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It’s a Friday afternoon and Eren is off of school. It's an in-service day, which means that the teachers are doing training while the students in the district have a day off. He’s walking through the city since his house is maybe a mile away and he has nothing better to do, since Mikasa is at the gym and Armin is probably at home watching the discovery channel or some shit. He’s absolutely starving and he has just enough money to grab something at one of the local restaurants that he loves.

He walks in and since he can seat himself, he starts toward a table near the corner. He would’ve usually taken a corner table but a grumpy-looking man in a suit is sitting there reading the paper, so he settles for the table behind him. Cool, whatever. No big deal. He’s on his way to the table and his phone starts vibrating in his pocket, so he picks it up and it’s Jean saying something stupid so he texts back and-

head-on collision with the waiter in front of the man.

Soup everywhere. Hot soup everywhere, especially over the man in the corner who just so happens to look like he does something really important for a living. The man stares at him in utter disbelief and Eren stares back for a second while he processes exactly what just happened, and then he immediately starts with the apologies.

"Oh my god, shitshitshitshitshit, I am so sorry, oh my god, are you okay? Did it burn you? Holy shit, okay, look... I’ll get some napkins and we can clear this up, oh my god. I am so sorry, shit shit-"

Levi slams his newspaper down to shut Eren the hell up and glares daggers at him. He grows silent almost immediately and breaks out in a nervous sweat because this guy looks like he could take out a fucking army with that absolutely toxic stare. He finally gets a good look at the damage and there is soup all over his jacket and tie, but his pants have been spared because of the napkin that had been carefully placed on his lap.

"This isn’t coming out with napkins. I do hope you intend on paying to get this cleaned."

Fuck my life, are you joking right now? Do I look like I have money? ”I… I barely have enough to eat lunch, honestly. I’m so sorry, seriously, it was an accident and-“

"What the hell are you doing in a restaurant without money?" He waves away the waiter and motions for Eren to sit down, which he does immediately because Levi is insanely intimidating. "I’m certain you can at least contribute, since this is undeniably your fault."

Eren just looks away and mumbles in response, “I’m a student, I don’t have time for a job right now.”

Levi blinks and looks at him in silence for a long time, which makes Eren incredibly uncomfortable. He’s already mortified and absolutely terrified, and the fact that this man is staring at him doesn’t help. “I… Ugh. I don’t have time to change or get it cleaned, I’m going to be late as it is. Fuck, there is no way I’m getting into my car with this shit.”

"Wait! I could get you one of the suits my father— No, no way. That’d be huge on you. Oh my god, do they make suits that short, or did you have to get it tailored?" He realizes what just came out of his mouth a moment too late and Levi looks like he’s about to throttle someone.

Eren panics, but suddenly feels really bad because his suit is legitimately too messy to wear back into where ever he works, it’s his fault, and he can’t even pay for it. Levi’s dirty, probably burnt, running late, and Eren just called him short. He has to do something, anything. “I can… I can like, take it if you want? I live right up the road and you could drop by and get it after you… do whatever you do. How bad is everything?” Levi shrugs off his jacket and Eren is beyond relieved to see that his dress shirt underneath the jacket hadn’t been touched, and adds, “I’m seriously so sorry, it was completely my fault-“

"Damn right, it’s your fault. I don’t even have time to argue with you right now, I need to go. Give me your address, I’ll swing by at exactly 8. You’d better be there."

Eren grabs a napkin and Levi gives him a pen, he writes down his address, and silently prays that his parents decide to go out tonight. “I’m Eren, by the way. I’m seriously so sorry, I feel really terrible-“

Levi interrupts him by grabbing the napkin and folding it into his pocket, standing up, and muttering “Whatever, you little shitwad, don’t fuck it up any more than you already have. Levi. Remember, 8 tonight.” He tosses his jacket and tie at Eren and he’s out the door before he even has a chance to peel the fabric away from his face.

Fast forward to 8 o’clock.

Mikasa is out with friends (she’d spent nearly an hour trying to convince Eren to come out with her, but he had piles of “homework” to do and even though she didn’t entirely trust him, she let it go) and his parents are out to dinner. Things don’t ever go right, so this is a pretty big deal to him. He’s home alone and he’d gotten home while the house was empty, too. Hiding the clothes hadn’t been much of an issue, but trying to take the stain out had been an interesting process. He could only do so much with suggestions made on google and youtube tutorials, so most of the stain was entirely still present. He felt pretty terrible about it, too.

When the doorbell rings he literally sprints to answer it, and of course, it’s Levi. “Wow, this really is your address, hm? I won’t lie, I was expecting for you to have messed it up and given me the wrong house. I’m impressed.”

Eren is clearly offended for a few moments until he remembers that Levi actually came for a reason outside of insulting him, so he invites him in to be polite and directs him to the living room. He runs upstairs to grab his clothes and brings them down and continues to apologize profusely about not being able to do anything about the stain and creating the stain in the first place. Levi lets him freak out and entertains his suggestions of bringing out tea. While he’s in the kitchen, Eren gets an idea and rolls with it immediately because he has a habit of being impulsive, “I can make it up to you, if you want? If you let me know how much it costs to clean it, I’ll treat you to a lunch that I don’t mess up or something. I don’t even think you got to properly finish your food today and I feel so bad.”

"Stop apologizing, brat. It’s not like college kids ever have money, there’s no way you can treat me to anything."

College? No, Eren was definitely in high school, but whatever. It’s not important. “I can come up with money, it’s not a big deal. Especially for something like this. I’m not just going to let it go or anything.”

"It’ll be expensive. I use someone that charges $50, but they do a damn good job. I really don’t need your money or for you to make this up to me in any way, I’m perfectly capable of handling it myself. Just wanted to teach you not to be a dumbass that checks their phone while walking."

Eren literally winces at the price and his stomach churns a little bit because it’s expensive, so when Levi says that, it’s a huge weight lifted from his shoulders. “Okay… Well, once again, I apologize for any setbacks I may have caused, sir.” Levi nods, stands, and leaves, they exchange awkward goodbyes, and Eren lays back in his bed feeling ridiculously relieved. He can’t get the image of Levi in his dress shirt out of his head, though. Eren hadn’t ever considered a man to be pretty before, but Levi was certainly pretty. He hadn’t seen anyone look that refined while saying the word “shitwad” before in his life. 

Fast forward a week, it’s Saturday afternoon. 

Eren is bored, which means that Eren is hungry. He’s in the city again and he never actually had the chance to eat at the restaurant the last time he’d gone because he felt so bad about soiling Levi’s clothing, so he decides to return and actually get food. He walks in, starts toward his corner table, and… Levi is there. Again. This time, however, he’s dressed somewhat normally. Somewhat. It’s clear that he isn’t dressed for work, but he still looks nice (like a hipster, Eren snorts) with a solid black vest over a light grey button-up, dark-wash jeans, and a tan scarf. Just like before, he’s reading the paper, and Eren plops down at the table behind him and orders a drink before he decides to look back and say something.

"Well, isn’t this a coincidence?" Levi doesn’t say anything and just stares, so Eren quickly follows it up with, "I really like your, uh, scarf. Tan is a good color on you."

"It’s taupe."

"What?"

"It’s not tan, it’s taupe. Thank you. What on Earth are you doing here? Thought you were broke." And Eren shrugs because he is broke, but he at least has enough to get a sandwich or something.

"Yeah, I am, but I’ve been wanting to eat here since last Friday. Worth using the last of my money, I guess. I’m just hungry and bored, so I guess I can at least sit here and people watch?"

Levi rolls his eyes, clearly irritated, and Eren wonders what the hell he did now until he mutters, “You can’t use the last of your money eating an overpriced sandwich, for fucks sake. If you’re that fucking bored, come here. I’ll pay for your food if you can entertain yourself without being too much of a pain in the ass.”

Eren is shocked and the first thing he thinks about is how awful it would be to accept, since he’s already wasted $50 of this guy’s money due to his own carelessness. “No, it’s really fine, there’s absolutely no way I can let you do that. I already wasted your money-“

"Eren." He remembers Eren’s name? Impressive. "I have money to spare. Consider it a donation to the needy." 

"Are you sure?"

"About as sure as I am that if you don’t come here right now you’ll end up with my foot so far up your ass that you’ll taste it.”

That’s enough to kick Eren into gear. He switches to the opposite side of Levi’s table, but he looks down at the table and studies it hard instead of making eye contact with Levi because he’s still one of the most intimidating people that he’s ever spoken to. Levi honestly thinks it’s amusing, because the kid is fidgety to the point that he’s not sure if he’s actually capable of sitting still. He doesn’t have any particular desire to strike up conversation so he continues reading his paper, which makes Eren even more self-conscious to the point that he feels obligated to create awkward conversation to dissolve the awkward tension.

"So… What do you do? And are you usually like this with people you just meet?"

"Government work, probably nothing that you’d know anything about or understand. Like what?"

"I dunno, aggressive? Insulting? Those aren’t the words I wanted, but you know what I me- Wait, really? I thought that most people who worked for the government were old, in their thirties and forties and fifties?"

"Yes, I am. You’re not special. Oh, ouch. First short, now old? Much appreciated, you must have a lot of friends. You’re so sensitive. Thirty really isn’t that old, kid."

"Oh, no way." Thirty? Levi, thirty? Levi, with his taupe scarf and tailored jeans? "Thirty? No way. No."

"You have no fucking tact, wow. Yes. I’m thirty. You make it sound like I’m on my death bed. I’m thirty, I do government work. You’re a broke college kid. You better enjoy your twenties, you’ll be an old man like me before you know it." Eren can almost physically feel the sarcasm dripping off of his words and notices the college comment again. Still no reason to say anything about it, since if he knew that he’s fifteen, there would be no way that he’d take him seriously (not that he does now, but that’s not the point).

"Sorry, that’s not what I meant. Anyway, do you come here a lot? I usually sit here and I’ve never seen you around before."

"Lately? Yes. It’s close, easy, clean, and the food is good. And you?"

"Weekends. I don’t have time during the week." Don’t have time. Right. Eren internally panics and desperately hopes that for once he isn’t a terrible liar, and when Levi nods, he lets out the breath he’d been holding. Eren orders something and they make spend a little while talking about unimportant things. Eren fidgets through extended periods of awkward silence, people-watches a little bit… more or less acts like an impatient child for the entire meal. Levi just reads, largely unaffected by the silences, and gets a kick out of watching Eren make himself uncomfortable. He’s nice, easily his type. Tall, dark hair, light eyes, moderately tan. Even though he’s clumsy and obviously doesn’t think before he speaks, it’s almost endearing. The kid is cute and his company isn’t bad enough for Levi to want to leave. He doesn’t even mind buying him lunch that much, especially knowing that he’s preventing him from using the last of his money. 

They sit for about twenty minutes after they both finish, just talking because Eren’s too bored to care about the fact that Levi is a sassy shit that scares him. They don’t exchange numbers or anything, but Eren thanks him and they go their separate ways. 

Man, taupe really was a good color on him.

Fastforward another week.

Eren isn’t bored, but he is hungry. (Is he really hungry?) He can’t help but wonder if he’ll see Levi in the restaurant again, since he did say that he went often. Something about him is interesting, he can’t quite put his finger on what, but he feels a rush of relief and giddiness when he starts toward the corner table that Levi is, in fact, seated at. He sits at the table behind him again and scoots his chair out loudly so Levi looks back and definitely knows that he’s there… Not that Eren lets him initiate conversation, because he impulsively turns around and says something about the weather, which Levi ignores.

"Coming in while you’re broke again?"

It makes Eren stop and shake his head, pause, then smile and reply, “No, I actually have enough money for a decent lunch. In fact…” He pushes his hand into his pocket and digs around for a moment, then grins and says, “I have enough for the both of us, and I really want to pay you back. It looks like you just ordered a drink so far, so do you want to join me? Seriously, it’s on me.”

"I don’t need you to pay for me, I’m not the one with money issues."

Eren lets out an indignant huff because talking to Levi is equivalent to willingly letting someone trample over his pride with spiked cleats, then mutters, “I don’t have money issues and I didn’t say that you needed to. I’m just indebted to you, and you can consider this the first payment, I guess. I’m not doing it because I want to.” Blatant lie. “Come on, sit with me. Or should I move over there?”

"I’m not getting up."

Eren sighs and shifts over to Levi’s, and their meal goes similarly to the one before, though they spend a little less time sitting in silence and more time communicating. A little less time. Like, maybe five minutes less. It’s still awkward, sure, but it’s a step in the right direction. 

"What are you majoring in?"

Shit, I’m not majoring in anything. I don’t even know what I’m good at. What do I like? Do I even like anything? ”English.”

"… Really?"

Crap. I don’t even like English. First thing that popped into my head. Okay. Shit, I’m awful at English. My adjective of choice is ‘fuck’, which also happens to be my most-used noun, adverb, verb… What other parts of speech are there?  ”Yeah, I love it. I’ve been told that I write pretty good and I was good at grammar and stuff in high school.”

Levi furrows his brows at the usage of ‘good’ but decides against saying anything because it’s not worth the effort of explaining it. “I’m not going to comment on that. Forget I asked. Quit running your mouth and eat.”

Eren willingly complies because he knows that he doesn’t want to embarrass himself any more than he already has. They still don’t exchange phone numbers, and Levi still looks really good in that tan color. What was it? Toupe?

One more week.

Eren isn’t hungry or bored, but it’s lunch time so he figures he should probably eat something. His chest tingles and he gets butterflies (just nerves, Levi’s just makes him nervous, that’s all) when he sees Levi sitting in the corner again, and Levi actually looks over and acknowledges him with eye contact before he continues to read his newspaper. Just as he’d done previously, he starts by sitting at the table behind Levi, but gives an excuse that “I wasted your money twice so I need to buy your lunch twice,” something Levi doesn’t explicitly deny (which Eren interprets as accepting it, and moves back to sit with him). The conversation is marginally less awkward, and they actually start to feel comfortable enough with each other that they laugh and joke around and talk about certain parts of their day/week. It’s really nice and it borders on flirting, which doesn’t particularly bother either of them because Levi likes whoever can properly capture his attention and Eren… Eren doesn’t entirely know what he likes, but he knows that he really enjoys talking to Levi during these little meetings.

This is the last meeting that he has an excuse for, which, of course, presents a dilemma. It shows on his face before he can help it, and prompts Levi to wait and let Eren figure things out himself, since this is actually entertaining. Eren gets flustered fairly easily around Levi, something that has been both endearing and irritating.

"Well, it looks like my debt is all paid off…" Eren starts and his eyes fall to the table again like they had on the first day. He messes with his fingertips while he tries to work through the facts that he really wants Levi’s number, he has no idea how to get it, and Levi is fucking thirty. Thirty, oh man. But… It wasn’t like they’re dating, no. He enjoys his company, he’s mature in ways that his classmates aren’t, he’s interesting, and it’s refreshing. This is a friendship, so asking for his number shouldn’t be hard. “I, uh, I actually really like this. It’s pretty nice being able to come here and talk to someone over food and stuff. You’re pretty cool. I’d be totally up for doing again, if you want to? Like, we could make this a habit or something. Not when you’re busy, though. I could text you for planning and stuff, if you want?”

Levi doesn’t say anything right away and raises an eyebrow, which Eren assumes is because he was too forward or something (it was really just because he wanted to see how he’d react and he was more or less impressed that he had the balls to ask) so he immediately backtracks with “I totally get it if you don’t want to, you’re busy and I’m just a student and we only ever started talking because I spilled stuff all over you and now I paid back everything so we really don’t have to or anything—”

"Give me your phone, I’ll program it in. Text me in the morning, at night, or during my lunch break, which is the same time every day and you should know that time. If not, I’ll be here on Saturdays. Just like I have been. I suppose that it’s nice to talk to somebody incompetent that isn’t my fucking coworker or employee. You provide a different kind of incompetence. Congratulations." Eren frowns but gives him his phone anyway, Levi plugs his information in, and his frown probably turns into a smile a little bit too quickly when he gets it back. They talk a little bit more and leave after paying and finishing their food.

Eren has a bit of a difficult time not texting right away because holy shit, Levi just gave me his number. This is so fucking cool.

Their weekly meetings continue and they become surprisingly comfortable with each other’s company, even though Levi remains slightly guarded and doesn’t talk for the sake of talking like Eren does. They get to the point that sitting in silence isn’t always weird or filled with tension, it’s often just silence. Silence with someone else. It’s nice, actually. Nice for Eren because it’s a new experience and sensation for him, and nice for Levi because he can focus, uninterrupted, on reading and his thoughts.

Which, for the record, seem to revolve around Eren more and more with each passing week.

Weekly lunch meetings become weekly lunch meetings with occasional weekday after-school, dinner, and one-or-two well-timed-morning-coffee meetings. Eren has to be incredibly careful to do things in a way that his parents don’t suspect anything, which means that he either sneaks out, waits until they’re out of the house, or lies and says that he’s going out with friends (which isn’t really a lie, is it? Levi’s a friend, right?). He eventually gets pretty good at doing it. Money generally isn’t an issue because he rarely orders things, and some of what he does order is purchased by Levi because “You’re probably up to your fucking ears in student loan debt already, I don’t have a problem with providing you with food. It’s a goddamn burger, not a lobster tail. Eat it.” (He still resists, but Levi’s pretty good at intimidating him into compliance.)

Levi generally doesn’t go out of his way to see people during his free time, but Eren really isn’t half bad. He likes his ambition, his passion toward things that he enjoys and wants, and the how easy he is to mess with. He has noticed that Eren is quick to get riled up and gets easily offended, and since Levi is naturally offensive, he sees Eren getting worked up a lot and it’s probably more entertaining than it should be. Endearing as hell, too. He wouldn’t mind getting to know him better. Now, Levi isn’t really one for relationships. He doesn’t have time to spare, nor does he have much of a use for one. They come with a lot of unnecessary bullshit and he has more important things to do than worry about trivial fights and remembering birthdays, anniversaries, and dates.

With that said, Eren really catches his eye and stands out, and Levi isn’t the kind of person that just sits back and lets what he wants get away. He’s proactive and has no problem taking matters into his own hands. He wants to see the kid more? Then he’ll see the kid more. Levi invites him out to dinner at some point in the late fall, nothing particularly fancy or anything. He brushes it off as being tired of eating at the same places all the time, and if he’s going to pay for Eren’s food, it may as well be something that actually strives to go beyond just “edible.”

Eren gets out of the house with the excuse that he’s going out to hang out with Marco or something because Mikasa would suspect something or want to tag along if he said Armin or Jean. He walks up to this restaurant and it’s actually pretty nice. A few steps above Olive Garden or a commercial steakhouse, but not fancy enough that everyone eating is dressed well. Levi texts him to tell him that he’ll be a little late, so Eren chills out outside the restaurant and awkwardly stares at people and zones out. He feels a tap on his shoulder and nearly pisses himself, which draws a satisfied snort out of Levi. “Fall asleep with your eyes open? I didn’t think that was actually possible.”

Eren turns to counter it with a smartass remark but he stops himself when he sees what Levi is wearing. His heart actually skips a beat and then compensates by beating twice as hard and fast. He’s wearing a dress shirt with his jacket over one arm, really nice pants and a fucking bow tie. Eren automatically feels underdressed on top of completely flustered because Levi looks really good, holy shit. 

"Wait, what?"

"Earth to Eren? Did you pull an all-nighter last night or something? If that’s the case, you need to go back home. I’m not going to be responsible for your shitty sleep habits and, ultimately, you failing out of school."

Eren scowls and says “I was just zoning out, I’m not failing anything. Come on, it’s cold. Wait, why are you so dressed up? Was I supposed to look nice?”

"I got out of work late and didn’t have a chance to change. Problem?"

"No, I like it."

"What?"

"Nothing, let’s go. It’s cold." They go in and their dynamic doesn’t really change just because they’re in a different restaurant, though Eren does make a big deal about not wanting to get anything, then about not getting anything expensive, then about not getting dessert, then about contributing to the bill. (All of which Levi promptly shuts down. His treat, he has money to spare.) At this point, conversation comes naturally and they have no problem filling silences, but they also have no problem sitting in silence without feeling anxious (big difference from their first lunch, which had made Eren so uneasy that he had wanted to curl up and disappear). They get out and it’s after sunset, and the sky still has faint hints of crimson but the stars are out, and it’s cold enough that they can see their breath. It’s still early, though. Really early, since the sun sets incredibly early now.

Eren decides to take a huge risk and tentatively asks, “It’s still really early, do you want to walk around and kill some time? I really don’t want to go back right now. I mean, if you have things to do, that’s fine too. Just asking.”

"I don’t have anything to do, Eren. I may be an old man who works for the state, but work stays at work when I need it to."

"You’re still hung up on that? I didn’t mean it like that, you’re not old. Dammit. I don’t know, I guess we could walk around City Island for a while? Haven’t done that since I was really young."

Levi shrugs and they start toward the bridge. They’re talking about the fact that Levi works in the capitol building in the middle of the fucking city and wow, walking around City Island (which is 1.3 miles and 22 minutes walking distance away from the capitol building) is exactly what he wants to do with his time off of work. Really. It’s so nice being away from his place of employment for once.

After they cross the bridge, they start toward the “beach” area of the island and continue exchanging smart-ass remarks because that’s what they do. Levi doesn’t really initiate conversation because Eren seems more than happy to talk about whatever’s on his mind, so he stays fairly quiet, listens, just watches Eren walk and talk (which he isn’t particularly good at) while they pass closing vendors and people leaving with their children. He can’t help but notice that he looks pretty cold. Is he shivering?

They finally get to the “beach” (which is really just a concrete platform by the river) and Eren, who has been complaining about his feet hurting since they left the bridge, immediately plops down by the water, brings his legs up to his chest, and rests his chin on his knees. The bridge and city are all lit up and they’re reflected in the water, and that paired with the sound of the river’s current is surprisingly relaxing even though it’s roughly 40 degrees and Eren is shivering. 

Levi doesn’t particularly want to sit on the ground by a nasty-ass river in the middle of a fucking city, especially when it’s cold as balls and the concrete is probably uncomfortable, so he stands beside Eren instead. Clearly disappointed, Eren looks up and raises an eyebrow in a silent request for him sit the fuck down, but he counters it with a look of unadulterated disgust. Eren frowns and goes back to silently watching the river while Levi watches him shiver. He is so fucking handsome right now with the light reflecting off of his hair, his face, and in his eyes. It should be illegal for anyone this goddamn young and pretty to be cold, so he settles down beside him with an irritated grunt and slides his jacket over Eren’s shoulders. “It’s almost December, I don’t know what the hell possessed you to come outside wearing that flimsy excuse for a jacket. You’re a mess.”

Eren immediately refuses it: “No, then you’ll be cold, I’m fine, seriously, I grew up further north and I’m used to the cold. We didn’t always have functioning heat because it broke down a lot, especially on particularly cold days.”

"You’re shaking so hard I can feel you through the goddamn concrete. You’re probably causing earthquakes on the other side of the globe from your ass, somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Put it on."

"No."

"Eren, I swear to god… Do you remember the offer I made to you when we met for the second time at the restaurant?"

Eren thinks about it hard, he really does. The only thing he remembers about that afternoon is trying not to piss himself when he saw Levi’s face at the table. Was it important? Shit, how had he forgotten? “No, I’m so sorry. I wasn’t paying attention, it’s completely my fault. Was it important? What did you offer?”

"To shove my foot so far up your ass that you’ll taste it." Eren just blinks at him and Levi explains, "I’ll make it happen if you don’t shut up and wear it."

Stubborn ass that he is, Eren shakes his head and hands it back to Levi. “Don’t want it. You’ll be cold. I don’t want you to get sick or something because of me. You actually have an important job that you need to go to, so I can’t let you sit here in forty degree weather without a jacket.”

Levi looks like he’s about to throttle someone, so when he starts to move toward him, Eren instinctively flinches away… but Levi just plants himself directly beside him, wraps an arm around his shoulder, pulls him close into his body, and drapes his jacket around their combined shoulders when they’re close enough that it fits. At this point, Eren is blushing from his ears all the way down his neck and he’s shaking even harder, and this time it’s not from the cold. Levi has never been this close to him before. He doesn’t ever really touch him at all, to be honest. He smells incredible, his arms are strong, his entire body is warm, he’s so short, and he can really only hear his breathing over the sound of his own heart beating out of his fucking chest. Oh god, his chest is going to burst. He likes this. What does he do? Does he say anything? (Is he even capable of forming words?) Where does he put his arms? Does this even mean anything beyond sharing body heat for the sake of not wanting to be cold?

The worry is reflected on Eren’s face and Levi can feel him shaking in his arms. God fucking damn, this brat is a disaster. He’s a stupidly cute disaster. No, stupid and cute. “Problem solved.”

Eren nods and stammers, “Y-yeah, yep. Warm.” Levi doesn’t feel the need respond to that because he’s perfectly happy sitting in silence and just enjoying the night, but Eren has this notion that the silence is leaning toward uncomfortable, so he nervously messes with his fingers and actually gets a little frustrated with the situation. In a last-ditch effort to fix something that isn’t exactly broken, he turns toward Levi and asks, “The lights are really nice to look at, right?” but he doesn’t make eye contact because there is just no way, absolutely no way that he’ll be able to keep his composure.

Definitely a disaster. Something tells Levi that he knows exactly how to work him up even more, and he doesn’t let the opportunity pass him by. It benefits him too, after all. “I was actually thinking that there was something far nicer that I’d rather look at.” Eren’s face flushes bright red because he catches the hint immediately. He looks away and prays that Levi can’t see his blush in the darkness. (He can.) “Am I making you uncomfortable? I can leave, Eren.”

The suggestion makes Eren shake his head furiously and he almost interrupts Levi mid-sentence with a stream of “No no no no no no no it’s fine I’m fine stay here this is okay it’s fine seriously!” 

Levi laughs out loud, Eren gets embarrassed and shuts up because he’s slightly irritated, and this time Levi is the one to say something.

"This is the perfect place to watch fireworks. It usually gets pretty crowded, but when you get lucky and manage to get here when there aren’t a lot of people out."

"It’s almost December, though."

"Astute fucking observation. Jesus christ, you’re just determined to kill the mood.”

"Wait, I… Sorry. Okay. Fireworks. You like fireworks? I’m surprised. Do you see them with your girlfriend? Or, uh, partner?"

Levi looks at him in dead silence for a long time with a look that screams ‘you’re a fucking idiot.’ “You think I’m in a relationship? Really? I eat lunch with you one a week and I occasionally eat dinner and breakfast with you. I just took you to dinner, came here alone with you, and you think I’m in a relationship. You know, I shouldn’t be this stunned.”

"Well… I mean, I didn’t think I should read into any of that or anything. I figured we were just friends, so it made sense for you to have a partner or something."

"Just friends? Mm. Okay." Eren expects Levi to do something, but it sure as hell isn’t shrugging off his jacket, putting it back onto Eren’s shoulders, and moving away. He stares after him, perplexed and disappointed, but Levi doesn’t look back and doesn’t even seem particularly effected. Even so, it makes Eren’s heart hurt and he knows that he fucked up. What should he do? Shit. On impulse, he moves close again and repositions the jacket over them, nestles a little bit closer into Levi’s chest, and completely avoids eye contact again because he’s more or less mortified.

Okay. For a few moments, Levi had been concerned that he had overstepped his boundaries when Eren had voiced his confusion. Eren moving toward him reminds him that he just isn’t particularly good at picking up social cues, which isn’t too difficult to imagine because of his youth, and it’s exactly what Levi had hoped for. It’s permission to move forward, and it’s about fucking time. “You know, you can look at me.” Eren scowls and raises his head a little bit, just enough that Levi can catch his chin with his fingers and pull him over to kiss him. It catches him off guard and surprises him, but he doesn’t pull away like Levi expects him to. Instead, he kisses back, and he isn’t particularly skilled, but Levi hadn’t expected much to begin with and it isn’t like there is any tongue involved for Eren to fuck up. 

Levi’s lips are gentle but claiming, and Eren feels like his heart is going to burst. His throat burns and his head swims and his skin tingles when Levi raises a hand and runs his fingers through his hair. It feels like there’s electricity coursing through his veins and even though his kissing experience is fairly limited, this is incredible and he knows that he hasn’t felt like this before. Oh man, he really likes Levi. He likes him more than he has any right to like him, but that doesn’t even matter because they are kissing and now Levi’s fingers are entwined with his and his other hand is on his neck and he feels like his body might just shut down from sensory overload. 

Levi begins to pull away but Eren follows his lips and rubs his hand against the grain of his undercut. It makes him shiver, which in turn makes Eren shiver and pull away, breathing hard. Levi smiles— a real, genuine smile that makes Eren dizzy— and kisses him softly one more time then pulls Eren’s head down on his shoulder and wraps his arm around his waist. They don’t feel the need to say much for the rest of the night beyond agreeing that they should go home. The hand-holding on the bridge comes naturally, especially since its late enough that there aren’t many people still out, and there is an unspoken realization between them that things between them have just changed and won’t ever be the same again. It’s also an unspoken realization that the change is undeniably for the better.

Levi offers to drive him home but Eren refuses and tells him that it’s a really nice night out and he could use some time to just get lost in his thoughts. He decides against fighting him over it and settles for a goodbye kiss that leaves Eren wanting more, and another quick, chaste kiss promising it. Eren watches him drive away and his heart sinks because he fucked up so badly letting himself like a thirty year old when he’s fifteen.

Especially since he really doesn’t want to say something. He knows it’s a little selfish, but things are so good right now. So good. He doesn’t want to ruin that.

They spend the next month doing what they have been doing, to the point that Eren’s parents know that he goes out on saturdays to lunch with friends and has a new friend at school that he hangs out with after school occasionally. Sneaking out still occurs regularly, especially since they haven’t exactly decreased the number of times they see each other. They’re in a good place. Nothing is awkward after the kiss and, surprisingly enough, not much changes. They still talk and Levi relentlessly teases Eren, Eren snarks back, and the only difference is that they occasionally kiss. There aren’t any labels and that’s fine; things are comfortable and easy and fairly uncomplicated.

Levi lets Eren know that Christmas is his birthday two weeks prior and that he understands that they can’t do anything together that day. Instead, they schedule to do something on New Years since it’s close and somewhat easier. Eren’s fine with that because it’s pretty normal for him to spend New Years with friends watching fireworks and shit, so that’ll be easy to explain. He does, however, need to worry about getting Levi a gift. He’s a broke “college” student and, on top of that, he doesn’t have the foggiest clue what someone like Levi would want anyway. It’s quite possibly the sappiest idea he could come up with, but he decides on writing Levi a poem.

Does he know the first thing about writing poetry? No. But it can’t be that difficult.

Levi parks his car in his personal parking space at the capitol, so Eren meets him there and they start walking to the riverfront. Levi suggests that they go to City Island, so they push through crowds, cross the bridge, and Levi immediately takes him to the beach. They hadn’t rushed to get there so it’s a little crowded, but they find a place to sit together (read as: Levi shot a few glares and people moved enough that they could squeeze in and have room to spare).

It’s 11:45, so they still have 15 minutes until everything actually starts, and Eren decides that this is the perfect time to celebrate Levi’s birthday. He leans in and kisses his cheek and Levi looks over at him with an eyebrow raised. He’s almost overwhelmingly nervous and he’s convinced that he’s going to vomit, but he takes a deep breath and forces himself to speak anyway, just loudly enough that Levi can hear it. When he finishes, he ends it with a “Happy birthday, Levi,” and waits, breath held, for him to say something.

"Are you sure you’re an English major?"

Eren opens and closes his mouth a few times, trying to figure out how he should react to that, and settles on frowning and focusing on the sky and the people around him. He had managed to at least wish him a happy birthday, and that was more important than anything. The poem idea was stupid and he knew it, he was prepared for this reaction, wasn’t he? It didn’t stop it from stinging a little bit, but it wasn’t a big deal. Whatever. No need to say anything else. Ignoring the dull ache of disappointment, he brings his legs up to his chest, crosses his arms on his knees, and buries his face in his elbows. 

Levi realizes that he may have actually really hurt his feelings (he’s not heartless, but he’s not always great at being sensitive), so he runs a hand through his hair and leans into his ear so that he doesn’t have to yell over the people around them. “That was probably the most heartfelt gift I’ve ever received and I enjoyed it. Now, look.” He motions toward the city. Everyone around them starts the countdown.

Ten. Levi moves to sit directly beside Eren.

Nine. He pulls his jacket over both of their bodies. A familiar action.

Eight. He wraps an arm around his shoulders.

Seven. He pulls him into his side, pulls him a little closer.

Six. Eren snakes and arm around Levi’s waist.

Five. Levi finally takes advantage of his height and rests his head on Eren’s shoulder.

Four. Their unoccupied hands find each other.

Three. They interweave their fingers.

Two. Unknowingly, the both smile at how well they fit together.

One. Eren gently settles his chin on the top of Levi’s head.

Happy New Year!  Eren lifts his chin when Levi shifts and looks up at him. The bursts of orange, red, purple, pink, and yellow reflect in the blue-grey of his eyes, and Eren can barely hear the crackles of the fireworks over his own deafening heartbeat. Their lips meet amidst an explosion of color and noise, and Eren’s almost positive that the fireworks are for them and them alone. Levi is definitely positive that Eren is infinitely more breathtaking than what’s occurring around them.

Levi pulls away for a moment, disregards Eren’s subsequential melodramatic pout, and questions quietly, “Now, I actually have a request for one last gift. Are you willing to hear me out?”

Eren momentarily panics because he still really doesn’t have money for gifts, but nods anyway.

"How about we make this official, hm? Give it a name."

"You mean…?"

"Instead of my brat, you’ll be my boyfriend. Yes."

Eren is stunned by such a sweet, sentimental statement coming from Levi’s lips, of all people, but he doesn’t have to be asked twice. Instead of verbally agreeing, he chooses to respond with a gentle kiss that evolves into something more complete and meaningful. Levi tests the waters and tentatively presses his tongue past Eren’s lips for the first time, and though it catches Eren by surprise and he doesn’t have a sliver of experience, he rolls with it and kisses back.

His nerves eventually catch up with him, and Levi notices because his hands are shaking and he’s going fast, too fast. “Hey, speed racer, there’s no rush. Calm down, slow down. Breathe.” He brushes his thumb along his bottom lip and looks back up at his eyes with an eyebrow raised, waits until Eren takes a breath and nods, then kisses him again. It does the trick. Eren’s still shaking, but he forces himself to slow down and savor Levi’s parted lips and skillful tongue, possessive but not demanding. The moment that he’s capable of thinking clearly again, he notices that wow, this is really fucking nice. 

They pull back and Levi immediately moves to Eren’s ear again, whispers “Happy New Year,” and kisses the curve of his jaw, then returns his head to his shoulder and they both sit and watch the fireworks. Eren’s still too fucking happy to focus on anything and Levi is too pleased to particularly give a shit, but they watch anyway and enjoy how everything else melts away. It’s nice. Really nice.

They don’t get back to Levi’s car until 2 AM because of crowds, idiots, and just a general disinterest in rushing. The traffic is absolutely ridiculous going out of the city, so Eren keeps Levi company in his car.

Or, Eren considers keeping Levi company in his car until he gets a really good look at his car, a really good look, for the first time. It’s a sleek, metallic-black Jaguar XF, far more expensive than any car he has ever been in before. Levi unlocks it and orders Eren to take his shoes off before he sits down because “This thing is probably worth more than all of money that you’ve ever possessed combined.” He gets in himself, but Eren just stands outside the door with a frown and an expression that Levi can’t read. “The hell are you waiting for? It’s cold; the heat’s gonna kick on any second now. Don’t just stand there with the door open.”

"I don’t want to risk getting this dirty if it’s this expensive and it’s yours. Don’t worry about it, okay? I think I’ll just get going, thank you for everything."

"If you don’t sit your ass down right now I’ll make sure that you never sit again, Eren." His tone is flat and serious and the way he narrows his eyes sends shivers down Eren’s spine, so he clumsily removes his shoes and sits down stiffly with them in his lap. It’s obviously his first time in Levi’s car and it’s more terrifying than he could’ve ever imagined. The interior is leather with a beautiful figured ebony veneer and it smells like sandalwood, which is somehow incredibly fitting for Levi. He shoves his hands in his lap along with his shoes and stares at his feet because his nerves have been a fucking mess all night and this is just making it worse. Levi reaches over and moves his hand to the base of his neck so that he can pull him over a little bit, and kisses him. He works little circles into his shoulders with his fingers to calm him down and it works to some extent. When they pull apart and Levi rests his head back against the seat, Eren does the same.

"You know, you’re actually a lot nicer than you seem to want people to think you are."

Levi stares. Nobody has ever vocalized that before and it actually catches him off guard. It catches Levi, the man that seems to have his shit together completely, off guard. Eren can see it in the way that he opens his mouth to respond and nothing really comes out. “It’s not bad, that’s not what I meant. I’ve just seen the way that people veer away from you and slink away when they see you. You’re outwardly intimidating, but…” His voice trails off because he feels awkward finishing his thought, especially with the way that Levi’s watching intently.

"Continue."

"I take that back, that’s not a good example. You're intimidating. You’re more than that, though, and that’s what people don’t get. Your appearance doesn’t express a fraction of who you really are."

Eren’s convinced that he’d said something wrong because Levi doesn’t say anything for a long time. He sinks back into the chair and silently reprimands himself for opening his mouth, and when he does, Levi finally says so softly that he barely hears him, “Who am I?”

It’s not a question that Eren is expecting and it takes him a little while to properly formulate a response. Even then, he’s not entirely sure that he’s replying the way that he’s supposed to, but he chances it. “That’s what I’m trying to figure out.”

Apparently that’s the correct answer, because Levi reaches over and takes his hand. They don’t say much for the rest of the night, something that they are used to by now. At one point, Levi leans his chair all the way back and opens up the sunroof so they can see the sky, and Eren does the same. Not long afterwards, he experiences a sudden surge of confidence and pulls Levi clumsily into his chair, which is entirely too small for the both of them, and Levi ends up settled awkwardly on top of him with his shoulder digging into Eren’s chest and Eren’s hip digging into his lower stomach. They shift around while Eren is embarrassed out of his mind and Levi ends up wrapped semi-comfortably in his arms (only because he’s shorter, of course). Levi is really impressed that Eren finally made a move.

Stargazing eventually turns into kissing and cuddling. They rest in each other’s arms for a little while to celebrate their new and official relationship status until Eren decides that it’s finally late enough that he should go. Levi offers to drive him home, but Eren stubbornly insists on walking home, so much so that he gets legitimately angry when Levi refuses to relent. He literally cannot let Levi drive him home and he doesn’t let it go, so eventually Levi just mutters “Fine, you little shit. Be safe. If I see your stupid face on the morning news, ‘Dipshit College Student Gets His Dumb Ass Shot,’ I swear to God-“

"I’ll be fine. I’ll text when I’m home. Goodnight."

"Hey."

"Yeah?"

"I appreciate that you celebrated my birthday with me, kid. I can’t remember the last time I actually did something for it." Eren’s heart aches pleasantly and Levi opens his window just enough to kiss him before driving away.

He walks home feeling absolutely thrilled at the development they’ve made in their relationship, and equally terrified at the situation that he has put himself into.

He really, really likes Levi. Like most kids his age, Eren has been in relationships before. Little ones, meaningless ones. He’s wanted girls before, and he’s questioned his sexuality in the past (he still does, and he knows he’s at least Levi-sexual), but this is different. Everything about this is different. He wants to learn about him and his life— his past, present, future, family, friends, and job— and he wants to become an irreplaceable part of that life.  

Wouldn’t that make the age situation a serious issue? It would have to come up eventually. Would Levi really care, though? Isn’t it just a number?

From that point on, their meetings don’t increase in frequency but they grow in length, sometimes spanning from the moment Levi gets out of work to seconds before Eren’s curfew (and occasionally continuing after Eren sneaks back out and feeds Levi believable excuses for his absence). Dinners gradually turn into dinners with movies, dinners with walks, dinners with just about anything they want to do. Sometime in late January, on a Saturday night that Eren spends “with Armin,” the mutual decision is made to go ice skating.

Levi is more or less naturally graceful. It doesn’t take him a very long time to get used to being on the ice. Though he is far from professional and doesn’t go out of his way to do tricks or show off, he’s quite good. It’s like he floats on the ice. He makes it look effortless, especially to Eren. If Levi can do it, then so can he. Easily.

Nope.

Getting both feet on the ice is difficult enough, but standing is entirely too much to ask. Eren is on his ass before he has a chance to grasp onto anything that can anchor him. Getting up by himself proves to be unrealistic, and much to his dismay, Levi has to help him up and hold onto him until he finds his rhythm and can properly balance for more than three seconds. He finally lets go, but Eren grabs his hand out of necessity before he can go anywhere and they skate holding hands for a little while.

Eren can actually skate at this pace now that he’s used to it. He’s feeling confident—a little too confident— and he starts to speed up and tries to outdo Levi. Levi entertains his ego for a little while, skating behind him and letting him believe that he’s “trying to catch up.” In just a few smooth motions, however, he easily overtakes him speed-wise and literally ends up pulling him around the rink. Eren doesn’t even have a sense of balance anymore because the momentum Levi is creating keeps him upright, but that means that he flies directly into the wall when they separate. He hits hard and winds himself, then states while gasping, “I’m really bad this.”

"No fucking shit, idiot. Skate with me, not against me.” The request is met with a reluctant nod (his poor, poor wounded pride) and Levi holds his hand out for Eren to take.

Levi is wearing really nice black gloves and Eren’s bare hands are turning blue, so Levi skates around behind Eren and wraps his arms around him so that he can hold both of his hands in his. His execution is flawless and it works well until Levi inadvertently breathes on the back of Eren’s neck, destroys his concentration, and sends them both toppling over each other. 

The atmosphere shift from that point on is undeniable. Levi ends up face-down on Eren, straddling his ass, and the grinding action that occurs as Eren tries to lift himself up pulls a gasp from Levi’s lips and Eren feels it. Against his ass. It’s big and his cheeks flush as he breathes, “Shit.

They haven’t done anything particularly physical yet and there hasn’t been much of a rush to. Does Eren get hormonal and horny as hell? All the time. Has he thought about Levi while acquainting himself with his right hand? Multiple times. Together, however, they’ve never gone past occasionally grinding into each other, teasing. There was never enough time and the situation was never in their favor. 

"What are your plans for tonight?" Levi’s voice has a quality that Eren hasn’t heard before and it makes his entire body burn.

"I don’t have any."

"You do now."

A million thoughts are racing through Eren’s mind, and every single one of them is completely overwhelmed by the lust in Levi’s expression. They get up and it isn’t long before they’re back at the car sharing heated kisses, but instinct tells him to say something before things get serious. “Wow, alright. I think I should get going now, it’s pretty late and I don’t want anyone to worry about where I am. I had an incredible time tonight.”

"Didn’t you say that you didn’t have plans? Come home with me tonight. Part of my life you’ve never seen."

"I should really be getting back, I don’t want to worry anyone."

"They shouldn’t worry, you can call them. Come on, you’re starting to shiver."

"I’m fine. It’s not like you even have to drive me home or anything, I mean, I can get a taxi or-"

"Eren, come on. Don’t worry about them."

"I don’t really feel well, anyway. I should go home."

The look that Levi gives him reminds him that he’s a shitty liar. “If you just don’t want to go home with me, I expect for you to just say so. Don’t feed me bullshit, we’re not in high school anymore.”

He can’t ignore the twinge of pain inflected in his voice, and it breaks his heart. “No, Levi, that’s not what I meant-“

"I’ll take you back to your place. That’s fine. Get in."

"Levi, listen to me, please-"

"Would you shut the hell up and get in the car? I said it was fine. I’d be a shitty-ass person to get mad at you for something like this. Just tell me where you’re staying and I’ll get you there. I’m not letting you waste your money on a taxi."

"I’m fifteen."

It’s out in the open. Eren feels a weight lift from his shoulders, only to be replaced by a solid ball of dread in the pit of his stomach. It’s out in the open. Things can go anywhere from here, and there’s a good chance that he’ll lose Levi completely. No, this was a bad idea. It was the right thing to do, but this was a bad fucking idea. Levi regards him with unadulterated confusion. “What?”

"I’m fifteen, Levi."

"Fifteen what? Speak fucking English."

"I’m fifteen years old."

The silence is deafening. Levi’s expression becomes stoic and his eyes lock onto Eren, who can’t tell what he’s thinking because his poker face is too good, too refined and well-practiced… but he knows that he’s thinking hard and he isn’t pleased. Not in the least. “You’re fifteen years old.” Eren nods and averts his eyes. “You let me believe that you were a college student for over four months.” He nods again, and Levi blinks and nods too, slightly, as if to force himself to understand and accept it. “And what made you think that it was alright to withhold this information from me?”

"I didn’t think it was important and I didn’t want you to hate me."

"You didn’t think it was important." It isn’t a question, Levi says it as though he’s convincing himself. Trying to make himself believe it despite it’s absurdity. 

"Yeah. I’m so sorry, Levi. I know it was wrong of me, I’m really sorry. Please don’t let things change between us, please-"

"Get in the car, Eren. I need to take you back to your… Your parents’ house, I assume? Do they even know where you are?" He reconsiders for a moment and mutters, "Of course not. I’m sure you made up some sort of story. I’ll drop you off anyway, think of something to tell them. I won’t tell them anything."

"Can you at least text me when you get back home?"

"No."

"What? Why?"

"This was all built on lies, why the hell would I? You’re fifteen. This was a fucking childish thing to do. You are a child. Do you understand how fucking selfish what you’ve been doing is? That’s telling of your age.”

"But-"

"Don’t throw a fucking tantrum, get in the car so I can take you home. I’m not letting you pay for a taxi, I’ll take you. Hurry up."

"Would you stop it? Levi, I don’t want to go home. I know I’m being selfish. I don’t care. I want to be in your life and I know I fucked up. I really fucked up. Are you really going to let that screw up all of the time we spent together getting to know each other? Really? That’s so fucking ridiculous, you’re fucking-"

"Get in the car, you fucking brat. You don’t want to go home? Fine. I won’t take you home. Get in now, that’s not a request. That’s an order." Chills go down Eren’s spine because Levi’s voice is grave, but his face is still calm and unemotional. He looks like he’s fine, but the atmosphere is oppressive and tense. Eren has no idea what’s going to happen but he gets in anyway, quietly, and they sit in the most awkward, upsetting silence that they’ve experienced together. Levi doesn’t even glance in Eren’s direction, not until they’re at his house and he’s opening the door for him. 

"Do you need to call your parents or something?" Levi’s voice is cold, so cold that it makes Eren’s chest hurt.

"No. Levi, I really-"

"I’ll take you back in the morning." He’s in the kitchen and he pours himself a tumbler Jack Daniel’s, a glass of coke (Eren’s favorite; he’s not even consciously aware that he’s already memorized it), and brings it to the living room. "Don’t spill it anywhere. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get ready to sleep. I’ll be up early to take you home. Goodnight." He exits the room and Eren watches him turn into a door at the end of his hallway. 

Oh, he fucked up. He knows he fucked up, and it hurts so much to breathe. He collapses back onto the couch feeling empty and it’s an incredibly soft couch, but he can’t get comfortable and it smells like Levi and he really fucking likes him. It hurts. He can’t accept that it’s over, he can’t accept that he’s being treated like a child after four months of building up to being seen as his equal. He needs to say something, he needs to do something.

He stands up from the couch and goes directly to the door that he saw Levi disappear into, listens for a moment, hears nothing, and pushes the door open a little bit to see if he’s still there. He opens his mouth to call his name but his breath catches in his throat before anything comes out.

Levi’s glass of rum is sitting untouched on the small dresser beside his bed. Facing the far wall, he’s hunched over with his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands, unmoving and silent. This is the most upset Eren has ever seen him. His fingers are curled stiffly and distraughtly in his hair (which is now pulled back messily) and it looks like he hadn’t even bothered hanging up his scarf and sweater because they’re scattered haphazardly on his floor. Incredibly unlike Levi, who deeply values order and cleanliness. 

"… Levi?"

Eren watches him visibly tense at the sound of his voice and automatically regrets coming. “Jesus, kid. I came here alone for a reason.” He straightens himself up but doesn’t look back to make eye contact. “Go back to the room, go to sleep. I said we’re leaving early tomorrow.”

"Don’t call me ‘kid’."

"That’s what you are. I’d assume that’s preferable to ‘brat.’"

"I’m not a kid."

"You’re fifteen. You’re a child."

Anger surges through his body, a pulse of electricity from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. He immediately walks in front of Levi and faces him, stands so close that he’s the only thing that he can see. It’s ballsy, incredibly ballsy, but it’s an impulse and he rolls with it. “That’s the problem with you. People like you. ‘Adults’ in general. There’s this fucking idea across the board that there’s a direct correlation between age and what can and can’t be done and felt and experienced. Nothing changed. I’m still the same fucking person I was the day that we met. I’m the person that you kissed. I’m the person that spent New Years with you and watched the stars for hours. I’m your fucking boyfriend,” Levi actually cringes at the word and Eren holds back the sudden urge to cry, “regardless of the number you tack onto me.”

"That number matters. It’s important whether you want it to be or not. A hell of a lot rides on that number, do you not understand that?"

"Would you stop being such a prick?"

"You’re really not helping your case right now.”

" What do I need to say, then? What are you so worried about?"

This is illegal. Well, it isn’t yet, but it was fucking heading that way fast. We can’t let anyone-“

"You told me not to worry about other people earlier, don’t be a hypocrite."

"Do you even hear yourself right now? Do you understand the consequences of any of this? What about this is so hard for you to grasp?"

"No, what about this is so hard for you to grasp? I was fifteen when I spilled my soup on you, when I bought you lunch, when you kissed me at the river and when we saw the fireworks. Why does a number have the power to change how you feel about me? That’s so fucking shallow!”

Goddamnit, Eren. Nothing has changed how I feel about you, so you need to shut your mouth when you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about-“

"You asked me who you were and I didn’t have an answer for you, but I’ve been looking for that answer. People don’t usually get to know you, but I want to, and now you’re pushing me away for something this stupid? Nobody needs to know. We’ve made it this long without trouble. You look younger, I look older… We’ll be careful, and I won’t tell anyone. My sixteenth birthday is in two months and from then it’s only two years.”

"Get out."

"…What?"

"Get out of my room. Go back to the living room. We’re not doing this. Everything that needed to be said has been said and nothing is going to change. Stop wasting my time."

"But-"

"On second thought, stay here. You can have the bed, I’ll sleep on the couch. Bathroom is the next door over if you need it. I’d suggest showering, there are towels in there. In fact… Please go shower. I’ll leave out shit you can change into for the night while you’re gone. Call me if you need anything. Go."

Eren really, really wants to say something but decides against it and seems to begrudgingly accept the fact that he has effectively lost Levi. Levi watches him disappear around the corner and lies back on the bed with his hands over his face when he hears the bathroom door click. Too much in a short period of time, entirely too much. He feels like he’s been hit by a fucking train. He’d been falling for this— no, don’t call him kid, don’t pour salt into the wound— guy so hard. Genuinely falling. God, how long had it been? Years? He’d had sex friends in the past, sure, but everything with Eren has been purely emotional. He’s an impulsive, passionate, mouthy, adorable little fuck that gives him headaches and makes him want to punch walls and kick things and kiss him until he gasps his name, craves air and begs him for more. 

But… Fifteen. What a disgusting word. That’s like Eren dating a newborn. Oh god, the thought makes Levi want to vomit. He’s a child. He hasn’t been exposed to the world, he doesn’t have responsibilities. He doesn’t know what it means to have a job, to have bills, to have self-discipline and self-control, or to have a grasp on what life really is. He heaves himself up with a sigh and opens a drawer, searches for a pair of sweatpants that would fit Eren.

Eren, who is taller than him. The bastard makes him feel like a kid…

No. What really makes Eren a child, besides a number? 

He’s impulsive, trusting, ignorant, unrefined, selfish, clumsy, and inexperienced…. But didn’t those apply to the vast majority of Levi’s coworkers and employees, too? Hanji is trusting and unrefined. Auruo is clumsy and selfish. Erwin can be considered impulsive. The entire lot could be ignorant as hell, and as far as inexperience goes… Well, wasn’t he inexperienced, too? He sure as hell didn’t have experience with love, and that’s what this has become, or is becoming quickly. Love. Fuck.

He can’t lie and tell himself that there aren’t qualities about Eren that he adores. He’s is driven. As driven as Levi, if not more. He’s passionate, tenacious, honest with his emotions, and he has an understanding of Levi’s mind and emotions that demonstrates that he’s not stupid. He’s far from stupid. He’s in no way, shape, or form a genius, and he’s quite clumsy with his actions and words, sure. He does, however, possess a unique kind of intelligence that Levi appreciates. He sees through Levi like an open window and it’s almost disconcerting. As far as being selfish goes, he’s not entirely selfish. Hasn’t he gone out of his way to make Levi happy for the last few months? 

That’s the problem with you. People like you. ‘Adults’ in general. There’s this fucking idea across the board that there’s a direct correlation between age and what can and can’t be done and felt and experienced.

Levi groans and rubs his head. He hated being thrown in with those stereotypes when he was growing up. Looking back, he didn’t know half as much as he thought he did, but he’d still known enough to invalidate those assumptions. At fifteen, he had been through more than most twenty-one year olds had. In some cases, age really is just a number, he realizes bitterly. A word that holds a troubling amount of generalized meanings. A number that threatens to snatch Eren right up from underneath him, to take him away for reasons based upon generalized information. Eren is one of the outliers and they both have to pay for matters that are out of their hands. This isn’t fair for anyone, especially not Eren. 

Levi recognizes that he has effectively caused most of this mess. He had been the one to initiate the kiss, to ask him out, and to let him get close. He would be a coward to step out now and use the law as an excuse for not seeing things through and taking responsibility for his actions. He wasn’t that kind of person, he didn’t need to make excuses. Crap. Besides, four months of hard work and money had been spent keeping Eren around and happy. Four months. That’s a good chunk of time. Like hell he’ll just let this go without trying to make it work. 

"Levi? Levi, Seriously, I’m not letting this go, okay?" Eren opens the door and peers in before he enters (he obviously checked the living room first; Levi sighs when he realizes that he’s still looking for something for him to wear) and looks physically pained when he finally finds the man he’s been looking for. It’s debatable whether or not he really wanted to find him. His voice falters when he continues, “We don’t need to do anything physical. I won’t force you to, I know it’s against the law or whatever. Nothing needs to be physical. If you need that…” He bites his lip, clenches his fists, and finishes with noticeable difficulty, “you can do it with someone else. Whoever you want. I just want to stay with you. I’ll be careful, I’ll make sure nobody finds out about us. We don’t have to go on dates in public, I don’t have to text you anymore…” His chest tightens with each word and his eyes burn. He doesn’t want to cry, he can’t cry. He’s not a child. He can’t let Levi see him cry over this-

Levi slides a hand behind his neck and pulls his face down into his shoulder. The physical contact is all Eren needs for the tears to fall, uninvited. “Eren. It’s not your fault.” Levi can’t feel Eren’s tears because his hair is dripping through the fabric of his shirt, but his shoulders and the gentle slope of his bare back shake slightly with each suppressed sob. “I’m not doing anything with anyone unless it’s you, don’t be an idiot. It’s my own fault-“

"I think I love you, Levi. Please don’t leave," It’s not particularly well-timed, but he can’t hold it in any longer. Eren chokes out the confession and tries to move back, but Levi slides an arm around his waist, just above his towel, and keeps him close. Love. Hearing it out loud is strange and foreign. Thinking and hearing are worlds apart, and Levi thinks he loves him, but hearing it… It makes his heart stir in a way that it hasn’t stirred in years and he knows. 

"I love you too, and I’m not leaving. We’ll figure this out. Don’t cry. Look at me." Eren raises his head but turns away and wipes his eyes into the insides of his elbows.

"I’m not fucking crying-"

Levi cups his face in both hands and kisses him, and Eren raises his arms around his shoulders to hold him tightly. Levi drops his hands to his waist, just above his towel, and slides his fingers down along his navel and his hip bones, down beneath the fabric…

"Wait, Levi, are you sure about this? I mean it, we really don’t need to do anything. I just don’t want you to leave."

"I’m not going anywhere and I plan on finishing what I started. I’m taking responsibility for my actions, Eren, the most important of said actions being," he pauses, still unsure of the unfamiliar way that it sounds when it leaves his lips, "loving you."

There’s a quiet sincerity in Levi’s words that makes Eren’s heart yearn for him. He’d been freezing cold moments ago, unable to adjust to the sudden shift from a warm shower to standing, still dripping, in a drafty room. Now every inch of skin that Levi’s fingers graze burns beneath his touch. His breath feels hot and dry in his throat, it’s labored as fingers wander to the small of his back and, eventually, his ass for a firm squeeze that rolls their hips together. The friction that it creates ensures that Eren can feel Levi’s erection through the towel, and it makes his face flush. He’s really big. The only thing between them is Levi’s pants when his fingers pull the towel away and it falls to the ground. He doesn’t have time to feel embarrassed or self conscious; their lips collide and it takes Eren’s breath away.

Levi pulls Eren up onto his waist and urges him to wrap his legs around him, which he does, and he takes him back to the bed. 

He pushes him back and straddles his thighs. Once he’s situated, he works his shirt off and sets it aside, and leans over Eren to kiss his neck and work his hands down his body. “Wait, wait. Hold on. This… I’m not sure about this, Levi. I’ve never done the gay sex thing.” He knows plenty about heterosexual sex, but this is entirely different. Especially since something tells him that he’s not going to be topping.

"If we’re going to make this relationship happen, Eren, we need to trust each other completely. Understood?" Eren pauses thoughtfully, then nods. "Do you trust me?" Another nod. "Good. I won’t hurt you. Lie down and relax for me." 

Eren hesitantly complies, wondering how on earth Levi expects him to relax when he’s cold, naked, and about to be fucked. It’s overwhelming and vaguely scary, to be honest. It doesn’t matter how turned on he is (and he’s turned on, there’s no doubt about that; Levi pulls off his pants and boxers together and Eren hasn’t ever been this fucking horny before), this is still new and worrying. Levi brushes a hand up Eren’s side and kisses him tenderly. “You don’t need to do anything this time. Don’t argue with me.” Of course, Eren automatically opens his mouth to argue only to be cut off by Levi’s lips. “Don’t test me.” Levi feels him swallow hard and tremble underneath his body, face pale. He’s still inexperienced. Give him a break. He raises a hand to his face and runs his fingers through his hair, down his cheek, along his jawline, and traces his lips with a thumb. 

He doesn’t say anything, nothing needs to be said. Not now.

He trails kisses down his neck, chest, stomach, and down to his inner thigh, where he stops and bites. Eren inhales sharply, senses already heightened to Levi’s teasing, and Levi uses that as his cue to shift slightly and lick a line from the base to the head of Eren’s half-hard cock. (Levi ensures that it doesn’t stay half-hard for long.) Trembles give way to shivers and strained breaths. Every nerve in Eren’s body feels electrically charged; he fists his hands into the sheets and stifles a moan when Levi takes him into his mouth. “L-Levi,” he breathes and seems surprised at the raspy quality of his voice, “please don’t stop now, please.”

Levi deepthroats him and the vibrations from his soft chuckle make Eren’s toes curl. The sensation is almost too much for him to handle, it overwhelms his senses and he pulls Levi’s head back, breathing hard. He shifts back onto the bed and sits up on his knees, then stares down at Eren. “Have you ever fingered yourself?”

"What… What kind of question is that? What the hell?" His face is bright red and his eyes fall from Levi’s, embarrassment returning following the pause in stimulation. 

"I just sucked your dick and you’re embarrassed about touching yourself? Eren, I’m telling you right now, sex isn’t anything like what you read about or see in movies. You need to be comfortable with me, comfortable with yourself, completely comfortable in general. I’m not judging your fucking dick size or anything, this isn’t the goddamn locker room. There are a hell of a lot more embarrassing things than fingering yourself, just wait until you hear the noises your body is going to make. Come on, answer my question.” Eren frowns and covers his face with his arm, knowing that it sounds stupid for him to be ashamed and, for all intents and purposes, it is stupid, but he can’t help it. He doesn’t answer verbally and instead chooses to nod, to which Levi raises an eyebrow in disbelief. “Really? When this this start, hm?”

"Levi!" Eren yells, exasperated, and quickly adds, "That’s not helping anything!"

"I just wanted to know if I was dealing with a virgin asshole, baby," he counters sarcastically, flips him to bend over on his knees, and presses a finger into him a little bit too suddenly. Eren’s breath hitches and his body tenses enough that Levi has to rub up his back to soothe him and quietly encourage, "Relax, relax. I won’t go fast. Breathe." He presses another finger in and angles toward where Eren’s prostate should be-

Fuck," he chokes and automatically ruts back onto Levi’s fingers, his body seeking that jolt of pleasure. Levi works to hit it again and smirks at the reaction it causes, because there’s something terribly sexy about seeing Eren practically begging for the sensation that only he can give him. Something terribly sexy about the way that he unintentionally moans Levi’s name, and the way that Eren’s back arches and he pushes back against his knuckles after Levi presses a third finger and allows him to get used to it. He feels his self control starting to crumble. “Levi, I… I think I’m ready. I really want more than just your fingers.” Yep, self control is gone.

He moves to the dresser beside his bed again, takes a quick sip of his abandoned alcohol, and rummages through the first drawer until he finds the condoms and lube that he had presumptuously purchased not too long ago. “Wait, make sure those aren’t expired or whatever.”

"… These are new."

"Oh, really? Nevermind, sorry."

"Wait, just how fucking long do you think it’s been since I last got laid?"

"I don’t know, what made you assume that we’d be needing them enough that you bought them already?" Eren retorts.

"Oh ho ho, touché," Levi replies, visibly impressed by Eren’s quick comeback, and sits back behind him again. He pushes him onto his back and assumes position between his legs after he pulls on a condom and applies a liberal amount of lube (he isn’t taking any chances hurting him, not tonight), raises both of his legs over his shoulders, and stops at his entrance. "Are you ready?"

Eren nods and covers his face again while he feels his cheeks burn again. Levi is being so careful and gentle, and while he’s not complaining, he can’t help but feel bashful about the entire situation. He’s so exposed in every way. He’s naked, he’s giving himself to Levi in the most intimate way, and they’ve tentatively confessed their love. He feels like an open book and it’s bizarre, it’s so bizarre. He’s not used to letting other people have this level of control over him and his emotions.

Levi holds his thigh with one hand and reaches down with the other, pulls Eren’s hand away from his face, and threads their fingers together. “Let me see your face. If I’m going to break the law, I might as well enjoy it and do it how I want to do it. I want to see everything, just in case I never get the chance to again.”

"Why wouldn’t you get the chance to again?"

Levi pauses. He doesn’t blink, doesn’t breathe, doesn’t speak. A hint of a small, sad smile works across his lips and he gives Eren’s hand a squeeze that lasts a little bit too long, like it’s physically difficult to let go. Eren’s brows furrow deeply and he digs his nails into Levi’s back when he finally fills him. It feels like he’s being torn apart and it brings tears to his eyes, but he’s in too much pain to care about crying in front of Levi again and he’s in too much pain to read into Levi’s previous actions. “Are you alright?” A frantic shake of his head. “Breathe, deep breaths. Relax your muscles. You don’t have to do anything but relax and let me take care of you.” 

Eren manages a grunt of confirmation and tries to focus on something other than the intense burn pulsing through his hips and lower back, which is significantly easier said than done. Levi leans over him, bends him back a little, and kisses him deeply in hopes that it’ll distract him long enough for his body to adjust. It doesn’t, of course, but the pain dulls enough that Eren can do something other than cringe. He kisses back and meets each push of Levi’s tongue with his own until he’s numb enough that he’s comfortable with moving. “Levi?” He pulls back and Levi looks down at him, obviously concerned about his well-being. “Would you fuck me already?”

The little smartass. He’d been genuinely worried. “That’s really what you want? Fine, you little shit.” Oh, he’ll fuck him. He works into the thrusts and establishes a rhythm quickly. Eren bites down on his hand to keep himself quiet, but Levi intervenes almost immediately and angles a sharp thrust directly into his prostate. “Give me everything, Eren.” He still has plenty that he wants to say and request, but he’s not capable of words beyond that point, and Eren isn’t, either. He’s too busy focusing on every snap of Levi’s hips, and Levi’s too busy focusing on how tight he is. It feels so fucking good. His pace quickens as he feels himself nearing his limit and each thrust is met with a moan (he can’t completely tell who’s making them, and he doesn’t care), and as he comes undone, he fists a hand into Eren’s hair and kisses him hard while he rides out his orgasm. His other hand falls from his thigh to Eren’s cock, strokes until he finishes, and then he collapses beside him to catch his breath.

Eren waits a few moments before he quietly murmurs, “Levi?”

"Would it kill you to just shut up and relax for a second?"

"It’s important."

Levi sighs and lazily props himself up on an elbow to face him. His exhaustion is apparent and Eren feels bad, but not bad enough to leave him alone. “I’m listening.”

"Why did you say that you wouldn’t get the chance to do this again?"

"Jesus christ, you ruin the mood every single time we do something." He sighs and seriously contemplates ignoring the question, but Eren’s face is too troubled and hurt. He’s like a goddamn puppy, impossible to disregard. "Do you remember what I told you I do for a living?"

"Yeah, you do stuff for the government, don’t you?"

"I do. That means I’m constantly in the public eye. This is incredibly illegal. If anyone finds out about this, I’ll have charges filed against me in a heartbeat. Statutory rape-“

"This is consensual, though. We’re in a relationship, we’ve been in a relationship for months. I wanted this."

"No, that’s not the rape that I mean. Statutory rape. You’re underage."

"Why is there this idea that everyone under the age of eighteen is incapable of thinking for themselves? I get that some people aren’t mature enough to make good decisions, but… Why the hell can’t I make choices about who I want to love, Levi? I love you and it’s not fair that I’m being punished for it. It’s not fair that you’re being punished for it, since I’m forcing you to stay with me.”

"You’re not forcing me to do anything. I’m with you because I want to be with you. I spent a hell of a lot of time and money on you, I put so much of myself into this goddamn relationship. I let myself fall for you for a reason, there’s no reason that a single word should void all of that. You said it yourself: nothing changed. You’re the same idiotic shithead that you were when you ruined my fucking suit."

"I don’t want anything to happen to you, though."

"Quit running your mouth." He moves a lock of hair away from Eren’s eyes, kisses him chastely, and presses their foreheads together. "Go to sleep. I’m going to take a shower and get cleaned up." Eren bites his lip, nods, and watches him leave the room and shut the door.

He feels marvelous, for the most part. His entire body is warm and tingling pleasantly, especially the places that Levi’s fingers had brushed. Even hearing Levi’s name in his mind makes his head spin and his heart swell. It’s unclear to him how much of it is just post-sex bliss or love, and he settles on the idea that it’s an equal mixture of both. He loves Levi. It’s not an “I think” or “maybe” anymore, he’s positive that he loves him. Everything about Levi, everything, is oddly incredible. His bizarrely beautiful grey eyes, his perfectly styled hair, his young face, his deceivingly small build (he’s surprisingly muscular, Eren has come to realize), his sense of style, his sarcasm, his unrefined sense of humor, the way that he speaks, how fucking talented he is at everything he does… Even the fact that he’s an asshole is endearing. 

Levi’s words won’t stop cycling through his head, though, no matter how much he wills them away.

He does work for the government, and he is in the public eye constantly. What if one of them slips up? What if someone catches them in public, or somehow hears about their relationship? While Eren isn’t entirely acquainted with the laws regarding age, he knows that when he hears about things like this in the media, it tends to become a big deal. He’s heard of people getting up to twenty years for it, and it’s frightening to think about. 

Levi would lose his job, of course. He’d lose everything he’s worked so hard for. Thirty-one years of his life would be thrown away for Eren’s sake. The thought of people looking down on him for dating a fifteen year old is unbearable, especially knowing that everything would be his fault. What if he gets physically attacked? This is an underage relationship, and on top of that, it’s a gay underage relationship. The potential for hate crime is too much to ignore. His contentment contorts and dissolves into uneasiness and he feels sick to his stomach. This all started with the fucking soup. 

Would he go back and stop himself from going into the restaurant for Levi’s sake? It breaks his heart to consider, but he would. In a heartbeat. This isn’t what he wanted to happen.

He’s never been so grateful to be exhausted, because otherwise, there would be no way that he’d be able to sleep. Not with this on his mind.

Levi steps back into the room while Eren is walking the line between conscious and unconscious. It’s too late for him to have regrets now, what’s done is done and he’s prepared to face whatever consequences he needs to face. Is he still worried? Yes, but more about Eren than anything else. This is a lot for anyone to shoulder, especially when they’re directly involved. The real world is one hell of a shitty place and if Eren hasn’t already realized that, he will soon. Very soon. The only thing that Levi can do is guide him through it and provide support when needed.

He settles down beside Eren and presses his lips gently to his forehead, his nose, his lips, and the temple closest to him. The situation is delicate and it will be delicate for three more years. He’ll have to live every day in the moment, relish every moment spent with Eren just in case it really is the last. The boy in his arms is special to him. He reminds him of himself and there is a respect there, a sense of equality. Levi wraps an arm around his shoulders; his grip is firm and he doesn’t plan on letting go.

——————————————-

"Come on, please? All I want to do is help. I know how to cook, I mean it."

"Making sandwiches doesn’t count as cooking."

"But-"

"Neither does microwaving tv dinners. Besides, you’re messy as hell. Just go sit in the living room and do something. I don’t care what. Watch TV, read something, sleep, doesn’t matter. Just don’t make a mess of anything."

Eren frowns and crosses his arms over his chest. This is fairly standard. He has come to the realization that Levi is incredibly protective of his kitchen, to the point that he is barely permitted to touch the fucking refrigerator without being reprimanded. In fact, he’s anal about a lot of things. Where he puts his shoes, where he hangs his coat, how clean he is when he’s in his car… He sighs and turns toward the couch in the middle of the living room. The TV would have to do.

He grabs the remote and scrolls through channels without paying much attention to what flashes by. It’s just a waiting game now, he just needs to keep himself busy until Levi finishes dinner. They’ve been doing this for a while now, opting to have most of their dates at home with home-cooked meals, rented movies, video games (Levi kicks ass at Uncharted 3, it’s ridiculous), and a healthy amount of cuddling. He can’t complain. It’s more intimate this way, and he enjoys the closeness and the attention. Even though he feels incredibly selfish for thinking this way, he really likes knowing that Levi is his and his alone. Despite the fact that they’ve established time and time again that the age gap isn’t of consequence, Eren still feels insecure when they’re out in public. Levi’s attractive and it’s impossible to ignore the lustful stares he gets, and it’s even more impossible to convince himself that he’s the best option for him. Too much going against him.

"Oi, are you daydreaming again? Dinner’s ready. Get your head out of your ass and come eat."

Levi’s voice snaps him out of his thoughts, but he’s still markedly troubled while he crosses the threshold into the dining room. He sits and Levi watches him carefully. He’s gotten good at understanding Eren’s moods, and this one has been showing up entirely too often.

"I don’t hate you nearly as much as I hate everyone else.”

Eren stares blankly at him. It had clearly been meant as a compliment, but Levi is decidedly bad at those. “Uh… Thanks?”

Levi knew that he’d messed up the moment that the words left his lips, but Eren’s face falls and it hits him that he’s actually really hurt. “Okay, look at me. You are-“

The doorbell interrupts him mid-sentence, and Eren uses it to escape the tension and breathe. “I’ll get it.” He’s out of his chair before Levi can even blink.

The few steps that it takes to reach the door are just enough for Eren to regain his composure and force a smile. He opens it with his mouth open, ready to greet his guest, but his words catch in his throat.

"Does a Mr… Hm. Mr-"

"You’re looking for Levi." It’s not a question, it’s a monotone statement laced with horrified disbelief. The two officers nod and wait expectantly for Eren to do what he knows he’s required to do. "Levi? Could you come here for a second?" His voice is weak and detached, and it feels distant. The entire scene unfolding in front of him feels distant. Levi’s expression doesn’t change when he sees the police at his door, not even when he offers himself up.

"You’re under arrest for statutory rape. You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney and if you can not afford an attorney, one will be appointed to represent you. You can choose to exercise these rights at any time…" Eren lunges for Levi before he can finish and one of the guards restrains him almost immediately. They start back to the car and Eren tries to catch up, he tries so incredibly hard but his legs won’t move fast enough. He’s running, he’s trying with every ounce of his being to run, but they just keep getting further and further away. 

"He didn’t do anything!" The words tear from his throat and reverberate against invisible walls, teasing him with his own desperation. "It’s not his fault, he didn’t do anything wrong! It’s my fault, this is all my fault. Levi? Levi! This is my fault, it’s only my fault."

Court hearings. Newspaper headlines and media coverage. Gossip and hate. Ruined lives. He’ll never live this down, it’ll be plastered on his reputation until he dies. He ruined his life. He’s gone, it’s all over, they weren’t careful enough. He wasn’t careful enough. 

He’s gone, it’s my fault. Gone. Gone. Gone. Gone…

—————————————————————-

"Eren? Oi, Eren. It’s okay, come here."

He returns to consciousness with burning eyes and tear-stained cheeks. Between shuddering breaths, he observes his surroundings, taking a moment to recall where is is, why he’s here, and the reason behind Levi holding him so tightly right now.

"Are you awake now? It was just a dream. You’re safe. Nothing’s happening to you."

"I wasn’t worried about me," he whispers hoarsely and wipes tears from his face, "it was you. Levi, I’m going to ruin your life, I’m so sorry. I don’t want them to arrest you, this isn’t your fault, this is all my-"

"Hold the fuck on. First of all, nobody is arresting me. You won’t ruin my life. This isn’t all your fault."

"It is, though. I wish I could go back and stop myself from walking into that restaurant. I didn’t expect for any of this to happen and there’s no going back now. It bothers me so much that there isn’t a single thing I can do to swing this in our favor, I just-"

"Shut up. Nobody could’ve predicted that your utter lack of grace would eventually evolve into this. It’s such a waste of time and energy to regret the decisions that you’ve made, Eren. There’s nothing you can do about them now. At the time I’m sure that you believed, from the bottom of your heart, that everything you did was right. Anyone would’ve. It’s damn near impossible to see into the future or predict every consequence that your choices may have, so you just have to trust that you won’t regret them in the long run. I’m telling you right now that you better not fucking regret it. I don’t regret giving you my suit, buying you lunch, giving you my number, buying you dinner, taking you places, or making you mine. I regret nothing. Doesn’t that tell you something?”

"Sure, but this still isn’t how everything should’ve turned out. It’s my own fault for lying, but I couldn’t help it. It felt so necessary at the time."

"Explain."

"I didn’t mean to hurt anyone, I really didn’t. Especially not you. I just… It’s really fucking hard. People judge so heavily based on age. Everything revolves around it. Nobody ever takes me seriously when they know that I’m fifteen. Every single problem that I deal with is automatically discredited and filed away as ‘hormones’ or ‘growing up’ or ‘a phase.’ What the hell makes my problems any less valid than they would be if I were in my thirties? What makes my feelings any less important or real? I just wanted you to take me seriously, that’s all. I didn’t want to cause trouble and it was probably more childish of me to do th-"

Levi interrupts again, this time with a hand over Eren’s mouth. All the brat ever does is talk, even after just waking up. Ridiculous, it’s too early for this shit. “That’s what people do. They nitpick and find reasons to bitch. Everything you do and experience is important and genuine, Eren. You’re still young, yes, and there will always be certain circumstances that relate solely to growing up, but it’s wrong to assume that everything is directly related to your youth.” He sighs and looks him square in the eyes. “I made my own choice, I’m with you of my own accord. I could count the amount of fucks I give about what people think on less than one hand. We’ll be careful, I’ll make sure of that.” He moves his hand to cup Eren’s cheek gently and his voice lowers, “If you’re expecting anything about this to be easy, you’re wrong. Three years isn’t a particularly short stretch of time. Back out now if it’s going to be too much, because I have no desire to waste my time with someone that isn’t committed to making this work.”

Eren rolls to face Levi and buries his head in his chest, then lets out a slightly cathartic sigh. He knows. Every fiber of his being knows and it hurts so much. Hearing Levi’s heartbeat underneath his ear serves to marginally justify it, but that doesn’t erase the knowledge that he isn’t sure that he’ll be able to do this. He wants to, he wants to more than anything and if it were anyone but Levi, he’d do it without a second thought. But this isn’t just about him, it’s about them. It’s about Levi just as much as it’s about Eren, and Levi holds an importance to him that is otherwise unparalleled. It’s troubling that he doesn’t know what to do, but… he finds himself thinking about what Levi had said.

It’s damn near impossible to see into the future or predict every consequence that your choices may have, so you just have to trust that you won’t regret them in the long run.

It’s a shot in the dark, really.

"I’m not going to back out. I’ll be around until the end."

I don’t regret giving you my suit, buying you lunch, giving you my number, buying you dinner, taking you places, or making you mine. I regret nothing. Doesn’t that tell you something?

Yes, yes it does.