Levi stomped his way into Erwin's office. He knew what this meeting was about. He knew exactly what it was about, and he did not feel the least bit of guilt over it, no sirree.
"Sit down," said Erwin tiredly, and okay, maybe he felt a little bit of guilt.
"We're overbudget for this month," Erwin said. "Extremely overbudget. So overbudget that the budget is invisible from where we're standing."
"Are we, now, sir."
"I have done a thorough investigation-" thorough his ass, Erwin had probably just asked Hanji, "-and have been informed that you are the black hole responsible for the deficit."
Levi kept his face deadpan. "There is a possibility, sir. I had to requisition some basic necessities."
"Did you blow it all on blades again? I know you're efficient killing titans, but you seriously need to stop throwing your blades at them all the time. You go through twice as many as everybody else."
"I also kill twice as many titans as everybody else, because everybody else are lazy pieces of trash. I don't know if you've seen the fucking embarrassment they call training, sir, but I propose using their gear as planters, in the effort to conserve resources-"
Erwin cleared his throat, and Levi sighed and got back to the topic at hand.
"It wasn't blades, sir. I have enough blades. For now." He had a secret stash of blades he kept in his closet, actually. If people left their maneuver gear lying around they were liable to find that he had repossessed a blade or two, since they were obviously not using them. He had tried that once with Erwin, too, but decided it wasn't worth the tirade.
"Levi!" Erwin slammed his fist on the table to show that he was being serious. Levi tried to look intimidated, and probably failed. "What did you buy? And how the devil did you get Laura to sign for it?"
"I asked nicely," said Levi. Erwin looked unconvinced, so he elaborated. "As it happens, nice requests are often facilitated by judicious positioning of the 3D maneuver gear and death threats."
Erwin groaned. Levi watched with interest as his face changed colors.
"And I requisitioned bleach, sir. 300 gallons of bleach."
"Yes, sir." Levi anticipated the next question, though he did briefly consider making Erwin struggle for it. "Because the drooling fuckstick of a moron that designed our uniforms decided for some reason unknown to gods and men to make the fucking pants WHITE. Sir."
"Have you seen the miserable state of the troops' pants when they come back from a mission? They bring back a fucking map imprinted on their thighs of every single place they decided to plant their fat behinds-"
"Yes, thank you, Levi-"
"-in fact, I doubt they could make them any dirtier if they used them to just wipe their asses, because that's what it looks like to me-"
"I think we get the point-"
"-not to mention the absolutely disgusting sweat stains and the lines from the maneuver gear that, speaking of which, was dyed with complete incompetence, I don't know why the leather is still fucking bleeding brown all over the place-"
Levi folded his hands primly in his lap and gave Erwin an innocent look. Really, he had barely even gotten started.
"I understand that cleanliness is very… dear to your heart," Erwin began, with his Long Suffering tone. Levi heard that one a lot. "But as long as everybody has a clean pair set aside for dress occasions, I don’t think the laundry warrants the entire budget."
"It wasn't just the laundry," said Levi defensively. "I didn't get to the part about thread and fabric."
"For mending the pants. Because the imbecile in charge of choosing the fabric for our pants apparently did his fucking best to find the absolute flimsiest material in existence. I propose using titan skin from now on, because that shit may dissolve, but trust me, we won't go through it any faster than we do this stuff." Levi paused. "Maybe it is titan skin. That would explain everything."
"I'll say it again, Levi, I think you're being entirely too neurotic about the state of the troops' pants."
"Also that fabric wrinkles like nobody's business."
"Oh god," Erwin said, and buried his face in his hands. Levi glanced at the clock. It had taken him only five minutes this time; a new record! While Erwin made various sad and tortured-sounding noises, Levi looked out the window, watching birds fly around, and waited for him to recover.
"Levi," Erwin said, his voice steely, to show that He Means Business Now. "I don't mind you taking care of your pants. But I think that most of us are really okay with a grass stain or two."
"With all due respect, sir-"
"You aren't being respectful in the least."
"With barely the minimum necessary amount of respect," Levi amended, "dirty pants are bad for morale."
"I think it's mostly bad for your morale."
"Given my kill count, I think my morale is worth more than everybody else's put together."
Erwin attempted to stare him down, which was completely futile, and Levi didn't know why he even tried anymore.
"Okay. Captain Levi."
Ohho, now they've gotten serious.
"You can do whatever the hell you want to make yourself happy with your pants. You can do whatever you want to the pants of the rest of the Corps, within reason. But there will be no more wild requisitioning of supplies to fuel this obsession with the military's pants. Are we clear?"
Levi did a quick calculation in his head. The 300 gallons should last him a reasonable amount of time, if he started conserving, but he would have to find a different solution for the long term. Or, perhaps, if he got up to some mischief next month as a distraction, he'd be able to sneak some more bleach in on the side.
"Yes, sir," he finally agreed, because Erwin was looking increasingly suspicious about the length of time Levi was taking to answer.
"Good. Now get the hell out of here."
Levi got up to leave, and could hear Erwin's mutter behind him, "holy shit, pants doesn't even sound like a word anymore."
The advantage with being the self-appointed cleaner of the barracks was that Levi knew where absolutely everything was. In fact, he normally timed his cleaning days for when new supplies were being brought in, just so he could keep abreast of developments. For example, there was the time Erwin had gotten his hands on some chocolate and thought to keep it private; Levi had taken it upon himself to shift it while cleaning. To the middle of the mess hall. At dinner. Erwin had looked like he was going to cry.
Levi thought best while using his maneuver gear, so currently he was swinging back and forth between the courtyard walls, doing a mental inventory of the base, trying to come up with some material that could help. Erwin had said he couldn't buy anything else, but that meant that everything on the base was fair game. At least, that's what Levi assumed that it meant. If Erwin intended otherwise, he'd have to be more specific next time.
The most obvious solution was a replacement for bleach, but Levi had yet to find anything that restored white fabric to its proper color the way bleach did. As it was he made sure to hang the pants to dry in the sun to help whiten them, and got the trainees to shift them around every few hours to make sure they got the maximum amount of sunlight.
Perhaps the solution was different. Erwin had said he could do whatever he wanted with the pants (Levi briefly fantasized about a bonfire), and suddenly, Levi remembered a pile of fabric abandoned in one of the storehouses.
Could he just replace them? It wasn't regulation, but then, neither were grass stains. He would have to check it out.
Reaching a decision, Levi dropped to the ground and headed indoors, passing Gunter on the way.
"Oh, good," said Gunter, and Levi gave him a questioning look.
"I wasn't sure the walls could take much more of your thinking," Gunter elaborated. Levi followed his gesture, to see the walls of the courtyard heavily pockmarked from his anchors. He sniffed.
"Shit architects don't know how to build," he said, and marched off.
The fabric was housed in one of the less-used storerooms, which Levi obviously had to get cleaned because there was an absolutely disgusting amount of dust in here, and some suspicious rustling noises from behind boxes. He circled around the shelves, trying to touch as little as possible, and found the pile of fabric right in the corner he remembered. In the gloom it was hard to see what color it was, but it seemed reasonably dark, and that was already a good start. He pulled part of the heap into his arms, noting that it was heavier than expected, and dragged it out into the sunlight.
It wasn't just fabric, he realized, now that he was unfolding it. These were tents – military tents that somebody had fucked up the dye job on. Instead of the green they should be, they were a slightly washed-out looking blue, which was probably why they had been discarded.
However, Levi noticed several important things about the fabric. It felt sturdy under his hands, and despite being folded for so long, hardly showed any creases at all. Already a good start. Even after sitting in the warehouse for who-knew-how-long and then being dragged across the grass, the blue didn't show much discoloration, and what there was wasn't nearly so visible as on the stupid fucking white that became filthy if you so much as thought about dirt while looking at it.
This might do.
He carried the fabric back to his quarters, and it was a sign of how nice and terrorized he kept everybody that he wasn't bothered along the way. With the door kicked shut behind him, and locked for good measure, Levi got to work.
Hours spent mending the stupid fucking white pants had given him a reasonable concept of pant construction (or lack thereof), and some ideas as to what needed to be reinforced (the crotch, crotch, crotch and crotch. And knees. And everything under the belts). He tore apart an old pair of his own uniform pants to use as a pattern, since they had an annoying stain near the ankle that just wouldn't come out.
Yes, it was true that nobody else could see the stain because of the boots. He didn't care.
Once he had a reasonable pattern, he went to get out his sewing machine (requisitioned under "spare 3DMG parts". Erwin still hadn't noticed). The slight difficulty sewing the fabric cheered him immensely – what was difficult to sew had to be difficult to tear.
He added a second layer of fabric, stitched in strips over where the maneuver gear's straps chafed the most, and used little rivets to secure the edges of the hems, belt loops, and fly. Because the material had very little give to it, he had to make it a bit less tight, to allow for freedom of movement, but in the end he had a very serviceable pair of pants. He pulled them on, refastening his maneuver gear straps. The effect wasn't bad, actually. He tried a high kick, and was pleased when the material didn't restrict his movement significantly.
It was by now late afternoon, and Levi noted absently that the repeated knocks on his door were getting more and more frantic as time went by. He could hear somebody out there now; it sounded like they were trying to pick the lock.
It was Hange's voice.
"Erwinthinks you're planning to blow up the base. I told him not to worry. I mean, all you got was some bleach."
Levi paused in admiring himself in front of the mirror.
"You can make bombs out of bleach," he called back.
"Oh my god, really?" Hange resumed her efforts at the lock. "Oooh, Levi, you gotta show me! How do you do it? I've never seen a bleach bomb!"
"They're not super effective." Levi went and unlocked the door. "I wasn't planning on blowing up the base, though, anyway."
Hange's face fell with disappointment. "You can still show me how to make a bomb, though, right? You've got like a hundred gallons of bleach."
"Same thing-" Hange paused, and caught sight of Levi's pants. He waited to see what she would say. After about a minute, Levi concluded that she was just using it as an excuse to stare at his crotch.
"I made new pants. I'm sick of our shitty uniforms."
"What's wrong with the uniforms?"
Levi took a deep breath, ready to start the speech, when he remembered that this was Hange and she didn't get flustered by this sort of thing. She'd probably just listen to the whole spiel, then nod sagely.
Took all the fun out of it.
"Fucking everything," he said. "Next mission, I'm wearing these."
Hange was eying them dubiously. "Don't you think the color's a bit off?"
Levi's eye twitched. "It's on purpose."
"Ahh, well," Hange said, "I'm off to dinner. Don't forget about the bleach bombs!"
"They're useless against titans!" he called at her retreating back.
After some consideration he decided to wear his new pants to dinner, and just beat up anybody who made stupid comments. He cracked his knuckles in anticipation. There would probably be a lot of stupid comments.
Even before arriving at the mess hall he got a nice workout. He found out that the pants tolerated every variety of kick he was fond of (especially to the face).
Fine, so maybe kicking that one guy after just "Captain Levi sir-" had been a bit premature, but he had probably been getting ready to make a comment about the pants anyway. Or something else obnoxious. He definitely had it coming.
All in all, he was feeling very chipper and pleased with himself when he entered the mess hall. Erwin saw him immediately, registered his mood, his pants, and then started looking really worried. Levi collected his food and went to sit down near him.
"What," he said.
Erwin fought a short battle with himself, then very obviously decided to Not Say It. "I suppose, as long as you're happy…?"
When Erwin announced a mission next day, Levi could hardly wait.
The pants performed beautifully. Actually, he had performed beautifully as well, taking down three titans without breaking a sweat, and the casualties had been surprisingly low. He had told Erwin that clean pants were good for morale.
For the first time since… well, since he had enlisted, actually, the sorry state of his comrades' clothing didn't depress him. Because his pants were fucking pristine.
There were no tears in the fabric. Most of the dirt just brushed right off. In fact, he hardly looked like he had been in battle at all. And no, it wasn't his imagination, half the squad was looking at his ass. The pants were just that awesome.
After stabling his horse, he found Hange waiting for him. Unlike most other people, Hange got the benefit of the doubt; he would wait and see what she said before attacking. Besides, he was in a good mood.
"I still don't like the color," Hange began, and Levi started a mental countdown to fist, "-but they held up pretty well, didn't they?"
"And they're clean," Levi pointed out. He narrowed his eyes when Hange knelt to inspect them, tugging to see that they had indeed hardly been scuffed during the fight, and how they didn't have nearly as much discoloration from sweat and dye as the white pants (on the other hand, getting filthier than the white pants would probably defy all known laws of physics). Until he decided she was just groping him at this point, and kicked her in the head. She dodged, laughing.
"Alright, I'm convinced," Hange said. "You have scientifically proven your pants superior. I don't suppose you have another pair?"
Victory was sweet. "Come on," he said, and led her to his room.
At dinner, that night, he overheard her talking to Petra and Erika:
"Aren't those Levi's?" Petra asked.
"He made a pair for me, too," Hange said. "I like them. They're actually more comfortable than those white dishrags we've been wearing."
"Maybe I'll try out Levi's pants, too," Erika said. "Think he'll make me some?"
Hange laughed. "Given his hatred for the uniform pants, he'd probably supply the entire Recon Corps."
He fucking would. Levi stabbed his fork into the food with grim satisfaction.
When laundered, the pants faded a bit, but the end result was even more attractive. These pants were fucking magic.
Two days later, seven members of the Recon Corps were wearing Levi's pants, and the rest found themselves with a pile of dirty white laundry reaching critical mass. As it turned out, nobody had ever really paid attention to how Levi did laundry, because the fucking lazy shitstains thought Levi would always be around to take care of them.
Honestly, they were acting as if bleach was some kind of magic formula that nobody could figure out.
"It's not my problem," Levi said to the scouts that had finally gathered enough courage to search him out. "I don't need to do white laundry anymore. My pants are in great condition. Unlike yours." He narrowed his eyes at the stained mess. "I suggest burning."
"But," Gabi said, an inch away from groveling. Levi considered making them get on their knees, but that would just dirty the floor, which he had washed earlier. "Please won't you just tell us what you do? We can't get them white! We've been trying!"
"If," Levi began, "certain incompetent nincompoops wanted to do their own laundry, and said idiots felt the need to try and achieve any measure of cleanliness, they might try boiling the pants three times. And hanging them in the sun. And adding fucking bleach. Did you think I got those 300 gallons for decoration?"
They were all nodding desperately, fixing his words on their hearts.
"And for best results, drink half a glass of bleach before you start, otherwise you'll contaminate the clothing."
Half the base was out of commission with vomiting that night. Erwin blamed Levi. Levi blamed the idiots who didn't have enough brains to know that you're not supposed to drink fucking bleach.
When the knock came on Levi's door, he was ready for it. So ready, in fact, that he was prepared to be magnanimous. So he only let the person outside stew for five minutes before opening the door. Erwin stood there, trying to look as if this visit was completely normal and failing miserably.
"So," Erwin began, then caught a glimpse of the inside of Levi's room, which looked more like a clothing factory than barracks. "Where have you been sleeping?"
Levi surveyed the – it was most certainly not a mess, everything was organized in neat piles, they just happened to cover most horizontal surfaces – signs of productivity and shrugged. "In one of the spare rooms."
Erwin narrowed his eyes. "There are no spare rooms on this base!"
"I wouldn't dream of contradicting the commander."
"I'm the one in charge of authorizing room distribution, and I distinctly remember there being no spares. Why else are the trainees all crammed into that one room?"
Because suffering builds character, of course. Levi rolled his eyes. "Whatever you say, sir."
"And – what's that?" Erwin pointed accusingly at the sewing machine.
"I made it out of spare maneuver gear parts, sir," Levi said. Erwin wasn't buying it.
"There is no way in hell you made that out of maneuver gear."
"Have you ever taken them apart and seen what's inside, sir?"
"Well, no, but-"
Levi stared at him in scandalized horror. "You don't clean the inside of your maneuver gear?" He couldn't help it. He inched away from Erwin, eyeing his gear suspiciously. It was in his room. Levi would have to decontaminate.
"God's sake, Levi," Erwin sighed. "Fine. Forget it. You sleep in the spare room and repurpose maneuver gear in your spare time. About the pants."
"Well." Now Erwin was looking a bit embarrassed again. "These 'Levi's Pants' of yours have grown popular, I see. Half the base seems to be wearing them."
65%, but who's counting? "They know something good when they see it, sir." And since Levi refused to launder the whites…
"I suppose it's not a problem, as long as everybody keeps a pair of regulation pants for formal occasions."
"That would be prudent of them, sir." Levi was good at bland, when he wanted to be. Erwin's eyes kept darting around the room. He was clearly hoping that Levi would save him the necessity of asking, which Levi had no intention of doing. "I suggest you make it an order, sir, before the imbeciles serving with us decide to dispose of their pants in creative ways. I do not want to be pulling them out of the toilets again."
"What were they doing in the toilets?"
"My question exactly. I suppose the motives are unfathomable to anybody with more mind than a flea."
Erwin groaned, and rubbed the arch of his nose. "Levi, do you have a pair for me or don't you?"
"Of course, sir. They were the second pair I made." He relished the chagrined look on Erwin's face. Once Erwin was wearing his pants, the rest of the Recon Corps would fall into line. And he wouldn't have to see filthy white pants on his scouts ever again. Deep in his heart, Levi shed a tear of joy.
Erwin accepted the perfectly folded pair of pants, and looked around the room once more. "But what will we do with all the bleach, now?"
"What do you mean, sir? Bleach is infinitely useful."
Erwin raised an eyebrow at him, so Levi elaborated.
"Aside from whitening clothes, bleach can be used for cleaning. You can kill weeds with it, and if you put it in a vase it will make the flowers live longer. You can shine porcelain with it and disinfect objects. In a situation where there is a fear of contaminated water, a little bit of bleach can make it safer to drink."
"It's good to know that it's not a complete waste," Erwin said dryly.
"You can also make bombs out of it," Levi added, just to watch him blanch.