look up at him. I worry for a moment the movement has pulled on the cannula, but he doesn't seem to notice it and Levi- even if he does look at it, even for a second- doesn't make a big deal over it.

 

"Ya! This, this is dada." He explains. He's trying to whisper- bless him- but it's not really working. We're not really all that far away. "And, and this is me." He continues. "And Schnecke!"

 

"Wow. Our own little Pablo Picasso." Levi says with a smirk.

 

"I'll bet it's better than Picasso." Isabel calls over from her stabling, grinning widely at the two on the other table.

 

Levi gives a seemingly disinterested shrug.

 

"Wouldn't be hard. His stuff's pretty shit." Levi snorts, before widening his eyes a little comically at the fact he's just sworn in front of a three-year-old. We're lucky though; Armin's set that piece of paper down and is flicking through some more to find the one he wanted to show next.

 

The only one who's really taken offence to the comment is Isabel, who gasps.

 

"How can you say that? He's one of the most iconic artists in the world. If not the most." She explains, taking personal offence to the harsh criticism on behalf of Pablo himself. I just laugh.

 

"Well, now Armin is." I point out, giving a grin that pleases my son to no end. He's grinning again but doesn't reply as he fishes out his next piece to show Levi.

 

"This is- um-"

 

"Is that me?" Levi asks with a chuckle. I can imagine it now; black crayon for his hair, most likely drawn in armor. I just have to wonder if Armin's chosen to draw the grumpy frown or the sexy-ass smirk on his knight.

 

From Levi's face, I'm guessing the frown.

 

"Ya! And, and this is Schnecke." He points out again, Levi listening intently to everything he was saying.

 

"Oh. Is he my horse?" Levi asks with a chuckle. The idea of that makes me snort, and I don't try and hide it. Armin is small enough that he can or at least used to be able to ride Schnecke. Our dog is fucking massive and the weight of Armin was nothing, they both enjoyed it. But the idea of Levi rising my dog around our living room, it makes me laugh.

 

"Ya!" Armin giggles.

 

"He seems to be enjoying it though. My trusty steed." He says, looking more intently at the picture. "And who's this?" He points to something, and honestly, I'm dying to see these just because I want to know how good these depictions are.

 

"Izzy." Armin explains, placing it down on the table as he reaches for another crayon and adds to the drawing. "She a merm-aid." He says and Isabel giggles next to me.

 

"I like the sound of that, Armin." She beams.

 

I love this, love how much everyone's fallen in love with Armin, even in such a short time.

 

"I like her tail." Levi nods before he points to something else. "And this is?"

 

"Doggy friend." Armin says, and with a closer look Levi seems to understand what or who it's meant to be with his little

 

"Oh, you mean Hanji." He smirks, nodding in realization. Hanji's a name I don't really remember or recognize, but I put two and two together and guess that it must be the woman from before. The one who practically married my dog in the street. "You got her witchy nose right." He snorts. "Maybe add a few warts."

 

I snort again, rolling my eyes but honestly loving watching this. Armin gives a giggle and nods, reaching to pick up another crayon again to start back at work at the exact moment that Isabel stands up, closing her files with a grin.

 

"All sorted. Armin's officially a part of the Little Titan family." She announces and I let out a long breath, smiling at her.

 

"Fuck me- thank you so much." I mumble, honestly unable to articulate to her how much of a weight this is off my shoulders.

 

This means I'll still be able to attend university. That I can leave Armin with people who I honestly trust, who have already proven themselves to me that they can deal with his condition and help him with the oxygen if and when he needs it. Not only that, but people who make him feel good about himself, important and no different to the other children. They don't treat him like his condition is the soul thing that defines him but help him with it.

 

The only thing that stresses me a little is that this place is a hell of a lot more expensive than the previous one he had been sent to. But I'm willing to work harder for this. Armin would do well here, already was and I wanted to give him the best that I could.

 

Even if it was just nursery at the moment.

 

"I'll decline you on that offer." Isabel teases with a wink as she wiggles her ringed hand at me. "I'm taken."

 

She's joking. I know she's joking because Isabel- well I think she somewhat understands.

 

Both that I'm young, a single parent,  just trying their damn hardest for their kid. I think she gets that. But she also gets that I'd rather she didn't start asking and prying. That this was enough of a help for now, and that I liked to do things the proper way.

 

Even if it was harder.

 

"Right," She starts, making sure all the papers were in her arms. "I'm going to put this away, be right back." She tells me and heads off towards what I'm assume is a backroom or an office or something. It has a keypad with a code so no children could get in, and is the same door that Levi had come from with the cleaning supplies so I guessed some form of safe staff haven away from screaming children.

 

I'm about to get up and head to Armin, when Isabel's seat is- instead- replaced with the dark haired knight.

 

I don't know why but my fucking, stupid ass stomach leaps at it. Lodging itself right in my throat and burning my cheeks.

 

Honestly, I don't even know why. I don't like him.

 

I've just got to keep telling myself that.

 

It's suddenly really fucking awkward. Even more so than on the bench in the park. At least that was the first meeting; we had obviously both assumed that would be it, no more, we'd never see each other again. But fate had other ideas, as here we are again. Awkward and silent.

 

Great.

 

"So-" We both start at the same time. This makes me flush even harder. It's like some sort of poorly written rom-com. Thanks a lot, world. Thanks a fucking lot.

 

He doesn't blush though, just waves his hand much like his fiancé does.

 

"Sorry. Go on." He says but, although I'm now about the same shade as a firetruck, do the same.

 

"No, no. Honestly, go on. I wasn't going to say anything important." I try. My laugh that I plan to be a manly, attractive chuckle- something that'll swoon him instantly- turns out to be a cringe-worthy giggle.

 

Honestly, if the ground could just open up and swallow me now that'd be great.

 

"Seriously, brat, just say what you're going to say." He replies. It's kind of a kick in the gut when he gives a little sigh. Yeah, I have literally zero chance with this guy. He's pissed off with me, which I'm not surprised about. Hell, I'm pissed off with me.

 

"Oh," I start. Smooth, Eren. Real smooth. "I was just going to ask what you're doing here." I chuckle, shrugging a little.

 

"You complaining?" He asks with his super-sexy-but-he-doesn't-know-it eyebrow thing. Fuck me into next week, I need to get a control of myself. Especially as I can feel my cheeks burning at an almost unnatural heat.

 

"N-no-" I start, shaking my head in embarrassment. "No- that's not what I meant- I- I'm sorry." I fumble, only stopped by the almost sarcastic snort from the man in front of me.

 

"Alright, Princess Peach, no need to shit your pants." He teases, making me blush harder. "I came to make sure 'my sweet' Izzy cleaned this shit hole properly." He tells me.

 

My sweet Izzy.

 

Engaged; it's practically confirmed my suspicions in those three words.

 

"Oh." I hear myself say. Even I'm taken a-back by the slight disappointment in my voice. I guess I'm the only one who sees it as disappointment though. But does that mean I'm admitting my attracting to this guy? No- fucking stop it.

 

"Yeah." He replies, giving a small shrug. Luckily, he seems to not have picked up on the tone change. "She doesn't clean it properly and I don't trust her to employ anyone else to do a half arsed job."

 

"So what, you're like part time business man, part time nursery cleaner, part time knight?" I ask with a smirk. Levi seems to give me an odd expression. I honestly can't pin it. Amusement? Annoyance? Somewhere in between.

 

"Part time lawyer, full time knight actually." He replies, but the smirk soon follows so I'm not left pondering his feelings for too long. That surprises me though; lawyer.

 

"Really? Wow, look at you. All fancy and shit." I chuckle.

 

"Not really." He huff-laughs. "It's more shit than it's worth a lot of the time." He says, leaning back on the tiny chair. I'm actually surprised he has room to, but I guess he's about a head shorter than me. Perhaps that has something to do with his comfort levels on these chairs verses mine.

 

"Still." I defend, smiling at him. "It's impressive. Not an easy thing to get into. But I guess cleaning must be harder." I tease and he rolls his eyes at me, but his mouth twitches slightly.

 

"Honestly, if they had done a three year course in how to clean shit properly, I would have taken it."

 

"They do don't they?" I ask, but he shrugs.

 

"I don't fucking know." He replies but I can't help but laugh lightly at him.

 

"I thought lawyers were meant to know shit."

 

"They do. Just about law." He points out before he rolls his eyes dramatically and changes the subject. "So, what about you, brat? Part time father and what else? Or is it full time?" He asks, leaning back and I watch as he drapes his arm over another one of the child sized chairs behind him, crossing one leg over the other.

 

The act in itself shouldn't have been so hot, but I feel it boiling my cheeks again.

 

It takes me a minute to focus on what he says, but with his eyebrow raising as a prompt I reply.

 

"Ah- yeah, part time university student, part time bartender, full time father." I reply with a smile. That gets him looking curious.

 

"Fucking hell brat, I thought I had a lot to get done in a day." He half smirks, but I can feel his gaze as he looks me up and down. Probably noting my messy, almost sloppy outer appearance. The appearance of someone who honestly didn't have enough hours in the day to worry about his hair or shit like that.

 

"You probably have more to do than me." I say, giving a small shrug. My blush isn't budging though; dammit.

 

"Doubt it." He snorts. "So, what do you study?"

 

"Midwifery." I tell him, which gets his eyebrows shooting towards the fucking moon and back. "That surprise you?" I chuckle, shaking my head as I grin at him. His expression of surprise only lasts a few seconds before it's back to its usual apathetic mask.

 

"A little. Kind of gross though, isn't it? Like loads of gunk and shitty crap all over the place."

 

"I think shit and crap are the same things."

 

"Alright smartarse, you've made your point." He rolls his eyes again. I grin again.

 

"But yeah. There's a lot of gunk and shitty crap, but there's also a baby at the end of it so it's kind of worth it." I smile, shrugging and I swear his expression softens a little.

 

"Only kind of?"

 

"Okay, very worth it." I giggle again. Luckily this time it's less cringe-worthy, but I guess any 'giggle' is. That's what five year old girls do, and I'm definitely not one of them. I'm trying, desperately (and failing desperately) to half flirt with a very obviously straight man and giggling is something that's probably not advised in any handbooks on the subject.

 

"How sickeningly sweet." Levi says, but -yes, I was right- his expression has definitely softened up. Like butter in the sun, it's melted away to reveal this gorgeous, subtle realness to his features.

 

If it's even possible, he looks even more beautiful in that moment than he has done throughout this entire conversation.

 

It's also the exact moment that I know I'm screwed.

 

I like him. It's fact. My stupid fucking heart has decided to start crushing on some potentially quite a bit older than me, someone who's straight and very, very engaged.

 

"Yeah. It is." I chuckle and open my mouth to say something else but Isabel's back and she draping her arms around him, which he instantly tires to wriggle away from.

 

"Get the fuck off me." He snaps. She does get off him, but with a giggle.

 

"Sorry, sorry." She laughs before doing just that and replacing it with a stretch. I honestly don't want to even look at the time right now, it's definitely going to be fucking late and I know we should be heading home so slowly get up myself.

 

"Armin, are you done there?" I ask as I stand. My legs ache like fuck from being sat down like that for so long, but I power through and hobble over to him. He nods.

 

"Ya dada." He says. He starts to pack up the crayons and pile up his drawings. It's absolutely adorable to watch, to be honest. He's learnt fast and knows to tidy up his toys when he's done. It makes my heart grow seven thousand times bigger.

 

How sickeningly sweet.

 

"Good boy. Right, you pack that up and I'll go and get your coat and then take the cannula off, yeah?" I ask him, mostly checking about the oxygen really. I don't want him to still be in pain, but his breathing seems to have even out and is a lot easier right now.

 

"No, no- off now." He says, moving his hand to rub his nose again and I can't help the little sigh that escapes.

 

"Okay, okay, sit still then, Squirt." I say, the tiredness just suddenly crashing over me like a sudden tsunami. Sure, I had a lie in this morning. But it's been a long day and I'm a little taken a back about the fact I actually feel more tired.

 

"I'll go get his coat, brat." Levi tells me as I crouch down to help Armin with the tubes. Isabel's no-where to be found, so I feel a little bad but sending him to do that. But instead of fighting it, I just a soft smile and nod.

 

"Thanks." I reply, before my head turns back to Armin. It doesn't take long to slip it all off him and turn it off. Armin's happy again when it's out, rubbing his nose a little too hard. "Careful there, don't want a nosebleed." I point out, kissing his forehead and standing just as Levi returns.

 

"Here you go." He says, handing it to me and fuck- my hand touches his when I take it from him.

 

Sweet lord- why does God literally hate me so much?

 

My cheeks are instantly red, flushed and I had to swallow back as many feelings as I can, starting my manta to remind myself; he's straight, he's engaged, he's straight, he's engaged.

 

Stop.

 

"T-thanks." I manage, turning away from him as quickly as I could so I could help Armin with his coat.

 

It takes us a few more minutes to get completely ready to leave. The few minutes that I'm trying to completely ignore Levi as best as I can. He goes off to do something else, probably completely unaware of the effect he's having on me and I wish I was too. It's stupid, so fucking stupid, but I let it go. Focus on Armin and only Armin until we're wrapped up warm and ready to leave.

 

I'm half pleased, half disappointed when I turn around to pay attention to the rest of the room and see that Levi's presences has been replaced with Isabel's.

 

"Aww, heading off?" Isabel asks, coming back in and looking like she's almost ready to head home too. I smile and nod. Armin's tired, tired enough to ask to be carried so he's settled on my hip as I'm carrying his backpack again and the oxygen tank.

 

"Yes, think it's best I get this little man home." I say softly and she nods in agreement, coming over quickly to give Armin's head a gentle kiss.

 

"Well, you have a good night sleep little man. Look after your dada. I'll see you in the morning." She says happily. Armin nods sleepily, placing his head on my shoulder.

 

"Bye bye Izzy." He says.

 

We both smile, but I decide to finish up before Levi gets back quickly.

 

"Thank you for everything." I say to her, which- once again- Isabel waves me off.

 

"Don't mention it. It's completely fine, I'm happy to help. Try and get to bed earlier tonight, yeah?" She teases, giving me a wink. As much as I want to tell her that 'yes' I would, but no, not tonight. I'm at work again tonight and it's exhausting just thinking about it.

 

I settle for; "I'll try."

 

"See you both tomorrow." She says, and I take our leave, heading over to the door and giving her a wave.

 

I consider calling out a bye to Levi- wherever he's gone. But if he's left or he doesn't hear me, it'd be too awkward.

 

I choose not to. Just walk out and don't say my farewells to the handsome part time lawyer, part time knight that I'm trying desperately to keep off my mind.

 

But I fail.

 

I fail miserably.

Chapter Text

EREN POV 

 

Work's dragging.

 

Wait- no. Perhaps dragging is too kind a word. It's just every time I look at my watch, I realise less than thirty seconds has passed since I last looked down at it.

 

I'm exhausted. Even just walking across the length of the bar is a drag; my feet feel heavy but not as heavy as my eyelids.

 

There's a prickle in my head that's the beginnings of a headache, and a prickle in my throat that's the start of a cold. I can feel it brewing inside me, just waiting for my day off to hit me full force and leave me bedridden and unable to fully enjoy the day.

 

Sods law.

 

Law.

 

Lawyer.

 

My thoughts travel across to the lawyer-slash-knight that had been stealing my concentration for the past week. I hadn't seen him again since I'd left the nursery without saying goodbye. He hadn't come back in, not when I was there anyway, but I think that might be down to the fact that I've been a hell of a lot better at being on time.

 

Only once in the week since our last contact have I been late enough to hope to see him. But, alas, I had come in to a nursery empty except Armin and Isabel reading while they waited for me.

 

No Levi though.

 

I don't know why, but honest to God, I can't get him off my mind. It's like his sarcastic personality, hot looks and shit jokes have clung to me and are now following me around like a damn shadow. Unshakeable.

 

I put it down to my apparent 'crush' on the guy- like I'm sort of damn high school kid all over again. But no matter how much I tell myself that I'm stupid and it's setting yourself up for heart break to start falling for a straight guy you've hardly met; I can't help it. He's always there in the back of my mind. Stealing my thoughts and rendering me pretty much unable to focus on anything that isn't him or my son.

 

His face is already burnt into my mind and honestly, all I want to do is talk to him again. I know that fate's probably given up now though. Two meetings and I've done shit all to keep the man in my life, made no steps forward so I wouldn't be surprised if I'm not given a third.

 

Though, even that thought's not enough to keep my thoughts off him. Really, I'm in the shit.

 

Oh look, more shit references. Perfect.

 

"Earth calling Eren." My thoughts are snatched back to the present by the thick New York accent of my boss. I blink a couple of times, mostly just to wake myself up and focus and there he is.

 

Connie Springer; short, buzz haired, jazz fanatic. Basically he just thinks he's a cast member of Bugsy Malone, but the accent's not fake and it's not the reason he likes jazz.

 

"Shit, sorry." I mumble, running a hand through my hair and try subtly to pull on the strands to try get the blood flowing. Might wake me up a little.

 

"You will be." He replies, leaning onto the bar but his voice is joking and I know full well I have nothing to worry about here. "Just try focus; you have customers to serve. Don't leave everything to Marco. " He says, nodding to his left where there's a group of girls getting chatted up by some clearly drunk guys before his usual almost cheeky smile spreads wide across his cheeks.

 

"Sorry." I mumble again, mostly shooting this apology towards Marco though, who's working his arse off. As per usual.

 

"It's fine." Marco laughs. I don't know how he doesn't get pissed with me, to be honest. But there he is, all smiles and sunshine as usual.

 

Dammit, Marco.

 

It's busier than usual tonight. I guess it's because it's Saturday, which means we have a couple of hen do's who thought this would be a laugh, a work party that had stumbled in already steaming and a number of other people who are taking the classier approach to the weekend night out. Well, not quite as classy as we usually are.

 

Tuesday, Friday and Saturday nights also bring less 'theme' more 'club' as Connie claims it brings in more business. A dance floor has been cleared where tables usually sit and the live band has been swapped for Electro-Swing.

 

I don't mind the music, but the people are worse these nights. Sasha does her best at keeping things classy but even she can't control libido of some people. Those kinds of people could turn any music into an excuse to grind up against whichever poor soul makes the mistake of eye contact and a smile.

 

I start by taking the order of some guy of the group, mostly to distract him from his slurred chat up lines he's currently directing at a woman who's honestly looking very uncomfortable. I give her 'the look' and she seems to understand, taking the opportunity to slip down the bar a little to  be served by Marco instead.

 

Working together, we manage to shift the crowd around the bar and earn a grin from Connie before he leaves.

 

I'd put that down as a success really.

 

The moment we have space to breath, I do just that by letting out a long breath and my hands find their way into my hair again.

 

"Tired?" Marco asks with a soft smile as I dry wash my face.

 

"Mhm, you could say that." I chuckle. I don't know if the English language has words to articulate how tired I am right now. Perhaps it's a good thing that the music is loud enough to shake my ribcage; it's keeping me awake.

 

Marco just gives a giggling laugh and shakes his head as he wipes up someone's spilt drink from the bar top.

 

"You look it." He says and I groan a little.

 

"Great, so I look horrendous?" I ask, resisting the urge to pull out my phone and try use the dim lights to see how 'horrendous' I actually look. Marco blushes though, shaking his head as his face pulls into an amusingly deep frown.

 

Yeah, Marco's like an open book. He obviously thinks he's just offended me completely and utterly and now our friendship is beyond repair. That's just like him; Marco's the all or nothing kind of guy.

 

"No, no. Sorry, I didn't mean it like that." He tries but I wave him off and show him it's alright with a smile. "You don't look bad, honestly. You just look like you could do with a day or five off."

 

I can't help but laugh at that, shrugging a little.

 

"There's no days off for me, remember." I smirk, moving to help him tidy up a little by collecting some glasses. "I lost that privilege the moment I made a baby."  I point out and I'm rewarded with a hearty laugh from Marco.

 

"True, I guess." He chuckles but we're both distracted as another wave of customers come over to order another set of drinks.

 

We're efficient working together. Honestly, we both know the layout of this bar like the back of our hands now and it's easy to complete each drink, sometimes passing each other bottles and cups and mixers that we need. It's kind of like a dance, fits with the music and all that shit.

 

To be honest, I'm just proud that my thoughts have kept themselves from touching the subject of 'Levi' for what feels like a long while.

 

Well, I had until that thought at least. Now, my brains betrayed me again and my thoughts travel back to the short, angry raven haired as I mix drinks and take orders.

 

I'm distracted, not watching or listening to my surroundings or any of the customers so I almost jump out of my skin when there's the sound of smashing glass over the music from behind me and Marco swears next to me.

 

"Wha-" I start, turning to see it all happen further down the bar- where neither me nor Marco has gotten round to serving yet.

 

It's the same man that had been bothering the woman, I see that almost instantly. He's not got his hands on her or anything, so I guess that's a saving grace. But she's there, standing behind another equally as pissed guy who is currently squaring up to the other, I guess defending her or some shit. Who even knows; all I know is that if no one steps in, this is going to get ugly.

 

Wait. Scrap that. It's already gotten ugly.

 

The guy swings his fist and hits 'The Defender' square in the face. Look at that, we've got a bar fight on our hands.

 

I think, if I wasn't as tired as I was, maybe- just maybe- I would have been more shocked to see this. Marco definitely is, he's already over there trying to get them to stop but there's not much we can do on this side of the bar and it's not like they're listening to us anyway.

 

We don't get many bar fights, it's not that sort of place; though, tonight, I guess it is.

 

I like to think, if nothing else, it's a bit of amusement for me. Might keep me awake, but my stupid, caring side of my brain is kicking into gear and I know I should go over. Even if it's just to help Marco, who's currently trying to shout over the music, the sounds of the fight and the group around them that he'll call the police if they don't stop.

 

Surprise, surprise; they ignore him and I know we'll have to call the police anyway. It's not an awful fight, but Connie doesn't take lightly to this kind of thing. Mostly because he's smart and he doesn't want dickheads like this lowering his business credibility.

 

We're not a massive club, only have two bouncers to our name- Reiner (who is now on the scene trying to break it up as it becomes a full on brawl) and Bertholt (who I'm constantly confused at why he became a bouncer in the first place. His height would be enough to sway me from doing anything shady, but he's shy and timid and probably wouldn't hurt a fly even if it was brandishing a knife and threatening his whole family.)

 

I don't know whether I should go over and try and help, but Reiner's doing a good job so far and after a few minutes that I know is set aside for him to actually contact the police, Connie appears. He's about a head and shoulder shorter than all of them, even most of the women; it's hilarious. But, in fairness to Connie, he's a little ball of fire and manages to split it up better than even massive, fucking Reiner.

 

He manages to stop it, talking with different people and making sure Sasha has whisked the very shaken lady off to the back room to calm down. Reiner's now making sure that the two in the brawl stay away from each other's necks as Connie manages to get them to follow him into the back as well to wait for the police. It's surprising really, but as soon as it's started, it's gone and we're left with the aftermath and given orders from Connie to send the police straight through into the back when they arrive.

 

There's damage that's done, not only physically to the men involved, but the surrounding area of the bar so Marco and I spend the next few minutes keeping drunken idiots away from the bar and cleaning up the mess. Broken glass, spilt drink and blood from what I assume is from one of their broken noses is wiped away while the rest of the party continues behind us.

 

"Well." Marco half laughs. He's clearly a bit shaken by the incident; I, however, was grateful that the action woke me up slightly. But now it's over, the familiar sleepiness is back as I'm quickly hypnotised by the circles I'm drawing with the cloth.

 

Clockwise. One. Two. Anti-clockwise. One. Two.

 

It's enough to send anyone to sleep.

 

"Well indeed." I manage, happy with the cleanliness for now and swap my cloth for a broom, heading around the other side of the bar to sweep.

 

I'm lost in that mindless task for a few minutes, unsure and almost uncaring if Marco says anything else. I can't really hear him over the music from this side of the bar anyway, so keep my head down and try and follow the light to make sure I've got all the glass shards.

 

It's not until I almost sweep up someone's shoes that I'm brought back to the present, once again. A thick soled, black pair of boots. Well-polished and paired with black trousers.

 

It doesn't take me long to realise I'm staring face to face with a cop. Or should I say, face to chest. This guy is tall, mousy-blonde hair parted in the middle and a thin, badly grown moustache is forming on his lip. Like he's trying to force something to grow when really, it's got other ideas.

 

"It's you! I found you!" A voice yells above the music. It doesn't come from his hairy lips though, so my gaze drops to see another smaller police officer stood next to him. Brown hair, vaguely familiar crazy ass smile.

 

"You foun-" I start, but I'm instantly cut off by her as she instantly has her arms around me. I bump against vest, her walkie-talkie's antenna almost shoving its way up my nose.

 

"It's you! I knew I would find you- well, if Levi didn't find you before me. I was going to search for you on the system but he told me that would be creepy so I didn't. Good thing now, do you work here?" She starts, pulling away to look at me, eyes bright and expectant.

 

I recognise her, but I can't place her. Not until she mentions Levi's name that is, which I slowly realise; this must be the woman who had all but adopted my dog in the park. I can't really remember what Levi had called her, no name is coming to mind, so instead I just laugh and give a small nod.

 

"Yeah. That might have been a bit creepy." I say, unsure what to say. It is creepy. I don't know this woman, she's coming on rather strong and I don't really have the energy to be manhandled.

 

I can't lie to myself though, her saying Levi's name does raise my interest. I feel my attention perk at the sound of it, the idea that perhaps fate was handing me another chance.

 

Except, I almost forgot; Levi's straight and very much engaged.

 

"I know." The woman giggles. It's sort of unnerving, but I'm not left to dwell on it too long before I'm offered a hand which I find myself taking and shaking before I even have chance to properly think through the complications of befriending a maniac. "I'm Hanji, it's lovely to properly meet you." She says with a wide grin.

 

"Eren, and likewise." I tell her, returning the handshake that lasts longer than it should before I pull away. Returning my hand to the broom.

 

"I'm so happy to see you, honesty Levi likes to pretend that he's not been but I've heard you mentioned more than once over this past week." She smirks, giving me a wink that makes my heart increase a little and my brain take a double take. Levi's been talking about me? Why? We've met twice. I mean, I know I'd be talking about him a lot if I could, and instead had just been unable to get him off my mind, but I'm young and stupid and single and very gay so I have an excuse.

 

"Really?" I ask, receiving an enthusiastic nod in return.

 

"It's kind of cute actually. He said your son is going to Isabel's nursery now?" She says, cocking her head a little and regardless of my surprise, I nod.

 

"Y-yeah."

 

"Aww, that's so sweet! He's such a cutie- Mike, you should see Eren's son, he's so precious." She almost squeals. I mean, sure, the mention of my son softens my heart a little again and I can't help the small smile on my lips. But this woman is- well, for first off, far too energetic for this hour of the morning.

 

Mike just gives a soft smile. Least I'm not the only one at a loss of what to say right now.

 

"Thanks." I say with a small half-chuckle. "Made him myself." I joke, which has Hanji snorting.

 

"Levi told me that he'd drawn a little picture of him as a knight, honestly you should have seen his face. Poor guy, never seen him so broody." She laughs again, which once again surprises me. This doesn't sound like the Levi I've met. Broody? Hadn't he been the one to wrinkle his nose at the idea of a baby.

 

"Levi? Broody? I didn't realise the apocalypse was scheduled." Mike finally speaks which gets us all laughing. Granted, Hanji a little harder than the rest of us.

 

"Nor me. But on top of broodiness, I swear he's developed a little crush on your sweet ass, Eren." She tells me, winking at me. Yeah, now I'm speechless. Burning red within a matter of seconds, but speechless none the less.

 

"Wha-"

 

"He's going to actually kill me for telling you this, but I can tell. Even if he thinks he's scary and hard to read, if you've known Levi as long as I've known Levi you'd learn that he's about as easy to read as an open book with size seventy-two font." She giggles, giving me and my red cheeks a wide grin. "Levi isn't one to start taking the first steps to do anything in the world of romance, but I'm about ninety-eight percent convinced he likes you so I'm going to risk getting my head ripped off and my lips detached from my body to give you his mobile number." She tells me, moving to pull out her police notebook and a pen.

 

I'm literally gobsmacked right now. Despite the betrayal of my heart thumping heavily in my chest, I'm just thoroughly confused.

 

"B-but Levi's already in a relationship." I say as she thrusts a piece of paper with the blessed numbers of a Greek God written on them in spidery lettering.

 

Hanji raises her eyebrow and snorts, waving the paper. I end up taking it slowly. Half because she was waving it right in front of my face and it was distracting as fuck, but also because I didn't want to turn away from this chance.

 

Levi was hot. Fate was handing me this third chance at taking the first steps towards talking to him, possibly asking him on some form of date, and I wasn't about to turn it away.

 

"He's not." She tells me.

 

"But-" I start, frowning a little as I glance down at the numbers. They practically already burn themselves into memory. "Is he not with Isabel?" I ask. "I thought they were engaged."

 

That gets both of them laughing; Mike chuckles and Hanji's snorting, cackling as she clasps me on the shoulder.

 

"Isabel is Levi's sister." She explains through her laughs.

 

Oh.

 

Oh.

 

Well I feel like a knob.

 

"Oh." I say, barely audible over the music.

 

"Dear Eren, you know what they say about assuming. Assume and you make an ass out of you and me." She chuckles, taking her hand back. "Believe me, Levi's the gayest of the gay. Even gayer than Mikey boy here." She smirks as her hand swaps from my shoulder to slapping Mike on the chest. He just rolls his eyes at her.

 

"Oh." I repeat, rendered completely stupid by this news. I'd been telling myself all week that even if I ran into Levi again (by some sort of miracle) it didn't matter anyway. Levi was straight, he was taken, it would be easier to remind myself of that and possibly strive for friendship instead.

 

But I now had a chance and the power handed to me. I had his number.

 

"I mean, he thinks you're straight too." She starts, but her smirk and the way she's eyeing up my embarrassed expression and delicate handling of his number; I think she can tell.

 

I shake my head.

 

"No. I'm gay." I tell her and the smirk spreads into a grin.

 

"Fucking knew it. He was trying to tell me you were because of your son. Stupid idiot doesn't seem to remember that bisexuality is a thing." She chuckles but I wave my hand, careful to keep his number in the other. I don't want to risk waving it out of my damn hand.

 

"No, no. Armin- I mean, let's just say drunken night of experiments that I didn't think through." I say with a small smile.

 

I feel guilty about it, that it's obvious that Armin wasn't exactly planned. But not planned didn't mean unwanted. I love Armin with all my heart and more.

 

"Oh, ladies and gentlemen we have an uneducated scientist in our midst." Hanji teases, but that shit-eating grin is pretty much a permanent fixture at the moment. I allow her it because I feel my own expression start to mirror it.

 

We're both gay. This is wonderful news.

 

"Ex-uneducated scientist." I chuckle, before slowly folding the number and slipping it into my breast pocket. "Thanks." I say honestly. "Although I'm sure police officers aren't meant to be giving out peoples private information; thanks none the less."

 

"That's not from 'Police Hanji'." She informs me, giving me a wink. "That's from 'Friend Hanji'. The one that wants to see Levi's face when he tells me he's gotten a call from a certain brunette who's asked him on a date." She beams.

 

Oh. No pressure then.

 

I give her a nervous chuckle. I think Mike at least senses this as he pats Hanji on the back and nods forward.

 

"Alright, enough playing Cupid. We've got a job to do, let's leave Eren to do his." He tells her. She looks mildly disappointed for a few seconds before reluctantly nods.

 

"Okay, okay. But you better ring him." She teases me, winking. "I don't share my best friend's personal information with just anyone."

 

I can't help but snort at that.

 

"Of course not."  I reply, but nod. "Thanks, Hanji." I half mumble again, too embarrassed to speak louder.

 

It is awkward. Super fucking awkward. How would I even start a conversation with him? 'Oh yeah, hi, your friend gave me your personal mobile number and you've only met me like twice, great bye'. That would mostly end up with my number blocked and him writing up his own restraining order for me. He's a lawyer after all.

 

She grins at me again before they both start heading off towards the backroom, making me kind of glad that the conversation's over.

 

I can't help but watch them, though almost regret it when Hanji turns points with two fingers at her eyes and then move them to point at me in a 'I'm watching you' kind of movement. For a moment, I'm worried it's some sort of threat- like if I don't call him she'll sneak through my window and pull some nasty ass shit. She's a police woman, she can cover that up. But she soon laughs loudly enough for me to be able to hear it over the music, even with how far away they are, and instead waves while Mike places a hand on her back to push her forward.

 

"What was that about?" Marco starts from the other side of the bar.

 

"God only knows."

 

 

-x-

 

 

It takes me another three days to pluck up the courage to call Levi.

 

Mostly because my weekend is spent with my son and only my son- well, other than Schnecke too. I get Sunday and Monday off work and spend the last day of the weekend building a nest with Armin in the living room. We drag out all the pillows we own, every blanket and cuddly toy in the house to snuggle up in the living room.

 

We watch Disney movies all day, have dinner in our nest and even spend the night there. Armin loves it, waking up on Monday before nursery in our nest that I know I won't have time to tidy up before university. Perhaps we'll just keep it there. Make it a permanent fixture to our home, a little safety nest for us both.

 

To be honest, the amount it makes Armin smile; I'd leave it up in a heartbeat.

 

Though, I don't forget about Levi through all this. Definitely not. He's not budged from being always at the back of my mind, like he's lurking in my peripheral vision or something. Waiting for me to pay attention to him.

 

It's not until late Monday night when I finally do. Armin's already been in bed for a few of hours. I'm currently lying on the couch, the small sheet of paper with Levi's number written on it in my hands. Somethings on the TV but I'm not really paying attention to it. Something about tattoos, but my eyes are on the numbers.

 

Levi's numbers.

 

I'm yet to put them into my phone but this isn't the first time I've looked at them since I was given them. They do strange things to me. Make my stomach twist around uncomfortably, make my heart flutter and a lump form in the back of my throat. I don't know why I'm so nervous, perhaps because it's as simple as the fact that Levi will be on the other end of these numbers. The fact I don't know what to say and I don't want to appear creepy or desperate to him.

 

Then again, it's not like I haven't considered the fact that perhaps he won't be there. Maybe it'll go to voice mail and he'll have a missed call from an odd number. Maybe he'll try ring back or maybe he'll think I'm some cold-caller and block me, or just never ring back and I'd have to either put it down as me being out of luck and never try again or try again. Or maybe it won't even be his number. Maybe she was taking the piss of me. Maybe I'd become a story for them to laugh at through the police station or Levi's friend group or maybe she was a spy for Isabel and they were in fact together and she was worried I was trying to get with him.

 

Fuck.

 

I run a hand through my hair, close my eyes for a moment. When I re-open them, the number's still there. Staring back at me.

 

She didn't seem to be lying though. And I guess I wouldn't be creepy if I explained what happened. I wouldn't need to tell him I was interested in asking him on date or anything, just say I met Hanji and she gave it to me and I was bored and alone. Maybe he'd be angry that she gave it, pissed at me for calling and disturbing his evening.

 

Maybe I could lie; pretend I got the wrong number. Pretend I butt dialled someone and it just happened to be him. No, he'd know.

 

I let out another long sigh.

 

Fuck it. What do I have to lose?

 

It's not like we're friends now. It's not like I'd be making a childhood friendship weird or springing it upon him. If he didn't want it or didn't like me like that or just reacted in anyway other than willing, then I'd hang up and never contact him again. We'd only met twice, it wasn't like it would be hard to avoid him.

 

Before I can change my mind, my fingers are typing the numbers into my phone. I don't give myself time again to rethink and point out how stupid this idea was before I press the green button.

 

The phone starts ringing.

 

Shit. Shit, shit, shit.

 

I should hang up. I shouldn't be doing this; distrubing his night. Besides why would he ever be interested in me? Fuck- I know nothing about him. He could be in the middle of doing anything right now. He could be an axe murderer or a massive drug dealer or a gang leader or-

 

"Hello?"

 

Shit. I'm too late. I open my mouth but find it completely dry.

 

Hang up.

 

"Hello?" His voice sounds again.

 

Hang up for fuck sake, Eren.

 

"Hello." I hear myself say instead. Oh, good going. Really fucking great going. There's a pause. An expectant pause, like Levi's waiting for me to start saying something. Of course he is, I'm the one who phoned him, that's how phone conversations work.

 

"I swear, if you're about to tell me I'm going to die in seven days, I'm going to ask you nicely if you can move that date to maybe a fortnight? I've got a lot of work to do and I'd rather not have be hanging around in purgatory with paper work being my unfinished fucking business." Levi says.

 

Thank God for Levi.

 

I can't help but laugh at that. God- he doesn't even know who it is yet, but I'm laughing at his shitty humour. I guess it gives me a bit of confidence, relaxes me slightly to speak at least reasonably normally.

 

"A fortnight? Well my schedules pretty busy, but I'm sure if I swap some people around I'll be able to fit you in, in ten days. Is that enough time?" I ask, playing along with this stupid fucking joke. Levi hums before he replies.

 

"If it isn't then I'll just make sure to come haunt you." He tells me, making me snort again. "Who is this?" He asks. It kind of brings me back to reality, but at least the tension is eased off a bit.

 

The nerves are still there, though.

 

"Eren." I say, there's a silence which I don't really know what to make of but I put it down to confusion. Hopefully, anyway. "Don't worry, I'm not stalking you- sorry. I ran into your friend, Hanji, the other day. She gave me your number, said I should give you a call. Well, when I say 'said', I mean more threatened that if I didn't I'd be next on her hit list or something." I tell him, trying to give a small chuckle to ease it up a little. Levi's still not said anything, my stomach sinks.

 

I've blown it.

 

"Sorry." I say, chewing my lip. "I know it's weird to call you, I didn’t mean anything by it and I'm really sorry for disturbing your night. I won't call you again, sorry-" I'm about to hang up when Levi finally talks again.

 

"No." He says, pausing my finger before it hits the button to cut us off. "No, it's alright. Sorry, I was just a bit shocked." He admits and I swear I hear a half chuckle. "Don't hang up."

 

Don't hang up.

 

I swear my heart is jumping ship. He's not angry, not angry but willing.

 

"I won't." I say quietly. I almost kick myself for the shock sounding in my voice. It's almost pathetic.

 

There's a small awkward pause, silence between us for a few moments.

 

"I'll apologise now for you having to deal with Hanji alone." He says, it further calms me and I laugh lightly.

 

"Ah, don't worry, I wasn't alone. She came into work and there was another police officer there. He kept her in check." I laugh.

 

"Really? Where do you work again?" He asks. I wriggle down on the couch a little, basking in the feeling that's now spreading through me. It's a cosy, warm feeling. Filling me from head to toe in silent grins and tingles.

 

The epicentre; my heart.

 

We're talking. Just talking, but it's quietened all my anxiety and I'm happy.

 

"Rogue." I say. "It's a jazz bar and club in the centre of Shiganshina, you might have heard of it." He hums in thought.

 

"I think so. Bar fight?"

 

"That's the one."

 

"Yeah, Hanji told me about it. Didn't say she'd seen you though." He tells me and I can't help the stupid, fucking grin that finds its way onto my mouth yet again. This is so stupid; now I know he's gay, my thoughts are running away with me. My hopes.

 

"Not surprised, really. She seemed pretty set on giving me the push to make the first move." I chuckle.

 

"First move with what?" He asks. I don't know whether it's because she read him wrong and he doesn't have a crush on me, whether he's acting oblivious or whether he's legitimately oblivious to that fact I'm (and apparently he is on me) crushing on him rather fucking hard.

 

I end up playing the fake oblivious card, though.

 

"Dunno." Lies.

 

"Typical fucking Hanji, though." He replies, his tone vaguely amused still.

 

"Always the busy-body?" I question, chewing my lip lightly. I don't know whether this conversation and subsequently my chances with Levi are slipping away from me right now, but I feel almost desperate to keep him interested in me and this conversation.

 

He hums again.

 

"You could say that. Always playing fucking Cupid more like." He tells me. My heart's hammering again.

 

Cupid.

 

Cupid.

 

Does this mean he's not oblivious to feelings?

 

"Really?" I ask, my voice half chocking around me. Betrayed, once again, by my own body. The irony.

 

"I swear, she practically locked Isabel and Furlan in the same room until he proposed to her." He chuckles. There it is; concrete proof from his mouth that Isabel is definitely not his fiancé.

 

To be honest, I don't think I could have been happier with the news. I grin stupidly, pleased that he actually wasn't there to see me.

 

"I think that's cute. She's just romantic, nothing wrong with that." I say and he half snorts. "What? Don't believe in romance, Mr Sour-Pants?" I tease, my stomach flipping hopefully.

 

"Dunno." He replies. "I guess, but they're just overboard. Like sloppy shit and Hanji's the fucking laxative that encourages them." Levi says.

 

"Back with the shit, I see." I laugh.

 

"Got a problem?"

 

"None what's so ever." I reply, stretching out my legs as I attempt and fail at biting back a smile. Even his shit jokes are affecting me. "I can see Hanji being the romance laxative, though." I admit.

 

"Honestly, brat, you don't know the half of it." He snorts again. "She's going round my fucking office trying to match make everyone. She's already got Isabel and Furlan under her belt, now Erwin and Mike. I think I'm her next project; she's trying to hit me up with someone." He tells me, that makes my stomach sink again.

 

Fuck, I don't think I can take much more of this up and down. It's like riding wave after wave and not having the confidence to stand and surf.

 

"Do you not want to get with anyone?" I ask him. My voice is quiet again, annoyingly so but I hope for my sake that the phone somehow adds more confidence to it through the air waves and wires.

 

"I didn't say that." 

 

There he goes again. Lifting me up again. Though, now I don't know what to say.

 

"Depends who." He says. I worry at my bottom lip again before I let out another small breath, reminding myself of a previous thought. What is there to lose? Three conversations isn't a huge amount, if I ruined everything what would I miss? A pretty face and amusing conversations. It wouldn't break my heart, it'd be fine.

 

To answer my own question; I had nothing to lose by taking matters into my own hands. Hanji had already told me that Levi didn't like to, so I would.

 

"How about me?" I say and am returned with silence. It restarts the anxiety but I take a deep breath far enough away from the phone that he doesn't hear and continue. "I don't mean anything serious, but if you'd want, we could get coffee sometime. Or dinner- maybe lunch is better, well whatever works for you-" suddenly, I'm aware I'm rambling.

 

Confident for about zero point five seconds; good on you, Eren.

 

"I'd like that." Levi replies eventually. I'm taken off guard for a moment, not having expected him to agree but- shit.

 

"Really?"

 

"Fucking hell, brat. Yes." He tells me, but I'm pleased because he sounds more amused than annoyed.

 

Yes.

 

"Great!" I laugh, my grin expanding across my entire face. Oh, there's the feeling again. That stupid, bubbly, teenage crush feeling. It's surprising what his pretty face and shit jokes could do to me.

 

"And I don't mind when. You choose, you're the one with the busy ass schedule." He tells me.

 

"But you have work too."

 

"I part own the company. If I want to fuck off for an hour or two to have lunch with some brat, I'll do it." Levi says, the smirk's evident in his voice and I allow my eyes to close just to try and picture his face right now. Maybe he's blushing like me. Maybe he's trying hard to hold back a stupid grin, maybe he's failing like I am.

 

"Oh, I knew you were fancy." I giggle. "You never said you owned the company."

 

"And I shouldn't have. Now you're going to expect me to pay for this date too." He teases.

 

"Don't worry. I'm sure I've got enough saved in my piggy bank to treat my date." I joke, snorting as I imagine he rolls his eyes at that.

 

"Jesus Christ. You fucking five years old, brat?"

 

"Five and a half, please."

 

"I take it back, I do mind. Anyone but you."  Levi says. I laugh again, my cheeks aching from smiling so hard.

 

"Don’t pretend you're not enjoying yourself."

 

"I don't have to pretend. I'm not." He lies. It's definitely a lie; the amusement is there, fuelling the giddy feeling in my heart.

 

"Liar."

 

"Brat."

 

I smile and swing the subject back round.

 

"How does Thursday sound?" I ask him. I get a hum and a 'give me a minute' that's filled with a sound of keyboard tapping. "Are you still at work?" I frown. A quick check at the TV guide tells me it's quarter to twelve.

 

"I already told you; I have a lot of work to do." He replies.

 

"Ah, so you're a workaholic." I chuckle, wriggling a little to get more comfortable on the couch and swap ears for the phone.

 

"Says you, I'm not the one doing fifteen things." He replies but I blow out my cheeks. Maybe I am five years old. Or just learning even more childish habits from my son.

 

"That's out of necessity, not out of want." I point out. "If I had a choice, I'd get paid for staying in bed all day."

 

"Wouldn't we all." He says, sounding a little distracted but I soon find out why. "Thursday is good for me. Lunch time?"

 

"It'd be easier. I get a couple of hours off lectures and Armin's at nursery, so." I tell him.

 

"True. Alright, Thursday it is." He says, typing away again for another minute and I smirk, just imagining him booking the time slow in his schedule of something. He seems like he'd be that kind of person.

 

"Great. We can meet in the park again, next to the ice cream place." I suggest, thinking it would be easiest as we both obviously knew where it was. Levi hums in agreement again .

 

"Sure. Just don't expect me to get ice cream again. Shitty Glasses already convinced me once, and it's not happening again." I'm informed.

 

"Okay, I promise I won't make you eat any ice cream." I chuckle, letting out a relaxed breath.

 

It lasts for about thirty seconds though, as my ears prick up suddenly at the all too familiar sound of yelling from the other side of the wall. Levi's saying something but I can't help but listen to the noise for a few seconds. I'm unable to make out many of the words to start with but soon enough the decibel levels increase and I can hear everything.

 

He's cheated on her again, or so she thinks. It's full blown yelling.

 

"Eren?" Levi asks from the phone, pulling me back to the fact that he's there.

 

"Sorry, my neighbours just thought it would be a good time to kick off a third World War." I tell him, giving a small laugh.

 

"Oh, I see." He says, and I'm about to continue but my mouth and my thoughts are cut off by a loud cry.

 

They've woken my son, I can already tell. He's been asleep long enough that his story must have finished, leaving him all ears for their hate filled yells.

 

Honest to God.

 

"Dada!" It doesn't take long before I hear the call, followed by the cries that turn all happiness I was feeling to panic. Armin and crying equals Armin needing the oxygen tank. Armin hurting.

 

"I'm so sorry, Levi." I say, already standing up and heading towards the door where one of Armin's tanks are. "I have to go."

 

His crying is growing louder along with next doors shouts. I pause only for a moment to bash my fist against the wall in an attempts to tell them to 'shut the fuck up'.

 

"It's okay. Don't worry about it. Hope everything's okay." Levi replies, concern filled his voice instead of the calm we'd previously had between us.

 

Armin's already giving little gasps of air while he cries. Fuck it.

 

"I'm sorry, I really have to go. Dada duties call. I'll call you again soon or see you on Thursday- shit, okay. Sorry, bye Levi." I spew down the phone, words falling from my mouth about seventy miles an hour. Before I know it, I've hung up, thrown the phone down on the couch and I'm jogging into Armin room to comfort him and hook him up to the oxygen.

 

I just collect him into my arms, spend a few minutes hugging him and calming him down while he gets his breath back and stops the crying before I slip his headphones back onto his ears and start Winnie The Pooh playing from the start again. He's hugging his lamb, face pressed into my chest as I stroke through his hair and tales from the hundred-acre-wood drown out the sounds from next door.

 

It's only as he falls asleep on me, quiet and his breath evening out again, do I let my thoughts go back to Levi for even a second.

 

I sleep in Armin's bed that night with him. All cuddled up in his single, warm and safe with my son in my arms.

Chapter Text

LEVI POV

 

I let out a long sigh as I slowly check my surroundings for what feels like the millionth time.

 

It's literally fucking freezing; my hands are balled up in my pockets to try and keep some heat in and I'm convinced my balls are probably ice cubes right now. Honestly, I'm going to kill the brat who decided it was a good idea to meet outside in shitty winter weather.

 

Well, I would if he fucking turned up.

 

I've been here for about forty minutes with no signs from the brat that he's here or even on his way.

 

Honestly, I don't know what to think.

 

He had sounded excited about it when he asked me, even more so when we had found ourselves texting each other over the week. He hadn't ignored me, in fact, had actively encouraged the continuation of our conversation.

 

It had been nice.

 

Being stood up- if that was what this was- was less nice.

 

I've had crappy dates before, crappy relationships even. I've had one night stands and people who are just complete arseholes. Being stood up, however, is one thing that I've never had. I'm not familiar with this kind of disappointment and I don't know whether it's because of the no show or whether it's because it was Eren.

 

I had found myself enjoying the brats constant texting. He’d kept me company through my long shifts and sleepless nights. Had told me stories of Armin and kept me entertained and I had found myself allowing myself to enjoy it.

 

Though, I guess I regret that now the bastard had decided to not show up.

 

I huff out a sigh again that comes out in a cloud of visible air as my hot breath hits the cold wind.

 

Maybe I should just leave.

 

He's not coming, that much is obvious and I've sat here freezing my arse off for long enough.

 

I'm kicking myself for starting to kind of like him too. Honestly, I'm just surprised I've not fucking learnt by now.

 

People are arseholes, arseholes don't care; this is why I don't date. This exact reason.

 

I pull out my phone again, my warm-ish hands getting instantly nipped and bitten by the cold.

 

Forty-five minutes late.

 

To be honest, I don’t know why I'm still here. The last text I'd received from him was yesterday mid-day. He'd been in a lecture of something and then almost vanished off the face of the earth. If I wasn't so pissed off, I might had been concerned for his well-being. But it was obvious he was alive as he'd picked Armin up from the nursery, just early enough to avoid me it seems.

 

I toy with the idea of texting him for a moment or two before, instead, choosing Hanji.  The text sends and not two minutes later my phone is buzzing in my hand, informing me on the incoming call.

 

With a sigh and slight reluctance, I press the accept button.

 

"What?" I snap. I shouldn't be taking this out on her, I know that, but I'm pissed off. At my stupidity for thinking this would even fucking work but mostly at Eren.

 

"What do you mean he's not there?" Hanji's tone is shrill but firm from the other end of the phone. I close my eyes for a moment, listening to her, before I let out another sigh. This one's a little more defeated.

 

I'm a fucking idiot for getting my hopes up that today would be a good day.

 

"What do you think I mean, fucking genius?" I'm snapping again but I'm also past caring. "Exactly fucking that. He's not here."

 

"Has he texted you?" She asks. Hanji was the first person I had told when Eren had asked me on this stupid, fucking date. Mostly because I still needed to slaughter her for giving out my personal details, but she had been spared only because of the soft spot I had found myself having for the brat. Now, she was definitely going to get it. If it weren't for her, I wouldn't have gotten my hopes up anyway. I would have still thought him straight and been polite enough if I saw him in the street.

 

"No." I huff. "Not since yesterday."

 

"Have you texted him?"

 

"Well fucking obviously." I roll my eyes. The winds adding to my annoyance, the cold is settling deep into my bones and honestly, I must look like such a fucking idiot. "Forget it, I'm going back to the office." I tell her, defeated.

 

"Aww no!" She squeaks. "Maybe he's just stuck in traffic or a lecture or something."

 

"And he didn't think to text. He's been texting me non-stop all fucking week. He probably wanted to cancel and didn't have the balls to tell me." I point out, standing despite her trying to keep my there. She's not the one who's getting hypothermia.

 

She hums and I leave her to it as I start back up the path towards the office again. There's a small part of me that's expecting to hear my name yelled from the distance, for me to turn and see Eren running towards me. Like some sort of fucking awful rom-com.

 

But, surprise, surprise; I don't.

 

"Maybe something came up?" She continues. Honestly, I don't know why I'm on the phone with her. For once, I just want her to frown and curse his name and tell me that 'yeah, he's an arsehole' without having trying to get me to see the world in a better light.

 

He's an arsehole. Simple as that.

 

"To be honest, Hanji," I sigh. She's quiet probably because I used her actual name and not some form of derogatory slur. "I don't care."

 

Honesty's the best policy, right?

 

"But you like him!" She tries. I mean, she's persistent, I'll give her that.

 

"Not that much." I reply, my other hand finding its way back into my pocket. It's balled, both to try and conserve heat but also to take my frustrations out on my hand.

 

"Still. It's a shame." She hummed in reply, but I offered her one of my classic grunts. "Maybe text Izzy and see if he dropped Armin off today? Or just phone him. To be honest, I don't know why you're talking to me when you could just phone him." She laughs, making me roll my eyes again.

 

I can't deny it though; she has a fucking point. As bloody annoying as it is. I hadn't phoned him. Only texted him to ask if we were still on and then before to ask where he was. Both had been promptly ignored.

 

"I-" I start, but I'm cut off by her snorting.

 

"You haven't even tried, have you?" She asks and my silence is enough of an answer. My angry strides calm slightly, turning more and more into a slow, almost guilty pace as I realise yeah, I probably should have phoned him. Fuck sake.

 

"Fuck off." I snap, huffing again. I hate it when she's right, and it happens annoyingly often too. "Go away and I'll fucking phone him then, okay?"

 

"I knew it."

 

"Piss off, smart arse."

 

"You're such a dickhead."

 

"Fuck off." I hiss at her, my voice raising enough to catch the eye of an elderly woman who's walking a shitty little dog. I glare at her expression but hang up on Hanji before she can say anything else and scroll through my contacts to the brat’s number.

 

Okay. All I need to do is phone him, see where the fuck he is and if he's been deliberately ignoring me. I can't deny, after what Hanji's said, I am a little concerned that maybe something has come up or happened. But I'm a realist and I know in reality, he probably just decided that he didn't want this date and didn't have the balls to tell me.

 

No, just a call and then it would all be cleared up. He would either answer and tell me or ignore me and I would leave him to it and head back to work.

 

I press the phone button and lift it up to my ear again to listen to the ringing.

 

It rings and rings and I'm just about to give up when I hear the click and it's answered.

 

There's silence for about fifteen seconds before a small voice sounds.

 

"L-Levi?"

 

Well, he answered. Sounds like shit or like he just woke up- I can't tell- but at least he answered me.

 

"No shit Sherlock.” I reply, probably a little bit too harsh. “Where the fuck are you?" I ask. Probably a little blunt but I'm waiting for his excuses and they better be fucking good. I've been freezing my shit for the past hour out here.

 

"I'm at home. Why?" Eren replies and I feel the frown tug at my lips.

 

Home.

 

I'm pissed and cold, but not as pissed as I was five minutes ago.

 

There’s something about the way he’s talking; Eren sounds like shit. His voice is croaky, scratchy like he's sand papered the back of his throat. His nose is adding even more oddness to his voice.

 

"I-" I start, feeling the anger just slide out of me and float away with the wind. "It's Thursday." I say simply, the softness a stark contract to the anger that had just been, but the date seems to be enough of an explanation for him.

 

"Oh shit!" He starts, giving a gasp that even makes me cringe. It sounds fucking painful but not as painful as the coughs at come after. Thick, heavy coughs that made my chest hurt just hearing them. It took him a minute to get over them and past it but when he's done, his breath is raspy and crackly. "I-I'm so sorry. I didn't realise it was today. Aww, Levi, I’m s-sorry, please forgive me." He tells me, sounding almost like the fact it's Thursday is more pain to him than even the cough is.

 

It makes me feel fucking awful for being angry at him.

 

Eren's sick. That much is obvious.

 

"It's okay." I tell him honestly, actually surprised by the softness in my voice. I hadn't expected that, not after how pissed I had been. But now, well this changed everything.

 

"It's not." He whines down the phone. "I'm sorry, I didn’t mean to miss our date. I should have texted- I hope," cough, "you weren't waiting around for me." He says.

 

I can practically see the lip pout through his voice. He honestly does sound upset and from how sick he sounds; I'm not surprised if texting me was the last thing on his mind.

 

 Fuck, I'm such a dickhead. Shitty Glasses is right.

 

"No." I say, despite my cold hands and my cold nose and my cold bones. "I was late myself." Lies, Levi. "I just wondered if you'd gone already, I thought I might have missed you. Erwin was keeping me late for paperwork."

 

Well, they do say a little, white lie is okay; right?

 

Eren coughs again, taking another few moments to recover again. He sounds even worse when he starts talking again.

 

"Ah. Still. I'm sorry, I should have texted- Armin, please don't do that." He replies, and my eyebrows raise at the fact his son's there.

 

"Isn't Armin at nursery?" I ask but he gives a little mumble.

 

"No," he rasps. "I couldn't make it." His voice sounds small, along with all the sickness plaguing him, he sounds tired. Exhausted. It makes me feel even shittier. “We’re having a fun packed day at home.”

 

He's probably worked himself ill.

 

"Is it okay for you to be around Armin like that?" I ask, frowning. I don't know the ins and outs of the kid’s illness or how bad his lungs are, but it's obvious that he's sick and the way Eren stresses about him is obvious. I wouldn’t have thought chest coughs were really the right thing for him to be catching.

 

The silence answers my question but Eren feels the need to fill it too.

 

"Probably not." He croaks, trying to hold back another cough. "But my sisters got an exam."

 

"What about your parents?" I ask and almost instantly kick myself at the naivety of the question.

 

Dickhead.

 

"No." Is all Eren manages before the cough he's tried subduing is back with vengeance.

 

"Dada okay?" Armin's sweet, innocent voice sounds through the clouds of coughs. At least he sounds healthy.

 

"I'm okay- I’m okay. Don't worry, Squirt. C-carry on drawing, dada will be back when he’s finished talking to Levi." He tells him in a breathy voice that's plagued with germs.

 

Honestly, I feel for him. And not because I was just the world's biggest arsehole but because he's struggling, as good as alone, sick and still trying to be a parent. 

 

"Do you want me to come over?" I hear myself asking, before frowning. "Not in a weird way." Shit. I've made it fucking weird by saying that it’s weird. Go you, Levi. "I just mean to help. I can keep an eye on Armin while you rest."

 

Why am I doing this?

 

"Wha- no, no, Levi. You don't have to do that." Eren tells me.

 

"It's no trouble."  

 

"But you have work." He insists and I scoff.

 

"I already told you once, brat. I part own the company, I can bugger off whenever I damn well want, even if it's to nurse the sick back to health." I smirk lightly, hoping that he'll take up my offer. Not to be weird, but I can't just listen to him like this and hang up. I know I don't exactly know the brat, but I'm not heartless. Not when it comes to him and his equally bratty son.

 

Fuck me.

 

"You don't have to." He tries again, a little quieter.

 

"I know I don't have to." I reply. He doesn't reply and I let out a little breath. "I'll bring some work with me if it'll make you feel better and piss off when your sister can come over instead."

 

Another small pause is followed by a sigh. A sigh of defeat.

 

"Okay." He mumbles, but it sounds just a little, tiny bit less stressed. Like- maybe- he's actually pleased I'll be there. Even if it's just helps a small amount, it'll take some of the weight off his shoulders.

 

"Okay." I say too, nodding. "Text me your address and I'll pop over shortly."

 

Why am I doing this?

 

"'Kay." He says and hum in response, about to open my mouth to say my farewells before he talks again. "Hey, Levi?"

 

"Yeah?"

 

"Sorry for missing our date." He croaks and my expression betrays me by softening further. But this rate my frown will have been smoothed out; shit me.

 

"It's okay." I tell him honestly. "We'll do it again sometime soon."

 

"I'd like that."

 

"Me too, brat." I say softly. And there it goes. My frown is gone, stolen and replaced with a small smile that's there solely because of the shitty kid covered in germs.

 

"I'll see you soon then."

 

"See you soon." I finish before pulling the phone away from my ear and hanging up before he can turn any more of me into mush.

 

Fuck my life.

 

I pause long enough to run my hand through my hair a moment and puff out a few breaths of air before my phone buzzes again in my hand.

 

It's a text from Eren with his address and a simple smiley emoji.

 

I think it's then I know I'm done for.

 

 

-x-

 

 

After the quick detour of heading back to work to properly tell Erwin that I wasn't coming back, I headed straight to my car. I'm about ninety percent convinced, although he let me go without a word, Erwin's now thinking mine and Eren's date went so well that we've chosen to head home to do the hanky-panky and boycott the rest of the day.

 

I wasn't about to correct him, but he honestly couldn't be more wrong.

 

Putting the directions to Eren's house into my SAT NAV and stopping by to pick up some provisions on the way doesn't take long, and I'm pulling up in the car park of Eren's apartment block about forty minutes after I'm off the phone with him.

 

It's not really what I expected, but I don't know what I did. When I think about it properly, Eren's obviously, a young parent. Working his arse off for- well this.

 

It's not exactly the nicest apartment block I've ever seen, and can't really be properly compared to my little three bedroomed house with garden and expensive car. I can't judge though; Eren's doing his best and that's good.

 

He's doing good.

 

Part of me wonders how many people have told him that.

 

Shaking my head, I check Eren's text again to get the floor and apartment number before heading in and up to the lift.

 

The journey in the elevator sets my teeth on edge. I'm not normally a claustrophobic person, nor do I worry about shit like this. Except, this little bastard jitters about like no bodies business. It stinks, there's a few questionable stains on the corner of the wall and I'm convinced I'd catch some sort of incurable disease from even touching the buttons.

 

Finally- fucking finally- without any accidents or contracting the plague, the hefting metal box comes to a stop. The woman crackles that the doors are about to open to calm any fear that I'm now trapped, and I slip out as soon as there's room for me to do so.

 

Like hell I'm staying in there any longer than I have to.

 

I'm taking the fucking stairs back down.

 

I walk through the corridor until I find the number to Eren's flat. I stand outside it, take a deep breath in, slowly release and knock on the door.

 

Nothing.

 

Maybe I got the wrong house number? I double check the text to make sure I'm on the right floor and flat before trying again. This time I get the attention of the dog on the other side of the door, who gives a couple of loud barks.

 

No one answers still. I start to get a little worried and am just about to give knocking a third try before the letter box clatters. I look down and there's a tiny finger pushing out through it; Armin.

 

I can't help the small smirk as I bend a little, lifting the flap properly.

 

"Hello." I say, listening out for him. I poke the finger gently and there's a small giggle and it retracts.

 

"Who's this?" Armin asks, lips obviously pressed right up against the door. I hate admitting it- to anyone that is- but he's fucking adorable. This little family of brats seems to know just how to soften my heart.

 

"Levi." I reply, crouching in front of the door. "Sorry- Sir Levi."

 

There's a small pause in Armin's talking, filled by the clattering of the letter box from his side.

 

"Password?"

 

"Where's your dada?"

 

"No password! Silly." Armin giggles and I give a small chuckle but I am a little concerned about the whereabouts of Eren. I know he would never leave Armin to fend for himself, he didn't strike me as that kind of father, not even for a minute.

 

"Um-" I start, slightly distracted now with my own brain running rampant with worried thoughts. "I don't know the password." I eventually admit, having no fucking clue, I just don't want to waste tonnes of time if Eren's seriously ill in there or something.

 

Honestly, why am I so worried? It's stupid.

 

"Password is-"

 

"Armin?" I let out an audible breath when I hear Eren's voice join the others on the other side of the door. Fuck me- this brat is killing me.

 

"Dada! Levi!" Armin exclaims with a fit of giggles and I pull back from the letter box as Eren starts rattling around with the locks. It only takes a few more moments until the door opens and Eren's there. In all his sick glory, child on his hip and his foot trying to keep a massive as fuck dog from bolting out the door to jump on me.

 

"Hi." He croaks out, face covered in a mask that I know all too well as something I'd wear for cleaning. I'm at least grateful for this. Least the house wouldn't be completely covered in germs.

 

"Hi." I reply and walk in when he steps aside to let me, the door closing quickly behind me.

 

When I turn to face him again, I'm shown the true extent of his physical symptoms. With the mask in the way, I can't get the full extend, but from what I can see; well it doesn’t take a doctor to tell him he's sick. In fact, he looks like utter bull-crap and I have to feel sorry for the kid.

 

He puts Armin down on the floor again and tries (and fails) to shoo Sch-whatever the hell the dog's name is- away from sniffing at my leg. I slip my shoes off while he does all this, socked feet touching the cold, fake wood floor. 

 

"Thanks for this." Eren says again when I finish neatly putting my shoes to the side. Armin's already waddled off back to where he obviously has some toys set up on the living room floor and the dog is becoming less and less interested with me and has also headed off to follow Armin.

 

It's a small flat it seems. The kitchen and the living room are in the same area. Small and cramped with obviously old furniture and a cheap TV. It's clean but not tidy, makes my palms itch but I try my hardest to ignore it.

 

"I already told you, brat. Don't mention it." I reply, swinging my gaze back round to look at him. Drinking his appearance in before I lift a hand and place the back of it onto his head. I almost instantly regret it because for one, it's damp with sweat and sickness and my skin is definitely crawling now. But it's almost burning to touch. I hiss and retract my hand as he pulls down the mask, revealing his smirk.

 

"That bad, huh?" He asks, before trying to cover another set of coughs with his hand.

 

I feel my nose wrinkle a little in disgust, but I also know my expression is soft and I let out a long sigh.

 

"Fucking hell, you're burning up." I inform him. Like he doesn't already know.

 

Even despite it all, he gives me a small smile and shrugs. Honest to God, this kid's a trooper. I've not been ill in a while but I know I wouldn't be as chirpy as he fucking is. Hell, I'm not even when I'm healthy.

 

"Yeah." He replies but turns to head towards the kitchen, his head flicking over to check on Armin.

 

He wasn't kidding when he said he was a full-time father.

 

I feel kind of sorry for him. I guess I hadn't really realised it before but being here, seeing his home, it just kind of pointing out the fact he was alone. Sure, he said he has a sister that helps, but fuck. I still feel sorry for the kid.

 

"You should be in bed." I tell him, walking over with the bag of provisions I'd picked up and set them on the counter. I watch him for a moment as he gets down two glasses and a beaker and pisses about in the fridge before handing me a glass of orange. He hadn't asked if I had wanted it and to be honest, if he had, I probably would have refused. But I take it out of politeness.

 

It seems he chooses to ignore my comment about bed as he fixes the lid onto the beaker.

 

"Armin, come get a drink." He tells him and I watch them both interact for a moment. The little blonde that looks nothing like his father waddling over to him, being lifted and placed on the counter and handed a beaker of orange juice. He takes it with both hands, Eren strokes the back of his hair, the usual expression of utter devotion set on his face even despite the sickness as he watched his son start to drink.

 

I take a sip, then Eren does out of his.

 

Eren, however, ends with a harsh swallow and a wince of pain.

 

"Okay, I didn't take into consideration how much that would hurt." He half laughs, his voice crackling with pain and subdued coughs that don't take long to surface. Within the minute, he's turning away from both of us (mainly Armin) and coughing into the sink through his hand.

 

It makes me cringe but frown more so I go over to gently rub his back, trying to soothe the coughs wrack his body and make even my chest ache in sympathy.

 

"It's okay." I mumble to him. News flash; I'm the world's worst comforter. I guess this is why I'm surprise I'm even here voluntarily, but here I am. Making a massive fucking fool of myself with great quotes like 'it's okay'.

 

Fuck me.

 

"Sorry." He manages, his voice barely a whisper. I shake my head, setting my face as stern as I could make it as I watch him trying to get his breath back over the kitchen sink and not aggravate his already sensitive throat any more.

 

"You really are a brat, you know that?" I huff, but honest to God, I'm turning soft. "You should really go to bed."

 

He doesn't answer me for another moment or two, clearly weighing up the options of going or staying out.

 

"But-" He starts and I decide I have to put my foot down or else he's going walk all over me; he's obviously going to put up a fight.

 

"It wasn't up for debate." I tell him. I'm given a sigh of defeat as he stands up straighter.

 

"'Kay." He mumbles, lip pouting a little and his eyes large and wide.

 

Fuck, he looks like a puppy that's just had its tail fucking stomped on. It shouldn't affect me so much but I find myself having to turn my gaze away. Choosing instead to look at Armin, who's no fucking better. Instead of a crushed puppy, he's looking confused.

 

In fairness, although they're not the same colour; he's got the brat's eyes. Huge and emotion filled. Literal windows into their souls. I don't think either of them would be capable of hiding emotion, it all came flooding out in their eyes.

 

I run my hand through my hair. Focus, Levi.

 

"Okay, so-um- dada's going to have a little nap." I tell Armin, watching him as he listens intently.

 

"Levi's going to be here to keep an eye on you for a while. I won't be long." Eren tries, even though I can tell and I know he can, that he's flagging. Not only is he tired in general but the illness is taking it out of him and honestly the best thing he can do right now is sleep.

 

"To play?" Armin asks, a smile spreading across his face and Eren softens his expression coming over again to stroke is hair.

 

"Well maybe not, Squirt. You can't bother him, he brought some work with him so you'll have to play by yourself for a while. Or with Schnecke." He says softly.

 

"No." I hear myself speak. Why, Levi? Why are you doing this? For fuck sake. "Don't worry about it, brat. I don't mind playing with him while you're resting." I say. I think it's basically to stop the fact that Armin's now sporting the hurt puppy expression and I can't have both of them doing it at the same time.

 

God help me.

 

There's something flickering in my heart when Armin's whole face lights up at the news. Something as simple as 'yes, I'll play with you' making him look like he's just been given everything he could have ever asked for.

 

I'm really not that special, but the excitement Armin looks at me with makes me feel like the most important person in the world.

 

"Really?" Eren asks. I feel he's speaking on behalf of Armin as well.

 

I hold back the sigh and nod.

 

"Yes, really. Now go away." I smirk, waving him off. "Go sleep away those germs. You're disgusting."

 

"Dis-ust-ng!" Armin squeals, kicking his little legs in excitement. Eren laughs, I can't help but chuckle but at least mine don't ends in coughs. "Go away, dada. Germy!"

 

"Exactly, you're all germy." I continue, smirking at Armin as Eren rolls his eyes, the smile still on his face.

 

"Okay, okay. I'm leaving. Driven out by my own family and replaced. This is heart-breaking."

 

"Such a tale of woe." I roll my eyes, nodding to him again. "You can enlighten me on the tragedy after you've slept and not before."

 

"Nit nit dada!" Armin calls out again, waving. Eren softens his expression again, leans over and kisses the top of his son’s head.

 

"Nit nit." He chuckles, before tickling his hair with his fingertips that makes Armin giggle and wriggle. He turns to me after, his expression a little more serious. "If he needs it, his oxygen next to the door. You just need to get the cannula-"

 

"I know, brat." I tell him, rolling my eyes but my expression is soft. "I read the sheet you gave Isabel. Now will you please leave before I drag you to bed."

 

Eren blushes. Well, at least I think he does. His cheeks are already flush with heat from the fever, but he's eyes dart away and he chews his lip in the way he has done whenever he's blushed around me before.

 

To be honest, those eyes give it away.

 

"I'm going, I'm going. Thanks again, Levi. I won't be long. Be good, Armin, and listen to whatever Levi tells you. Remember, let him know if you need the mermaid-machine." Eren smiles softly as he sneakily steals one more head kiss from Armin before heads out of the kitchen and towards the small corridor that's obviously leading to the other half of the flat.

 

"Well soon, dada." Armin calls to him, earning another soft smile from his father before he heads to bed.

 

The dog stands and follows Eren out. It's cute, like he's decided that Armin has enough protection for now and Eren needs him more. I'm not really a dog person, much prefer cats. They're less needy and less messy, but I can't deny that theirs is cute. Massive, but cute.

 

It's just me and Armin now. And suddenly, the nerves set it. I'm not my sister, I don't own a nursery and have never been around children enough to know if I'm good with them or not.

 

Armin seems to like me though, so I try remind myself of that, hold back the sigh and press on.

 

"So," I start when Eren's out of sight, turning to Armin with a soft smile. He's watching me expectantly. "Do you want to draw?" I ask, knowing he liked doing that after the other day. I've already spied the number of drawings that are clearly Armin's littering the fridge door and can only imagine they're more of them around the house.

 

But Armin shakes his head.

 

"Watch telly?" I try again, wondering how I could get out of playing. I haven't- well- for years. I didn't exactly have the world's happiest childhood either so I don't even know if I'd remember how.

 

Fuck. I'm already in too deep.

 

"No." Armin replies, shaking his head before putting his arms out. It takes me a moment to realise what he wants, but when I do, I slip my hands under his armpits, lift him and then place him down on the floor.

 

The moment he's down, he's off. I never thought someone with fucking tiny legs would be so fast. But one minute he's next to me, then he's waddling like a maniac and he's at the living room. I mean, it's not a huge distance, it's just surprising.

 

I follow him, my pace slower.

 

"No? Then we could…" I trail off. I'm lost. I promise to play with him but what do kids play? Make believe games or something like a card game? Is too young to teach poker? What the hell am I thinking?

 

Armin looks innocently up at me and pats the sofa for me to sit. I follow his 'orders' and sit down where he's telling me to.

 

"Play." He tells me.

 

Of course.

 

I think I've shot myself in the foot here; promising to play with a child I barely know and know how to deal with even less.

 

"Play what?" I ask, cocking my head slightly. He's off again, over to a little box of toys that he has open and shuffling through it. Then, he's back; wide eyes and equally wide smiles.

 

"Docs!" He says holding up a little plastic brief case before he lays it on the coffee table. I watch him open it and then when he turns, he has thick, plastic glasses on that his blond hair spills over.

 

I have to stifle the smirk, as I realise the game. I guess they say kids learn from their surroundings. Eren's sick, now Armin's pretending to be a doctor. It's sweet.

 

"So am I the patient?" I ask, which he nods at.

 

"Ya." He informs me as he puts a stethoscope around his neck and hands me a little plastic clip board. "Gotta- um- gotta tell me what's wrong. And I'm gotta fix it!" He says and I take it from him, nodding. It looks like a fake form, asking me for my name and the usual watered down hospital stuff.

 

I pretend write on it before handing it back.

 

"'ank you." He takes it, pushing his glasses up before setting the form on the table and he's back in the box. It takes him a moment or two to collect everything together, but soon enough I'm having a thermometer put into my mouth- despite my instant frets over germs that must be crawling on it- and a fake needle prodding at my inner arm.

 

He's surprisingly accurate for a three-year-old. But I guess he's sicker than most three-year-old's and is probably familiar with hospitals and real doctors by now. 

 

It's a shitty thought, but the truth.

 

"Oh, am I that sick?" I ask, smirking a little as he pushes his glasses up. They're too big for his face, even with his fat cheeks.

 

"Ya but, but don't worry!" He tells me. "All better soon."

 

"I see." I chuckle lightly as he pushes the syringe lightly against my arm.

 

"Not gonna hurt." He tells me, bouncing a little on the balls of his feet as he pulls he bottom and it sucks up air.

 

"Oh, thank you. You're right, that didn't hurt at all, thank you so much. You must be the best doctor." I say, watching him finish 'taking blood'.

 

"I am!" He claims happily, bouncing a little more but then he stills to concentrate.

 

It's a delicate producer, quite clearly.

 

He grins at me when he's done.

 

"Brave!" He squeals, setting the needle down again and with a blink he's off again. Running or waddling or whatever you'd call it away. I just turn, once again surprised at how fast he is.

 

"Armin, what are you doing?" There's the sound of a cupboard door being closed and I panic a little. Cupboards and kitchens don't really go well together, now when it involves small children and start to stand but he's back, with a finger to his lip and something behind his back.

 

"Shhh," He tells me. A little more relaxed, I sit back down as he comes over. "Can't let dada hear."

 

He waits until he's right in front of me before he relieves his secret which happens to be a chocolate digestive lying on the palm of his hand.

 

"Dada's secret stash." He tells me, giggling cheekily. "But, but, shh he can't know!"

 

"Oh." I smirk, my eyebrows raising at the biscuit he's offering me. "Are you sure dada would be okay with this?" I check.

 

Of course, not. Well, to be honest, he probably would be fine as what I've seen from Eren so far is he has an inability to say no to his son. But still.

 

"I think maybe we should wait and ask him when he wakes up. I don't want to steal from his secret stash." I hum, but Armin shakes his head and pushing his arms forward, almost insisting I take it.

 

"No, no, no! Dada won't mind." He tells me.

 

"You sure?"

 

"Ya! Dada says- um- brave boys get treats." He says and puts his hand up for me to take the biscuit. "And, and you were brave."

 

Fuck me, this kid is adorable. His father's adorable.

 

I know I should be telling him off for stealing from his father's secret stash. But it amuses me too much. Both that Eren has a secret stash of biscuits in the first place, and that I'm getting a treat for having a fake blood test.

 

I give him a soft smile, taking the biscuit from him before splitting it in half, careful of crumbs. I offer him the other half.

 

"Good doctors need treats too and didn't you say you were the best?" I say to him, which gets him grinning again.

 

He wriggles himself up onto the sofa for a 'break' before taking the half and starts munching on it. I do the same, nibbling at mine.

 

"No telling?" He asks me through a mouthful. He's already covered in crumbs. I honestly don't know how kids do it. He barely has enough biscuit to make a fucking mess but there it is.

 

Quarter of a digestive sitting on his lap.

 

"No telling." I assure him though, dragging my gaze back from the crumbs to his face and nod. "But no more stealing secret biscuits."

 

Armin nods.

 

"No more! Choco bickies only for brave boys and good doctors." He claims and I give him my own nod in reply.

 

"Exactly." I smile softly.

 

It's surprisingly nice. I make a mental note to tell Eren and prompt him to possibly move the biscuits if he didn't want sticky hands in them all the time.

 

"Yummy, yummy." Armin giggles, his feet wiggling together. His socks have little monster faces on them and I can't help but smirk at them. Partly because they are adorable, but my brain also goes to the image of Eren, standing in a store somewhere looking at them, deciding they were too cute to leave and buying them.

 

I could imagine that.

 

"Very." I smirk watching him finish and- I can't help but cringe as he wipes his hands on his pyjama bottoms before sliding down off the couch and heading back to the little brief case of supplies.

 

"Back to work!" He claims. I snort, unable to help myself really. Bless him.

 

"Oh, of course. Got to be healed in time for tea."

 

We play doctors for another half an hour. Armin takes my temperature, checks my knee reflexes, checks my ears and my heart beat. He ends up sticking three hello kitty plasters on my arms that apparently came with the kit before announcing my healed and that I would have to come back for another appointment to make sure that the 'nasty germs' didn't come back.

 

I agreed and played along with him before he decides he's bored. We take the time to tidy up, mostly because then Eren won't have to worry about it when he wakes up, but also because I couldn't stand to just leave it there.

 

Then I leave him in front of the TV, happy I could watch him from the kitchen as I take it upon myself to make something for Armin as well as something lighter and more suited for the ill for Eren.

 

I don't mean to pry, but I also double check the cupboard situation. Not supply checking or anything, I couldn't care less, I just wanted to know a) where this secret stash was and b) whether Eren had taken the correct precautions when it came to toddlers and kitchen cupboards.

 

Isabel had drilled it into my enough times about making sure the cleaning supplies were properly put away at the nursery. But I'm pleased when I see that he has. Eren's not stupid, obviously doesn't cut corners; particularly when those corners involve his son.

 

Every cupboard has a child lock in place except one which seems to be for plastic tubs and the un-dangerous cooking supplies. It's also where I find his secret stash. Hidden or not so well hidden in a large mixing bowl.

 

Amused and satisfied, I start on the cooking, using only supplies I had brought and the occasional ingredient from Eren's kitchen.

 

I enjoy cooking, so don't mind doing this. The amount of times Isabel has forced me to cook for her and choose one of her favourites to make for Eren; French Onion Soup, which doesn't take very long.

 

Forty minutes later, Armin's sat down at the small breakfast bar they have, tucking into his meal and I've left the soup to simmer for a moment before going to knock lightly on Eren's door.

 

There's only three doors down the corridor, two of which were open. One showing the bathroom and the other clearly Armin's, so it didn't take a detective to work out which one Eren was currently in.

 

I knock but for the first time that day receive an instant answer.

 

"Come in." It's quiet but I hear it and slowly open the door to peer in. The rooms semi-dark. Along with the unsurprising amount of mess, there seems to be a desk, a bed and a chest of draws. It's small, like the rest of the flat, but at least it looks lived in and homely. I can't make much out with the light, but the lumps on the bed is obviously Eren and his dog. Cramped into a small single.

 

I roll my eyes at the view of them, even more so at the fact he'd even let a dog in his bed. Never mind the size of it.

 

"I made you something to eat." I tell him, letting out a small breath.

 

It's awkward. Really awkward. Honestly, I've only met this guy like three times and here I am, invading his room, using his kitchen, being trusted with his child. It's just a little fast and I don't know what to say or do . Standing awkwardly in his door way.

 

Eren sits up slightly, before slumping against his pillows. His hand is on Schnecke, stroking him softly as he looks over at me with heavily lidded eyes. His hairs a mess. He still looks half asleep and rather cute but I make sure my expression is apathetic.

 

This is awkward enough as it is, I don't need feelings making it worse.

 

"You didn't have to do that." He tells me, giving a small cough. His voice rough still from illness and lack of use.

 

I shrug, leaning on the door frame. I don't really want to fully enter. Coming into his room seems a step too far, but I also want to make sure he doesn't fall back asleep. The door way will do.

 

"Again, I know. But I wasn't about to let you starve, brat. You could do with some food." I point out but the small pout is there. I sigh. "What it is?" I ask, raising an eyebrow expectantly.

 

"It's just you made me food." His nasally voice starts. "But I'm all bunged up and can't taste jack shit. I won't be able to taste it properly and I bet it's delicious." He says, pouting again.

 

"Who said I was any good at cooking?" I point out. I mean, I'm not terrible so it is a shame he won't be able to taste it. Especially as I had found myself trying extra hard to make it the best I'd made in a while.

 

More fool me; I should have thought.

 

Eren shrugs, before rubbing his nose on the back of his hand. Gross.

 

"Wash your hands before you come eat." I tell him, shaking my head. Yeah, I'm done with the germ-infested room so turn and get ready to head back to the kitchen.

 

Eren chuckles though.

 

"Okay, I'll be two minutes."

 

"Whatever, brat." I reply, walking through back to Armin but by the time I'm there, I have a yeti following me; Schnecke obviously taking his leave from Eren's side now he was getting up anyway.

 

Eren's not wrong- it is about two minutes until he's shuffling into the kitchen. His bed shirt slipping a little over one shoulder, relieving a caramel shoulder and his hair wild. Least it's not damp any more, but I'm pretty sure it still needs a fucking good wash.

 

I'm dishing up his meal now and only glance over to see him kiss the top of Armin's head again- surprise, surprise.

 

"Hello again." He says softly, Armin looking up at him and beaming.

 

"Sleepy head." Armin giggles, a hand coming up to try and point to Eren's head but it's too high for him to reach, even sitting on the breakfast stool.

 

"Oh, thank you." Eren chuckles. "I styled my hair especially for you." He tells him, tickling his side gently and softens his expression as Armin almost shrieks his 'no's' and wriggles in his seat.

 

"Aww, the poor boy yields. Leave him alone." I tell Eren, who smiles and rolls his eyes.

 

"I should have known you'd be on his side now." He smirks, but Armin's making grabby hands at his arms. His hand comes up to the back of Armin's hair, stroking gently and I have to focus on dishing this up.

 

That feeling's there again.

 

"Wait until after you've eaten, baby, then we'll cuddle." Eren says. Armin shakes his head.

 

"No, no, no. Tickle monster!" He giggles.

 

"Oh." Eren chuckles before it's followed by a light cough. "Well maybe not tonight. We've got to eat and then we've got to get the place tidy for Auntie Mikasa and say goodbye to Levi and then it'll be almost bath time and bedtime and then dada has to go to work."

 

My eyebrows raise at that as I place a bowl in front of him.

 

"Does dada really think that's a good idea?" I ask him. I know it's not really my business; the brat can do whatever he wants. But still. Considering it's obvious he's overworked himself into this mess, and the soft spot that I'm trying to deny is forming for him-  I'm weirdly against the idea.

 

Eren shrugs.

 

"Probably not but I need to." He tells me. There's a flicker of something I could only put down as stress in his eyes. His brow creases for a second, his mouth pulled down. For a second, he looks- well- old. Older than his years anyway.

 

I've seen the look on myself countless times. But it's not something I like to see on him.

 

It doesn't suit him.

 

But what is there to say? I'm not his parent. I'm not his sister. I'm not anything to him. Maybe a friend, but a new one at that. I hold no authority and I can't order him around. So, I just press my lips into a thin line, an expression which earns a frown from Eren. Perhaps if he wasn't ill, he would have fought against it, but instead he drops his gaze to the bowl of soup and takes an experimental sniff.

 

It's stopped by a wall of gross-shit that's clogged up his nose and makes the breath stutter.

 

"Nope, nothing." He huffs.

 

I purse my lips again, finding myself considering ways to get that expression off his face and the smile to replace it. I don't know him well enough to do it on demand, so I turn away from it instead and put the pan back down on the hob.

 

"Well, you can freeze the rest of it, if you want." I tell him. "Then you can just reheat it sometime you have the ability to taste and try it properly."

 

I don't look back over until a few moments after I've said it, but I'm almost relieved to see there's a smile on his face.

 

He nods.

 

"That'd be nice." He says, everything about him sounding genuine and honest.

 

It's my turn to give the simple nod.

 

I don't know what to say, it's become awkward again so I try and tidy up the work station as Armin finishes eating and Eren starts.

 

It's odd. Oddly domestic and part of me is already craving more, but the other part of me- the fucking rational not stupid side of me- is telling myself to get the fuck out before anything else happens. It's like a drug. This happy, relaxed atmosphere is sinking its way through my skin and relaxing my permanently clenched jaw. Easing my tense muscles.

 

Fuck.

 

"Mikasa texted before." Eren tells me. I take the moment to glance up, assuming this was his sister and gave a small nod as I settle, leaning against the kitchen counter.

 

"Alright." I reply, folding my arms. Not defensive, I'm just curious to what he was going to say.

 

"She's going to come look after Armin while I'm at work. She finishes soon." He tells me. Armin's not paying attention to the conversation and wriggles down from the chair again before heading back to his toy station.

 

Dine and dash.

 

"If you want me to leave, brat, you just have to say the words." I tell him, smirking lightly as the words make him blush deeply enough to visibly notice and he's shaking his head.

 

"No, no, no-" Oh, so that's where or Armin's gotten it from. Or perhaps Eren's adopted it from Armin. "I didn't mean that. I just- I feel bad for keeping you here. You have work to do and it's not your job to look after me. I'm so sorry that you felt obliged and I didn't mean to miss our date and I'm so sorry-" He spills out, barely pausing to take a breath, which means he's followed by the enviable coughing fit straight after he's finished.

 

I sigh as he groans, rolling my eyes at him.

 

"How many times do I have to tell you?" I frown a little, but my expression is still soft. Everything is at Eren's, it's crazy how much this brat and his shitty house is affecting me. "I don't mind. Honestly, it's better than being stuck with Commander Crap-brows and a pile of paper work all day."

 

That gets a laugh from him, which in turn makes me smirk.

 

"I guess so." He says softly, his eyes falling to his soup as he blushes again. "We'll have to rearrange our date for when I've recovered my health." I can't help but snort at that.

 

"Obviously, brat. Like hell I'm taking you anywhere looking like that." I tease and am rewarded with him sticking his tongue out and a carefully hidden flip off.

 

"I have you know, even sick, I'm one of the most stunning, sought after men in Shiganshina You should see the lists of numbers I have lined up." 

 

"Oh really? I guess I'm just the lucky one that got the call, huh?" I smirk, raising one eyebrow at him. "Though I don't know if I like a man that's as vain as all that. I'd probably say one of the most demanding, unpunctual and generally annoying ones."

 

"Oi!" He gasps and coughs, flipping me off again through it. It takes him a minute to recover, but when he does- well in fairness to him- he looks shitty. "And you're j-just plain rude." He tells me.

 

I roll my eyes again. I'm honestly growing soft.

 

"Well you'll have your sister soon who can heal your wounded pride. I'll head out when she gets here." I tell him, smirking as I push myself up off the counter again and move to take Armin's plate. Eren's eaten about half, but it's also obvious he's flagging. He's not been awake long, but the positive effects of the nap are obviously wearing off the longer he's awake.

 

I put my hand out for his bowl, but he frowns and shakes his head.

 

"Go away. I'm not letting you wash up as well. You've already done enough for me today." He tells me matter-of-factly. I roll my eyes again and try and take it again but he slaps my hand lightly. Despite the illness, his reflexes are still there apparently.

 

"I'm trying to help, shit-for-brains. Let me have the damn bowl." I point out with a huff but he's expression is set into a determined frown.

 

"I know and thank you but it's alright." He says. "I can manage to wash up. Don't worry about it. I maybe sick but I'm not dying."

 

"Well you may not, but you're killing me." I huff, holding my hand out for him to push it towards me.

 

"Too bad." He replies. I glare.

 

"Give me the damn bowl, kid."

 

"I'm not a kid."

 

"You are and an annoying one at that."

 

"You're still not getting the bowl." He says, protecting it with his arms. I roll my eyes.

 

"Stop being so bloody annoying."

 

"Stop getting so annoyed."

 

"It's hard not to when you're such a stubborn shit.”

 

"Well-"

 

"Stop fight-in!" Armin calls from the living room. Eren laughs at him, turning a little to grin at his son. I swear, even sick, this brats smile brightens up the whole room. 

 

"Sorry, little man, Levi's just being silly." He says.

 

"I think you'll find it's dada that's the silly one." I add but even I can't stop the smirk as Armin gives us a very exaggerated eye roll, I take Eren's laughing and the distraction as my time to strike and attempt to get the bowl from him but's fast and cuts my hand off with his arm.

 

"Oi." He says, turning from Armin. "You heard him. Stop fighting. Also, stop teaching my kid your sass. You're a bad influence." He tells me, attempting to be 'threatening' but really, it's not working. He's like a puppy anyway, then add the flushed cheeks and the messy hair and the red nose to the mix and he's about as threatening as ladybug.

 

"Not my fault he's a fast learner." I smirk.

 

We stare at each other at heads, waiting for the other one to back down. His expression doesn't waver, even with the stern glare I'm giving him. I guess it might just be because he's so used to doing everything himself- God knows. I'm not exactly a fucking physiologist, but it ticks me off anyway.

 

I'm the one that ends up giving up first. With a huff and an eye-roll that mirrored the one Armin had just given. I shake my head and retract my hand from bowl, placing Armin's dish back down too.

 

"Fine. You win, brat." I grumble, but his expression instantly transforms into a smile.

 

"Thank you, Levi." He says, once again flooding his words with honesty.

 

"Arsehole." I just grunt in response again, feeling the awkwardness creep back in again.

 

From my side, anyway, or perhaps I'm just creating the awkwardness to keep that sickeningly sweet feeling the fuck away from me.

 

The awkwardness stays, however, and I choose to abandon it and Eren's flat not long after. He seems instant on now going back to bed, even though I point out that it'd probably help in the long run, and we end up on the couch for a while after they've finished eating and Eren's finished washing up.

 

He ends up snoozing for a while on the sofa, but is woken by the buzzing of his phone which is apparently his sister telling him she's on her way. I take that as my excuse to leave. I'm not really in the mood to meet the family, nor am I anything to him enough to. It'd just make things complicated and even more awkward than it already was or needed to be, so I make my excuses, say my goodbyes and head out again.

 

Winter's in full swing so it's dark outside when I finally get there, but I can't help but be grateful for the cold air that instantly hits my face. It calms me, cools my cheeks that have decided now is the time they need to start fucking burning.

 

Fuck me, I'm in the shits with this.

 

Eren's dangerous. Armin's dangerous. The fucking dog is dangerous and I seemed to keep walking straight into their midst when I definitely should be walking the other way.

 

I head over to my car, wrapping my arms around myself to try and combat the cold and focus on something other than the thoughts of the little shits.

 

Something catches my eye and I glance down.

 

Fuck. There it is; that feeling.

 

I'm still wearing the three hello kitty plasters on my arm.

 

I'm done for.

Chapter Text

EREN POV 

 

I press the foot of my hand to each of my eyes and give them a slow rub.

 

They had told me there wasn't much they could do for us right now. Armin was meant to just try and fight as much as he could himself with the very limited help the drugs they were giving him.

 

I wanted to ask if there was a drug to stop my guilt.

 

I felt like crap. Not only because I was only just getting over my own cold, but mostly because I had been stupid enough to push through and try and parent while sick. It had back fired and landed my son catching it too.

 

The only thing was; Armin was already sick. He didn't need my help in furthering that by giving him all my gross ass fucking germs.

 

I'm such a fucking idiot.

 

I had been called in from work by the hospital, then not two minutes later had Mikasa been on the phone, crying about how she had taken him in because the numerous coughing fits Armin was having left him breathless and panicked. He had needed medical help for a cold and I knew instantly it was entirely my fault.

 

He had a fever and although the doctors assured me he would be fine- it was just a nasty cold- I couldn't help but be worried. The only reason why he was being kept here was to make sure they could keep an eye on him, check his breathing and make sure it didn't get worse. I didn't fight because I knew I wouldn't be able to cope if it did and something happened.

 

Better be safe rather than sorry; Doctor Pixis had assured me.

 

I still couldn't relax. Not when my entire world was sicker than usual, lying in a hospital bed a thousand times bigger than him, cheeks flushed, hooked up to tubs and his breathing made painfully loud thanks to the machines they'd got him attached too, body wracked by the occasional coughs that had originated with me. 

 

He'll be okay; they've told me that over and over again. I knew I needed to remember it too. It just doesn't make me feel any better.

 

I feel like complete and utter shit.

 

I guess it's why I haven't really left his side while he's been here. Only getting Mikasa to replace me when I had to go to work. As much as it pains me to leave his side, I still have rent to pay, food to buy, nursery bills, medical bills, university bills and now the added cost of Schnecke having to spend the week with a dog sitter as I haven't been home much.

 

I let out another long breath, like I'm trying to let go off all my worried in it. A world weary sigh as I lean forward in my seat. I rub my hands on my face again. A small part of me hopes I'll just be able to wipe away the stress, the worries, if I can't sigh them out.

 

Not going to lie; my heads been hurting practically non-stop for the two and a half days we've already been here for.

 

Armin's sleeping right now so I guess I don't have to worry as much about that. His body can focus on fighting the illness directly instead of the doctors and me. He doesn't want to be here, he wants to be at nursery, enjoying himself with the other kids.

 

This was all my fault.

 

If I had just not gotten ill, or taken more precautions, maybe asked Hannes if he could have come over or something.

 

My next long sigh is cut short by the sound of someone walking into the room, shoes squeaking on the spotless floor of the hospital room.

 

"Still beating yourself up about this?" A familiar voice sounds and I look up to see Doctor Pixis, family friend and Armin's main doctor.

 

I return his soft smile with a half one myself. Wobbly and insecure.

 

"Am I that obvious?" I ask, allowing my hand to run through my hair as I watch him. He's obviously just in here to do his routine checks, making sure that nothing's gone awry.

 

I swear, as much as I love Pixis, I can't help but hold my breath whenever he walks through the door.

 

"No." The bald man replies, his voice husk with age and his face wrinkles with a soft smile. I guess that puts my heart at rest for a while. He wouldn't be smiling if there was something seriously wrong. "I just know you too well by now, Eren." He finishes with an added chuckle.

 

I can't deny him that. He has known me since I was a child, having been good friends with my father before everything had happened. Apparently, he hadn't agreed with the way Grisha had handled the news of his only son becoming a father so young. Pixis had checked in with me throughout the pregnancy, had attended the delivery and been Armin's doctor ever since they had realised he had a problem with his lungs.

 

All of this, done behind my father's back.

 

I had a hell of a lot to thank him for.

 

"Smart arse." I reply, smiling despite myself.

 

"As cheeky as ever, I see." Pixis says, shaking his head but still not looking at me. It takes him a few minutes to check over everything, before he eventually turns his attention at me. The smile has turned soft and I note the look of concern in his eyes.

 

I think this is why I tell myself I don't need my biological father. If he's not willing to stick by me when I need him then fine. There's people that care about me; Pixis, Hannes, Mikasa. They're all people that I can completely depend on.

 

"You should get some rest." He tells me. I don't know what time it is, but I know it's work-o'clock at least. I have an alarm set for when I needed to leave him and head in so I wouldn't miss it and didn't have to keep a constant eye on the time.

 

My son needed both of my eyes.

 

"I did before." I half lie. I had slept in the chair for an hour or so but this doesn't seem to please Pixis really. He just sighs and shakes his head.

 

"Stubborn as always too. Do you never change?"

 

"You love me really." I chuckle, trying to sway his concern with my smiles.

 

Surprise, sur-fucking-prise, it doesn't work. Pixis is too smart and too old for my tricks.

 

"He's okay, Eren." He says, his voice that perfect doctor-y mixture of soft, caring and harsh, 'you will listen to me'. "Honestly. I wouldn't lie to you. He's okay and he'll be able to get out of here if not tomorrow then the next day. Really, we're just keeping him here as a precaution." He tries to assure me for what must have been the millionth time. He's said it, nurses have said it, Mikasa's said it- hell, I've told myself.

 

"I know." I mumble, my gaze dropping a little.

 

"I know you care about him, Eren, and I don't want to sound harsh or uncaring. Honestly, if it was my own son or grandchild then I'd be the same. I just don't want you to become my patient either, okay? You need to get some proper rest for me, for him." He tries as I ruffle my own hair again awkwardly, digging my tooth into the side of my cheek.

 

There is it again; the same defensive stab I feel as I had with that bitch of a nursery owner. It's not the exact same. She was judging, was telling me my son had caused shit when he hadn't. I know it's not what he's trying to do, but there's this angry part of me that's yelling in my head that Pixis is trying to stop me from seeing my son.

 

Rest. Leave his side. He'll be okay without you.

 

That part of my brain points out that Pixis is friends with my father. Perhaps he's working with him, trying to get Armin taken off me. Perhaps he thinks himself- without the help of my father- that I'm unfit to look after him.

 

After all, it is my fault that he's sick.

 

"Eren." He says. I blink and he's come over to me, frowning and I feel the heavy hand of his come down onto my shoulder. I'm half inclined to shrug him off harshly. I don't need anyone's pity or help- it's just me and Armin against the world.

 

But then he squeezes my shoulder reassuringly and I let my hands fall into my lap, my head bowed a little.

 

I allow myself to listen to him for once.

 

Pixis isn't here to take him away from me. He's not conspiring against me or working with my father. He's just a doctor and a friend concerned for his patient and his possible-if-I-continue-like-this patient-to-be.

 

"I'm sorry." I mumble. The hand's still there.

 

"Don't be. You don't have to be sorry for wanting to protect your son." He tells me. "You just need to be a little easier on yourself. You're doing a good job. Armin's lungs aren't your fault; it's just the shit fate has decided to pull and Armin getting sick this time isn't your fault." He tells me but I huff out my disbelief.

 

Sometimes it's frustrating that this old man can read me like a book.

 

"It is. If I had just been more careful- I shouldn't have been around him. I-"

 

"If you hadn't of been around him you would have felt guiltier." He cuts me off, shaking his head. "It's not like you had an option either. Look, Eren. People get sick, kids get sick too.  Especially people who over work themselves and don't get enough sleep. And especially kids who hang around in nurseries with other snotty brats."

 

"You're starting to sound like someone else I know." I say with a small chuckle, thinking of a certain raven haired lawyer that surprisingly, I've missed these three days and once again failed at keeping up with texting.

 

That's just one more thing to feel guilty because of, I guess.

 

"Well, they probably know what they're talking about too." Pixis says, shaking his head at me. "Look, Eren, you can't keep germs away entirely and colds happen. Armin will be completely fine, I can promise you that. He's recovering well, it just took him by surprise. But all this sleep will be helping and by the end of the week, you'll have your bouncing boy back and you'll be wishing he'd be asleep."

 

I can't help but smile at that. It's small and soft but definitely there and definitely not fake.

 

I know he's right.  Of course he's fucking right, this is Pixis. The king of being right.

 

I don't answer with words so he continues.

 

"Perhaps you should give Hannes a call over the next few days?" He suggest and I turn my head up at that.

 

Pixis is familiar with Hannes as well. Him, Hannes and my father had been rather close as teenagers; that's what I had heard anyway. It was always hard to think of them young, to be honest, they had always been old men in my eyes.

 

"He's in Germany on business. I don't think he's due back for a month or two." I tell him, worrying my lip a little but Pixis hums.

 

"Well you could still call him." He points out, with a small shrug. "He's your God-father after all. I'm sure he'd be happy to dump everything and come back to Shingashina  for you if you asked him. Besides, if you promised him you'd teach him how to use a webcam, he can do his business on the line." Pixis tells me, looking amusingly smug that he's said all that.

 

That gets me to laugh though.

 

"It's just 'online'." I tell him, with a snort. "Not 'on the line'." Pixis waves me off, smirking a little himself as he turns to head back to the door.

 

Now I've laughed, his job is clearly done for now.

 

"I never said I was perfect." He says with a light smirk. "I'll be back in a little while to check on Armin again. Oh- that reminded me actually, he has some visitors." Pixis tells me. I can't help but frown at that, cocking my head in confusion. If it wasn't Mikasa (who Pixis already knew) then I didn't have any ideas on who these 'visitors' could be.

 

"Really?" I start, getting a nod from Pixis.

 

"Would you like me to send them away?" He asks but I shake my head- almost too quickly.

 

What do they say; curiosity killed the cat and all that?

 

"No, no. Send them in." I say. Pixis repeats his nod before he leaves us too it, just heading out for a moment and leaving me with my thoughts and the silence of the room. Well as silent as it could be with all the machines and the hissing of Armin's breaths with the machine.

 

I lean into the bed a little, my hand coming up to gently stroke along his soft, perfect cheek. He's still got his baby fat, especially in his cheeks. Perfect and round hamster cheeks that are soft to the touch. Like clouds and marshmallows.

 

My hand moves to his hair. Stroking it back off his forehead, the golden locks that are so unlike mine and so like his mothers. The mother that has never made any move to contact us. I've not changed my number in these years. I live in the same apartment we had gotten when she and I were both kicked out of our respective houses.

 

I hadn't loved her. She hadn't loved me. But we had understood that we needed to raise this baby, it was our responsibility. Or at least, I thought she had understood that.

 

Arlert.

 

Sometimes I think about why I had kept her name as his last. It wasn't like he was anything to her, and she was just a stranger on the street to him. A face in a crowd that meant nothing.

 

She had told me she hated him. Hated this precious little boy who had done nothing wrong. Hadn't asked to be born. Only become because of us and one night that we hadn't thought. She hated him for our lack of thoughts. I, however, didn't have it in me.

 

I couldn't. I couldn't be angry at him for longer than five minutes never mind hating him. He was pure and perfect and precious. He was the embodiment of everything right in the world. I just wanted him to be safe and happy, feel loved. Because I do. I love him so fucking much. More than I ever thought I physically could.

 

It was a physical ache.

 

"Knock knock." A voice sounds from the door again. Very un-Pixis like as well and I flick my gaze up, pausing my hand on my son's head. His fringe stroked back off his face.

 

"Shush, he's sleeping." Another hissed, behind the door when he spoke but I knew who it was before I even saw him.

 

Not only was it obvious when Isabel walked in with a large 'get well soon' ballon that Levi would soon follow, but that voice was something that already got my ears twitching and my heart racing.

 

Get a hold of yourself, Eren, for the love of God. What are you, twelve?

 

"Oh- Hi!" I smile. A proper smile. The first proper smile I've had all week.

 

"Hiya," Isabel says, returning it with a small giggle but her voice is now set at a whisper as they both come in and hoover near the door. "We just thought we'd quickly pop in to see how he's doing." She tells me softly.

 

I had, of course, phoned her the first morning Armin had been brought in to make sure that she knew why he wasn't coming in. I had already bailed on one day and I didn't want to start taking the piss.

 

She has already been so kind to my little family.

 

"Aww, that's so sweet." I say softly, the smile still present as I flicker my gaze down to Armin. "He's having a little snooze at the moment, but you're welcome to stay for a bit. He'll probably wake up soon." I chuckle, my eyes glancing up to Levi.

 

I feel a little giddy stealing the glance, like it was something I shouldn't be doing. We're still nothing more than- I dare say- friends, but there's a little something in my heart that seems to be set aside specially for him.

 

"How is he?" Levi asks, his gaze down at Armin so he misses my look. I don't know whether I'm happy about that or sad.

 

"He's doing okay." I say. "The doctor says he'll be able to go home tomorrow or the day after. They're basically just making sure at this point." I finish and Levi gives a small nod.

 

"Shitty germs." He grumbles and I can't help but nod at that.

 

"Shitty germs, indeed." I repeat, my gaze turned back to Armin too. He looks so peaceful, sleeping like that.

 

Isabel comes over and takes the seat near the window that’s been empty for the entire time we've been in this room, Levi comes and takes the one that's usually occupied by Mikasa when we're together.

 

Meaning he's close.

 

"Isabel told me when I came into clean today." He says, leaning forward a little on his arms. "I swear, brat, you have a phone for a reason. I keep worrying you've gotten yourself fucking abducted or something." He huffs at me, rolling his eyes but I can't help but smile softly.

 

"Sorry." I say honestly. I am. "I meant to text you sooner."

 

"It's okay." Levi shrugs, awkwardly rubbing his hand on his undercut as he sits there. Isabel is watching us intently, probably watching for signs of something. The same things I'm waiting for. I feel her gaze, I just don't meet it.

 

"I'll try be better at keeping you in the loop."

 

"You better." Isabel laughs, obviously forgetting the whisper and then remembering mid-sentence. "I swear if you haven't it's all I hear about when he comes in." She giggles, mostly in response to the glare that Levi shoots her.

 

"Shut up. It's not." He grumbles but she snorts.

 

"Is too." Ah, they're definitely siblings. How did I ever think they were anything more; it makes so much sense now. "You come in with that little pout of yours and I have to ask 'what's wrong' and, of course, it's because a certain 'brat' hasn't texted him back." She tells me with a smile.

 

I can't help the blush. Honestly, I've always thought that I was pissing Levi off texting him. His replies are short and blunt whereas mine are full of emojis and laughs. I guess it's just the way he text; I had grown used to it, but now knowing he actually anticipated my texts- it made my flush.

 

"Fuck off." Levi mumbles, looking the other way as he leans back. His arms cross over his chest defensively.

 

"It's true though, you can't deny it."

 

"Fuck off." He repeats. "You're worse than Shitty Glasses."

 

"Hey," I gasp, jokingly placing my hands over Armin's ears. He only stirs lightly, mumbling and then snuggling into his toy. "So my profanity and my son is only centimetres away." I shake my head, but I, honestly, can't help the small giggle that escapes my lips again.

 

"Sorry, brat." Levi says, his own tone softer. This gets Isabel grinning again.

 

"Sorry, brat." She imitates before giggling as Levi flips her the bird.

 

"I swear to God, I will bake laxatives into your meals and have you shitting for a week if you don't shut up." He glares. I laugh again. "What?"

 

"Just sibling love." I chuckle, shaking my head. I miss this actually. Sure, me and Mikasa were never as- well- we were never like Levi and Isabel. But we had our moments of messing around. To be honest, I even missed the bickering.

 

Things were more stressed now-a-days.

 

I either didn't see her or I only did before I went to work or after I crawled back in. Exhausted and wishing for bed.

 

Things eased a little when Hannes was there though. Sometimes it would feel like we were actually a family bigger than two. Perhaps I would phone him.

 

"Soppy brat." Levi rolls his eyes. I don't miss the wink Isabel gives before-

 

"Soppy brat." She repeats, putting on a fake guff voice. Levi glowers and snaps her head at her, both Isabel and I burst out laughing. Probably a little too loud but it feels good. Really good.

 

"Mm- dada?" Armin starts, snuffling awake at the disturbance. Isabel practically cuts of her laughs there and then, realising we've just woken the sick child, but I can't.

 

"Look what you've done." Levi whisper snaps at Isabel, but I ignore him for now.  They just quieten a little into chuckles and I look down at Armin, smiling.

 

"Good morning, Sleeping Beauty." I say softly, my hand is back stroking his hair. "How're you feeling?" He shakes his head, which makes me frown a little bit. The laughs stop as worry takes over. I'm about to ask him what's wrong but he beats me to it.

 

"No sleepin' beaut." He mumbles sleepily, large eyes blinking slowly passed the harsh light the stark white room is giving off.

 

"No?" I ask softly.

 

"Cindy." He says before yawning. It's cute until it's cut short by a few coughs. They're not as harsh as they have been though; that keeps me relatively calm.

 

I try distract him.

 

"Oh! Cindy?" I chuckle, tickling his lightly flushed cheek as the coughs leave him and he's left there trying to get his breath back. "I think you're not Cindy, you're the little chubby mouse." I say after a small hum, stroking his cheek. "What's his name?"

 

Cinderella has always been Armin's favourite.

 

"Gus Gus!" Armin giggles, wriggling a little but I try and make sure he doesn't try and wriggle out of the bed or away from anything that he's hooked up to. "No, no, dada's Gus Gus."

 

"Really? I think dada's Prince Charming." I try but Armin shakes his head again, giggling lightly.

 

It's nice to see him smile.

 

"No, no, no. Gus Gus." He tells me again, giggling. I give in.

 

"Okay. Dada's Gus Gus, and you're Cindy." I tell him, kissing his cheek.

 

"Ya." He says sleepily, blinking a few times and almost falling back to sleep before he looks up at me with those big eyes I can't resist. "Sing Cindy?" He asks quietly. If I had the ability to say no to him, I probably would have said no. But the amount of times Armin draws me in and I forget that we have people around us and can't deny him what he wants.

 

"Okay." I say softly, kissing his head and starting to stroke is hair again. "But you have to stay awake." I tell him, though I know this is often what gets him to sleep. Especially on those nights the neighbours are screaming and the dogs downstairs are barking and Armin needs a cuddle and a song.

 

I take a deep breath and start humming.

 

"So this is love, mmmm,

 

So this is what makes life divine,

 

I'm all aglow, mmmm

 

And now I know,

 

The key to all heaven is mine,

 

My heart has wings, mmmm


And I can fly,

 

I'll touch every star in the sky,

 

So this is the miracle that I've been dreaming of,

 

Mmmm,

 

Mmmm,

 

So this is love. "

 

I sing quietly. I know I'm not great, I suck actually. Properly ruin the song, but Armin loves it and I love him. He blinks through it, listens to me and tries to battle against the eyelids that act like weights, pulling them down and trying to get him to fall back to sleep.

 

He resists though, probably sleepier than before though and when I'm done, I kiss his head again.

 

 "You have guests." I say, moving slightly so he can see- at first- Levi, who gives a soft smile and then Isabel, who's smile is a lot wider than her brother's.

 

"Hello sweetheart." She says softly. There's this expression on her face that isn't a grimace (that I would have expected to see from my awful singing) but I'm too embarrassed to properly search it. She just comes over and stands a little closer. "We just wanted to come and say hi. Everyone's missing you at the nursery." She says, showing him the balloon. "We got you this to hope you got better soon."

 

Armin grins happily, both at seeing his friends and at the balloon. I can't help but the swell in my heart at the expression. It's too much for my dada-heart.

 

"Ank you." He says. No; that's too much.

 

Isabel gives a little squeal before gently leaning down to kiss his forehead too, Armin giggling in reply and I see the blanket covering him wriggle just where his feet would be.

 

"It's totally fine, sweetie. You just make sure you're all well again soon and then we can play all day!" She says softly and Armin nods at her, obviously still sleepy or perhaps just waking up. Perhaps sleepy because he was waking up.

 

"Ya." He says, happy all the same.

 

"I hope you didn't catch this illness from healing me." Levi says from the side of me. Armin had told me about them playing doctors; it was cute that Levi seemed to remember this too. I move a little to smile softly at him as Armin shakes his head.

 

"No, no, no!" He says again, possibly the most animated thing he's said since he had woken up. "New nasty." He giggles.

 

"Oh?" Levi hums and I raise an eyebrow too.

 

"Is it not dada's nasty that you got? Not Levi's." I ask, looking down at him but he hums a before nodding.

 

"Ya! Icky dada." He giggles. "No Levi's." He repeats, wriggling again before he pulls the toy up close to him. I move to sit back down on the chair instead of hovering over the bed and smile at Levi.

 

Isabel started giggling with Armin about something, but Levi and I have finally made proper eye contact and I feel like this is my chance to talk to him today.

 

Though, he also looks like he's struggling with this moment too. Trying to rack his brains for something or the right thing to say.

 

"Sorry I came." He says. Out of everything in the world he could; he chose that. I raise my eyebrow, a smirk crossing my lips.

 

Hell, he's even more incompetent than me.

 

"Why?" I ask, cocking my head. This seems to throw him a little and he shrugs, looking down at his hands and puffs out a sigh.

 

"I don’t want to come across like I'm fucking stalking you." He mumbles, his voice low enough and Armin distracted enough that I let him off with the swearing. This time.

 

"You're not." I chuckle and he glances at me again.

 

"Isabel told me you were here."

 

"I guessed." I say, my expression softening. "I'm sorry that I didn't text back."

 

"It's okay. You had your reasons." He shrugs, obviously trying to play it off like he didn't really care. Part of me believes it, but from what Isabel had said before, I try remind myself that this is just a façade.

 

"Still. It's inexcusable if you were waiting for my texts." I tease, wiggling my eyebrows a little and this time he shoots his glare at me.

 

"I'm not a fucking dog, brat. I don't just sit there pining for you until my phone buzzes." He scoffs. In fairness, though, I quite liked the image of that. Levi waiting for his phone to buzz, getting increasingly frustrated when I didn't and then leaping to his phone when I did.

 

Yeah, I liked that a lot.

 

"Of course not." I smirk, his glare continues though before he turns away.

 

"Leave me alone." He tries, but there's a dusting of pink across his cheeks. I poke it with a giggle.

 

"I'm not the stalker here." I tease, giggling, a hell of a lot happier than I was before they arrived. "You stop stalking me."

 

"Would you two just get together already?" Isabel pipes up from across the room, a wide grin across her cheeks. I guess my blush is a lot darker than Levi's, but nervous laughter is replaced by actual laughter when Armin joins in.

 

"Ya! Together already." He repeats, sounding even more sassy than she did. He finishes it off with one of the eyerolls Levi had taught him- something I had been seeing quite often, especially when I asked him to do things. It wasn't actual disobedience, as he did them and giggled but the sass was still there.

 

"Exactly, Armin." Isabel laughs and shakes her head. "They're so silly."

 

"Silly billys!" Armin says, copying her head movement too.

 

"Alright, alright." Levi replies, waving his hand at them to brush them off. "Go back to conspiring." He tells them both before turning back to me.

 

He takes a small breath before letting it out and reaches into his pocket.

 

"Look," He says, holding something out to me. "I got you these." Levi tells me, handing me a piece of paper that I take from him slowly and unfold, a look of confusion deep set on my face.

 

It takes me a minute to read it all, take it all in. It was a ticket; that much was obvious. Bought online and printed out onto glossy printer paper that obviously comes from Levi's office.

 

Entry for three to the aquarium in Trost.

 

My mouth opens a little bit. He's blacked out the price total on the side of the page but I'm not stupid. It's why I've never taken Armin; it's bloody expensive, even for the two of us, never mind three tickets.

 

"Levi," I start, turning my head to look at him, my eyes wide. I don't really know what to say other than; "It's so expensive." I say, my voice quiet, my expression transforming into a frown but he waves me off.

 

"Don't worry about it, brat." He says. It's obvious it's not struggling for money- not like me and Armin are anyway. His business is successful; I've already seen him in at least three different suits and suits are bloody expensive too.

 

Don't worry about it. How can I not?

 

"But-" I start, looking down at the tickets again. I know Armin will love this, it'd make him so fucking happy and I'm not going to lie, I adore stuff like this too. But- "You hardly know us." I say, frowning. It wasn't a lie. He didn't. I didn't mean to make him feel weird about that fact and I definitely did like him, but he didn't.

 

Not enough to spend this amount of money on us anyway. We were just friends.

 

"I'd like to get to know you more." He says quietly, his gaze not leaving mine although every bone of my body is telling me to divert it. It's embarrassing, it's awkward, my cheeks are flushed and I don't know what to say.

 

I seem to settle with; "I'd like that too."

 

It's a soppy reply but he gives a half smile and nods.

 

"Good. Well, we can go when Armin's feeling up to it." He tells me. "It's payback for the date you stood me up on and then not texting me for fucking ages." He smirks.

 

"I'm sorry."

 

"It's fine. Just turn up to this and all will be forgiven." He tells me, fluffing his undercut again and I break out into a wide smile.

 

"Thank you." I say honestly, my stomach flipping. "Armin will love this. Hell- so will I."

 

"I knew it. You're a massive fucking kid- what am I getting myself in for." He chuckles lightly, dry washing his face but his expression is soft. His sharp features relaxed and beautiful.

 

"Can't help it. Like father like son." I giggle. Levi rolls his eyes again.

 

"Great. A family of brats." He teases before letting out a sigh. He's embarrassed and now he's done his job, he's keen to get out of there. That much is evident in the way he stands after checking his watch. "Isabel, come on. We better head home. Furlan will be thinking I've kidnapped his fiancé." He says as his sister looks up from plating a segment of Armin's fluffy hair.

 

"Aww, Furlan can wait." She giggles but doesn't resist any more than that. Just stands slowly and kisses Armin's head. "Okay, sweetie, I'll see you again soon. You get a good night sleep and get well." She says, Levi nodding too.

 

"Yeah, what she said." He tells him. "And look after your dada, make sure he doesn't get into any trouble."

 

"Ya!" Armin nods, beaming widely. "No troubles! Naughty dada." He giggles, turning his head to me to waggle a tiny finger.

 

"Good." Levi smirks before heading to the door again. "Get some rest, brat." He tells me, Isabel waving and blows a kiss to Armin.

 

He blows one back, calling his goodbyes and they're gone.

 

Leaving Armin, me, three tickets to Trost Aquarium and my flipping heart behind.

 

Chapter Text

EREN POV 

 

As Pixis promised, Armin's discharged two days later.

 

I take extra precautions when we leave though, wrapping him up like a little burrito just for the short trip from the hospital reception to the parked car. I don't want to risk having to make a three-sixty and head straight back in if Armin gets sick again.

 

Luckily, he manages the trip to the car without catching the plague or bird flu. In fact, we manage to get home and go through the next few days disease free too.

 

I give him another day or two to make sure that it says that way so it's Friday night when I text Levi to organise our date.

 

Basically I just announce the news that Armin's germ free enough to venture out into the world again without me building him a personal and protective vivarium to keep him safe, away from germs and at a nice, toasty temperature all year round.

 

I suggest Saturday and Levi claims he's free then too. I have to wonder whether he would have taken the day off if I hadn't texted him or not; I was quickly learning that Levi was the definition of workaholic and I had joked with him about him living in that office. I was starting to doubt he even bothered to pay for a place to live when he was there ninety percent of the time anyway.

 

To be honest, I wouldn't be surprised if he did.

 

Saturday also brings with it an uncharacteristically warm day for mid-November. It's not crazy warm, just warm enough with enough sun to throw people from spending the whole day inside so the car park is pretty quiet when we get there.

 

Levi has picked us up, and although I had insisted I drove; Levi had won.

 

I've not told Armin though.

 

I've told him that we're going out but not where to but he's excited none the less. Excited enough that he gets up even earlier than we need to, that he can barely sit still while he eats his breakfast and enough that he's smiling constantly.

 

We can head off early, mostly so we can be some of the first people through the door in case it was busy. Trost is about an hour and a half drive away from Shiganshina and with him getting up early, Armin snoozes on the drive there.

 

I'm not complaining though. A tired toddler is a difficult one, so the more sleep he gets, the happier I am that we'll have a relatively peaceful day.

 

Especially when he finds out where we're going.

 

Along with knights and castles, gardening and butterflies, rabbits, space and aliens; Armin loves the sea. To be honest, I think he loves it most of all. He's always asking for stories about the ocean or watching documentaries with me about it. He loves all types of fish and his favourites are seals, dolphins and turtles (particularly baby ones)- sometimes starfish and he also has a strange fondness for sea cucumbers but I'm convinced that's just because I call him one when he's all wrapped up in his towel after bath time. 

 

Honestly, I can't wait to just take him inside and show him the whole world. See it myself through the eyes of a three year old who loves this stuff more than anything and is seeing it all for real for the first time.

 

I've never been able to take him to an aquarium before, so I know this is going to be like Christmas for him.

 

Already my dada heart is swelling at the thought of his little face.

 

I realise I'm grinning when Levi finally pulls into a space and cuts off the engine. Armin's woken up now and is looking around, trying to see where we are. He can't read yet so the name 'Trost National Aquarium' means little to him, but the fish graphics covering the outside definitely do.

 

"Dada fishies!" He squeals, kicking his little feet as he wriggles to be free from the seat already and I can't help but laugh. I turn slightly in my seat to see him, softening my expression.

 

"That's right." I say softly. "Would you like to see some more?" I ask and he gasps, nodding.

 

"Ya!" He giggles, giving a little 'meep' of excitement. I laugh loudly at that one.

 

"Yaay! Let's go then." He beam and he wiggles again, trying to get himself out of the seat. Levi's giving us both a soft look, I catch his eye to direct my smile at him for a moment before we both get out the car to start the day.

 

It's already the best first date I think I've been on and we're not even in the aquarium yet.

 

Most potential romances I've had were broken off the moment they realised I already have a child and to be honest, I wouldn't want them to meet him. Not until I knew we were serious. Most of them were assholes; I know that now.

 

Levi, however, he's different.

 

He's taken me out on a date, but not only me. He's thought of my son, included him, brought him such happiness that honestly I don't know how to thank him.

 

"You get the child, I'll get the child's child chair." Levi tells me with a smirk as he walks around to the boot to start doing that. I give my hum of agreement and do the job I've been assigned to. It doesn't take long to unbuckle the squirming Armin and bring him over to the push chair.

 

"No, no, no!" He claims, instantly starting to wiggle in my arms away from being put in the chair.

 

"Oi." I start but he wriggles enough to make my have to bend down to avoid me dropping him or something.

 

"Don't wanna the chair."  He tells me. I smirk a little and nod.

 

"Okay, okay. You can walk, but we're going to bring it in case you need a rest later on." I tell him. Luckily it stops him from moving so much in my arms.

 

"'Kay dada." He says and- thank fuck- stands still when I place him down on the ground. It's quiet in the car park but I still worry. Levi seems to get this and moves close to him to make sure he doesn't make a break for it while I check that we have everything in the bottom of the push chair.

 

Oxygen tank and cannula; check. Change of clothes; check. Bag of essential 'I own a baby and that means I need to take half the house with me everywhere I go' shit; check.

 

"We're good to go." I exclaim, standing up and grinning as Levi nods simply.

 

"Okay." He replies, looking down at Armin. "You ready to see some fish, Little Man?" He asks him and Armin beams, craning his head to look up at Levi as he bounces.

 

"Ya! Ya!" He giggles. "Fishies! Gotta, gotta hold our noses." He informs us but I give him a little frown as he takes a deep breath and holds it.

 

"Hey, none of that." I tell him, gently moving his hand away from holding his nose. To be honest, it's the stab of protectiveness in my heart that makes me do it. I don't want him agitating his lungs any more than they already are by holding his breath.

 

"We don't need to, it's magic." Levi says suddenly, giving Armin a small smile. Honestly, my son's ears prick up at the mention of 'magic'; it's that easy to get his attention.

 

"Magic?" Armin asks, eyes wide and expectant. I feel my whole being soften not just my expression.

 

Levi nods again.

 

"Yes. It's a magic building that lets us see the fish swim but we don't have to hold our breath to do it. We can breathe and they can breathe " He says. I'll have to thank him later for saving my son from the previously impending attack if he had continued.

 

"Really?" Armin gasps, his little hands coming up to his mouth in comic shock. "No swimmin?"

 

"Yes, really. No swimming- not for us anyway. Just the fish. Shall we go see?"

 

"Ya!" Armin squeals, bouncing as I start to push the chair forward and hold out my hand for him. He ignores it though and instead takes Levi's.

 

We both appear shocked for a moment, Levi especially. He doesn't really know what to do and I shoot him an apologetic expression and am about to say something but Levi shakes his head. His expression softens and his fingers wrap around my son's tiny hand. Holding it back and walking with him towards the entrance of the aquarium.

 

Levi takes charge getting us in. He hands over the tickets and gets us wrist bands so we can go and come back in at our leisure. I swear, even I'm getting excited.

 

It takes us a few minutes to go through the notions, but soon we're pushing through the doors and fuck me. It's like walking into fucking Narnia for Armin.

 

His eyes are already wide the moment we walk into the first room and from there on in it's a constant look of amazement on his face. He's waddle-running through it all, looking at the tanks that he can and I lift him to ones he can't to start with.

 

It starts off reasonably slow, just general all round excitement until one tank in particular catches the attention of my son and he's off.

 

"Dada!" He gasps, pointing to a tank and waddling over, pulling Levi along with him. "Hee-horsies!" He calls as he gets to the tank, a little too small to see it properly so Levi bends and picks him up.

 

It's actually adorable to see, my heart swells as I come over. The grin- I swear- hasn't left my face all morning.

 

He peers into the tank, looking with wide eyes at the sea horses and how their tails rap around the leaves. He points again, his head turning to Levi.

 

"Oh, that one looks a bit chubby." Levi says, leaning in to inspect more as I come up and watch it swimming from one plant to the next gracefully, although Levi was right, it was chubby.

 

"Plump!" Armin giggles, wriggling a little in Levi's arms to lean back and pat his belly.

 

"You are too?" Levi asks, giving a light chuckle as Armin nods.

 

"Too plump and chubby." He says happily. I can't help the smile, leaning over to gently kiss the top of Armin's head.

 

"We'll have to stop you eating so many sweets then." I tease, gently tickling his stomach.

 

"No, no, no!"

 

"Okay, okay." I chuckle. "Do you remember what that program said about sea horses?" I ask him, and watch as Armin wiggles his lips in thought before shaking his head and looking in closer. "That ones going to have a baby." I tell him. "Like you. Little baby Armin-Horses." I tell him and he gasps again, giving a wide smile.

 

"Baby horsies!" He squeals.

 

"Yes." I nod. "Soon that sea-horse will be doing all the things dada does." 

 

"But, but no baths!" Armin tells me, giving a firm nod and I end up catching Levi's eye. He's watching us with a smirk, patient and perfect as per usual. He doesn't seem to mind these moments of me and Armin just talking. Just listens in and lets us do our thing. I don't want him to feel like he's not involved, but I do appreciate his understanding.

 

Luckily, he speaks before I get to feel too bad about him not.

 

"It's like bath time for them all the time." He points out. "They're always swimming."

 

"Armin likes swimming, don't you?" I say, confirmed by Armin's nod. "Just not bath time so I think you'd do well being a sea horse." I chuckle, kissing his head again.

 

"Armin-horsie." He says happily before he starts wriggling down from Levi's grip. "Bye bye horsies." And he's off, on the floor and waddling over to the next tank and the next, Levi and I following close behind.

 

I push the pram, of course not about to make Levi do it.

 

"Sorry if this isn't what you expected our first date to be." I admit to him softly as we follow Armin through. There's some bigger tanks that he doesn't need lifting up to see into and he's watching the fish in awe, particularly a large, fat one that I swear is bigger than him. It's definitely heavier.

 

Levi gives a small hum, dragging his eyes away from watching Armin too to raise an eyebrow at me. I'm guess I just feel bad that our first date is Armin centric, enough so I feel I should apologise.

 

It wasn't quite the traditional 'let's get coffee', but then again, none of my life is really 'traditional'.

 

"It's exactly what I expected our first date to be." He says, catching me off guard a little but he soon puts me back on track as he snorts and rolls his eyes. "I bought the tickets, brat, or have you forgotten that already?"

 

I give him a soft smile, shaking my head.

 

"No, I definitely haven't." I admit, blushing a little. Add that to the list I feel bad about; Levi spending his hard earned money on us.

 

"Then don't worry." He tells me, shaking his head as he looks around.

 

"Sorry." I say again. "Just promise me if there's anything Armin does that makes you uncomfortable, just say no? He can be quite- I dunno- he likes you a lot but I understand that it can be quite daunting at first and he's pretty cling and-"

 

"Would you shut up?" Levi says. At first it hits me a little harder than expected but when I drag my gaze over his expression is so soft that it squishes my heart and makes me a little giddy. "I don't mind at all. I knew about him and I don't mind. I understand that you come as a package and I'm not lying when I said I want to get to know you. That includes your son. So quit rambling and enjoy your day off." He tells me, shaking his head.

 

It shuts my mouth up, doesn't stop my thumping heart though.

 

No one has been like this with me since- well, they've never. People are judgemental and uncommitted and scared to get involved with someone like me.

 

I'm young and I have a child.

 

Armin may be my whole world but he's like a badge of honour for teenage mistakes and there's no way I could hide such a massive part of my life from someone.

 

There's no way I could even consider liking someone who didn't like Armin either.

 

It's Armin and me against the world, has been that way for the three years of his life. He's never known anything else and he's only met one or two past and failed boyfriends of mine and soon after meeting him, they'd leave.

 

Everyone leaves.

 

Except Levi, it seems. Life- Fate- The World- who knows, but something kept bringing us together.

 

"I am enjoying it." I say honestly, smiling at him.

 

"Good." He replies quietly, turning his gaze away from what I guess is embarrassment. Just because I do the same.

 

Armin heads left into one of the offsetting rooms after pausing to allow us to see where he's heading. I give him the nod to show its okay and quickly follow him into 'Jelly Cove' as it's labelled over the door way. 

 

Armin's instantly spotted and luckily it's quiet in here because I'm almost as instantly distracted by the sight before me.

 

It's actually breath-taking.

 

There's just tank after tank filled with jellyfish, all moving around slowly, the flow of water taking them where ever. It's just instantly relaxing, beautiful and tranquil. Armin's over at one of the bigger tanks, his body just a silhouette from the lighting as he watches them move around.

 

I head over and slowly bend down next to him, watching them with him.

 

"Are, are they real?" He asks me and I can't help but give a soft laugh, nodding at him.

 

"Yeah, they're real." I say softly, glancing at him. "They're jellyfish, you remember them?" I ask and he gives me a nod, his eyes wide with amazement as he just watches them float about.

 

"Ya."

 

"They look a little bit like umbrellas, don't they." I say, glancing back at them as Levi comes up to us too, the pram just behind us. It's nice. Kind of, domestic even though I know this is only the first date and probably the last.

 

It just feels special.

 

"They don't have brains either." Levi adds. "Much like your dada."

 

"Hey-" I start, giving a defensive gasp but I can't very much continue the shielding when Armin starts giggling happily.

 

"Silly dada! Jelly heads!" He giggles, lifting his hand up to tap my head. I make a 'wobbly' noise and shake my head side to side like I'm pretending to be jelly which gets him laughing all over again. "Jelly head, jelly head!" He squeals, tapping my head again to make me repeat the action. Which- surprise, surprise- I do.

 

Even Levi's chuckling.

 

"Definitely a jelly-head then." Levi smirks, joining in by poking my side. I make my whole body wobble at that.

 

"Jelly every-thing!" Armin squeals. I grin.

 

"Does it run in the family?" I ask him that gets him shaking his head. "Shall we check?" I ask, poking him gently. He giggles at first before copying my 'wobble' on the spot, wiggling his whole body.

 

"Oh, it's a family of jellies." Levi says, rolling his eyes.

 

"Levi jelly too!" Armin gasps, patting his leg and for a moment Levi just watches him, not really reacting. It's okay though, as I had explained to him before, there's boundaries that come with a first date and Armin's a little too young to understand them. It's up to me to put them in place with him so I gently place a hand on my son's back, opening my mouth to say something but-

 

Levi wiggles.

 

Not very big, granted. Not a full 'jelly wobble' but enough to get Armin squealing and me laughing at how his hair moves with it. Laughing even more that his expression is almost apathetic as he does it before transforming into a smirk making him look even more attractive to me.

 

Hell- the fact that he's willing to wobble like a jellyfish for my son is enough.

 

Armin squeals happily and starts bouncing.

 

"Jellies!" He yaps, turning back to watch the fish again as I exchange a smile with Levi. I'm honestly so fucking grateful for him right now.

 

He's done so much for us already, even just by bringing us here. It's honestly so fucking welcome, and so relaxing to just spend my Saturday with my son and Levi that it feels like I've been on a two week holiday.

 

The tension that's almost always pulling at my shoulders and clenching at my jaw, beating down on my head, has eased.

 

Right now, there is nothing to worry about it the world. No bills or illnesses or family feuds.

 

We're just a little family of jellies plus one spending the weekend together.

 

I honestly don't think I've been this genuinely happy for years.

 

"I think the next room had little rays in you can touch." Levi says to Armin, who's instantly captivated by his every word. "Do you want to go look?"

 

"Ya!" Armin gasps. Levi nods and stands, followed by me but once again my offer for Armin to take my hand is replaced by him taking Levi's.

 

"I see." I smirk. "This is just a massive ploy for you to start stealing my son." I joke as I- almost reluctantly- go back to just pushing the empty pram instead.

 

"Of course, brat. That's the entire reason." Levi replies, rolling his eyes. "It's working, isn't it?"

 

"Shut up." I say, watching Armin practically drag the fully grown man with him as he heads back in the way we came.

 

"Shush up!" He repeats, giggling happily.

 

"Oi, that's not for you." I roll my eyes, following them both but Armin's fast and he's more interested in the tank in front of us now.

 

Levi senses this and bends down to scoop him up, bringing him over to the tank and keeps a firm grip on him so he doesn't end up wriggling into the water.

 

"Wow." I manage, coming up next to them too  and looking down into the water that's full of little rays, all dancing about. Already they're coming over to us too, showing us their bellies and swimming around excitedly. "Look Armin, they're smiling." I point to show him and he smiles back, giving them a way.

 

"Ello!" He giggles. I join him in waving.

 

"Hello Mr and Mrs Rays," I chuckle, "can we pleased tickle you?"

 

Of course, they don't answer, but the aquarium worker close by gives us a soft smile, a little nod and I go ahead.

 

"Okay, Armin, we can." I say, Levi raising an eyebrow.

 

"Dada can speak 'ray' now can he?" He smirks but I stick my tongue out at him, making sure that Armin can't see.

 

"Blib blibble blib blib." Armin babbles away before giggling.

 

"What?" I snort which gets his cheeky little grin to grow even wider.

 

"Saying ray!" He claims, it clicks suddenly and I nod.

 

"Ah, picking up your language skills from your father?" I tease, kissing his head. "Blib blib blib?" I say to a ray that sticks its little nose up out of the water and then gently move my hand down to touch it's back gently.

 

"Dada me!" Armin claims, trying to reach his hand in but I gently take it to guide him.

 

"Gentle now. Softly." I say as I bring his hand down into the water and it slides across the back. He instantly bursts into giggles.

 

"Blib!" He squeals and I just shake my head and laugh.

 

"Levi needs a translation, he's not as good with these aquatic languages as you are, sweetie." I point out but Armin just wrinkles his nose with another giggle.

 

"I touch it! I touch it- he Slime-y, smile-y!" He says, trying to reach back down. I guide him once more before letting him try alone as I gently stroke another one.

 

"Don't you want to touch one, Levi?" I ask him and turn to see him shake his head, still holding my son steady.

 

"No thanks. I'm good without the fish germs, thanks brat." He says. I shrug.

 

"Your loss. These things are little cuties."

 

"Cute-ies!" Armin squeals, tickling another as it glides past him.

 

"Oh really?" Levi smirks lightly, making sure that Armin was okay before peering into the tank a little bit more. One comes up to him and sticks its little nose out like it just had with me too, splashing a little as it spins in the water before going back under. "They're okay." He says.

 

"Wow Levi, calm down there. Might blow us all away with your enthusiasm." I laugh, rolling my eyes. He either was just a tough crowd to please or found it difficult to admit that he found it cute. I think it was the latter. Levi didn't seem one to wear his emotions on his sleeve.

 

"Fu-" He starts, shooting me a glare but he stops himself before he full swears. "Go away."

 

I smile smugly.

 

"Yeah, too right. Keep it PG, Levi." I warn, giggling as I wiggle my eyebrows at him.

 

"You're such a brat, you know that?"

 

"I try."

 

"You succeed."

 

"I-"

 

"Dada! It dancin!" Armin squeals, cutting us both off and forcing me to turn to look down at the water to see some of the rays twirling again.

 

"Oh wow," I say, "like a proper ballerina."

 

"A-rina! A-rina!" Armin giggles happily, wriggling a little but Levi's grip is firm and safe.

 

"Exactly." I say softly, laughing lightly at him too.

 

We stay at the ray pool for another ten minutes. Armin is completely engrossed in them and even ends up asking if we can take on home, promising he'll look after it and he won't even fuss at bath time any more. That's apparently where he would keep it; in the bath and feed it Schecke's left overs and share his puddings with it.

 

Honestly, it kind of hurts to say no considering his little expectant face, but obviously I do. Although I want to give him the world, I'm sure there was some laws about fish-napping rays and keeping them in baths.

 

Eventually we move on, walking through the aquarium and looking at everything we possibly can. The novelty doesn't wear off, Armin's amazed by all of it. So am I, to be perfectly honest. I find it amazing that we can have so much of the world so close by. It upsets me a little though that it's all just in a tank and not in the sea, but I promise myself that one day I'll take Armin there and he can see it all for real.

 

Wild and free.

 

I think our favourite part is the tunnel, however. It's certainly mine.

 

Armin's whole face is lit up by the light of the tunnel and the smile that's covering his whole face. Dancing in his eyes.

 

I'm thankful I'm holding him on my hip now; I'm able to watch the wonder in his face from close up. Watch him as he drinks it all in, his cheeks straining with the smile.

 

He can't keep up with it. The moment his large eyes flick to follow one fish, another catches his attention. Another more colourful, bigger, faster. A large group.

 

And we're standing right in the middle of it all.

 

He's craning his neck, trying to see all the fish as they literally swim around us, over us, past us. It's like literally being under the sea and even I'm taken a back. There's so many fish, almost too many to keep our eyes on and I feel myself mirroring my son in his wonder. Following them as they swim.

 

It's beautiful.

 

More than beautiful. Each and every one of them gliding through the tank effortlessly, every one of their scales glinting back in Armin's eyes.

 

"Dada!" Armin suddenly squeals, pointing a small finger as a large shark swims over us. "Ark!"

 

I gasp too, smiling at his reactions.

 

"Wow! He's a big boy, isn't he?" I chuckle and Armin twists a little in my arms to watch it pass us.

 

"Big boy!" He repeats, giggling happily before he swings his head back round to look more. I swear, no matter how much he looks, he could never see it all.

 

"Bet he gobble up naughty boys for tea." I say, gently turn a kiss to the cheek to ticklish gummy 'nibbles' to his cheek which he giggles at.

 

"No, no, no!" He laughs, wriggling again in my arms.

 

"He'll be eating dada tonight then." Levi says from next to us, his expression is soft and as I turn to look at him, I'm taken a back about- well- how stunning he is.

 

The blue light reflects on him, casting this magical look on him as the water dances against his pale skin. His sharp features, chiselled jaw line and his perfectly angled nose- all brought together with the expression of softness as he watches us. He's hot, attractive, but he's also more than that.

 

Levi's different. Different from anyone else I've ever met.

 

He takes me breath away.

 

"You okay there, brat?" He asks, smirking slightly and I swear he's blushing lightly. The ocean blue contradicts his cheeks, a perfect mask, but I'm starting to see through him. Starting to learn about him.

 

I let out a small breath, my lips parting slightly and I save myself by turning it into a smile.

 

"Yeah." I say, breathy and embarrassing. I try save  it with a small laugh. "Just don't want to get eaten by a shark." I shrug but Levi's smirk turns into a genuine smile. It's small, but there. It also lights up his eyes and once again I find myself breathless.

 

"I'll save you." He promises me and I feel us making eye contact in the most movie-moment kind of way. I'm just allowing myself to lap up this moment, try and freeze frame the picture in my mind forever.

 

Gorgeous Levi and a little piece of the ocean behind him.

 

And then he leans in, definitely flushes and stops.

 

I don't though but still a little embarrassed myself, the kiss that my hearts telling to place on his lips, lands on his cheek instead. Pressing into that soft skin and trying my damn hardest to fuel my entire emotion through the small connection our skin is having. To thank him, to tell him he's beautiful and I can't believe he's done this and I'm so happy and he's made my son happy. I try and tell him everything I've ever felt, that all those nights I've cried thinking I can't do anything right has been worth it for this one day that everything's okay in. And it's all because of him.

 

It's fleeting, not exactly a proper kiss, but it's enough. Enough to light everything up inside me and make my heart leave my chest.

 

It's perfect; magical.

 

I blush though, turning away without saying anything to distract myself with my son. Levi's blushing too, his mouth opening a little and closing but he also says nothing.

 

I know it. We're both idiots.

 

"Dada- look-" Armin says happily, innocently unaware of the plethora of emotions running through my veins and just adds to it with his simple point.

 

 He's showing me a tiny fish.

 

Out of the whole massive tank of huge sharks and enormous fish that he could choose from, he's pointing to a teeny, tiny little yellow one. It's not doing much, enjoying its day, happy away from all the busy rest of the tank, enjoying nibbling on a little bit of leaf from a plant near the bottom.

 

That's Armin's fish.

 

"He- he's my fav-e-rat." Armin tells me, laying his head on my shoulder as he watches, amazed by even such a tiny thing. 

 

"He's my favourite too." I say softly, pressing a kiss to his forehead and so filled with love that honestly, I can hardly contain myself.

 

I just hug Armin close with one arm. The other, I move down to Levi and slowly- tentatively- take his hand in mine.

 

As he had with Armin, it takes him a moment. I almost think he's going to pull away, but his warm fingers wrap themselves around mine. Intertwined together.

 

His hand doesn't leave mine through the rest of the aquarium, and I can't help but love that.

Chapter Text

EREN POV 

 

I took in a deep breath and pressed my nose into the top of Armin's hair. Breathing in his freshly cleaned scent.

 

He smelt like bath bubbles and apple shampoo and baby. The scent completely relaxed me, always has and always will.

 

We were doing our usual routine, slobbing in front of the TV for a little while before I headed to work, however it wasn't completely 'usual'.

 

Levi's currently sat at the small kitchen table, keeping the constant reminder of his presence up as he turns over a piece of paper or types on his laptop. As he has done a few times since the aquarium visit.

 

We're not together. Not in a relationship sense anyway. Well, we might be? Nothing's been said on the matter, and I know we're not twelve years old and don't really need to say anything but I still kind of do want to ask where we stand.

 

There had been no more cheek kisses. But we don't avoid physical contact as much as we have done. I don't know whether one date is enough to take things forward. In fact, since the aquarium we've not done anything to further our relationship in anyway except for the fact that I've insisted he comes over at least once a week to have a proper meal and to get him out of that god forsaken office.

 

It had taken a bit of convincing, just because it was obvious Levi was still fairly concerned about being a bother or something. It was just fairly amusing because I was worried for the exact same thing, just from him.

 

But we had sorted a deal.  He had agreed to come over if he cooked; both me and Armin are okay with that because- well- let's say I'm no Gordon Ramsey. In fact, my cooking would probably feature on Hell's Kitchen if he had a chance to drag his camera crew in here.

 

He doesn't resist, which makes me think that perhaps we are on the right track. But then again, there's a huge elephant in the room called 'what-the-fuck-are-we' and I don't really want to be the first person to bring it up.

 

I've not done this for a while. The whole 'dating' thing.

 

I'll just sit tight and wait for Levi to make the first move.

 

Armin wiggles on my lap, bringing me back to reality as he sniffs and moves his hand up to rub his nose.

 

Normally, this wouldn't be a problem, but- unfortunately- the quiet, domestic atmosphere is not only disturbed by the quiet sounds Levi's making while he's working. There's also an oxygen tank next to us that's hooked up to my son who was having trouble with his lungs after the steamy bathroom.

 

I felt guilty once again. I had probably made it too hot, not thought. Even when I sat in there and played with his toys over the side of the bath, I hadn't thought.

 

Stupid.

 

I had only noticed when drying him off. His breathing harsher and him quieter. Honestly it broke my heart and ground it into dust at the fact that it was all my fault he was in pain, hooked up to the machine now.

 

 

"Hey, hey." I say softly to him, gently pushing his hand away from his nose and instead taking it in my own. I kiss his temple. "You can take it off soon. Just a little longer, okay?" I say softly but he's upset. He gives a little nod and wriggles again.

 

For a little boy who's always been desperate to talk; he's quiet. Almost un-Arminly so. There's no little 'kay dada' or 'ya' that answers me, just a head that places itself on my chest and a tiny hand that holds mine as I hold his.

 

He doesn’t want me to go to work. I know it. It's going to cause a fight, especially as Levi will be going too. I've promised to drop him off at the office again as Mikasa had agreed to come and baby sit again.

 

I'm not a hundred percent happy with leaving Armin with Levi yet anyway. Not for as long as I would be at work for anyway. Me going into a different room for a few minutes is entirely different than dumping my child with this guy for the entirety of my shift.

 

I didn't want to put him under pressure or feel forced. I was protective and worried about Armin's health and then I also didn't want him getting too attached to Levi just in case things went sour and we ended up never seeing each other again.

 

Levi didn't seem offended though. I think he's also a little unsure about being left alone to care for him too so we mutually and silently agreed that Mikasa's the best option.

 

Not that I really want to leave anyway.

 

I look down at Armin again, softening my expression. He's not moved, silently watching the program but not how he normally would be. His eyes are watery and his cheeks are flushed with the effort it takes to fight back the tears.

 

The guilt is all consuming.

 

"Do you want some pink milk?" I ask him softly, pressing several kisses along his forehead and hair. I try and not squeeze him too tightly in my hug, my thumb running over the soft skin of his hand and my other the fluffy onesie he's got on. I love him so much it physically hurts, especially when he's like this.

 

He mumbles and gives a little nod, once again lacking a proper reply.

 

"Okay." I say softly, before slowly standing and moving to put him down on the couch for a few moments as I go and make it. He whines the moment I do though, the tears threatening to spill over. Crying is the last thing I want him to do right now, to be honest.

 

"No dada-" He whimpers, putting his arms out for me to go back to hugging him, clearly not happy with the fact that our cuddle had been interrupted. I wasn't exactly either but I couldn't hold him, the oxygen tank and make him pink milk.

 

"I'll be right back." I assure him, crouching next to him for a moment to press another kiss to his head but he instantly puts his arms around my neck and burrows his face into the crook.

 

"No dada." He repeats and I feel his body give the little tell-tale signs of 'here come the tears'. The little jumps, the sniffles, the wobbly lip, the harsh sound his breathing makes.

 

I wrap mine back around him, stroking his back.

 

"It's okay." I say softly, holding him close. "It's okay, sweetie. I'm not going anywhere, just to the kitchen. You'll still be able to see me and then I'll be right back with some pink milk." I try, but he shakes his head.

 

"No." He mumbles, not letting me go. I try and hold back the small sigh.

 

"Come on." I try again, gently starting to wiggle his arms off me. Not because I want to but I didn't want him to start crying and pink milk was his favourite. Hopefully it would cheer him up. Though the idea of it didn't really.

 

Armin starts whining again as I try and remove him from me, and I have to bite my lip. Willing myself to let go of the almost crushing guilt of even just moving.

 

"Oi, brat." Levi's voice sounds and I glance over. To be honest, I had half forgotten that he was there. "Do you want me to make the drink?" He asks from his seat, obviously turning to see what was going on with Armin's almost-crying. 

 

 There he is. My knight in shining armour.

 

"Would you mind?" I reply, a frown forming on my face as (with my small distraction) Armin fixes himself back around me, like a baby koala clinging to its mother.

 

Levi rolls his eyes and stands.

 

"I offered, didn't I?" He points out, which I can't argue with. He stands and starts practically instantly, having gotten rather used to my kitchen with the past few times he's been over cooking. For that, I'm grateful. Not only for the actually nice food that I've been getting, but also for now, I can just collect my son back into my arms. Stop his tears and save myself a bit of guilt as Levi finds his way around my kitchen.

 

"I assume by 'pink milk' you mean strawberry?" He asks, holding the milkshake powder up so I can check it. I nod.

 

"That it is."

 

"No!" Armin snaps from below, his face pulled into a large and almost humorously exaggerated frown. "Pink." He tells us, jutting his bottom lip out. I almost laugh, but instead gently kiss his head again, sitting back down and hugging him back to my chest.

 

"Don't worry Squirt, that's what Levi's making." I tell him but he grumbles.

 

"No straws-berries." I do laugh at that. With his voice and the expression, he looks like an angry little troll- just a strangely adorable one.

 

"That's what pink milk is." I tell him but he shakes his head again and- huffs.

 

"No straws-berries."

 

"Okay, okay." I say softly. "No strawberries. Just pinkness."

 

He nods at that, relaxing a little as Levi rolls his eyes but his expression is soft as he continues making it. It only takes him a few more minutes, but soon he's walking over to us with a little sippy cup. Just so he could hold it and stay close to me.

 

"Here you go, little man." He says, handing it over to him. "One pink milk."

 

Armin looks at it for a moment, either considering whether he trusted it wasn't 'strawberry' or wondering how he could take it and not let go from hugging me. But he eventually shuffles on my lap and takes the cup from Levi.

 

"What do we say?" I prompt and Armin looks up at Levi, his 'troll' expression softening and he's back to his adorable, precious self.

 

"'Ank you, Levi." He says, shuffling again. He moves off me and pushes himself so he's standing on the couch. I make sure that the cannula doesn't pull or hurt him but it's tube is long enough for him to do what he wants. Which apparently is to lean up and gently press a soppy kiss onto Levi's cheek.

 

It's pretty funny.

 

Armin's been doing this a lot since the aquarium.

 

He's been doing a lot since the aquarium actually. Like talking about Levi and talking about how the jellyfish dance. He's been taking an interest in ballerinas and getting me to read him every book that we own about the sea. Including a huge old textbook like one that my father had given me when I had first made my interest known about the world. It covers all things geographical both both mine and Armin's favourite section is the one about the ocean.  It has pictures but it's not exactly designed for kids,  so I know that  Armin doesn't really understand it a whole lot, but he likes to look at the diagrams and I read him the simple parts and explain others to him.

 

To be honest, it's kind of bitter sweet to even look at as I realise it's probably the only thing I owned that showed that there was at least one point in my life, my father cared.

 

But on top of that; cheek kissing had become a thing.

 

I had thought that perhaps he had missed me kissing Levi's cheek, having been distracted by his little fish friend. However, obviously not. He's been kissing people's cheeks to say thank you and  goodbye and good morning and basically everything and anything he wants to say.

 

"Sorry." He says to Levi too and gives him a smile. That surprises me too actually, especially with the lack of prompting I'd done to get him to say it.

 

Levi softens his expression instantly at the kiss, his eyes wide with shock before he gives my son a little smile. Stands when he's apologises and gently lifts a hand to ruffle his hair.

 

"It's okay, kid." He says softly.

 

I let them have their moment before gently taking Armin back up in my arms and bringing him back to my lap. Levi moves to turn away, about to head back to work, but Armin makes grabby hands at him and whines again. I can't help but smirk at that.

 

"Use your words, Armin." I prompt again. He wiggles his lip and puffs his cheeks out a little.

 

"Cuddles too." He says to Levi, opening his arms to invite him in but I feel my expression lower a little. I give him a smile, sure, but it's softer as I know that he doesn't really understand what's going on.

 

Sure, me and Levi have had more physical contact over the past few days. But that meant not blushing like an idiot if our hands brushed when I handed him something. Or not feeling awkward if we bumped into each other in my small flat.

 

Not cuddling. Nothing like that.

 

Levi flickers his gaze to me, obviously unsure too.

 

"Y-you don't have to." I say, blushing like an idiot but I'm not the only one. Levi's also got a light pink tinge to his cheeks.

 

"Well-" he starts, his expression pulled into a frown. I don't know whether it's because he doesn't like the embarrassed, awkward atmosphere or whether it was because he was trying to find a way to excuse himself from doing it. "If you don't  want me to."

 

"It's not that I don't- I just don't want you to be forced-"

 

"I'm not forced. I just don't want to- be weird-"

 

"Cuddles!" Armin squeals suddenly, finally happy for the first time that evening and puts his arms out. "Cuddles, cuddles- dada bear!" He babbles. I laugh and Levi chuckles, obviously unable to resist the invitation a second time as he awkwardly sits down next to us. Awkwardly shuffle up. Awkwardly puts his arm around me.

 

I'm stiff. Equally as awkward, but Armin soon clears that up. He wriggles, moving from me so he's plopped himself half on us both, forcing us to lean in so he wouldn't slip through the space.

 

And we're officially cuddling.

 

And surprisingly, it's lovely.

 

And almost instantly not as awkward as getting there was.

 

"There you go, you've got what you wanted." I tell Armin, tickling his cheek gently as he settles down with his drink and starts paying attention to the TV.

 

"I swear to God." Levi half chuckles, glancing at me from where he was sat. He's facing the TV more though but there's no way he's more interested in the children's story time on the screen.

 

I take it more as a challenge to get his attention.

 

"I'm going to blame Isabel."  I chuckle.

 

"Sure." Levi smirks, shaking his head. " I'll blame her and Hanji for everything anyway so you can join the bandwagon on that one." He teases lightly.

 

"She's lovely though." I admit, leaning my head back against- well his arm. It would have been the couch but.

 

We're talking quietly though, our heads close. Letting Armin stay undisturbed by our talking. Levi smiles softly, also leaning his head back. We're looking at each other.

 

Noses close. Even close up he's gorgeous.

 

"You don’t have to see her every day." He flicks his eyebrow up.

 

"Correction; I do." I give a small giggle. "I have to drop and pick up a certain someone." He waves me off with his hand.

 

"Not the same. I swear, half the reason why I stay at the office so much is down to her. She's stolen my kitchen table. It's like her personal wedding planning station. Apparently their flat isn't big enough- I say bull shi- poo." He tells me and I can't help to but grin at that.

 

"Aww, but that's adorable." I giggle. "When are they getting married?"

 

"Next year." He says. "She wants a spring wedding because of flowers or some shit but she's also an impatient arsehole." He tells me before widening his eyes a little as Armin wriggles on us. Clearly realising what he had said, but luckily Armin didn't seem to bothered by our conversation. Just slowly falling asleep on our laps, drinking his pink milk.

 

"That's even more adorable." I laugh. "I'm jealous."

 

Levi frowns a little at that before his eyebrow once again raises.

 

"Why?" He asks.

 

Why indeed. Why was I jealous of Isabel?

 

"I guess I'm just a hopeless romantic." I chuckle, blushing a little. "I've always thought it was so beautiful when people get married. Imagine loving someone that much that you would promise to spend the rest of your life devoted to them, that there is no one else in the world you'd want to be with. It's beautiful." I smile a stupid sloppy smile.  He returns my expression with a soft one of his own that lasts about thirty seconds before he rolls his eyes and turns.

 

"You watch too many Disney movies." He tells me, looking back at the TV screen again. I wrestle with a few feelings for a moment; with swallowing and leaving it at that, falling quiet or to laugh and continue. I guess being on the subject of romance might lead to us being able to talk about where we are at, so I chose to laugh.

 

"I have a three year old, what do you expect?"

 

"I bet you were watching them just as much before him; don't lie." He teases, giving me a smirk. I can't argue with that, instead just puff out my cheeks in frustration before sticking my tongue out. "Real childish."

 

"Shut up." I pout, panicking a little that the subject was changing a little. Bring it back, Eren. Romance- romance. "Even without the Disney movies, it's sweet though." I say.

 

"Mm." Levi replies, gaze flickering to me.

 

"I'm guessing you think not?"

 

"Guess not." Levi hums. "I've not seen much evidence of people being so completely devoted to each other in my life." He shrugs and I soften my expression.

 

"That's sad." I  say softly.

 

"Jesus, brat. I'm not dying, you don't need to pull that face." He teases and it's my turn to roll my eyes at him.

 

"Leave my face alone." I chuckle. "I can't help it. It is sad though. You have Isabel in your life, isn't that enough proof that love and romance exists? I've never even met her fiancé and I can tell she loves him." I smile, my expression soppy as shit once again. Levi smirks lightly and shrugs.

 

"I guess."

 

I look at him. I'm curious about him actually. Perhaps this is why he's not mentioned anything about us yet, perhaps he's the one waiting for me to ask him because he doesn't believe in this kind of stuff. In dating and falling in love and getting married.

 

I guess I know that love exists. I feel it every day for a certain, wiggly someone who's currently settled on our laps. Sure, I've never loved a partner but I had seen it. Between me and Armin. Me and Mikasa. Me and my mother. My mother and father to some extent. Pixis and his family. Isabel and even the mention of her fiancé and countless other times.

 

I wanted it and I didn't mind putting my own anxieties and embarrassment aside and just ask him directly.

 

I'm about to when Levi starts speaking again.

 

"Bet  this cuddle can be completely blamed on Isabel. She's been trying to push us together for weeks." He says, a light smirk on his face. I can't help but chuckle.

 

 "Bet she's brain washing Armin to force us into situations like this." I laugh lightly but Levi raises his eyebrow at that.

 

"Forced?" He grunts. Oh shit, there's that guilt again.

 

"I didn't mean forced- I mean- I like it. Not like weird like but just like-"

 

"Brat." Levi cuts me off, his smirking again and as soon as he has my attention, he rolls his eyes. "I was joking. I like it too." He says, making me blush more than I even was before.

 

God, this guy knew how to set the fire on in my cheeks.

 

I smile a goofy, lopsided smile, unable to keep myself from laughing at that. It's definitely out of disbelief and amazement with a little sprinkle of hope. He likes this too. Cuddling me and my son, coming over for meals; I really want to ask him right now.

 

What are we?

 

I open my mouth, I'm about to answer but instead, I allow the moment to pass and instead, choose to bask in the moments that follow. In the quiet domestic feeling. In the warmth of Levi next to me and the comforting weight of Armin in front. Even the sound of his breathing is more relaxing in this situation.

 

I allow the embarrassment, the awkwardness, the general worry about what we were to fall away and just enjoy this moment for what it was.

 

Simple and sweet.

 

But simple moments are fleeting.

 

My heart goes from dulled, relaxed beating to hammering in my chest in mere seconds. The moment I hear the quiet clattering of the door. It's still too early for Mikasa. Besides, Mikasa is a knocker not a 'I'll let myself in-ner'.

 

I instantly snap my head round to it, my eyebrows shooting up in surprise. Levi sees this, turns too and frowns. It's probably good that Armin's either half asleep or distracted enough in the program to know what the hell was happening but I still wrap my arms around him protectively.

 

What the ever loving fuck-

 

I'm just about to stand, or call the cops, or send Levi to fight or fight myself or something when the door finally opens.

 

That's when I also properly tighten my grip around Armin, protectively pulling him to my chest as-

 

Someone stumbles in?

 

Bags and suitcases?

 

"Dada-" Armin starts, turning at the noise too as confused as we all fucking are to be perfectly honest.

 

It's only when all the bags are dumped in my 'hall way' and Schnecke is going mental that I recognise the thinning blonde mop. The aviator sunglasses (despite the fact it's nearing December and completely dark outside) come off and I'm greeted with a huge grin. Not too dissimilar to the lopsided one I'd just given Levi. Except this one was a lot more shit-eating and I kind of wanted to punch it.

 

"Surprise witches with a 'b'! Guess who's back." Hannes beams. I recognise him, Armin recognises him, Schnecke recognises him. Poor Levi looks like he doesn't know whether to fight the intruder or leave us to it. His arm still around me, Armin still lying on both of us.

 

"Witches!" Armin squeals. Surprise, sur-fucking-prise, wide awake.

 

"Jesus Christ- what the hell?" I snap, mostly because he's given me a fucking heart attack just barging in, and also what the hell?

 

Hannes just grins.

 

"I'm back." He says simply and I roll my eyes.

 

"I can see that." I huff. I can't lie fully though. I'm happy to see him though. Like really fucking happy. "Welcome back, I guess."

 

"El-come back Hands!" Armin squeals, wriggling off our laps but I manage to catch him before he runs over to him.

 

"Hey, hey- be careful." I sigh, catching his waist and trying to stop him continuing on his way though. Luckily Hannes uses his fucking brain and comes over instead, crouching in front of him.

 

"Bear careful there." He says as he pokes Armin's belly. A cringe worthy pun for the fact that his onesie has a fluffy bear on it. It at least amuses Armin, who giggles.

 

"Bear, bears, bear!" He squeals, opening his arms.

 

"Oh, bear hugs?" Hannes snorts, moving to bend properly and give him a big hug that takes me back to my own childhood.

 

Hannes is my God-father. He's one of the few that have always been with me, especially after my mother passed away. I think they had had something going on anyway; well from his side anyway. He had loved her, some sort of Harry Potter shit going on really. Except Hannes and my father were friends, not so much like fucking Severus Snape and James Potter. Pixis was with them too, but at least I don't think my mother stole his heart. He had married someone else, fallen in love and had his own family.

 

Hannes, however, had clung to us Jaeger's like a leech. He'd never married and basically played the 'fun uncle' or 'older brother' role in my childhood. He was always the one that me and Mikasa would love coming over. It meant we got the best German food and got to go out and play with him. He was like a big kid, or a dog.

 

Things never changed. Even at the age he was now, he was clearly the exact same.

 

But I'm grateful for him too, I guess. As much as he got on my nerves with his teasing and just general annoying personality; he had stuck by me. I owed him a lot- and specifically a lot of money.

 

He had helped me put the deposit for this place, had helped pay for some necessary things like the push chair, oxygen tanks, some medical bills. He had supported me, helped me, guided me and had basically replaced my father in my life. I was grateful, and had promised myself that I would eventually pay him back.

 

"You could have texted or something you were coming." I huff watching him cuddle my son. He just grins.

 

"It was a surprise." No shit.

 

"Obviously." I roll my eyes, pushing my hair back as he tickles my son and Armin explodes into a fit of giggles. Great. Just as he was getting relaxed enough to go to bed.

 

"Oh, what a poo-ey face you're pulling." Hannes chuckles, gently turning Armin to show him and he joins in the laughter .

 

"Poo-e!" He squeals. I groan.

 

"Why are you even here?" That's when his shit-eating grin grows ten times wider and I wish I hadn't asked.

 

"My dear friend, Doctor Dot Pixis tells me you were under a bit of a stress. I came to relieve that." He tells me, before his eyes flick over to Levi and his grin turns- honestly, evil. "Though, it looks like you're taking different approaches to relieve stress." He smirks, wiggling his eyebrows.

 

I flush deeply.

 

"What?" I frown, Hannes snorts.

 

"It's nice to meet you. Sorry for dropping in on your date." He says to Levi; strangely and uncomfortable seriously.

 

"It's okay." Levi says, which surprises me.

 

Date? He's not said it wasn't- but did that mean it was? Could you even have a date just in a house like this? Did cuddling class as a date? Fuck.

 

"I'm Hannes. Eren's God-father." He says happily, offering his hand to Levi. He takes it and gives it a firm shake. He's good at that- being a lawyer, I guess he's shaken a lot of hands. It just gets me interested in his hands.

 

"Levi." He introduces, not elaborating what his relationship was to me. Did that mean we had one? Or didn't have one? Were we even friends?

 

Eren. Calm the fuck down.

 

"Well it's nice to meet you, Levi." Hannes beams, leaning back onto his hands as Armin distracts himself with petting Schnecke. Levi gives a small nod though. "Even nicer to see that Eren's finally spreading his wings in the world of romance." He teases.

 

"Leave me alone." I tell him, chewing my lip to try and distract my cheeks from deepening their flush.

 

"Oh." Levi smirks, obviously pleased with the teasing that's started now that Hannes has barged his way back into my life once again. "Spread his wings?" He asks, raising his eyebrow.

 

"Ah yes, it's been a while but you're obviously easing him back in nice and slow." Hannes chuckles, giving Levi a wink. "Or were you just waiting for this little squirt to go to bed before you started the real fun?" He asks and I groan.

 

"No, I already told you. I have work." I snap at him but he grins at my red face.

 

"It's okay, Eren. Everyone does it and you wanting this guy's um- der Rüssel - what is it-"

 

"Hannes!" I squeak, shaking my head quickly. Fuck, he's so embarrassing.

 

"Come on, what's the word?" He half pleads, his German to English skills obviously rather rusty now that he's back here.

 

I cover my face and mumble between my fingers.

 

"Trunk." I say, barely audible.

 

"Yes!" Hannes laughs, his voice a million times louder than mine. "Wanting his trunk is only natural." He smirks, clearly trying desperately to hold back the laughs when we both widen our eyes.

 

"Hannes!"

 

"Fuc- Jesus." Levi starts.

 

"Oh- so you haven't." Hannes laughs, shaking his head. "Well you know if you ever need Uncle Hannes to come look after Armin while you to get down and jiggy with it then I'm happy to help. As long as you're safe and look after my God-child. I know he's never had the goods up any sensitive areas so if you're one for putting it in instead of taking it then just make sure he's okay." Hannes tells Levi.

 

I'm fucking mortified and instantly get up from the couch.

 

"Right." I snap, eyes wide and cheeks red as shit. "Armin, bedtime." I tell him. His face turns up to me and I have to thank everything holy for a second that he's a) too young to understand anything that Hannes has just been insinuating and b) that Schnecke exists to distract him and protect his innocents.

 

"No, no, no!" Armin whines, falling a little onto Schnecke as in to grip onto him.

 

"No, no, no bed." I say, trying to get him. Gently wrapping my arms around his body and picking him up from Schnecke.

 

"Aww, don't be a buzzkill, Eren." Hannes tries and I roll my eyes, instantly feeling like my mother. To be honest, I send her a little pray in the form of an apology.

 

I'm so sorry for every time I begged to stay up longer. I'm so sorry that I ever listened to Hannes. Thank you for your patience.

 

I'm sorry I was a little shit.

 

"Zz kill!" Armin joins in. I roll my eyes once again. I swear, I'll be dizzy by the time the night's up at this rate.

 

"Hannes has killed all your 'zz's." I tell him, putting him on my knee as I gently start unwrapping the cannula from around his ears so I can take him into bed. His breathing is okay for now, but if Hannes winds him up any more I can see him having to put it back on before the nights done too.

 

"No, no, no dada!" He says but doesn't wiggle too much as he can see I'm trying to help him at this point. That's something, though he's definitely wide awake. 

 

"Let's watch Shrek!" Hannes suddenly announces, giving a wide grin and Armin instantly squeals. Even Schnecke- the fucking traitor- jumps and barks at the suggestion.

 

Fucking hell.

 

"No." I cut off. It sucks because- sure- in reality, I would love to sit here and watch Shrek, but I have to play parent. "It's late, Armin needs to get to bed and I have work and Levi has work to do." I tell him and Hannes pouts, looking like a kicked puppy not a fifty-something year old man.

 

"When did you become so boring?" He pouts, Armin looking at his expression before copying it. Jutting his lip out.

 

"I'm not boring."

 

"Then let us watch Shrek." Hannes says, still sitting on the floor and folds his arms.

 

"No."

 

"Shrek!"

 

"Go away. You can't just turn up and start taking over."

 

"But Levi wants to watch Shrek too." Hannes says, looking over at him. Levi just raises his hands up.

 

"Don't start dragging me into this." He defends, shaking his head. "I'm just here for the food."

 

"And the booty." Hannes teases, winking at him and then nodding at me.

 

"Don’t start that again." I sigh, getting Armin unhooked and pushing my hair back.

 

 Yeah, although I'm grateful for Hannes, it's like trying to parent two children.

 

One's just fucking massive.

 

And old.

 

"What?" Hannes gasps, totally playing the innocent card. "I didn't do anything. Well nothing that we don't all already know."

 

"My son doesn't." I say, shaking my head before I flush deeply. "And besides nor do we- we aren't anything-"

 

"That's not what it looks like." Hannes smirks, looking over at Levi again. I resist the urge though. Honestly I don't want to know what his expression is right now.

 

"Will you please just either calm down or go away?" I huff.

 

"But I want to watch Shrek." Hannes starts again, giving a cheeky grin as I roll my eyes and turn away, about to head to Armin's room. Honestly, it's probably not a good idea to leave Levi in here alone with Hannes, but it's less of a good idea to keep Armin in here.

 

"Shrek!" Armin squeals though and I just kiss his head and shake mine.

 

"Not tonight, Squirt. Maybe we can watch Shrek tomorrow. Right, say night night to Levi and Hannes and we'll go read a story before bedtime." I tell him, trying to get my tone to a calmer, more bedtime friendly one. Armin pouts his lip a little but settles with tomorrow, wriggling in my arms a little.

 

"Kissy kissy-" He says and I give him a soft smile.

 

"Okay." I reply, turning and holding him closer to- first- Levi. He reaches out of my arms and gives Levi a little hug around the neck, placing a sloppy kiss on his cheek. By the flicker on Levi's face, the spit grosses him out but the gesture softens him so he holds back from wiping it away until Armin's gone and instead pats him on the back.

 

"Nit nit, Levi." Armin says

 

"Night." Levi replies softy.

 

I let them have a small moment before moving him over to Hannes, who has seemed to have taken my comments on board. He doesn't mention Shrek, isn't crazy just gently hugs Armin back and kiss his head.

 

"Sleep well, Kleiner." He says softly. "It's good to see you again. Sweet dreams and don't let the bed bugs bite." He adds, gently tickling his cheek.

 

Armin giggles and shakes his head.

 

"No beddy bugs. I- I'll nibble first!" He giggles and Hannes laughs.

 

"I bet you will. Look at those teeth! They'll all be scared of you." He smiles as Armin grins and gives a little 'grr' as if to scare them off.

 

"Come on then." I say softly, gently standing again. "You can't scare off bed bugs if you're sleepy." I tell him, bouncing him a little on my hip to get a better grip. "Night, night everyone."

 

"Nit, nit body!" Armin says, giving a wave as I step over Schnecke and head into Armin's bedroom.

 

Sure, the anxiety of leaving Levi and Hannes alone together is immense. Hannes has a million and one embarrassing stories about me. Awkward, gross, humiliating. He's known me my whole life; changed my nappies and changed my sons. He knows everything so leaving him with Levi- the one person I actually really want to further things on romantically- is definitely a bad call.

 

Except dada duties call so I don't rush calming Armin down and settling him into bed. I cast them out of my mine and focus my whole being on Armin and just Armin. I read to him, cuddle him, talk to him. Answer his innocent questions about Hannes being back as best as I can with zero knowledge myself.

 

Just gently relax him down for him to be falling asleep again. Then I slip his headphones on, press play and cuddle with him until he falls asleep listening to classic tales of Beatrix Potter. 

Chapter Text

LEVI POV

 

I don't really know what to do when Eren leaves, taking Armin with him. He pretty much abandons me in his home to entertain myself, which would be awkward enough but is made a thousand times worse by the stranger who's currently sat on the floor in front of me.

 

Hannes is stroking Sch- Schnec? Schnee-fuck, I still don't know what it's fucking name is. But the dog officially is getting all his attention, leaving me sat here like a fucking lemon in an awfully awkward silence.

 

I consider leaving.

 

Hell, at least it would make this moment a little more sufferable. Except, I know I can't. As much as I think it would probably be for the best; I also can't leave because- well- Eren. Not only because he's been nice enough to invite me round, but because he actually seems to give a fuck about me and also because I actually seem to give a fuck about him too.

 

It's odd, a strange feeling even to me. But it's true.

 

I'm embarrassed by the sex teasing from his God-father. Embarrassed that he had caught us on the couch cuddling, but I'm also upset that it was cut short.

 

Eren was warm and solid and real. It felt good to have something so reliably genuine in my arms for once.

 

I like him; I just need to find a way to tell him.

 

"So," Hannes starts, bringing me back to the here and now with a bang. I guess it's no different to how he came into the flat, just crashed through into everyone's lives again. And hell, I've just met the bloke.

 

"So." I reply, looking down at him. He's sat cross legged on the floor, the dog's chosen to flop his head right into his lap, practically pinning him to the floor. He doesn't seem too upset about this fact though, just strokes the dogs head like he hadn't just been teasing the fuck out of Eren and I not even five minutes ago.

 

Yeah, okay, this is about a thousand times more awkward than him walking in on us cuddling. More awkward than him calling my fucking cock a trunk.

 

"So...how long have you two been going out?" He asks me, raising an eyebrow with a smirk.

 

I feel my expression drop down to it's usual apathetic stance.

 

Eren's left and taken my soft smirk with him, taken my amused gazes and the odd fluttering in my stomach with him. Without him, my 'bitch face' comes back full force, even though I'm more embarrassed than pissed with this guy. 

 

And I fucking hate being embarrassed. 

 

"We're not." I say honestly, crossing my leg over the other as I lean back. There's still a baby program on the TV, but it's not mine so I don't feel like I should start clicking around and changing it. Not that I think Eren would mind; I just hate people touching my shit, so I'm not about to start fiddling with someone else's.

 

Even if that someone else is Eren.

 

Despite the fact I've kept my gaze fixed on the TV screen, I can tell that Hannes raises his eyebrow by the tone of his voice.

 

"Oh really?" He asks, clearly amused. He doesn't believe me; I don't blame him. I don't think I would if I had just walked in on that.

 

Yeah, laugh it up, old man.  But his teasing doesn't make it any more true.

 

"Really." I reply. He hums knowingly.

 

"It's not what it looked like." He chuckles, leaning back on his hands. Still on the floor.

 

"We were just sat together. Armin just asked for a hug; honestly, we're just friends." I tell him, trying to force back my eye roll. If this had been Hanji or Erwin or literally anyone else, I would have. However, I don't know this guy but he's something to Eren. Despite what my words are saying, that means something to me and I want to make a good impression.

 

Fuck my actual life.

 

Hannes hums again, but this time I flick my gaze back to him. He's moved again, leaning forward. His head is propped up with his hand and instead of the amused, teasing expression on his face, he's looking at me curiously.

 

I've only known him fifteen minutes and this is the most serious I've ever seen him.

 

I also feel a million times more uncomfortable; he's searching me. Scrutinising me and I can't help but move in my seat a little. Trying to readjust under his stare.

 

"It's a shame." He finally says. Though his voice is still serious and hell- like a sad Eren; this guy clearly wasn't born to be serious.

 

"What?" I frown, turning back to him and deciding that fuck it- I was going to look at him even if he was judging me.

 

"You're good for him." He tells me simply, that deepens my frown.

 

"What?" I repeat, definitely finding what he just said hard to believe.

 

I wasn't good for Eren. To be honest, he was good for me. He maybe a brat, but he could see right through me. Could tell when I needed a break from the office or knew what to say to get me to loosen up. Armin did too. It was a whole family of shitty brats that knew just how to crack open my cold, old heart and pour out the core.

 

"You're good for him." He repeats too, a small smirk spreading across his face. He also knows how to read me. Knows that I don't believe him; fuck. "Honestly, I've not seen him that calm for years."

 

"Calm?" I snort and definitely roll my eyes at that. "The brat calm? That was calm?"

 

Hannes laughs.

 

"Yes. That was calm." He says. "He's been wound tighter than his virgin ass for years." He tells me but I can't help but splutter a little at how- well, easily this old man talks about his God-son's tight virgin ass.

 

"Fucking hell." I mumble, shaking my head at him. He just gives that shitty chuckle again, winks and continues. The flash of inappropriate teasing brought back to reality.

 

"In all seriousness though," He says, "that was calm. It's nice to see that he's loosened up a bit."

 

I listen to him before my eyebrows raise again. Loosen up. Even when this guy was trying to be serious, I could see what he was trying to pull.

 

"What? Like his shithole?" I ask and instantly the grin spreads across his face and he bursts into laughter.

 

"See, I like you." He tells me. I don't hold back the eye roll. "You understand me." He laughs.

 

God, it's like dealing with Hanji all over again. To be honest, I would have hoped that even Hanji  would have mellowed slightly by this age; I could hope anyway. But if this guy was anything to go on, I would have to make a mental note to cut all ties with her sooner rather than later.

 

I would much prefer to live out my older years in fucking peace.

 

"Go figure." I reply, shaking my head but my tone and expression doesn’t sway Hannes' grin. I don't understand it really; there's something about this family that seems to mean they're immune to my glowers and shitty attitude.

 

Things that turn the rest of the world away and have successfully isolated me for years aren't even acknowledge with the Jaeger's- and the extended Jaeger's too.

 

"I'm sure you've been relaxing him in a variety of ways, including but not exclusive to loosening his asshole." Hannes continues.

 

"I don't really want to talk about his asshole." I tell him. Especially with his God-father.

 

"Nor do I, dear Levi." Hannes starts. Then why are we? "In all seriousness though, if you want me to go and come back now that Armin's in bed. I'll leave you two to get down and jiggy with it. I promise I won't say anything, just quietly slip out and let you slip in and then cum back when it's all clear and everyone's all happy again. I'll hold my hands up and let you two have you're fun. I don't want to ruin any atmosphere. Unless you were thinking about doing it on the couch then gross- shall I leave? " He chuckles, wiggling his eyebrows.

 

God, it's too late in the day for this.

 

It's too late in general.

 

"No, it's fine."

 

"Really, Levi. You don't have to pretend for me." He teases. "As long as you practise safe sex then it's all okay. I know Eren's clean because- fuck- I'm convinced he's only stuck his dick into one other person but if you need to be tested, I can ask Pixis. He'll do anything you need quietly too. Oh, and I'm sure a strapping man like yourself are familiar with the protocol of homosexual intercourse but if you need me to do any research for you, I don't mind dirtying my google search history for you, Levi. Oh wait! If you need me to go to the store and get you condoms then I can. I understand it's embarrassing for some people to get them. What size are you? And what flavour? Or is it the other way round? Does he do the sucking- can you put flavoured condoms in someones arsehole?" Hannes starts and I swear even if a tornado hit the apartment block right now, this guy would continue his speech.

 

I open my mouth, it more of a jaw drop really.

 

"What the fuck-" I start but Hannes ignores me.

 

"Eren would probably like something sweet and sickening like strawberry or some shit but you- hmm-"

 

"Stop." I try again. Ignored again.

 

"I think you'd like something more."

 

"More?" I ask though I honestly want to kick myself in the fucking ass anyway. Why the hell am I encouraging him by saying this shit.

 

Fuck me. Please God, simply end my suffering.

 

"Maybe something crazy like bacon flavour." Hannes laughs.

 

"That's fucking gross."

 

"Or maybe you like a little bit of the tropics." He teases, winking at me. "How about- um- Ananas?" He says, grinning but I frown a little.

 

"What?"

 

"Ananas? Shit- um-" He frowns, pulling out his phone from his pocket. He's silent for a few moments as he types something into it (thank fuck). Though it doesn't last long and suddenly he's head shoots back up with a grin that's even bigger.

 

"Pineapple!"

 

"No."

 

"Mint?"

 

"Better." I reply before- shit. "I mean no-" Bollocks. "No, none of it. None of them. Stop. We're not together. No ones fucking sucking anything." I say, shaking my head and finding- to my embarrassment- that my cheeks have started to flush again like the little bastards they are.

 

Fuck my life. God, you have betrayed me. Once again.

 

Hannes bursts out laughing.

 

"Gottcha." He snorts, giving me the fucking finger guns.

 

"Fucking hell." I grumble. Fuck it, I take up the remote, reminding myself that Eren won't mind me changing the channel, and start distracting myself from this conversation by flicking through some of the options.

 

They're all awful. Every single thing that's on at the moment is shitty but at least it distracted my eyes so I don't have to look at his smug ass face. I also hope that he doesn't see the embarrassment I'm desperately trying to cover up at the moment.

 

Much to my luck, it doesn't seem to fucking work though as he's still tittering away in the background.

 

"Levi-" I almost ignore the call of my name, but it's not Hannes' heavy German accented voice. It's Eren's. Soft and literally fucking music to my ears. "You ready to head out?" He asks.

 

"Yes." I say, surprising even myself with how fast it was.

 

Hannes laughs again as Eren walks out into the living room again. All dressed in his work gear too- which he looks fucking great in, might I add. The tight white shirt and black waist coat do wonders for his figure. It's almost womanly; he has hips and a fucking gorgeous ass that his equally tight trousers hug. His messy hair is a perfect frame to his caramel skin and bright as shit eyes.

 

He's gorgeous.

 

Looking at him makes me almost jealous of the people who will be at his work tonight. Mostly, though, it just increases my embarrassment. 

 

"Bit eager." Hannes snorts, dragging almost kicking and screaming back to reality but Eren frowns a little at the comment. He's busy rolling up his sleeves, revealing his forearms.

 

He's not exactly muscular- not at all really. But I don't give a shit. Hell, I'm surprised he even finds the time to eat and shit never mind work out. He's perfect the way he is.

 

Stunning.

 

"Sorry." He says. Another kick in the gut from reality. He sounds like he's been kicked himself. Sad and that shitty little pout is back. "You could have left if you had wanted to, I didn't mean to make you feel like you need to stay if you don't want to." He tells me.

 

Fuck.

 

I shake my head. Finally- finally- Hannes is silent, watching us and is silent.

 

"No- no it's nothing like that." I tried, frowning myself.

 

"Oh." Eren says before smirking. "Hannes been bugging you?"

 

"Something like that."  I admit but I try and make my tone more joking than it would have been if Eren wasn't here. I still needed to be polite when it came to Eren and his family. Especially with someone as important as Hannes seemed to be to Eren.

 

Eren sighs though and walks past Hannes, smacking him on the head.

 

"Why do you have to be so annoying?" He asks as Hannes raises his hands as a yield.

 

"Mein Englisch ist unter aller Sau." Hannes says, sniggering a little. I'm, of course, lost at this instantly and glance at Eren, who rolls his eyes and pokes Hannes' head again.

 

"Stop being an arsehole."

 

"I can't. It's in my blood."  Hannes chuckles, twisting a little to poke Eren in the side.

 

"Too true." He says before turning to me and giving me a smile. "Right, well I can save you from this living hell, if you'd like Levi?" Eren tells me, his expression soft and full of every positive emotion I could think of. Eren's smile was something special. Like he could make the whole world disappear, like the only reason he was smiling was me.

 

It was nice. The soppiest shit but still nice.

 

"Okay." I nod. Simple but it's enough.

 

"Shall I drop you home or back at the office?" He starts, moving to get himself together. His keys, his shoes, the lint roller to get the dogs hair off his trousers.

 

I stand and stretch. 

 

"The office is closer." I tell him, but Eren rolls his eyes as he puts his phone his pocket.

 

"I don't care what's closer. If you want to go home then I don't mind dropping you off, it's getting pretty late. You should take a break." He says, which is true but I don't know if I want to admit it.

 

I'm not really used to someone taking care of me like Eren's trying to do. Even Isabel has just kind of excepted the fact that I worked too much now. Sometimes I think it's also why Erwin used to stay behind so much too, to keep an eye on me and make sure I was eating and all that shit.

 

But Erwin has Mike now, so he only really stays behind when Mike's on evening or night shift at the station. Otherwise they do gross shit like going and eating dinner together and watch movies and shit.

 

Everyone I know is falling in love.

 

Which is why part of me seems a little bit nervous when it comes to  Eren. I don’t want to ruin it, but I know that if I don't try or leave it too long that Eren will get the wrong impression, or find someone else, or just in general not feel anything for me.

 

  I'll lose him before I even try.

 

"Whichever brat." I say, rolling my eyes as I try and bring myself back to reality. Try and stop focusing on what could be if I just plucked up the courage to ask him properly. "Even if I say work then you'll moan until I say home; so home."

 

Eren grins widely at that.

 

"You know me so well already." He chuckles, bending to tie his shoe laces. Hell- even his shoes are attractive. I mentally shake my head and gather all my crap together too. Papers and shoes and the such like.

 

I don't say anything, just give a small smirk because it is actually nice that I'm learning so much about him so far. He's also learning a lot about me, but I don't know whether I'm ready to admit that yet.

 

"Okay, I've texted Mikasa to let her know that you're here." Eren tells Hannes, turning to him one he had finished putting his shoes on. He's waiting for me, so I make sure to speed up my tidying. "She's coming over to look after Armin but she probably has work to do so don't distract her when she gets here."

 

"Me? Distracting? Never." Hannes gasps but he nods, softening his expression. It's probably at the prospect of seeing Mikasa again.

 

"Of course not." Eren rolls his eyes. "Okay, Armin is also had some trouble with his lungs tonight- so can you please keep a proper eye on him until she gets here. I've told her that too so she will but- you know, just call me. I mean I know I'm at work but I don't care. I'll keep my phone on vibrate and in my pocket so I'll feel it so if anything happens just let me know. His oxygen is in his room or here and you know or Mikasa knows how to turn it on. If you have any trouble, call me. You've got Pixis' number too, and obviously an ambulance first if anything-"

 

"Eren." Hannes says, cutting him off softly. "Ich kenne." He finishes. I don't know German, but it seems to relax Eren a little, who blushes, looks down and gives a small nod.

 

"Yeah, yeah. Sorry." He says, running a hand through his hair.

 

"He'll be alright." Hannes says, his smile reassuring this time and I can't help but remember what he said about Eren being calm. It wouldn't really be the word I'd use to describe him.

 

"I know." Eren hums in response. There's a small blush that sneaks across his cheeks, but he manages to divert attention from it but turning and getting ready to leave.

 

I make sure I have everything quickly before moving to follow him. I don't want to make him wait or stress him out any more so I'm right on his heels.

 

"I'll text you when I'm on my way home." Eren calls back to Hannes, but he smirks and I basically instantly know that some shit's about to come out of that old man's mouth.

 

"Alright. I'll wait till Mikasa comes before I nip to the shop. Mint wasn't it, Levi?" He asks me. The smirk makes my cringe, the raised eyebrow makes me blush, the smugness makes me want to slap him. Or leave.

 

Surprise, sur-fucking-prise. I knew that was coming.

 

"Mint?" Eren asks and I turn away, my hand on his back to start pushing him out of the door as Hannes begins cackling like some form of witch.

 

"Nothing." I snap, pleased when he opens the door and Eren actually takes it upon himself to get the fuck out of there. Even more grateful when Schnecke stays with Hannes so we don't get attacked by the dog on our way out.

 

Eren's confused at it all, mostly bustling him out of his own house. The door closes and I run my hand through my hair and relax.

 

"What's he talking about mint for?" He asks and I almost cringe again.

 

"'t's nothing." I repeat, my gaze fixed on the floor as I head straight past him and lead him back down the stairs again.

 

We walk to the car in silence. We get in the car in silence and start driving in silence. I don't know whether it's because he doesn't know what to say or because he's realised what Hannes meant by mint but we're alone and the awkwardness spreads between us again.

 

The radio is on quietly. A slightly break in the silence with that an my occasional directions to my house. I do feel a bit more awkward about that though. This is the first time Eren would see my house, even if it was just the front of it. 

 

My house and Eren's were rather different. First off I lived in a house. It was a fairly big one too, which was why I wasn't so upset that Isabel has decided to use my dining table as her wedding plan table. It's not like it was used for anything else.

 

That and I had a garden; two in fact. And more rooms than even I knew what to do with. I just needed one, for when I eventually rolled back up for a short rest before being back in the office. It was the exact reason I was always at the office in the first place.

 

I had bought it to try and prove the point that, yes, fuck the world; I was no longer living on the streets. I had made something of myself.  But I guess, I hadn't really thought about the fact that after living rough, I don't know what to do with a house that big.

 

Eren doesn't seem to be too weird when we pull up to it though, thank fuck.  He raises an eyebrow, shoots me a grin that seems to wipe away all awkwardness and whistles.

 

"Holy shit, Levi." He chuckles, craning his neck to look at it from the window. "It's nice."

 

"Thanks, brat." I smirk lightly, scratching my cheek as I too peer at my house.

 

Eren chuckles and turns away to give me a smile. It's bright and cheerful, pretty much shines a light on my entire life and I physically feel lighter from it.

 

His fixes his gaze on me for a minute or two. His eyes glinting in the half light from the street lamp outside and the blue glare from the dashboard. I'm not going to lie, they captivate me. But I try and keep focused, not get too lost in the oceans that are his eyes.

 

He blinks. I do too and then he opens his mouth.

 

"We should talk." He says. It surprises me, but also doesn't. I've known this conversation was coming. Obviously it was- it had been long enough. But what does surprise me was the fact he shakes his head after. "I'm sorry though, but it's going to have to wait."

 

I glance at the clock.

 

Ah. Work time.

 

"That's okay." I say, giving him a soft smile but I can't help but fluff my hair in embarrassment. To be honest, I hope the fucking semi-darkness masked my blush.

 

"Next time, okay?"

 

"Next time." I agree, nodding and starting to unbuckle myself. There's a small part of me that's disappointed that this hasn't gone further. That we hadn't just got this sorted. I want to be with Eren, more than just friends but I've come to realise that we've both been as stupid and awkward as each other with not saying anything.

 

But next time. I'll make sure that we sit down and have an honest conversation about where we both stand because I think I'm ready to stop tip toeing around with him. It's hard, obviously; with our personalities, and Armin and just life in general. But I like Eren, and Eren- surprisingly- seems to like me too.

 

To be honest, I don't want to risk fucking it up and having him find someone else before I have the chance to become official with him.

 

I let the belt retract and make sure I have all my papers together before sitting up properly, ready to leave.

 

"Have a good shift." I say with a small, soft smile. He returns it with a slightly larger one.

 

"Thanks." He chuckles.

 

"See you again soon."

 

"See you." He replies and I take that as my excuse to leave. I turn from him and start to open the door but his hand suddenly grabs my arm.

 

I can't lie either; the contact- even if it is through clothes- makes my heart jump into my throat. I mentally kick myself for reacting like a fucking teenage girl.

 

Bloody idiot.

 

My head turns to look back at him.

 

"Yes?" I ask, though my tones more amused than sarcastic. I really, really don't mind the feeling of his hand on my arm; though he's definitely holding me back from leaving.

 

The street lamp doesn't hide his blush. His gaze flickers down, he chews his lip a moment. Obviously unsure about what he was going to say next, or perhaps how to word it. I'm about to ask him again or turn around- or something- but Eren finally moves.

 

It's just not the way I thought he would..

 

He leans in and my bastard stomach decides to choose now to practise its fucking circus routine. Flipping and rolling at the fact he's suddenly close enough for me to feel his breath on my skin.

 

It's not like at the aquarium either. This time he doesn't have a small child on his hip. This time he's not a light with the ocean water. This time he doesn't go for my cheek but my lips.

 

And suddenly he's pressing them into mine. They're as soft and plush as they look from a distance. Taste of apple chap stick and Eren.

 

He breaths out and my mouth opens into the kiss as I find myself pressing back. Taking him in.

 

It's a perfect moment. One of those that even I  forget that the worlds genuinely pretty shitty and I have every right to be a miserable bastard. Eren makes everything right and just and okay. Honestly, it's an odd feeling and I don't know what the fuck to do with it, but it's there. Filling me up from the inside out.

 

He kisses me for about twenty seconds. I know because every single one of them passes with a deep set pump of my heart that rings in my ears and a tingle that runs through me.

 

It's the soppiest fucking shit but I can't help it.

 

This bastard.

 

He pulls back, his eyes don't meet mine but he's flush and panting. I am too.

 

"Sorry." I hear him mumble. To be honest, if it hadn't been for the kiss, I would have rolled my eyes and huffed at his comment. Instead, I just stick with the small shake of my head.

 

"Shitty brat." I reply, my voice softer than even I had anticipated. He giggles the world's most adorable fucking giggle in reply.

 

Fuck this.

 

Eren blushes again when his gaze meets mine. It's another fleeting moment between us, but I swear to fucking God; the world melts away the moment my eyes meet his.

 

I need to leave. This is getting fucking dangerous.

 

"We'll talk next time?" He checks again. I've lost my ability to speak properly so just nod again. He smiles. "Okay." He says. Once again bowling me over with the smile that spreads from cheek to cheek.

 

He's fucking beautiful.

 

I need to leave, if only to save my own skin; so turn and open the door and step out on to the side walk. My legs are surprisingly shaky. I'd like to tell myself it's because I've been sat down for too long, but I know it's not.

 

I pause before I close to the door to peer back into the car to see him again. He's still grinning at me.

 

"Good night, Levi." He says softly. The way he says my name weakens my knees even more.

 

My tongue forgets how to work for a few seconds but with a harsh, forced swallow, I manage to work it again.

 

"Night, br-" I start and change my mind. "Eren."

 

Eren.

 

The one man that's changed me more than I thought was possible in a matter of weeks.

 

Eren grins again as I close the door and steps back. He waves. I wave back and watch as he starts the car, pulls out and drives away.

 

I can't help waving again before he's out of sight. I'm sure he's not seen me, and I'm glad about that. But I'm proven wrong as- just before the turn in the road- I see Eren's tanned hand poking out the window waving to me once more.

 

Then he's gone and I'm officially fucked.

Chapter Text

LEVI'S POV

 

My hand runs over my undercut for what feels like  the millionth time in a half an hour. It probably was, to be honest.

 

For a moment, my brain sways to the fact that- yeah- it needs trimming. I should probably do that later, maybe when I get home. But then I remind myself there's more pressing tasks than the state of my fucking undercut.

 

I shake my head and allow my eyes to scan desperately around the room again.

 

This is when I think it's a good idea to politely remind myself that I'm a fucking idiot that shouldn't be trusted with jack shit.

 

Fuck.

 

"Armin?" I called again, my frown thickening.

 

Okay, calm the fuck down. He's young, he can't have gone far. He's smart for his age too.

 

"Armin? You win, come on out." I call again, trying not to imagine the shit Eren was going to give me when he returned and found out that I had lost his only son playing what has seemed to be an innocent game of hide and seek.

 

Yeah.

 

That was before I forgot the office was larger for a tiny child than I had realised and even before I realised the little brat was genuinely just  fucking good at it.

 

Eren and I hadn't spoken much since Hannes had been back. A few texts back and forth, sure, but not a proper conversation. Not about what I wanted to talk about anyway.

 

He had been preoccupied with university and his family, giving me the opportunity to slip away from whatever routine he had been working on getting me into and back into my old habits.  I know it isn't his job to make sure that I eat and sleep in a way that didn't mimic a vampire's, but it was better with him.

 

Easier.

 

There was something more than an empty apartment and an empty evening to leave work for. 

 

I guess that was why I had jumped at the chance of seeing him tonight. Even if it was just for a little while, and even when it turned out to be more baby-sitting for him while Erwin showed him how to use the printers in the office block.

 

Apparently he had a lot to do; university forms, applications for his son to start up at a baby ballet class or something like the damn perfect father he was, some other shit.

 

He had almost pleaded with me to allow him to use it, which of course I had no problem with. I just didn't want him to know that he hadn't even needed to ask. One bat of the shitty brats eyelashes and I was putty in his hand.

 

"Armin?" I call again, checking round the desks and ducking my head to check under them. "You win. Shall we do some drawing instead?" I suggest, aware of Armin's love for art.

 

He literally had to be around here somewhere. The office wasn't that big and he had been specifically told to not leave the room.

 

I pause, take a small breath and just listen.

 

It doesn't take long- thank fuck- before I hear a small giggle from two desks down.

 

Honestly it's fucking relieving to know that I haven't lost him completely.

 

I edge forward, still pretending to be confused about where Armin is by pulling out a couple of chairs surrounding him.

 

"Wow," I hum, glancing down to the desk I now know he is. "Armin is amazing at this game." I comment. "I wonder what his dada will say when I tell him." I pounder and get ready to pull the chair out but I'm stopped by a small blonde head poking out from under the chair.

 

He looks up at me, a cheeky as shit grin on his face and giggling away like he's just won the damn lottery or something.

 

I wasn't going to pretend that a lot of the time I didn't see a lot of Eren in him. His blonde hair was a massive sway to everyone. It was such a contrast to his father's dark locks. Even his skin tone was pale in comparison. But there, right there, it was obvious.

 

They had the same smile.

 

"I betted you!" Armin giggles, wriggling on his hands and knees out from under the chair. It takes him a moment to get himself up. His bum comes up first, pushing the rest of himself up with his hands after before giving his signature bounce-squeal combo. "Winned!"

 

I find myself giving a small chuckle, my expression softening.

 

"You did."

 

"Amaz-ing!" He claims, which I snort at. How very modest this child is.

 

"Yes. Truly amazing." I smile, gently patting his head before Armin's off again, waddle-running around the office again.

 

For a sick kid, I'm always find myself amazed at how little it seems to bother him. Maybe it's just the child innocence, or maybe it's just the way he is but I always notice it.

 

Hell, I can barely keep up with him and my lungs are fucking fine.

 

"Wow- okay- off we go." I say, moving to follow him. Though he takes this as a chase and suddenly I'm thrust into a game of 'Duck, Duck, Goose' that Armin clearly thinks is just him running widely alternatively yelling 'duck' or 'goose' whenever he feels like it with me in hot pursuit.

 

I can't pretend I'm not  at least somewhat relieved when the door of the elevator that's at one end of the office opens and Erwin emerges along with Eren.

 

 They're laughing about something-  I can't hear what from this distance. It's odd, there's no point lying about the small pang of jealousy I feel when I see them smiling away together. Happy. The thought struck  that maybe Erwin got there before me; despite the fact that he was already in a happy relationship with Mike, it was of course still possible.

 

Fucking hell.

 

I shake my head a little and make a mental note to get my fucking shit together before nodding at them.

 

"Took your time." I comment, secretly pleased that Eren's smile widens when he looks over to me. His eyes shine just a little bit brighter and his laugh gets a little bit more glorious.

 

"Sorry." He smiles and my heart fucking melts. "As I said, I had loads to print out." He tells me, waving his wad of papers to prove it. "I know you've both said it's okay, but I do feel really bad for taking your ink and paper for free. You sure I can't pay you back?" He tries.

 

My expression softens for a moment but I see Erwin's face grow into a smirk from the corner of my eye so I cut my nose off my damn face and let it drop.

 

"It's fine, brat." I tell him, rolling my eyes. Erwin grins, shaking his head too.

 

"Yeah, honestly don't stress. It's fine. I'll just take it out Levi's next pay check anyway." He teases, which I shoot him a glare for but he winks and subtly nods his head towards the completely oblivious Eren.

 

Fucking bastard.

 

"Oh no, don't do that." The all-too-innocent Eren says with the world's most adorable tiny gasp.

 

Fuck, I'm in deep.

 

"Don't worry. I'm sure he can pay you back in other ways." Erwin smirks, winking at Eren too now- who finally catches on. Which I'm half glad about because his instant blush is almost to die for, but I also could kill Erwin.

 

"Shut up."

 

"What? It's completely normal for couples to-"

 

"Don't you start." I huff out to him, but I swear to God almost have a fucking heart attack at the segway being offered to me.

 

Once again I'm stuck at the cross road; do I thank my friend for their valiant attempt at forwarding my romantic relationship or do I murder them while they sleep? In this case, I silently thank him but pair it with a glare that warns him murder's the only option next time.

 

"Start what? I just think you two are perfectly suited." Erwin says, moving over to place some of his own papers on a desk and sort through them.

 

Fucking snake.

 

"Oh really?" Eren smirks, clearly still embarrassed as his cheeks don't lie, but also not shying away from the prospect of being official. Which was definitely a plus.

 

"Definitely. Don't you think, Armin?" Erwin asks and I don't hold back the eyeroll at that.

 

"Don't bring the kid into it, Erwin." I mumble to him, but he's already got Armin's attention.

 

"Don't you think your dad and Levi are nice together?" He asks and Armin gives a small hum, staring between us both and then nodding, wide smile.

 

"Ya!"

 

"What about if they were boyfriends?" Erwin asks, cocking his head.

 

"Erwin, stop. Sorry." I mumble to Eren, but Armin gives the world's second most adorable gasp and bounces.

 

"Ya!" He squeals.

 

"Erwin, he doesn't even know what a boyfriend is." I try again.

 

"Do!" Armin informs me. He's pulling on his top, twisting it between his hands as he looks up at me. "Do!"

 

"Oh, really?" I chuckle lightly, and Eren rolls his eyes, his expression is soft though.

 

"What's a boyfriend then, Squirt?" Eren asks him. The poor shirt is wiggled some more as Armin juts his lip out in thought.

 

"Hmm- Goose!" He exclaims before bursts out giggling.

 

"Goose?"

 

"We were playing 'Duck, duck, goose'." I quickly explain, Eren 'ah's.

 

"So geese have boyfriends?" Eren asks, and Armin bursts into giggles again. Probably simply at the word.

 

"No, no, no. Erwin!" He claims, throwing his hands up in the air with a squeal. "Erwin boyfriends!"

 

Erwin raises an eyebrow. I guess we all do but Eren's the first to snort with laugher, quickly followed by Armin's giggles again.

 

"Well, Erwin does have a boyfriend. Yes." Eren explains.

 

"He's called Mike." Erwin says, smiling softly at Armin but the coconut shakes his head.

 

"No, no, no." He giggles, Erwin cocking his head.

 

"So Mike's not my boyfriend?" He jokingly asks, playing along with Armin.

 

"No!  My bo-f-end." Armin claims, pulling his shirt again as he smiles up at Erwin. I can't help but laugh at that though, Eren joins in.

 

"Oh, it looks like you've got yourself a second boyfriend." I tease him, but Erwin smiles softly and decides that instead of explaining, he'd obviously prefer to play along with him and keep Armin happy. He abandons his papers and comes over to him, crouching down.

 

"I have, haven't I?" He chuckles and Armin blushes a little and shy's away for just a moment before nodding.

 

"Ya." He twists his shirt again.

 

"And what shall we do now we're boyfriends?" Erwin asks softly. I glance over for a moment and watch Eren, who's also looking at them with the world's most loving expression on his face. I remind myself and the jealousy that brews for a moment inside me, that this expression is solely for Armin and his innocence. Nothing to do with Erwin.

 

Armin hums, obviously coming out of his shell a little more after hiding back in it from his new boyfriend approaching him.

 

"Um- um-"

 

"Shall we hold hands?" Erwin suggests, offering his huge-ass hand to Armin to take. Armin clearly deliberates over this for a moment with two, flicks his gaze up to Eren, who nods that it's fine and then nods. He giggles and places his tiny, toddler hands in Erwin's.

 

"Bo-f-ends!"

 

"Oh, they grow up so fast." Eren giggles,  jokingly wiping a fake tear away as he watches.

 

I just roll my eyes. How can I not? It's both ridiculous and heart wrenchingly, sickeningly sweet and I can physically feel the cavity forming while I watch.

 

Jesus fucking Christ.

 

"I better be best man at the wedding." I tease, trying not to make it obvious that I was pleased with the fact that Eren had abandoned his papers and walked across the room to stand next to me. Watch his son and Erwin by my side.

 

It was like a shitty high school crush.

 

My heart beat increased. My head was spinning with thoughts of Eren and only Eren. I had missed him this last week, really missed him. I had told myself it was because I was just used to being alone by now. I was used with the small amount of friends and even smaller amount of family. I was used to living my life without anyone specific and had basically convinced myself that I didn't even want romance.

 

But here was Eren and he'd fucked up those plans.

 

Now all I wanted was him.

 

He looks over at me, leans back against the desk behind us and smiles.

 

It affects me.

 

He affects me.

 

"Yes?" I ask, a smirk on my lips and amusement clear in my voice.

 

Eren just gives that innocent hum. He smiles his shit-eating grin and turns back to watch Armin.

 

"Nothin'." He giggles.

 

We don't properly look at each other, but I steal a glance.

 

Yeah, we're definitely as awkward as high school girls. It, at least, makes me feel slightly better about the situation to know that it isn't just me making it awkward.

 

I roll my eyes but can't help the small smile that sneaks its way onto my expression.

 

"So." He started again.

 

"So." I reply, and I'm about to say something but Eren beats me too it.

 

"I'm sorry Levi." He says, cutting me off as he turns to me. This throws me off, to be honest. I turn my head too, cocking it slightly at the apology.

 

I frown a little.

 

"Why?"

 

Eren gives a small hum and looks down again. A deep flush spreads across his face, lighting his cheeks up in the most beautiful way and I swear to God- he's gorgeous.

 

"Because- well-" He starts and my brain instantly starts panicking.

 

Well, I'm actually married. My husband, Christian Jaeger, was away on a business trip for the last three months but he arrived home by surprise last night.

 

Well, I'm actually straight. This was a massive joke, just love them tits.

 

Well-

 

"I'm just really sorry that we haven't had this conversation before, you know?" He starts, and I let him finish. "I mean, I really, really like you Levi. Like more than anyone I've met for ages and I would really- shit I've said really way too many times- anyway, I'd like it a lot if you'd think about maybe making this more official. I totally understand if you don't want to. Especially with Armin- it's a huge thing, but you don't have to be anything to him if you don't want to. Well, a friend but don't feel that I would expect you anything more and we can-"

 

"Eren." Okay, so I don't let him finish finish, but I could see him talking my ear off if I didn't  fucking stop him sometime.

 

He stops. Blinks those gorgeous ocean eyes and looks at me expectantly. They're beautiful contrast with his flushed cheeks and even in the harsh office lighting, he's breath-taking.

 

"Yes?" He says, breathy and perfect.

 

I realise my hand is gracing over his cheek. His skin soft to my hand, his cheek warm. He's a bloody giant, but I'll forgive him this once.

 

"I'd like that too." I say softly, relief washing over me. Relief and the giddiness of a teenage old girl who has just been asked to prom by the hottest boy in school.

 

I'm in too fucking deep.

 

He blinks for a moment, staring back at me before the smile spreads across his face so wide I worry it might break in half. But to be honest, I also promise myself that I'll try and do everything in my power to make sure that smile sticks to his face now.

 

Eren Jaeger was born to smile.

 

"Really?" He asks with a small giggle.

 

I nod and slowly lean up to kiss him. Short and sweet; fucking hell, it was definitely sweet.

 

"Really." I reply after I pull back. He beams.

 

"So, we're boyfriends now? Officially?" He says, the question makes me roll my eyes. Yeah, definitely teenagers. Except Eren's the stupid jock with about three brain cells to his name.

 

"Fucking hell, brat." I scoff, shaking my head at him. "You make it weird when you ask." I inform him.

 

"Oh-" Eren starts, blushing deeper. "Sorry, I didn't mean-"

 

I cut him off again by leaning up to place another kiss on his lips.

 

Fuck me.

 

I had forgotten I could be such a soppy git. It wasn't my usual style. I guess Eren had already changed me.

 

"Yes." I tell him. "We're officially boyfriends now. Would you like it in writing too?" I tease but Eren giggles again.

 

"Yeah, if you could." He jokes. "Then I can prove to my friends that I'm officially dating the hottest man in town." He claims and my eyes roll again.

 

"Fuck off, shitty brat." I mutter, trying to function past the cartwheels my stomach was currently turning.

 

My shitty brat.

 

"I-" Eren starts, but Armin gives off a loud squeal again as Erwin scoops him up in his arms and spins him round in the air. It's clear he's got a firm grip, but I still widen my eyes a little.

 

"Jesus- be careful!" I snap at him, feeling my own pang of protectiveness. It's obvious Armin's having a whale of a time, squealing and giggling away as Erwin makes plane noises ,but still.

 

"He's okay." Erwin chuckles over at us both.

 

"Armin, remember to tell dada if your breathing hurts." Eren inputs, which makes me feel a little bit better at the fact I was worried too. He wasn't my child and I'm not about to start butting in now that me and Eren are official, but still.

 

"Oo-kay dada!" Armin giggles, seemingly perfectly fine. "Oo-kay!" 

 

He squeals again, wriggling as Erwin moves to place him back on solid ground- to the relief of everyone but the three year old.

 

"Again! Again!" Armin chants, lifting his arms up in the air for Erwin. He clearly considers not for a moment, glancing up to Eren for confirmation but honestly, it's obvious Erwin's having almost as much fun as Armin is.

 

Eren smiles and shrugs, which is enough okay for Erwin to swoop down and lift Armin up once again. Armin bursts out into happy laugher again as Erwin starts spinning him round again.

 

"Airline Armin coming through." Erwin says, trying not to laugh himself as Armin attempts to copy the airplane engine noise that he was making.

 

I tried not to think about how much baby spit was now coating the entire office as Armin's 'brum brum' noises sprayed more than said anything.

 

"High!" Armin squeals and Eren rolls his eyes but the expression is once again one of absolute, complete and utter love.

 

"Well maybe ask Erwin nicely if you can. But be careful." He says. Parenting from afar. Made better by the fact it was parenting by my side.

 

Armin nods happily at what his father says and Erwin takes it as the moment to slow down so the child in his arms can 'ask nicely'.

 

"Um- um- can, I up?" Armin asks, pointing to Erwin's shoulders.

 

"Remember the magic word." Eren adds as a small prompt.

 

It takes Armin a minute of lip wiggling to add to his sentence, but before he does he leans up and plants a sloppy baby kiss on Erwin's cheek.

 

"Please!" He squeals.

 

The whole thing seems to take Erwin back a little. His expression is enough to make me snort but Erwin quickly gets the hint and lifts Armin up and onto his shoulders. He's got firm grip on his feet as Armin places both hands onto his hair- obviously as he's been taught. But it's not hard to see the excitement on his face.

 

Even from all the way up there.

 

It's probably higher than he's ever been and probably changes the whole look of the world to someone as young as Armin.

 

"Strap yourselves in. Please keep your hands and feet in the plane at all times. Smoking is not permitted anywhere on the vessel-"

 

"Erwin, he probably doesn't even know what smoking is." I point out, but get a glare shot in my direction.

 

"We've already met some turbulence along the way. It's a storm. Storm Grumpy-Levi." Erwin mocks. Normally I would have told him to fuck off by now, especially as he and Armin come 'flying' over to me. Erwin gently rocks his shoulders as they get closer.

 

"Go away." I grumble, not nearly as against the situation as my tone made out me to be. Anything with Armin came with a free 'extra tolerance' card with it, it seemed.

 

"Ladies and Gentlemen, we do apologise. The storm is meaner and nastier than we first thought, please do not leave your seats." Erwin continues.

 

"Mean-ier and nasties!" Armin repeats happily, giggling the entire while as he held on tight.

 

I huff out a sigh that Erwin takes as a gust of wind, calling out a fake siren as Armin squeals his 'oh no's.

 

"Emergency landing! Emergency landing!" Erwin's yelling.

 

It's not the first time tonight- as I watch Erwin slowly drop to the floor to let Armin crawl off his shoulders and pretend to be ship wrecked- that I thank any and every God that we're alone in the office.

 

I'm dragged away from watching them by Eren's hand gently take mine.

 

He smiles at me and nods.

 

"How about we go over and finish those forms. You can help because I'm an idiot, but then maybe you could come over for dinner?" He suggests.

 

And ladies and gentlemen, there it is again. The stomach flip that's there as soon as Eren's skin touches mine, the increase in heart rate as he smiles at me and the shitty jelly legs as he gently leads me back over to the table from before. 

 

The Great Storm Levi passes as we leave the two shipwrecked crew members to play a little while longer and I walk off with Eren to help him with his forms.

 

I didn't expect to be invited around for dinner tonight, nor do I expect it to be as regular of an occurrence as it had started to become as Hannes was there. I didn't want to disturb their family time when he obviously hadn't been in touch with him for so long. But I was happy with the night's turn out. And was definitely a little calmer about the fact that I didn't have to worry about anyone swooping in before I got the chance to talk to him about this.

 

Before I got the chance to make things official.

 

No. It was now. Eren and I were an item, a couple and I honestly couldn't be happier about it.

 

My boyfriend.