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He wouldn't say that they're friends, really. They're not quite just acquaintances either; the more he thinks about it, Eren's not sure how to describe their relationship. They sort of... tolerate each other, in different ways.

But yeah, the more he thinks about it (and he does think about it quite often), Eren thinks that he'd like for them to be friends.

--

Technically, he'd met Levi four months ago, but the first time they'd seen each other had been six months ago.

There's a park not too far from the college Eren attends, and he often takes a walk down there in between the break he has between classes three days a week. Levi always sits at the table across from his, head burrowed in books and papers and such.

They hadn't talked, but he'd noticed him each day. It's two months later that they truly meet.

--

Eren's dutifully ignoring the paper he's supposed to be writing, instead watching the guy at the table across from him. His head is drooping a little every once in awhile, but he continues poring over the papers in front of him, scribbling furiously.

He should be working just as diligently, but it's such a nice day, with a wonderful little breeze, and Eren can't help but feel lazy. His mouth opens in alarm as a particularly nice breeze proceeds to blow one of the papers right off of the table where the other guy is sitting. He doesn't even turn to look.

Eren feels torn; they've never engaged each other before, but it seems awfully cold to just let a potentially important paper get lost just because of that. After some indecision, he stands up, makes his way over, plucks the paper off of the ground, and then stands awkwardly next to the table. The guy continues writing, seemingly not noticing that someone is standing next to him.

He shifts a little, unsure of what to do. He glances down at the paper, and sees written at the top 'Keep this, Levi.' His lips quirk up at that, and Eren thrusts the paper out, jabbing the guy in the arm. "You dropped this, Levi."

The look he receives in return is perhaps the most withering glare of all time. Eren is proud of himself for not flinching. "I don't care, I'm done with it." And with that, he turns his gaze back down to his work.

Eren can't help feeling a bit put out. He finds himself sitting down at the table, taking in Levi's state; now that he's closer, he can see the dark circles under his eyes, and the way his writing seems stilted. He's blinking a lot, and Eren says before he can help himself, "Do you need any help?"

Hard eyes meet his again, yet Eren notices they look just a little bleary. "Your eyes," Levi says suddenly, "How are they?"

Eren wonders wildly if Levi has lost his mind at some point, because the question makes no sense to him. His thoughts must be written on his face, because Levi grunts and rolls his eyes. He picks up one of the papers on the table and lifts it for him to see. "Can you read this?"

Squinting a little, Eren tries to read the page. The writing on it is small but neat, but the real issue is that it appears something has been spilled all over it. "...Yeah, pretty much," he says, after examining it some more.

Levi grabs a stack of papers and pushes them toward Eren. "My eyeballs feel like they're about to fall out. Copy these onto a new paper." Eren takes the papers after a moment of hesitation, and Levi shoves a notebook with a fresh page opened toward him. Levi goes back to his work without a word, and Eren seriously wonders what the hell he is doing with his life.

Still, he pulls the notebook a bit closer and begins doing what Levi had asked. It's not like he'd been working on the essay he had yet to begin writing or the reading that's due tomorrow.

It's a little awkward at first, but quiet, and when he finally finishes up, he realizes that Levi isn't writing anymore either. He's looking right at Eren, expression unreadable.

Levi's head tilts to the side a little, and he ignores the way Eren raises an eyebrow. "Are your eyes green or blue?"

Eren's caught off guard and his mouth opens uselessly a few times, and Levi places his chin in his hand and continues to look bored. "You don't even know? That's pretty sad. Apparently you don't have a name, because you haven't said that yet, either."

At that, Eren frowns. "Shut up, you're just asking weird questions. Who asks someone what color their eyes are when they're looking right at them?" Levi blinks lazily, and Eren huffs. "I'm Eren, Eren Jaeger."

There's a pause, and Eren realizes that Levi really doesn't know how to hold a normal conversation. Eren stares stupidly, feeling like he's missing something as Levi gathers all of his books and papers together. "Okay then, now that we've established you're still an idiot," Levi begins, standing up and ignoring Eren's outraged cry, "I'm out of here. So long, Eren Eren Jaeger."

By the time Eren realizes he's been made fun of yet again, Levi's too far off in the distance to yell after without making a scene.

It's a good thing though, because that way he doesn't see Eren's smile.

--

Eren feels a little confused about the whole thing, and doesn't have enough courage to plop himself down at Levi's table the next time he sees him. Levi doesn't acknowledge him either, and Eren wonders if he had been viewed as a nuisance after selflessly providing his assistance. He frowns.

It's just... weird. When two people know each other, they usually say hello or... something, at least. Especially when they're sitting in the same vicinity for over an hour.

He finds he doesn't get any of the reading he'd meant to do completed at all, instead staring at Levi the whole time.

Next time, he'll talk to him.

--

He does, and it's awkward in just the same way as before, but leaves him smiling just the same, too.

--

They don't really talk about anything important, and Eren does most of the talking, to be honest; he supposes that the first time they'd spoken, Levi may have been a little chattier because he'd been tired and not himself.

But he tolerates Eren. And when Eren finally manages to say something that makes his lips turn up in a smirk, even though he keeps his eyes trained on his book, Eren can't help but feel pleased.

--

It's just over four months into their - whatever-it-is, and he hasn't seen Levi in over a week. He's not at his table any of the times that Eren is there, and for some reason, he feels panicked.

Levi had been reliable; they'd never promised to meet or anything like that, but he'd simply gotten used to seeing him every time he'd come to the park, and he'd never been let down.

But they're not friends, so he doesn't have Levi's phone number, or his email, doesn't know where he lives, or who his friends are, so he has no way of finding out where he is, or if something happened to him. It eats at his gut, and he feels a little stupid, but mostly just worried.

He's sitting at Levi's table (he's taken to sitting there after three days of not seeing him, sort of like he's saving it, or something), tapping his foot anxiously, when someone sits beside him. He almost jumps a foot in the air before he sees that it's Levi, and then he does jump out of his seat. "What happened to you?!"

Levi looks absolutely grumpy, but that isn't what's unusual; it's the bandage above his eyebrow and the nasty-looking bruise on his arm. "Why are you at my table?" he grunts, clearly avoiding Eren's question.

"Shut up," Eren dismisses him easily, sitting back down, and the half-formed thought pops into his head that it's not really just Levi's table, it's sort of his, too. "So what the hell happened?" He feels his lips twisting in concern, and he tries not to show it too much, but Levi still looks away.

There's a beat. "I got hit by a car."

Eren almost jumps out of his seat again, but settles for leaning forward, mouth agape. "Oh my god! Levi!"

Levi shoves his shoulder hard, grousing out, "Shut up, you moron!" His eyes scan the area, but Eren knows that no one is around, and who cares if they are, anyway.

He rubs distractedly at his shoulder and continues, "I can't believe it! I was so worried! And then it turns out you got hit by a car, for gods sakes!" Eren feels like getting up and pacing, he's so worked up, but he tries to remain still.

Levi is looking steadily grumpier and grumpier, and Eren isn't sure why. "It was nothing," he says finally, scratching at his ear. Eren suddenly wonders if he's embarrassed at Eren fussing over him. For some reason, the thought makes him smile.

He turns away from Levi for a moment, opens his forgotten notebook and scribbles on the page, then tears it out. He presents it to a bewildered Levi before shoving a pen into his hand. "That's my phone number, now give me yours."

The look on his face is downright comical, but Eren simply tears out another piece of paper and puts it in front of Levi. "Come on, you jerk. I was really worried and I didn't even know how to contact you."

Levi purses his lips and scratches at his ear again; Eren tucks away the gesture in the back of his mind as something Levi does when he's flustered.

Eren nudges his foot under the table, and Levi looks so affronted Eren can't help but laugh. "Fuck you, my leg could be broken or something, you little shit."

Eren laughs again, and taps a finger on the blank paper before Levi. "Come on, don't make me beg. It's not the end of the world to give someone your phone number."

"I don't like random people having it," he grumbles, and Eren's unsure why he's in such a good mood when Levi clearly isn't.

It must be his good mood that makes him say, "I'm not just a random person, I'm..."

His boldness leaves him rather quickly, and he absentmindedly starts tapping his foot under the table again. Levi doesn't say anything, and Eren stares down at his own knee for a moment.

"You're Eren Eren Jaeger, I guess you've forgotten that already," Levi says, and when Eren looks up, Levi's pushing the paper back towards him, only now there are numbers written down on it. His cheeks feel warm.

It's the stupidest thing to be happy over, but Eren thinks that finally he can say that he and Levi are friends.

Chapter Text

Eren is a perceptive person; he knows just how to treat each of his friends, knows just where the boundaries lie. Armin, he can tell him anything, and they can spend the entire day being stupid together or talking about serious things; it comes with the territory of knowing each other for almost their entire lives. It's basically the same with Mikasa, who's more of a sister than a friend, but there are some things that are a little uncomfortable to talk about with her exactly because she's like a sister.

Jean, he can be a dick a lot of the time, but he has some good qualities buried somewhere in there. (Possibly.) Annie, Sasha, Connie, Marco... Eren does his best to keep things comfortable with all of his friends, no matter how close he is to them.

And with Levi, he's always just a bit careful, like he's going to scare him off if he does something really stupid. But that's okay, because that's just how Levi is, and Eren doesn't mind, so long as he gets to pick his brain every once awhile.

So naturally, he's gonna fuck it up.

--

He doesn't usually drink, but it had been Armin's birthday party and Jean would just not shut the hell up until he'd had at least one beer. This had led to more beers (he's currently unable to recall the exact number), and now Eren is lying in his bed, arm thrown over his eyes in a vain attempt to block out the sun. He isn't even sure what time it is, but there's a very strong chance that he'd completely missed his 8:30 class.

Eren yawns. It's hard to really care.

At least his stomach isn't rebelling against him; it's mostly his fuzzy, achy head that's getting to him. It's easier to keep his eyes closed than to sit up, so he continues doing that for as long as he can, before his bladder starts to complain. With a sigh, Eren slowly slides his arm down to his side, pausing a moment longer before cracking his eyes open.

The sound that escapes his throat is most definitely not a whine, but even Eren can admit that it is rather pathetic. He squints a little before hefting himself up, then hobbling out of his room and to the bathroom.

He feels much better after relieving himself and splashing some water on his face, and though his mouth feels pretty gross, he doesn't quite have the energy yet to brush his teeth. Instead, Eren shuffles back into his bedroom, eyes finally glancing at the clock - 11:37.

Ah, much later than he'd thought; looks like he'd be missing his 12:00 class too. Eren climbs back into his bed, still unable to care. He's not one to ditch his classes, so it's not like this will really hurt him in the long run.

He wonders if anyone's texted him wondering where he is, then laughs a little as he realizes they probably know just what he's doing. Even so, he slides his arm over to the bureau beside his bed, grabbing his phone. Upon opening it, he notices the alert along the top of the screen that shows he does indeed have new text messages, but it's what's taking up most of the screen that makes Eren's stomach lurch in a dangerous way.

Just below the bar at the top with the alert on it is Levi's name, clear as day, and apparently quite a few texts that Eren had sent him. He's almost afraid to look through them, as the last one he sent reads simply: 'this sahdow looks exacly like u are u in my apt'

His heart is thumping rapidly in his chest; if there's a god out there, hopefully the other messages are more coherent. Or even better, maybe he can convince Levi that it was a glitch and that someone stole his phone.

Eren makes a sound that might actually be a whine, but luckily no one's there to hear it.

With a resigned sigh, Eren scrolls to the top as quickly as he can, trying not to read any of the messages as they go by. The probability that any of the messages are coherent is slim to none, as he doesn't have any recollection of texting Levi at all.

His face forms into a grimace as he goes through them; particular standouts include 'ereb is not a girls name erin is. jean is so stupid' (there go any hopes of claiming someone stole his phone), 'u put the lime in the coconut not th coconut inn the lice', 'dunt get hit by cars anymore levi', and one that's just Levi's name dragged out until he'd most likely hit the character limit. Through it all, there's not one reply from Levi. He's not sure if this is good or bad, but it feels like it might be bad.

If this were anyone but Levi, he'd probably be laughing his ass off, but there's just something so delicate about their friendship; this feels like he's just broken down everything he'd worked so carefully to build. They may not have the most open of friendships, and maybe Eren holds himself back a little, but that doesn't mean that he doesn't like being Levi's friend. He doesn't mind, and Levi doesn't seem to mind either, but now Eren really feels like an immature kid waiting to be scolded.

Or maybe Levi just doesn't care? Maybe he'd just rolled his eyes, maybe he'd laughed, even. But it's more likely that he'd blocked Eren's number.

There's only one way to test that out. Eren's finger hovers over the keyboard, unsure of what exactly to say. He snorts at the thought that anything he types will be more eloquent than his previous messages.

He finally settles for 'Good morning! Please forgive me for bothering you last night (unless of course you were skulking around my apartment, casting shadows everywhere).' He needs to inject a little humor into the whole thing so his stomach will stop flipping.

His finger trembles a little as he tries to hit 'Send' which only serves to annoy him. Once it's sent, Eren flops back on his pillow and closes his eyes. Sometimes it's a little exhausting wondering what exactly Levi thinks of him all the time.

It's not that long before his phone buzzes, and Eren almost drops it in his haste to look at it. It's hard not to be disappointed when he sees it's not a reply from Levi, but rather a text from Armin. He realizes belatedly that he'd forgotten to check his new messages after learning he'd bombarded Levi with drunken nonsense.

He checks in with both Mikasa and Armin, letting them know he's alright, and pointedly ignores Jean's completely unnecessary 'Man you were a wreck last night, it was embarrassing.' He settles back onto his pillow and sighs, placing his phone on his stomach.

The fuzziness in his head is forming into a full-on headache, and Eren knows he needs to get up. He still has to brush his teeth, not to mention get something to eat, shower, and perhaps the most pertinent, take something for his throbbing head. His stomach grumbles, followed immediately by his phone buzzing. Eren sits up, throwing his legs over the side of the bed before checking the phone.

His heart skips a beat when he sees that it's Levi. The message contains two simple words - 'It's afternoon.'

Eren stares for a moment, before realizing he'd said 'good morning' in his text, which he'd sent at 12:06. It's enough to make him roll his eyes, but at least Levi hasn't blocked him. All is forgiven, he supposes; he feels rather like an idiot for worrying about it so much.

The relief puts a bit of pep in his step, and after popping some pain medicine, he decides to text Levi back. 'Let's do something today.'

It's a little brazen of him; he and Levi always just spend time together in the park. But right now, Eren really wants to do something else, even if it's just sitting in a different park. He doesn't mind being the one to try to expand their friendship little by little.

'Aren't you in class now?' is the reply he receives. Eren texts back quickly, 'I kind of...overslept today. So let's do something!'

Eren makes some eggs to appease the grumbling of his stomach, then chugs an entire glass of orange juice. The headache medicine seems to be taking effect as well, so he decides to get a shower as his phone buzzes. 'I have class at three.'

Frowning before he can help himself at being shot down, Eren sighs, shrugs, then heads to the bedroom. He tosses his phone on the bed and rustles through his drawers for some clean clothes. Levi hadn't outright said that he didn't want to ever hang out with him, so it could definitely still be considered progress. He'll just ask again some other time.

Eren walks into the bathroom, brushing his teeth (finally) with renewed vigor. Perhaps it's a good thing that he'd had some alcohol in his system, as it had given him enough courage to text Levi after three weeks of having his phone number. Now the paths of communication are truly open... or something like that.

As he stands under the spray of the shower, Eren wonders what he's going to do with the rest of his day. He still feels a little out of sorts after waking up so late; there are some things he needs to get done, including two assignments. The eggs aren't going to tide him over for too long either, so maybe he'll go out for lunch in a bit. It's certainly a nice enough day out, judging by the sun that had been blinding him when he'd woken up.

After drying off and slipping into clean clothes, Eren slings his towel around his neck and absentmindedly rubs at his still damp hair. He wanders back into his room, pulling a stack of schoolwork out of his bag and tossing it on his desk. He'll get to that in a minute; after a shower, he usually likes to lie down a bit. Even if he's been lying down most of the day so far.

He falls onto his bed unceremoniously, and after a moment he realizes that the thing jabbing into his back is his phone. With a grunt, he slides his hand around to pull it out of the way. There's a new alert message flashing, and Eren can't help the grin that splits his face once he reads it.

'But we could do something after that if you want.'

Chapter Text

Sitting here with Levi feels quite natural in a way that Eren hadn't expected it would, if his wonky stomach in the hours preceding their meeting had been any indication.

Levi looks less than impressed with their surroundings, but he's sipping his iced tea without complaint. Eren glances around at the familiar sights; he had used to work here back when he was in high school, but he hasn't been here in awhile. And since his stomach had decided to rebel against him in a bout of sudden nervousness, he hasn't eaten anything beyond the eggs earlier in the day, and he's actually ravenous.

Eren swirls the straw in his soda and says the first thing that comes to mind. "Are you a vegetarian?"

Levi's eyebrow quirks upwards. "No."

"Vegan?" Eren asks. Levi rolls his eyes and shakes his head. There's a pause.

"Just like salads?"

Levi looks bored. "If someone wants a salad, that automatically makes them a vegetarian in your book?"

"Well, no!" Eren doesn't know why he feels the need to explain himself, but he continues onwards anyway. "It's just that it's dinnertime, and a salad doesn't seem like that much to have, and there's a lot of meat on the--"

"Do you ever shut up?" Levi cuts in, tapping his finger on the edge of his glass in a way that strangely captures Eren's attention. He decides to stop ranting about nothing, and as they sit there in silence, his stomach starts churning again. He frowns.

"...I'm usually up late and I eat something else then, so I don't like to eat a huge dinner," Levi offers unexpectedly. Eren glances up at him as he continues, "And I try to keep my sodium levels down, so not eating greasy burgers is one way to do that."

"...Sodium?" Eren says confusedly, trying to process what Levi's just said. "Oh... Are you okay? I mean, um." Eren feels like an idiot not for the first time when talking to Levi.

"I'm fine," Levi says, and Eren opens his mouth to say something else, then decides against it. Levi places his chin in his hand. "Really. It's just better if I keep it down, and it's not like I'm gonna drop dead of a heart attack if I don't."

It's not a real explanation, but Eren feels incredibly pleased that Levi has shared this with him at all. "Actually, I'm probably going to drop dead once I eat this burger and fries," Eren says with a grin. "I think the reason I quit was because my arteries were getting clogged from eating here all the time."

"Oh?" Levi replies with a smirk. "Are you implying you didn't get fired? I find that hard to believe."

"Hey--!" Eren exclaims, his outburst cut short by the arrival of their food. Eren is pleased to see that Levi's salad does look quite filling, and as expected, his own dinner looks greasy, but delicious.

It's quiet as they eat, but Eren doesn't mind this kind of silence. Levi isn't the most talkative person on the planet, and there's only so much that Eren can say within the timespan they are together.

"So..." Eren begins, a thought striking him, "...exams are coming up soon. Is that why you've been staying up late?"

Levi shrugs. "That's part of it." Eren waits a moment for him to elaborate, then realizes he's not going to.

"Are you a night owl?" Eren asks, grinning, before quickly closing his mouth at Levi's look of disgust (it's just one fry in his mouth for gods sakes). Levi drinks some of his iced tea before answering, "I guess."

"So then I didn't wake you up last night?" Eren wipes at his fingers when he notices Levi is glaring particularly hard at a dab of ketchup on one of them.

"I just turned my phone on silent after the first message," Levi says calmly, though his eyes are still carefully watching to make sure Eren has definitely removed the ketchup.

Eren lets out a laugh that sounds awkward to his own ears. "I don't... I don't really drink. I mean... I hope you don't think I'm like that all the time."

"I'd hope not, you can't afford to lose any more brain cells," Levi replies easily, and Eren's ears burn. He pokes at his food a little more violently than necessary, maybe sort of intending to make a mess of his hands while he's at it. He can feel Levi's eyes boring into him, but he doesn't look up.

"You're making a mess," Levi says finally, but Eren still doesn't look at him, instead grunting noncommittally. As he finishes up his burger and reaches to take a sip of his drink, he's surprised to find his hand intercepted by one of Levi's, the other also closing in, wielding a napkin.

"I wouldn't waste my time with you if I thought you were really stupid," he says, wiping at Eren's hand in a way that's far too gentle to make Eren's stomach seize up the way it is.

The skin around his wrist where Levi's fingers had been tingles in a not entirely unpleasant way for the rest of the time they're at the restaurant.

--

When he gets back to his apartment, Eren finds himself too amped up to do anything; he doesn't feel like reading, watching TV, studying, or playing around on his computer.

He finds that what he really wants to do is text Levi, even though he's just come back from seeing him.

He flops on his bed and stares up at the ceiling, frowning. He needs something to occupy his mind.

He has other friends, maybe he should call Armin and see if he wants to come over. It's been awhile since they'd watched bad horror movies and gotten a good laugh out of them. Eren rubs at his wrist distractedly, frowning deeper when he catches himself.

He ends up pretending to study until 9:00, then tries to pay attention to the TV for a half hour, fails, and finally texts Levi at 9:43.

'What're you up to, night owl?'

Levi responds within a few minutes, and Eren ends up staying up later than he'd meant to, but he isn't actually upset about it even when he's yawning all through his morning class the next day.

Chapter Text

It's hard not to be a little disappointed that he's only seen Levi once (at the usual spot, in the park) since they'd eaten together at the restaurant. Eren had felt it'd been a fine step forward in their friendship, solidifying themselves as 'real' friends, or something corny like that, and yet they now see each other even less than before.

Eren hasn't been able to bring himself to voice his concerns with Levi; he knows that it's most likely the upcoming exams that are keeping the other man preoccupied, but it still stings a little to know that he can't set aside even an hour to see Eren.

He can't help but feel like he's bothering Levi by texting him, so he keeps those to a minimum as well.

It's stupid, but Eren feels a little lonely.

He stretches his legs, then lets them fall back down onto the bed; Eren almost feels like he could take a nap, which probably isn't the best frame of mind to be in while rereading his notes and preparing for his own exams.

He soldiers on until he feels confident with the section he's been focusing on, then slides his notebook to the side and buries his face in his pillow. It's not a good position to fall asleep in, as he always ends up with a stiff neck, but Eren really can't be bothered to move.

Perhaps on cue, Eren's phone buzzes, and he lets out a muffled sigh. He grabs his phone and sees it's a message from Mikasa, and he snorts; of course she'd be the one to stop him from falling asleep in a less than optimum position.

He ends up agreeing to hang out with her later on, and gets back to studying with renewed vigor.

--

It's probably just what he needs, Eren can't help thinking as he lies back on Mikasa's couch - 'it' being some kind of human interaction to get him out of his weird slump. He's become too reliant on Levi, even though they're not actually that close. Eren can't explain why he feels like this, but it's probably not a good thing. He needs a breather from his own confusing thoughts, and there's nothing like being with Mikasa to help calm him down.

"Here." Eren glances to the side to see Mikasa standing there, holding out a mug for him to take. He sits up quickly and grins, grabbing it from her. "Thanks."

Mikasa sits down next to him, and it's nice; it always is when he's with her. They know each other so well that Eren doesn't have to worry, or second guess himself, or hold himself back; they just simply get each other, in a way that Eren is more thankful for than anything.

Quite frankly, it's the complete opposite of how things are with Levi, which causes Eren to frown as he looks into his mug of tea. He always feels somehow inferior, and it's not really anything to do with their slight age difference (that doesn't really feel like the issue); it's just like he's more invested in trying to get to know Levi than vice versa, and that fact is too hard to ignore.

Levi had said he wouldn't spend time with Eren if he hadn't wanted to, but it's hard to remember the warm feelings that statement had caused when he's left with his own swirling thoughts. He knows Levi isn't a vicious person, so perhaps he had said it simply to make him feel better. Eren's sure he has other people that he's closer with, sure that Eren is rather low on his list of priorities, and it's this thought which makes his eyebrows furrow together.

"What are you thinking?" Mikasa asks quietly, taking a sip from her tea. Eren starts at her voice, lost in his own thoughts, and Mikasa continues easily, "It's alright if you don't want to tell me."

Eren smiles sheepishly. "Sorry, I'm just... a little preoccupied with stuff. I'm probably not the best company right now."

He feels a little guilty all of the sudden, but Mikasa shakes her head. "You're never bad company, Eren."

Eren feels a little bloom of warmth in the center of his chest, and his smile gets wider. "You spoil me too much, Mikasa." They both know it's true, but she denies it anyway with a shake of her head and a flick of her wrist.

--

He feels much more at peace with everything as he walks down the street, taking the long way back to his own apartment. It's a pleasant night, and once autumn comes, the nights are going to start getting cooler, so he may as well enjoy it while it lasts.

Whatever happens, happens; it's an overly simplistic view, but this is the idea that's brought Eren the peace he's currently feeling. Maybe he and Levi are meant to be friends, and maybe they're not; there's a lot more in both of their lives than each other, and if this is all that Levi can offer, the occasional get-together in the park that's more shared study space than anything else, then that's okay.

He lets his gaze drift up to the sky; it's impossible to see any stars around here, but Eren still remembers many days as a youth lying in his backyard, fascinated by the bright pinpricks in the sky above him.

The smile on his lips feels bittersweet as he thinks he's never told Levi about any of that.

--

Eren's extreme focus in preparing for his exams pays off, and he sighs contentedly as he basks in the afternoon sun. He's free, for two weeks at least, until next semester starts.

If he remembers correctly, Levi is supposed to have his last exam later on today.

He thinks about texting him to say good luck, but decides not to do it.

Well, whatever happens, happens.

--

At least, that's what Eren's been telling himself.

It's a whole different story later in the day when he's standing in the convenience store two blocks from campus, watching Levi and some woman with a messy ponytail in deep conversation down one of the aisles.

Something foreign and extremely unpleasant is boiling in Eren's stomach, and it rises up into his throat when the woman laughs and wraps her arm around Levi's shoulders. Levi isn't laughing, but he doesn't shake her off.

Eren's hands ball into fists at his sides as he stands rooted to the spot, and although he's trying desperately to calm down, to think calming thoughts, about meditation and chamomile tea or some shit, he really wants to punch a fucking hole through the wall and--

Levi's eyes shift to the side, and unexpectedly, they land on Eren. He can only imagine the sight he makes; he's gritting his teeth, now, and his hands are still clenched into fists.

Levi's expression doesn't change, and he looks back to the woman he's with, and it's then that Eren absolutely sees red, and he doesn't fully understand why he feels like he's about to throw up, but he turns as quick as he can on his heel, almost running out of the store.

He makes it down to the corner before he pulls out his phone from his pocket, pulling up Levi's number with shaking hands. When Levi answers with a disinterested, "What are you doing?" Eren proceeds to snarl, "You're a fucking piece of shit, and I can't fucking stand you!"

There's a long pause, and Eren can hear that woman talking in the background, and his fingers feel like they're going to break the phone in his hands, so he spits out, "Never mind, go back to shopping with your girlfriend," before ending the call.

He takes a few shaky breaths through his nose and then walks quickly along, before realizing he's going the wrong way. He turns around with a huff and almost trips over his feet when he practically runs right into Levi.

"What's your problem?" he says, his voice cool as always, and Eren hates it, hates making excuses for it, making excuses for Levi being himself, because god, he's--

"I don't have a problem," Eren says the words slowly, trying to will himself to calm down. Levi raises one eyebrow, and Eren asks woodenly, "How did your exams go?"

He doesn't know what he's doing, and what was all that stuff about being at peace and what would happen would happen, he can't remember any of it because he wants to strangle Levi right now to try to get that expression of boredom off of his face--

"Seriously?" Levi asks, and when Eren doesn't reply, he sighs. "Great. All that immersive studying I did in preparation sure helped. How about you?"

Eren can feel his face twisting into a scowl, and he presses his hands against his sides, gripping at the fabric of his pants. "Excellent," he seethes, "I'm so glad we took this time to catch up."

Levi's starting to look at him like he's crazy, and Eren can't blame him, because he can feel himself spiraling out of control. He wonders if it would be better if he and Levi weren't friends, or-- whatever they are, were, because-- because Levi makes him think too much, feel too much, and it doesn't make sense--

Levi's eyebrows furrow, and he finally asks, "What is the problem here? I told you awhile ago that I was busy with the exams, so--"

"I don't give a shit!" Eren explodes, throwing his hands up in the air. He idly notices someone walking by on the other side of the street, and they hurry their footsteps after his outburst. Levi's eyes widen a bit, and Eren forces himself to bring his voice down just an octave. "I'm tired of the bullshit, Levi. It's all bullshit. So, I'm going home." He feels like an idiot again, and he hates it, and maybe this is the sign, he thinks as he starts to turn away, he and Levi shouldn't be friends, because obviously this is not healthy.

"What the hell are you even angry about?!" Levi's never raised his voice like this before, and it's enough to make Eren stop for a moment, and as he fights to relax his shoulders, as he tries to honestly think about it, to articulate it, he finds that he really doesn't know why he's so angry. But he can't just say that, because he is bothered; maybe he shouldn't be, maybe he doesn't have the right to be, but the fact remains, he is.

His mouth opens and closes uselessly a few times, before he lets out a frustrated sigh. "I don't know!" he grouses, finding it difficult to look at Levi. "I just-- I just hate this whole-- I hate wondering, and worrying!" Eren ignores Levi's look of mild confusion and digs himself deeper. "It sucks, wondering where I stand with you, what you think about me! I just-- I just, I don't know, I think about you a lot, and I-- I just want--"

Levi's expression is changing, and Eren doesn't know what to make of it, so he keeps babbling. "I just want you to-- I want to be the one that--"

Eren can feel himself flushing, and the words are coming out all wrong. "Fuck, I don't know what I'm--"

But then Levi's in front of him, looking as calm as Eren feels flustered, and says, "I think about you often, Eren."

And it's-- it's not even anything really, but his heart squeezes in his chest and Eren lets out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding, and-- "Probably more than you think about me."

Eren's eyes widen, to the point where it must look comical, because Levi's trying not to smile. Eren rushes to say, "I don't think--"

"Be quiet," Levi interrupts him, "You wanted to know what I think, right?" And Eren can't argue with that, so he doesn't say anything more, his breath leaving him in a rush.

"I think you're naive, you lack confidence, and you're too eager to please." Eren gapes. He knows, knows all too well that Levi is blunt, oftentimes to the point of being rude, but if he claims it doesn't feel like a dagger is jammed into his heart right now--

"It leaves you open to being hurt, and I think that I'm the kind of person that could hurt you. I'm no good at comforting people, or stroking egos, or knowing how to deal with looks like the one you're giving me right now." Eren's always been bad at hiding his emotions, and he flinches, but damn, Levi's standing here tearing him to shreds--

"And..." The word hangs heavily in the air, and Eren's heart beats harshly against his chest; this is it, he's just officially lost Levi as a friend over some stupid jealousy thing that he can't even properly explain--

And then Levi smiles, not one of his smirks, and tilts his head to the side, looking at Eren with something akin to wonder. "You still like me for some reason. And I'm kind of a selfish person. So, I still want to be around you, even though I'm pretty sure nothing good will come of it."

Eren's certain that he's red down to his toes within about three seconds of Levi finishing talking, but he's also the happiest he can ever remember being, so maybe it's not so bad. "You..." Eren rubs at the back of his head awkwardly. "You're an asshole, Levi," he says, but the words lack any venom, even to his own ears.

Levi's still smiling. "Maybe. But you're definitely an idiot."

Chapter Text

It's probably something that should worry him (and maybe it does, just a little), but Eren is thrilled at the prospect of having two weeks free until classes start again, and it's mostly for one reason. Not that he is going to hang out with Levi the entire time, but there's the freedom to work something out.

Eren folds his hands behind his head, staring up at the ceiling. He doesn't feel the least bit tired, but he knows he should be sleeping.

He feels jittery, and that's stupid. If they hang out and have lunch or something, it's most definitely not a big deal, but maybe it is kind of after Eren's made such a fool of himself. His ears burn as he thinks back to it, and he scrunches his eyes shut and rolls to the side.

It's incredibly embarrassing to think about it now, but he'd just been so frustrated; Eren can't help but think himself lucky that Levi doesn't hate him.

He can picture Levi's smile, still.

It's dumb how happy it makes him feel, so Eren rolls onto his back and reopens his eyes. This isn't going to help him fall asleep, but the feeling in his chest is uncomfortable and he doesn't want to think about it.

He glances at the clock - 11:44. Levi's probably awake.

Who cares, Eren repeats emphatically in his mind. Isn't he supposed to be dealing with the weird dependency thing that had somehow formed where Levi's concerned? This doesn't feel like dealing with it.

In fact, it feels like the opposite. Eren frowns, then lets out a sigh. Really, it feels like it's getting worse.

Now that Levi's said those things - picked apart his personality like it's nothing and then smiled at him like that while saying he wants to be around him - it seems like Eren can't think of anything else at all.

He's just contemplating getting up and trying to find something to watch when his phone buzzes, causing him to jump. Eren hates the way his heart leaps as he reaches for his phone, hates the happiness that swells in his chest at seeing it's a message from Levi.

'Are you awake?'

Part of him thinks that he shouldn't answer, but the internal battle doesn't go on for very long. 'Yeah, staring at the ceiling instead of sleeping.'

Eren taps his fingers against his thigh as he awaits Levi's response. He's really, really sure this is completely counterproductive.

'Sounds exciting.' Eren lets himself smile as he imagines Levi's dry tone. The smile freezes when another message appears. 'Do you want to come over?'

Eren's heart beats loudly in his ears.

Definitely counterproductive.

'Sure.'

--

He ends up outside of Levi's apartment building in what feels like seconds, but that's probably because his heartbeat hasn't slowed down yet. Eren checks his phone to make sure he presses the right bell for Levi's apartment, not wanting to accidentally wake some poor soul at this hour.

Eren digs his hands into his pockets as he waits for Levi to let him in, half-wondering if Levi would be mean enough to make him wait longer than necessary. The worry turns out to be unfounded, as soon enough Levi is opening the door, looking as stoic as ever. "Hey."

The attempt at returning Levi's stoicism fails miserably when Eren can't help a smile from curling up his lips. "Hey."

They walk up a small flight of stairs in silence, and proceed down a hallway until Eren recognizes Levi's apartment number. Levi pulls out his key and lets them both in, closing the door behind Eren as he gets his first glimpse of Levi's home.

He hasn't really had a chance to envision anything in his mind, but Eren thinks it fits Levi perfectly. It's not a large place, maybe a bit bigger than his own apartment, but everything is arranged in such a way that it optimizes the space. Eren feels a pang of jealousy as he notices Levi has a small balcony, but he resists the urge to run and check it out. There's a closed door off to the side that Eren figures is the bedroom, but his eyes don't linger on it for long as Levi is now getting himself some water from the kitchen.

Eren trails after him a bit uncertainly, leaning against the counter. After taking a sip of his drink, Levi turns to him suddenly. "If you smoke, you can do it out there." He gestures vaguely toward the direction of the balcony, and Eren frowns.

"I don't smoke." He pauses. "Do you?"

Levi shakes his head. "No, but if you did, you definitely wouldn't be doing it in here."

Maybe he can press his luck a bit. "Can I look out there for a second? My apartment doesn't have a balcony..."

Levi's response is unexpected but pleasing. "Yeah, we can sit out there if you want."

It's rather small, but there's room enough for the both of them, as evidenced by the two cheap chairs already situated out there. Levi sits in one of them without a word, and Eren sits in the other, grimacing as it squeaks loudly. He glances over at Levi and sees he's trying to hide a smirk. "Jerk, making me sit in the squeaky chair," Eren grumbles, shifting around in it, partly trying to get comfortable, but also interested in hearing what other strange sounds it can make.

"Grow up," Levi says, but Eren can hear the amusement in his voice. Eren leans back and stretches his legs out, pressing the tips of his toes against one of the bars surrounding the edge of the balcony. The anxiety is lesser now that he's actually here with Levi, and he can feel the fading nervousness leaving his chest pleasantly light.

"So do you usually head over to people's apartments after midnight?" Levi asks suddenly, and Eren looks over at him in surprise.

"Well, no..." He feels a little nervous again, and he doesn't like it. "Do you... usually invite people over after midnight?"

Levi's eyebrow quirks upwards, and Eren realizes belatedly that what he'd just said might be considered offensive, but Levi doesn't seem too irked. "No, though if I were dating Hanji like you thought, she'd probably be here."

It takes Eren a moment to get it, and then he feels his cheeks flush. "Ah, yeah... sorry about all that, before." He stares at his own feet, letting them slide back down to the ground. "I don't know what got into me."

It's silent for a bit. "I'm not mad," Levi says, and Eren can't help but look over at him. "But if you have a problem, you should say it. If there's something you want to know, you should ask. It's stupid to worry about things and then have a meltdown over it."

Eren's eyebrows furrow. "It wasn't... a meltdown," he hisses, turning away again. Levi makes a small sound, like a hum, but doesn't say anything. Eren acquiesces in his own mind that it had kind of been a meltdown.

"Well, the same goes for you," Eren says finally. "If you wanna know something, you can... you can ask, or whatever."

"Do you want to play twenty questions, Eren?" Levi asks, smirking again, and Eren huffs irritably.

"Shut up, it's you who said it first, anyway."

It's quiet again, but it's comfortable. Eren tilts his head up and looks into the sky, feeling content.

"What are you thinking about?" The words are faint, and Eren thinks maybe he imagined them, but he glances over to see Levi looking at him.

"Stars," he replies, a smile splitting his face as he sees Levi's look of confusion. "Yeah yeah, I know you can't see them around here, but I'm still thinking about them."

A beat passes before he decides to continue. "I used to always lay outside and look at the stars when I was a kid." He shifts his legs a little, ignoring the squeak of protest from his chair. "It's not the most original story in the world, but I used to think if I watched long enough, I could catch a star falling from the sky or something. Oh, and I kind of wanted to be an astronaut for awhile there."

Eren thinks he might be talking too much, but he can feel that giddy sensation that comes around when he's been up late into the night. Levi looks mildly amused before quipping, "I bet you were a real brat."

"Aha, so that means I'm not a brat now then, right?" Eren laughs, leaning a little toward Levi. The chair squeaks again, this time long and drawn out, and before he can even wait for Levi to say anything, Eren finds himself unable to stop laughing.

"Hey, shut up," Levi says, the seriousness in his tone betrayed just a little by the quiver in his voice, "You're going to wake up the whole apartment building."

Eren tries to stifle his laughter in the crook of his arm and he gasps out, "Sorry, I think I'm really tired, Levi."

Levi rolls his eyes and places his chin in his hand. "It is late. You can sleep on the couch if you want."

He stands up suddenly, continuing, "Let's go back inside," but Eren sits up and tries to catch his breath quickly.

"Not yet, okay?" he says, the words coming out in a rush as his eyes meet Levi's. They look at each other for a moment before Levi shrugs and sits back down.

Eren lets out a long breath through his nose, looking out to the night sky again. He feels like he should say something, but he isn't particularly good with words to begin with, let alone at this time of night.

"This is... this is nice."

It feels insufficient, but Levi doesn't make fun of him for it, so Eren can only assume he agrees.

Chapter Text

Eren guiltily bites at his lower lip as he reads Armin's text. 'Break is over today and we didn't see each other at all :('

When did he become that friend? The one that ditches his other friends and focuses on one person? Not that he has been living in Levi's apartment for the past two weeks, but even Eren must admit he's surprised by how much time they'd spent together. Or morelike, how much time Levi had been willing to spend with him.

Distracting thoughts yet again. Eren shakes his head and quickly texts Armin back. 'I'm ordering a pizza, be here in a half hour or I'm eating it without you!!'

--

They're in the middle of their second bad horror movie ("How can he talk if he has no tongue?" "I don't know Armin, it's not like anything else is making sense either..."), eating reheated pizza, when Armin casually asks, "So what have you been up to during break?"

Choking on his food is probably not the reaction Armin's expecting, and he awkwardly pats Eren's back a few times as he struggles to breathe again. "Are you okay, Eren?" He pauses, then adds worriedly, "You didn't kill someone, did you?"

Eren shrugs his hand away and wheezes, "You have horror movies on the brain."

Armin laughs, and concedes, "Maybe. But you still haven't answered my question!"

Eren isn't sure why he suddenly feels tongue-tied, but the seconds drag on until Armin's eyebrows crease together and he leans forward, voice accusing. "You did kill someone!"

A door slams suddenly on the TV, and Armin jumps, wide-eyed; Eren groans exasperatedly and reaches for the remote, pausing the movie. "Armin, calm down, I'm not a murderer. I'm just thinking."

"What's there to think about?" Armin asks, looking genuinely confused. Eren frowns a little. Why does this feel like a big deal?

He sighs. "It's nothing, really. I've just been sleeping a lot, to be honest. And..." He pauses for a moment. "I've been hanging out with a friend of mine." It feels weird to say it, even though it's such a simple statement.

Of course, Armin asks what Eren had known he'd ask. "A friend? Who?"

"He's... his name's Levi," Eren says, and he knows that's not what Armin wants to know, but he still hasn't figured out what he wants to say yet. Armin calmly waits for him to continue, and Eren's glad that Armin isn't concluding that Levi is his accomplice in a murder.

"I met him in that park where I study awhile back, and we've just kind of... been hanging out more, recently," Eren finishes lamely.

Armin nods, then tilts his head a little. "Oh, I've never heard you mention him before. What do you guys do together?"

Feeling just a tad bit frustrated, and even more frustrated because he doesn't know why, Eren replies, "We kill people together, then bury the bodies."

Armin's expression freezes for a long moment before he breaks out into a smile, and Eren snorts, standing up as Armin rolls his eyes. "You should've seen your face, Armin, you're completely out of it today."

He heads out to the kitchen, Armin behind him, and as he puts their plates in the sink, Armin suddenly says, "It's okay to have other people in your life, Eren. You don't have to... explain yourself, or anything like that, I'm just curious."

Eren turns to look at him as he continues, "I'm not trying to make you feel bad for, you know, not telling me you have a new best friend." He smiles crookedly, and Eren punches him lightly in the arm.

"Please, Armin, you're still my number one. I wouldn't confess my murderous history to just anyone."

The sound of Armin's laugh, soft and genuine, makes Eren's chest warm.

--

Eren's schedule no longer lines up as nicely with Levi's in regards to hanging out in the park between classes, but it's not really that bad. It's different now that they're on better terms and see each other outside of these sort of designated study sessions.

It's harder to concentrate on studying anymore with the way the leaves are changing and the brisk breezes that make their papers blow around; at least, Eren thinks so anyway, and doesn't bother putting up a front about it.

Sometimes even Levi acknowledges that they're getting nothing done and will close his books, shifting his body slightly to face Eren, which makes Eren more pleased than it should.

--

'I'm tiiiiired of schoolwoooork when's winter break again'

'If you expended half as much energy doing your work as you do sending me all of these whiny messages you'd probably be done everything that's required for the entire semester.'

'You're a sourpuss Levi.'

'I am not responding after this.'

--

He and Levi are sitting in the restaurant where Eren had used to work once again when Eren innocently asks, "Hey, when's your birthday?" The question's been on his mind for quite some time, but he hasn't really found a good opportunity to subtly bring it up; thus, the direct approach.

Levi looks up from his plate disinterestedly. "Last month."

Eren's eyes widen and he slams his glass down on the table harder than he'd meant to, ignoring Levi's look of disdain. "Last month?! W-why didn't you say something?"

"Like what?" Levi drawls, his lips twisting. "'Eren, Eren, please buy me a special present for my birthday!'" The way he says it is so deadpan that Eren isn't sure if he should feel unsettled or amused.

He decides to continue his indignant tirade. "Stop being like that! So what if I wanted to buy you something? That's what friends do isn't it? Or at least I could've said 'happy birthday Levi!' and gotten you a cheesy card, what's so bad about that?"

Levi's eyebrow is steadily rising higher the longer Eren goes on. "Well, have at it then. Give me your well wishes so we can move on from this whole thing."

Eren glowers, his voice coming out clipped. "Happy birthday, I hope it was a good one."

Levi dips his head just slightly and closes his eyes, replying, "My deepest thanks. It was truly a glorious day."

A poorly muffled snort escapes before Eren can stop himself. He coughs into his hand and leaves his mouth covered so Levi doesn't see his smile. "You are so weird about the most random things, Levi."

He receives a shrug in response and they go back to eating, though Eren almost slams his glass down again when Levi asks, "And when's yours?"

"Seriously? After all that?" Eren asks incredulously. Levi just stares, so Eren raises his chin and sniffs. "I'm not telling."

"Freak," Levi replies, and Eren can hardly believe the gall of him as he proceeds to kick Eren in the shin. It's not too forceful, but he's just about to give Levi a piece of his mind when the man continues, "I'll give you a big bunch of balloons the next time I see you, just to cover my bases."

"...Balloons?" he repeats, unable to keep the confusion out of his voice. He feels like he's missing something.

"Yes, balloons, surely you've heard of them," Levi says with a smirk. "And then I'll pop them so you make that little pouty face like you're doing right now."

Eren unexpectedly feels his face heat up as he tries to school his expression. "Hey, I'm not--"

"You're failing at the whole trying-not-to-pout thing, by the way," Levi interrupts, and Eren grits his teeth, trying his hardest not to give in to the desire to just throw his drink at Levi--

"You don't even realize how bad you are at hiding your emotions, it'd be cute if it weren't so sad."

At that Eren freezes, but before he can even think of what to say, their waitress shows up and asks cheerily, "Everything all right here? Do you need anything?"

Levi shakes his head and Eren makes an embarrassing grunting sound, which earns him a strange look from the waitress before she nods and walks away. Eren feels his heart speed up as Levi's foot presses against his leg under the table, this time definitely far too gentle to be called a kick.

"Can't take you anywhere," he says with a smile, and Eren's stomach flip-flops in a way that's maybe not entirely awful.

Chapter Text

"Should I get a car?"

Levi looks at him like he's grown another head. "Where is this coming from?"

Eren shrugs, leaning back and catching himself before he props his feet up on Levi's table (he had almost lost a limb the first time he'd done that). "I've just been thinking about it. I think I should."

Levi shifts in his seat across the table, placing his chin in his hand. "Do you even have money for a car? I thought you were a cheapskate."

"Hey!" Eren cries indignantly, and Levi smirks, though he tries to hide it behind his hand. "Whatever. I have some money saved up and I think getting a car is a practical use for it."

Eren is ready to put his feet on the table if Levi makes a crack about Eren being practical, but he doesn't. "It sounds like you already have your mind made up," he says instead. "Don't just blow all your money on the first car you see, though."

He's almost touched at the concern, but Levi has his face buried in his book again before Eren can comment on it. He watches Levi for a little while, tapping his fingers against his leg.

"I'm thinking of getting a Hummer."

"Suits you," Levi replies without looking up.

Eren bites his lip to keep himself from laughing.

--

Eren loses his gung-ho attitude after he spends some time looking at cars and comparing prices. He really doesn't want to throw all of his money out of the window, and if he does, he wants it to be on a perfect specimen of a car. Well, as perfect as a used car can be, anyway.

"Guess I won't be able to pull up in my ride and whisk you off places," Eren mourns, and Levi rolls his eyes.

"I'm heartbroken."

Eren does feel a little put-out about the whole thing, but he doesn't say anything else, sliding to the side and stretching out on Levi's couch. If he complains too much, he thinks Levi might kick him out; he's currently wrapped up in all kinds of extra work for some kind of internship thing he's trying to get accepted for. Eren doesn't even know how Levi found about it, to be honest, since the place is a couple hours away and Levi would have to find somewhere to stay while he's doing the internship. He supposes a good opportunity is a good opportunity, however, despite how impractical it may seem.

It's silent for awhile before Levi suddenly says, "It's not like there's a big rush. Though it'd probably be convenient for you to get it before the winter comes."

Eren glances over to see Levi is still scribbling intently. "Then I'll have to clean snow off the car... But then I won't have to walk in the snow..." Eren scrunches his nose as he looks at the ceiling. "Ugh, snow."

"I like snow," Levi replies easily, and Eren can't help feeling surprised.

"Really? It's such a mess, though!"

Levi's still writing as he answers, and Eren silently marvels at his ability to multitask. "I guess, in a way. But it's also..." He pauses, and his pen stops moving for a second as he thinks. "I don't know, it's just snow. I like it."

Eren rolls a bit so that he's on his side, facing Levi. His foot nudges at his own neglected book and knocks it on the floor; Levi glances over with a frown but Eren ignores it. "Let's build a snowman. Or do snow angels."

The frown deepens. "I'm not rolling around on the ground like a kid, that's disgusting."

"But you like snow! You should like rolling around in it," Eren reasons, grinning.

Levi is back to writing again, and he replies, "I like it when it's falling, not when it's already on the ground."

"So do you catch snowflakes on your tongue and stuff?" Eren asks, and he wonders if it's because Levi is half-distracted on his work that he's carrying on with this conversation semi-seriously.

"No, Eren. Now are you going to pick up that book off the floor or do I have to kick you out?"

Eren huffs and makes a show of getting up and shuffling over to pick it up, only to throw it back down beside him on the couch. "You only like snow because it's 'clean' and 'pure' or something weird, don't you?" he asks accusingly.

The corners of Levi's lips turn up just a little. "I like it because it bothers you so much that I do."

Eren is tempted to stick his tongue out, but he really doesn't want Levi to kick him out. He settles for blowing a raspberry, which does end up earning him an evil glare.

--

It's been a couple of days since he's seen Levi, and he knows he's extremely busy, so he sends him cheesy inspirational texts every once in awhile to keep his spirits up. Or annoy him. Both options make Eren crack a grin, so it works out either way.

He figures he should take a page out of Levi's book and focus on his own studies, not that he's been slacking off, really. He's decided to devote his day to nothing but studying, and he's even gone the extra mile of turning his cell phone off (after sending Levi some garbage in the morning about the luck of the Irish, even though Levi isn't Irish) to avoid distraction.

Naturally, distraction still finds him, as Mikasa ends up knocking on his door in the late afternoon. She actually offers to leave once she realizes Eren is immersed in schoolwork, but he dismisses that idea immediately and practically drags her into the apartment.

She shrugs off her jacket but leaves her scarf on, as has always been her custom, and she sits down in Eren's small kitchen while he starts brewing some tea. It's something that he's picked up from Mikasa, to be honest; she always makes tea when he visits, and it makes him feel at home, so he likes to return the favor.

Once they're both settled at the table, Eren offhandedly mentions his fruitless car hunt. Mikasa seems surprised for a moment before offering, "If you ever need a ride, Eren, you know you can always ask."

Eren shakes his head. "Nah, it's not like that... I just think it'd be good to have a car of my own. I want to get one by the winter." He pauses. "Maybe."

"Why the winter?" Mikasa asks, wrapping her hands around her cup.

"Well, it'd be helpful in the cold weather and stuff. I was talking about it with my friend Levi awhile ago." Eren mimics Mikasa's pose and feels the warmth pleasantly seep into his hands.

Mikasa nods after a moment. "Levi... I think Armin mentioned him before."

"Oh yeah," Eren says, smiling. "He's a little weird, but in a good way."

"Sounds like you're describing yourself," Mikasa replies, just a hint of mischievousness in her eyes.

Eren pouts. "I'm gonna go back to studying, you know."

"No one's stopping you." Mikasa sips at her tea, looking amused. There's a beat, and then Eren sighs in defeat; he'd take Mikasa teasing him over slogging through schoolwork any day, and she knows it.

--

It's after Mikasa leaves that Eren remembers he has his phone off, so he turns it back on as he wanders over to his desk. He doesn't feel too guilty; there's still plenty of time left to get back to work.

He's surprised to see he has two messages from Levi - 'I got it' followed thirty minutes later by the same thing. Eren stares at it for a minute, eyebrows furrowing. He wonders if Levi has sent this to him by mistake? But that's unlikely, since he resent it.

"Oh!" he exclaims suddenly, almost dropping the phone - Levi's internship, the thing he's been slaving over, he must have gotten chosen to do it. Eren's initial excitement is darkened momentarily by the recollection that Levi is supposedly going to have to be away for a couple of weeks while doing the internship, but he tries not to think about it. The important thing is that this a wonderful opportunity for Levi and something for which he's been working incredibly hard.

He rushes to reply, 'CONGRATS! Sorry I had my phone off!!'

Eren tries to read the page in front of him but he feels suddenly jittery. It's stupid, because it's not like he's the one doing the internship, but he's been rereading the same line for the past couple of minutes and it still hasn't processed.

He wanders over to his bed and flops down, his face buried in the pillow. He lets out a muffled sigh, hot air puffing back at him, before rolling onto his back.

If he's being brutally honest, it's really going to suck while Levi's gone. Eren can't even remember how long it's going to be for, actually; he's thinking two weeks is too short, but he's not sure.

He could get through two weeks. Hopefully it's not a month.

Eren feels his ears start to burn, and wonders what kind of nonsense he's thinking. It's not like he's going to wither away with Levi gone, and they still have their phones, so it's not that big of a deal.

He has to just be happy for Levi, and that's all there is to it.

--

It's a few days later when he sees Levi next, and he's once again poring over some papers in his lap while Eren sits on the couch. Eren's feeling jittery again, and he fights the urge to get up and start pacing the room.

The only reason he's even here right now is because he'd complained a little, and Levi had relented, though he'd said he had work to finish. Eren tries not to jiggle his leg, or blurt out some random observation.

He fails on both counts. "So where are you gonna stay? You'll have to rent an apartment or something, right?"

Levi doesn't look up, but Eren doesn't really expect him to. "Yeah, I'm looking into it. Or I may end up staying with someone in association with the internship, if that's possible."

Eren's nose wrinkles. "That'd be... creepy. You won't even know them."

Levi's sigh sounds particularly long-suffering. "It's not that strange, it's like getting matched up with a roommate in a dorm."

"It's not the same, though," Eren insists, but Levi just frowns in response. "It seems like a lot of trouble, I guess," Eren adds after a moment, still unable to quite keep from talking.

Levi's frown deepens and he bites out, "If I wanted your opinion, I would've asked for it."

That response stings a little, and Eren pauses before grumbling, "That was uncalled for..." Levi's eyes dart up and his glare is enough to make Eren's restless fidgeting finally stop.

"Uncalled for? Kind of like all of your snide remarks about this whole thing?"

"What-- what are you talking about?" Eren asks, leaning forward, hands gripping at his knees. He's honestly hurt that Levi's said that, and although deep in his own mind he'll admit he really doesn't want Levi to go, he's done his best to be supportive about it.

"Don't play dumb," Levi says, sliding his papers to the table in front of him. "All you've done is voice complaints and act like I'm a moron for even considering this."

"I haven't--" Eren tries to reign his voice back in, and takes a deep breath. "I mean, maybe I-- I just worry about you sometimes, is all."

Apparently this is the wrong thing to say, as Levi's eyes seem to cut right through him. "It has absolutely nothing to do with you in the first place, and you have no right to sit there and act like I'm making some huge mistake."

"Stop twisting things around!" Eren exclaims, resisting the urge to jump up from his seat. "I'm not trying to tell you that you're making a mistake, I'm just trying to--"

Levi cuts him off. "I've given this more thought than you've probably ever given anything, so don't try to preach your half-assed wisdom at me."

The struggle against jumping up is quickly lost, and Eren's out of his seat before he even realizes it. "What the hell, Levi?!" he snarls, eyebrows furrowing. "You're the one who started all this crap, and now you're trying to turn it around on me!"

"Yeah, just blame me, that's the easy thing to do," Levi says, rolling his eyes dismissively, and Eren feels a sudden urge to throttle him.

"And it's not easy to just sit there and roll your eyes?" Eren challenges, really getting pissed off, more than he wants to, and he knows they should stop before they say more things to regret later, but at that Levi is rising from his own seat, voice bitter.

"What else am I supposed to do when you're always giving me those stupid looks and saying even stupider things?"

Eren grunts in frustration, running his hand through his hair. "Stupid looks? What the hell are you even talking about now?!"

"You're so goddamn dumb sometimes," Levi grouses, looking more and more aggravated himself. "You've always been fucking awful at hiding shit, and the way you look at me, it's like--" He pauses, and Eren clenches his fists at his sides before Levi continues, "You always look at me like you're waiting for something!"

Eren groans and throws his hands up in the air, his agitation getting the best of him. "Waiting for what?! What would I want from you?!"

In the next instant Levi is right in front of him, face twisted in a scowl, and he grips Eren's collar, jerks him forward, and Eren's breath catches audibly in his throat-- he might feel embarrassed about it later, but now--

Levi's expression is one Eren hasn't seen before, and it feels like he's looking at Eren like he's seeing him for the first time. Eren's heartbeat pounds in his ears, makes him dizzy, and he thinks he's never been this close to Levi, he's never been able to see all the little pinpricks of color in his eyes, never been so aware of the part of his lips, never felt the warmth of his breath--

He should-- should he say something? He feels tongue-tied, and he's-- he's not even trying to pull away, Eren thinks he should be trying to pull away, or push Levi away, but he's not, it's like he's waiting, waiting for something, maybe Levi's right, and he's been waiting for--

Levi's fingers suddenly go lax, and he's backing away from Eren so quickly that it'd be funny if it didn't make his chest hurt. His legs feel embarrassingly weak for some reason, and Levi's looking anywhere but at him.

"Levi--" he starts, barely able to hear his own voice over the pounding of his heart, but Levi cuts him off, turning to look out the window.

"I think you should leave."

Eren wants to be angry again, wants his blood to boil, wants to yell and scream at Levi, make him say something, talk to him, look at him, but it's not working. His mouth opens but nothing comes out, and it's something more like tiredness, more like defeat that he's feeling.

"Yeah," he says, his voice quiet, and he's not sure if Levi hears him or not because he doesn't turn around. Eren bites his lip, waits, waits even though he knows Levi isn't going to look at him.

His legs still feel like jelly, but they get him to the door, out of Levi's apartment, down the steps, and outside the building before they give out on him and he slumps to the ground.

Chapter Text

Eren is aware of his temper.

He's much better at controlling it than he used to be, especially when he'd been in his early high school years. He's grown up, in a lot of ways, really, but his temper is much less of a problem that it'd been all those years ago.

When he gets home from Levi's, however, the anger he'd been wanting to resurface back in the apartment abruptly rekindles, and after knocking over one of the chairs in his kitchen and kicking it, he forces himself to take deep breaths.

It takes a minute, and his heart's still racing, but Eren sits down in the other chair and tries to reign it all back in.

It doesn't work, and the next moment he has his phone in his hands. Without a second thought, he deletes all of the text history between Levi and himself, and then deletes Levi from his contacts.

Satisfaction surges through his veins as his fingers mash at the buttons, and Eren smashes the phone down on the table with finality, mouth twisted in a snarl. He's so tired of it, of everything that is entailed with trying to be Levi's friend, all of the confusion and frustration, of having his concerns turned into poisonous insults from the other man's mouth.

It's not normal, or right, and yeah, maybe he's been waiting for something, the final straw, probably, and Eren can feel himself getting worked up again, so he gets up and strides out of the kitchen, leaving the chair sideways on the floor. He wishes he had a punching bag or something in his apartment, because he really feels like he's going to end up breaking something otherwise.

He ends up in his bedroom, and is just about to try letting out his frustrations in a yell until he notices that it's after ten, and he's already made quite a racket with the chair incident. Eren groans and slumps down onto his bed, knee dipping into the mattress. He grabs his pillow, holds it up to his face, and screams 'fuck' into it as loud as he can, the sound so muffled he can barely hear it.

Once he pulls the pillow away, his gasps for breath turn into breathy laughter, which then gets nearly hysterical as he slumps the rest of the way down. It doesn't last long, but the laughter serves to calm him down a bit, and Eren closes his eyes as a sudden weariness settles over him.

The anger has faded again, and now Eren's left with the confusion and the hurt and the uncertainty.

He closes his eyes and digs his fingers into the pillow, murmuring, "Fuck," but this time it sounds wholly pathetic.

--

The next day, Eren decides that he doesn't want to think about anything involving Levi. He showers like normal, eats a quick breakfast, leaves the chair where it is (picking it up would mean acknowledging he'd knocked it over in a fit about Levi), grabs his phone, throws on his jacket, and heads to class.

He does pretty well throughout the day, not letting himself zone out or his mind wander.

Eren's on his way home, hands stuffed in his pockets to shield them from the brisk wind that hadn't faded away with the morning hours, when his phone buzzes. His thoughts get away from him before he can even notice it's happening, and he's thinking that Levi's done class now as well, and the moment he thinks it, his mood turns so sour the girl he's walking past turns back to do a double take at how his expression has changed. He'd laugh if he weren't now feeling so downtrodden.

His steps slow a little as he continues walking, eyes drifting down to the pavement. It's not the fight itself that has his stomach feeling so jumbled, but Eren really, really doesn't want to think about it. He really doesn't.

He's not a person for denial, but he can't think about it. Not right now, anyway.

Turning quickly at a corner, Eren redirects himself to the small coffee shop down the block. He doesn't quite want to go home just yet, and maybe it'll be quiet in the shop and he can get some of his schoolwork done.

--

When the chair is still lying on its side in his kitchen almost two weeks later, Eren realizes he is in full-blown denial.

The realization is followed instantly by a shot of sheer panic as he remembers deleting Levi's phone number. He almost drops the cup he's holding, putting it down quickly as he gets up. Why had he done that, and he'd even erased all Levi's texts so he couldn't get his number from there--

His feet are carrying him to his bedroom before his mind catches up with him, and Eren bites his lip and sits down at his desk, sifting through the papers strewn all along it. The odds of that scrap of paper still being anywhere on this desk are slim to none, and he knows it, but he's still searching, pulling out the drawers and checking everything carefully.

Nothing.

He slams the last drawer shut and grunts in frustration, rising from his seat. Why had he done that, that had been so stupid, and Eren hates himself for how upset he's feeling over it, knows how pathetic it is, and Levi, Levi's probably not even bothered at all, it's not like he's tried to contact Eren in any way.

This thought is the one that keeps swirling around in his head, that Levi doesn't care; he has more important things to worry about, doesn't care about Eren's opinion, what Eren wants--

Eren sighs as he sits back down. He feels goddamn ridiculous.

He folds his arms on top of the desk, lying his head down. Maybe it's time to leave denial.

His eyes close. The part that's really scaring him isn't the fight; if it had been, he would've called Levi and told him he's a jerk or stormed back over to the apartment and said so to his face. It's the other thing.

Eren can feel the unpleasant feeling in his stomach returning, and he remembers quite clearly why he'd liked being in denial so much.

Levi had said that Eren's waiting for something, and he thinks that maybe he has been, without even realizing it. And now that Levi's said it, now that Levi had grabbed him like that, Eren can't help thinking that maybe he wants far too much from Levi, more than he even wants to let himself think about.

The uncomfortable feeling in his stomach is too much to bear, and Eren shoots up suddenly. He knows just what he needs in order to deal with this.

First, he needs to call Armin.

Then, he needs to get his hands on some booze.

--

It shouldn't even come as a surprise that Armin isn't going to be able to come over for a couple of days; Eren doesn't blame him, and assures him it's fine that they meet up then.

He resists the urge to drink himself into a stupor alone, and tries not to let anxiety eat away at him as he realizes that Levi is going to be leaving for the internship in two weeks.

--

Mikasa shows up at his apartment the next day and demands to know what's wrong with him. Eren feels incredibly tongue-tied and can only stammer half-formed words at her, until she lets out a pitying sigh.

"Fine, fine, just don't deny that there's something wrong. I'm worried about you, you know," she says, and Eren feels guilty but he has no idea what to say.

"I'm-- I'm okay," he forces out finally, scratching at the back of his hair. "I mean, I-- yeah, something's bothering me, but I don't want you to worry. It's nothing you need to worry about, really."

Mikasa's gaze is appraising, and Eren can't help but gulp as he anticipates her next question.

"So, pizza tonight?"

It's definitely not what he expects, and he lets out a relieved laugh and agrees.

--

It's almost like things are back to normal, and Eren even digs out some old hot chocolate that he coerces Mikasa into drinking with him even though it's from last year, and he pulls out a blanket from his closet so they can sit together on the couch and be comfortable.

He's able to forget, for a little while, and it's only because he's so relaxed that Mikasa's nonchalant, "Jean and I are going out this weekend" doesn't make him throw his hot chocolate all over the room.

"W-what?!" he settles for spluttering instead. "After all his stupid attempts at asking you out before, why the hell would you say yes now?"

Mikasa shrugs, looking far too indifferent for Eren's comfort. "I figured it was for the best."

"The best?" Eren parrots helplessly.

"Yes. When the date is over and we go home and he thinks about how badly it went, how there's no chemistry between us, then maybe he'll finally realize that we aren't meant to date."

Eren's mouth hangs open a little. "Ehh... that's kind of... Well, I guess it kind of makes sense."

She nods, shifting a bit and stealing some of the covers from Eren. He calmly tugs them back before continuing thoughtfully, "Well, just make sure you don't agree to a good night kiss or anything. That'd be too goddamn weird!"

Mikasa huffs and pulls at the covers so hard that she almost knocks Eren onto the floor.

--

The night he and Armin had agreed upon arrives, and Eren ushers him in, beers already sitting out on the table. He cracks open one of them and starts drinking while Armin's still shrugging off his coat, and doesn't stop even after Armin sits down.

"So you wanted to talk...?" Armin trails off questioningly as Eren chugs at his beer. "Uh, you might want to slow down a little, remember last time you drank and Jean--"

"Ugh, Jean," Eren interrupts, thunking the bottle down. "Did you hear Mikasa's going on a date with him?"

"Yeah..." Armin makes a strange face, and Eren laughs. At least Armin feels like Mikasa's going about this whole thing in a pretty weird way, too.

He goes back to finishing off the bottle, as Armin sips calmly at his own. After he slides the empty bottle to the side and lets out a slightly embarrassing burp, Armin prods again, "You wanted to talk about something, Eren?"

Of course he does, but now that Armin's here, Eren's feeling strangely nervous and he's thinking that maybe he should've just gotten drunk on his own back when the idea had originally struck.

"Is it about Jean?" Armin asks tentatively, and Eren shakes his head vigorously.

"God no, I don't want to talk about Jean at all for the rest of the night," he says, grimacing.

He's opening his next bottle when Armin inquires, "So, Levi, then?"

Eren almost chokes on his mouthful of beer, coughing as the bitter drink goes down. Armin pats him on the back a few times until Eren shrugs his hand off, voice gruff. "How'd you guess?"

Armin's smile is lopsided as he taps his own forehead. "I'm the one with the brains around here, remember?"

Eren rolls his eyes but doesn't deny it, and he sips at the beer with a bit less urgency than before. He's glad to see that Armin's drinking his own now, too, now that they've finally broached the topic of what's been bothering Eren. He'd really prefer if Armin weren't completely sober for this conversation so that he can at least pretend in his own mind that maybe Armin won't remember all of it.

"We... we had a fight."

It's simple. It's a start.

Eren goes back to his bottle as Armin rests his chin in his hand. "What did you fight about?"

His eyebrows furrow as he answers. "Just... I don't know. He's doing this internship, and you know, whatever." Eren rubs at his forehead and shifts his legs under the table. "I don't even care. I mean, I do care, but... I don't know. He just started flipping out for no reason and then we were arguing and stuff."

He works on draining the second bottle, figuring it his reward for getting that much out in one go. Armin looks mildly disapproving but doesn't comment on it. "Well, that sucks." Eren nods, and Armin continues, "I guess you haven't talked since then...?"

The second bottle is slid over to join the other empty one, and Eren frowns deeply as he answers. "No, we haven't."

He knows he's going to have to offer more here, Armin's not a mind-reader, and it's not so much the fight he's hung up over, anyway, but Eren thinks he might need another beer.

"Well why not?" Armin asks reasonably. "You're obviously upset. You probably didn't mean whatever you said in the heat of the moment, and he probably didn't either--" Eren snorts, and Armin amends, "Probably didn't really mean it, anyway. So what's the big problem? You shouldn't lose your friendship over an argument, right?"

Eren stares at the wood of the table for a minute, feeling the slight buzz from the alcohol starting to take effect as he lets Armin's words sink in.

"It wasn't..." Eren's fingers itch for another beer, so he grabs one. "Something else kind of happened."

There's a pause, and then Armin groans, which makes Eren look back up at him. "Eren, please tell me this didn't come to physical blows."

"No, no," he refutes quickly, though he had thought it'd come to blows in that moment that Levi had first grabbed him. Eren tries not to think back on when they were standing there like that, because the back of his neck is already burning as he struggles with what to say. "Um, I think that... that things..."

He trails off, Armin leaning forward a little as he waits for Eren to continue. When he doesn't, Armin sighs and polishes off his first beer. "Okay, so something happened. Aside from the argument. This is what's really bothering you."

Eren nods sullenly. His brain obviously isn't fuzzy enough because he can't just blurt out the things he wants to say, so he continues drinking his beer, Armin tapping his finger on the table.

"Levi-- he--" Eren unintentionally stumbles over the words, realizing he hasn't said Levi's name since the last time he'd seen him, and he notices Armin's starting to look rather exasperated.

"Eren, unless you're about to tell me Levi unbuttoned his shirt to reveal he's a woman, you're not going to freak me out. Just say it."

Eren is too busy choking on a laugh that turns into a strange wheeze to answer, but once he regains his breath he feels a bit better. Still nervous, but this is Armin.

He clears his throat. "I think that... things have changed between us."

Armin nods expectantly, and Eren forces himself to continue. "I... I think they've changed in a way that makes it impossible to go back to how things were." His heart thumps in his chest at the words, and he goes back to drinking his beer for a moment, avoiding Armin's gaze. Saying it aloud is so much worse than thinking it.

"It's not that anything actually-- I mean, it's more the realization of--? I don't know," Eren trails off into a mumble, fighting a frown. He's being incredibly vague, but Armin's not demanding any more explanation, which he's quite thankful for.

It's quiet for a bit, both of them focused on their drinks, until Armin asks, "How do you think Levi feels about it?"

Eren's stomach does a strange somersault and he tries to quell it with lots of beer. Lots. He grimaces a little as he replies, "I don't know. I mean, we haven't... we haven't talked, so I guess not good."

"Do you think it's 'not good?'" Armin shoots back easily, and Eren takes a moment to answer, head swimming.

"I don't-- I don't know. I just... I don't want to..." His voice gets small, pathetic. "I don't want everything to be fucked up."

He jumps slightly as Armin pats his arm, expression solemn. "How much worse can it get? You guys aren't even talking. And it's not like you've tried calling him either, you know? He might be just as confused as you are."

The alcohol is probably starting to take more of an effect now - Eren always has been a lightweight - but he's more focused on the feeling of Armin's hand on his arm than his words. It takes awhile to process them, and when he does, he sighs sadly, "I deleted him from my phone."

To his chagrin, Armin laughs. "You know where he lives though, that's not an excuse." A pause. "You're afraid."

Eren doesn't deny it. It's true, obviously, and that's why he's been avoiding Levi, going to absurd lengths to avoid even thinking about him.

"You're afraid because you want things to change, and you're afraid Levi doesn't."

He should probably jump up from the table and throw out wild denials, but he doesn't.

"Fuck," Eren mumbles weakly, his head suddenly throbbing. He slowly slides back in his chair, rubbing at his face vigorously as if it'll make him become more alert. Maybe they shouldn't be drinking during this conversation. But he definitely doesn't want to talk about this sober, either.

He spends some time contemplating this, until Armin waves a hand in front of his eyes. "Eren." He jolts a bit, then looks back to Armin. "Whatever you do, it'll happen because you did it. Understand?"

Eren most assuredly doesn't, and it must show on his face. Armin sighs and continues, "If you sit around moping and never reach out to him, that means you won't see him again. If you go talk to him and tell him you don't want things to change, they won't. If you tell him you want things to change, maybe they will." A warm hand is suddenly on the top of his head, and Armin looks so very kind right now. "And if they don't, you'll always have me. And Mikasa. Always."

There's a dangerous watery quality to his eyes, suddenly, and Eren barks out gruffly, "I need more beer."

Armin laughs, claims he needs it more than Eren does after that sappy speech, and it's too early to say that he feels better about anything, but Eren thinks he's certainly heading down the right road.

Chapter Text

When Eren wakes up the next day, it takes him a while to remember exactly what had happened the night before. Not that he can remember all of it, but definitely most of it.

The important parts.

The embarrassing parts.

Eren groans and rolls around in bed for as long as he can before having to give in to relieve himself. He makes it to the bathroom with bleary eyes, hobbling single-mindedly back to his bed once he's done.

Unfortunately he's unable to recapture the serenity brought to him by sleep, but that doesn't mean he intends to get up just yet. Eren huddles under the covers, enjoying the warmth, and tries not to let his brain go into overdrive.

The plan fails, of course; before long he's going over everything he and Armin had talked about, which makes him cringe and bury his face deeper under the covers. Eren vaguely recalls ordering takeout after the embarrassing talk, and playing some racing games; it gets really fuzzy after that.

He figures he should text Armin and make sure he had gotten home alright, since he can't quite remember Armin actually leaving. Eren shuffles to the side and grabs his phone, nearly dropping it as it starts to ring; he almost panics at seeing it's Armin calling - maybe something had happened? - and rushes to answer the call, voice gruff. "Hello?"

"Hey, Eren," Armin says cheerily, sounding far too awake. Well, at least it's obvious that nothing's wrong. "Did you just wake up? I just wanted to make sure you were okay."

Eren sighs, cradling the phone against his ear and getting comfortable once again. "I woke up a little bit ago, and I'm fine. Why wouldn't I be?"

"Well..." Armin begins, his tone enough to make Eren start to feel wary, "I was just concerned. I mean, you were crying and everything..."

"What?!" Eren practically screams, his voice cracking strangely. He sits up quickly, covers falling aside as he unearths himself from the warm cocoon. He racks his brain wildly but doesn't remember crying, dear god, had he actually--?

In his panic, he almost doesn't realize Armin has continued speaking. "Yeah, it... it was really bad, Eren. I didn't know what to do."

"I-- I don't--" Eren stammers, mortified. If he had actually bawled like a drunken baby over Levi he might have to go drown himself in the shower.

Armin sighs sadly. "If only I had known you would have gotten so upset over me beating you in Mario Kart..."

It's silent for a long moment, Eren's hand that had unconsciously moved to grip the covers going slack. "Armin. Are you telling me I fucking cried over Mario Kart?"

"It was an intense round, but really Eren, are you sure you're okay? I just--"

Eren falls back into his pillow with a small 'oof' sound. "Shut the hell up, Armin. I'm gonna hang up."

Armin laughs, which only makes Eren scowl. His voice is light when he speaks again, but Eren can hear the real concern in it. "Sorry, sorry. But really, are you okay?"

The answer doesn't come right away, Eren pausing for a few moments, before replying firmly, "I'll be fine, don't worry about me." He bites his lip, then adds a little awkwardly, "Thanks."

Thankfully Armin doesn't tease him, the call ending shortly thereafter, leaving Eren wide awake and staring at his ceiling.

--

Now that Eren has firmly stepped out of denial and back into the real world, he's... nervous. Queasy. Scared shitless, even. He always has had a way with words.

He's not a coward, has never been a coward, and he's definitely not going to be one now.

It's just, it's easier to think those kinds of thoughts when he's gripping his coffee mug determinedly at his kitchen table in the mornings, than when he actually leaves his apartment. Then, he is free to go seek out Levi at any time, which leaves something akin to a block of ice sitting in the center of his stomach.

What if.

That's all his brain keeps supplying him with, what if Levi says this, what if Levi does that, what if Levi makes this face, what if Levi slams the door, what if Levi throws something at him, what if, what if, what if... The scenarios his mind conjures up get increasingly more violent and frightening, which causes Eren to feel even more depressed.

He doesn't let himself imagine anything other than bad outcomes, because that's all he honestly believes will come of this. Armin had tried to assure him that Levi's confused too, Levi might feel the same, but the odds of that are so small that it makes Eren want to smack his head against the table.

"...Ow."

Eren notes that banging his head against his desk is definitely not something he wants to do again in the future.

He sighs, the sound melodramatic to his own ears, and leans back in his chair. He's dragging his ass, being a total coward, and he knows it. Levi is leaving the day after tomorrow. He's going to be gone for who knows how long, because Eren's incredibly stupid and hadn't paid enough attention to that part. And he doesn't have Levi's phone number, if he had wanted to pull a chickenshit move and text Levi once he knows he's away.

Eren should go see him now. He needs to get it over with.

--

He ends up eating dinner and going to bed early instead.

Not that he goes to sleep, just stares at nothing as the ice block forms in his stomach again.

--

Eren's cleaning his apartment the next day, in some odd combination of stress relief and abject panic, while the hours tick away far too quickly for his liking.

Damn, he's a coward after all.

He's sitting on the floor, flipping through some of his old notebooks and folders to see if he needs to keep anything when he finds it.

The little scrap of paper shouldn't make his heart swell like it does, but Eren grips it in his hands like a lifeline. He scrambles to drag his phone out of his pocket, then adds Levi's phone number back into his contacts with trembling fingers.

He smiles, heart thumping in his chest.

Maybe this is a sign. A good omen.

He couldn't live with himself if he did such a cowardly thing, anyway.

--

The terror is back full force after a few hours of peace, but it's getting later and later, and it's time to bite the bullet. What's the worst that can happen? Nothing can be worse than this awful limbo state; at least he'll get an answer, one way or the other.

Eren's a little slow as he pulls his coat on, as he wraps the scarf around his neck. He probably shouldn't be taking this long to pull on his gloves either, but he can't help it.

There's no longer any reason for Eren to be standing in his apartment, so he lets out a shaky sigh and heads out the door. He hopes Levi is still awake; Eren knows he has to leave early in the morning. This is his own fault for waiting so long, anyway.

It's a cold night, but luckily there's not much in the way of wind. Eren finds the walk to be peaceful, for the most part, his warm breaths bouncing back at him from the scarf wrapped around him. His head feels strangely clear, the block in his stomach absent.

Eren almost curses as he notices a few snowflakes start to fall, and he worries he might have to head back to get an umbrella and delay this whole thing even longer, but it doesn't pick up. They haven't had any snow yet this year, but Eren doesn't mind this kind of snowfall, especially when it's not windy.

He continues walking at the same pace, hands in his pockets. It seems almost ridiculous, right now, at how long he and Levi have gone without speaking. It makes him realize just how fragile their friendship is, and how difficult it might be to maintain it.

Let alone change it.

He fights away a frown at the thought. With the way he's been feeling these past weeks, Eren thinks it will be worth it, no matter what possible problems may arise in the future.

His footsteps unintentionally start to dawdle the closer he gets to Levi's apartment, and Eren feels his stomach do a weird flip once he sees the building in the distance. He grits his teeth and walks onward, then almost trips over his feet when he notices the figure sitting on the bench across the street from the apartment building.

Levi is bundled up, just like Eren is, his head tilted upward, watching the snow fall. There's a street lamp close to the bench, shedding light on the man who has preoccupied his mind for the past few weeks, and Eren's left suddenly breathless.

He hasn't been noticed, and Eren is happy for it, happy to be able to just stand there and look at Levi, take in the curve of his jaw and the slight color in his cheeks from the cold, the specks of white in his dark hair that fade away just as quickly as they appear.

Eren doesn't realize he's walking again until he's practically right in front of Levi, and it's then that eyes finally shift over to look at him. The surprise is evident, even though they widen just slightly, and Eren struggles briefly with what to say when it suddenly feels like his tongue is too large for his mouth.

"Hey."

Well, it's something.

There's a pause, and then Levi asks, "What are you doing here?"

It doesn't sound angry, or threatening, and Eren really wishes that he had tried to talk to Levi long before this. He wonders if Levi had wanted to talk to him, too.

"I wanted to see you," he says, because it's true, and he doesn't want to beat around the bush, doesn't want to make up excuses.

Levi's lips part slightly, but he doesn't say anything, tilting his chin downwards again. Eren takes it as an invitation to sit down next to him on the bench.

It's quiet, Eren looking down at his own hands in his lap, before glancing over at Levi. He almost can't believe his eyes when he notices that Levi is wearing mittens instead of gloves; he wants to simultaneously laugh and do something stupid, like take Levi's hand.

The thought makes him gulp, and he murmurs softly, "I wanted to see you before you... I wanted to talk to you."

Levi looks at him, expression unreadable. "And what did you want to say?"

Eren's heart seems to speed up at the question, and he tries to calm himself before he answers. "That I... I missed you. And I think that maybe you were right."

"About what?" Levi's voice is quiet, but Eren's afraid to look at his face right now.

"I think about you all the time," Eren says, the boldness of his words enough to make his ears burn, and he hopes Levi doesn't notice. "I don't understand everything that that means yet, but I do know that I always want to be around you."

Eren's neck is burning now too, but he fights it off as best he can. He forces himself to look at Levi before he continues. "I want you to think about me, too. I want to be the one you go to when you need someone. I want to know everything about you, and I..." He trails off, watches his breath puff out for a few moments, and then finishes, "I think you were right, that I was waiting."

Levi doesn't reply, his brows furrowing slightly. Eren plows on ahead, digs himself deeper. "But what I want to know, Levi... is if you were waiting, too?"

There, it's all out there - basically, anyway, and Eren feels like he's wound up tight like a spring, tense, waiting with his heart in his throat for Levi to say something, anything.

What he doesn't expect is for Levi to avert his eyes, to reach up and scratch at his ear with a mitten-ed hand and bite out, "You're such an idiot."

Eren can see the snowflakes hitting Levi's hair, his hand, his eyelashes, and even though Levi hasn't accepted him, he hasn't rejected him either, and Eren suddenly feels like he can take on the world.

"You say that all the time," Eren says, keeping his voice light, and Levi gives him a glare. It makes him smile, and his stomach flutters. This feels familiar, yet so different at the same time.

"Yeah, but you still don't get any smarter," Levi retorts, scratching at his ear again, looking irritable. "And you're still shit at hiding anything on that face. It's ridiculous."

Eren stays silent, not sure if Levi's trying to start another argument.

"I don't know what you're trying to achieve by saying all that. There are no magical words to change things around, Eren. It's never that easy."

This is starting to sound like a rejection to Eren, and his heart squeezes. He reaches out and wraps his hand around Levi's, resting in his lap, and Levi looks mildly startled. Perhaps it's only because of his surprise that he doesn't shake Eren off as he holds his hand gently, brings it closer, raises it to press his lips to Levi's knuckles.

Eren remains like that for a long moment, looking into Levi's eyes, until Levi finally says, "...You're going to get fuzzballs in your mouth."

The tense moment is broken, and it's enough to make him laugh, breath gusting out over Levi's hand, and he feels the fingers twitch in his grasp. Eren presses his lips against Levi's hand once again, because who knows when he'll have another chance to do so, before lowering it, though he doesn't quite let go yet.

"It might not be easy. But that doesn't mean that it's not worth it."

He knows his own cheeks are darker than can be passed off just from the cold, but Eren isn't sure about Levi's. His face looks the same as when he had just sat down, but Eren's head feels so dizzy right now that he doesn't know for certain. He hopes that Levi feels as affected as he does, even if he's better at not showing it.

Levi lets out a huff, finally, and tilts his head sideways. "I'm leaving tomorrow, you know."

"I know," Eren replies quickly.

Levi still hasn't pulled his hand away. The realization makes Eren smile. "Mittens, Levi?"

The hand in his twitches and finally pulls away, despite Eren's ultimately futile attempts to stop it. Levi scowls darkly. "They're warmer than gloves."

Eren smiles again, voice faltering just as a little as he says, "I'm... I'm glad that we're here. Together."

It sounds stupid, really, really stupid, but it's too late now. Eren watches Levi apprehensively, tensing up as Levi drifts sideways. Before he can comprehend what's happening, Levi is pressed against his side, his head resting ever so gently on Eren's shoulder. His stomach flips around so much that he almost feels nauseous, but he struggles to breathe properly and not pass out.

Then there's a hand on his, and Eren feels his cheeks warm, warmer than before when he'd been bumbling through what he'd wanted to try to say. This feels nice, really nice, and the flipping of his stomach calms down a bit, becomes bearable, and the pulse pounding in his ears doesn't seem so bad either.

"Still so easy to read," Levi murmurs, voice soft, and Eren doesn't answer, just tilts his head slightly, just enough so that he can rest it against Levi's.

All of the vivid scenarios he had imagined seem like a world away, and Eren yet again wishes he hadn't waited so long to talk to Levi. Sitting here like this, and knowing that it's going to be weeks before he can even see him again, makes Eren want to kick himself.

"I'll miss you," Eren whispers, almost afraid to actually say it, but he wants Levi to know.

He receives a sigh in response, and Levi turns his head to the side, forcing Eren to shift a little as well. He fights to suppress a shiver at the feel of Levi's breath on him as he mutters, "What are we doing, Eren?"

There's not a simple answer to give, and Eren looks up to watch the snowflakes swirl by the light of the street lamp. He's not sure, exactly, but he knows there's nowhere else he'd rather be.

"I don't know," he murmurs, lowering his head again, indulging himself with the feel of Levi's hair pressed against his cheek once more. "But... it feels right, doesn't it?"

He doesn't receive an answer, or a verbal one, anyway, but he's certain he hasn't imagined the way Levi's fingers squeeze around his own.

Chapter Text

Three weeks.

When Eren finally gets his answer of how long Levi will be away, it initially makes him frown, but he quickly purses his lips to hide it. That expression isn't much better though, and he ends up coughing awkwardly.

Levi just looks at him, brow raised.

Eren feels dumb, at least until Levi mutters something about how they still have their phones while not quite looking him in the eye.

--

The first day Levi's gone, Eren sleeps a lot - he needs to, he thinks, needs to rest his mind, his body after all the anxiety of the past few weeks.

It's late afternoon and he's currently looking out the window, finger absentmindedly tracing the rim of his cup. He's not quite sure how he feels right now, some mix between tired and giddy and a little sad all at the same time. Surprisingly his mind is rather calm, not flooding him with jumbled thoughts and worries. Instead, he watches the people walking by on the street below, fleeting thoughts of Levi's weight against his side or the snowflakes hitting his hair making Eren feel content.

What it comes down to is that he's not dwelling on what had happened, he supposes. And the reason he's not dwelling on it is because he doesn't regret it. Eren smiles, feeling silly yet pleased at the same time.

Maybe he should have said something sooner, but it's alright just the way it is right now. Eren's happy with what's happened, and he wouldn't change a thing.

If his stomach flutters a little at the memory of Levi's hand atop his, at the sound of his voice so near, Eren welcomes it. There's definitely still some nervousness, but it's the kind that drives him to want to move forward. Eren is excited, really, and though he's not the type to let himself think too far ahead, he can't help but smile sitting here in the quiet of his apartment.

It isn't going to be all warm feelings during the next three weeks, so Eren's more than happy to bask in them right now.

--

Eren's huddled in his bed, staring at the clock beside him - 10:48. He's unsure if he should text Levi and ask how his day went, or if he should leave him be. His indecision has been going on for awhile now, and it's only getting later and later.

Levi usually stays up late, of course, but he might not today, it had probably been hectic and Levi may have turned in early. Eren's hand finally snakes out to find his phone anyway, despite his reservations.

'Hey how did everything go today? I hope this doesn't wake you up btw'

Some time passes with no reply from Levi, and Eren figures he is indeed asleep. That's probably a good thing, and he tries to pretend he doesn't feel a little disappointed. He gets comfortable again, leaving his phone under the covers because he's too warm (and maybe a little lazy) to unearth his arm again.

He's just drifting off when he hears the muffled sound of his phone, and his hand is wrapping around it before he even opens his eyes. Eren sticks his head under the covers, squinting his eyes a little at the brightness of the screen, and reads, 'Fine. Busy, but in a good way mostly. You should go to sleep.'

Eren's lips curl upwards and he types back slowly, eyes still adjusting to the light. 'You too. Good luck, but I know you don't need it!'

It sounds kind of corny when he rereads it, but it's already been sent, so oh well. Eren's not really expecting an answer, but his phone buzzes again a moment later.

'That was really cheesy, even for you'

He laughs, letting the warm feeling in his chest spread as he falls asleep.

--

It's easier to keep his mind occupied during the day, and Eren's willing to admit that maybe he's subconsciously doing extra things to keep himself busier than usual.

Mikasa's been busy as well and Eren hasn't been able to meet up with her in awhile, which he's pretty disappointed about since laughing about Jean would definitely be something to lighten his mood. Armin apparently doesn't have any details of the alleged date either, but they both agree if Mikasa divulges how badly it went, they'll swap stories.

But at night when Eren's alone in his apartment, he can't help his thoughts from straying to Levi. It's probably pathetic. Not probably, it is pathetic. He's sure that Levi isn't spending so much time thinking about him.

Eren tries to bury this in the back of his mind, but he thinks it'd be kind of nice if Levi is, though.

--

Eren's on his way to the store, feet moving quickly as he buries his face in his scarf (he really should've gone on this excursion while the sun had still been out), when he suddenly stops. He can hardly believe his eyes.

This is it. The perfect specimen.

He slowly walks over to the car with the 'For sale' sign haphazardly posted in the window, taking in everything. It's a fine silver color, some wear in a few places but it's easy enough to overlook. The interior isn't leather, which is another huge plus - Eren doesn't want to be sticking to the seats once it gets hot again, thank you very much.

With a start, Eren realizes his breath is starting to fog up the window. He fumbles around with his phone, the act of typing in the number on the sign being much more difficult than it should because of his gloves. He saves it in his contacts so that he can inquire about this beauty when he gets home.

Now that he's finished with that, Eren belatedly remembers that he's freezing, and ends up half-jogging the rest of the way to the store.

--

When he finally re-enters his apartment, bursting through the door with a flourish, Eren is so excited that he can barely think straight. He shrugs off his coat and gloves, leaving the scarf on (just for a little while - he can almost picture Mikasa's grin if she could see him now) as he carries his bags to the kitchen.

He's contemplating whether he should eat first or call about the car, though he's really leaning towards calling about the car, when he considers the fact that it's almost eight. Eren's eyebrows furrow as he shuffles over to the table and sits down, pulling out his phone. It might be kind of rude to call this late for something 'business-related' or... however this should be described.

Eren groans in defeat; now that the thought's entered his mind, he knows he's going to have to wait until tomorrow. Still, he finds the excitement returning full force a minute later, and he's wishing he took a picture of the car as he digs around for something to eat.

He decides on soup, he definitely can never go wrong with soup when it's as cold as it is tonight. Eren's stirring the pot of soup absentmindedly, thoughts drifting to how amazing it will be to finally have his own vehicle, when his phone buzzes on the table.

His first reaction is to go check it, so he does. He only has time to register that he has a message from Levi before the boiling pot regains his attention, and he rushes back over to the stove.

After scrambling to turn down the heat, Eren lets out a weary sigh at his own stupidity. He finds his heart is still beating a bit fast, though he's not sure if it's from the adrenaline rush or because of Levi. The thought makes him feel like a fool and he unnecessarily stirs the soup again to distract himself. It should be almost done now, anyway.

Potential crisis averted, Eren checks to see what Levi's message says. They haven't really been texting each other much, so it's always particularly nice when Levi messages him first.

'It's snowing here.'

Those three simple words make Eren's stomach do strange things, and all he can think about is sitting with Levi that night in the snow. He wonders if Levi's thinking about it, too?

Eren bites his lip, unsure what to reply. Since Levi's been away they haven't actually discussed... it, not that it's something that should be discussed through texts. Eren rubs at his forehead, as if it'll somehow soothe his jumbled thoughts (not surprisingly, it doesn't work).

The contentment he'd been feeling just after Levi had left has pretty much evaporated into loneliness, and Eren's been doing his best to combat it. But maybe it will be alright to be just a little selfish.

'It was snowing the last time I saw you, too'

Eren's heart thumps after he sends it. Levi might not even answer. It's not like he needs Levi to acknowledge that that night had happened or anything, but sometimes it feels so far away and... unattainable. Like Levi himself is, right now.

He's just finished settling the steaming hot bowl of soup on the table when he gets another text. Eren is suddenly almost apprehensive to look at it, and he awkwardly fumbles to remove the scarf still wrapped around his neck, tossing it onto the other chair. He's unable to hold himself back for much longer, and, since he can't even distract himself by eating yet since it's still much too hot, Eren reaches for his phone.

'You can see the stars here. You'd like it'

Warmth pools in his chest, spreads pleasantly down to the tips of his toes, and Eren fights the urge to bury his face in his hands to hide his smile, even though he's alone.

There's a brief moment of indecision before Eren presses the 'Call' button. He realizes he's holding his breath as the line rings, once, twice, and it's in the middle of the third ring that Levi picks up.

"Hello?"

Just hearing Levi's voice makes the warm feeling grow, makes it spread even more, and Eren covers the top of his face with the hand not holding the phone. He feels ridiculous, but also ridiculously happy at the same time.

"Hey, Levi."

"Hey."

It's quiet for a moment, and Eren feels content again.

"What's going on?" Levi asks, a mild touch of concern tinging his voice. Eren understands, since they rarely actually call each other, but he's just glad to be speaking to Levi right now.

"Nothing," Eren replies, voice soft. "I just... I just wanted to talk to you. To hear your voice."

It's okay to say those kinds of things now, right? It's still embarrassing, of course, but--

"Is that so." It's less of a question and more of a statement, and Eren feels even more embarrassed; maybe Levi can sense it, since he continues, "That's fine. Don't worry about stupid things, like you always do."

Eren huffs. "Shut up." He doesn't actually sound angry, and doesn't bother trying to.

"You're the one who called me," Levi replies, a hint of a smile in his voice.

"Yeah, we established that," Eren grumbles, leaning his chin in his hand. There's a pause, and Eren asks hesitantly, "So what are you up to?"

"Just looking outside," Levi responds. "The stars are really bright here."

Eren finds that he's wandering over to his own window without making the conscious decision to do so. He sees neither stars nor snow, and he presses his forehead against the glass.

"Yeah? I'd like to see them."

It sounds like 'I'd like to be there with you' or maybe 'I'd like to see you', and Eren thinks it's alright if Levi interprets it that way too, because that's pretty much what he really means, anyway.

"That'd be nice," Levi says, voice quiet, and Eren smiles, closing his eyes. Right now, it feels like Levi isn't so far off and unreachable anymore.

The soup grows cold by the time Eren gets back to it, but he can't find it in himself to be even a tiny bit annoyed.

Chapter Text

Eren is a changed man.

A free man.

A man in control of his own destiny.

Hot damn, it's unbelievably awesome to have his own car.

Eren can't stop himself from wandering over to the window every few minutes to look down at the beauty that he can now call his. He can barely even believe his good luck, to just stumble across his destined vehicle by chance, but people always say that things happen for a reason.

He cheerily heads back to the kitchen, mood dimming just slightly as he decides to not put off washing the dishes any longer. His attention is still not quite on the task at hand, eyes roving over to the table where his phone innocently sits.

It's not like he's overeager or anything. It's just that Levi is supposed to be back today, and Eren really, really can't wait to show him the car.

By some miracle, he'd managed to keep his big mouth shut about it, and he's practically bouncing on the balls of his feet in excitement. He stifles a laugh at the idea that Levi probably won't even care that much, but Eren's still excited anyway.

After he finishes the dishes, Eren moves on to the next dreaded task: vacuuming. He and the vacuum have... history. No matter what Eren does, no matter how he plans ahead, what careful routes he takes, he always ends up with the cord either wrapped around something, stuck under something, and more often than not a table gets upended.

His eyes narrow as he starts slowly untangling the cord, dropping it unceremoniously to the floor when he hears his phone go off. Eren's tempted to kick at it, but he knows he'll only end up breaking his own neck, so he resists and rushes to check his phone.

'I'm home'

A smile stretches across his face, and Eren is already typing 'Can I come over' before he even considers that Levi may not be in the most sociable of moods. He hesitates, finger suspended over the 'send' button. Well, Levi can always say no if he doesn't want Eren to visit.

He's not anticipating a no, though, already slipping into his shoes and grabbing his coat. Levi's reply comes a few moments later. 'I don't really feel like doing anything, but it's up to you.'

Eren feels a rush of excitement that has nothing to do with showing Levi his car, typing a hurried, 'be there soon' as he ambles out the door.

--

Eren hums to himself the entire time he's driving, making it over to Levi's much quicker than he would on foot. He parks along the nearly vacant street and catches himself checking his reflection in the mirror, which elicits a rather dark scowl. He slips outside, slamming the door a bit harder than necessary, then forces himself to take a deep breath to calm the jittery feeling in his stomach as he walks up to the door. With three successive buzzes delivered to Levi's apartment number, Eren shoves his hands in his pockets and waits as patiently as he can.

It seems like ages until the door cracks open, and Eren's heart does a strange skip-thing at the sight of Levi, grumpy and tired as he looks. "That was fast," he says by way of greeting, and Eren struggles not to do something stupid like pull him into a hug.

"Welcome back!" he exclaims instead, grinning. Levi tries to look exasperated but he smiles, taking a step back.

"Come on, it's freezing." He gestures for Eren to get inside, but he shakes his head quickly. Levi's eyebrow quirks in confusion and Eren chuckles, still grinning.

"I want you to tear your gaze from my beautiful visage and look behind me to see something even more beautiful."

Levi looks at him like he's mildly insane, but Eren just steps to the side excitedly, waiting for Levi to catch a glimpse of the car. When he does, his eyes widen just slightly, looking back to Eren for confirmation, which he gives with a rapid nod and thumbs up. "Dork," Levi groans, but there's no malice in it.

"Get your coat, let's go for a ride!" Eren rubs his hands together, smiling again. Levi hesitates slightly, looking from Eren to the car.

He frowns a bit, his voice laced with a twinge of regret, "I really don't feel like going anywhere, but maybe some other day we cou--"

Eren, however, isn't about to take the refusal lying down. "We don't have to do anything! We can just ride over to my place or something." He pauses, watching Levi consider it. "I'll make you some tea," he adds, as though this will seal the deal.

Levi chuckles, then stifles a yawn. "I don't need tea, I need a nap." Eren's trying to think of some other way to convince him when Levi sighs, "Fine, I guess, but just for a little bit."

"Yes!" he cries, pumping his fist. "Hurry up, it's cold out here."

Levi doesn't grace him with a response, slamming the door in his face. Eren laughs softly, chest feeling jittery and light. He's missed Levi terribly, and seeing him has only made Eren realize just how much.

He wanders slowly down the path and looks back to the door, waiting for Levi to reappear. It doesn't take too long, and Eren tries not to smile at the sight of Levi finishing up the buttons on his coat, scarf slung carelessly around his neck as he makes his way to where Eren stands.

With a flourish, Eren opens the passenger side door; Levi gives him a strange look that makes Eren curious, but before he can question it, Levi climbs in. Eren closes the door, this time in a quieter fashion, and walks around to get in as well.

He glances over to see that the tips of Levi's ears are pink, but his eyes are busy taking in different aspects of the car, so Eren decides not to comment. As he starts the engine, Levi offers up a "Not that bad, I guess" and Eren grins.

"It's more than not bad, it's awesome," Eren corrects good-naturedly as he pulls out onto the street, then throws in as an afterthought, "Oh, except for your window, don't try to open it."

"Why the hell would I try to open it? It's winter, you moron."

Eren snorts. "Well, you know, you like to live on the wild side and all that." He glances over to see Levi rolling his eyes, but he has a hand by his mouth which might be hiding a smile.

Eren can't help but babble a bit as he drives, unable to reign in his good mood. Levi only insults him half as much as usual, so Eren assumes he's enjoying himself just as much. Eren gets a little distracted by the way Levi's fingers are splayed against his knees a few times, but Levi doesn't seem to notice, which is good, because Eren certainly can't explain it.

Once they reach Eren's apartment building, they both race inside, bumping shoulders as they try to beat each other through the door. "Asshole," Eren mutters as he hits his elbow against the door frame, but he only receives a smirk in return. It's probably not a look that should evoke butterflies in his stomach, but somehow it does anyway.

The first thing Eren does when they get into his apartment is crank the heat up, trying not to laugh as Levi demands, "Where's my tea?"

"At least let me get my coat off," Eren grumbles, and he shoos Levi out of the kitchen when he tries to follow. "Go sit on the couch, it'll be done in a minute."

Embarrassingly Eren catches himself humming, abruptly cutting off once he takes notice. Levi hasn't commented, and a quick glance into the next room shows that the television is on, but it appears the sound has been turned off. Levi can be so weird sometimes, but that thought only makes Eren feel fond.

He carries over the two cups of tea carefully, not keen on spilling any of the hot liquid on the carpet. Levi picks his up immediately, sipping at it; his eyes close and he looks content, and Eren realizes he's staring. He rushes to take a sip of his own drink before placing it back down.

"Do you want anything to eat?" Eren asks eventually, as Levi finishes off his tea.

"No, I'm good," he replies, slinking back into the couch a bit. Eren finds that he's staring again, and he averts his gaze to the television, which is currently playing some soundless movie.

His mind is in overdrive, and he kind of feels like doing something, maybe something a little reckless, even. Eren glances to the side as discretely as he can, though Levi doesn't seem to be aware of him stealing glances. Levi looks... tired, quite frankly, and there's a twinge of guilt that makes Eren frown; he shouldn't have dragged Levi out when he had just gotten home. But then inspiration suddenly strikes, and Eren's stomach floods with nerves at the idea of doing what he's about to try and do.

"Sorry for making you come over, I know you're exhausted," Eren murmurs, like he's going to disturb Levi if he speaks too loudly. Levi glances over to him, but he doesn't look angry, so Eren forces himself to continue, keeping his eyes trained on his own knees. "You can... If you want, you could lie down." Here he pats awkwardly at his lap, still not daring to look over at the man beside him.

The snort he receives in response is enough to make his cheeks heat up, and his fervent wish to melt into the cushions of the couch unfortunately doesn't come to fruition.

"I'm not doing that," Levi says after a few moments, like Eren hasn't already gotten the picture. He nods quickly, acknowledging that it had indeed been a stupid thing to suggest.

"But you can. If you want."

The words are enough to make Eren's head whip around in confusion, and the look on Levi's face isn't one of mocking. In fact, he looks like he's waiting for Eren to do something, but he's already reached his quota of reckless behaviors for the day, so he can only stare back dumbly.

Levi lets out a huff, then reaches out a hand and pulls at Eren's arm, the motion bringing him closer to Levi. Eren tries not to let his heart escape from his throat at the implications, but then Levi goes and actually says, "I said you can, okay? Don't look at me like I'm gonna bite your head off."

"...Right," Eren mumbles as Levi releases him. He's gone and gotten himself into this mess, really, so now he just has to... yeah.

It seems like he's moving in slow motion, shuffling to lie on his side, tucking his legs along the length of the couch, then carefully, as gently as he can, placing his head in Levi's lap. Eren's eyes are boring into the TV in this position, but his mind is much too preoccupied with how warm he feels to focus on it.

Who knew that resting against Levi's legs could be so warm and even kind of... comfortable? Eren squeezes his eyes shut and tries to calm his heart rate, but it appears that's going to be impossible for the time being. He wonders what Levi is thinking? He should enjoy this situation while he can, because it's probably only going to be a few minutes before Levi grows tired of it and pushes him away.

The minutes tick by, neither of them saying anything, and Eren's heart is still thundering in his chest. He's almost terrified to move, like if he shifts the wrong way that this moment will somehow end. His fingers grip the side of the couch as he asks quietly, "Is this okay?"

"It's fine." Levi's reply is immediate, voice low, and Eren's nervousness doesn't die away, exactly, but he feels like he can relax just the tiniest bit. He tries to let the tension in his shoulders ease away, to stop gripping at the cushion beneath his fingertips.

When he's not busy having a miniature panic attack, Eren's able to think about how nice this is, warm and close and maybe kind of intimate, in a way, even though neither of them are talking. But they don't have to say anything, he thinks; he's hoping, at least, that Levi's feeling the same way he is right now.

Eren lets his eyes fall closed again, heart squeezing in his chest. It's ridiculous to feel this content over something so small, but he can't help but wish he could tuck this moment away forever, that he could revisit it at any time and feel this connected to Levi, which is all he really wants.

He lets out a sharp breath through his nose at that thought. It's true though, and he knows that, knows that he desires a closeness, some kind of connection with Levi, and that's something that he'd like Levi to wish for, as well. If he can have something like that, even if it's little pieces at a time, Eren thinks it'd make him happier than it probably should.

Eren's stomach drops momentarily as he feels Levi begin to shift, but after a few breathless moments he realizes Levi isn't trying to go anywhere, he's just getting more comfortable. He feels bad again, briefly, before telling himself that if Levi really didn't want to be here, he wouldn't be.

This is really rather peaceful, in addition to incredibly nice, and Eren lets himself get more comfortable, his breathing going back to normal as his eyes slip shut. He wonders how long they've been like this, now; he feels so relaxed, and he hopes Levi does too.

It's quiet, the TV playing soundlessly still, and Eren realizes quite suddenly that he can hear Levi's breathing evening out. Has he actually fallen asleep?

The idea of such a thing shouldn't make Eren's heart feel like it's trying to burst out of his chest, but he's fighting to suppress a stupid smile anyway. Levi would probably scoff at him for finding pleasure in such a silly thing, but Eren can't help it.

It takes quite a lot of inner courage to bubble forth for Eren to lift his head slightly and crane around to see Levi's face, but it's instantly worth it. Most of his upper body is slanted haphazardly to the side, his arm propped against the side of the couch as his head droops just slightly downward. The pose is entirely inelegant, but Eren's only able to find it nothing short of endearing.

He lets himself stare for a few minutes, taking in the way Levi's eyelashes rest against his cheeks, finding the way his lips are parted just the tiniest fraction immensely fascinating for some reason, before he slowly rests his head back in Levi's lap.

Maybe doing reckless things all of the time isn't the greatest idea, but every once in awhile might not be so bad. If it can lead to moments like what had happened outside Levi's apartment, what's happening now, Eren thinks that maybe he most certainly should listen to those initially crazy ideas more often.

Eren feels brave all of the sudden, sliding his hand slowly closer to where he's currently situated on Levi's lap. He hesitates for a few moments before deciding to go for it, and he lets his fingers trace the shape of Levi's knee, the sharp bone and the curve of it, downwards, before bringing his hand upward again.

He can't help the way his breathing starts to speed up, able to feel the warmth of his own breath where it hits Levi's leg. He probably shouldn't touch Levi while he's asleep like this, especially since he's certain it's a light sleep, but now that's he's done it, Eren doesn't want to stop, and his fingers continue moving with a mind of their own.

His whole body freezes at the unexpected touch of fingertips to the back of his neck, and his skin breaks out in goosebumps at the whisper of, "What are you doing?"

Eren's hand remains frozen where it is, teeth worrying his bottom lip. "...Sorry, I--"

"Shut up," Levi interrupts, voice soft, soft like the way his fingers start to brush along the back of Eren's neck.

He forgets how to breathe, fingers unintentionally gripping harder at Levi's knee. That doesn't seem to bother Levi, his fingers sliding further along, into Eren's hair. The touch is gentle, maybe a little tentative at first, at least until Eren lets out a small sigh and reminds himself to start breathing again.

The notion that Levi might want just the same things that he wants makes Eren feel dizzy, though that sensation can probably also be attributed to the situation currently unfolding. Levi brushes carefully through the strands of his hair, the way the tips of his nails occasionally scratch against his scalp enough to make Eren's toes curl. He presses his feet into the cushions to hide it, but that most likely only ends up drawing more attention to it, anyway.

Levi's touching his neck again, now, working his way around to trail his fingers along the curve of Eren's jaw. "Turn around," he murmurs suddenly, and Eren feels his pulse pick up, hoping absentmindedly that Levi can't feel it with his fingers so close.

Nervously Eren shuffles slightly, eyes fluttering closed as he settles on his back. He tries to pretend his stomach isn't churning dangerously and opens his eyes, instantly seeking out Levi's face.

His first thought is how strange it is to see Levi looking at him from this angle, but Eren doesn't have much time to mull that over with Levi's fingers finding his jaw again. Eren wants to close his eyes in embarrassment but also really doesn't, he wants to see Levi's face, the softness around the edges of his eyes, the mild curiosity in them, mixed with something else that Eren can't name.

"What are you thinking about?"

It takes Eren a moment to process the question, mind focused on the way Levi's fingers are caressing the spot under his chin. He's not sure what to say, because he's really not thinking about much of anything, expect for, well, the obvious.

He lets out the words at the forefront of his mind on a breath, before he starts overthinking it.

"I like... when you touch me."

It sounds absolutely ridiculous when spoken out loud, and Eren almost cringes. The corner of Levi's mouth curls upward just barely, his thumb brushing the skin right beneath Eren's bottom lip as he murmurs, "Yeah?"

Eren's grateful that he's already lying down so it won't be as huge of a deal when he inevitably passes out. His lips involuntarily part at the way Levi's thumb moves against him, and Eren's toes curl once more as that thumb moves up to carefully run along the length of his bottom lip.

His thoughts are racing yet his mind also feels incredibly blank, and Eren's breaths come quicker as he watches the thoughtful look that's now on Levi's face. The soft pressure on his lip is still there, and then suddenly there's the gentle press of Levi's nail against his skin, pulling his lip down just the tiniest bit.

Eren wants desperately to ask Levi what it is he's thinking of right now, but he's too wrapped up in the look in Levi's eyes, with the way he's being touched, with the way his heart feels fit to burst. He's afraid and exhilarated at the same time, both with what's happening and what might happen, and--

A shrill sound close to his head makes Eren jolt, and it takes a few moments for him to register that it's Levi's phone ringing. After his initial impression of a statue, Eren moves to sit up quickly, heart thundering in his ears as Levi mutters to himself, reaching in his pocket.

"Yeah?" he barks, and Eren chances a glance over and sees that Levi looks quite irritated. It makes him feel a little better, since he's not too happy himself right now. (Though it doesn't take much to annoy Levi sometimes as it is.)

Eren begins tapping his foot nervously, hands gripping at his knees as he listens to Levi rattle off a series of terse answers - "Because I'm not there," "None of your business," "Go home," "No," "I fucking hate you," and finally, "Fine, I hope you freeze to death before I get there."

He's able to surmise by the end of the one-sided conversation that Levi is about to leave, and he tries to smother his disappointment with a smile. "So, sounds like you have somewhere to be?"

Levi rolls his eyes as he stands, stretching in a way that manages to catch Eren's eye. "Yeah, unfortunately. Now I gotta go back out into this cold-ass weather."

Eren hops up quickly, trailing after Levi. "I can give you a ride, you know."

"That's okay," Levi dismisses easily, shrugging his coat on. He turns to meet Eren's gaze, frowning slightly. "Unless you want to meet Hanji." Eren's eyebrow twitches, and Levi continues, "You don't want to meet Hanji."

He's unable to suppress a chuckle at Levi's attitude; he knows that he and Hanji are good friends, and truthfully, Eren would like to meet her at some point. "Maybe another time then," he says after a few moments, watching as Levi nods absentmindedly while attempting to put his scarf on.

"Are you sure you don't want a ride?" Eren asks again, mostly for lack of anything else to say. It feels like not only has the moment between them been broken, it's been shattered into a million little pieces, and then swept under the rug where no one will ever think to look for it.

"Don't worry about it," Levi replies, making his way over to the door. Eren follows after him awkwardly, unsure if he should say anything. It's not like there's really anything to say, actually, but there's a bundle of nerves settled in the pit of his stomach and it's extremely unpleasant.

Levi stops at the door, turning to look back at him. Eren slides a hand into his hair and glances to the side. "Okay, if you're sure." He pauses, shuffling his feet before looking back at Levi. "Sorry for... dragging you out and everything."

"You apologize now, but you practically manhandled me out of my apartment," Levi replies, raising an eyebrow, but Eren can tell he's not really angry by the twitch in his lips.

"Shut up and put your mittens on," Eren shoots back, delighting in the way Levi's eyes widen just a tad and the slightest bit of color that appears in his cheeks.

He turns away in the next moment, opening the door and making a point not to put his mittens on, Eren can't help but notice. Levi steps out, Eren moving forward to grasp the doorknob as he tries to think of something to say other than a lame 'See you later.' Levi's hand wraps around the knob from the other side as he turns his head, beating Eren to the punch.

"If you make fun of my mittens again, maybe I won't touch you anymore," he says, lopsided smile on his face. Eren's breath leaves him in a rush and he feels warmth bloom in his cheeks, his eyes flicking downward a moment later as Levi runs a finger along his knuckles.

Eren can't hold back a stupid smile, cheeks still hot as he stutters a decidedly lame, "Y-yeah, that's... I'll see you later. Soon. Levi."

That little lopsided smile is the last thing he sees before Levi turns to leave, and Eren closes the door behind him after a few seconds. He's still unable to wipe the ridiculous grin off of his face as he closes his eyes and leans his forehead against the door, and he likes to think that Levi might wear that smile all the way home.

Chapter Text

All Eren had wanted was to get a nice hot cup of coffee and a sandwich. That's it.

Apparently a peaceful lunch is too much to ask for these days.

Eren muffles a sigh in his coffee cup, the exhale blowing back warm steam onto his face. It's rather pleasant actually, so he does it again, which seems to annoy his unwanted companion.

"Oh stop sighing already," Jean groans, stretching back in his chair. Eren hopes that he'll fall over simply for the amusement factor, but that's unfortunately not in the cards.

"Sitting here with you has ruined my appetite," Eren gripes, scratching at the back of his neck. It's a lie, but most of their conversations are composed of ninety percent antagonization, so it's a hard habit to break.

As expected, Jean brushes it off like it's nothing. "If anyone is gonna lose their appetite, it's me. I've never seen someone mutilate a sandwich instead of eating it."

Eren responds by sighing into his cup once again, just to see Jean's eyebrow twitch in irritation. He's not disappointed.

It's blessedly quiet for some time, and Eren sips at his coffee leisurely while he looks at his phone. Levi had texted him just as he'd arrived here, and he hasn't had a chance to reply yet what with Jean appearing not five minutes after he'd sat down. Jean seems to be distracted with eating his soup, and Eren isn't sure if he's slurping at it so loudly on purpose or if that's just how he eats soup, but he's not even gonna go there.

'Do you want to do something later?'

It's a simple message, but Eren finds he just keeps staring at it. It'll only take a few moments to type a quick 'Sure, what time' or some such, but instead his mind keeps wandering back to Levi's fingers stroking his skin and it makes the back of his neck prickle in a most distracting fashion.

Not that he isn't going to agree, because he definitely is. His heart is doing a lively dance at the very thought of seeing Levi again, which probably should concern him a little bit but it only makes him smile stupidly.

Unfortunately, he's forgotten that he isn't alone, and the next moment Jean's asking obnoxiously, "What're you grinning at?"

Eren only glares, not gracing Jean with an answer. He turns back to his phone, but Jean doesn't seem ready to let the issue drop. "I know you're not setting up a hot date, 'cause you're a loser."

Ignoring Jean is easy enough in most instances, but he feels himself gritting his teeth and a telltale burn in his ears that lets him know they're a stark red. Jean is currently guffawing and Eren slinks further down in his seat as another patron a few tables away glances over at them.

Eren decides to pretend Jean isn't creating a scene and focuses on finally replying to Levi. 'Sure! What do you wanna do?'

"Who knows the last time your sorry ass even had someone interested!" Jean cries jovially, leaning forward.

"Jean, shut up," Eren hisses, rubbing at one of his ears distractedly as he shoves his phone back in his pocket.

Jean is chortling to himself and patting himself on the chest, perfectly content with life. Eren feels his phone buzz in his pocket and instinctively reaches for it, freezing when Jean snickers pointedly.

God, what has he ever done to deserve Jean as a friend? There's absolutely no one else in his entire life who can be so insufferable.

He realizes suddenly that he has the perfect comeback, and he sneers, "At least I don't get asked out on pity dates, like you and Mikasa."

At that, Jean noticeably freezes, eyes going a bit wide. "Oh?" he asks nervously, and Eren feels it's a personal victory as Jean clears his throat in an attempt to make his voice sound normal. "She uh... She told you about all that, huh?"

Eren's not sure why Jean looks so nervous, but it makes him want to cackle. It must've gone even worse than he'd been able to imagine.

"Seriously, Jean? Who stoops so low as to accept a pity date?" Eren grins as Jean averts his eyes, mouth opening for a moment before closing again.

"Shut up, Jaeger." Jean shifts uncomfortably in his seat, then cuts Eren off just as he's about to poke fun at him again. "Go talk to Mikasa about it, I've got nothing to say."

He looks at Jean weirdly, and... is Jean blushing? Holy fuck, it really must've gone terribly.

"I'll do that," Eren says with conviction, relishing the way Jean still can't look him in the eye.

Feeling much better about the whole fiasco that had been lunch, Eren roots through his wallet and throws some money on the table to cover his half of the bill. "Later, Jean," he mutters as he slips from his seat and moves toward the door.

Jean's quick, "Have fun on your date!" causes Eren to slam awkwardly into a chair on his way out, the loud screech of the wood enough to draw the stare of every patron and worker in the place.

God, he really must have done something awful to deserve Jean.

--

As he's driving home, Eren figures he'll have to give it at least a good month before he can show his face in that restaurant again. He isn't too upset, though, grinning to himself as he pictures Jean's uncomfortable fidgeting.

Eren ends up actually forgetting to check his phone until he's back in his apartment, curled up on his couch.

'I don't know, whatever. Get something to eat?'

Eren feels his stomach do a strange somersault as he recalls Jean's parting words, and he shifts around unnecessarily, stretching his legs out before pulling them back up. It's not a date. In any way, shape or form. They're just hanging out like they always do.

Does Levi think it's a date? The idea kinda makes Eren feel the opposite of freaked out, which isn't how it should be... probably.

Whatever. Stupid Jean, always fucking things up even when he doesn't know what's going on.

He turns back to his phone, fighting a childish grin as he types out his reply. 'I wanna make snow angels'

There's a pretty considerable amount of snow currently coating the ground, though luckily there's not supposed to be any more, at least for awhile yet. He can't help poking fun at Levi a little bit, though he knows he'll never convince him to do something like that.

'Guess you'll have to find someone else to hang out with then.'

Eren snorts, ready to respond, when he stops suddenly, biting at his lip. He could say something a little risky, maybe.

'But you're my date for the evening'

He clumsily presses 'send' before he can think about it too much. Will Levi think he's joking? He's not being one hundred percent serious, but he's not... well, Eren doesn't know what he's trying to do, here.

They're definitely not dating, he knows that much. But they're not just friends either, right?

Eren realizes he's still biting his lip, rather violently, actually, when his phone buzzes in his hand. He checks it with mild trepidation, fighting the urge to sink his teeth into his lip again.

'So does that mean you're paying for dinner?'

He lets out a relieved chuckle, rubbing a hand embarrassedly at his neck. What had he expected Levi to say, really? Levi wouldn't take something like that seriously, after all.

'Maybe... but only if we can make a snowman, at least!'

Eren can picture Levi's eyeroll perfectly in his mind, and he leans back into the cushions with a poorly concealed cackle. The sad thing is, he is being kind of serious about that - he'd love to rope Levi into making a snowman with him, no matter how unlikely the chances of that happening may be.

'How about I just pelt you with snowballs instead?'

He can't help considering even something as small as this as somewhat of a victory, and he smiles as he types. 'You drive a hard bargain, Levi. We will have to discuss this in more detail later'

They end up agreeing to get something to eat, and Eren even manages to convince Levi to let him pick him up in his fine set of wheels.

--

"I can't believe you're actually eating that."

Eren looks up mid-bite to see Levi's mouth twisted in disgust, and he tries valiantly not to laugh or else there's a good chance he'll choke. Levi does not look amused at his efforts, which only makes him want to laugh more. Once he swallows down his food, he replies, "Just because it's spicy doesn't mean it's not good!"

"Anything that has that many synonyms for 'hot' in front of it isn't meant for human consumption," Levi insists, gesturing with his hand as if Eren gulping down half of his glass of water serves to prove his point.

"Ah," Eren sighs in satisfaction, patting at his chest. "Nothing a little water can't cure."

He can't help a pout as he watches Levi not-so-subtly pull his own glass closer to himself. "Don't even think about it, Eren."

"I wasn't!" Eren insists, even though he kind of had been. He's already had to ask the waiter for two refills, and Levi had definitely been smirking as the waiter offered to leave a pitcher for him. He'd refused, of course, but currently he's not sure if he'll be able to make it on only half of a glass.

Forced to consider he may have to flag down the waiter again, he decides to instead take a little break. He leans his cheek against his fist and watches Levi eat his absolutely boring sandwich, and only raises his own eyebrow at the one quirked after noticing his staring.

Levi places his nearly finished sandwich on his plate and reaches for a napkin, throwing out a quick jibe as he lifts it to his mouth. "Chickening out, are you?"

Eren finds himself distracted by the way Levi's patting the napkin against his lips, and silently thanks god that Levi doesn't appear to notice. He coughs lightly, rubbing a hand against his nose in the hopes it'll detract attention from the bit of warmth he feels in his cheeks.

"Hell no, asshole." Levi raises his eyebrow again, and Eren adds, "Who needs so many napkins for just a sandwich, anyway? There's nothing on your mouth, so just chill out."

The words seem to hang in the air for a moment, and Eren hopes it doesn't sound like he's been staring at Levi's mouth or anything, because honestly, he hasn't been - maybe a little, just now, but--

"Maybe you should learn something here and use a napkin yourself," Levi responds calmly, tossing a napkin in Eren's direction. He stares confusedly until Levi taps at a spot on his own face, and Eren realizes belatedly that he's been sitting here for who knows how long with food plastered on his face.

He snatches up the napkin, glaring coldly at Levi as he rubs vigorously all around his mouth. Levi only chuckles, and Eren watches him down the rest of his water in one go. Eren slides the crumpled napkin to the side, feeling a bit better now that Levi needs a refill as well, when he comes to a horrifying realization.

Levi's glass is still sitting where it had been just a minute ago, and Eren's is currently completely empty. Eren's mouth falls open and Levi raises a hand to cover the ungainly laugh that forces its way out of his mouth, and all Eren can do is make a sound of indignation and kick Levi under the table.

His sudden attempt at stealing Levi's glass is intercepted immediately by Levi, who's still trying not to laugh as he kicks wildly at Eren under the table. Levi slides his arm close to his body, cradling the glass far from Eren's reach, and lands a particularly good blow against Eren's shin.

"Ow," Eren whines, reaching down to rub at his leg. Luckily Levi doesn't keep kicking in his moment of weakness, but unfortunately he doesn't put his glass down either. He can't help pouting as he mutters, "Seriously, Levi? Such a low blow..."

"Better call the waiter over here," Levi says good-naturedly, tapping Eren's empty glass against the table while still holding his own close.

Eren glares intently as he does just as Levi had suggested, dropping the angry look once the waiter brings by a pitcher of water. He tries not to feel embarrassed about it as the guy fills up his glass, then turns to refill Levi's as well. Levi finally places it back on the table and is busy thanking the waiter, which gives Eren the perfect opportunity to dump some of the sauce from his own dish onto Levi's sandwich.

Only once Levi is finished situating the pitcher close to Eren's side of the table does he notice what's happened to his sandwich. Eren glances away and goes back to eating, but he can feel the evilness radiating from Levi's direction despite his attempts to ignore it.

"What the hell!" Levi delivers another kick but Eren swivels his leg out of the way quick enough to avoid it. He continues eating as Levi rants, "You just ruined what was left of a perfectly good sandwich!"

"Should have thought of that before you messed with my water," he mumbles around his food, fingers grasping around his glass quickly as the words leave his mouth. He takes a long gulp as Levi continues glaring at him, and he watches in mild fascination as Levi attempts to pick off the top of the sandwich with a look of pure disgust.

"Are you really gonna eat it like that?" Eren asks curiously, to which he receives another glare. He takes another sip of his water, slower now, and links his ankles together under the table now that the danger appears to have passed.

Levi pushes the plate away with a scowl. "Nah, I'm not really that hungry anyway."

Eren finished shoving the rest of his food in his mouth, chewing vigorously and letting out a long, satisfied sigh once he's done. Levi sips calmly at his water while Eren chugs his, refilling the glass and gulping down even more.

Levi opens his mouth to say something, but is interrupted by the sudden burp that escapes Eren's mouth. He feels his eyes widen and he glances around to see if anyone's looking at their table, but it doesn't seem like it. When he glances back, Levi has half of his face covered with a hand as his shoulders shake, and he weakly presses his foot down on Eren's toes.

"You're fucking ridiculous," he mutters, voice almost even again, and Eren shrugs his shoulders in response.

"Better out than in," he replies, shifting his foot around so that his is on top of Levi's. Levi rolls his eyes but doesn't put up a fight about it, and they sit there like that even as Eren snaps the check away from Levi's prying eyes and tries to insist he pay for it.

"That was the agreement," Eren reminds him, even though it hadn't actually been a serious one, and he knows it. But he's feeling in good spirits, and he doesn't really mind paying for Levi, anyway.

"The agreement was only valid if we were on a date, which we're not," Levi says, reaching into his pocket and pulling out his wallet. Eren inadvertently presses his foot down harder atop Levi's, then glances away when Levi looks back up at him.

He sighs and slides the check over. "Fine, fine."

Levi's giving him a strange look when Eren glances at him again, but he doesn't say anything. Eren's glad, because he's feeling kind of confused. And stupid. Two of his favorite emotions, excellent.

They make their way out of the restaurant, pausing just after leaving the building to bundle up more; the warmth inside had been deceiving, and Eren hurriedly wraps his scarf around his neck and slips his gloves on. Levi's doing just the same, and then they start the long, slow walk to find the faraway spot where Eren had unfortunately had to park.

It takes a surprising amount of concentration to walk without slipping, and neither of them are saying anything because of it. Eren kind of wishes he could think of something that would ease the little bit of tension that has been with them since the check incident, but he's not sure if he's just imagining it, anyway.

As they round the corner carefully, Levi lets out a small snort and mutters, "Who the hell would leave the door propped open on a night like this?"

Eren looks over to see there is indeed a small diner with the door propped open, and Eren laughs, tilting his head to the side. "Listen, they're even playing Christmas carols."

"That's creepy, no one wants to hear that shit once Christmas is over," Levi grumbles, shoving his hands in his pockets.

Eren doesn't mind it, actually, so he shrugs. He glances across the street as they walk along, feeling a small wave of excitement at the small park area his eyes fall on. "Levi, look," he says, poking at the other man's arm. Levi looks over disinterestedly, and a small frown forms on his face as Eren continues, "We could definitely do some mean snow angels over there."

"Will you grow up?" Levi asks, but much to Eren's amusement, he doesn't actually sound that annoyed.

With a smile, Eren decides to press his luck a bit more. "A snowman, at least? Come on now, you know you want to."

Levi rolls his eyes and presses his face down into his scarf. "It's cold, Eren."

"Really? I hadn't noticed," Eren quips, noticing with some delight that Levi's footsteps seem to be slowing down considerably. Whether it's because he can't carry on a conversation and concentrate on walking or if it's because he's actually considering Eren's request, he can't be sure, but it could very well be a good sign. "The snow on the ground might have been a hint, though."

"Haha," Levi says sarcastically, and Eren pokes at his arm again for good measure.

"Come on." Eren turns so he's facing Levi, and Levi does the same in turn. Eren smiles, extending a crooked arm toward Levi as he says, "Let's go check it out, just for a little bit?"

Levi bats his arm away and sighs, but Eren feels a grin split his face as Levi heads over to cross the street, Eren rushing up to his side as quickly as he dares. The street is cleared more than the pavement, at least, and the journey isn't too treacherous.

Once they walk into the small park, Eren takes a moment to look around. There are slides and swings not far away, covered in snow, and he can still hear the faint sound of Christmas carols from across the street. He turns to Levi with a grin, and is unsurprisingly met with a scowl.

"So what the hell are we doing over here?"

"We're making a snowman," Eren declares, leaning down right where he stands and scooping up some snow. Levi makes no move to assist him as he clumps snow together a little ways away, and Eren shoots a glare over his shoulder. "I said 'we,' Levi."

"This is stupid," Levi huffs, but he gathers a small amount of snow in his hands and adds it to the pile Eren's working on just the same.

It doesn't take long for Eren to realize this is going rather... poorly. The misshapen blob they're working on is a pathetic sight, and Eren laments not having anything to use for eyes, or even a few twigs for arms. Truly, this is a sad excuse for a snowman; there's no denying it, and he feels some of his excitement starting to wane.

"Can we agree this is a lost cause?"

Eren glances over at Levi, fighting a smile at the color in Levi's cheeks matched with his grumpy expression. He's not quite ready to give up yet, though, so he remarks, "It's not... that bad."

Levi lets out a long-suffering sigh, reaching up to try and swipe his bangs from his forehead with the back of his hand; the attempt leaves his hair looking messy in a way Eren's not used to seeing, but he discovers he's rather fond of. Levi doesn't seem to notice or care, stating matter-of-factly, "Face it, Eren. This lumpy-ass mess here is a disgrace to snowmen everywhere."

He plasters an expression of mock hurt on his face, placing both of his hands around the sides of the snow heap. "Levi please, you're going to hurt his feelings."

Levi snorts, tossing his head to the side. "Please, it can't hear. Or see, or smell, or anything at all." He looks back to Eren, lips twitching slightly. "We've created an abomination."

"Don't say that!" Eren cries, pressing his hands harder into the snow, which only serves to make a good portion of it crumble awkwardly to the ground.

He looks down in horror as Levi quips, "And now you've killed it. Thank god."

"There's-- We can still fix it!" Eren exclaims, but two seconds later he's delivering a rough shove to Levi's shoulder as the man starts kicking at the snow pile.

All of their hard work, lying in shambles around them... how depressing. Levi looks pretty pleased though, and when he turns to smile at Eren, it leaves him feeling inexplicably tongue-tied.

"What?" Levi asks, smile fading just slightly, and that's-- Eren doesn't want that, but he's not sure what kind of expression he's making or what he should say so--

"Nothing, I just..."

Eren takes a step closer toward Levi, suddenly gripped with the desire to do something, and as his ears pick up the sound of the music from across the street, he blurts out, "Dance with me."

Levi's eyes widen in a look that's a mixture of both confused and horrified, and Eren thinks his own face must look the same, since he can't believe he's actually said that. But whatever, it doesn't matter, because he thinks it might actually be kinda nice to dance with Levi, even if it's like this.

"You're losing your mind," Levi says finally, shifting uncomfortably from one foot to the other, and Eren silently agrees that he probably is, but reaches out to take Levi's hands in his just the same. Levi flinches but doesn't exactly pull away, his lips turned down and his eyes questioning.

"So what," Eren mutters, shrugging and swinging their joined hands a little. "I don't know, I think it'd be nice."

Now the look he's receiving is one of incredulity. Levi says slowly, as if Eren actually is losing his mind, "Eren... It's freezing. We can barely walk without slipping." Eren just stares, not accepting the refusal, and Levi sighs. "There's no music."

That, Eren's ready to argue against. "They're still playing the Christmas carols," he replies with a small smile, taking another step closer to Levi.

Levi attempts to slip his hands away, but Eren tightens his grip, making Levi frown deeper. "What is with you?" he grumbles, not looking Eren in the eye.

That's probably the correct question to ask, but Eren's not capable of coming up with a suitable answer, so he doesn't really put much effort into trying.

"Dance with me," he repeats instead, shuffling even closer, as close as they can be without touching.

Levi stares at him for a long moment. "You're sure you're not just attempting to kill me here."

"Levi, shut up," Eren groans, closing his eyes in exasperation for a moment before using his hold on Levi's hands to try to lead him into a swaying motion.

"I can't believe you are fucking serious right now," Levi murmurs, the tips of his ears turning a tad darker, and Eren feels a flutter in his chest, one that makes him smile. With a few more awkward motions, Eren finally aborts these attempts, releasing one of Levi's hands to place a hand about his waist.

Levi's head tilts down to look at the offending touch and Eren chuckles breathlessly, tightening his grip as much as he dares. "It's not that bad, right?" he questions quietly, feeling momentarily dejected by Levi's deep scowl. That feeling is replaced with a swell of happiness as Levi huffs and places his free hand delicately across Eren's upper chest, fingers lightly resting against his shoulder (and he's still not looking Eren in the eye).

"If I die here, know I will haunt you for the rest of your days." Levi looks up, still scowling, and Eren can't help but laugh.

"Duly noted," he replies, slowly beginning to move from side to side. This is about as much as they can do, but that's fine with him, more than fine, actually, once Levi starts moving too.

There's a very pleasant sort of warmth seeping into Eren's chest, into everywhere, really, where Levi's touching and even where he's not, and there's certainly warmth in his cheeks, but he doesn't mind. He can blame it on the cold, but he's sure Levi knows better, though he won't say anything.

"I don't think this counts as dancing," Levi murmurs, but he doesn't stop moving as he raises an eyebrow at Eren.

"You're right," Eren says, feeling suddenly bold. He presses against Levi's back, bringing their bodies together, and feels his heartbeat increase as Levi stiffens noticeably in his hold. "Sorry," he whispers, but he doesn't pull away, and neither does Levi.

After a few awkward moments, Levi shifts his head so that the side of his face rests against Eren's chest, which makes Eren feel like he could melt, even though yes, it is freezing out here. They carefully begin moving again, though now they're sort of spinning in slow circles, Eren more than aware of every move Levi makes, just as he is of his own heart trying to leap out of his chest.

His body feels light with nerves but also warm, content, and he lets himself smile and his eyes drift shut, lets his fingers squeeze Levi's just briefly. He can't believe they're actually slow dancing in the snow right now, but at this moment he's never wanted anything more.

He's not paying any attention at all to the music anymore, wrapped up in the repetitive, somehow soothing sound of their footsteps crunching against the snow. Eren's caught off guard at a sudden low chuckle from Levi, the sound reverberating against his own chest.

"What is it?" Eren asks quietly, though there's really no reason to keep his voice low. It just feels right to, somehow, like it'll ruin the moment if he doesn't.

"It's nothing," Levi replies immediately, attempting to shake his head; it doesn't work out so well, and Eren's eyelashes flutter at the feeling of Levi's hair brushing against his chin. They continue spinning slowly, Eren still rather curious as to why Levi would laugh, when Levi murmurs, "I just didn't expect the night to end up like this, that's all."

Eren's heart stutters in his chest, and he lets his lips brush Levi's temple as he says, "Maybe not, but it's really... nice, yeah?" Their footsteps are starting to slow a little, and Eren continues, "It's nice, being with you like this."

He doesn't really expect an answer, but it seems like Levi's hand has curled around him a little more, like his soft sigh might be something close to 'yes.' That's what Eren wants, really, he wants Levi to feel the same, wants Levi to think about him just as much, want to be near him just as much. Little by little, it's starting to feel like such a notion might not be as improbable as it'd seemed in the past.

"You can be really..." Levi's voice trails off, and Eren waits a few moments for him to finish the thought. "...Straightforward sometimes." Eren feels his brows crinkle; he's unsure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but Levi's not pushing away from him, so maybe it's okay.

"I don't mind it," Levi murmurs, his hand sliding around closer toward Eren's neck, the words and action combined somehow enough to make Eren's breath leave him in an awkward exhale. Levi chuckles again, and Eren feels his cheeks grow warm at the sound. "Even when you don't say anything, I still know what you're trying to say," Levi continues. "I don't mind that either."

Eren's pulse is pounding in his ears now, and he can feel their footsteps really slowing down, til they've actually stopped. He's anxious and uncertain, but at the same time, he really isn't afraid, exactly, isn't afraid of being pushed away or called an idiot, but he's kind of afraid of other things, things he can't name.

His breath leaves him in a rush as Levi pulls back slightly, their arms still around each other and hands still linked, and--

And then Levi's looking up at him, with his mussed bangs and his pink cheeks and Eren isn't able to think, really, isn't able to do anything other than lean down, and he knows he's not actually moving in slow motion but it feels like it, it definitely feels like it, but then his lips are pressed against Levi's forehead.

He can feel Levi's grip tighten, can feel his exhale of breath, and Eren lets his lips graze the skin beneath them for another few moments before he pulls away. There's a hazy look in Levi's eyes that makes Eren want to melt, and he tilts his head further down, feels Levi's breath over his lips, now, and--

"Your breath stinks."

Eren watches in horror as Levi's nose crinkles just slightly. In the next moment, the entirety of the situation seems to catch up with Levi, and his cheeks flush a darker pink. Eren, meanwhile, is mortified, subtly attempting to untangle himself from Levi, but for some reason he's getting nowhere.

"Stop," Levi murmurs, and Eren realizes the reason he can't escape is because Levi isn't letting him go. He watches Levi's eyes flash and his brows crease in irritation before he presses the side of his face back against Eren's chest once more; he almost wishes Levi wouldn't, since he knows his heart is racing, but hopefully through his coat it's not as noticeable as it feels.

It's quiet for a few moments, Eren still feeling awkward and more than a little embarrassed, and it's not really helping that they're kind of in some weird half-embrace thing right now, which only serves to make his already swirling thoughts derail even more.

Levi's voice is low when he speaks again, and Eren tilts his head down to hear, cheek brushing against dark strands. "They're playing another song."

He lets himself be coaxed into motion by Levi, and though Eren can indeed hear the soft strains of music from across the street, he can't quite make out what it is, heart thrumming strongly and thoughts so scrambled he doesn't trust himself to speak.

It's dumb how it's now, with his gloved hand clasped around Levi's mitten-ed one, with them spinning around in slow circles in the snow, after Eren's basically been insulted, of all things, that he thinks he's pretty sure he knows exactly what the feeling in his chest is.

Chapter Text

"I don't believe it."

Eren folds his arms across his chest, leaning back in his chair. Armin seems caught between confusion and laughter, but Eren is more in the general vicinity of anger. And denial.

Mikasa sighs, looking bored. "What's so hard to believe?"

Eren glowers, and Armin's definitely laughing now, but he ignores it. "That you could have possibly had a good time."

"It wasn't so bad, after the beginning," Mikasa states calmly, looking rather thoughtful as she continues. "I mean, the flowers were a bad idea, but he didn't know I was allergic... and then he spilled coffee all over himself so we had to leave..."

Armin has his face buried in his arms, shoulders shaking helplessly. Eren's not sure what the hell to do, because Mikasa seriously has to be pulling his leg - how could she possibly consider that a good date?

"But, after all that, when he stopped trying to act like a perfect date would, we had a nice time."

Mikasa has a small smile on her face, her cheek resting in her hand, and Eren finds that the biting words he'd been about to say are turning around and heading back down his throat. She looks... content. Not in love, or anything crazy like that, but it's a nice look on her, and if it's Jean that's put it there, Eren has no choice but to grit his teeth and accept it.

Armin, meanwhile, still has yet to unearth himself, and Eren hears a muffled exclamation of, "Oh my god!" which appears to earn Armin a kick under the table from Mikasa.

At that, Eren snorts, uncrossing his arms, and when Mikasa looks back to him, he gives her a small smile of his own.

--

Later that night, Eren lies in his bed, staring at the inky blackness of his ceiling. He's been attempting to go to sleep for the past hour and a half, but he's finally gotten tired of keeping his eyes clamped shut and rolling around restlessly, so he's now opting for burning a hole into his ceiling with his eyes.

The worst part of trying to avoid thinking about something is that no matter what, that thing just keeps... creeping back.

Eren shifts his legs a little, rubbing his cold feet together. He should have put socks on, but it's too late now, and he's definitely not getting out of this warm haven to forage through his drawers in the dark.

He unintentionally lets his thoughts wander, and that's his downfall. His stomach flutters as he thinks of Levi, just the name enough to make him feel somehow both light and overwhelmed. Eren rubs his feet against the bed, perhaps with more force than necessary, but he can feel his heartbeat starting to race as other thoughts of Levi invade his mind.

Eren already knows, for the most part, what he feels for Levi. He hadn't been able to put a name to it, and even now he's hesitant to do so, but it feels like there's a neon sign flashing just behind him at all times, bright and urgent, but Eren's too afraid to turn around to look at it.

He chuckles wryly at himself, the sound cutting through the silence. He doesn't want to think about it, because thinking about it means accepting it, acknowledging it, and the most terrifying part, the urge that will most assuredly take hold of him, the urge to do something about it.

Eren rolls over onto his side, curling his legs upward. It's too late, probably, because he's already thinking about doing something about it. His mind is all too helpful in the unwanted task, pulling up vivid images of Levi looking at him the way he had the other night, but then his mind gets creative, tantalizing him with the way the curve of Levi's neck would feel under Eren's hand as he tilts his head up, the way his lips would feel, warm and eager beneath his own.

Fuck, it's far too late, because he can picture himself whispering things into Levi's ear, can envision Levi whispering something back, and his heart pangs painfully in his chest as he buries his head under the covers.

--

It's a bit of a relief to be absorbed in schoolwork, to be honest. Eren can be very focused when he puts his mind to it, and he needs a distraction; maybe it's a little desperate to be glad that the distraction is schoolwork, but Eren will take anything at this point.

He hasn't seen Levi in awhile, both of them busy again, but Eren's been very pleased to find that Levi had still texted him every day. He tries not to let himself think about it too much, the way his heart seems to skip a beat when he sees the alert with Levi's name, the way he smiles stupidly as he reads the message on his screen.

And he's daydreaming again, because he's a completely worthless human being. Eren sighs loudly, dropping his pen and stretching. He looks back down to his book, then sighs again, getting up and heading to the kitchen. He hasn't had anything for dinner yet, and now's as good a time as any.

Eren opens his refrigerator, thoughts drifting once more. He wonders if he's subconsciously avoiding Levi. It seems stupid to think so, but if he'd really wanted to see Levi, he would have made more of an effort, wouldn't he? And with his car, there's absolutely nothing stopping him from driving over to Levi's apartment right now.

Eren shivers, partly from the cold air hitting his feet and partly from something else. He closes the door, catching it just before he slams it too hard. Suddenly he doesn't feel that hungry, and he definitely doesn't feel like trying to make something right now, even if he were.

He shuffles back to his bedroom, slumping down into his chair. He can't help shooting a glance at his phone, sitting over on his bedside table, but he doesn't make a move for it.

He's admitted to himself that he wants more out of his relationship with Levi, but when he's faced with the prospect of it, Eren feels inexplicably overwhelmed. As Levi's reminded him quite a few times, very frankly, Eren sucks at hiding anything, so he thinks that maybe he is avoiding Levi. Maybe he doesn't want Levi to know what he's thinking; maybe he'll know just by looking in Eren's eyes, and the thought makes Eren let out a stuttered breath.

Would Levi want to know? Would he be happy to know what Eren's thinking right now? Eren's not entirely sure, just as he's not entirely sure if he can say the words aloud, even if Levi had asked.

Eren's jolted from his thoughts by the buzz of his phone, and he ends up knocking his pen off of the desk. He scoffs, leaning down to pick it up, then scoots his chair in more, ignoring his phone determinedly.

He's let himself get wrapped up in his thoughts again, and it's not like he's even been able to come to some sort of resolution in his mind. He feels just as confused and apprehensive as ever, and it takes Eren a few minutes to realize he's staring blankly at his phone instead of attempting to get back to his work.

He snorts, running a hand over his face. He's thinking too much, he always does, and it never seems to help matters; things seem to snowball on their own, leaving him trailing helplessly behind.

The phone buzzes again, and this time Eren rises immediately, picking it up, feeling the expected twinge when he sees the texts are from Levi.

'I've just been staring at the same page for the past twenty minutes.'

Eren chuckles, knowing the feeling well, then bites his lip at the next message. 'I need a break'

The next step seems easy; Eren can cajole Levi into letting him come over, and he'll agree, Eren's sure. But is it a good idea, with the way his thoughts have been turning?

Probably not, but Eren's accepted long ago that he can be stupid sometimes.

'Do you want me to come over?'

He looks at the words for awhile before sending the message, sitting down on the edge of his bed. It makes him feel a little bit better, to leave it in Levi's hands. If he says no, Eren won't push it, but there's a bigger part of him that knows this line of thought is full of holes, because why would Levi say something like that, if it's not an invitation?

'Bring food.'

Eren smiles, unable to help himself, then flops back on the bed. He's hopeless, but he can't deny what he wants, and maybe Levi feels the same.

--

Eren shows up to Levi's apartment close to nine o'clock, shivering and cradling a pizza box in his arms. Though Levi quips his choice of pizza is unoriginal, that doesn't stop him from eating more than Eren, a fact Eren is very keen to remind him of, and often. Levi finally gets tired of it and throws a napkin at him, announcing, "I'm going to the bathroom, put this shit away."

"It's not shit, Levi," Eren calls out, wounded, but Levi doesn't answer, disappearing from Eren's view. He chuckles, then sets about the task of shoving the pizza box into Levi's refrigerator. It's more daunting than Eren had originally anticipated; even his usual trick of slanting the box slightly upwards on one of the shelves doesn't seem to be working, and Levi chooses the precise moment Eren noisily knocks a container onto the floor to return.

It skids along, landing near Levi's feet, and Eren glances up to see Levi's mouth twisted in distaste. "You're ridiculous," he mutters, reaching down to pick up the container, and Eren hastily stands up, still clutching the pizza box. He almost topples over when Levi lightly bumps his hip against Eren's so that he can get the container back on the shelf, and he definitely stutters unnecessarily when Levi pries the box out of his hands.

Eren watches Levi calmly close the door, take the box over to the counter, and wrap the remaining slices of pizza in foil. Levi raises an eyebrow at him as he places the small stack easily into the refrigerator, closing the door pointedly this time.

"Do you seriously save the box when there's only two pieces left?" he asks, and Eren snaps back to attention at the amused curl of his lips.

"Of course," he replies, raising his own eyebrow. "Pizza belongs in a box, you know, not wrapped in foil."

Levi tilts his head to the side, frowning. "It makes it easier to heat up, you can just throw it right in the oven."

"I... just microwave it, usually," Eren says, trying his best to give Levi a look that conveys just how crazy he is for wrapping the pizza that way.

"Tastes better in the oven," Levi replies, tapping a finger against Eren's chest once, making his heart do a weird skip. "It gets crispy instead of soggy."

With that, he wanders away, leaving Eren staring stupidly after him. It takes him a few moments to make his way into the living room, where he watches Levi plop down onto the couch with a sigh. Eren sits down next to him, the book that's spread out on the cushion a convenient placeholder that lets Eren know where he should sit. He's sure that's not what Levi had intended, but Eren's starting to feel antsy again, after Levi's touched him, fleeting as those touches may have been. It had been almost easy to forget his earlier thoughts while they'd been eating and joking around, but now Eren's more than aware of the nervous tingling in his limbs.

Levi yawns suddenly, and Eren glances over to see him rubbing a hand briefly over his eyes. He feels kind of stupid for not noticing just how tired Levi obviously is earlier, and he wonders if he'd be able to convince Levi to lie down in his lap. His face flushes at the thought, and he fidgets a bit, finally settling back in the cushions comfortably.

When he looks back to Levi again, he finds Levi is looking at him, gaze even. "Staring is rude," Eren informs him, which causes Levi's lips to thin. Eren fights a smile, but it's an easily lost battle.

Levi tilts his head to the side, his hair splayed slightly on the cushion. "So you don't want me to look at you?"

Eren stomach flips helplessly, and he's left struggling for words. Levi just snorts softly and smiles, and Eren eventually mutters, "I don't care." He lets his hand drift over, fingers rustling the pages of the book as he passes them by, carefully pulling Levi's hand to the side to lie palm up. He laces their fingers together, watching the motion, skin prickling pleasantly.

He wonders briefly if Levi will shake him off, but he doesn't, and Eren brings his gaze upward to meet Levi's, left momentarily breathless by the intensity in his eyes.

"I, um," Eren begins awkwardly, not sure what he's trying to say, but eager to dispel the unnerving feeling in his stomach. "How have you been?" Ah, yes, that's not awkward. Eren's no good at conversation while his hand is linked with Levi's, good to know. "I mean, I haven't seen you in awhile..."

"You didn't seem like you wanted to," Levi replies, voice even, and Eren feels his eyes widen. Levi doesn't looked perturbed at all, more like he's simply stating a fact. Eren realizes that maybe he really has been avoiding Levi without fully deciding to, and it's-- he doesn't like that Levi is thinking the same thing.

Eren frowns for a moment, then tries to wipe it away, since it's directed at himself more than anything. "That's not it," he murmurs, shifting their hands back and forth, so that Levi's is on top, then his own again. "I always want to see you."

He feels the back of his neck burn at those words, but he keeps his eyes trained to their hands. It's a loose grip, but it's nice, warm and solid, somehow both comforting and nerve-wracking.

"Don't say things you don't mean," Levi replies after a moment, his mouth quirked up just briefly.

Eren's not sure if Levi doesn't believe him, or if he's freaked him out, but he glances away again before speaking. "I didn't."

It's quiet, then, but Levi hasn't pulled his hand away. Eren's heart is starting to pound against his chest, and it's getting hard to ignore, his fingers burning with the desire to tighten their hold, to feel Levi's fingers clench around his in return.

"This is okay, right?" he asks after a bit, shifting his head to face Levi once more. Levi appears to be in just the same position, hair still splayed against the cushions, and Eren feels suddenly tempted to lean closer, to--

"Shut up," Levi says, and Eren is momentarily startled. Levi sighs quietly and continues, "If it weren't, you would already know, wouldn't you?"

Eren can't help a tiny smile then, and he can feel his gaze softening, as his eyes rove over Levi's face. He should look away, probably; it's all most likely way too obvious, in every inch of his face, without Eren even having to say a word. That's the part that scares him the most.

Levi tightens his grip just slightly then, flipping their hands over the way Eren had. The pages rustle beneath his arm, but Eren pays them no mind; apparently, Levi does notice, carefully prying his hand out of Eren's after a moment.

Eren slides his warm, tingling hand into his lap, and watches Levi reach over and close the book; he then rises to go place it in the haphazard stack of books Eren has just noticed on the window sill. Eren watches Levi straighten the edges of the books for a moment before realizing he's getting up as well, moving over to where Levi stands.

He seems surprised when he turns and sees Eren, stilling his steps abruptly. Eren opens his mouth to say something, but he feels tongue-tied, heart lodged somewhere in his throat.

"What was that about staring?" Levi asks, the corner of his mouth curving upward, and Eren is reminded suddenly of the images his mind had pelted him with before, the ones of his hand wrapped around Levi's neck, the tilt of his head, the look in his eyes and the feel of his lips. Eren tries not to think about it, but it's not working, and he thinks that maybe he had been waiting for this, this chance to just-- do something, ever since he'd gotten here tonight.

"You're exhausted," Eren murmurs, taking a step closer. Levi doesn't reply, and Eren's gaze lingers on the dark circles beneath the tired eyes watching him. Without thinking about it, he raises his arms, gently taking Levi's face in his hands.

He hesitates for a moment, but Levi continues watching him silently, so Eren runs the pads of his thumbs beneath Levi's eyes, heart thrumming at the way dark eyelashes flutter at the touch. Eren can feel it in his chest again, that wonderful, frightening feeling, the one that envelops his heart and makes his skin tingle.

He lets his thumbs graze Levi's cheekbones, then moves to slide his fingers down to trace Levi's jawline, each motion met without any kind of protest. Eren almost wishes Levi would say something; his silent acquiescence is thrilling in its own way, but Eren's afraid he's going to blurt out something stupid if he isn't distracted from his own thoughts.

Levi's gaze turns slightly hooded as Eren brushes his fingers behind his ears, and there's a strange twist in Eren's stomach at the sight. There's a hand wrapped around his wrist, suddenly, and he glances down quickly before looking back up to meet Levi's eyes.

"Something's bothering you," Levi says, still loosely gripping Eren's wrist. The first idea that flits through Eren's mind is to wrench his arm away from Levi and run out of the apartment, but he figures that reaction might be a little bit over the top. Instead, he opens his mouth, ready to refute Levi's claim, but finds he can't say the words.

He presses his lips together after another moment, brows furrowing. "It's fine," Eren replies, forcing his expression into one of calm. Levi looks unimpressed, even with his face still cradled in Eren's grasp, and it makes Eren smile slightly. "What, don't look at me like that."

"Like you're full of shit?" Levi asks, tone conversational as he runs his hand up along Eren's, fingers lightly tracing Eren's knuckles before carefully pulling the hand away from his face. Eren lets him do it, though he's mildly disappointed, and as he moves his other hand away from Levi, he wonders if maybe he shouldn't make that hasty retreat he'd been considering.

He lowers his head slightly, mumbling distractedly, "It's nothing."

And then Levi's raised a hand to his chin, tilting his head back up. "If you have something you want to say, then say it." He lets his hand drop, and Eren just barely stops himself from reaching out to keep it close. Levi looks at him for another long moment, then adds, "You said it yourself, Eren, I'm exhausted. I don't feel like dealing with that look on your face right now, so spit it out."

Eren feels his ears heat up for some reason at that, and he scoffs, running a hand through his hair. "I said nothing's wrong, and I mean it. Can't I just... think, without having to voice everything?"

Levi snorts lightly. "Well, forgive me for wondering what the hell you're thinking with that look while you're caressing my face."

The heat in his ears spreads easily to his cheeks, and Eren's only consolation is that Levi looks mildly uncomfortable himself. Perhaps he hadn't realized how strange the words would sound once they'd left his lips.

But Levi's not wrong, not really; maybe he does deserve to know what Eren's thinking. The prospect of saying it aloud, when he can barely let himself think it, is enough to make the hairs on the back of Eren's neck prickle.

"It's nothing bad," Eren says softly, like this will assuage Levi's curiosity. He knows better, and is rewarded with an eye-roll.

"Wow, thanks for that." Levi still looks a bit out of sorts, and Eren averts his eyes. He feels conflicted, caught between wanting to move forward and wanting to stay here, where it's comfortable, where he'll know what to expect.

Armin's words appear in his brain suddenly - whatever you do, it'll happen because you did it. If he does this, then there's the chance that things will change, even more than they already have, and maybe in ways that Eren's afraid to admit he wants, outside of his own mind.

And that's the thing, the crux of the whole issue; Eren wants all of this so much, all of Levi, that it makes him afraid, makes him question and second guess himself.

Eren almost jumps at the light touch to his elbow, and he glances up to Levi; he eyes Eren with an indecipherable look, then murmurs after a moment, "Don't worry about it."

He turns then, moving to walk past Eren, and there's a strange sense of urgency in the pit of his belly, one that makes his hand reach out and stop Levi from walking away. He turns back, eyes widened a tad in surprise, and Eren doesn't let go, even as he stutters, "W-wait."

It's-- Levi's given him this out, but he feels like he can't hold it in, doesn't want to, really, and the look on Levi's face, curious, interested, makes Eren's blood flow quicker in his veins. There's so much that Eren wants to say, and Levi's right here before him, looking at him, wondering what he's thinking, and he wants to tell him, wants to murmur it into every patch of skin his lips can reach.

His throat feels suddenly dry, and Levi turns to face him properly, wiggling his arm a little until Eren lets go. "What is it?" he asks, voice low, and Eren knows this is it, this is his last chance, his last opportunity to make an escape, last chance to bottle it all back in, hide it away, pretend it doesn't exist.

But he-- he doesn't want that, not at all, not with the way his heart is pounding, the way his head is buzzing, the way his fingers itch to reach out and touch Levi again.

"Levi, I..."

Levi looks at him, patiently, eyes flickering over his face, and Eren wants to tell him now, desperately.

"I think I might..." Eren is still second-guessing himself, even now, but there's a frenzied thrill in his chest, too, one he can't bring himself to ignore, and the words are tumbling out before he can convince himself not to say them.

"I think I love you."

There's a tiny part of him, one that he'll try valiantly to deny even exists, that maybe wishes that Levi might say those words back to him. A bigger part of him doesn't expect Levi to, but he hopes that Levi will accept his feelings, confession ridden with 'might's and 'I think's as it is.

What he doesn't expect is the way Levi freezes, the way his face falls and his eyebrows crease. Levi's gaze shifts away, toward the floor, features grim, and Eren feels an immediate panic welling in his chest, making it hard to breathe, and he realizes he never should have done this, not if he hadn't been fully prepared for this reaction, the worst one--

"Eren."

Levi's still not looking at him, and Eren tries not to flinch - he can hear it already, in that one word, his name, rejection wrapped all around it, tight enough to make Eren's heart want to burst. His hands curl into fists at his side and fuck, Levi still won't look at him, eyes stormy and shoulders stiff, and there's an awful stinging sensation in the back of Eren's throat that he doesn't want to think about too much.

Levi shifts his weight from one foot to the other, looking uncomfortable. "Eren... I don't..."

Eren doesn't know what he's planning to say, and it doesn't matter, the way Levi trails off lets Eren fill in all sorts of things, each worse than the last. He feels cold, numb, and stupid, incredibly stupid, and he almost can't believe that just a few minutes ago he'd been feeling warm, content, and stupidly in love, because yeah, he doesn't really think he can put the 'maybe's or the 'might's in front of it when it feels like there's some kind of festering itch crawling underneath his skin, making his knees weak and his head swim, his chest ache like someone's reached inside and squeezed a hand around his heart.

He keeps watching Levi stare at the floor, noticing belatedly that the vision is becoming blurrier by the second, and Eren scrunches his eyes shut, clenches his hands tighter. Shit, he's not gonna do this, not now, and he forces some words out of his mouth, stilted and hollow. "I'm gonna go."

When he opens his eyes, Levi's tilted his head a little, gaze averted still, and Eren wants to punch him, suddenly, wants to shove him up against the wall and dig his hands into his shoulders, shake him and scream at him, because why would he let this happen, why would he let Eren start to feel this way; he always says Eren's too easy to read, too open, and yet he's done absolutely nothing to stop Eren from straying down this path. He's made it all too easy, really, with his soft smiles and his lingering touches and the warmth that laces his voice sometimes, and Eren feels the prickling in his eyes again, muttering a pathetic-sounding, "Shit" as he presses a hand over his face.

He whirls around in the next moment, freezing momentarily at the sound of Levi moving, but when he glances over his shoulder, gut twisted in some terrible, desperate hope, all he finds is that Levi's taken a step backward, closer toward the window, eyes finally trained on Eren, swirling with things Eren can't deal with right now, nor can he with the clench of Levi's jaw and the thinness of his lips, and Eren grabs his coat with trembling fingers, rushes out the door without even putting it on, and he realizes as he's tearing down the steps that he hadn't even closed the door behind him, not that it matters, because Levi will close it, Levi will--

Eren darts outside with his coat still slung uselessly over his arm, cold biting into his skin, making his teeth chatter, but he doesn't mind, doesn't mind the feeling of numbness, hopes it overtakes him, actually. His fingers awkwardly fumble through his keys, and it seems like ages until he finally gets into his car, throwing his coat carelessly into the other seat as he just-- just sits there and breathes, heavily, the labored sounds cutting through the quiet of the night, and then this sound comes out of his mouth, awful and--

Eren's hands wrap around the wheel, head thumping weakly against it as he scrunches his eyes shut pointlessly, it's definitely pointless, because the wetness leaking out of the sides of his eyes can't be held back any longer, not now that he--

He grits his teeth to keep from gasping, cheeks warm with fresh tears, the only thing warm about him, right now, his cold hands tight and numb around the wheel, his knees knocking together as he shakes like a leaf, and he'd laugh, if he could, at how pathetic he is, how naive, hadn't Levi called him that once, Eren's sure he had, and he does let out a laugh, now, more like a choked gasp, more tears staining his cheeks.

Yes, pathetic, naive, and stupid, it's all Eren, Eren as he folds in on himself like a broken doll, trembling like a child, an empty, dull ache in his chest.

Chapter Text

By the time Eren finally makes it home, he thinks that he can say he is officially numb. The overwhelming emotions that had rendered him a shaking mess in his car have all evaporated to leave him feeling oddly complacent.

He slips out of his coat and kicks off his shoes, idly rubbing his cold hands against his sides as he wanders to the bedroom. He briefly contemplates changing into something more comfortable, but finds he doesn't have the energy; instead he shuffles over to his bed and pulls back the covers, slipping underneath them and burying his head in his pillow.

He's not just complacent, he also happens to be fucking exhausted, and Eren knows it's not only from what's just happened, but from everything with Levi. He doesn't want to think about it though; it only makes him feel even more tired, and his eyes are already scratchy as he eases them closed.

There's going to be plenty of time for him to agonize over everything. Eren certainly isn't looking forward to it, but he knows himself well enough to acknowledge that it will happen.

But that's okay. It's part of the moving on process.

Eren sighs softly and pulls the blanket up to cover the bottom half of his face. He doesn't want to think about it, because it's over. Not just the rejection itself, and the pain that had followed.

All of it.

--

Eren wakes up the next morning with that groggy, hazy feeling that he hates. It's like he could almost fall back asleep, which he would sincerely love to do, but he isn't quite able, mind trying to jolt him awake just when he's about to drift back off.

And it's Saturday, so this would be the ideal time for some extra sleep. Eren groans and rolls over onto his other side, already accepting that this is a losing battle.

Even if he hadn't yet accepted it, he certainly would after feeling his phone buzz from where it is apparently still lodged in his pocket. With his eyes still clamped shut, Eren fumbles awkwardly to unearth it, wondering vaguely who it is.

His bleary eyes focus on the alert at the top of the screen for a moment without fully processing what it says; he blinks, then feels his stomach lurch as he looks at the rest of the screen, still opened to the messages he'd exchanged with Levi last night. The anger and bitterness he expects to follow the lurching feeling never come; instead, his stomach continues to tumble and his chest seems to ache.

With a shaky sigh Eren exits out of the screen, flopping on his back against the pillow and blinking his tired eyes again. Those brief moments of not remembering had been wonderful, actually, but of course he hadn't realized he should have been cherishing them.

He wants to be angry, because that's easier for him to deal with - not that it's productive, but if he could just let loose some of his frustrations in a way that isn't moping around in his bed all day, which is what he's suspecting is going to happen, then he'd feel somewhat better about it all.

Eren's not really one for moping. He doesn't do well with these sorts of things, and he never has. He wants to do something, and the thought makes him pause mid-stretch, a hoarse bark of laughter escaping his lips. The desire to do something is what's landed him in this situation in the first place.

Maybe he had been wrong, maybe he had misread what things he'd thought were between them, and maybe he had been selfish in saying what he had. Eren won't deny any of these things, but at the same time he can't absolve Levi of any blame either. Why had he let Eren so close, why had he said all of the things he'd said and touched Eren and looked at him like maybe he--

Eren closes his eyes again, thoughts swirling and heart thumping. The bigger appeal of doing something and venting his frustrations is the fact that he won't have to think; his mind will be clear, focused on the task at hand, even if that task is something like breaking all of the dishes in his cabinets.

Eren... I don't...

He sighs noisily, throwing back the covers like the action will somehow stop his thoughts from racing. It doesn't, of course, and by the time he makes it to the bathroom, fingers tightly grasping the edges of the sink and eyebrows furrowed together, Eren feels like he might throw up.

He won't, he won't let himself, and the steadying breaths he forces himself to take help a little, even though they sound ragged and broken in the silence of the room. Eren hates himself right now, and he hates Levi, though not as much as he wants to, and god does he want to, he wants to blame Levi for everything, wants to hate him so much that he sees red when he thinks of him.

But he's not that lucky - he's not able to pretend that well, though he wishes he could. He wishes he could turn everything that he feels for Levi into fuel for hatred, hatred that would make him want to forget even knowing Levi.

Eren glances upwards, grimacing as he sees his reflection in the mirror. He looks terrible, pale and pathetic, slumped over the sink like the sad failure that he is.

What had he really hoped for? He knows deep down what he'd wanted - he'd wanted Levi to hold him close, to smile and say the words back to him, and even just thinking about it right now makes his stomach clench and his fingers tremble. He's incredibly fucking pathetic, and definitely stupid as well. Why hadn't his brain stopped to consider that Levi might not accept him?

But does it matter? Does it matter if he's said the words now or if he'd said them weeks from now, months from now? Would it make any difference? Would Levi feel any differently then?

Without really wanting to, Eren can see Levi's down-turned lips and stormy eyes in his mind, and he clamps his eyes shut, rubbing at them vigorously until he sees spots dancing behind his eyelids.

He doesn't understand Levi. He doesn't know what Levi wants or expects of him, but what he does know is that he can't deal with the uncertainty and the confusion any longer. Their relationship has been filled with too much of both of those things as it is.

Eren slumps down on the cold floor, pulling his legs up to his chest. He remembers the way he'd felt before Levi had left on the internship, when they hadn't been speaking. What kind of friends would let something like that fester for so long? And what if Eren hadn't made the decision to go see Levi that night? Would they have ever spoken to each other again?

He buries his forehead into his knees, closing his eyes. He also remembers the way he'd felt when he'd seen Levi with his face upturned in the gentle snow, when he'd held his hand and told Levi, with his stomach in knots, that he thought it'd be worth it, whatever it is, anyway.

It doesn't feel worth it, right now. He'd known it wouldn't be easy, but he had hoped in his heart that it would work out, somehow, that everything would fall into place, like the perfect way the snowflakes had fallen into Levi's hair.

Eren snorts, banging his head lightly against his knees. It's pointless to think those sorts of thoughts, because they won't amount to anything.

But he can't help wondering what Levi had wanted? Had he simply indulged Eren and then felt regret when it'd gone too far?

He feels his throat getting uncomfortably tight, breaths coming harshly again in the quiet. He shuffles his legs until they lie flat on the ground and he looks up at the ceiling, mind and heart heavy.

Eren doesn't want to wonder anymore. He doesn't want to have to worry, or be conflicted, or doubt himself.

It makes his chest twinge with some sort of uneasy emptiness to think it, but he can't help feeling that this is it for he and Levi. How would they move on from something like this? And more importantly, would either of them really want to?

The truth is, Eren doesn't know. He doesn't know if he believes that it's worth it anymore, and he wonders if that is enough of an answer in and of itself.

--

Eren forgets to check his phone until it buzzes a second time once he's huddled back in bed; the messages are from Mikasa, and though he feels kind of guilty about it, Eren brushes off her request to hang out. He knows he won't be able to act like nothing's wrong, and if Mikasa asks him if something's happened, Eren's not sure what he'll do. Probably something embarrassing, and it would be best to avoid that.

He doesn't know how to explain it, and he doesn't want to.

The phone buzzes again, and Eren frowns as he reads it. 'Maybe tomorrow?'

'Sorry, I'm pretty busy catching up on stuff'

Eren feels even guiltier for lying, but he's actually looking forward to facing random people on the streets than he is Mikasa, who knows him way too well and will want to know why Eren's upset.

Though for now, he's kind of moved away from upset and is back in his listless state. His earlier desire for something to do has faded away into a desire to not do anything at all, which is why he's currently still in bed.

He deserves at least one day, he figures. He can allow himself one day to mope and be pathetic, and maybe if it gets really bad he can cry a little, but he hopes it doesn't come to that.

Eren closes his eyes and sighs, unable to stop himself from wondering what Levi is doing right now.

--

Okay, so maybe the day he'd allowed himself has turned into a week.

Eren feels like he's in a fog as he goes about his days, and he's barely aware of time passing. One afternoon after his class had ended he'd simply sat in his car for what he'd thought was a few minutes, but upon looking at his phone, he'd realized it'd been almost an hour.

After that, he hadn't gone home, instead driving aimlessly around until he'd ended up in a small diner where he'd eaten dinner. He'd stayed long after he finished, nursing a few cups of coffee, before finally making his way back to his apartment.

Everything just feels... off.

It feels wrong, somehow. Granted, something is off, and it's the fact that there are no messages from Levi, no meetings with Levi, and, to the best of his ability, no thoughts of Levi.

Whereas before he had felt like he would eventually see Levi again, because he wouldn't let himself chicken out, Eren feels like that isn't the case this time.

He isn't going to fight with himself over it. The feeling of finality is actually a good thing, he thinks. But that doesn't change the fact that he's in a really weird place right now and he's not sure how long it's going to last.

It's probably not helping that he's completely ducking his friends, who are the ones who most likely would be able to brighten his mood a little.

Eren doesn't like to think it, but there's a chance he may be afraid. If he really lets himself get over it, as it were, it will definitely be over.

Which is stupid, because it already is.

--

Eren dreads the weekend, and all of the long, monotonous hours it entails.

He's seriously considering an impromptu road trip to an undecided location when he receives a text from Armin.

'I want Chinese food. Thoughts?'

Eren leans back in his chair. Perhaps the road trip isn't really the best idea right now.

With his luck, he'd end up broken down in the wilderness with only his thoughts to keep him company, which is pretty much counterproductive.

He sends his reply before he can talk himself out of it. 'Yeah come over, I'm not doing anything'

--

Eren decides to engage in a few morose activities before Armin arrives, simply because he's a glutton for misery. He sprawls out on his couch with his phone, scrolling through his message history with Levi, chest constricting painfully every once in awhile.

It makes him angry that he isn't angrier at Levi. He doesn't like feeling hurt, is probably what it comes down to.

Eren places his phone carefully down on his stomach and stares up at the ceiling.

This is it for the wallowing.

So he lets himself feel hurt, lets his eyes scrunch shut as he relives the crushing feeling he's been resolutely ignoring, as he thinks over how pathetic and stupid he feels.

But it's over now.

Eren sits up and tosses his phone on the table, flinching slightly when it vibrates, but it's just Armin letting him know he's arrived and needs help with the food.

Eren trudges out to help, and as they make their way back inside he feels a little sad but also sort of... at peace. Moving on isn't the easiest thing to do, as he's learned, but the process will hopefully be easier from here on out.

--

Eren actually wants to kick himself for his self-imposed exile this past week. As he leans into Armin's shoulder, gasping with laughter while Armin snorts into his hand, Eren doesn't know why the hell he'd thought he should be doing anything other than moving on.

There's more to his life than just one person, and Eren isn't going to spend any more of his time being confused and conflicted.

"Ah, you look like you're thinking about something," Armin says with a smile, bumping Eren's shoulder slightly with his own.

Eren freezes for a moment, then gives Armin a half-smile in return. "Maybe a little." He stretches his legs out carefully before lowering them back down, eyes trained toward the television and away from Armin.

"Anything you want to talk about?" Armin asks after a pause, and Eren doesn't hesitate to shake his head. It's not that he doesn't appreciate the offer, and he knows Armin only has his best interests at heart, but Eren is decidedly in the 'no desire to talk about any of this' mindset.

It's quiet for some time, though not uncomfortably so; eventually Eren wrinkles his nose in disgust and states, "Were they trying to make you sympathize with the killer, because these kids are fucking idiots."

"Hm." Armin nods in agreement, then they both choke on their food when the masked killer appears suddenly behind the main character.

--

"You owe me next time," Armin reminds him for the tenth time as he gets ready to leave.

Eren rolls his eyes, sighing loudly. "Fine, fine. I'll spring for some dollar menu shit the next time I see you."

Armin is unamused, and as he turns around to snap back at Eren, he ends up walking into the door frame. Eren lets out a strange wheeze, reaching out to pat Armin's shoulder to make sure he's okay even as he tries not to burst out in full-blown laughter.

Armin leaves in a huff with red ears and Eren chuckles as he closes the door behind him, not fighting his smile. He swings his hands behind his back as he makes his way back into the living room to start attempting to clean up. He snatches up the empty containers first and trashes them, then tosses their dirty utensils in the sink. Now there's just the leftovers to worry about.

He sees there's still a nearly half-full container of Armin's favorite left when his phone rings, and Eren snorts as he turns around, grabbing the phone. He's surprised Armin has gotten this far away without remembering to take these precious leftovers with him.

Eren's voice comes out a little breathless as he answers, lips cracked in a grin as he attempts to close the container one-handed. "Hello?"

It's quiet for a moment, and he's just about to lower the phone and check to see if the call has gotten disconnected when he hears a voice that definitely isn't Armin's.

"...Eren?"

Chapter Text

Eren freezes, his grip on the phone tightening.

He should hang up, right? Probably.

Levi's voice is firmer this time. "Eren."

This is so fucking stupid, he doesn't-- he doesn't need this right now, he's going to be fine, he's moving on, so why is his heart trying to climb out of his throat?

Eren sighs shakily, setting down the container before he crushes it in his hands. He's not going to hang up.

"Yeah?"

He can feel his heartbeat pounding in his ears, can feel his hands start to get clammy, god, seriously, he does not need this right now. Eren closes his eyes and curls his hand into a fist at his side.

"Eren, I think we should talk." Levi says the words carefully, maybe a bit hesitantly. Eren wants to scream, because if Levi is going to be indecisive about even wanting to talk to him--

"Are you home?" Levi continues, and Eren freezes again, surprised by the question. Maybe Levi does want to talk, but Eren sure as hell doesn't want to do so right now.

"No," he blurts, nervously running his hand along his side. "No, I'm not."

"Oh."

There's a pause, and Eren takes a deep breath, trying to relax. He feels like he's wound up tight, like he would snap in half if someone were to poke him with so much as a feather.

"Yeah," he offers, the word coming out stilted. He had meant to sound mildly apologetic, but so much for that plan.

"Your car's outside," Levi replies, the calm words enough to make Eren almost drop his phone.

"Uh..." he stalls, wandering over to look out of the window. If he thought his heart had been going wild before, at the sight of Levi down on the street, it's currently running laps. He watches Levi shuffle his feet, his head turning to the side, probably to look at Eren's car again. Eren knows he should be constructing some sort of lie right now, but he's far too tongue-tied.

Eren feels his blood run cold as Levi tilts his face upwards. He tries to console himself that Levi won't be able to really see him in the window. Probably. He hopes.

"Your lights are on," Levi says, the words yet again calm and unaccusing. Fuck, he must know Eren doesn't want to see him, so what is he doing hanging around outside, calling like this, refusing to go away?

"Must have forgotten to turn them off," Eren responds tersely, staring down at Levi's figure, who's still looking upward. Eren wonders if Levi can see him standing here, and almost hopes that he can. The thought somehow makes him want to laugh, his nerves making him feel strangely jittery.

"Right," Levi replies, lowering his head. He shuffles his feet again, and Eren hates how suddenly torn he feels between wanting Levi to go and wanting him to stay.

"I guess I'll wait, then."

Eren's eyes widen. "What?"

"I want to talk to you," Levi states. "So I'll wait here."

Had he seriously just been laughing with Armin not long ago, feeling like maybe everything would be okay? Eren lets out a frustrated sigh, rubbing at his forehead, narrowing his eyes at the sight of Levi like it will help matters.

"Fine," he huffs, his heart doing a weird skip at the word, at its implications. "Whatever. Shit." He closes his eyes and runs a hand through his hair. "Come on up."

Eren doesn't wait for an answer, ending the call and walking away from the window. He sits down stiffly on the couch, hands awkwardly gripping at his knees. Is he making a mistake? What is this going to accomplish?

Probably nothing good. What would Levi want to say to him in person? Eren chuckles bitterly, the grip on his knees tightening. Most likely something about how disgusting Eren is, how this is the end, but there's no need for that, because Eren already knows, he's already accepted it and he's currently trying to get the fuck over it, which is difficult when Levi decides to make a goddamn random appearance when he feels like it.

Eren jumps when he hears the soft knock on his door, breath leaving him in a rush. This is definitely a mistake, but he finds his legs carrying him over to answer the door anyway.

He swings it open with more of a flourish than he'd intended, and Levi's eyebrows rise slightly as he stands in the threshold. Eren hates the ache in his chest at the sight of Levi, his cheeks pink from the cold and his hair slightly windswept. Most of all he hates the way the ache mixes with want, the desire to reach out and touch Levi, to-- to do something he's not allowed to, like pull Levi close, to press his face into the curve of his smooth neck and breathe in.

Abruptly he turns away, stepping to the side and hearing more than seeing Levi enter the apartment. Eren closes the door quietly, hands trembling. This is without a doubt a huge mistake.

By the time Eren turns around, Levi has shrugged off his coat and scarf and is standing awkwardly in the middle of the living room. Eren is tempted to turn right back around and head out the door, to speed off in his car and hope Levi will be gone by the time he gets back.

Instead he pulls out a chair in the kitchen and slumps down in it, resting his chin in his palm and gazing at his knees. After a moment, he hears Levi making his way to stand before him. Eren glances up, his stomach tying itself in knots immediately, so he looks back down, furrowing his brows.

Levi lets out a small sigh. Eren would be annoyed, except it doesn't sound exasperated. Not for the first time, he wonders what on earth Levi is thinking right now.

"So?" Eren says finally, holding Levi's gaze. He's not feeling particularly hospitable right now, more like a horrid mixture of confused and nervous, and he has a feeling he might be coming off sort of controntational. But really, who cares?

"So, what?" Levi replies, lips turning down slightly. Eren stares silently, and Levi sighs again. "That's all? You're not going to say anything?"

A hot rush of anger courses through him then, and Eren just barely keeps himself from rising from his seat. "Are you serious? No, I really don't want to say anything right now," Eren shoots back, hands clenching at his knees.

Levi rolls his eyes, starts to mutter, "Eren, don't act like--"

Eren does stand up then, teeth gritted as he forces out, "Don't fucking dare." Levi looks surprised, eyes widening slightly, and Eren takes a step forward. "You don't get to tell me how to act, not after--"

He cuts himself off, the momentary flash of anger having passed, replaced with an uncomfortable pang in his chest. Levi doesn't say anything as Eren flops back down in his seat, eyebrows furrowed and arms crossed. He wants to hold on to that anger, but he supposes he should be used to not being able to have the things he wants these days.

"I didn't..." Eren glances up to see Levi's lips twisted as he speaks. "I didn't mean it like that."

It's sort of an apology. Eren shrugs, because he has nothing else to offer. Levi had been the one adamant about wanting to talk to him, so let him talk.

Almost as if Levi is reading Eren's mind, he murmurs, "It's not like this is an easy conversation to have."

"What do you mean, I'm having a blast," Eren retorts, leaning his elbow against the table and resting his chin on it. He knows he's being childish, but fuck, he's not going to let himself break down and cry or something like that.

Levi's lips thin, but he doesn't comment, instead shifting his weight from one foot to the other. Eren's thoughts are so jumbled that it takes him a moment to process Levi's words when he finally speaks.

"I didn't want to leave it like that."

Eren doesn't know what to say when he does understand the words, doesn't know what Levi means by them. All he can offer is an eloquent, "What?"

Levi frowns. "Did you?" At Eren's confused look, Levi continues, "Did you want to leave it like that? Never see each other again?"

Eren's stomach seems to bunch up in knots, and he shuffles uncomfortably in his seat, glancing away from Levi. Of course that's not what he wants, Levi already knows; it's not fair for him to barge in here and ask questions he already knows the answers to.

"I thought about it," Eren murmurs, running a hand through his hair. The look on Levi's face changes, into one of those expressions that Eren can't read, but he finds he can't look away. Eren's suddenly frightened of where this conversation is going to lead, and he briefly contemplates asking Levi to leave, because he's not sure if he can deal with it.

"I did, too," Levi says honestly, and Eren can already tell that his battle to maintain his composure is going to go to shit any moment now. Fuck, why is Levi even here right now?

"Why are you here, then?" Eren asks, because he might as well, might as well just dig the hole even deeper. He feels his heart do a strange skip when Levi takes a step forward, but he doesn't move any closer.

"Because."

It's not an answer, and Eren can't stop his frown, doesn't try that hard to. Levi should leave, he really should, but Eren can't seem to form the words to tell him to.

"I'm not going to dismiss what you said." Levi hesitates, and Eren feels his breath catch. "What you feel."

Eren feels like his head is spinning, suddenly, and he wonders how quickly he can run to his car to get out of this situation.

"But that doesn't..."

Levi hesitates again, and Eren curls his hands into fists, tries to remember to breathe, shit, maybe he's a coward for not wanting to do this, but he doesn't even care at this point.

"I'm not..." Levi looks troubled, and Eren feels like his heart is breaking all over again. "I can't... promise that to you."

He makes his way over to Eren, putting his hands on the back of the chair, and Eren feels trapped, he doesn't want Levi this close, doesn't want Levi to see him like this--

"Eren."

It's just his name, but Levi's said his name like this before, and Eren bites his lip as hard as he can, turning his head to the side; he won't, he won't, he won't let himself--

"I don't love you."

It's awful, it's worse than anything, worse than if he'd never seen Levi again after leaving his apartment, to have him say something like this, and he can't stop the hurt from showing in his face, belatedly closing his eyes so that Levi won't see, won't know--

"I can't stand you, Eren... I get so angry when I think about you."

Eren doesn't even know what Levi's saying, he can't focus on the words-- why is he doing this--

"I can be doing something completely mundane, and you'll pop into my mind, and I hate it."

His head feels like it's spinning, he still he can't open his eyes, and Eren can feel Levi dipping closer, can feel it in the way his skin starts to hum, and he hates himself, hates Levi, because why is he doing this to him--

"Because I'm always thinking about you," Levi says, his voice deceptively soft. Eren's mind is in overdrive, body tense, and all he wants is for Levi to--

"That's what I hate the most, Eren. That it always comes back to you, somehow. I don't want it to, but it happens anyway."

Eren's feeling confused, now, but Levi continues on. "I don't know how to love someone, Eren. All I know is I can't stop thinking about you, can't stop wanting to touch you--"

And it's now that Eren's eyes fly open, that he turns his head back to look at Levi looming over him, because what-- what does he--

"I always want to hear your voice and see your stupid smile," Levi says, and the words sound warm, and they warm Eren's skin, they make him remember how to breathe, and he wonders if he's dreaming as he watches Levi's lips form more sweet words. "And I hate when we're together because I know I'll hate it more when we're apart."

It's a losing battle, now, to keep everything inside, so Eren lets it out, his breath leaving him in a noisy huff and his vision getting blurry, and he wishes he could think clearly, wishes he could so he can take in the look on Levi's face, so he never forgets, and his heart, at the sound of Levi's voice, it feels like it's mending--

"Don't cry over me, Eren," Levi admonishes him quietly. "It's not worth it."

Warm hands drift until they're on his shoulders, and Eren bites his lip to keep the tears from slipping out. "I-- I'm not--"

Levi makes a disapproving sound, then trails his hands upwards, slowly, leaving little paths of electricity along his shoulders, his neck, his jaw, and Levi's hands finally stop on his cheeks. "Levi, you..." Eren mutters weakly, not sure what he's trying to say, really, but he can't think properly, can't breathe again as Levi leans close, and Eren's never let himself hope this much before, for anything, and he wants--

"Nothing makes sense like it used to," Levi murmurs, his thumbs stroking at Eren's cheeks.

Eren takes a deep breath, closes his eyes, and when he reopens them, he can feel himself smile, his lips quavering. "Does that have to be bad?"

Levi looks at him for a moment, and then his eyes soften at the corners as he smiles, and there's something tender in it, and Eren wonders what it is, if not love. Eren's head pounds and his heart sings as Levi leans closer, as he angles his head just so, as he presses his lips against Eren's, his hands still cupping his face.

Eren doesn't want to try to think anymore, and there is so much to think about, things they should still be discussing, but instead Eren's running his hands along to grip at Levi's elbows, tilting his head and parting his lips to bring Levi's bottom one between his own.

Levi makes a soft sound, his hands slipping from Eren's face into his hair, eliciting goosebumps all over the back of Eren's neck. His heart feels ready to burst from his chest, his face warming as Levi makes another small sound when Eren digs his fingers into Levi's arms and pulls him closer.

Their lips part for a moment, Levi's knee awkwardly pressing into the seat of the chair between Eren's legs as he hangs over him. Eren's stomach twists at the hooded look in Levi's eyes, at the pink of his cheeks, and then he finds himself being kissed again, Levi's lips firm and warm, sending sparks along his skin.

Eren lets Levi tilt his head back further, a tremor running through his chest as Levi leans even closer; the trapped feeling from before has transformed into something different, something thrilling and exhilarating, and Eren thinks that he would gladly spend the rest of his days like this, with Levi pressing down on him, with Levi wanting him.

That thought combined with the fingers caressing his scalp and the insistent lips upon his own drives Eren to let out a pathetic sound, desperate and keening, one that makes his face flush and his body freeze. Levi's fingers tighten in his hair and he kisses at Eren's mouth with enough fervor to make Eren forget to kiss back, his face still hot and mild embarrassment causing him to hesitate.

Levi seems to sense it, and he pulls back, gazing at Eren wordlessly. Eren feels like he's being unraveled with just this look alone, and he both wants Levi to be able to do so and is simultaneously afraid of it. Eren closes his eyes for a moment, fingers flexing around Levi's arms, and in return Levi swipes at the spot behind Eren's ears with his nails. The touch makes him shiver, and Eren figures he should say something, or yank Levi downwards again, but what he finds himself doing instead is standing, their bodies still tangled together.

Levi's eyes widen in surprise as Eren shuffles them backwards, then narrow slightly when he bumps into the edge of the table. "Eren--"

"Shut up," Eren breathes, heart racing and lips tingling. "Just-- I don't--"

He doesn't know what he's doing, he should stop and take a minute to think, but instead Eren's leaning toward Levi, hands snaking around Levi's back as he plants his lips along the curve of Levi's jaw.

"Eren," Levi gasps, fingers digging into his shoulders, making Eren's breath leave him in a huff. Levi shivers slightly at the puff of air on his skin, and Eren feels a thrill go through him, the feel of Levi in his arms, warm and close, here, here because he wants to be, enough to wipe any notion of doing anything other than kissing Levi from his mind.

His lips travel upward, brushing over Levi's jaw and the side of his face, until he finds Levi's lips again, eyes slipping shut as Levi kisses him back without hesitation. He can feel his control slipping away, farther and farther at each squeeze of Levi's fingers and every brush of his lips, and he presses forward, closer, hands scrabbling at Levi's back as he leans into him.

There's a loud screech suddenly, one that makes them both pause, and it takes Eren a moment to realize that the table is sliding from the weight of them pressing into it. A breathy laugh escapes him, and Levi looks like he's torn between annoyance and amusement, lips parted just slightly as he catches his breath.

Levi's gaze flickers to his then, and Eren thinks that he doesn't want Levi to catch his breath, doesn't want him to ever regain his senses and leave Eren's arms. He presses forward again, Levi making a sound of mild protest, but Eren disregards it, sliding his hands down around Levi's hips as he moves his body forward.

Levi huffs in irritation, hands snapping down to grasp at Eren's. "Stop," he mutters, even as he tilts his head forward and recaptures Eren's lips. His eyes flutter shut at the touch, and it takes him a few moments to realize that Levi is using his grip to pull him closer, in between his legs, because he's slid onto the edge of the table and is breathing heavily against Eren's mouth.

Electricity shoots through him as Levi rakes his nails along his back, and Eren in turn hastily cups his hands around Levi's head, thumbs brushing at his jawline as his fingers tangle in dark hair. He wonders if he's dreaming, or hallucinating, because there's no way in hell that he and Levi can be wrapped around each other like this, greedily pawing at each other, not after what's happened, after--

Eren forgets that train of thought when Levi nips lightly at his lip, tongue skirting out immediately after to swipe at the tingling skin. He grasps at Levi clumsily and tilts his head back, heat spreading in his belly at the smile he can feel against his own lips.

It's getting hard to breathe again, and Eren doesn't want to stop, but he has to; as he pulls away slightly he opens his eyes, gazing down at Levi. His eyes open after a moment, and Eren runs his thumbs along Levi's pink cheekbones, watching the way Levi's eyelashes flutter.

At his prolonged stare, Levi twirls his fingers in a small circle along Eren's back and murmurs, "What?" Eren doesn't know how to answer, his mind having long since abandoned him, and the sight of Levi like this is not helping matters any at all.

"I don't know," Eren replies, his own voice hoarse and more than a little embarrassing. He lowers it slightly as he continues, "It's not every day that I make out with you on my kitchen table."

A short laugh parts Levi's lips, the warmth of his breath making Eren's own tingle, his eyes crinkling just slightly at the corners, and--

Eren wants to say a thousand different things in this moment, but his mind is too jumbled, heart still too anxious, too afraid. Heat flushes his cheeks pleasantly when he registers Levi's next words. "Better make the most of it, then."

So he does, wasting no time in slanting his lips over Levi's once again. As he cards his fingers through Levi's hair he mumbles, "I still think I'm hallucinating."

Levi's lips shift as he murmurs back, "Joint hallucination, then."

Eren smiles at that, then presses his mouth firmly back against Levi's, sharp breath leaving his nose when Levi runs his tongue along the seam of his lips.

He parts his lips easily, and at the first touch of Levi's tongue against his, Eren feels something inside himself snap, a loud moan leaving him as he leans over Levi even more, tilting him back awkwardly. At one particular brush of lips and tongue, Levi's knees snap together unexpectedly, pressing into Eren's hips, and Eren's suddenly fully aware of the position that they're in.

The realization is dizzying, and the thoughts running rampant in his mind make him self-conscious, somehow, even though Levi doesn't know what he's thinking. They should stop, or slow down, there's still things to talk about, but--

Eren gasps into Levi's mouth as nails dip into the curve of his spine, and in the brief moment of their lips parting to regain their breath Eren tries desperately to think, to stop and think, and even though he's trying to, he can't process why Levi's hands are leaving him, why they're planting against the tabletop.

"My neck can't take any more of this," Levi states, expression one of calm as Eren heaves noisy breaths into the quiet air between them. He remembers suddenly how awkwardly he's leaned Levi back, and he lets his hands fall away quickly, regaining enough of his senses to stand up straight after another moment.

Levi sits up more, rolling his shoulders slightly, and Eren feels his heartbeat pounding in his ears, quickened breaths still leaving him. He feels like he's just run a marathon, and he's left drained both physically and emotionally. Eren backs up after another few seconds of confused thought, unsurprised as Levi slides off of the table and pulls at the bottom of his shirt to straighten it out.

When Levi finally looks up at him, Eren forgets to breathe altogether.

Is this seriously happening? If he were to lean forward again, would Levi reach for him, kiss him with the same intensity Eren's half-wondering if he honestly has just imagined?

"Eren."

Eren realizes he's still holding his breath, and tries to be subtle in his attempts to not gasp for air as Levi watches him. He tilts his head slightly to indicate Levi can continue; Levi still watches him silently, a look on his face that Eren isn't able to comprehend, most likely because his brain and his body feel like they're melting into mush.

And he's sure he's definitely hallucinating, because Levi's lips have parted but the words coming out of them make no sense.

"Can I stay here tonight?"

A choked sound escapes Eren; he can feel his eyes widen, heat rushing instantly to his cheeks after the brief flash of cold that runs through his whole body. He attempts to form words, but only ends up making another guttural sound, lips flapping helplessly.

Levi rolls his eyes, and damn him, he's not even blushing at all as he says, "Not like that."

Eren's nerves die down at those words, stomach flipping a few times before he manages a simple, "Oh." He isn't sure what Levi means, though, and his brow furrows as he tries to recall whether or not it had been supposed to snow or something, because why--

"I just..." Levi pauses, his gaze shifting off to the side, and Eren suddenly snaps back to attention, his thought processes still going haywire after what's just occurred.

Levi looks up at him then, and his next words manage to affect Eren more than the ones he'd just misunderstood.

"I don't want to leave."

There's a pause, and Eren feels like there's something tangible in the space between them, something alive and growing, something that's drawing them toward each other, making it impossible for Eren to turn back.

He should say no, because Levi's been honest; he's said he can't promise to give Eren what he wants, has said he doesn't understand those things himself. Thinking of the words still stings, even now, and Eren knows, knows he should say no, because he's stupid and in love and Levi isn't.

"Okay," he says instead.

Chapter Text

It's only after Eren's holed up in the bathroom that he is able to take a moment to fully assess the situation.

Levi staying over shouldn't be a big deal. It's something that friends do, and he's crashed on Levi's couch once or twice, himself.

It's nothing. Nothing at all.

Of course, those occasions hadn't been preceded by discussions of feelings and kissing, so...

Eren's cheeks begin to burn as he vigorously scrubs his hands in the sink. It's different, now, and thinking about it is making his heart start pounding.

He turns the water off, glancing up at his reflection. His hair looks a bit mussed, and his stomach flips as he thinks about why. Without thinking, he reaches up to smooth it a bit, before realizing he hasn't dried off his hands.

"Shit," Eren grumbles, turning to the side and grabbing the towel to dry them off. As he looks back to the mirror, there's a small, obvious patch of his hair that's darkened with water now, and Eren groans, closing his eyes.

He needs to just breathe, for a minute. That's all, just to breathe.

It's just, it's the way Levi had said it.

It doesn't sound like the simple act of just one friend crashing on another friend's couch. Well, not that he can claim that they're just friends, they're... whatever they are right now, but that's beside the point.

The very idea of Levi in Eren's bed with him is enough to give him a premature heart attack. The attempts at taking a moment to just breathe fall through quickly as his fingers tighten around the edges of the sink, heart pounding in his ears.

He really should have said no, but the thing is, he hadn't wanted to. Levi doesn't want to leave, and Eren can't even put into words how badly he feels the same. His thoughts are still jumbled, and there are still things they should probably talk about, things that make Eren slightly uneasy, but for now, he just wants Levi here. It's selfish and stupid, but he hadn't been able to deny it when Levi had asked, and he can't deny it now.

Eren sighs, running a hand through his hair and attempting to shift it around so the darker spots aren't immediately visible. He hopes Levi doesn't think he's up to something weird in here, and Eren has to bite his lip to stifle a snort.

With another sigh, a long one, one that he hopes will settle his nerves, Eren makes his way out of the bathroom. He's not too sure how awkwardly this is going to go. Should he ask Levi if he wants to sleep on the couch? Is it too presumptuous to assume he wouldn't want to?

Eren wanders into the living room, where he'd left Levi, only to find that he isn't there. After peeking into the kitchen and not seeing him there either, Eren's heart does a tumble in his chest. That leaves only one place that Levi could be, and that solves any sort of inner turmoil he'd just been having.

He shuffles his way down the hallway, hands nervously bunching at the bottom of his shirt as he enters his room. Levi's sitting at the edge of the bed, ankles crossed, and when he glances up to look at Eren, the nervousness somehow doubles, but maybe not in a completely bad way.

Levi's suddenly rising, and it probably takes Eren a few seconds too many to process his statement of, "You sure took a long time."

He has his mouth half opened to answer, but Levi walks by, and Eren glances back to see him headed toward the bathroom. At the soft sound of the door closing, Eren lets out a noisy breath, shoulders slumping.

So should he just stand here? Wait for Levi to come back and discuss things? He glances down, wondering if he should try to hurriedly change before Levi comes back.

Eventually Eren decides to stop wondering, and to just... go with it. Eren flicks off the light, then makes his way over to the bed, trying to pretend this is just a normal night.

He slips under the covers, shuffling from his back to his side and then to his back again. He's rolling around so much that he almost misses the quiet sound of Levi re-entering the room, and he immediately freezes where he is, hands clenched beneath the blanket.

It's dark, but he can see Levi approaching, and his stomach twists itself in knots at the way the bed dips suddenly, Levi's knee pressing into the mattress.

"Is this okay?"

Levi's voice is soft, and he remains where he is, leaning partly on the bed. Eren's reminded of all of the times he's questioned himself where Levi's involved, and he finds himself loosening his hold on the blanket.

"Yeah," he murmurs, tilting his head to the side to look at Levi more clearly. Of course, he still can't really see him that well, but after another moment of hesitation, he's shifting, making his way under the covers.

For all of the nerves overtaking him as Levi moves to lie on his back, Eren feels strangely serene as he gazes over at him once he's settled, at his dark hair fanning the pillow and his eyes trained to the ceiling above him. It's almost like this isn't something unusual at all, like it's completely normal for Levi to be here with him like this.

After a few minutes of quiet Levi turns his head to the side, meeting Eren's gaze. It's hard to read the look on his face in the dark, but Eren's heart skips a beat anyway.

He should say something, but what he ends up doing is sliding his hand along underneath the covers, hesitating slightly when his fingers brush against the warmth of Levi's wrist. He watches Levi's eyes flicker down, and then he's moving, rolling over onto his side to face Eren.

"Your hands are cold," Levi says, and Eren almost laughs, rolling more comfortably to face Levi. He's slid his hand away, but can't resist bringing it back toward Levi again. He runs his fingers along Levi's arm, hesitating in the crook of his elbow to slowly brush his fingers against the soft skin. Levi's eyes flutter shut for a moment, and when he reopens them, it's only half-way.

"Sorry," Eren murmurs, a small smile on his face as he leaves his hand where it is. Levi's arm starts moving suddenly, and Eren's hand drifts to his bicep as Levi presses his fingers to his chest. He lets out a breath as Levi traces his collar bone, then moves up to caress his neck.

"Eren," Levi breathes, warm fingers making his skin tingle while the sound of his voice makes his breath catch. Eren doesn't know what to say, so he moves his hand along to cup Levi's where it rests about his neck.

Levi sighs softly, closing his eyes.

Without really thinking about it, Eren closes his own, idly hoping Levi can't feel his pulse pounding. He thinks he might be somewhere close to relaxed when he opens his eyes again, only to find that Levi appears to have inched closer, because his face certainly hadn't been that close before.

"Levi..." he starts, his hold slackening on Levi's hand slightly. "What... do you want?"

Not very eloquent, but Eren can't really be blamed at this point, he figures.

Levi's lips part but nothing comes out, and Eren feels a sudden anxiousness wash over him.

"I..." Levi pauses, sounding slightly hesitant, which only serves to make Eren more perturbed, but he doesn't say anything, waiting with bated breath for Levi to continue.

"I don't know," he murmurs, and the statement leaves a bitter feeling of disappointment in the pit of Eren's stomach. It's his own fault, probably, but that doesn't make it any more pleasant.

"Don't," Levi says suddenly, fingers sliding to Eren's jaw to tilt his head up. Eren's eyes widen in surprise; he hadn't realized he'd even shifted at all, but now he's looking into Levi's eyes again.

"What I mean is... I'm not used to this. I'm not used to relying on someone like this." Levi's fingers stay where they are, along the curve of Eren's jaw, and it's both wonderful and highly distracting. "But..."

"But?" Eren repeats, after Levi fails to continue.

Levi hesitates again, lips twitching silently before he finally murmurs, "I want to be with you."

They're such simple words, and they could mean any number of things, but Eren feels warmth bubbling in his chest, making his face hot and his skin prickle where Levi's touching him. His hand slips around to grasp at Levi's back, and he knows he shouldn't let himself get swept away, but it's too late, he has Levi in his bed whispering things that are making his heart skip, and now Levi's tilting his head forward, eyes slipping shut as he presses his lips to Eren's.

Even though they're in Eren's bed, this kiss already feels different, it's less-- insistent, less urgent, but it's enough to make Eren's knees feel weak, and he's glad he isn't standing. Levi's lips are warm and thorough, he's kissing Eren like he--

Eren moans softly as Levi's fingers slide back into his hair, and they both pause, breathing against each other.

"It's okay," Eren breathes, letting his eyes fall shut momentarily as Levi's nose brushes his. "I just... I want to be with you, too."

"I know," Levi replies softly, fingers gently caressing Eren's scalp.

"I think I always..." Eren drifts off, unsure of what he wants to say. As long as he's known Levi, all he's wanted is to be with him, though now the words take on a different meaning.

"You don't have to say anything." Levi's fingers are carefully winding through his hair now, and Eren sighs at the touch.

"But there are things I want to say," Eren replies after a moment. "I think not saying anything has only led to problems, before."

Levi stops moving, and Eren holds his breath, wondering if Levi's upset. But then he continues his careful touch, murmuring, "So what is it?"

Now that he's gone and said all of this, Eren feels at a loss for words. He can almost see Levi's eye roll if he were to say 'I don't know.' He's never been a master at words to begin with, and he's already dug himself into quite a few holes with some of the nonsense he's spewed, but still, he wants to say it. Eren's stomach does a flip as he tries to think back, tries to remember a time when he hadn't thought of Levi and just-- wanted, wanted a closeness, wanted to mean something to Levi.

"I think that ever since I first met you, I've wanted to be with you."

It sounds dumb, and he pauses a moment, waiting for Levi to interject with some sarcastic comment. He doesn't, so Eren continues.

"I mean, it's different to how I feel now, obviously, but..." Eren starts absentmindedly tracing circles along Levi's back, enjoying the shift of his muscles. "I think it's always been that way."

It's quiet, and Levi's hand slides down a bit, loosely cradling the back of Eren's neck. He's not sure what he really expects Levi to say to this. It's vague and probably even a little creepy, but Levi isn't pulling away, so maybe he understands, somewhat.

"I want to understand you, Levi. I want you to tell me things, and I want you to... want to, if that makes sense." Eren wishes he could express himself better, but this is all he's capable of right now. It's easier to try to say these sorts of things in the quiet darkness, but there's still a small part of him that feels a wave of unease. He pushes it to the side, instead letting his hands continue to move along Levi's back, Levi, who's not cringing or pushing Eren away.

"You know when you came to see me before I left?" Levi asks eventually. Eren feels a stupid little thrill go through him at the thought of that night, even though he is right now wrapped around Levi in his bed.

"Yeah, I remember," he replies, already curious as to why Levi has asked.

"I was..." Levi sounds slightly hesitant, and pauses. Eren feels his heart begin to race unexpectedly, and he tilts his head closer to Levi, close enough that he can feel his warm breaths.

"Relieved," Levi murmurs, the word so soft Eren isn't sure that he's actually heard it. But then Levi keeps talking, making Eren's breath hitch in his throat. "I was so relieved, and so fucking pissed at the same time."

He wants to ask why, but his mouth doesn't appear to be working, settling into an awkward grimace. He wants to hear what Levi has to say, but he also is afraid to hear it.

"You should have just left me alone, you know?"

Eren is frowning, now, and he mutters, "Levi, I--"

"Let me talk," Levi interrupts, his fingers pressing into Eren's skin a bit. Eren sighs, lips still twisted, but doesn't say anything more.

"You should have, but you didn't," Levi continues, after seeing Eren isn't going to interject. "And I was happy."

Eren feels the frown melt off his face, heat blooming pleasantly in his cheeks. He's glad it's as dark as it is, because he's also fairly certain he has an embarrassing expression on his face right now. He wonders if Levi knows it anyway.

Levi's hand slides around, the warmth of it making Eren's skin prickle, and he stops to place his palm on Eren's chest. Eren's tempted to move it to a different spot, one where his thudding heartbeat won't be as obvious, but Levi isn't commenting, thank god.

"You said all kinds of stupid shit, but somehow it ended up being all the right things, too," Levi murmurs, sounding mildly annoyed. He sighs, then says, "You said it wouldn't be easy, but that it would be worth it."

Levi pauses, and Eren's heart skips a beat. He can feel the blood rushing in his ears, and he digs his fingers into Levi's back, drawing him closer, their cheeks brushing awkwardly together. Eren doesn't care, he doesn't move away, just holds Levi against him, that hand still pressed above his heart and giving him away completely.

"I meant it," he whispers, and he feels Levi tremble slightly, breath leaving him in a rush that warms Eren's skin. "I don't know everything that you feel, Levi, but I hope you think it's worth it too."

Levi's fingers curl, bunching up the fabric of Eren's shirt, and he moves his face forward, forehead pressing into Eren's neck. Eren brings his hand to the back of Levi's head, tilting his head to the side as he lets his eyes fall shut.

His skin is alight, every part of him tingling, down to the tips of his toes. Eren takes a deep breath, and his stomach seems to stop flipping, a content sort of blanket settling over it as all that is in his mind is Levi, the feel of him, the smell of him, the sound of his soft breaths.

He freezes as Levi slings a leg over his own, hooking their ankles together. He can feel the warmth of Levi's breath through his shirt as he murmurs, "I'm here, aren't I?"

There's an embarrassing swell in his chest and a stupid burn in the back of his eyes, but Eren doesn't worry about it. He runs his fingers through the soft strands of hair, swirling his fingertips along Levi's scalp, like the touch alone will convey the emotions he isn't able to put into words. A quiet sigh leaves Levi as Eren buries his nose into his hair shamelessly, cradling Levi closer to his body.

"Eren."

The soft utterance of his name has Eren murmuring back a quiet, "Hm?"

"Tomorrow..."

Levi trails off, and Eren's eyes snap open. He's been lulled into contentment by the warm comfort of Levi's embrace, and now feels suddenly anxious.

"Yeah?"

Levi shifts his head slightly, breath fanning against Eren's neck distractingly as he speaks.

"Don't kiss me."

Eren's stomach falls, hands twitching where they're wrapped around Levi. Why would he say something like this, after...

Levi starts moving, pulling back just a bit, so that he's looking Eren in the eye. Eren's hands hang uselessly around the back of Levi's neck, and there's a sharp rush of anger that courses through him, making him want to roll over and push Levi into the sheets, to demand--

"I can't deal with your morning breath."

It takes Eren a long moment to process Levi's words, and when he does, a short laugh escapes him, the anger in his chest instantly dispelled. He brings his hands around to cup Levi's face, and his voice is slightly breathless as he murmurs against his lips.

"You're such an asshole."

Levi's fingers tease his collarbones as he mutters back, "No, that's what your mouth will taste like."

Eren snorts, tilting forward until his forehead rests against Levi's as he continues laughing silently. Levi taps his fingers a few times before sighing, but it sounds more amused than annoyed.

When he trusts himself to speak, Eren clears his throat and leans back slightly.

"Levi."

"What?"

Eren smiles.

Through all that's happened, all of his doubts and anxiety, Eren knows one thing for sure, and that is that Levi is definitely worth it.

He runs his thumbs along Levi's cheeks as he presses his lips briefly to Levi's. He pulls back just enough to say, "I was relieved, too."

Levi's lips part slightly and his brows furrow, but a small smile finds its way onto his face once Eren clarifies.

"When you came here tonight."

They both tilt forward, and as the warm heat of Levi's lips makes Eren's toes curl, he hopes that no matter what happens, somehow, one of them will always find the other.

Chapter Text

Eren dreams of snow, of shimmering flakes resting against the silkiest of blacks, of heat in his hands and his chest that lessens the chill everywhere else. His dreams are never vivid, never anything he is able to remember once he wakes; Armin is the one who spins tales of the wildest things imaginable, all products of his dreams. Sometimes Eren is envious, other times not so much, for while there are mornings he wakes with a smile on his face, there are also the mornings where his heart is heavy and eyes damp.

As he slowly shifts his feet back and forth against the sheets, Eren is already forgetting what it is he'd dreamt of. It's warm, except for his hand which is hanging out and over the side of the bed, but he's still too lazy to do anything about it.

It isn't until his foot gently nudges something beside him, something warm and solid, that Eren's eyes pop open. His foot remains where it is, pressed carefully against the warmth, the idea of moving away not one that has yet entered his mind.

He blinks once, twice, eyelids droopy even in the early morning light that barely brightens the room. He yawns, eyes closing briefly as he does, before pulling his hand back underneath the covers. It already feels warm, though it might just be the realization of the situation that has him feeling this way.

His heart is beating quickly in his chest, and he wants to roll over, wants to reaffirm with his own eyes what he already knows to be true. But he can't quite yet, fingers curling together as he dips his head down slightly, eyes focused at a random patch of light on the floor.

He feels different.

Eren supposes this probably isn't so unusual, given what has happened, but the feeling hits him all the same. He wonders if he's dreaming, until he gently shifts his foot, moving away from the warmth next to him. He never has dreams like this, where he can focus on the prickle of heat on his skin and each thump of his heartbeat.

He knows it's early, and he should probably go back to sleep, but even thinking of doing so seems preposterous. Truthfully, Eren isn't sure how he'd fallen asleep at all, how he'd managed to turn his mind off, his heart off, when it had felt like it'd been soaring.

Eren blushes in spite of himself.

Slowly, he shifts, rolling first to his back, then easing onto his other side. He imagines the scene must look pretty comical, if anyone had been watching, as he isn't naturally the most cautious of characters to begin with.

The moment he lets his eyes finally rest on Levi's sleeping form beside him, Eren's heart does the embarrassing soaring thing again, and he smothers a smile in his pillow.

It's stupid as hell, because it's not like he hadn't known Levi would be there, so why does it feel like this, chest so light and heart so free that Eren doesn't think he'll ever be able to stop smiling?

He shifts his legs again, a bit restlessly, face still pressed into the pillow as he tries to calm down. He wants to be able to savor this, because he's aware that whatever there is between the two of them, it is still a fragile thing. Eren knows what he wishes and hopes for, but to fall asleep in Levi's arms, to wake with Levi still here with him, is something he isn't about to take for granted.

When he trusts himself enough not to do something stupid, like giggle breathlessly like an idiot, Eren shifts, training his gaze to Levi once more. His back is to Eren, and Eren's eyes travel from his slightly mussed hair to the curve of his neck, to the dip of his spine as his lower body disappears beneath the covers, and his mouth feels suddenly dry.

He's just been convincing himself not to do something stupid, and now his hand is inching along beneath the covers, fingers brushing over Levi's back and settling around his waist. Eren waits with bated breath for Levi to suddenly awaken and snap his arm off, but nothing happens. If anything, this only makes Eren bolder. Or stupider. He's not sure which.

Eren carefully leans forward, pressing his face against Levi's dark hair. When he inhales, fingertips curling against Levi's skin, Eren's stomach twists in nervousness and excitement. He finds himself wanting to press closer, to wind their legs together, to have his furious heartbeat bleeding into the skin of Levi's back.

Eren knows that would be stupid. While maybe it's okay to do these sorts of things now, to touch, to be close, that doesn't mean Levi will appreciate Eren doing this while he's sleeping.

But then Levi sighs softly as Eren's nose brushes his ear, and Eren isn't able to stop himself from tightening his grip, from pressing his lips to the spot just behind that ear. Levi shifts against him, another faint noise escaping his lips, and Eren struggles not to gasp like he's just been dunked into an ice bath.

Time slows down into the pounding of his heart and the quickened breaths leaving his lips. He doesn't know what he's doing, but whatever it is, he's probably getting ahead of himself.

When his heart no longer feels like it's about to burst out of his chest, Eren props himself up slightly on one elbow, gazing down at Levi's face. Without meaning to, his fingers tighten around Levi's waist, and as Levi shifts again, his eyelashes flutter briefly. Eren swallows heavily at the sleepy look directed towards him.

"What is it?" Levi murmurs, lips barely moving. His eyes close in the middle of his question, and Eren's heart squeezes.

"Nothing," he replies quietly, loosening his hold around Levi's waist, but not pulling away completely. Levi lets out a soft hum, face tilting in Eren's direction, but his eyes remain closed.

Eren had almost expected Levi to wake in a panic, wondering why he's in Eren's bed, and perhaps even for him to make his way out of the situation as soon as possible. Instead, he has Levi sleepy and content beside him, enough so that he might even fall back to sleep, even knowing that Eren is looming over him like the weirdo he apparently is.

"Nothing, huh," Levi breathes softly, leaning back into the curve of Eren's body. His breath catches when Levi opens his eyes again, tiredness still evident in his gaze, but there's something else there too, something Eren isn't able to interpret when they are pressed together as they are.

"Sorry," Eren says, trailing his fingers along Levi's side. There's something so fascinating in this newly realized change in their relationship, a change that makes it alright for Eren to touch and know he won't be pushed away. His fingertips feel warm as he murmurs, "It's early. I didn't mean to wake you up."

Levi blinks, eyelids staying shut long enough that Eren thinks he may actually be attempting to go back to sleep, but then they reopen. He tilts his chin upward, and Eren is so captivated that he misses Levi's hand rising, his knuckles brushing against Eren's cheek as he murmurs, "You look like you want to say something."

He does, looking down at Levi with his sleep-softened face, the early morning light enough to illuminate both his skin and the grey of his eyes. He has something he wants to say quite badly, but Levi isn't ready to hear it yet, so Eren lets his fingers play with the dark strands against the pillow instead, smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.

"I'll tell you later."

And he will, when the time is right. He'll tell Levi every opportunity he gets, until the words become something of a relief rather than a burden to bear.

Levi's hand slides along the curve of his jaw, then slips away. "Alright," he says simply, and Eren's fingers twitch as Levi's hand brushes against them. The touch doesn't linger, but Eren can still feel it even after he pulls away.

"You should go back to sleep," Eren mutters, moving his hand to pull the blanket up over both of them more comfortably. He contemplates whether or not to bring his hand back to Levi's waist, but decides against it, instead curling it along his own side.

"Are you going to?" Levi asks. Eren shrugs, motion awkward in his current position. "So you're just going to sit there and stare at me, then?"

Heat rises in Eren's cheeks, and he purses his lips. "You're mean in the morning."

Levi laughs, a quiet, short burst of air, and the heat remains in Eren's face. There's a trace of a smile on Levi's face, and before he even thinks about what he's doing, Eren tilts his head downward, briefly pressing his lips against Levi's.

Eren forgets to pull back all of the way, and he can feel the warmth of Levi's breath as he murmurs, "I said don't do that, didn't I?"

"I don't remember," Eren lies, leaning forward once more. He doesn't want to push his luck too much, so he doesn't kiss Levi's mouth again. He lets his lips brush a cheekbone, then down, to Levi's jaw; he almost doesn't notice the bit of color rising in Levi's cheeks, but when he does, he decides not to mention it.

"How am I supposed to go back to sleep?" Levi turns onto his side more, away from him, but as Eren tips forward slightly, he can see the smile pulling at his lips.

"I don't know." Eren closes his eyes, fighting off his own smile as he asks, "Am I distracting you too much?"

He expects either a sigh or a groan, but what he gets is a sharp kick that hits him right in the shin. "Hey!" he squawks, eyes snapping open, and he hears the unmistakable sound of Levi laughing again. His indignation fades away when Levi suddenly turns around to face him, propping himself up over Eren with a hand planted on his other side.

"You said it yourself, Eren. I'm mean in the morning."

Eren's heart is hammering suddenly, his breathing so loud he wonders why Levi isn't making fun of him for it. He can almost see his chest heaving up and down in his peripheral vision, but his gaze is focused on Levi above him, the tilt to his lips and the messy hair framing his face. He almost says something dumb, about how this soft light suits him, how it makes Eren feel like he's falling even more, like--

The sheet rustles quietly as Levi shifts carefully, eyes still fixed to Eren's face. His head is spinning, fingers itching, and he wants to tug Levi down, wants to thread his fingers through his hair and kiss him, kiss him until they're both grossed out by morning breath but keep kissing each other anyway.

Levi's gaze is changing the longer he looks at Eren, and suddenly his chest is pressing against Eren's, which causes his breath to leave him in an embarrassing whoosh.

"Eren."

It's all he says, but Eren finds himself biting his lip and closing his eyes, heart thudding against his ribs. Careful fingers run up his side, and Eren shivers, heat flooding his face once again. When Levi's fingers travel upward and touch his bare neck, Eren actually moans, and it's dumb, he's so dumb, and he freezes up, feeling like an idiot, he's reacting like Levi's just done something obscene—

The seconds tick by, Eren stiff and self-conscious as the heat of Levi's body presses into him. But then Levi rolls away abruptly, not saying anything, and Eren keeps his eyes firmly shut. He's slumped flat onto his back at this point, and he doesn't move, doesn't relax at all, not until he feels Levi's hand over his underneath the covers.

When he tilts his head to the side, Levi's already looking at him, and his hand squeezes Eren's.

"Sorry," Eren blurts, even though he's not sure what exactly he's apologizing for. Levi had been the one to touch him, must have wanted to, must have wanted some kind of reaction. But for some reason Eren feels nervous, which is stupid, because this is all that he has wanted, and what's even stupider is that Levi doesn't seem perturbed at all.

"Shut up," Levi replies, and Eren snorts, a bit of tension leaving him.

It's quiet, and Eren's eyes slip closed again. The racket of his nervous heartbeat seems to lessen the longer they lie together, and as his eyelids start to grow heavy, he murmurs, "I can make us breakfast later."

"I said shut up."

Levi's voice seems far away, low and rumbling, and Eren would smile if he weren't so tired. He supposes it's okay for both of them to get some more sleep, and that's the last thing he can remember thinking before he drifts off.

--

The next time he awakens, he's drooling all over his pillow and Levi's nowhere to be seen. He rolls to the side to glance at the clock, surprised to find that it's almost noon, and he wonders dejectedly if maybe Levi has left already.

Most likely, Eren figures. He probably has things to do today, things that don't involve sleeping the day away and then having Eren attempt to make them both breakfast.

He shoves his head into the pillow with a sigh, the sound muffled. Last night feels so far away and hazy, as does earlier this morning. He still feels the urge to pinch himself.

For now, he really needs to go to the bathroom. He throws back the covers and makes his way down the hallway, and once he finally relieves himself he feels much better. He washes his hands slowly, watching the water run down the drain, and remembers how he'd felt standing here just last night, how anxious, but happy too.

He's absentmindedly wandering back toward his room when he hears a soft 'Hey' behind him. Eren turns around in surprise, and Levi says calmly, "It's too late for breakfast, but maybe we can order pizza."

Eren stares for a few long moments, and Levi frowns, raising an eyebrow.

"Sounds good," he says finally, smile spreading across his face. Levi only rolls his eyes and walks away, but it doesn't matter; Eren's still smiling as he darts into his room to get changed.

--

They spend the afternoon eating pizza and watching movies, and though nothing seems blatantly different between them, somehow, it still feels like it is. Eren's aware that his thoughts aren't making any sense, but it feels—it feels easier, like he can breathe.

His stomach still seizes and his skin feels warm when Levi's shoulder bumps into his, but his mind isn't preoccupied with confusing and worrying thoughts. Instead he finds himself trying desperately not to smile, not to reach out and thread their fingers together. He lets himself enjoy it, and hopes that Levi's feeling the same.

It's close to four o'clock when Levi leaves, and Eren is hit with a sudden anxiousness as they stand by the door together. Levi already has his coat on, and Eren thinks he's going to do something stupid, like ask him not to go.

"I'll-- I'll text you," he blurts, and Levi turns to look at him over his shoulder.

"If you want," he replies, shrugging. Eren feels like a jackass, at least until Levi turns around fully, lips parted. He doesn't say anything, and Eren wants to just-- do something, something that will make it feel less like everything that's happened is about to end and more like something else is beginning.

"Good night," Levi says eventually.

"Yeah." Eren tries to smile. "Night, Levi."

Levi pauses, then turns and opens the door. Eren panics and moves forward, and before Levi even lets go of the doorknob Eren's wrapping his arms around him from behind, face pressed against the back of his head.

"Eren, what--"

Eren's head is spinning and his heart is racing; he doesn't answer, doesn't know what he'd even want to say. After a few moments Levi seems to relax, even as he tilts his head to the side and snorts softly. He doesn't seem like he's going to push Eren away, which only encourages him to tighten his arms a bit more.

"What are you doing?" Levi asks quietly.

"Trying to pick your pockets," Eren murmurs, smiling into Levi's hair when he scoffs in reply.

"That probably would've been easier when I was asleep." Levi's hands come up to rest lightly on Eren's arms, and he's unable to stop his eyes from slipping shut in contentment.

"You know me."

Levi's hands slide along, until his fingers are tangling with Eren's. In the next moment, he's using his hold to pry Eren's hands away, and it's difficult not to be disappointed.

That is, until Levi turns around to face him, hands finding Eren's again. "I do," he says, and it takes Eren a minute to even remember what he'd just said, distracted by the feel of Levi's fingers tracing his palms.

As Levi's hands fall away, Eren raises his own to fiddle with Levi's scarf. "You don't want me to drive you?"

Levi glances down; Eren can't tell if he's annoyed or not, but he keeps his hands where they are. It's stupid, but it's like-- he can't stop himself from touching Levi right now.

"It's fine," Levi replies, finally swatting Eren's hands away.

A thought strikes him suddenly, and he grins, snagging one of Levi's hands before he pulls it fully away. "Don't forget your mittens, then."

Levi rolls his eyes and sighs as he tugs his hand back. But then he's unexpectedly reaching into his pocket, and Eren feels his ears inexplicably heat up as he watches Levi carefully tug on his mittens.

Once he's done, Levi tilts his head up, and Eren's breath stutters. He's not sure what he expects to happen next, but it's definitely not for Levi to reach up, for his mitten-clad hands to wrap around the back of Eren's head, the fabric making his skin tingle where Levi's thumbs meet his ears.

And then he's tugging Eren down, and in response Eren's stomach swoops and twists; he catches a glimpse of Levi's small smile as he leans up and presses warm lips to Eren's forehead.

"Good night, Eren."

His heart's still racing after Levi leaves, and a stupid smile tugs at his lips as he slumps sideways on the couch.

Eren tries to remind himself to maintain some dignity, even as he closes his eyes and covers his face with a hand. His other hand comes up to curl over his chest, where he can feel his heart hammering.

Well. At least he's not lying face down on his bed, kicking his feet and excitedly screaming into a pillow.

--

He ends up lying on the couch daydreaming for a half hour, only snapped out of his daze when he accidentally jams his elbow into the volume button and almost blows out his eardrums.

There's no reason for the television to be on anymore anyway, as Eren certainly isn't paying it any attention, so he flicks it off, flopping backward again.

He should probably do something. Something to occupy his mind.

He's determined as he makes his way to his room, plopping down at his desk and cracking open his textbook. Eren feels good, energized, like he might actually be able to get a lot done.

But what had started out so promising goes to shit in an embarrassingly short amount of time. He ends up with his head buried in his arms over his book, eyes closed, and a stupid smile plastered to his face.

Maybe he can do some laundry. That will only require short bursts of focused attention.

--

He's pretty sure he's pathetic, but he does manage to get two loads of laundry done, and even carries on a normal conversation with Armin when he calls.

But he'd be lying if he pretends he isn't distracted during all of it.

--

He doesn't text Levi until he's curled up in bed, head burrowed under the covers as he types. No stroke of brilliance comes to him, so he goes with something simple. 'Are you awake?'

Eren's pretty much done nothing all night, but he can't even bring himself to be upset about it. It's not so bad to let himself live in this little bubble, at least until he has to venture back to the real world tomorrow.

His phone buzzes after a minute. 'Yeah, you?'

He stares blankly, wondering if he'd typed something else in his message than what he remembers, but then the phone is lighting up again.

'Sorry, I'm tired.'

Eren smiles, closing his eyes briefly. He's tired himself, even though he can't claim it's because of any strenuous work he's done today. He conveniently leaves out the 'we' in his next message.

'Even though you slept most of the day?'

Levi's next message comes quickly. 'And you didn't?'

Eren is in the middle of replying when another message comes through. 'You do know you drooled on me, right?'

Eren bites at his lip, trying not to feel too mortified. Hopefully Levi is just kidding.

He's tempted to make some sort of joke about a wet dream, but it only takes about three seconds for him to shoot down that idea. Eren forces himself to stop gnawing on his lip, and replies after another minute of thought, half smile on his face.

'Did you get a shower when you got home?'

'Three, actually, just to be safe. I think I can still feel it on me, though.'

Eren snorts, rolling his eyes. His fingers hover briefly over the keyboard, and before he realizes it, he's biting at his lip again. He stops himself with a huff, rubbing a hand over his forehead. He almost smiles as he thinks about Levi's lips pressed there.

Before he can think on it too much, he sends back, 'And I can feel you on my forehead.'

Eren frowns as he stares at the words on the screen. Maybe he should have let himself think about that one before sending it, actually.

He rolls onto his other side, still cradling his phone in his hand. After a moment, he inches a bit farther over, neck turning warm as he presses his face into the spot where Levi had slept.

Dignity, he reminds himself. Try to maintain some small shreds of it.

His phone buzzes, and after reading Levi's message he gives up on the whole dignity thing, burying his face into the pillow and laughing as his face heats up.

'That probably sounded a lot more romantic in your head, didn't it.'

Well.

He feels like a total idiot, but Levi's done a lot of things that have pleasantly surprised him in the past twenty four hours. Perhaps most surprisingly of all, he'd sat around waiting for Eren to get up after he'd been drooled on. Frankly, he can't think of anything more romantic than that, and with a grin, he sets about informing Levi of such.

Chapter Text

The one promise Eren has made to himself is that he won't dwell on things.

He does okay, all things considered. Still, his more rational side has never been the one that rules over him anyway.

Things have changed, changed in ways that Eren hadn't even been prepared for that night before Levi had left.

Not that it's a bad thing, not at all. It's just-- it's different.

It feels like having a secret, at times, and there's a part of Eren that wants to keep it that way forever, safe and warm deep inside of his heart. But then there are other times where he feels like he's bursting at the seams, heart much too full.

He's just... he's happy.

All of the time, even while doing the stupidest things.

He's caught himself humming, and quite frankly, it's embarrassing, especially when someone shoots him an odd little glance out of the corner of their eye. Eren can't fault them; it is rather unusual to be humming while waiting in a long-ass line at the market or while filling up his gas tank or stopping on the street to try to scrape gum off of his shoe--

It's dumb, ridiculous, and even though he knows it, there's nothing he can do about it.

But if he's honest with himself, he's irrationally afraid of being this happy; the way that he feels now - it's impossible that it will last. A tiny voice in the back of his mind is constantly reminding him that it can only possibly get worse.

He doesn't want that; he wants it to always feel this way. Somewhere down the line the novelty will probably wear off and maybe just thinking Levi's name won't make something swirl in his chest, but he can't imagine it. And he doesn't want to, he wants to live on with this wonderful little secret, wants to make an idiot of himself and shit, he wants Levi to roll his eyes and tell him he's being an idiot, though he probably wouldn't.

Because there's something in Levi that's changed, too.

It's hard to pinpoint exactly, but it's there; there's a way he looks at Eren now, a softness that he's not sure Levi even realizes is there. There's some quiet contentment in the way Levi looks at him, speaks to him, and Eren knows they haven't properly told each other what they want or expect from all of this, but he would give anything to always have Levi look at him like that.

Shit, he's definitely being an idiot. He really wishes Levi would tell him so.

--

Despite Eren's thoughts swirling around Levi, they haven't seen each other much in the past two weeks. One night they'd gone to have a late dinner because they'd both forgotten to eat, and then there had been the one evening Eren had fallen asleep on Levi's couch and woken to fingers running through his hair. It'd been difficult to sleep properly that night when he'd gone home.

Even though they haven't been together constantly, haven't picked apart and dissected what's growing between them, it doesn't matter. It feels like a little part of Levi is with him, or maybe it's just knowing that Levi's thinking of him too; either way, Eren can't shake his stupidly happy frame of mind.

--

He's been looking forward to this lunch outing with Mikasa and Armin for awhile now. Sadly he hasn't had the opportunity to see both of them in quite some time, and this is the perfect chance to catch up.

And...

There is apparently a lot of catching up to do.

"Oh." Armin's eyes are wide, mouth hanging open a little.

Eren still hasn't said anything. It's difficult to process the words that have just come out of Mikasa's mouth.

They're not entirely unexpected, not after the hints that she's dropped previously, but still.

Jean.

She's dating Jean.

"Well, congratulations, I guess." Armin laughs warmly, reaching out to squeeze Mikasa's hand. She smiles at him for a moment, but then her eyes dart back toward Eren.

Oh. Shit.

Does she really think he's going to flip out? Of course he doesn't fully understand how one can wish to date Jean, that doesn't mean he's not going to try to be supportive.

"Me too," Eren says, reaching out to place his hand on top of Armin's. "I mean, I'm happy for you."

Mikasa's smile grows wider, eyes softening at the corners, and Armin rests his head on her shoulder. Mikasa's soft laugh sounds a little wavery, and it's all getting way too sappy and Eren might feel prickling in the backs of his eyes, at least until the mood is (thankfully) lightened by a guy bumping into the back of Armin's chair.

The three of them break apart, and Eren feels fondness spark in his chest as he looks at Mikasa and Armin. He really just wants both of them to be happy.

Still, Eren can't help thinking it's funny how things work out sometimes. After so much time chasing Mikasa, and embarrassing himself when he'd finally gotten a chance, Jean's somehow ended up with her falling for him.

It's funny how things have changed for Eren, too.

Eren shifts in his seat, heart rate picking up. It's not that big of a deal, but still, he can't help being a little nervous. This is the perfect opportunity and he can't let it pass him by, so he takes a deep breath before biting the bullet.

God, how should he even phrase this--?

"I'm seeing someone, too."

His voice seems to ring loud and clear through the entire diner, but that's probably just Eren's imagination. Two heads are snapped in his direction immediately, and Eren can't help but laugh. He's still smiling lightly as he jests, "Hey, should I be offended that you're so surprised?"

Armin looks deep in thought, but Mikasa is quick to reply, "That's not it, Eren. I didn't know you were even interested in anyone."

Eren feels his cheeks heat up in spite of himself. He scratches at the back of his head awkwardly as he murmurs, "Well, I didn't really know I was, either."

Suddenly, Armin's eyes are as wide as saucers, some kind of figurative light bulb over his head. He leans forward in his seat, exclaiming, "Hey, are you and Le--"

Armin cuts himself off, looking embarrassed. He glances at Mikasa quickly before letting out a strained laugh. "That is, are you leaving us hanging here? Haha."

Eren wants to groan aloud. He settles for staring at Armin for a moment, attempting to channel his disappointment with his pathetic attempt to play it cool. As he looks back to Mikasa, he sees she looks amused but more than a little confused.

Well, it's not like he wasn't going to tell them, anyway.

"Yeah, it's Levi," he says as factually as he can, leaning back in his seat. There's a warm bubble in his chest as the words leave his lips, and Eren finds himself fighting a blush again. After all of the things he and Levi have said to each other, a simple statement like this to his two closest friends shouldn't make him feel this way, but here he sits, trying not to grin and squirm in his seat.

But maybe it's precisely because he is telling Mikasa and Armin, that he's sharing what's between he and Levi with other people, that he feels like this. Eren loses the fight, cheeks and ears heating up as he smiles crookedly.

"Levi?" Mikasa repeats, blinking. "I thought you were just friends."

Eren is silently thankful that neither of them seem to be freaking out. Armin is smiling but still looking a bit embarrassed by his outburst, so Eren shoots him a smile.

"We were," he answers. "I mean, and we still are. But now we're... yeah."

Armin is unfortunately taking a sip of his drink as Mikasa inquires, "Is he ugly?"

Eren barely notices Armin choking in the background, eyes glued to Mikasa's face and mortification taking over his own. "W-what the hell kind of question is that!" he forces out, hands curling into fists atop his knees. Somehow he is incredibly offended for both Levi and himself.

"I just want to make sure he's good enough for you," Mikasa replies calmly, like the question hadn't been ten different levels of insulting. Armin gasps out something that sounds like a laugh, then goes back to coughing, though a bit less violently than before. Eren closes his eyes, internally lamenting Armin's complete lack of support here.

"Mikasa," he groans, rubbing at his forehead. Had he really just been thankful for how smoothly everything had been going?

"Okay, fine," Mikasa concedes. Eren barely has time to breathe a sigh of relief before she continues, "Is he good-looking, then?"

"Mikasa!"

It's Armin this time, Armin who's laughing again and hiding his face behind a hand. He reemerges to helpfully supply, "You can't ask him if his boyfriend's ugly and then if he's hot in the next breath."

Eren's head is reeling, unable to process anything that's come out of Mikasa or Armin's mouth in the past minute. If he thinks too hard about words like 'boyfriend' and 'hot' Eren's pretty sure his head is going to simultaneously combust.

"But Eren deserves the best," Mikasa is saying. Eren would be touched, if he weren't currently overwhelmed by the desire to die right here in his chair.

"Anything else I can get for you?"

Eren glances over to see the waitress standing next to their table, smiling and completely unaware of the fact that she may be witnessing the most humiliating moment of his life.

"Refill, please," Eren grunts, pushing his empty glass towards her. Mikasa and Armin both shake their heads politely, waiting a moment for the waitress to leave before going back to talking about Eren like he's not right there. Well, it's probably a good thing that they don't try to engage him in this conversation.

He's just contemplating an escape to the restroom when Mikasa turns back toward him and asks, "So what does he look like?"

Eren freezes, mouth half open. It's a much easier question to answer, but at the same time, he feels like whatever he says will be... insufficient.

Shit, he's blushing again.

"He's..." Eren starts, then stops. Mikasa continues gazing at him evenly, like she has no idea how uncomfortable he is right now. Damn her poker face. Armin, meanwhile, looks mildly curious, leaning his cheek against his hand.

"He's not-- he's..." Why does Eren feel like he's about to start sweating?

There's not really just a single word that he can use to describe Levi, and god, he's definitely blushing still, and no one is saying anything, giving him an out--

"I don't know," he finishes lamely, covering his burning face with both hands. "Can we not talk about this?"

He can hear Armin snickering lightly. Eren just barely fights down the urge to kick him beneath the table.

"I don't see what the big deal is," Mikasa says. Eren keeps his hands where they are; fortunately she doesn't press the issue any further.

When he's feeling less like his face is about to explode, Eren goes back to sipping at his newly delivered drink. It's almost normal for a few minutes, well, aside from the fact that Mikasa is dating Jean and Eren's just been completely caught off guard by Mikasa's bluntness.

Right before they're getting ready to leave, Mikasa casually asks, "Why don't you just show us a picture, then?"

Eren opens his mouth to retort, then freezes. He realizes he doesn't actually have a picture of Levi.

"Come on, Mikasa," Armin chides. "Haven't you embarrassed him enough for one night?"

Eren laughs along with Armin when Mikasa shrugs and rolls her eyes, but there's an odd feeling in his chest.

--

That nagging thought remains in the back of his mind for the next few days.

He tries to tell himself that it's not important, and it isn't, really, but still.

Eren glances over at his phone, half-hidden underneath some papers in the corner of his desk. A moment later he's reaching for it, and he types out, 'Have you eaten yet? I want soup.'

Lately it hasn't been as bitterly cold as usual, but for some reason it's absolutely freezing in Eren's apartment. Moving around would be good, and making something to eat might distract himself from silly thoughts. Though if Levi is here with him, he'll definitely be thinking stupid things.

Eren can't help a smile.

He stands up to head to the kitchen, phone clasped in his hand. He's just about to set it on the table when Levi's reply arrives.

'Soup sounds good.'

Eren's smile grows wider.

'You should come over.'

He quickly sends another text right after that one. 'I'll pick you up if you want.'

Levi has a habit of turning him down when he offers to do things like this, and he's not sure why. Eren has a feeling he doesn't like when people do things for him, but it's not as if he can exactly just ask Levi.

After digging around in the cabinets, he grabs his phone again and sees Levi's message. 'No, just make sure there's soup when I get there. Be there soon.'

--

By the time Levi arrives, the soup is just about done. Levi glances over his shoulder at the stove, and Eren looks back at him pointedly.

"What, did you think the soup was a cover?" He grins, waggling his eyebrows. "Luring you here under false pretenses?"

Levi rolls his eyes. "Just don't burn it, idiot."

Eren huffs, turning back to the stove. Like he would burn it.

A peek over at Levi shows that he's wearing a small smile as he sits down at the table, and suddenly Eren's cheeks feel warm.

Before long, they're both seated at the table, steaming hot bowls of soup before them. Eren barely resists the urge to eat a huge spoonful, knowing he'll just end up spitting it back out or worse, choking. Neither option seems too appealing with Levi sitting across from him.

"When I was little, I used to put an ice cube in my soup to make it cool down faster," Eren says, smiling when Levi looks amused.

"Doesn't that kind of defeat the point?" he asks. "Soup is supposed to be hot, you know."

"But I was impatient," Eren replies, swirling his spoon around the bowl.

Levi looks down, muttering, "Huh, why does that sound familiar."

Eren purses his lips. "Wow. After I so kindly made you dinner, you sit there and insult me."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

Eren snorts despite himself. There's a tilt to Levi's lips that makes Eren want to kiss them.

Luckily Levi isn't looking at him and doesn't notice his failing thought process.

He tries to focus on his soup as he's eating it, but instead he finds himself wondering if Levi has these kinds of thoughts, too. Does he catch himself staring at Eren, does he randomly want to reach out and touch, to--

"It's good," Levi says suddenly.

He jumps a little, realizing Levi has looked up and found Eren gazing right at him. He coughs lightly. "Oh? That's... I'm glad you like it."

Levi nods, then throws out casually a few moments later, "Is there another reason you were staring at me?"

"I wasn't," Eren is quick to deny. So quick, in fact, that a little bit of broth dribbles out of his mouth. Luckily he catches it before it makes its way down his chin.

Levi's lips are quivering dangerously as he watches Eren. "A convincing argument."

"Stop distracting me," Eren whines. Crap, that was a definite whine.

"Didn't realize eating was something you had to focus on so diligently." Levi smirks, and Eren's sudden surge of annoyance dies away when he sees that sort of look in Levi's eyes, that one that he can't explain and Levi probably doesn't even realize is there and shit, now his heart is pounding.

Well, he's ended up thinking stupid thoughts and doing stupid things, so why not just go ahead and make things worse?

"I was just thinking, I don't have a picture of you," he says carefully, leaning his chin in his hand.

Levi quirks an eyebrow. "That's... incredibly random, even for you."

Eren flushes, avoiding Levi's eyes. He doesn't want to really admit that he'd recently been gossiping about Levi to his friends, but he also happens to be a pretty shitty liar.

"It's not that random," he claims, even though to Levi, it must seem so. Eren pauses, watching Levi eat for a minute before continuing, "I was just... my friends asked to see a picture of you, and I realized I don't have one."

By the time he's finished speaking, Levi has stopped eating and is gazing at him strangely.

"Your friends?" he says slowly. He doesn't seem mad, it's more like... curiosity. Eren supposes it's only natural for him to wonder what exactly Eren has told his friends about the two of them. Sadly, Eren doesn't quite feel brave enough to share the details of that embarrassing conversation, so he'll just have to gloss over that subject.

"Yeah," he replies, keeping his voice light. "But let's not go there. The point is, it got me thinking."

Levi looks like he wants to say something, but he doesn't, instead aimlessly tapping his spoon against the side of the bowl. Eventually he offers a quiet, "And?"

"Don't you think..." Eren trails off, biting at his lip. Damn, Levi isn't going to make this easy at all. "I mean, we've known each other a long time. Isn't it weird that we don't have like, even one picture together?"

Honestly, Eren would like even just a picture of Levi himself, but he somehow finds that request even more awkward to articulate.

Levi twirls his spoon, eyebrows slightly furrowed. Eren doesn't know what he's thinking, but he's not expecting the sudden smirk on Levi's lips.

"You looking for blackmail material, Eren?"

Eren rolls his eyes. "Yeah, it'd be great blackmail material with me also in the picture."

"That's..." Levi pauses, going back to absentmindedly twirling the spoon. "It's just weird."

"Weird?"

"I mean..." Levi shifts, abandoning the spoon and crossing his arms on the table. "You don't force something like that, right?"

"Force it?" Eren parrots. He unfortunately isn't quite following Levi's train of thought.

Levi sighs, running a hand through his hair. Eren idly notes that he hasn't seen Levi move around so much in a long time.

"If there's a moment that you want to capture, then you do it," Levi says eventually. "And then when you look back at it... you remember."

It's quiet for a moment. Eren crosses his feet under the table, contemplating the words, while Levi goes back to his spoon.

Eren smiles. "I feel like I should be capturing how much you're fidgeting right now."

"You can capture my fist with your face," Levi replies smoothly, and Eren laughs.

He doesn't know why Levi is against taking a picture together. Well, it's not that he's against it, but he doesn't want it to just be some spontaneous decision. It's like he wants it to mean something.

Eren's heart thumps, and he hides a smile behind his hand. Maybe Levi is more of a romantic than Eren had ever pegged him for.

"So, let me see if I have this straight," Eren says slowly, rising from his seat. Levi glances up, spoon halfway to his mouth, as Eren walks around the table to stand beside him. "If it were... say... that night in the snow, you might want to remember it?"

Levi purses his lips, looking back down. "It snowed practically all winter, Eren."

Eren grins, a pleasant sort of heat in his chest. "True. So that could mean anything, right?"

He receives a grunt in response, which only makes his grin grow wider. Eren reaches out, prying the spoon from Levi's hand and dropping it back in the bowl. Levi tips his head up, mouth turned down in a frown as he mutters, "Eren, what--"

"What if I refreshed your memory?" Eren asks, sliding his fingers against the curve of Levi's palm. Levi lets out a soft huff, and Eren's heart skips a beat as he tightens his hold.

"Eren, this is dumb," Levi murmurs, but Eren can't help but notice that he hasn't moved his hand away.

"Stand up," Eren says, tugging a little. He's not surprised to meet resistance, but then Levi is rising, turning to face him with a sigh.

"What, are we going to dance in your kitchen?"

"So you do remember," Eren replies, unable to help a smile as he squeezes Levi's hand.

Levi tilts his head to the side, frowning even as he swings their hands lightly. "You're an idiot."

There's something bubbling in Eren's chest, watching Levi with his face turned away and his lips turned down, and before he knows what he's doing, he says, "I think that was when I knew."

His heart begins beating faster, heat in his neck, his ears, and Levi turns to look at him properly, question in his eyes. Eren smiles, small and slightly wavery with nerves. "Really knew, I mean."

He's treading on dangerous ground here, and he knows he should stop, knows he should laugh or say something else, anything to get Levi to stop staring at him the way that he is.

"Sorry," he breathes, short laugh escaping him. He closes his eyes, and tries not to feel like too much of an idiot. "Anyway, I--"

His eyes snap open as Levi's hand slips into his hair, fingers pressing against his scalp, steady and sure. His forehead rests against Eren's shoulder, hair brushing along his neck and making his skin tingle. Eren lets out a breath, eyes closing again when Levi gently pulls his hand away only to slide it along Eren's back. There's something fluttery in the pit of Eren's stomach, and he brings his hand to the back of Levi's neck, fingers trailing over the warm skin.

"Maybe," Levi says softly.

Eren waits for more of an explanation, but it doesn't come. "Maybe?" he asks.

Levi's hand moves in a slow circle along Eren's back, and Eren turns his head to press his cheek against Levi's dark hair.

"Maybe you're right," he says eventually.

Eren's not sure if they're talking about taking a photo or something else altogether, but the way his heart's racing lets him know what he's hoping for.

Chapter Text

There are a few things Eren hates.

For one, he hates green peppers. It's probably not normal that this is the first thing to come to mind whenever his likes or dislikes come up, but it is. Aside from that, Eren can't stand the smell of paint, as well as any kind of snoring.

Above all else, though, Eren hates getting sick.

He's not even sure what's wrong with him, exactly, and that's why he hates it so much. Usually he's incredibly tired, with a foggy head and achy limbs. This time is no different, unfortunately.

It always seems to happen around the changing of the seasons. It's still cold, but Eren knows that warmer weather is somewhere on the horizon, even if it doesn't seem like it. The fact that he's getting sick like this is as good an indication as any, really.

Armin and Mikasa have both caught wind of him falling ill, and have promptly banished themselves from anywhere near Eren. He would be offended, but it's been this way for the past few years, and he's used to it by now.

He prefers to quarantine himself to his apartment, actually. The only problem is that he doesn't want to miss too many classes, but it can't really be helped the farther he gets into the week. By Wednesday, he's committed to blowing off everything until Monday, and promptly falls back to sleep.

--

Sometime in the late afternoon, Eren crawls out of bed to email his professors, after which he makes a quick trip to the bathroom. That's about all he can handle in his current state, and he tumbles back into bed headfirst.

He hopes he doesn't have a fever, but he doesn't feel like getting back up to check. Instead he huddles further under the covers, close to falling back to sleep already.

His phone buzzes from where it's sitting on his desk, but Eren certainly isn't moving to get it.

--

Eren finally remembers to check on his phone the next day, after eating a lunch of crackers while swathed in blankets on his couch. He'd considered ordering some food since he hadn't felt like cooking anything, but even that had seemed a bit too daunting.

After taking some medicine for a fever, he trudges back to his bedroom, grabbing his phone before flopping down on the bed. He's surprised to see that there are a few missed messages, which must have come during all of his hours of sleeping.

It appears Eren's friends have not abandoned him completely, as they've checked in on him. There's even a message from Jean. The only thing he can figure is that Mikasa must have told him. Eren's nose wrinkles a little as he scrolls by that one.

There are three messages from Levi, and Eren tries not to feel too stupidly warmed by them, but fails.

He slowly works his way through, replying to everyone, saving Levi for last.

Eren contemplates for a minute before finally typing out, 'I wish you were here.'

He stares at the screen before closing his eyes, sighing miserably. He can't send that.

He ends up falling back asleep, phone sitting on top of his chest.

--

When Eren opens the door later that evening to find Levi standing there, plastic bag in hand, he's not sure if he's hallucinating.

"Nice to see you too," Levi says, elbowing his way past Eren after he stands there too long without saying anything.

"S-sorry, I-- yeah," Eren calls out half-heartedly, fumbling with the door. He hadn't expected to see Levi, and he remembers quite distinctly Levi saying he couldn't afford to get sick. He feels like he's completely missing something as he wanders into the kitchen, where Levi is unloading containers onto the table.

"You look like shit," Levi comments offhandedly, digging around in the bottom of the bag. A moment later he unearths some plastic forks and spoons, which soon join the array on the kitchen table.

"I... thanks," Eren murmurs distractedly. "I mean--" Levi's lip quirks up, and Eren corrects himself, "Thanks for the food, and also you're an asshole."

Levi shrugs, then starts pulling off his coat. Eren stands there like an idiot, watching him sling his coat around the back of the chair and then sit down.

Finally Levi looks at him properly, and Eren feels something warm in his chest.

"You've been holed up here for days. I figured it was my duty to make sure you hadn't died."

Eren smiles, the warmth spreading to his cheeks. "Your duty?"

Levi raises an eyebrow. Eren wants to ask 'Your duty as what?' but instead he says, "I guess this is nicer than wasting away here alone."

"Yeah, by the looks of it, it would have been the end in another day or two."

Eren rolls his eyes, slumping heavily in the seat across from Levi. "Such sweet talk."

"I try," Levi replies, passing him a fork. Eren reaches out to take it, but finds himself wrapping a hand around Levi's instead. Levi's eyes dart up to meet his, questioning.

He doesn't know what he'd even wanted to say. He kind of expects Levi to flinch away from him but he doesn't pull back, nor does he look away.

When he finally takes the fork from between Levi's fingers a moment later, Eren can't help the smile on his face.

--

Levi doesn't stay long, not eager to get sick himself. Well, it'd been phrased a little differently, with mention of 'nasty-ass germs' and whatnot, but Eren gets the point.

He sticks around long enough to share a cup of tea, after which he takes it upon himself to wash the dishes. Eren tries to interject, somehow severely embarrassed by the haphazard pile in the sink, but Levi quiets any arguments with a succinct, "We both know you're not gonna do them, so just sit there and shut up."

He does, as best he can. He ends up fidgeting in his seat, arms restlessly shifting between his lap and the tabletop. For his part, Levi seems entirely focused on his current task, and only responds to Eren with a quiet hum here or there.

After a few minutes, Eren feels himself begin to relax. He lets his chin rest in his hand, eyelids droopy as he watches Levi's back muscles shift.

There's something strangely domestic about the whole thing. The longer Eren watches him, the more he thinks about Levi even being here at all. An odd sort of yearning settles in his chest, and he closes his eyes for a moment.

"Thanks," he says softly, the simple word enough to make Levi briefly pause. His head tilts slightly to the side, but Eren is still unable to properly see his face.

All he gets is another hum of acknowledgment before the sound of clinking silverware reaches Eren's ears once more. He closes his eyes, heartbeat steady as he smiles into his hand.

Levi is finished in no time, or maybe it just seems like it's no time at all before he's placing the last dish in the dish rack. He lets out a small sigh before turning to run the water again.

Eren rises slowly, stretching his legs. He ends up awkwardly standing by the table, watching Levi vigorously wash his hands.

Part of him wants to apologize for potentially getting Levi sick, but another part reminds him that Levi had come here on his own, so he can't actually be too worried over it. Or maybe he is, but he'd wanted to see Eren anyway. He bites his lip.

"Make sure you eat," Levi says, drifting back over to the table and closer to Eren. Their eyes don't meet, as he instead moves back over to his chair and then shrugs on his coat. Eren nods wordlessly, distracted by the way Levi's fingers are fixing his collar. Besides, Eren's already confirmed that he will eat the leftovers Levi's packed away in his fridge at least three times already.

"I won't die, I promise," Eren replies as seriously as he can.

Levi scoffs.

"Thank you," he blurts out again.

Levi looks to him, then off to the side as he scoffs, this time a little quieter. "Yeah."

Eren's heart swells. He takes a step closer to Levi, tempted to tilt his head up. He somehow refrains, mostly fueled by his desire not to hear Levi bring up the foul germs again.

"Really." He settles for running his hands up Levi's arms, stopping at his shoulders. Levi watches his hands move, apparently not pissed enough to stop him. His eyebrows are slightly furrowed, however, and Eren murmurs, "I can spray your coat with disinfectant if you want."

The look on Levi's face changes abruptly, a short, quiet laugh escaping him. Eren can't hold back his own smile, and he lets his hands wander downward slightly as Levi raises one arm. It's only to place a hand over his face, and he sighs softly.

"You look better already," he says, letting his hand drop.

Eren smiles a little wider. "Gee, I wonder why."

"I don't know, you were probably faking it."

Eren looms a bit closer, raising an eyebrow. "Do you really believe that?"

Levi stares back, unimpressed. "Get your nasty hands off of me and your mouth away from my face."

He tries not to pout as he obliges. Levi only rolls his eyes.

Eren follows him over to the door, even though he knows it isn't necessary.

There's a stupid part of him that doesn't want Levi to leave. He wants to do mundane things like eat dinner and argue over the dishes every day, wants to go to sleep with Levi warm beside him and wake up knowing he's there, even before he opens his eyes.

He almost says something dumb, but luckily Levi turns around, eyes soft. "Night, Eren."

Eren wants to kiss him, but he doesn't. Instead he runs the back of his fingers along Levi's side, breathes out, "Good night."

Eren sits on the couch once Levi's gone, yawning as he reaches out for his phone. He wonders if he'd missed a text from Levi saying he was planning to come over.

There isn't a message from Levi, but he's surprised to see something else on screen. Eren blushes to the roots of his hair when he realizes he'd accidentally sent 'I wish you were here.'

He flops back unceremoniously, eyes falling shut. A moment later he stretches out fully, reaching out blindly for the blanket he'd tossed up on the back of the cushions.

His face still feels abnormally warm, and he's sure it's not from the fever.

--

A few days later, Eren's feeling back to his old self. When he sends Mikasa a message saying so, she thinks it is somehow a cause for celebration.

'I already have plans for tonight.'

Eren considers erasing it, then presses 'send' instead.

Technically, it's kind of a lie. But hopefully it won't remain a lie.

He just hasn't actually texted Levi yet to see if he wants to hang out. Or... celebrate Eren's health. Whatever.

'With Levi?' is Mikasa's simple reply.

Eren snorts. He supposes that had been pretty transparent.

He sends back, 'Yeah, it'll be a great celebration', before pulling up a blank text to type to Levi.

He stares at it for awhile, wrestling with what to say. After some contemplation, he ends up going with, 'I'm alive!!'

Mikasa's reply arrives as he's sending the message to Levi, and once he reads it, he suddenly feels less than okay.

'Use protection'

He flings the phone across the room, watching it bounce harmlessly on the bed before he buries his head in his arms.

--

Levi agrees to come over once Eren assures him that he is absolutely fine. On a spur of the moment whim, Eren says he'll come pick him up and they can walk back to Eren's place together.

He expects Levi to call him a dumbass, but he agrees to that too. It's only a mere 'Okay', but it makes the tips of Eren's ears burn.

He knows they're not really dating, at least, not in a conventional sense. But even just doing small things like this is enough to make Eren feel content. It isn't too cold today either, which probably is partially why Levi had agreed, but that's fine. Eren's just happy that he had.

He takes his time as he makes his way toward Levi's apartment. The fresh air feels good, even though he has to keep his hands in his pockets to fight off the chill.

Eren had been trying to figure out a way to ask Levi if he might want to stay the night, but now that Mikasa had sent that horrible message, he can't bring himself to do it. He can feel his face grow warm even as the wind begins to pick up, and Eren lets out a huff. All he'd wanted was to wrap his arms around Levi, have him close again, and then Mikasa had to go and blow things out of proportion.

He'd almost considered shooting something back about her and Jean, but his stomach had turned at the thought.

When he starts to near Levi's apartment, he pulls out his phone and sends off a message. 'I'll be there in a few min'

Eren stuffs his phone back in his pocket, keeping up his leisurely pace. He feels his phone buzz not long after, but he's already so close to Levi's he doesn't bother digging it back out.

As he approaches, his eyes naturally land on the apartment building. Eren's surprised to find, however, that Levi's already outside, head tipped upward as he leans against the wall.

When he sees Eren, Levi starts to stand up properly. Before he gets very far, Eren presses his hands to the wall, cold biting into his palms as he leans down to peck Levi's lips.

It's short, and he's caught Levi off guard, but the brief touch is enough to make Eren's lips tingle pleasantly. He pulls back slightly, hands sliding down to Levi's shoulders. Levi leans back again, head tilted up, and appears torn between annoyance and amusement. "What the hell was that? Some kind of slick pickup move?"

Despite himself, Eren blushes. "Shut up. What's with this cool, nonchalant pose anyway? Are you trying to impress somebody?"

Levi merely stares. "I didn't realize the way I lean against a wall is cool to you. That should probably tell you something about y--"

Eren doesn't let him finish, pressing another soft kiss to his mouth. His fingers curl around Levi's neck, and though he knows they're cold, Levi doesn't push him away. He only shivers slightly, then sighs against Eren.

He's missed this, being able to be close to Levi. It hasn't even been that long, but he thinks that Levi might have felt the same, his hands winding through Eren's hair to hold him in place.

Eren moves to press his lips lightly to Levi's cheek. "I missed being able to do this," he confesses.

"Idiot," Levi scoffs, but the skin beneath Eren's mouth shifts in what might be a smile.

--

The walk back to Eren's apartment seems to pass by very quickly. It's probably because he spends most of the time doing silly things like tugging at the corner of Levi's coat or brushing their hands unnecessarily together.

He half expects Levi to snap at him when Eren purposefully knocks their shoulders together, but he doesn't. In fact, the closer they get to Eren's apartment, the more Levi starts to ignore him.

He's certainly not expecting for Levi to slam him into the wall beside the door once they finally make it inside Eren's apartment. It's definitely an overreaction, and he's trying to figure out how to convince Levi of such, when he realizes that's not what's on Levi's mind at all.

Eren's stomach swoops as Levi's fingers dig into his coat, and suddenly he really wishes he could get out of it. It's much too warm when Levi moves forward, close against him, pressing their mouths together.

It's not what he'd expected, but Eren can't deny he's been thinking about this very thing more often than he'd like to admit. Quite frankly, it feels like a ball of tension that he'd been unaware of is loosening, a rush of heat and eagerness washing over him. His arms slip around Levi's waist, attempting to tug him closer. Levi responds by kissing him harder, firmer, and Eren feels himself sag a little against the wall, head swimming.

He tries to pull back to catch his breath, but Levi chases his lips, fingers spreading across Eren's shoulders. He ends up making an unseemly noise deep in his throat, and Levi moans in turn.

"You're such a fuckhead," Levi murmurs, not detaching himself from Eren at all. He wants to interject, but Levi's fingers are kneading at his shoulders, hot breath fanning over Eren's lips. "What the hell, are you trying to drive me crazy?"

Levi's gaze is heavy-lidded and wanting, and Eren's throat feels dry. "I-- I didn't--"

A quiet snort, and Levi's kissing him again. Any protests Eren may have been trying to make die away, and truthfully, they probably hadn't been entirely true. After all, he'd felt carefree, daring, fingers buzzing every time he'd touched Levi, heart flipping when Levi had looked at him. He'd wanted Levi's eyes on him, wanted Levi to--

Eren's head awkwardly thumps against the wall when Levi's hands slip inside his coat to graze his neck. He pauses, breathing heavily, and Levi huffs out a soft laugh from where he's rested his head against Eren's shoulder. His fingers continue to trace slow circles along his neck, and Eren once again wishes he could get out of his coat.

He can feel himself beginning to relax, little by little. He closes his eyes, intent on just enjoying being close to Levi.

And he is enjoying it, at least until Levi mutters, "It smells."

Eren freezes.

Levi's face is pressed right against his shoulder, but surely-- surely Eren isn't actually sweaty enough to stink? He's too warm from being in his coat but he doesn't think it's to the point of--

His horror fades away when Levi adds a moment later, "...How much disenfectant did you spray in here, anyway?"

Eren relaxes again, laughing against Levi's dark hair. "Well, I just wanted to make sure you'd want to be around me again."

Levi's hand slips upward, teasing the hair around Eren's ear and distracting him from Levi's next words. "I think you better open a window."

Eren laughs again. "Well maybe I could, if someone hadn't thrown me against the wall."

Levi leans back, shifting his hands to the wall beside Eren's head. For some reason, it makes his heart start thumping harder. "Well, maybe after your lame move earlier, I wanted to show you how it's done."

The witty comeback Eren hopes will pop into his mind never seems to come, and he stands there silently blinking, cheeks warm. Levi smirks, leaning a little closer. "I'll cut you some slack, since you're getting over being sick. Otherwise, I'm sure you'd be telling me how amazing your moves are, right?"

With that, Levi pries himself away, turning to walk to the kitchen. Eren watches him go, taking a moment to get his bearings before pushing off of the wall to follow after him.

"Maybe you can show me how it's done again later," he calls out, grinning despite the color still in his cheeks.

He can hear Levi's laugh from the kitchen; Eren smiles, shrugging out of his coat as he goes to join him.

Chapter Text

Eren tries his best to ignore how late it's getting.

It's hard not to be aware of it, however, with the way his eyelids are drooping. The movie they're watching is almost over, probably; if asked, he couldn't explain anything that's gone on in the past half hour.

Without really thinking about it, he's taken to looking at Levi. He's not even doing anything, yet Eren finds him so distracting all the same.

Part of him itches to reach out, but he tells himself he's being ridiculous. It's unnecessary, silly, even. He's too tired, probably. Maybe that's why he can't stop thinking about leaning forward, pulling Levi closer, having those eyes on him instead.

When Levi shuffles his head to the side and sighs, Eren's gaze lingers along the curve of his neck. He wants to press his lips there, wants to feel Levi's sigh instead of hearing it. He fights the urge to shake his head. Yes, he's definitely much too tired.

He wonders if Levi can read his thoughts when he sighs again. This time, however, he tilts his head toward Eren. "This is boring as hell."

It takes him a moment to gather his thoughts, to realize Levi's talking about the movie. "Yeah," he agrees. He feels a bit lucky that Levi hadn't said anything about him staring.

He probably could have offered more than a one-word response. He doesn't have much time to ponder on it, however. Wordlessly Levi slumps into him, knocking him backwards. Eren laughs in surprise, trying to brace himself as he asks, "Hey, what are you doing?"

"Getting more comfortable," he says, like this is a totally normal thing to do. Eren jerks a little when Levi kicks at his leg. "Put your feet up."

He could yell at Levi for kicking him, but the truth is, Eren finds himself in total agreement with Levi's plan. In fact, he wishes he had suggested it himself sooner. He pulls his feet up and scoots to the side in an attempt to make a bit more room. Levi shifts so that his back is facing Eren, and it seems only natural to place his hand about Levi's waist.

He doesn't get kicked. In fact, Levi seems quite comfortable lying there beside him. "Better?" Eren asks, trying and failing to suppress a smile.

"It'll do," Levi says. Eren's lips twist in disappointment. A moment later Levi's twining their fingers together, like he'd known just how Eren would react to that, and– he laughs softly, heat rising pleasantly in his cheeks.

Eren certainly won't be paying any more attention to the movie at this rate, but he's fine with that. He lets his eyes drift closed, running his thumb along Levi's hand in his. This is definitely much better, even if Levi won't say so flat out.

"I can get a blanket if you're cold," he murmurs. There's nothing he would want less than to get up right now, but he should probably offer before he gets too comfortable.

Levi hums, shifting a little. "It's fine." Eren nods, before realizing that Levi can't see it. He settles for pressing a kiss to his shoulder instead. Levi sighs softly.

It's a little cramped like this on the couch, but Eren would gladly lie here for the rest of the night. He almost says so out loud, but luckily catches himself. It's a good thing Levi can't see the redness in his cheeks, or he'd surely question it.

Their hands separate eventually when Levi pulls away to stifle a yawn. Eren smiles, letting his hand drift along Levi's side gently, up and down. He's sure he doesn't imagine the way Levi shifts a little closer.

He's thinking maybe they could fall asleep like this, close together, when Levi suddenly surprises him.

"Hey, where’s your phone?"

Eren's hand freezes. "What?"

"Your phone," Levi repeats. "Do you have it?"

He has no idea where this is going, but he does indeed have his phone in his pocket. Unless it's fallen into the couch, maybe. What this has to do with anything, he doesn't know. Still, Levi's apparently waiting for an answer.

Eren slowly shuffles a bit so he can stick a hand into his pocket. He can see Levi starting to sit up out of the corner of his eye, but it's too late to protest by the time he processes what's happening.

"Well?" Levi asks, quirking an eyebrow.

Eren pulls out his phone and raises it in response, then quirks his own eyebrow. "Did you forget yours or something?"

Levi rolls his eyes, then reaches out to snatch it. Eren pulls his hand back on reflex, but gives in after a very brief tug of war.

"What do you want it for, anyway?" Eren asks, lying back with a huff. He slips his hands behind his head to prop himself up enough to see what Levi's trying to do.

"Your phone is weird," Levi mutters, fiddling around with it. Eren waits, but it appears no deeper explanation is forthcoming.

As the seconds pass by Eren feels far more anxious than he should. It's not that he would normally have anything to hide, but he can't help remembering quite clearly the last message Mikasa had sent him - 'Use protection' - and the fact that he hadn't answered it, so it would show up as the last received message if Levi would just so happen to--

"Finally," Levi says, sitting up just a bit straighter. Eren only realizes then how fast his heart had started beating and attempts to calm himself down.

"Seriously, what are you doing," Eren mumbles, trying not to feel embarrassed about what Levi may or may not be looking at. He bumps his hip into Levi's side when he doesn't answer, and stifles a laugh at the offended look on Levi's face.

If Levi weren't blocking the way to the floor, Eren might well have fallen off the couch at his response.

"Taking a picture."

And with that, he turns away from Eren, still half sitting up but slumped a bit into Eren's side, and raises the phone in the air. Eren tries to sit up, but he only ends up awkwardly craning himself slightly upward. "W-wait, Levi, are you--" he stutters, suddenly tongue-tied, but he cuts himself off at the familiar sound of a picture being taken.

A beat, then two, and-- Levi's lowering the phone, looking at the screen, lips and eyebrows twisted in what appears to be serious thought--

"That'll do, I guess," Levi says, lips twitching a little. Eren's not sure if it's a smile or a frown fighting its way through.

Levi turns to glance at him then, and upon meeting his eyes there's such an endearing crooked smile on his face that Eren feels stupidly short of breath. He slides back down a bit, closing his eyes as he lets out a short, incredulous laugh.

He feels something land on his chest after a few moments. His phone, presumably. "There," Levi says simply.

Eren's hand is moving toward the phone even before he even blinks open his eyes. He almost expects for Levi to have deleted it, or to have actually taken a picture of the floor or something, but that's not the case at all.

His face feels warmer than ever when he finally looks at the screen.

It’s a little blurry and off center, and Eren can see his shirt in the bottom of the frame, actually, but thoughts of making it his background are already flitting through his mind.

For the most important part of the whole thing, Levi himself, more than makes up for the rest. At first glance he appears indifferent, a little grumpy, maybe, but there's such obvious contentment in his face that the image almost feels-- private, somehow.

"Are you happy now?" Levi asks, flopping back down on his side. Eren feels a bit stupid for paying so much attention to a photo when he actually has Levi right in front of him, but he can't tear his eyes from the screen just yet.

Levi had been right all along, for how overly sentimental he may have seemed. Looking at Levi in this image, the softness to his face, the gentle, natural curve of his body toward Eren's - the familiarity of it, the comfort - everything is perfectly captured. The sight of himself in the background only makes him even surer he'll never forget this moment, how it had felt to have Levi pressed close to him, how his heart had stuttered and danced in his chest.

How it still does now, that pleasant warmth in his cheeks seeping down to take residence in the space around his heart.

"It’s nice," he says, for lack of anything more brilliant coming to mind. Levi snorts softly. "I am," Eren adds quickly.

Levi turns halfway to glance at him over his shoulder. Eren can barely hold back his smile. "Happy, I mean."

And he is, god he is, and over something so insignificant. He'd most likely be embarrassed if he weren't so ridiculously happy.

Levi doesn't say anything for a moment, simply scrutinizing him with that unreadable look of his. "Good," he says, moving to sit up again before Eren can even protest.

He's still lying there dumbly, phone propped up on his chest when Levi turns to face him properly. "Because it's my turn, you know."

Eren's brow furrows in confusion. "Huh?"

Levi stares at him like he's terribly stupid, and suddenly Eren gets it - Levi wants a picture of him, too. But even thinking such a thing, that Levi would want that in the first place-- somehow, the embarrassment is finally catching up to him.

Levi laughs softly, casting his gaze sideways, away from Eren's face. He wonders if his own embarrassment has transferred over to Levi.

He doesn't want it to. He wants Levi to-- to want things from him, to ask for them. He struggles to school his expression, to suppress the heat in his cheeks as he reaches out toward Levi.

He gently tilts Levi's face back toward him and smiles. "Well, I am pretty photogenic, if I do say so myself." He smiles wider at Levi's laugh, at the predictable roll of his eyes.

"You're ridiculous," Levi mutters, standing up. Eren calls out to ask where he's going, but before long he's back from the kitchen with his own phone in hand. He makes his way over to the couch again, knee dipping into the cushion as he taps at his phone.

Eren feels quite silly with Levi kneeling above him, getting ready to take a picture. He moves to sit up a little, but Levi nudges him with a knee without taking his eyes off of the phone. "Stay still, idiot."

"But I should be sitting up, at least," Eren protests, frowning, though Levi can't see it.

"It's fine," Levi murmurs, finally turning to look at him. Eren frowns deeper, fighting the flush that's threatening to rise up again. "You look like you're about to explode," Levi comments idly.

Eren groans in frustration, rolling to the side and throwing an arm over his head. "Why do you have to make this so embarrassing?" The words are muffled against the cushions, but it seems Levi has made them out, if his laugh is anything to go by.

"You're the one who brought all this up, you know," Levi says, like Eren doesn't already know it. Another nudge from Levi's knee, this time a bit softer. "And who was just bragging about how photogenic they were?" He knows Levi's teasing him now, and despite wanting to burrow deeper into the couch Eren also wants to laugh, wants to roll back over and tug Levi down onto the couch with him.

So he does, catching Levi by surprise when he wraps an arm around his middle and pulls him close. "Shut up," he mutters, pressing a kiss to Levi's jaw. He feels Levi falter above him, still awkwardly attempting to prop himself up despite Eren's hold. He grins, placing another kiss below Levi's ear. "You're supposed to go easy on me remember? I'm getting over being sick."

The low rumble of Levi's laugh reaches his lips as he kisses at his neck, fingers dancing up his spine. Levi pushes at his shoulder half-heartedly. "You're awfully energetic for someone recovering from a serious illness."

"It's your fault," he replies, lavishing more kisses to Levi's neck. He'd do this all day if Levi'd allow him. "You're irresistible."

Levi laughs again, this time a bit louder. "That's a terrible line," he says, twisting away from Eren's hold. Eren's disappointment is short-lived, as Levi doesn't go far. He leans forward to place his phone on the table, then turns back to Eren.

Eren's heart seems to be running overtime, now. He opens his mouth to say something, to keep up their banter, maybe, but nothing comes out. The atmosphere has changed, and Eren's not sure what caused it, what he can do to get things back to normal.

Levi tilts his head to the side, tapping at a spot near Eren's knee.

"It's getting late," he says, blinking slowly. Disappointment twists in his gut again, much stronger this time. "I should go."

Eren’s throat feels dry. "Or you could not." He tries not to let the mortification show on his face. He prays that Levi hadn't seen that stupid text from Mikasa.

Levi's eyes widen a little, and Eren continues, "I mean– you don't have to, if you don't want to." Is it possible to sound so stupid with so few words? "But if you want to, that's... of course, yeah, you should probably--”

He stops babbling at the press of fingers to his knee. Levi smiles, small but understanding, and Eren's almost able to breathe again.

"I can stay awhile," Levi says. Those few simple words bring such relief, the heaviness in his chest lifted easily.

Eren smiles back, a short laugh escaping him. "Okay." He reaches out, takes Levi's hand in his own. "I-- that's good." And it is. Eren doesn't want him to go, not yet.

Levi squeezes back just a little, and Eren’s heart soars. It's both baffling yet unequivocally right, somehow, the way Levi affects him. Eren wishes he were better with words, sometimes, though he wonders if Levi even needs those words. Somehow he seems to give it all away with just the look on his face, even if he doesn't mean to.

He feels silly, and a little exposed with Levi’s eyes on him while he's having such thoughts. He looks down to their joined hands instead of meeting Levi's gaze, silently searching for something to say.

Levi speaks first, however. "You don't have to…" He trails off, eyebrows slightly furrowed. Eren waits for him to continue, heartbeat picking up. "You don't have to think so much all the time," he says finally.

And Eren wonders if maybe that's Levi’s way of saying stop worrying so much, stop overthinking - but Levi's not letting him think about that, either. A moment later he leans forward, lips pressed to Eren’s before he can even process that wonderful, swooping feeling in the pit of his stomach whenever Levi does so much as anything anymore.

A soft sound escapes him when Levi presses him backward, down onto the couch. His toes curl and his head feels far too light and he doesn’t know what to do with hands, his heart's jumping and Levi's lips are still attached to his, and– and it's perfect, the blooming spark of pleasure when their chests press together, when the rumble of Levi’s moan seems to seep into every inch of skin.

His fingers bunch in Levi's shirt, trembling a little, maybe, he can't be sure; all of him feels like it's been shaken up, inside and out. Levi's hands are caressing his face, carefully, like he's mapping it out with his eyes still closed, and Eren wonders if he feels like he's been shaken up too. Has he ever felt like this when they're together, felt this way because of Eren?

Lying here beneath Levi, he thinks of stupid things, like the first time Levi's fingers had brushed against his, the first time Levi had smiled at him, and– how it's changed, how it's grown softer, and everything between them is like that, really; they've been growing all along, two vines inching closer and closer together until they've hopelessly tangled, until it's hard to tell where one begins and one ends.

"Eren." The whisper against his lips only makes him hold on tighter, eyelashes fluttering as Levi moves to brush sweet murmurs of his name against his forehead, his cheek, down his jaw.

And Eren feels so stupid, so loved, that there's a sting behind his eyelids, his breath coming out short.

Sometimes there's still a part of him that expects Levi to brush him off, to get up and leave, but he doesn't want to think like that. It isn't fair, and it's not– it's not what he should be thinking, especially not now. His fingers twist further, his shoulders tensing, and-- if he could only press closer, forget everything--

"What's wrong?" Levi murmurs, and it's only then that Eren realizes how he's frozen up. He wants to tell Levi not to stop, to just--

He takes a shaky breath and opens his eyes. Levi's gazing down at him, and-- Eren hates himself for how in love he is, hates Levi for being afraid of that very same thing.

"Let’s just…” Eren closes his eyes again, breath caught in his throat. "Let's stay like this."

He should try to say more, to explain, but he can't. Each moment that passes by that Levi doesn’t say anything, Eren's heart races a little more. He tries not to panic, tries not to–

Silently Levi brings his hand back to his face, and Eren can’t help but turn into the tender touch. It's a contradiction, the terrible sweetness of the ache that burns deep inside his chest.

Chapter Text

It takes two days for Eren to cave in and set the picture of Levi as his phone background. He's unsure if he should be proud he'd made it two whole days, or embarrassed that he had ended up doing it in the first place.

It's not that strange, right? The novelty will wear off after awhile, and Eren will set it back to something else, for sure. This is just a normal reaction. Though, when he considers that Levi may have possibly put that picture of Eren as his phone background-- well, there's no way he would have ever done that. Probably.

Eren shakes his head, ignoring the urge to reach into his pocket and pull out his phone. He's developed a habit of cradling the phone in his hand and gazing at the screen until it goes black.

Totally normal, he reminds himself.

Before he realizes it, he's just done the very thing he'd been trying not to do. Heat prickles in his ears as he stares at the phone in his hand.

Well, even if he's being stupid, who cares.

He just hopes Levi isn't being equally stupid; Eren never actually got to see how that picture turned out, but he's certain he'd have no choice but to delete it immediately.

With that thought in his mind, Eren types out a message to Levi. 'Hey, you should delete that picture.'

After a moment of consideration, he sends another message right after. 'You can take a normal one if you want'

He's not expecting a quick reply, but his phone is buzzing before he can even pretend he hadn't been about to gaze at it a little longer.

'Like you ever look normal?'

Heat flushes down Eren's face, into his neck. Before he can even be properly outraged, another message arrives.

'Besides, I like this one.'

He'd been prepared to argue (probably fruitlessly), but all of the fight seems to fizzle out of him at the sight of those words on screen.

He closes his eyes, running a hand through his hair roughly. This is ridiculous, there's no reason why such a simple phrase should make Eren feel like melting into the floor. If anything, that response only confirms the photo must be terrible. And now Levi will probably never let him see it.

After ten minutes of shifting around in his chair, Eren gives up on trying to answer, instead shoving the phone back into his pocket in defeat.

At least Levi hadn't asked what Eren had done with his picture.

--

Later as he's lying in bed, caught in that state of blind courage and bad decision making only tiredness can evoke, Eren finally types out a reply to Levi.

'I think I need a few more to determine if I like this pic of you or not'

Eren smiles into his pillow. There's no chance of this working, but hey, he'd somehow gotten Levi to make a snowman with him - almost, anyway.

'Contact my agent for all my latest headshots.'

Eren stifles a laugh, fumbling to type back quickly. 'I was hoping for something more candid.'

He assumes Levi's had enough of their teasing jabs after a few minutes with no response. He rolls over to his other side, still smiling. Hopefully he won't feel too embarrassed over being so transparent once the morning comes.

He's almost sure he imagines the buzz of his phone as he's drifting off, but Eren still reaches out blindly for it, blinking rapidly at the brightness of the screen.

When his eyes finally focus enough to make out what he's looking at, he ends up half-dropping the phone, hugging it awkwardly to his chest while his heart beats rapidly in his ears.

Upon righting it again, Eren finds that the image of Levi is still there. The lighting is terrible, so dim he can barely make anything out, and Levi's face is deadpan as ever even as his hair sticks up a bit awkwardly against the pillows, but--

Eren has to bite his lip to keep himself from smiling stupidly. Even Levi's message of 'This is your lifetime supply, so quit asking' makes Eren want to roll up into a ball and hide the brightness of his smile in his pillow.

Though Levi hadn't asked, Eren finds himself making the quick decision to take a picture to send Levi in return. He rolls over onto his back and snaps it quickly, unthinkingly, and-- it looks ridiculous, so much so that Eren actually laughs. The lighting is even worse than in Levi's, and Eren's hand is thrown above his head in what Levi will probably assume is some pseudo attempt at looking casual. Worst of all, Eren's eyes are half closed, caught in mid-blink.

He considers deleting it and trying to take a better one, but for some reason the idea of sending Levi this one seems the best choice in Eren's mind.

'And you said I couldn't look normal!'

Eren sends it off before he can change his mind, laughing as he lowers his phone and tosses it to the side.

He's definitely going to regret this tomorrow.

But at least he has another picture to change his background to, later.

--

'Hey Levi, you did delete that one pic right??'

'You already asked me 3 times'

'STILL. (did you?)'

'Yes, eren2.png has been deleted. Okay?'

'WAIT WHAT you named it???'

'I was just kidding, Eren.'

'Liar. I know you didn't delete it'

'You'll just have to take my word for it.'

--

The next time he sees Levi, Eren's plan of getting ahold of his phone completely fails. There aren't many opportunities, as they're sitting across from each other at the small coffee shop near Levi's place, but Eren still holds out hope. Eventually Eren ends up just lunging across the table when Levi pulls it out to look at the time, but Levi's too quick.

"What the hell?" Levi raises an eyebrow as he pockets his phone. Eren curses internally.

"I just--" Eren sighs in defeat, leaning back in his chair. He wraps his hands around his cup. It's too early in the day for this. "I wanted to make sure you deleted that picture."

"You make it sound like it was something indecent," Levi says, raising his cup to take a sip. Eren's ears feel a bit warm as he glances around their table, but neither the old couple nearby nor the girl on her laptop in the corner have turned any attention their way.

"Shut up," he hisses. He's certain Levi's hiding a smile behind the rim of his cup.

"Actually, I'm the one who should be worried." Levi places his cup down calmly, drumming his fingers on the table as he meets Eren's eye. "You're the one who wanted to show a picture to your friends. How do I know you haven't sent them off--"

"I wouldn't!" Eren interrupts, scandalized. Levi appears confused, and-- well, that's probably warranted, since not having a picture to show Mikasa and Armin is indeed what had sparked all this to begin with, but--

Eren coughs, leaning back in his seat again. "I mean, I know those were just for me." He pauses. "Right?"

Levi tilts his head to the side. Eren panics, a cold feeling of dread settling in the pit of his stomach. "You... you didn't send those pics to anyone, did you?"

Levi's face remains impassive for a few terrifying moments before a laugh escapes him. "Of course not," he replies. "I think you have to be seen to be believed."

He's smiling, chin resting in his hand as his fingers go back to absentmindedly tapping against the table, and-- well, Eren doesn't know if he's ever felt more embarrassed in his life.

"Shut up," he says again, quieter this time. He can feel his face getting hot.

Levi stifles a laugh, gaze shifting to the table. Perhaps he's giving Eren a moment to collect himself. Like it's not his fault Eren feels like this to begin with.

"I'm never sure if you're insulting me or not," Eren grumbles, barely resisting the urge to cross his arms across his chest.

"You'd know when I'm insulting you." Levi's eyes are playful. Eren simultaneously wants to stomp on his toes and lean across the table to kiss him.

"After I kindly came over here to meet you for coffee..." Eren shakes his head.

"Let's not forget you invited yourself," Levi reminds him. While technically true, Levi's message had been rather open-ended, and he'd agreed immediately when Eren had brought up swinging by.

"And you agreed, let's not forget that part either."

Levi shrugs, taking another sip of his coffee. Eren makes a face at him, but Levi doesn't notice. He puts his cup down with a satisfied sigh.

"I'll be right back," he says, rising from the table. "Want anything?" he asks belatedly, after already heading off toward the counter. Eren shakes his head, then watches Levi walk off.

He still has half of his coffee left. Perhaps he'd been too distracted plotting ways to steal Levi's phone instead of focusing on drinking it.

Now that he thinks about it, he'd been meaning to ask Levi what he's up to later. In his message, he'd said he would be busy and that was why he'd been planning to head to the coffee shop early. As he watches Levi sit back down, a fresh cup of coffee in hand, Eren's glad he isn't too eager to rush off just yet.

"Yours is probably getting cold," Levi says, pointedly looking at Eren's cup.

"It's not." Eren takes a sip as if to prove his point. It's still lukewarm, at least.

"Too early even for coffee, huh." Levi looks amused.

"It's never too early for that," Eren says, taking another gulp for good measure. "Actually, I was wondering what you're up to later, you said you were busy."

"Oh yeah." Levi has pulled out his phone again to check the time. Eren feels less inclined to make a mad grab for it, which is probably a good sign. "I'm going to look at some apartments."

Eren stares, barely registering Levi tucking the phone away again. Levi looks back up at him like that had been a totally normal thing to say.

"Wait, what?" Eren frowns in confusion. Why in the world would Levi be looking at apartments?

"Well, I have to do it eventually." He takes another casual sip of coffee, then pauses at Eren's blank stare. "I did tell you my lease is up soon, right?"

Eren's glad he hadn't been holding his cup or he might have dropped it. "No, you-- you didn't."

He doesn't know why, but for some reason, that fact stings. Eren tries to mask his expression as Levi replies, "Really? I thought I did."

Eren would laugh at how calm Levi is acting about all of this if he weren't still reeling.

"I think I'd remember." Eren wonders when he would have found out about this if he hadn't invited himself to the coffee shop today.

Levi waves a hand dismissively. "Well anyway, if I can't find anything, I already asked Hanji if I could stay with her for a little while."

Eren doesn't know why he feels so blindsided, why the initial sting has transformed into something more of an ache.

"That's-- you could stay with me," Eren says.

He hadn't meant to say that, shit.

Or maybe he had.

Eren's heart thumps in his chest as Levi's eyes meet his. That-- that had been a dumb thing to say, right?

"Just-- for awhile, if you needed to," he rushes to clarify. Why does he have to feel even stupider with each word that comes out of his mouth? Of course Levi had thought that's what he meant to begin with. "If you couldn't find a place in time, I mean. I wouldn't mind."

And he wouldn't - had even daydreamed about it a few times, maybe; what it might be like to have Levi around, to wake up beside him and not have the first thought be about when he'll leave. Even though it'd only be temporary, Eren feels a tug in his chest, something deep down inside of him that longs for it.

It wouldn't be any problem at all, and maybe he's a little hurt that Levi hadn't even thought about asking him, had actually forgot to even tell him he's moving, and what hurts most of all is the way Levi laughs now, brushing his fingers through his hair.

"It's fine," he says. "I'm sure I'll find something, anyway."

Eren forces out a laugh of his own, wraps his hands around his cup of coffee.

It's gone cold now, but Eren doesn't think he'll be getting another cup.

--

Eren spends the next few days trying to figure out why he feels so bothered, before deciding that it'd be stranger if he didn't feel bothered at all.

He can't imagine forgetting to tell Levi if he'd been planning to move, and he wonders what it says about the state of their relationship, or whatever it is, that Levi had. It's obviously something that's been on his mind, and he's been making plans to look at new apartments, had discussed staying with Hanji if need be, and yet not a peep of any of this to Eren.

And maybe it had been stupid of Eren to offer to let Levi stay with him, but it had felt--

Natural.

Even if Levi would never ask himself, how could he think Eren wouldn't offer, wouldn't want him to stay? Wouldn't be happy to help him find a new place, instead of doing it all on his own?

Or maybe Levi had known.

Maybe he'd known, and that's why he'd cut Eren out of it completely.

Eren hates this, the anxiety and insecurity he still feels, even now. He knows these thoughts are stupid, knows he should be able to push them out of his mind, but when it comes down to it, does he really know? Does he know anything about what Levi feels?

He doesn't want to doubt, but--

There are moments where Eren does doubt, moments where he feels like what he has with Levi might be slipping through his fingertips. More than anything, he wishes these doubts would be assuaged by the sound of Levi's voice, by his touch, but he doesn't even know how he'd begin to voice them.

There's so much between them that's been left unsaid, even now. Despite how close they've grown, how deeply Eren has fallen, there's still the terrible nagging thought in the back of Eren's mind that--

Eren hates it.

Hates that he feels this way, hates that he doesn't know what to say, or how to say it-- hates being afraid, as much as he hates Levi being afraid, too.

It shouldn't be like this.

Eren shouldn't be the only one feeling this way, and god, with Levi--

He's been so happy. So deliriously happy - but at the same time, he's never felt more alone.

--

Eren's unsure of how Levi's apartment hunt has been going, as he's barely said anything about it since that day in the coffee shop. Eren's probably being needlessly bitter, but he doesn't want to be the one to bring it up.

He's tired of being the one thinking too much all of the time; he wishes he could follow Levi's own advice, advice that apparently he himself is following quite well.

When Levi sends him a message one evening asking if he wants to come over and order takeout with him, Eren hesitates.

The answer should be easy, but for some reason, it isn't.

He wonders if Levi would even care if he said no. Would he just go back to his previous plans without a hitch, look up more apartments maybe? Why not go ahead and ask Hanji for some advice? Anyone but Eren--

He tosses his phone across the desk.

Let Levi be the one to wonder for once.

Chapter Text

Now that Eren’s actively avoiding Levi, he’s not sure how to feel.

On the one hand, it’s strangely invigorating in a way, but on the other, Eren knows it can’t last forever. It’s stupid, childish, and not how a relationship should work, but well, they’re certainly not in a normal relationship to begin with.

Levi has texted him a handful of times, over trivial things, and Eren’s ignored each one. It’s like he’s waiting for Levi to magically realize something is wrong, but why would he? In his mind, nothing is.

When Eren reads Levi’s message of ‘Are you okay, Eren? Text me when you can’ the next evening, it fills him with a rush of both satisfaction and guilt.

He sighs, closing his eyes and running his fingers through his hair.

He’s probably overreacting.

What is any of this going to accomplish, cutting himself off from Levi and dreaming up these worst case scenarios? What’s the point in keeping everything bottled up inside?

But what’s the point in any of this? Why should he allow himself to be hurt over and over–

Eren doesn’t answer that message either, despite tossing and turning all night.

The last thing Eren expects is for Levi to actually call him, but that's precisely what he does the next day. Perhaps it’s the surprise that causes Eren to pick up after the third ring.

He blanks for a few seconds before forcing out a simple, “Hey.”

His thoughts are already racing, breath caught in his throat.

“Eren.” Levi sounds relieved. Eren bites his lip. “I was– I thought something was wrong.”

Eren doesn’t want there to be anything wrong, doesn’t want these ugly feelings in his chest any longer.

“No, I…” He rubs a hand over his face. “Levi… we should talk, I think.”

There’s a pause.

“Are you okay?”

Of course he has to sound so genuinely concerned. Eren laughs shortly. “I’m fine, just– can I come over later?”

Eren doesn’t want to do this over the phone, not that he knows what exactly 'this’ will end up being. There’s a bad feeling twisting in his stomach, but Eren tries to ignore it.

“Yeah, sure,” Levi says finally.

Eren closes his eyes, heart heavy. “Great.”

Some of his restlessness starts to fade away during the drive to Levi's apartment.

He doesn’t think he’d been stupid to feel this way, but he knows in part it’s because of a bigger issue, that issue being Levi’s feelings, whatever they are.

Eren has been patient, has kept a lot of things to himself, and– this is where it’s led to. He doesn’t like this place.

Now that he knows he’s on his way to see Levi, he feels like at least it'll all be resolved, somehow - how it'll be resolved, he has no way of telling, but he doesn't want to go on like this any longer.

It's been easy sometimes to forget, to push all the negative thoughts to the back of his mind, but he shouldn't have to do that to begin with.

It seems like he reaches Levi's in no time at all, no doubt due to the fact that he's so lost in his own thoughts. He parks halfway down the block, then proceeds to sit in his car and stare out through the window.

Eren can remember how excited he'd been to show Levi this car, how he'd raced over and made Levi go for a drive with him, even though he'd been so tired. And Levi had come, after a bit of protest, but still, he had come.

Eren closes his eyes, resting his forehead against the window.

Has Levi just gone along with all of this, because it's easier than the alternative?

Not that he thinks Levi is repulsed by him - he obviously must feel something for him, but how strong it is, Eren doesn't know. Maybe just strong enough to not mind a bit of physical closeness, but not enough for anything deeper than that.

Eren doesn't want that. He doesn't want to be-- settled for, or--

A light knock to his window has Eren jolting forward. He's not entirely surprised to see Levi when his eyes finally focus.

Something twists in his chest at the sight of Levi standing there, head tilted to the side. Eren can see more than hear his soft 'Hey' through the glass.

Eren's scared, right now. More than anything, he's frightened of losing Levi, and-- it'd be easy to laugh now, to act like nothing's wrong, but--

Levi isn't stupid, either. There's a tightness to the corners of his mouth as he shuffles his feet, waiting for Eren to get out of the car.

There's no point in putting it off any longer. Eren sighs in an attempt to collect himself, then opens the door and climbs out. Levi watches him close it, then fiddle with the bottom of his jacket unnecessarily.

"I guess we should head inside," Levi says. Eren finally meets his eyes. "So we can talk."

Eren nods carefully. "Yeah, okay."

He trails silently after Levi; the trek up the sidewalk all the way to the inside of Levi's apartment almost feels longer than the drive to get here. The sudden nerves have Eren shifting around awkwardly as he waits for Levi to close the door and pull off his jacket.

It's like he doesn't belong here anymore. The thought makes his chest tight.

Whether it's coincidental or Levi had noticed the constipated look on his face, in the next moment there's a hand around Eren's elbow, gently guiding him toward the couch.

"Come on," Levi says simply. Eren follows along easily, waiting to sit until Levi himself does.

Eren hates this anxious feeling; they both know something is wrong, but the pressure is on Eren to actually blurt it out. But when he does, he has no idea what the actual words will be.

"So what is it?" Eren glances over to find Levi with his arms crossed across his chest. Instead of coming off as confrontational, it seems like he might be anxious, too. "I know something's wrong. You've been avoiding me."

Having it stated so plainly nearly causes Eren to blush. "Took you long enough to notice," he grumbles, leaning back a bit. He almost crosses his own arms, but catches himself just in time.

"So what, it was a test?" Levi scoffs.

Heat does rise in Eren's cheeks now. He leans forward, elbows on his knees, and covers his face with his hands.

"No," he groans. "It wasn't anything, it was--"

Levi is silent. Eren sighs, flopping back against the cushions.

"It was me trying to figure out why I felt so horrible."

It's relieving, in a way, to say it - to admit just how torn up he's been inside. It's just one word, but Eren still feels like a weight's been lifted.

Levi shifts beside him, and a quick glance shows how his face has changed; his brow now furrowed, lips pulled down in a frown. Eren smiles sadly.

"And you don't know why, do you?" Eren pauses, looking away again. "No, that's not supposed to be any kind of test, either. It's just me asking."

"Eren..." He sounds uncomfortable. "I don't know what you want me to say."

"Nothing, really." Eren taps his fingers against his knees. It's getting a bit late, but there's still light streaming in through the windows. "I know I'm the one that thinks too much."

Eren turns after a moment. "Why didn't you tell me you were moving?"

Levi blinks. "I did," he answers slowly.

Eren laughs shortly. "Yeah, I guess you did."

"What's this really about?" He can tell Levi's losing patience.

"What it's about is why you waited so long to tell me something so important." Eren can feel his heart begin to race in his chest. "Not even just that, though seriously, I don't get it. How would you feel if I--" Eren stops abruptly. He doesn't want to get too off track.

"And then to just-- shoot me down with a laugh when I offered to let you stay with me." Eren stands, suddenly restless again.

"I already had something worked out," Levi answers defensively. "I don't--"

"Was it really that ridiculous?" Eren hates the way his voice shakes. "To want that? Even if it was only for a little while?"

Levi rises, eyes narrowed. "What is this, Eren? I'm not allowed to make any decisions before running them by you?"

"You know that's not what I'm saying," Eren huffs. And it's not - this is all part of something else, something deeper. But this is an easy response for Levi, to throw accusations like these in his face. Eren's come to learn his defense mechanisms, whether Levi himself has realized them or not.

"So what?" Levi runs a hand through his hair as he makes his way over to the window. "In every theoretical scenario, I'm supposed to magically choose you first, even if--"

“It’s not that I want you to choose me!” Eren shoots back, voice rising in frustration. “I’m not asking– shit, am I not allowed to be disappointed? Does everything have to be some kind of attack?”

Levi doesn’t answer, crossing his arms and looking down. Eren can feel his agitation rising.

He hadn't wanted to come here and fight. Maybe that would be the easier route, but he's tired of running in circles. Instead he takes a minute to breathe.

"Would it be so bad if I did want that?" Eren asks eventually. Levi looks surprised for a moment, but still he says nothing.

Just once, maybe - for Levi to choose him. Is that too selfish to ask?

“Is this how we’re always going to deal with things?” He gestures vaguely in Levi’s direction. “You just throw out accusations and don’t even listen to me, then we go for what, how long? How long do you think until we talk to each other again?" Eren huffs out a laugh. "Like this is something to strive for?”

Levi still hasn't said a word, just watching Eren with sharp eyes. There's a part of him that wants to grab Levi by the shoulders and shake him, try to get some kind of reaction, but he doesn't.

"How about this, Levi? Maybe I'm tired of it having to come to this, of having to question everything and-- maybe I'm tired of having to do it alone." Now that he's started down this road, Eren finds he can't stop. "And that's what it feels like, you know? Like I have to go through it alone, always, I have to be the one questioning everything, while you--"

“Eren,” Levi cuts in sharply.

Eren stops, only just now aware of his heart thundering in his chest. The bitterness of Levi’s rejection feels fresh, suddenly. That cold, empty feeling, that pain - the desire to tell Levi exactly how it had felt burns hot beneath his skin. More so than that, he wants to tell Levi how unfair it is that even now, he can’t give Eren a straight answer about what it is that he wants.

“Eren.”

Levi steps forward, and Eren involuntarily flinches. But Levi only sighs, rubbing at his temple.

“Let’s not,” he says.

Eren wants to argue, wants to– god, he doesn’t know what he wants, either. He doesn’t want to fight, but at the same time he wants Levi to understand all of the things Eren couldn't possibly put into words.

Eren turns, slumping back onto the couch. “You’re right.” He closes his eyes and leans his head back. “This is what we’re good at too, right? Not talking things out at all.”

“Then what the hell– what do you want here, Eren?” There’s no reason for him to feel pleased that Levi’s angry again, but a small part of him does anyway.

He laughs, short and quiet. This is all so fucked up.

“Eren, what–”

Levi cuts off as Eren rises again. He has no idea what’s going to come out of his mouth right now, but it’s too late for regret.

“I think I’ve been more than clear about what I want.” His heart’s racing again, stomach twisted in nerves. “And I’ve– I’ve been more than patient.”

Levi’s eyes widen, perhaps understanding that they’re talking about something else entirely now, but Eren tries not to think about it, tries to press on before he loses his courage.

“You were honest with me, about how you felt.” He pauses, the knot in his stomach twisting further. “Or I guess... how you didn’t feel. And I was okay with that, in the end, because I– I thought that–”

I thought you’d grow to love me.

He can’t say that.

God, he feels like he’s going to be sick, and Levi’s just staring at him with those wide eyes, like he hadn’t expected for Eren to ever say any of these things. Eren had hoped he'd never have to.

“I thought things would change,” he says instead. “I thought if I just– if I let myself be happy, if I… could make you happy, that–”

Eren stops, words dying in his throat. He’s still afraid, afraid of ruining everything, of losing Levi, but most of all he’s afraid of going on like this, always wondering, a dark cloud of doubt forever in the back of his mind.

Levi looks torn, eyebrows furrowed, before finally saying, “Eren… it’s not that I…”

He doesn’t know what he expects Levi to say. What is anyone supposed to say to all of this?

“I am happy.” The way Levi looks at him, Eren knows he isn’t lying. For some reason, it only makes his heart hurt even more.

“With you, I’m happy.” He smiles, soft and a little sad. “But it’s not enough, is it?”

Eren open his mouth to reply, but nothing comes out.

That really is what it all comes down to. It isn’t enough.

He doesn’t want to think that, wants to believe that Levi telling him he’s happy is all he needs, but it isn’t.

“I guess, yeah,” Eren says, laughing. It sounds hollow, even to himself. Levi looks like he wants to say something, but he doesn’t, and Eren is grateful.

He had hoped, in his heart, that eventually Levi would feel the same for him. Even if he is happy, even if, in his own way, he is in love with Eren, if he is so afraid of it, so confused by it that he can’t admit it, even to himself–

It’s not enough. It can never be enough.

“The thing is, when you love someone, you…” Levi’s eyes change then, when Eren uses that word he’s been dancing around since that first night he'd told Levi how he felt. Eren smiles, small and a little wobbly. “More than anything, you want to be loved back.”

He can feel a burn behind his eyes, in the back of his throat. Maybe he’s been living in denial of this. Maybe he’s known all along that Levi could never love him back.

“But it’s my own fault, really.” The words taste bitter in his mouth. “You told me flat out, you couldn’t promise me anything. But I still hoped, anyway.”

“Eren, stop.” Levi takes a step closer, and even now Eren’s heart jumps feebly in his chest. “Just–”

Eren watches as Levi struggles to find words, as he moves forward again, almost in slow motion.

He freezes when Levi wraps his arms around him, head buried against his chest. “Fuck, Eren, stop,” Levi murmurs, fingers digging into his back.

Eren bites his lip, closing his eyes even as he feels tears slip out, warming his cheeks. He longs to wrap his arms around Levi, to pull him closer, but instead he stands there, trying not to shake.

“I’m sorry.”

The words are muffled where Levi’s face is pressed against him, but Eren hears them perfectly. Hears everything in them– and in the next moment he slumps forward, against Levi’s shoulder, but he still won’t reach out, even as he bites his lip harder to stop more tears from falling.

“I know,” he chokes out. He knows Levi’s sorry, for hurting him, but more than that, he’s sorry that even now, he still can’t tell Eren what he needs to hear.

Eren can’t understand it, can’t comprehend why things can’t be different– it would be so easy if only Levi could tell him that he felt the same, that they cared for each other equally. But he can’t, for some reason, and Eren can’t go on being the only one to feel the way he does.

There’s a difference between being happy with someone and being in love with them, and Eren has to come to terms with the fact that Levi can only offer him so much.

Levi’s fingers are winding through his hair, patting at his head, and– Eren hates him for being like this; it would be so much easier if Levi didn’t care for him at all, rather than not enough.

“I’m sorry,” Levi repeats. His voice is soft as he continues, “It’s my fault, really. I think I… I got caught up in my own happiness. And that wasn’t fair to you.”

Eren can’t take it anymore; he pulls away from Levi, immediately raising his hands to rub at his face. He doesn’t want to hear Levi’s apologies, doesn’t want to hear Levi say it again, say how he can’t, won’t love Eren–

“God, Levi, can’t you just–” Eren hates the sound of his voice, how he must look right now, in front of Levi. “Can’t you make it easier to hate you?”

He can hear Levi saying something, but his head is buzzing, he can’t make it out– he’s breezing past him, toward the door, and– this is what he needs right now, some air, some space, he needs to get away.

Eren keeps walking once he gets outside, lets the cool breeze dry any wetness still on his face.

This is it, this is really it.

He can’t quite wrap his head around it yet, doesn’t want to, really. But that won’t do any good.

The sooner he comes to terms with it, the better it’ll be. But for now, all Eren wants to do go home and curl up in his bed, not move or think–

Eren laughs, shaking his head. Like that will happen. More likely, he’ll cry, cry like the heartbroken idiot he is, and– he wants to forget, forget all of this, the happiness he’s felt with Levi, because he can’t bear to think about it, about what might have been.

Had Levi ever even thought about it? Had he ever envisioned a future with Eren in it, or had he just enjoyed living in the moment, been content with that, and that only?

He's made a fool of himself, enough so to last a lifetime, but he's done, done done done, done hoping and dreaming when he's the only one who would ever consider any kind of future together.

Eren yanks at the car door, already taking a step forward to get in when it’s suddenly slammed shut. He freezes, startled - that’s Levi’s hand, Levi’s hand that’s now grabbed his arm, whirling him around.

Something inside of him snaps at the sight of Levi, and he shakes him off, blood pounding in his ears.

“What the hell are you doing?” Why can’t Levi just let him go, let it–

Levi doesn’t answer for a moment, hands twitching at his sides, like he wants to grab at Eren again. Eren can’t do this, not just can't, but he won't - Levi's made his choice and goddammit, the least he could do is allow Eren to make his.

Eren reaches blindly to fumble with the car door again. Levi’s voice finally cuts through the rushing in his ears.

“Do you really want it to end like this?”

“Then how do you want it to end?” he shouts back.

“I don’t!”

There’s something in Levi’s face, something frenzied, untamed, and– Eren’s breath catches as he steps forward, bunches Eren’s shirt in his hand.

“I don’t,” he repeats, gazing into Eren’s eyes, and– a shiver goes through Eren, heat dancing beneath his skin. A fierce, possessive sort of want burns bright in Levi’s eyes, like nothing he's seen directed his way before.

Eren wonders if he's shaking, or if it's just the way his heart's jumping in his chest. Had he ever truly thought Levi would look at him that way?

Levi seems to regain himself, bit by bit, his furrowed eyebrows relaxing slightly, the grip on Eren’s shirt loosening. But he doesn’t let go, doesn’t tear his gaze from Eren’s, though the intensity in his eyes fades. No, perhaps it doesn’t fade, but simply morph into something more familiar - that quiet, tender sort of affection that's always shot its way straight to Eren's heart.

“I don’t want it to,” Levi says, each word softer than the last.

Eren wants to scream, to cry, to–

“Well then, what do you want, Levi?” Eren asks, voice cracking a little.

If Levi can’t answer, Eren knows this is it, knows that it’s over, knows it in the way tears prickle in his eyes, the lump in his throat.

Levi’s fingers twitch, lips parting, and– for all the times Levi’s chastised him for worrying too much, it seems he still can’t grasp the words he wants to say.

Eren’s heart sinks further each moment that passes, a dry laugh escaping him as he moves to turn away.

Before he can, Levi’s hold tightens again, bringing Eren’s gaze back to his. “I want to be with you.”

It comes out firm, sure, and as Eren stands there frozen, it’s Levi laughing this time, soft and relieved, and–

“I said it before, but I don’t think you get it. It’s more complicated than that.” Levi stops for a moment, then smiles. “And it's-- it's natural, somehow, to think about you so much. It's like you're there with me even when you aren't." His fingers brush along Eren's neck, nearly making him shiver.

Eren's had thoughts like these himself, thoughts he'd kept buried deep inside. To have Levi say these things aloud is making his head spin.

"And..." Levi hesitates again, longer this time.

"I want to ask you to move in with me." Eren's eyes widen in confusion, but Levi only smiles again. "I want to watch your face as you say yes.” He cups Eren’s face in his hand, gaze so tender, so loving, that Eren forgets to breathe.

“That look in your eyes right now, I want that all for myself.”

Eren’s heart is racing, head hazy and light; he wants to ask Levi to stop, almost, just so he can think, because none of this makes sense - hadn't Levi just been apologizing, been trying to say goodbye? - but Levi doesn’t give him a chance, just continues on, like he’s meant to say these things all along but just hasn’t had the opportunity.

“I want– everything.” He pauses. “And… I want to give you everything. I don’t know how to, sometimes, and I–”

He looks off to the side, past Eren’s shoulder. Eren longs to raise his hand, to bring his fingers to the curve of Levi's wrist, but instead he waits.

Levi looks back to him, eyes stormy. “I fuck up a lot, Eren.” Levi pulls his hand back, lets out a sigh of frustration. “And I know I’ll keep fucking it up, and you don’t deserve someone like that, but I still–”

Eren’s heart squeezes. “Levi–”

Levi cuts him off with a shake of his head. “I know you want someone who can make you feel loved.”

“Not just someone,” Eren says, words choked. It’s silly, childish, even; or maybe his heart’s just stubborn, unable to let go of what he feels for Levi.

“And I don’t want anyone else loving you.”

Eren blinks, breathes, and--

Tears he hadn't even realized were there spill over, his breaths turned choppy.

It'd been said easily, so unexpectedly, and Levi's looking at him with the clearest eyes he's ever seen, the most open expression, and it's enough to make Eren's knees shake.

He moves without thinking, grabbing at Levi and pulling him close. Even as Levi wraps his arms around him in turn, murmurs Eren so sweetly in his ear, it doesn't feel close enough.

"Don't cry," Levi murmurs.

Eren could almost laugh - does, actually, watery as it sounds. "It's your fault," he says, fingers digging in tightly. He doesn’t know if his heart can take much more than this.

"I know. Let me make it up to you." Levi's fingers card through his hair. "Let me... treat you like you deserve."

Let me make you feel loved.

Eren buries his face further into Levi's shoulder. He wonders if he's dreaming.

He'd had no choice in what his heart had decided, but since understanding it, realizing and accepting it - it's been one choice after another, each one making his feelings for Levi grow stronger. And maybe all along Levi's been making his own choices too, different ones, in a different way, but eventually they've managed to find their way, here now, together.

“I love you.”

The words spill out, unnecessary as Eren knows they are. Being able to finally say it brings an overwhelming sense of relief, and Eren closes his eyes as a strange giddiness overtakes him.

“I love you, so–” Eren lets out a broken laugh against Levi’s shoulder. “Stop making me look like an idiot in the middle of the street.”

Levi’s fingers curl against his nape. “It’s okay, I think the old ladies over there are finding this pretty moving.”

Eren feels his cheeks begin to burn. “Please tell me you’re kidding.”

“Well, either that or they’re judging us for making a public spectacle.”

“Levi, please.”

He doesn’t answer.

Eren pulls back slightly, eyes immediately roving over the surrounding area, only to find there’s no one around staring at them.

He locks eyes with Levi, frowning. “That’s not funny, why would y--"

Levi cuts him off with a kiss, slow and warm, a warmth that Eren can feel all the way down to his toes. It's different, somehow, in a way Eren could never hope to explain, but a beautiful kind of different, one that he wants to experience again and again.

When they pull apart, Eren still feels a little dazed. He would complain, but his lips would much rather be back pressed to Levi's.

“I didn’t know if you’d ever come back up from there,” Levi says, casting a glance toward his own shoulder.

Eren blinks, then flushes again. “Is this really the time for jokes?”

Levi smiles, wrapping both of his arms around Eren’s neck. “What do you think it's time for, then?”

Eren’s heart skips a beat, his skin still pleasantly warm, Levi so obviously happy, and– dammit, Levi had said he wanted to ask Eren to move in with him. God, where the hell had that come from?

“Wait a minute, you want to ask me to move in with you?” Eren blurts.

Levi tilts his head to the side. “You’re just saying something about that now?”

Eren could scream. “Shut up! Levi, after all that–”

“Just say yes,” Levi interrupts. His eyes soften, just as his voice does. “It might take awhile, but when I get the courage to do it, say yes.”

That terrible, ridiculous sort of happiness, the kind that Eren’s unsure can even exist, really, surges through him.

Maybe there had been another reason Levi had wanted Eren to have as little as possible to do with his new apartment. It seems so stupid, and yet–

There will be plenty of time to clear it up later.

Eren breaks out into a smile, heart dancing in his chest.

“Okay.”

It comes out short, breathy. Eren wonders if he’d even said it aloud or just thought it, but in the next moment Levi’s pulling him back into his arms.

“Okay,” he says again, laughing when Levi’s arms tighten around him. He could tease Levi for being the one to pull him close again, but he can do that later, too.

Eren smiles.

They have all the time in the world.