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What's left of me

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Eren... Eren! Shh, I need you to- please listen to me, baby! You’re going to hide and be quiet, understand me? Don’t come out. No matter what you hear or see, we’re playing hide and seek, remember, don’t move. If they find you, run… Baby, we’re playing tag too, you can’t be tagged… Sweetie, please don’t cry, I know you’re scared but we need to play our game, understand me?... You need to promise me something, can you do that for me? Keep running, even if you don’t see me, run to grampa’s house and nowhere else. He’ll take care of you until-... until I can come get you… What are you talking about silly goose? I’m not crying... Before the game begins, tell me what I told you...Yes, that’s good, baby, remember that exactly. My special, brave boy. Now hide! I’ll see you when the game ends, remember that. Eren, I love you...I love you so much.

Chapter Text

His dreams were always the same. His mother’s voice filling his head with warning, followed by the darkness, an endless black, and he dreaded the moment when the thin light appeared. The light gave him a view of his room, but his eyes shut before he could see inside his old bedroom. He knew what he was going to see. The outcome was always the same and his small frame could do nothing against the man in black. He anticipated the gunshot...but it still made him jump, made his ears ring for moments long after the shot fired. The thud of his mother’s body hitting the carpet never came as a surprise, not after having the same dream for so long, but the sob that ripped through him and panic that suffocated him felt like the first time, every time. In the beginning, he kept his eyes open and saw his mother fall, and he learned remarkably quick not to. He could see the life leaving her warm eyes, could see his mother slipping away from her body as she took her last breath, and he wished he could look away once he saw her but couldn’t. He could never get the image of her dead out of his head, even when the features of her face were slowly disappearing and he couldn’t remember anything about her anymore. He knows deep down that this dream wasn’t just a dream, another form of torment, but a constant reminder of how he failed. Of how he couldn’t escape even though his mother gave her life for him.

When Eren woke up from his only dream, his sensitive eyes quickly adjusted to the unnaturally bright room. To spare them, he attempted to shield them but came to the realization that his arms were lead, unmoving and tiresome. His neck groaned and cracked as he took in the overly familiar room. Everything was white and nothing was private. The walls, tile floor, ceiling, bed frame, pillows, blankets, and even the damn toilet, next to the bed, was the overused color. Occasionally, there would be something other than white. Sometimes the floor would be splattered with red, blood escaping from his wounds and eventually, his bed would become soiled along with it. Although by the time his body permitted to rest and he wakes up, the crimson color would be replaced, once again bathing the room in white with the heavy smell of chemicals. His nose no longer cringed at it since the heavy fumes and him were well acquainted. His head ached when he tries to think of how long he’s been in this room and fails to come up with an answer every time. How could he ever count the days? Windows were nonexistent and the only form of light came from the flickering artificial lights above. They never turned off. Always burning brightly until one of them gives out with a crack and is replaced; the never-ending cycle. He could count the number of times the guards change shifts but some feel longer than most. Or it just feels longer because time seems to be discontinued with certain guards that like to throw slurs and insults at him. They’ve never once treated him like the person his mother raised him to be, like he was filth, an animal...a monster. Eren tries to push their words out of his mind but they sometimes seep into his flesh and taint his inner walls. He knows deep down, buried within his head, that he deserves this treatment; that he was truly a freak and doesn’t have the privilege to be shown kindness. He told himself that he should be grateful that they’ve kept him alive after all this time, that he’s been serving his usefulness well. The familiar tightness in his chest reared its head and he forced his stiff neck to look at the ceiling. He started to count backward from fifteen and kept repeating the action again until he managed to make the tightness fall apart. He couldn’t remember anything but the four walls surrounding him and the dark lab down the hallway that he was dragged to daily but could clearly envision the first time he woke in this room of never-ending white.

Eren had awoken from a drugged induced nightmare, only the beginning of many to come, and entered a new one. His twelve-year-old self-had been terrified of being in the unfamiliar white room and felt sick as it spun and turned uncontrollably around him. He slowly made out the minimal features of his cage, the hard bed that he laid on, a small sink, and the toilet that became a quick friend when he doubled over and emptied an empty stomach into it. When the only thing he threw up was air and the dry heaving had passed, his vision began to focus and make out the large porcelain door across the small room. The desire to leave the shrinking room overcame Eren and he stood on his shaking legs. He tripped over his feet when he moved to fast but made it to the door. Mind racing as he gripped onto the handle of the door and yanked with all his might but nothing happened. His breath caught in his throat as he continued to pull, push, yank, and put all of his weight into the task. Fresh tears sprinkled his cheeks when a sense of panic completely sink into his pores.

“Open! Come on, open!” he chanted.

The door remained unmobile. His strength and voice started to diminish as time passed. When his voice was reduced to nothing, his body slid down the metal and pressed his hot, wet face into it. Even with his voice becoming hoarse and nearly gone, he continued to beg against the door to be let out. His mother’s laugh and gentle smile, which by now he has forgotten, kept echoing inside his head, turning him into a sobbing mess. He hated crying... but he couldn’t make himself stop. All he wanted was his mom. Eren didn’t know how long he sat there, it was long enough for his head to start throbbing painfully and his eyes to sting everytime he blinked. He tried to replay the events that happened before he woke up in the strange room but came up short. The last thing he remembered was his mother alive and them eating lunch together at home... when his mom was alive.

Days, maybe weeks passed by, he had no idea, and he was offered no contact with anything. A slot on the bottom of the metal door would deliver him food. It barely opened enough for the food to slip through and he sat on the floor for long periods of time to prove to himself that it wasn’t just appearing behind the door and magically slipping itself through. The amount of food on the tray was meager at best and almost unbearable to eat. Everything was tasteless. The meat, if there was any, was either tough and required too much effort to rip apart with his hands or teeth or so chewy that it felt more like gum that lost its taste than actual food. He quickly learned that crying got him nowhere but a painful headache and leaving him feeling exhausted beyond words. Whenever he wasn’t sleeping or eating, he would sit on top of the hard mattress, placing his only blanket, white like everything else in his cage, on top of his head while he stares at the wall. Eren knew that there was people outside of his walls. When he pressed his ears against the metal and ignored the buzzing of silence in his other ear, he could hear faint whispering on the other side of the door. They were too hushed to understand and he wondered for so long if it was truly just his imagination, slowly turning him mad from the amount of time he was surrounded by silence.

He constantly thought of his mother, the features of her face and the gentleness of her voice began to fade away at a startling pace. All the effort that he took to latch onto his memories of her were turning into a waste, and it was the same when he tried to remember his two friends. Eren could envision playing together with them and the numerous sleepovers that the three of them had but a heavy gray fog was covering their faces. Even when their mouths moved to speak, nothing came out, like they were all submerged underwater. When he thought of his friends and mother, a heavy pressure pressed against his chest and it became hard to take a breath. It felt as if he was being dragged deep into the ocean and he couldn’t escape no matter how he tried fighting against the current or to vanquish the thoughts out of his mind.

He believed that an extensive amount have time passed before his schedule of solidarity changed, and he only believed it because the clothes that he wore since he arrived had shrunk on his frame. Eren had awoken from another recurring nightmare to feel painful pulsing and a burning sensation erupting from his chest. He’d never felt that intense of pain before, not even when he broke his arm over a bet gone bad with another one of his faceless friends. His hands clawed at his bare chest, trying to focus precious air into his lungs and the panic rapidly descending upon him hadn’t helped his breathing. I’m going to die.

I’m going to DIE! I’M GOING TO DIE!

He didn’t notice that he wasn’t screaming in fear just in his head but his lips were moving along with the words, his throat beginning to scratch. Whether it be from screaming or trying to breath, he couldn’t tell, couldn’t care. Many times since he’s been trapped in his solitary he’s yearned for the end of silence and to slip into an endless sleep where he would never wake up and see the white walls again, but he was a coward. Even though his room being mostly bare, the many hours of solitude let his mind run wild with ideas and creative ways to rid himself. However, the words that plagued his nightmares, his mother’s words, comes screaming and destroying every thought that didn’t have to do with living. In that moment of extreme pain, every thought he ever had of ending himself vanished. Eren never wanted to feel something like this ever again. The muscles in his limbs began to spasm and seize, making them useless to move, and his fingers numbed. The screamed that escaped his throat burned as his chest pain increased dramatically, sweat beginning to flood his forehead and back. He looked down to see a crimson rash breaking out on his chest and the muscles spasming at different rates. The pain never lessened, only increased as the only thing he could do was curl into a ball and beg for it to go away. His screams continued to bounce off the walls and Eren never wished harder to see his mother again, for her to hold him through the pain. If this was the way he was going, he wanted to see her one last time.

“Sedate him! Now!” a noise boomed through the room.

Eren pushed through the burning to snap his eyes open, trying to block it out enough to take in the sight in front of him. He had to been having a near-death experience because the metal, sealed door was wide open and two large men stood next to him. He couldn’t make anything out about them besides the black uniform that hug their bodies, nothing to prove that he wasn’t truly hallucinating their presence. One of them reached for his arm, which he tried to pull away but it did nothing but seize in the man’s hand. The man pulled a syringe from his back pocket, sending Eren more into a panic. He tried using his legs to kick the man away from his, screaming louder, but the needle still sank through his flesh. He managed to knock the needle out from his wiggling, only after the liquid had been pushed into his blood, and soon his vision began to become unfocused. “No! No! No!” he heard himself yelling as the haze continued to take over. He tried to fight against the drug but was quickly losing. This was the moment he’s waited in isolation for, what he’s been waiting for since being introduced into this prison. He’s been wanting nothing more than to understand why he had to deal with his solitude. Now the opportunity was slipping through his fingers and there was nothing to stop it, nothing to do but surrender himself to the haze. His vision began to tunnel until the darkness engulfed his eyes and he couldn’t tell if the screaming in his ears was still him or echoes.

Chapter Text

Eren was greeted by a painful pulsing through his head as he came out of the drugged haze of sleep. The drowsiness of his body and heavy limbs reminded him of the first time he awoke in the white room. He honestly couldn’t care about ending up in his old bed or the drug-induced sleep, but rather that he wasn’t becoming insane. All that time spent in solitude, imagining the voices in outside his prison and believing everything was inside his decaying brain, wasn’t true. Now he knew. Eren wasn’t going insane or falling victim to his mind. He knew the truth and couldn’t figure out if there was relief rushing through his chest or betrayal. There were people outside of his doors, just feet, maybe inches away, while he rotted away in silence. While he laid on the overly familiar mattress, the questions of whys kept circling in his head and they soon turned old.

Why was I placed here? Why did they isolate me? Why didn’t anyone give me a sign that I wasn’t alone? Where was I?

All the questions kept piling on top of each other, demanding to be answered first, but there was nothing to give. It didn’t help with his growing headache too. When he finally had the courage to open his eyes to the white cell and found himself right where he was before his small world crashed once again. His eyes drifted to the far-too-familiar white ceiling and his heart began to sink. He had hoped at least that he would be surrounded in a new environment at least with this new development, but nothing. However, when he tried to shield his eyes from the fluorescent lights his arms fell short and felt a slight pressure around his wrists. Confused, he found beige wrappings encasing his wrists that were tied to the bed on either side of him. Seeing another color besides white seemed almost alien and so strange, especially since they’re attached to him. It chained him to the bed but most likely gave him enough room to at least sit up, and possibly lean against the wall. It took some time but the panic beginning to claw at his chest pushed him to sit up and start yanking on the restraints. Once he learned that they weren’t magically going to vanish or fall off with enough force, his breathing became ragged as the weight of the wrappings seemed to turn into heavy chains. He never wanted to leave his mattress, the safety of it even if it was just a chunk of padding was comforting enough but now he was immobile. Before he could truly start panicking, a foreign rhythmic sound filled the room pulled him out of his forming panic attack and realized that it was knocking on the door. He’d jumped at the noise and almost felt his heart beat out of his chest when the knob that never moved, turned. The door that he spent so much time in front, trying to pry open and leave the forsaken room, was now becoming ajar and offering something besides food for the first time. The opening of the previously unmoving door was short-lived, however, once a tall, large framed man entered and closed it shut. The man carried himself highly and gave off a sense of authority that made Eren sink into the mattress. His skin was tan, reminding him of the way his caramel skin used to glow before he went without sunlight, but wrinkles covered everywhere that wasn’t covered by the white lab coat. The top of his head was framed by knotted black hair that was parted slightly to the left. His dull, pale blue eyes lacked any emotion but excitement and they were surrounded by crows feet. His clothes blended into the endless white and in his thin arms was a small, metal slab. He smiled at Eren but the warmth of it never reached his eyes.

“Hello Eren,” he greeted. “I’m Doctor Djel Sannes, but you can call me Djel.”

This was what Eren had been waiting for. Waiting for someone to talk to him, to address him and prove that there has been another world outside of his lonely cell and out of everything he was taking in, he could tell something was off. Even with his senses becoming overwhelmed with someone in the room with him, he knew there was something wrong with Djel. Could feel it seeping from him.

“How are you, Eren?” Djel asked.

Not knowing how or what to say, he continued to sit quietly against the wall and began to fidget with the blanket underneath him. There were too many thoughts and questions running through his mind that he couldn’t take everything in, especially with the unknown man in front of him.

“Where am I?” he finally asked.

The sound that came crawling out of his mouth sounded foreign. It didn’t sound like him, not that he could remember what he sounded like when all he did was breathe and eat, and just recently screamed. It cracked in the middle of his question and felt like someone poured liquid sandpaper down his throat. That question was probably the first time that he’s spoken since the first couple of times he demanded to be set free when he arrived the first time.

“You’re somewhere safe,” he answered with a reassuring smile.

Eren’s stomach twisted at Djel’s words and didn’t believe anything coming out of his mouth. He didn’t want to be in the same room with this man. Even though he’s been yearning, begging, for this moment of human contact since he’s been locked in this room, but this wasn’t what he expected or wanted. Djel must have seen the distrust or known that he wasn’t believing anything coming from him because he let out a sigh and stepped closer. His action caused Eren to press himself more against the wall, curling more into a ball. He didn’t want the company of this man, he would rather return to the silence he was so fond of and take his luck of getting someone else’s attention besides this Djel. He wouldn’t give up this time, not like he did before. Not now when he knew there were people outside of his walls.

“I know you don’t trust me now, you don’t even know me, Eren. But soon you will. Everything will be forgiven, you’ll see,” he explained as he came closer to the bed.

Eren physically couldn’t move closer to the wall, but instead pressed his skinny legs against his chest. “Forgiven?” he asked.

“Yes, we’ll forgive you for causing such a commotion the other day but it didn’t disturb our work since we’ve been waiting for so long.”

He kept failing to connect the dots and the ongoing fog surrounding his head didn’t help.

“We? Wait!-” he began but cut himself short. This could be the chance to understand how long he’s spent in his prison, to know how much of his life has been wasted. However, Djel could easily lie about the time to somehow put it to his advantage. He could feel Djel’s eyes on him as he looked down in frustration at his bonded wrists. There was no way for Eren to get the upper hand or have anything in his favor. All he could do was trust the strange and unknown man in front of him, which was the last thing he honestly wanted to do. As he continued to collect his thoughts, Djel patiently waited for him, and he just wanted him out. Another thought came to him, that he could somehow pull the truth out of him, and not have to sit through the lies, but still didn’t know how. Finally deciding to just go with it, since he had nothing to lose, after settling the inner war inside of himself. “How long has it been-?...since you kidnapped me?”

He had raised his head in time to see something pass in Djel’s eyes that he couldn’t place. The excitement in them changed slightly, but his fake smile never faltered.

“You know, son-” Eren’s eyes narrowed at that. “You’re only here for your own good.”

“My own good?!” he exclaimed.

An old, very familiar energy filled his body. It always caused him grief with his mother and deserved him more of his scars than an average kid should have. The fire of anger pulsed through him and the flames licked his iced veins, turning his vision red. He hadn’t felt this angry since he found himself here. Eren never wanted this. Who in their right mind would choose to be locked away rather than staying with their loved ones? It pissed him off even more that Djel purposely avoided his question, but worried him at the same time. He probably wouldn’t like the answer that Djel had, no matter the actual amount of time that passed.

“And kidnap is such a negative term, think of it as more of...rescuing,” Djel continued.

Eren felt his hands ball into a fist, wanting nothing more to rip through his restraints and resort going back to his old ways of violence first, words later.

“Now, I know that you probably have a lot of questions-...some that we’ll be answering later rather than sooner, but I’ll start off by explaining why you’re here,” he explained as he started to open the metal slab in his hands. The sound of circulating air emerged from the machine and Djel started pressing buttons on the device. Eren recognized it as a laptop, but it looked more compact and expensive to the block of metal his father had used for storing patient information on. A tight pain pierced his chest when he thought of his family and immediately regretted the action.

“You see, you’re special, Eren,” he spoke as he continued to pound at the buttons of his keyboard.

Special? He’s only been called that by his mother, but he figured that every mom tells their child they’re different and unique, even if they’re cookie-cutter as can be. However, he was probably closer to below average than anything else. He constantly got into fights with boys twice the size of him and got mediocre grades at best. Nothing felt extraordinary about him, and it rolled off his shoulder whenever his mom constantly reminded him of ‘oh, how special’ he was to her.

“From the silence, I’m guessing that you don’t believe that,” he said as Djel pressed a final button and turned the laptop toward him to see. “Well, if you believe that, then you’re about to understand why after watching this.”

The picture of a figure covered in dark grime and nothing but bones and skin. The being wore the same clothes as him, white short-sleeved shirt and some loose grey, sweatpants. They had chestnut, grease-covered hair that strayed into too many different directions and long enough to cover most of his hollow face. He couldn’t see much since the photo wasn’t completely clear, but he could tell there was no fat in his checks or his whole form, and they seemed to be in their early teens. He could see that the stranger was a couple of inches taller than he was. Slowly, very slowly, the realization came to him that the figure he was staring at...was him. He hadn’t seen an image of himself since he’s been there but he could see himself in the video, and a sense of panic hit him like a semi.

When had I grown that much? How long have I been in this place?

He touched his face, felt the hollow of his cheeks that were reflected in the video in front of him, and his slightly sunken eyes. His hands began to shake, realizing that he’s been in this place far longer than he thought. In the photo, he was lying on a slab of metal and his wrists were cuffed like they were now, but so were his ankles. The room that he was tied down in was completely dark except for the spotlight that aluminated his body.

Djel then reached across the back of the laptop to press the long button on the keyboard. The laptop began to create noise of static and he saw himself beginning to slightly stir on the metal. He briefly saw Djel smirking at him, probably he noticed that Eren understood who was really in the video in front of him, but pulled his attention back to the images of himself on the screen once he heard a soft groan. He had been pulling slightly against the wrappings and could see his unconscious face being constricted in pain. On his left arm was a tubbing that connected to something off screen, making Eren look down at his actual arm to see an insignia where the tube would have been. He didn’t like this feeling of not knowing what they’ve done to his body while he was forced to sleep. It was as if someone was continuously pouring chilled water all over his body and there was no end to the supply. Eren’s body began to tremble as hushed voices emerged from the machine.

“Take out the morphine,” a voice spoke off-screen. “It’s stable enough to continue.”

A blue, gloved hand appeared into view and yanked the tubbing out completely, making Eren grab onto his arm in real life. The large, silver needle gleamed with his blood at the tip as blood began to trickle out of his wound. Moments after the extraction of the needle, Video Eren began to slowly become restless and soon started to thrash around the metal table. The soft groans that once escaped his lips began to turn into screams of agony. The chilled water became ice along his body as he tried to cover his ears from the sound of his own screaming.

How could he not remember this pain? How could have he not have woke up from his own screams?

“Heart rate increasing?” a woman stated.

Eren could barely hear anything besides of the screams and wanted to shut out the images of his body spasming, but the best he could do was turn his head away from the sight. He didn’t understand why Djel wanted him to see this. He didn’t want to know why this twisted man found amusement in seeing his reaction of himself dying.

“Watch this, Eren,” Djel whispered.

His voice managed to bring him back from the numbness that he didn’t notice replaced the ice through his body. Slowly he brought himself to look at Video Eren once again and found himself not believing what he was seeing. His eyes widened as he watched his body jerking violently and convulsing on the table, his back painfully bending off of the metal at alarming angles. The screams had somehow escalated in pain and volume. The trembles in his own body came in full force as Video Eren’s bones in his arms and ribs began to pulse out and twist, breaking upon themselves over and over again. That’s when his mind decided that enough was enough and broke, blocking everything he was receiving from the video out. It created a haze that washed over him to create the numbness again. Eren could register that the video was still playing and the screams still continued until it almost became animal-like, but he couldn’t see it. His eyes so unfocused that the laptop was just a silver shape that almost blinded in with the white of everything. Once the video became silent, he welcomed it. He wanted the silence back. Nothing else.

“Isn’t it wonderful, Eren? What you can do?” Djel questioned him. “It’s quite an interesting process, and we’re just beginning to understand.”

Eren’s eyes focused enough to see Djel’s overly zealous face. The gleam of excitement that he once saw in his dull eyes now reached every corner of his face. His smile, still off-putting and wrong, seemed genuine for once. He pulled his focus off of the mischievous eyes that followed his every movement to finally look at the quiet screen. He felt bewildered when he didn’t see himself broken and dead on the table, but instead the largest cat that he’s seen replacing him. He didn’t understand. He couldn’t understand and convinced himself that he missed them taking his body off the table and replacing it with the large cat. The white belly of the feline was in full display as its limbs of swirling black and caramel colors were pulled to its sides. The same wrappings that once covered his wrists and ankles were secured above its own paws. He started to wonder where they carried his body to, most likely this very room and managed to find the cougar-sized creature. An insane and irrational thought crossed his mind, but he quickly dismissed and disregarded it immediately. It was too bizarre and cartoon to even think of the possibility. However, the stare that Djel was fixing him with completely discouraged him from thinking nothing was impossible.

“Oh,” Djel suddenly gasped, making Eren’s full attention fall on him. “You don’t understand...of course you won’t. No one explained to you what you really are.”

What I really am?

He once again reached behind the lap to press keys, making the video slowly rewind. “You wouldn’t understand the first time seeing yourself change like this since you probably went into shock seeing your body go through that trauma...That’s entirely my fault. I got too carried away with the findings…”

His voice drifted away from as Eren’s focus was brought back to the video in front of him.

The animal began to stir, just jerking slightly against the restraints periodically but soon enough it yanked frantically and opened its mouth, probably crying out in whatever pain they were putting it through.

Just like what they did to me.

Its limbs began to bow, almost to the breaking point, and they probably were seconds away from snapping. The video suddenly sped up. Dejl’s doing no less, somehow pressed one of the keys without disturbing his focus on the tormented animal in front of him.

Something strange started happening to the creature's fur, like it was thinning, but realized soon enough that it was instead retracting into its skin. The fur soon vanished, revealing the dirt and grime that laid underneath its coat. When he shifted his attention off of the dirt, he realized that the feline was breaking its own bones and the convulses that raged through its body was becoming sickeningly familiar. His mind threatened to shut down again but pushed through the command and nausea that he felt to regain his failing composure. The creature continued to bend and snap until it started having humanoid features, its paws enlarged and thinned out to reveal almost human-like fingers, and its large muzzle caving in on itself, even as it continued to scream, to reveal a human mouth, with short, human teeth.

Eren didn't know when his body began to tremble or, started to feel the now-familiar chill spreading through his small frame, but once he finally connected the obvious clues he began to weep. Nausea came back in full force, almost swiping him off his feet, but he tried not to expel his empty stomach all over himself and hold everything in. Every rational thought and explanation slammed into his skull to try and reason with himself that what he just witnessed was false. That this was a trick of the camera or a cruel joke but he couldn't deny what laid in front of him. One look at Djel’s face further confirmed that this had to be real, that he wasn't hallucinating what he saw in the video. The smile that erupted his face was too real and caused another chill through Eren’s spine.

He couldn't stop repeating the scene of this animal-...no this creature turning into him. No! He turned into that animal. What did that make him? Was he even human?

“You understand now, Eren? Do you now see how you're so special?” Djel laughed.

He then closed the laptop was a snap, leaving Eren with the image of him unconscious, human, and laying on the metal table burned into his mind.

He didn't want to believe that he was anything besides human. From the little memory he still retained, his mother never mentioned a family gene that turned them into large cats. He couldn't even remember if they even had animals in the house.

He could tell that Djel took a step closer to him but he could only focus on putting air into his lungs to breath. He continued to talk but he was wasting breath since all Eren could hear was white noise. He wanted to go back. He wanted to the endless hours of silence, the solitude that he once hated with all his being, and pretend that he wasn’t at fault for being placed here. That he wasn’t taken away from his family to be forced into this white room for god knows how long, to then have the first human interaction be a man telling him that he wasn’t who he believed he is.

“You have many questions, right? I’ll explain in time but you need to relax,” Djel smiled. “Don’t worry, child. We’ll take care of you.”

That had to be the only time that he’d actually agreed with something Djel said, mostly because he’s breathing was turning into gasps and coming in faster than before. How could he relax when he has just found out, first hand, that he can turn into an animal. A fucking animal. No human can do that. Only something in movies would have that be possible or in dreams. Eren wished with everything that this was just a crazed dream that he’s developed from the isolation taking a massive toll on him.

He focused his breathing enough to get it under control to push out a question that was weak and quiet, “What happens now?”

Eren looked up in time to see Djel’s smile extend, revealing white teeth behind his slightly cracked lips. “Don’t worry. Everything will be taken care of.”

He, at that time, wanted to believe the security and safety Djel was promising; that he didn’t have to have a care and the people outside of his cell were going to be treated as the human he once was. He didn’t know that after his encounter with Djel, that the silence he had endured was nothing compared to the hell that was coming.

Chapter Text

After the visit with Djel, they mostly left him alone for a week...of course, he could only guess since measuring time was still almost impossible. He tried, once again, to count the number of times his food was delivered, this time being brought in by his “caretaker.” A woman with startling blonde hair, brown peeking out from the roots, and amber eyes were introduced to him by Djel as the caretaker, no name was given to him. Her features seemed feline, with sharp angles in her jaw and cheeks, and she was short compared to Djel’s stature. She didn’t look at him as he was informed that she would be delivering his food and medication to him for now on, just stared at Djel, waiting for her chance to leave. She barely took a step into the room once the door was opened for her to come in, and when Djel reached for the door once again, she was gone with a breath.

He quickly gave up on trying to count the number of meals he received, mostly because they could easily be feeding him at odd hours of the day or an abnormal pattern to keep him guessing. Some days Eren felt like he was eating scrap leftovers and others he wanted to vomit at the sight of more food in front of him. He could be eating once a day, or four times a day, and he never got any help from the woman bringing him the mush. When she came in herself for the first time, carrying his tray of food and a plastic cup full of colorful pills, he didn’t move off his mattress until the tray was placed at the foot of the bed and she left. After the fifth time she had delivered his food, he tried to interact with her by saying just a simple hello. She didn’t react to him other than moving from his bed to the door in faster strides. He kept trying to interact with her, to pull any kind of information about the world outside of his four walls, but she continued to ignore his presence. Soon he became annoyed by her lack of reaction to him and multiple times after she brought his food, he pulled himself off his bed and tried to confront her. She finally reacted to him, but not the way that he wanted. Before he could even really take a step away from his mattress, she had dropped the brown mush and pills onto the polished floor and ran out of the room.

He spent hours running his fingers along his face and body to see if any of the cat-like features he’s seen in the video were on his face. Trying to find anything that would make her face pale to the shade of his walls, but coming up empty. He came to the conclusion that she most likely knew about his inhuman abilities and couldn’t see anything human in him anymore. His theory was further proven when an unfamiliar man entered his room, black slacks hugged his legs and his black long-sleeved shirt did nothing to hide the massive muscles in his arms. The fluorescent lights reflected off of the man’s bald head and his dark eyes looked black as their attention turned toward him. He strode across the small room toward Eren and stopped at the edge of his messy bed. Eren could do nothing but press himself against the wall as this large man loomed over him and filled the whole room with testosterone. Suddenly the man reached out to grab at Eren’s collar and slammed his back into his mattress. The man’s knee sank into his stomach to hold him down further, making Eren want to throw up the little that they feed him into the man’s face. His body began to tremble, though he willed it to stop, to not show any more weakness in front of the people who kidnapped him as the man leaned into him, putting more pressure to his sensitive stomach.

“I’m going to tell you this once,” the man voiced into his ear. He recognized the voice as one of the many that he heard guarding his door and tried to take a look at his face to memorize it, but the man let go of his collar and scruffed his hair, forcing it into the mattress to keep him immobile. “You are nothing. You aren’t even fucking human so you don’t have any rights. You have no right to speak. You are expected to be alive and nothing else. They don’t care what happens to you as long as you are breathing when they need you.”

The trembling increased throughout his body and his breath was coming out in short, airy breaths, as the man continued to add his weight to his knee and grip his greasy hair tighter. Tears filled his eyes as it became more difficult to breathe and he started to push his weak arms against the man on top of him but there was no hint of him moving an inch, not if he wanted to. His failed attempts to push him off made the man smile in delight and mischief flicker in his eyes before yanking Eren’s head to the side one more time before pushing himself off of him and the bed.

“Don’t talk to anyone or even look at them unless they instruct you, do you understand me?” the man asked.

When he didn’t move, wishing this man would leave already and let him fall apart in peace, he kicked the bed frame and made it the bed move a foot away from the wall. Eren almost fell through the large gap but caught himself in time before he went head first. He quickly looked at the man who just easily moved his bed and him on top of it, with large panicked eyes. “Do you understand me?” the man asked as he took a threatening step toward him, making Eren flinch and quickly nod. Before the man left the room, he turned toward Eren and spat in his direction, his spit landing somewhere near his bed. The last thing that he saw the man doing before disappearing behind the porcelain door was him furiously wiping his hand on his slacks, like touching Eren would have given him an incurable disease. He waited a good few seconds after the door closed before letting the sobs rip through him and the trembles shake him to his core.

The next time his caretaker came in, she was armed with paper towels, a bin, and a new tray. He didn’t know how long time had passed from the man leaving and her arrival but it was almost enough time for him to control some of his emotions, though he let tremors escape by accident. While she cleaned up the cold, ruined food off the floor, he stared at his hands as they meddled with the end of his dirtied blanket and counted backward from fifty. He kept repeating the count until she hastily finished cleaning up and placed the tray where she had just cleaned up, then quickly left. Even after she left, and a good time after that, he didn’t leave his spot and continued his count.

Anyone that entered his room ignored his presence and with the man’s words continuously running through his skull, always reminding him that he is not like them, he ignored them too. The small piece of him that was ecstatic to know he wasn’t alone, that there were people walking outside of his walls, died and now he began to feel more alone than he was in isolation. He took the pills given to him without complaint even if he hated the way it coated his mouth and made his tongue chalky. He couldn’t get rid of the texture until he ate his next meal and be replaced by the next set of pills. Eren also hated the way they made him feel drowsy and wished for the lights to turn off, just once, so he could sleep without light trying to pierce through his eyelids.

He soon found out the woman’s name that took care of him, Hitch. The only reason why he had figured it out was from the loudmouths of his guards gossiping to one another. Eren could only guess that they didn’t care anymore what he heard now that he knew that there were people walking around his walls. They weren’t quiet anymore or greet each other with hushed whispers to keep him continuously blind.

Now he could hear his guards greeting each other, sometimes the man who reminded him of who he really was can be heard too, and the faint conversations of people are having as they pass his door. Whenever who was on duty mentioned Hitch, they all used the same ways to describe her. They called her a homewrecker and an easy fuck, and even though he didn’t completely understand the meaning behind the words, he at least knew that they weren’t nice. He could tell when Hitch was coming or about to drop off his next meal was when the guards whistled at her. They commented on how sometimes her curled hair stuck up in strange places or her lips would appear slightly swollen and pink. She however just replied with her signature ‘fuck off,’ followed by a laugh or sly comment of ‘you wish you could get some of this.’ Of course, as soon as the door opened, the laugh and teasing in her voice disappeared when she entered his room. Eren hadn’t been in a conversation that wasn’t one-sided for a while and never heard people talk to each other that way before.

Maybe this is the way that people talk now.

He vaguely remembered one time that he cursed in front of his mother, though he didn’t think it was a ‘bad’ word since he heard someone from school openly repeat it multiple times, and she emptied an entire bottle of liquid soap into his mouth. It was an unpleasant memory and Eren could swear that he could still taste the bubbling liquid in his mouth still, but it was one of the few fleeting memories he could recall. He still tried not to think about his life before ending up here so he could focus on getting at least some of his questions answered, like how much time has passed since he’s seen the sun. However, it didn’t stop the hole that ate away at his chest whenever his mind would wander to those few memories. He slowly started to fit into a new routine of sleeping, eating the meals and pills Hitch left for him, being ignored by said person, and eavesdropping on anything his guards would say. He soon figured out that they avoided talking about dates, what the weather was like, or anything that had to do with the place they were currently in. Even though he was allowed to know there were people walking around, they knew that he was still searching for answers and was listening to everything exchanged between them. They haven’t let anything slip, much to Eren’s disappointment. Though he heard them talking about him every once in a while after the first time of eavesdropping he chose not to. They referred to him as it instead of his name and wondered why they had to guard a lab rat with a twenty-four-hour surveillance.

When Eren finally got comfortable enough with this new schedule, it was shattered within an instant. It started with the door being suddenly thrust open, making Eren flinch at the sudden noise, and two men walking through. They didn’t even shut the door and he didn’t have enough time to peek around them before they stood in front of him on his bed. He had been curled up in his blanket, sitting against the wall with it covering the top of his head, something he always does when he starts to think of his family. The bald man that he saw before wasn’t among the two guards and he wanted to push out a sigh of relief but it didn’t come.

He turned his head away from their glazes, something he does with everyone that enters his room no matter if it’s Hitch or someone coming in to change his sheets or a bulb. However, he sneaked quick peeks at them, taking in the same uniform that the bald man wore and the same muscular build too. However, he quickly noticed that there was an addition on their uniforms that wasn’t on the other man’s. A black holster was clipped onto one of their belt hoops with an onyx gun peeking out and he couldn’t stop his attention being fully brought to them. Eren knew that he was openly staring at the guns at their hips but he couldn’t stop. He couldn’t stop imagining the guards pulling them out in full view and pressing the barrel against his head, fulfilling his usefulness.

“Come on, let’s go,” one of them barked.

His voice had the authority of the other guard and he seemed slightly annoyed that he had to be here. Eren pulled his eyes from their guns to their faces to take them in. The brunette had streaks of gold woven into his shoulder length hair that had some of it falling into his dark blue eyes. The other had the same color of the meat that arrived in his tray; an ugly color and it reflected in his eyes too.

Apparently, Eren was taking too long staring at their faces, trying to identify their faces for when they spoke so he could tell who was guarding him that day because meat eyes stepped toward him and pulled out the familiar wrappings that restrained his wrists not too long ago.

“I said, let’s go,” he repeated.

He recognized the voice that repeatedly called Hitch a ‘bitch in heat’ and the same part of him that was excited about finally putting faces to the guards was short-lived by the wrappings dangling from his fingertips.

Where are they taking me? Why restrain me?

He honestly knew the answer to the last question. If they lead him to the door without some way to keep him in check, he would run. His feet would move before he could think of where to go and they would carry him until they gave out, and from what Eren’s leg looked like, he wouldn’t get very far. Of course, if he can get out of sight before the guards used the guns resting on their hips and they would catch up to him within moments of escaping. They still needed him, so they won’t shoot to kill, but that nothing to stop them from immobilizing him and they had doctors like Djel to bring him back if they miscalculated a shot.

A feeling of disgust filled him when his thought shortly imagined them shooting him in the back of the head as he escaped, ending it all so he wouldn’t have to come back to his lonely cell and be isolated by people are less than ten feet away from him. Another thought quickly replaced it and excitement short-lived inside of him. What if they were letting him go? Or even if they were going to let him outside for a bit? He was tempted to fully accept the restraints if it meant he could feel sunlight on his skin or the breeze of the night air sweeping across his flesh. However, the realization hit him that they kept him in isolation long enough for him to grow several inches and without giving any hint there were people inches away from his room. They would never let him outside, or even close to a window.

The guards apparently got tired of waiting for him to move because meat eyes grabbed onto his arm suddenly and quickly velcroed the wrapping around one of his wrists and around the other. His hands were covered in large calluses and rough to the touch but they left his skin as soon as they physically could. He began to frantically wipe his hand off on his slacks, just like the bald man had done, and Eren tried to keep himself from feeling hurt. Their response just reminded him that he wasn’t human, a freak and that he hadn’t been properly clean since he first arrived here. The blue-eyed man laughed at the other expression as he continued to wipe his hand.

“Shut the fuck up, it’s disgusting,” meat eyes snapped at the other. “You know what, Mark? You can transport him.”

Mark stopped his laughter to throw an almost snarl at the other man, before mumbling under his breath about him being an ass as he pushed him aside and stood in front of Eren. Mark bend down enough to almost get into his face and put a hand on his holster, making the gesture large enough for his eyes to follow.

“Do you see this?” Mark asked as he started to pull the gun from the holster. Eren nodded at his question, eyes widening as the gun was released. “You’re going to do as I say or there’s going to be some trouble for you, you understand?”

He nodded once again to which made meat eyes snicker lightly. “So it can understand simple instructions. It’s not terribly useless at all, I guess.”

Mark rolled his eyes as he instructed Eren to move with the flick of his gun. Even though his blood began to boil at the man’s words, he scooted to the edge of the bed and pushed himself onto shaky legs. It took him a second to completely get into a standing position, his legs threatening to collapse from underneath him. Realizing that this was the first time that he’s put energy into anything besides moving slightly to eat and moving to the toilet and back to his lumpy mattress. That he would be walking around and carrying his own weight for however long they would make him walk and wondered if he would make it before his knees give out. Mark must have thought that he was taking too long, like with everything else he’s been doing since he gripped onto the front of Eren’s shirt and almost threw him near his door. He ended up on the floor, his wrists stung when he caught himself but they nearly gave out when he pulled himself off the polished floor.

Before he could even stand fully back up, Mark had grabbed his collar from behind and yanked him completely onto his feet. He was using his strength to support Eren, which he slightly appreciated but he felt like he couldn’t breathe with his collar pressing tightly against the base of his throat, but refused to touch him anywhere else. The cold metal of the barrel pressed into his lower back, to try and probably persuade him not to run, but the evidence that he needed Mark’s hold to actually stand up without almost falling over with every step said that he didn’t the extra motivation to keep moving.

His legs increased to tremble as he moved closer and closer to the door that separated him from himself and the rest of the world. The other guard had walked ahead of them and opened the door fully, giving Eren a full view outside the door. His heart was pounding painfully in his chest as he saw that the white of his room continued outside the door’s frame and that he was getting closer and closer. The thrill of leaving the room, and remembering it this time instead of being drugged, was clashing with nausea that erupted soon after he realized that he didn’t know where they were taking him.

Five steps.

Four steps…

Three….

 

Two....

 

One.

He wanted to weep once he stepped over the threshold but controlled his emotions once he noticed that there were people surrounding his room. The room led to a long hallway and it was filled with white lab coats and blue scrubs, mostly the exact ones that Hitch wore. Hands shaking, he reached to stabilize himself against the wall but Mark pushed him onward, not caring if he couldn’t walk straight. The barrel continued to dig into his back, urging him forward through all Eren wanted to do was run back to his room, away from the numerous eyes staring at him. It wasn’t just the group of people waiting for him outside of his room, people just passing by, holding vanilla folders and binders, stopped in the middle of their conversations and tasks to stare at him. Their eyes widened as they immediately grabbed the person closest to them and frantically begin whispering to one another. He felt like an animal on display, and instead of staring them down with a challenge, he hung his head and glued his eyes to the tiled floor, watching his dirty, bare feet meet the cold ground.

Mark pushed him down another two hallways before stopping in front of white, windowed doors. He expected Mark or the other one to make a huge circle around him to open the door, making sure that there was no way of them touching him, but the other guard went up to a small box next to the set of door and swiped a card through the box. A loud, buzzing noise filled the mostly silent room, making Eren flinch and wanting to cover his ears but the slightest movement that he made, Mark dug the barrel into his back into an almost painful degree. The other guard opened one of the doors and he was pushed through by Mark. He could still feel the lab coat’s eyes on him as he passed through and even peeked behind him to see wicked smiles filling some of their faces.

There wasn’t another hallway after the set of doors but a large room filled with different sized machines and a familiar metal table in the center of the room. The lights were dimmed enough to barely see the faces of the lab coats that inhabited the room, almost all of them having half of their faces and their hair tied up covered by blue masks. The only blinding light was hung above the metal table, the one that was making his hands sweat and making him almost throw up all over himself, and Mark continued to lead him closer to the table. They stopped inches away from the table, it reached his hips and could only imagine the struggle he would endure to just climb on top of it. Everything in his body, every cell, was protesting for him to be here. He wanted the safety of his bed; he knew what to expect when inside his room. Standing in this unfamiliar room with constant eyes on him made him yearn for that small comfort.

“Get on the table,” Mark commanded.

Eren swallowed and placed his restrained hands on the edge of the cool metal. His mind began to race, running through the image of his bones breaking, bending and reshaping, of the last time he was on this table. His breath became shallow and coming in short bursts, he took a step backward but before his mind screamed for him to run, Mark and the other guard grabbed his upper arms and lifted him onto the table.

“Please, stop!” he cried as his body became to thrash and kick to get out of their hands.

No matter how much he struggled, they didn’t seem to be bothered, he was just making their job slightly more difficult. The other bodies in the room moved to help the guards place him flat on the table, then removing the restraints from his wrists to be replaced with new ones.

Eren continued to plead with the men and women surrounding him, but they choose ignored his cries for help and tighten the wrappings on his wrists and ankles. Mark and meat eyes moved away from the table and went to lean against the wall closest to the door, watching him closely as he tried to keep struggling. Suddenly he felt a sharp pain in his arm and he looked down in time to see a blue scrub injecting him with clear liquid from a very large needle. He tried to shake his body enough to get it out before the woman in blue finished putting the rest of the liquid in his veins, but he began to feel sluggish and weak. Once she finished, she moved out of sight, leaving Eren to try and fail at focusing on the surrounding people circling him. He could only make out their eyes, filled with fascination and wonder as they stared at him, and he forced his eyes on the ceiling when their gaze became almost too much.

Another woman, he honestly didn’t know if it was the same one that injected him, moved to the edge of his table, grabbing something that was out of his view and returned with scissors in her gloved hands. Not knowing what she had planned with the scissors, he tried to move away from her as much as possible but didn’t move that far. She gripped the hem of his grime covered shirt and used them to cut his shirt from bottom to top, revealing his upper torso. He wanted to cover his chest but the restraints only let him move inches away from his sides. While she placed the scissors back where she found them and walked away, another person went to the other side of him. It was a man this time but still wearing the blue scrubs that the other two were wearing. He began to place white, circular stickers on his chest that had black wires attached to them, and it seemed random but the man would peel some off and reposition them slightly so the placement had some significance.

The man suddenly grabbed his face with a gloved hand and forcibly opened his mouth while another man joined the table on his other side. In his hands looked like another large needle and started to introduce the end to the inside of his mouth. He started to struggle from the man’s hold on his mouth and even went as far as biting the hand that was holding his jaw open. An aching pain erupted through his jaws as his teeth closed around the man’s palm and the man screamed in pain. The taste of iron filled his mouth as the man yanked away from his hand, holding it tightly to his chest as blood began to pour from Eren’s bite.

“Motherfucker, it fucking bit me,” the man cursed.

He saw the hand being raised against him before the sharp pain in his check and the iron continued to fill his mouth. He let out a whine before his tongue searched for the source to find it from a split lip.Licking the wound and cringing at the pain that it caused, but noticed multiple new pressures in his mouth. Running his tongue over his teeth, he discovered that his canines had elongated and even cut open the tip of his tongue when he pressed slightly too hard. He then remembered the video, the animal’s mouth becoming his own and wondered if this was the start of it. Murmurs started erupting around him as a slight burning appeared where his split lip was. Eren once again ran his tongue over the split to find nothing there and looked at the people surrounding him, waiting for an answer to be given to him but he received nothing.

“This is what we’ve been waiting for,” he heard someone say off in the distance.

“Continue with the extraction,” another said.

The man that he bit was now out of sight and a new man took his place holding a clear circle with straps in his hands. Before he could even react, someone from behind had grabbed his head, immobilizing it as the man forced his mouth open and placed the circle in his mouth. By the time he tried to push and manipulate the piece out of his mouth, they lifted his head enough to tie straps to keep the piece in place. He even tried to bite through, using his new teeth to possibly cut through the piece or even the straps but nothing was given. The man holding the syringe came back, placing the instrument in his mouth once again. Eren waited for the needle to pierce his skin but only felt a suction as the man pulled on the edge of the syringe. His mouth became dry as his saliva was sucked out when the container was more than halfway through, his mouth mostly completely drained of moisture, the man pulled the syringe out. The straps and mouthpiece were removed, making him move his jaw around to stop the aching appearing in those joints.

“Keep going, the faster we get this done, the faster we can all go home,” someone yawned close to the door, he could only guess it was either Mark or meat eyes.

“We’ve been waiting almost two years for this, excuse us while we enjoy the moment,” a familiar voice ringed out.

As the aging face of Djel stepped into view, the only thing Eren could feel was numbness. One of the most important questions he’s kept asking and wanting the answer for, was finally answered, and he wished he never knew it. He spent almost two years of his life in isolation. How did he not go insane?

“I’m sorry, Eren, to have kept this information from you, but we felt like it’s time that we’ve owed you some answers. We’ll continue to tell you more in the future, though,” Djel smiled at him.

“Why?” Eren suddenly asked, voice cracking as tears began to fill his eyes. “What did I do?”

Djel continued to stare down at him, his smile growing to show his teeth once again. “It’s really simple, Eren. You were born.”

Devastation ripped through his body as Djel moved out of his view and whispered to the people around him to continue and to give him another sedation, that he wouldn’t be conscious for very long. A new emotion stripped away the numbness and made him have new strength, rage. He screamed in anger as Djel walked out of the room, demanding for a better excuse to keep a child in solitude for two years than that he was born. He started yanking the restraints with new purpose, feeling his muscles straining and burning, as an inhuman roar erupted through his throat. He could sense the room turning into a panic and see that Mark and the other guard had pulled out their guns, aiming at him, but he didn’t care.

Eren knew that he was breaking through the restraints, could feel the extra give they were taking, and he needed that final push to rip through them. “Sedate it! Before it gets loose!” someone screamed. That was the extra push he needed. By the time a person, holding a syringe full of white liquid, came feet away from his table, he managed to rip the wrapping of his right hand.

“Don’t shoot!” another yelled. A loud, ringing blast filled the large room but it distracted him enough for the person to stab the needle into his shoulder. His ears continued to ring and all he wanted to do was cover them, hope that it could help in someway, but instead he lashed out at the man who just slammed a needle into him. The man flew, not stumbled, but flew into multiple trays filled with instruments and landed on the ground with a hard crack. He didn’t have the time to worry why the man wasn’t moving but rather that he needed to get the other wrapping off of him or rip through it. However, even with this new strength running through him, arms grabbed onto his free hand and pulled him down onto the table. The snarls ripping through his throat was even starting to terrify him as he continued to struggle. He could feel the sedative starting to take a hold of his limbs as they grew heavy and so was his head.

No, no, no!

He put all of his remaining strength into one more thrash and managed to rip two of the three sets of arms holding him down but they quickly regained their hold. The all to familiar haze was taking over his body and like the first he was drugged, he was losing the fight.

He didn’t regret fighting back. He had lost this fire for nearly two years but finally got it back and now it was disappearing as soon as it appeared. Knowing that he couldn’t win against the drug circulating his blood, he decided to just close his eyes and hope that he awakes after everything they have planned for him.

Chapter Text

This was the first time that Eren didn’t dream of his mother dying. He couldn’t remember dreaming of anything else from the two years he’s been living in his white room but he didn’t exactly welcome the new dream with opened arms. He was back in the lab, laying on the metal table with the blinding headlight over him. Two shadows of men towered over him, one holding a large knife while the other had the syringe full of his saliva.

Darkness.

His throat was raw, probably screaming from the pain emanating from his chest. He looked down, just enough to see the blood coating his chest and the cuts littering it. Eren’s face felt wet and he wondered if they also used the knife to cut his face, but realized it was tears when his vision briefly blurred and felt them leaking from his eyes. He couldn’t count how many times they laid the knife into his flesh, just that the pain was still there even when they weren’t carving. One of the men started to apply his saliva to half of the cuts, stopping from where his pants started to his belly button.

Darkness.

Everything was burning, everything. However, the lower half of his body where the man applied his saliva made him scream in pain. He couldn’t understand why, why it felt like his flesh was burning and slipping off his body just because of his saliva. When he had managed enough courage to look down and hope to dear god that half of his chest wasn’t missing or bubbling like acid, he finally looked. What he found instead was steam rising from the cuts and that the ones covered in his spit were almost closed. The others, he could barely see the skin stitching back together, healing but just slower compared to the ones that were slathered in his saliva. However, when the man holding the knife dug another line into his skin, the other cuts would stop healing, only the ones that were covered continued.

Darkness

The wounds all healed. They started to cut again.

Darkness

Sweat dripped from his forehead. He was covered with it and it mixed in with an alarming amount of blood that had oozed from the numerous cuts they’ve created. The second round of cuts managed to finally heal, including the ones that weren’t offered help. He felt so exhausted, drained from his body working overtime to keep healing while they kept making new incisions. He could barely keep his eyes open or even look down at his chest to see what pain they were now inflecting onto him.

Darkness

When he opened his eyes one last time, he realized that he had escaped the metal table and spotlight and returned back to his room. His whole body ached and he couldn't move his limbs without wanting to gasp in pain, but pushed through and used the wall to help him lean against the back of his bed. He whimpered as he finally sat up, breathing heavily and feeling sweat coat his back, wanting to just lie back down but rubbed his tired eyes instead. As he pulled his hands away he noticed a thick, jagged scar that was present on both of his wrists. The gut feeling, that he ignored since waking up, that the dream he had wasn't just a dream solidified in his mind when he realized that the raised scars were from struggling against the cloth restraints. Already knowing what would be underneath, he lifted his new white shirt to reveal the thin, pale lines that littered his stomach and chest. He expected to find the blood that covered his skin in his ‘dreams’ but nothing was there. Eren suddenly realized that he felt clean and fresh, a foreign feeling. The grime that had built up over time had been scrubbed away and his hair felt soft instead of covered in grease.

Did they finally take pity on me?

When Hitch came in to deliver the food, he was still staring at the new scars on his wrists. She surprised him by walking across the room and almost putting the tray into his lap and thought she may have taken pity on him, especially if she saw his scars. She still chooses to ignore him though. At least there was something positive about the whole experience. There was more of the colored pills in his little cup this time and the food quantity seemed smaller than the last meal but he still devoured it. The food was still the same tasteless and tough mess that it was before but he couldn't stop himself from consuming all of it within seconds. After eating the mush, he was still staring but knew that he wasn't getting a crumb until Hitch came back with another try and more water. He downed the water that was included and still had a parched throat from his previous screaming session, but he was never tempted enough to drink out of the toilet. No matter how thirsty he was.

Every time that Hitch came to deliver the food, he consumed it all within moments and he felt hungrier with every bite. He kept staring at the new scars that littered his torso and wondered how much more he would acquire before he couldn't tell where his skin began and where the scars ended. By the time that Hitch had visited him three more times before Djel visited him a second time, but he was accompanied by two guards. He recognized one of them as Mark but hadn't seen the other one before. The unfamiliar guard wore the standard uniform that he was acquainted with, black hair parted to one side and partially covering his hazel eyes. He had the signature muscular build that all of the others had too.

They stood near the door, the strap securing their guns to the holster were undone and ready to be grabbed encase something happened, most likely if Eren had a repeat of the events in the lab. Djel greeted him with one of his small, forced smiles and placed a foldable chair, that he brought along with him, and placed it in front of Eren’s bed. The anger that consumed him in the lab flickered lightly in his chest once Djel made himself more comfortable in his space.

“How are you, Eren?” he asked.

In response, he rubbed his wrists, still getting used to the new marks. His smile faltered the slightest bit, egging the light that burned brighter inside of Eren’s chest.

“I heard that you caused quite a scene after I left,” he continued. “But they calmed you down enough to continue our...research.”

Eren could feel a snarl emerging from his throat, but choose to swallow it. He knew that what would come out would be animal-like and Mark and the other guard was already tense from what he could gather. Djel leaned closer to him, making the guards immediately reach for their hip but he reached out a hand to signal for them to stop and motioned Eren to lean in. He did no such thing and continued to sit against his wall. He couldn't do much to rebel against the man in front of him but the small things he defied felt like huge victories in his mind. Like he had some control over his life. He could also see that his rebellions were affecting Djel, his eye twitching the slightest or the fall of his false smile.

“You know, son,” he started. Djel knew how much the pet name bothered Eren or else he wouldn't keep calling him that. “The scars on your wrists could have been easily avoided if you'd just listen and stayed calm.”

He knew what the man was doing, trying to somehow shift the blame and make Eren feel guilty, but it just encouraged the fire inside to keep building. The scars would eventually mark his flesh, especially if they continued to inflict pain upon him, he just managed to help them appear quicker. Djel seemed to finally understand he couldn’t be dealing with the fake smiles and putting false blame on him because his smile finally fell.

“It seems like I’m not really getting my point across,” he frowned at Eren. “We’re ecstatic to finally been able to further our research, no thanks to you, Eren.”

The growl that he had been holding in happened to leak out of his throat, surprising everyone in the room, including himself. However, Djel continued on, “But the unfortunate event that happened cannot be repeated again.”

“Of you carving me apart like a piece of wood,” Eren addressed, his voice was, for once, clear and didn’t display the nervousness pounding in his blood.

“No, my sweet boy,” Djel quickly countered. “Of you using your strange and complex abilities to kill a man.”

Eren felt his eyes quickly widen as he took in the information he just received. “No, you’re lying.”

“I have never told you a lie, everything that I’ve said has been true and yo have killed someone.”

He thought of the event, of his pushing the man that injected him with the sedative, of how he flew across the room to land with a crack. He tried not to think of that man’s body not moving when he landed and searched his brain for any indication of movement from the body but nothing came. “No.”

“You know it’s true. He hit his head hard enough that parts of his skull shattered and left him in a vegetated state-”

“Shut up,” Eren whispered, pressing the heel of his palms into his forehead.

“There was no way to stop the bleeding and his brain continued to swell until it had no way to go but out-”

“Stop it Stop!”

“Eren, his death is on your hands and you have become the monster they’ve whispered behind your back. You’ve lost the one thing that’s made you remotely human-”

“I’m human!”

The room became deafening silent after his outburst. He found his arms shaking and breath becoming more and more frantic as he realized what he’s done. He looked up at Djel to see a sickening smirk crossing his face and felt the sadly familiar chill crossing his frame. The feeling was becoming to acquainted with him and wished he could never feel it again.

“It’s time for a reality check,” Djel explained as he grabbed one of Eren’s trembling hands and jerked him forward so they were face-to-face. “You’ve never been human. It's been like that long before you’ve got that man’s blood on your hands.”

As Djel and the guards left the room, Mark turned around to face him before leaving with the others. Glaring at him with so much hatred and malice in his being that Eren couldn’t look at him. He honestly couldn’t care about the guards the stood outside his door, but the emotion laced in Mark’s eyes made the guilt that started swallowing him worsen.

He killed a man. Even if he didn’t and Djel was lying, he had heard the crack of the man’s skull hitting the floor. He knew that he had at least hurt him but he didn’t care at the moment of struggle. He couldn’t care. Now he wished that he take it back, he didn’t regret frightening the people that were about to carve him up but instead the man whose life he ended.

What if he had a family? Mark must have meant something to him.

He tried to push the thoughts into the back of his head and rationalized his action by thinking that he had a family and a life before being ripped away from it, but he never wanted another person to go through the same thing. There was a slim chance that he could get out somehow, whether by them letting him go or him finding the courage to escape, while that man’s loved ones would never see him again. Once the door closed, Eren couldn’t help the tears that escaped his closed eyes and asked himself if he was indeed human.

I had to be human. This didn’t change anything.

No matter how he repeated it in his head, he would look down at his shaking hands, seeing the blood that covered them, though he knew it had to all be in his tiring mind.

Eventually, the door opened once again and he expected Hitch to come and drop his food off at his feet but he didn’t hear the door closing or the squeaking of her shoes on the tile. He finally looked up from his hands to see Mark and the other guard standing in the doorway. In his hands was a long metal chain that had two hoops attached to them, and Eren figured they considered the wrappings that once restrained him won’t work anymore. That he could rip through them if he had the time and motivation to rip them apart. The metal dangled from his hand as Mark flicked his head to the hallway.

“Let’s go,” he commanded.

Eren could that he moved off the bed, stood on his weak legs and then walked toward Mark. The chill and numbness began to take away everything in his body, eventually eating away at the fire he was so proud of building. He stopped feet away from Mark and simply held his hands slightly in front of him. As the bite of the metal pressed into his sensitive wrists, the light flickered out without a fight.

That was mostly the last time that Eren ever felt that light again. There were small cases where he couldn’t help but rebel against the situation he was in, it was usually after every time Djel visited him, giving him new information about himself and where he was. Though it was more about himself and not completely new information. He twisted words around or used complex meanings for the same simple words that he’s repeated numerous times already. It was to trick Eren to believe that he was receiving more information than he really was. He didn’t pick up on it until the fourth talk that he ever had with Djel and the light flickered to life briefly.

He rebelled by not taking his pills. He hid them under the mattress after Hitch left the room and mostly enjoyed the peace of not having a chalky mouth before realizing that his hearing had gotten better. Normal he would barely hear the whispers and sentences that passed by his door if they were loud enough, now he could hear full-blown conversations echoing down the hall. Most of it was mundane and had nothing to do with him, but he relished in hearing anything that didn’t have to do with Hitch’s ass or himself. Soon he found out that it wasn’t just his hearing that had gotten better. The room started to smell of mildew and harsh chemicals, even if they only came in to clean after he left to go down the hall. Though the change came slowly, he knew that his nose became sharp when he realized that he could tell when Hitch was coming, not by her voice or the guard’s reactions to her presence, but her smell. He first noticed it when she placed his meal in front of him and he was hit with the overwhelming sense of sweet roses. She sometimes entered the room and it was the only thing he can smell even after she left. Other times, when her hair was misshapen and lips were swollen, the roses would increase until it make him sneeze but he could always smell underneath all of the roses of heavy sweat. That’s when the guards would make fun of her appearance more and ask ‘who it was this time.’

His taste was also becoming acuter too, which honestly sucked since it made the food almost unbearable to eat even though after his ‘sessions’ he always found himself starving. He pushed through the taste until a certain chicken looking meat came into his stomach and he vomited it out before he had time to lean over to his toilet. It almost convinced him to go back on the pills so he could at least keep down his meals.

One day when Hitch left another one of his meals at his feet, he pulled himself into a sitting position and onto the wall. Suddenly, he heard the horrifying sound of the pills escaping his makeshift nest from underneath his bed frame. Eren and Hitch both looked up at each other with wide eyes, his more full of terror from being caught, but Hitch just left the room. He sat, terrified in his bed, waiting for the guards to barge in to see the evidence laying below him. However, no one came. The next time the door opened, it was Hitch again with another meal. He had cleaned up the evidence and flushed it down the toilet before consuming his last meal, something that never really considered an option before. He opened his mouth to ask her why, which he hasn’t done since the first time he tried to, and she just shook her head. She placed his tray down and walked out like nothing happened.

They found out eventually that he wasn’t taking his medication, but it wasn’t because of Hitch, from what he could tell anyway. A blood sample was taken from him and Djel came for another visit a meal after. He made a large speech about how Eren was never going to get anywhere if he didn’t play along and obey what he was told. From then on, every five meals they would take him in for a blood sample, and it didn’t matter if he couldn’t get up from previous sessions or that he had just lost pints of his blood from carving him up. He knew that he couldn’t keep pretending to be taking his medicine and didn’t try, especially when the other guards kept reminding him that they would shove them down his throat if the tests showed that he wasn’t taking them.

Every time he walked down the hallway, he wasn’t sure what to expect when he was pushed past the double doors to the lab. Some days he’s able to walk out of the room, only trailing some blood from not fully healed wounds yet, or he either passes out completely from whatever they do to him. Some days it's seeing how much trauma his body can handle, how much blood he can lose before he stopped healing, how much electricity could they pump through before his heart stopped beating. Or it was just a simple blood test.

He still had no idea how much time passes between each session, when he wakes up feeling every knife cut and electric spasm that they’ve pumped into his body, the next session comes all too quickly. There’s always a chance that the next one would be just as intense or even worse, probably end with his heart stopping once again. Thankfully if they put him through two intense they left him alone for a longer period of time, many meals passed between the next one and usually, it was one that left him being able to walk still.

Soon enough he figured out all of his guard’s names that regularly took him down the hallway, but eventually soon forgot them, focusing more on keeping air in his lungs and living through his next session. Their mouths never seemed to shut up after he returns, one of them spilling the exact details the lab coats did to his body and repeating that ‘it deserves everything that it gets.’ Sometimes the stress laid upon his body felt like too much and he would let silent tears stain his face, wishing for some form of release from this hell. During those times, he felt powerless, trapped in his body that wouldn’t move or obey him, and he endured many panic attacks reliving the moment of his heart stopping or becoming so cold as blood leaked out from him.

He didn’t know what his relationship was with Hitch was, but it didn’t move past her role in caretaker. The only thing that happened to be out of normal would be the small smile she would give him if he had just recently gone through a bad session. She didn’t say anything to him still but she could still hear the sly comments and laughs that she shared with the guards.

He knew that he had grown more even if they continued to give him new and cleaner clothes ever session, especially the ones where he would come back with blood coating them. Eren managed to peek at a clipboard that one of the lab coats carried around as they weighed him and found out his height. He was only slightly under 5’5” and underweight. He almost rolled his eyes at the fact that they needed to record that he was underweight, the outline of his ribs poked slightly under his skin and his limbs mostly had no muscles in them, he was all bone. It still alarmed him that everytime he grew, it meant that he had been here longer than he ever wanted to and that he was probably miscalculating the amount of time he spent alone.

Eventually, the visits with Djel came almost became scarce and few, and even when he tried to get Eren to fight back or show some of the fire that had once danced across his eyes, he just sat in his bed and took in everything Djel had to say. He knew he was losing the will to fight back or do anything besides follow orders and it took almost too much effort to eat anything. He could barely walk in a straight line when he was being transported and after some sessions, his legs would collapse before he could even get close to his room. The guards would always kick him on his side to see if he could get moving himself, sometimes he could, but they would most likely have to grab him by the arms and drag him back. If the lab coats worked on his arms, covering him in new scars, the guards would grip and yank him harder than they usually would, making Eren bite his lip to stop the painful whine that built in his throat. Every intense session drained him more and more and he tried to consume all of the food that Hitch delivered to him, but the smell and taste of the mush got to him sometimes and he could barely eat them. He always swallowed the pills, however, no matter how much it made him feel.

Eren started to soon wonder if they were just slowly killing him now, they repeated experiments seeing if his body reacted differently than normal, but it always felt the same. Djel explained to him that they’re doing it for the greater good and that their findings will help many people in the generations to come, finding some way to say what they were doing to him was justified. That his healing abilities worked better on him when he shifted, if not for his body shifting after he passed out, he would have died many times already. He wanted to ask why he woke up looking human if he shifted after passing out, but stayed silent just listening to Djel go on and on. He eventually got his answer when Djel mentioned that they created a tonic that triggered hormones in his body to go back to his normal form, and it explained why he couldn’t move when he woke up. The amount of energy he had to use when they made him shift was exhausting, he couldn’t imagine what his body would be going through when they forced another one.

He never used his voice, not that he could remember, besides to scream during the experiments. The next time he spoke it was during one of the few times Djel graced him with his presence. They had been sitting in silence, which had been the theme for the past two visits, and Djel was just waiting for Eren to react to him in any way. He wouldn’t give him the satisfaction, the reasoning behind his silence, and he would barely look in his direction. He would just stare at his scars, the new ones that were freshly pink or the ones that had turned an ugly white. Before Djel spoke for the first time since greeting him when he entered the room, Eren could see the strange, smirking smile that he hated and knew something was off.

“You know, Eren,” Djel spoke. It was honestly weird to hear anything in his room beside the air conditioning turning on and off, or the sound of Hitch’s sneakers against the tile, so hearing his voice made Eren turn toward him. “With all the information that we are acquiring for you, your mother would be proud of you.”

It felt like someone suddenly grabbed a hold of him and thrust a piece of metal straight through his gut. He had tried so hard to forget about her faceless form and who she was to him before he was here. To spare him any more pain than he already suffered at their hands and even with the constant nightmare of her death playing on repeat each time he slept, he managed to somehow push it to the back of his mind every time. Hearing about his mother so suddenly was not expected and the old feeling of rage filled his being.

“Get out,” Eren whispered.

Djel’s eyes slightly widened at his voice, but his unnerving smile spread.

“Get out! Get out!” he shouted.

However, he wasn’t focused on Djel to see if he was truly leaving but rather at the voice that escaped his throat. He didn’t recognize the deep voice that clawed its way out and hoped that it wasn’t really his. A trembling hand moved to his throat, wanting to say something to prove himself wrong but too terrified to even open his mouth. The rage that he felt too quickly snuffed out realizing, once again that he had no control over his life, that his body continued to change when he couldn’t do anything about it.

He didn’t notice that Djel had left already and he honestly couldn’t care. Laying down and curling up on himself, he finally let his tears be known as he sobbed into his flat pillow and wished for it to end. He knew that it was just Djel trying to get a rise out of him, but the words couldn’t have been opposite of the truth. Eren could feel his mother looking down him from, wherever she was, with eyes full of shame. He couldn’t do what she asked and run, and he deserved everything that he endured because he failed.

The only thing he could look forward to was Hitch’s deliveries of food and medication. It meant that he wasn’t going to endure pain or flatline on the table, not until after he finished his meal anyways. Even if she still choose to ignore him, besides the few smiles, he still greatly enjoyed her presence. However, while he slept one day, he woke up to find his tray laying on the floor and empty of everything but his colorful pills. He took them out of fear of the next round being shoved down his throat but confused over the lack of food. He was tempted to knock the door and hope to get some answers from the guards, but there was a slim chance either of them would talk to him. He’s never had a tray that wasn’t filled without least bread or a questionable meat and decided to wait until Hitch had to come replace his tray with hopefully food this time.

By the time that Hitch came back around, his stomach was cramping and the thought of the food that she had on his tray made him almost drool. When she placed the tray down he was greeted with pills again and his water. He opened his mouth to ask her what the hell was going on but she shook her head like she would explain later. Before he could ask how soon and when he’d be able to eat but she left the room.

He swallowed his pills.

His stomach cramps were becoming painful, almost to the point that they made him double over when it started to spasm. The noise it made seemed to come out of the throat of the animal he could shift into and grew louder as time continued. Just the thought of that tough and almost tasteless food made his mouth salivate to the point that his saliva was dripping down his chin. When Hitch came in once again with only pills, Eren wanted to sob from going without food once again until she possibly brings it next time she comes. However, Hitch stood next to his bed after she placed the tray on his mattress and started to quickly dig into the pocket of her blue scrubs. She pulled out a rectangular shaped wrapping and threw it into his lap before quickly grabbing the tray and turning to leave. Before she got to the door, she turned toward him, nervousness spreading out her body.

“Don’t say anything about this to anyone,” she whispered.

She was gone before he could ask her why.

He looked down at the rectangle in his lap and brought it to his nose to sniff it. Once he smelled the almost forgotten sweetness of chocolate, he ripped into the foil wrapping, almost eating it too, and wolfed down the bar. It was gone too fast, even licking his fingers and palms where the bar touched wasn’t enough to get the sweet and intoxicating taste back down his throat.

Hitch continued to bring just his pills, though that was just what the guards thought, and brought him bars of nuts and berries, sometimes it was the one covered in chocolate and he sobbed every time he ate it. The most she brought was two, which didn’t come close to his starving stomach but relieved the pain enough until she came back around. He had learned his mistake from when he stopped taking the pills and put the foil wrappings in the toilet, the evidence of Hitch’s betrayal down the drain.

Eren could hear the comments of the guards, wondering how he could still be standing after going days without food, especially with how thin he already was. It was a couple of bars before they started to get more suspicious, though he was grateful to her, which he expressed to her multiple times, she continued to give him the bars. Said that it was compensation for when she couldn’t help before. It warmed his ever-growing cold heart, but he was still concerned about her getting caught for helping him. Soon enough, he was greeted by the guards instead of Hitch, though he knew it was about the time she should be coming around since his stomach was beginning to have his usual painful cramps. Every time that he saw the guards, they started to blend into photocopies of each other, each of them had the similar build and height and the only thing that slightly differentiated them was their hair colors. They didn’t say anything as one of them, a blonde, walked to his isolated bed and grabbed the front of his shift, pulling him off of the bed. His head immediately began to spin and nausea slammed into his stomach at suddenly being in a standing position. He wanted to reach out and grip the guard’s arm for stability but knew that it would give him nothing other than a black eye or worse if it even looked like he was going to touch any of the guards.

He knew where he was going as the guard continued to drag him out of his room and down the hallway. His knees gave out only a handful of times and he only felt like once bending over to hurl the last of the bars from nausea that continued to build inside of him. He didn’t know how long they had tried to starve him but apparently, he’d outdid their expectations by a long shot.  When they placed him on the metal slab, he wanted to struggle but could barely find the energy to lift his head slightly. One of the lab coats grabbed a hold his jaw while two more approached him from the other side, one holding a metal bowl while the other equipped with a long cotton swab. Soon enough he emptied his stomach into the bowl, though he tried to angle his head in the middle randomly to get some of his bile on the doctor currently making him vomit. It worked though only a little got on his coat. He didn’t seem to notice or even care until Eren saw him later hassling throwing his coat off onto a very green man wearing blue scrubs. After vomiting his guts into the bowl, the guards took him back into his room while he feared what the bile would tell the lab coats. Whether if they could tell that someone was sneaking him food or if the bars, that had barely nourished him, had been completely dissolved in his stomach so they couldn’t have the evidence.

When his tray of pills was delivered through the slit in the bottom of the door, the only way he was fed before he found out that he wasn’t human, he felt his stomach drop. They hadn’t given him his tray like this after meeting Hitch and worried that something could have happened to her. That they did something to her. He somehow, however, convinced himself that she can miss a tray and that he would only start worrying if she didn’t appear the next time the pills came through.

The medication came through the slot.

He had propped himself next to the door when it first came through, mostly because he knew he didn’t have the strength to make it to and from the bed again. Not without becoming so lightheaded that he was going to pass out. When he saw that the slit opened, he grabbed a hold of the tray to stop it from coming in any further but the guard’s hand pushed it further in without much effort.

“Where is she?” Eren asked.

His voice sounded so weak, dry. So broken.

“Hitch is dead,” the guard replied.

 

He didn’t remember passing out, or hitting his head hard enough to start having blood leaking from his skull. The only thing he realized when he opened his eyes the next time was that he caused another person to die.

“You’ve awakened, Eren,” Djel’s voice said softly.

He turned his head slowly toward his voice, making his neck crack with the movement. His eyes began to tear up as he saw that Djel sat in his usual chair, that he still brought himself, and a frown etched on his face. The wrinkles in his forehead were deep and he pointed to the side of his head, indicating to Eren to feel his own head. His hand moved over his scalp to feel the hair that was beginning to feel greasy and then felt cloth.

“You did a number to your head,” he explained as he leaned back in the foldable chair. “If you were human, you’d probably have required twenty stitches and mandatory bed rest...but you’re not human.”

“What happened to Hitch?” he suddenly asked.

He didn’t hesitate when he answered. “You.”

Apparently, he looked just as confused as he felt because a sad smile made its way onto Djel’s face.

“You somehow convinced her that you were deserving of pity, and she fell for it. You should have known that many people here do not like the very idea of you. The idea that you are born is an abomination to mankind to almost everyone here. The only reason you are alive is to serve the greater purpose of humanity and give us the ability to cure diseases and injuries thought incurable. People can’t harm you because of this, Eren. So what do you think they do to the ones that show pity toward you?”

His body started trembling as Djel reached into his pocket and pulled out two square pieces of paper. He threw them at Eren, landing in his lap, and what was displayed in the still photos made him quickly lean over to the side and vomit bile into the toilet.

Hitch’s lifeless eyes stared off into the distance as a faint red mark wrapped around her neck, which was turned unnaturally to one side. Her tanning skin was the color of his walls and his vision became to narrow realizing that he caused her death. Before he could turn away from the images already imprinting themselves into his mind forever, he caught what the other photo contained. Her body hanging inches off the ground in a stairwell, the one that he passed every time he went to his sessions. It probably wasn’t even the same stairwell but he wouldn’t be able to stop himself from turning his head toward it in the hall and seeing her body hanging.

He didn’t notice that Djel had collected his chair and moved to the door until he cleared his throat. Eren slowly looked up to find Djel’s hand at the door and smiling at him.

“Just start believing what everyone thinks of you, Eren before you get more people killed.”

He started screaming before Djel closed the door.

 

Food finally started arriving, through the slot of course, and if he hadn’t had barely eaten over the course of them starving him out, he probably wouldn’t have consumed anything on his tray. He didn’t wolf it down as he once did when he was only receiving the bars, but he still ate everything on his plate even if he threw it all up moments later.

The guards didn’t take him to any of his sessions since Hitch’s death and he had somehow hoped that they may have pitied him in some way. That his body and shifting abilities wouldn’t function correctly with him being this upset, but he highly doubted it. It hadn’t stopped them before when he could barely walk and almost dead on his feet. He also ignored everything that the guards talked about, it mostly involved with it having been his body hanging instead of Hitch’s...which he soon agreed with.

He didn’t move, only when it was required for him to do. Waking up and laying in that position until his tray arrived. Sometimes he crawled and sometimes he had to use the wall to walk toward it, and he would sit against the door to eat his sorry excuse for a meal. Then he would return to his bed, lay down, and try to imagine his life vanishing, him dead along with it.

When the door opened for the first time since Djel’s departure, his heart stopped. He knew that the sessions were going to start up again but it felt too soon, it always felt too soon. The eyes on him buried into his back but his body refused to him. He knew better than to not start heading toward the doorway to await the metal restraints waiting to encase his wrists. The punishment was worse if he refused, even if it was just because the body he inhabited couldn’t physically get up.

The door suddenly closed and Eren just hoped that they just decided to wait another time, to give his body some time before throwing him into another life ending session. Then he heard small footsteps walking slowly toward him.

“Hello,” a soft voice whispered.

Eren turned toward the small voice that filled his room and was greeted with the warmest smile that he’s ever seen. “My name is Petra, what’s yours?”

 

Chapter Text

Eren hated his new caretaker, Petra. She tried, with almost an annoying amount of effort, to get him talking to her, and she was good. He almost greeting her when she slipped into one of her many one-sided conversations with him, acting like they were long friends catching up on the day’s events. He didn’t want to know what she ate in the morning, or who she greeted as she walked down the hallways, and he tried his best to shut her out the moment the door opens and she walks through. The image of Hitch’s body was still too fresh in his mind.

She always announced her presence by two short knocks on his door followed by her poking her head out from behind the door when she opened it. A warm smile spread across her lips if she caught him staring at her, though it was more of him wondering why she was putting so much effort into opening him up. She always wore the blue scrubs that Hitch wore and he expected to see the blonde turning brunette hair rather than the strawberry blonde of Petra’s hair every time he saw the scrubs out of the corner of his eye. Whenever he looked up at her as she places the tray in his lap, he also expects to see amber, sad eyes staring back at him but instead greeted by chocolate brown, like the bar of chocolate covered nuts that Hitch died over.

Eren could feel her breaking through the walls that he threw at her, and he began to want to talk back to her, to answer the questions she asked him, or ask her what some words she said meant. However, whenever he began to open his mouth, Hitch’s body flickered in his eyes and could feel Petra’s eyes filling with hope until he turned away from her. It took multiple visits until he finally cracked. Eren could ignore someone easily if they did the same to him but when they were willing talking to him, trying to get something out of him, it was harder to pretend they weren’t there.

Petra greeted him like normal, set the tray of food and medication on his lap, and then started talking to him again. About her day and how she drove to work, how she still gets lost in the hallways.

“-I’ve only been here for a few weeks but I still have to ask someone where to get around. They’re always so grumpy too, you can’t greet anyone or smile at them without being looked at like you have two heads,” she laughed.

She was leaning against the wall near his bed, her petite body always looked like it was swallowed by his scrubs, and she crossed her arms over her chest while Eren continued to listen and eat. “You know, I haven’t figured out your name even though you’re mostly the only person that I’ve talked to.”

Eren was tempted to correct her, saying that he wasn’t a person, he wasn’t even human, and obviously, no one has told her what he is. Or she was just stupidly putting herself in danger for the fun of it. She’s had to have heard about the last person she filled in for. What happened to people when they show him an ounce of kindness.

“They didn’t tell me much about this job other than being a caretaker, which is only giving you your meals and medication. Of course, it’s easy money. Sit around while I play around on my phone until I grab the tray, deliver it, talk to you, you listen, and the whole process repeats,” she explained. “Probably the easiest job that I’ve ever had honestly.”

The smile that had plastered her face suddenly fell and Eren wondered what he did to make it go away. She pushed herself off the wall and faced him before giving him a sad smile.

“Then though you don’t really speak, either by choice or you can’t...I feel like I could consider you a friend in time.”

His eyes widened at her confession and when she picked up his empty tray and started heading toward the door, he felt tears leaking out at the thought of seeing this warm smile disappearing from his life but he couldn’t stop himself as his mouth opened.

“Eren,” he said as Petra’s hand landed on the handle of the door. “My name is Eren.”

She flashed him a smile before disappearing behind the door.

 

He secretly enjoyed the times that he spent with Petra but he hated that his mood significantly improved whenever he heard the two rapid knocks she made to announce her presence. Whenever she waited for him to eat, she would lean against the wall near his bed, never moving toward him unless to put down or grab his tray. She greeted him always with a happy ‘hello, Eren’ and a welcoming smile. At first, he only nodded to her in greetings at first but soon began to whisper a quick hello. It was nothing compared to the familiarity and excitement she showed but it was the only greeting he’s given since arriving here. He still was only comfortable enough to ask simple questions like what certain words she said meant. She also never asked him anything but how he felt today, which his answer was always a soft okay. He felt like she knew more than she let on, of why he was here and why he was covered in more scars than skin showing. Though every time he caught her staring at the ones not covered by his sleeves, he instinctively grabbed for the blanket and wrapped himself in it, shielding her eyes from the hideous marks. A blush would dust her pale cheeks as she quickly steered the conversation to her day. She never pushed for him to speak, always nodding in understanding if she asked something and he answered in silence before jumping to her next point. Whenever she went on a tangent about a show she was watching, something about doctors in space, or complaining about someone else in the building, he could never understand fully what she was talking about but didn’t care.

He enjoyed that he was hearing anything other than the air conditioning and the guards bad mouthing him or the nurses, who he expected were the people dressed in blue scrubs. Petra would look over at him to see if he was understanding everything pouring from her mouth and he would just nod to signal to keep going. She would talk his ear off if she had the time too but their chats always came to an end when a device on her small wrist beeped three times. The first time it happened, it spooked Eren almost to death and it took Petra awhile to calm him down without coming close to him, explaining that it wasn’t going to hurt him or anything like that. She had even started to help him understand what it was but Eren started to get confused when she used so many unfamiliar words in one sentence and just shook his head to tell her to stop.

The three bells, unfortunately, rang, ending Petra’s chat and the disappointment never failed to fill Eren as she picked up his tray and said that she'd see him soon. As she disappeared behind the door, he hoped that it wouldn’t be the last time that he’d see her. That the next time the door opened, it would Djel with another set of photos but with Petra’s body being displayed rather than Hitch’s. He didn’t think he could live through another person dying because of him; he would completely break and knew he wouldn’t be able to put himself back together this time around.

Eren hadn’t be dragged down the hall since they made him throw up when Hitch was still alive and helping him fight off starvation. He was happy not to focus on breathing air into his lungs and waking up after certain sessions that literally killed him. However, with every time the door opened to reveal Petra, he knew that the next time it did, the higher the chance she may not be the one opening it. Just when he begins to get used to another change, they always throw him off and plummet him back into pain.

The next time the door opened and he wished with all his heart that it was Petra awaiting for him, but he didn’t hear the quick two knocks. Two of his guards greeted him with his old, metal restraints and Eren had to stop himself from curling into himself and refusing to move. Whatever awaited him at the lab was going to be tough on his body, he could already tell from the smirk planted on the guards’ lips. He didn’t need to put himself through more by disobeying them so he stood up on his ever-trembling legs and walked toward the door.

 

Eren couldn’t feel his fingers or legs as his guards lead him back to his room. His fingertips were almost charred to a crisp and the slight twitch in his fingers made him bite back a whimper in pain. It didn’t help that his arms were trembling from the remains of the electric current that they pumped into his body, making his hand and fingers tremble too. They allowed him to heal his feet and toes so he could walk back but the wounds were still too fresh even with his inhuman saliva. They had forced him into turning, something he still despised even after all this time, and run on a large machine with a flat, matte top that wrapped two wheels. They called it a treadmill but he wasn’t allowed to tread. At first, the speed was set to an easy walk but they increased it until it was difficult to keep air in his lungs. Whenever he slowed down, a powerful pulse of electricity pumped through the machine and into his paws. The first time it happened, he immediately stopped, making his body fly off the machine and collapse in a painful heap. He heard the lab coats order him to get back on the treadmill and promise that it’ll be over soon. They always promise that it’ll be over soon or for him to hold out for a bit longer but it always felt like it was going on forever. Eren could see the guards eyeing him when he was taking too long to get up and he pushed his tired body to get back on the machine.

They continued to shock him if he slowed down from the tormenting pace. His muscles were protesting either from lack of use or the electricity and his breath was coming out in heavy pants, it was difficult to bring the air back into his body. Soon his paws were in complete agonizing pain and the only way to relieve them of some pressure was when he was running when his paws barely touched the ground as he pushed himself to keep going. They sent one last pulse through and the pain sent him tumbling over himself, landing on his front legs, more pain emanating from his body as the machine rolled him onto the floor. Thankfully they decided that they were done with his session and he was able to shift and at least start licking his blackened toes and red feet. His guards stopped him before he could even close to his fingers and internally cursed them when they threatened to shove his face onto the machine and let them pump more electricity into him.

When he finally entered his room, he waited until the guards closed the door before making quick work of healing his hands. Sitting on the floor against his bed frame, he started with his right and gasped in pain as his slightly rough tongue made contact with the dead skin. Ignoring the enormous pain running through his digits and the almost vomit inducing taste in his mouth, he watched as the blackened skin started to peel off, revealing the pink skin underneath. The steam rising off of his hand mostly covered up the process of the healing and it was honestly the only time he was grateful for his abilities. He would have been dead long ago if it wasn’t for them.

Before he could start working on his other hand and fingers, a loud metal ringing suddenly filled his small room. His head jerked toward the noise to see a metal tray flipped upside down and the mush he called food splattered across the white floor, the pills scattering across the room. Petra stood in front of the closed door with her hands covering her mouth.

“Oh my god, Eren,” Petra gasped.

She mostly threw her onto the floor to kneel in front of him and grab his hand that was still covered in dead and burnt skin. When she yanked his hand away from him, a painful whine escaped his throat and he placed his still steaming hand behind his back.

“What happened?” she asked frantically as she continued to inspect his fingers and palm.

He wanted to tell her that he would be fine if she would just give him back his hand but wanted desperately to not break this illusion that he was building with Petra. He needed for her to keep believing that he was human, that there had to be something remotely human about him. When he didn’t answer her, she looked up at him and placed one of her hands on his cheek, to which he flinched away from her touch even though he knew she wasn’t going to hurt him.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered.

Her eyes turned sad, shaking her hand as she instead touched his upper arm and gently squeezing it. “Don’t apologize, sweetie.” She quickly looked around the room searching for something in the empty room but when she couldn't find it, she gave him another gentle squeeze before getting up. "I'll be right back."

When she stood up, Eren went to grab her but ended up accidentally using his still injured hand and yelped in pain. He didn't even touch her, just closed his fingers slightly, trying to grab her scrubs before she got too far away. She closed the door behind her as she left and he began to make quick work on the dead skin, though it started to steam once she turned her back to him when she left. He was grateful for his normal healing, that it took longer to start so Petra didn't see the stream coming out of his now freshly pink wounds, but he couldn't explain how he no longer had burnt fingers. He could no longer keep the illusion up anymore. No matter how much he wanted to, he wasn't going to cause himself any more pain by letting his wounds continue to heal slowly by themselves when he could ease the pain in a matter of moments.

By the time that Petra came back, holding a new tray full of new food and medicine, his fingers now pink and tender to the touch, no longer steaming either. She placed the tray next to the door and rushed back over to Eren. He had hidden his hands behind his back to try and give him some time to think of an explanation as she kneeled in front of him and started to unpack small rolls of cloth and tubes from her large pockets. Once she set everything out in front of her, she placed her hand out, waiting for Eren to give her his.

"Eren, please give me your hand," she whispered. "I just want to help."

She gave him such pleading look that he couldn't stop himself from slowly pulling his hands away from his back and placing him in her's. Petra was already reaching for a white tube before even looking at his hands but the tube dropped from her fingers when she saw his healed fingers. Though they would never fully go back to his normal healthy skin, his fingers and toes would forever be an ugly, shiny pink and covered in slight wrinkling that could barely be seen. His healing abilities, though extraordinary and lifesaving, couldn't heal the scarring that covered the majority of his body. She turned his hands over, examining them like they were wonders of the world and ran her fingers over the new scars. Looking at him with fascination and confusion, she opened her mouth to ask him a question that shattered him.

"What are you?"

Human.

That's what she wanted to tell her. It was at the tip of his tongue but couldn't lie to the woman in front of him. Couldn't lie to the only other person that wanted to treat him instead of inflicting pain or ignoring him. He answered truthfully. "I don't know." God, he hated that his voice betrayed how conflicted he felt about telling the truth to her. He sounded so broken and small.

She must have seen the struggle that he was enduring all over his face because she gripped her hands around his and squeezed them. "Well, I know who you are," she told him.

He looked up at her in confusion until she gave him on her warm smiles. "You're Eren."

"Why? Why are you doing this?" he asked, tears starting to build in his eyes.

"I've heard what they've said about you. They warn me about what you are and what you've done before I bring you your food every day-"

"I know what they call me," he breathed as he turned his head away from her gaze.

"But I've never listened to them, Eren."

"You should!"

He didn't mean to shout but he kept imagining Petra laying dead in front of him, either by his hand or the people that walked the halls outside his room. "Hitch died because of me and that man-! That man is gone because I couldn't control my strength and I'm the monster they say I am! I'm a freak and-"

Eren was cut off by her arms wrapping suddenly around him, making him stiff as he was pressed tightly against her chest. He realized suddenly that she was giving him a hug and couldn't think of the last time someone had touched him, or even anything close to something like this. He couldn't help but think of the faceless woman who had been his mother, whose hair he couldn't think of or the smile that made him feel safe and grounded. His body became to feel cold, goosebumps raising as he pushed the faceless form to the back of his mind as more tears threatened to spill onto his cheeks. He could feel Petra holding him tighter and then moved one of her hands to his hair, running her soft fingers thru the knots. She had placed his head underneath hers which was somewhat difficult with him being several inches taller than her but he didn't fight her on it.

"Eren, I want you to listen to me, okay?" she asked softly.

She waited until he nodded. "You're not a monster. The monsters are the ones that are doing these things to you. That man-... that monster that died knew what he was doing to you, what he was putting you through and you acted in self-defense. You're still a child. And with Hitch-" A whimper uncontrollably escaped his lips at the sound of her name. "She helped you because she couldn't stand by and see them starving a child to see how long they lasted. The monsters outside preyed on her because of her compassion and it isn't your fault."

Eren couldn't keep the tears in anymore and finally, let go as a sob tore him apart as he became boneless in her hold. Petra continued to play with his hair and whisper again that it wasn't his fault, something he never knew he needed to hear. He honestly didn't know how long he cried into her chest, staining her blue scrubs with his tears but it was long enough for him to develop a headache that pulsed slightly behind his eyes. His tears slowed down and finally started to calm down, but Petra continued to wait for him to get everything out, rubbing his back in small circles. Eventually, she peeled Eren off of him but motioned him to lay on the bed. When he laid down, she moved his head so when she sat down it was laying on her lap. Her fingers returned to his head and lightly scratched her nails into his scalp, making a low rumbling appear in his throat, catching him off guard but made Petra laugh.

"You purr," she snickered. "Like a big, old house cat."

He turned red from embarrassment but could do nothing to stop the purring when she continued to scratch his head. When she stopped and instead just rested her hand on top of his hair, he turned toward her to see her smile gone and concentrating.

"Can I promise you something?" she asked, turning to meet his eyes.

He was more tempted to shake his head, that he didn't want to expect or hope whatever she was going to promise because most likely she would be dead before she could fulfill it. However, he just nodded his head slightly, regretting the action as soon as he did.

"I'm going to get you out," she whispered.

His eyes probably widened comically as he heard her words echo throughout his head and had to believe that he misheard her or this was a cruel joke that she was throwing at him. Though from the seriousness and concentration that was coming off of her, she wasn't joking and he wanted to start crying all over again. He immediately tries to extinguish the rising hope that was building inside of him. That this petite woman, who probably could barely take him down, was to somehow sneak him out past his guards and whatever else awaited outside of his door.

"How?" he questioned.

She smiled down at him. "There's always a way out, sweetie. You just need to figure out the right methods. Though it's going to take some time and I'll need you to hold out for a bit longer."

"How much longer?"

He honestly didn't know how much longer he was going to last in this place when it only took one session going too far and they wouldn't be able to restart his heart again. That would be the end of him and he would never see the warmth of this woman in front of him again.

“Soon,” she explained. “Definitely sooner rather than later, I just have to get some plans together before even attempting to do this.”

She then started to scratch at his scalp once again, making him grow tired, the events of the day started to lay heavily on him and he closed his eyes. He didn’t remember falling asleep but what he did remember when he woke up was that Petra was gone and it was the first time that he didn’t have a nightmare.

 

The lab coats gave him time to recover from his previous session and only took him in twice to get his blood tested, making sure that he was still actively taking his pills. It gave him more time to spend with Petra when she visited. She stayed for her usual amount of time when she delivered his food but sometimes would visit in between meals and stay for much longer. He had asked her how she managed to do it, but she just said that it was a secret before winking at him. Though he quickly noticed that she only came when certain guards were stationed at his door and wondered what she did to buy their silence. He only hoped that she offered them something that didn’t harm her in any way. She never showed up with tangled hair or lips that were swollen like Hitch’s and was surprisingly grateful for it.

When she didn’t speak about what shows she was watching, which Eren was getting some grasp on but still hopelessly lost, she started talking about her life outside his walls. He learned that she was an only child and had only her dad, though he was currently in poor health and recovering from a recent heart attack. She lived by herself with two cats that were passed onto her by an insane friend that had bit off more than she could chew.

“She could barely remember to fed herself, and I grabbed them before they decided to eat her in her sleep,” she laughed.

He expected to feel a deep, ugly jealousy whenever she talked about her life, something he once had and couldn’t remember but small fragments that were too tiny to grasp fully. However he found himself just eager to find out anything about life outside, he soaked up the information like a sponge and drank in every last detail. She explained that in her last job she had been there for over five years working as a secretary, to which Eren had to ask her what that word was.

“It’s mostly just answering calls and scheduling meetings for the bosses, it’s pretty boring except when I can go with them to the field, making sure that everything goes as planned,” she reminisced. “I have some medical training when I worked under my friend that couldn’t keep cats, though it was mandatory for everyone to know some basic things.”

Eren was slowly growing a picture of what Petra’s life was like, the people that she surrounded herself with even if she mostly only mentioned two; her crazy friend that can’t be trusted with animals and a man that she placed in high regards. She always had a certain glint in her eyes when she talked about his foul mouth and the attitude that made most hightail the opposite direction of him. He couldn’t see how this man she went on and on about could be a good friend, especially from the way she explained how he greeted certain people and that he enjoyed tea than being around others.

“He could have a staring contest with a snake and win,” she would explain with a slight smile on her face.

He could barely remember what his mother’s face looked like but he had seen that glint in Petra’s eyes before. It was the same look that his mother would give him, to which he felt almost embarrassed when he opened his mouth to ask her his question.

“Do you love him?” he asked softly.

Eren had been greeted with a shocked expression from her, but it spilled into a large smile before she began to laugh hysterically. He for a second feared about the guards hearing her, but he remembered that she was visiting in-between meals and that they knew their time was up when they knocked twice on the door. After Petra would leave, the guards would be replaced with the next shift a little while after she disappeared. He immediately felt foolish for even asking the question.

“Oh, is someone jealous?” she laughed, reaching across the bed and pinching his cheek slightly.

He swatted her hand away lightheartedly, still wary about his strength since he never knew when it would appear and could feel his face burning. “No, of course, I’m not. It’s just…”

She waited patiently for him to continue, something that he immediately liked about her, never pushing for him to share anything if he wasn’t ready to.

“You-...you get this look in your eye whenever you talk about him,” he continued.

Petra nodded at his comment and leaned against the wall next to Eren, they were mostly shoulder to shoulder, though her shoulder was slightly below his. She placed her hand under her chin like she was deep in thought but it was exaggerated to the point that he knew that she was still poking fun at him. Though her face turned slightly serious as she faced toward him.

“Honestly, I may have had a crush on him at first, mostly because dark and mysterious is something a girl can’t resist but realized that he was already committed to something,” she told him. “It was his work, of course. He didn’t have time for anything else, barely had time for friends.”

He nodded at her to indicate that he understood everything that she was saying, to signal her to keep going. “It mostly all started before I got the job with him and everyone else...My dad and I had been barely scraping by and I was involved with-... how should I put this?...Less than ideal individuals. They were bad people and I did some less than questionable things to make it by. We had a deal going with another group of people and something went wrong. I got injured...I thought I was going to die but Levi was nearby and heard the commotion.”

He finally got a name for the mysterious man that he tried to picture in his mind. She never explained what he looked like besides being dark, mysterious, and constantly having a scowl on his face.

“He saved my life, stopped the bleeding and listened to my story. After he took care of me, he offered my dad and me a job at his work. Of course, I thought that it was too true to be real. I mean, this beautiful stranger swoops into my troubled life and offers me a way out.”

“What did you do?” Eren found himself asking.

“I took his offer of course. I’ve been grateful to him ever since and I can probably never repay him for what he’s done for me. So no, I don’t love him, but I do consider him a great friend and my savior.”

That was mostly the last time that she talked about Levi or her previous job, he could tell that she would mentally go back to those times and have a soft, sad smile reminiscing about them. He could clearly tell that she missed those people in her previous life and couldn’t bring himself to ask her anymore, even if he wanted to know more about this mysterious Levi.

To quickly changed the subjected she asked him a simple question. “What would be the first thing you’d want to do after we find your family?”

She had promised that along with getting him out, she would help him with finding the rest of his family, though he knew that his mother was dead and he couldn’t remember anything about his two friends. He couldn’t help but feel hope, even if it was the tiniest flicker, whenever she talked about his escape and the possibility of breathing in fresh air.

“The ocean,” he suddenly recalled. “I made a promise to see it with them.”

 

The sessions started back up and thankfully nothing was as intense as the last one he endured for the first couple of times he was dragged down the hall. Though some of them still sent him into a panic if they restricted his head or approached him with a large needle. Petra seemed to always know when the lab coats pushed his body almost to the breaking point, if she couldn’t come in between meals, she would act like she normally would until the door closes behind her. Placing the tray door near his bed frame, she would pull him into a hug and start scratching his scalp, his weakness. He would try and tell her that he was fine, forcing a small, nonreassuring smile across his face, and failing at proving to her that he was in fact ‘fine.’

Over time, Eren began to feel guilty about hearing Petra’s life when he gave nothing to her in return. He tried to raid his mind, to see if he could salvage anything from his old life but always came up short. It made him beyond frustrated with himself but he couldn’t do anything to jog his memory or help make him remember. However, when Petra was updating him on the plot of the doctor in space, during one of her visits, and began to zone out. He couldn’t help it and felt the slightest bit of guilt but he couldn’t even try to keep up with the plot she was describing. He instinctively nodded his head if he heard her pause, giving her some proof that he was still listening but still had no clue what she was going on about. He kept thinking of things that he could have done before he was placed in his room, not of the people surrounding him, never that or else he wouldn’t be able to get rid of the pain in his chest until he couldn’t think about anything else. Suddenly, a memory hit him like a ton of bricks, he could hear Petra stop talking and asking him what’s wrong before grabbing his hand lightly.

He suddenly remembered laying on a rough carpet, paint, and pencils surrounding him and splattered across a piece of paper beneath him. He felt strangely proud of the painting below him and he couldn’t even remember what was on it, though it was colored in an array of bright, colorful colors. Next to him was his mother’s faceless figure, clapping her hands and praising him in his drawing abilities though he couldn’t imagine her voice.

“Drawing,” he whispered, coming back from his memory.

He looked over at Petra to see confusion all over her face as he felt tears filling his eyes, even though he tried to hold them back, they spilled over when he opened his mouth once again. “I used to draw.”

She suddenly gave him a sad smile, and before he knew what was happening, she pulled him into a tight hug.

 

The next time she came into to deliver his meal, a notebook was hidden underneath the tray and she hid a pencil in her pocket. He almost wept at the gift as she placed it in his hands and told him to hide it under his bed if someone tried to come in. Some of the pages had been drawn in already, guessing that they’re from Petra herself. She explained that she wanted him to recreate the drawings that were already there so he can build back his skill. When he first tried to redraw a simple shape, his hands shook with the foreign feeling of an object in his hands and using it to write, something he hadn’t done in a long time.

As repayment, he did something that he hadn't done without the lab coats commanding him to do it, he shifted for her. She had hinted that she knew about his shifting abilities and wondering if his fur was soft like Sonny and Bean’s. He really didn’t give her warning mostly because he didn’t want her to witness the actual change even if it didn’t hurt as much as it once did, the bending of his bones would probably frighten her. He didn’t want there to be a chance that she would faint or anything like that so he waited until after a meal and when the two guards she used the most for her in-between visits, he shifted. He hadn’t been worried about the guards taking him in for a session since they just recently took him in and the chance that they were going to again soon after was such a slim chance that he wasn’t worried. That was until he was in his other form and started to overthink if the guards came in and try to force him down the hallway, they would inject him with the serum that they all had, that forced him to change back though it was a thousand times more painful to go through the change that way.

It didn’t take Petra too long to come back from whatever tasks she had and she looked like she was about to pass out when her eyes fell on his form. He had tried, but apparently failed at, making himself look unthreatening, but he was, in fact, a large cat with a mouth full of canine teeth that could puncture flesh with the slightest pressure. Eren had laid on the bed, stretched out and was flickering his tail since he never had the chance to figure it out, whenever he chanced it was always tucked under his legs or flailing around, knocking everything over.

“Eren?” she suddenly asked.

He nodded, trying to make the movement big so she would understand since he knew for a fact that he couldn’t speak in this form. Her eyes grew large, moving toward him and reached out a hand toward him once she neared the bed. She looked at him with question, probably asking permission to touch him, which he didn’t expect to appreciate so much. He responded by just leaning himself closer to her, to which she started to run her fingers through his back.

“You’re so soft,” she suddenly laughed. “Oh, Hanji would have loved this.”

Petra mostly spent the remainder of the time just petting him, running her fingers through his fur and scratch his head. She told him multiple times that if he wanted to change back, that he could but he just shook his head. He still didn’t want her to see the process of him changing and also he was surprisingly comfortable in this form. He never thought of shifting into his cat outside of the lab and didn’t think that he would enjoy it as much as he did now. It felt like he was stretching for the first time, being able to finally stretch his limbs and fall into a relaxed state.

Once she left, he decided to stay in the form for a bit longer until he could hear the guards changing their shifts. He focused on his limbs and mouth to return back to normal and felt the familiar burn of muscles snapping and reforming until he was back to normal. His breathing began to come out heavier, starting to tire from shifting back and forth so quickly but when he opened his eyes, he found that he had his scarred fingers and limbs back instead of his soft, pink pads. Soon after, the door opened showing his new round of guards waiting for him in the hall and he hoped that it would just be a simple blood test since he didn’t have the strength to go through anything too intense.

 

He started to fall into a familiar rhythm, and the visits with Petra were always his favorite part. He started to yearn for the small touches that she gives him. He always welcomed the scratches on his scalp or the circles she would make on his back to calm him down. However, whenever she visited right after coming back from a session, especially if it was anything to do with being restrained to the table or coming back from the dead, he would have to get reacquainted with her scent, strawberries, and citrus. He would flinch away from her touch, having to remind himself that it was Petra, that she wasn’t going to hurt him if he didn’t want to head straight into a panic. The hurt look that she tried to mask immediately never failed to fill him with guilt and he would then let her talk about whatever she wanted to, to make himself feel a bit better about hurting her.

Whenever she wasn’t seeing him, he would be sketching away on the notebook that was almost full, and he had outgrown the shapes that Petra made in the beginning of the book. He hadn’t let her see the book until she was mostly begging him for a sneak peek and she had commented on how good he was. He, however, didn’t feel like he was at all. Yes he was making progress but he always felt like something was off with the sketches and when he tried to fix it, he messed it up even more. Drawing starts to become his escape from the walls surrounding him. Petra soon brought in photos of random objects, things that he could recognize but couldn’t recall what they were called. She even brought photos in of her cats, urging Eren to keep growing in his talent.

At first, he saw no point in trying to hope that he would get better, but she always reminded him of her plan of getting him out, that it was happening soon but she just needed to get some more things settled. That he could use his talents to help him when he gets out and make a life for himself. He wanted to ask if she would still be in his life when he was out, that she would be there to help when he wakes up thinking that he’s still in here. Eren knew that he was going to have nightmares for the rest of his life because of this place, that would never be able to get over everything that happened here, and wanted Petra at his side to help.

He started to grow some confidence with his drawing and started to sketch out Petra. It took multiple attempts for him to feel satisfied that it actually looked like her but the hardest part was her eyes. He tried to figure out how to capture the warmth that filled them, the layers of brown and gold that reflected only if the artificial light hit them at the right angle. Whenever she asked to see what he’s been drawing recently, he would show specific pages but never of ones that were full of her, at different angles or sometimes just her eyes. He felt guilty for not telling her about the drawings but when he thinks about showing her, his cheeks would burn up with embarrassment and convinces himself out of it.

Eren had been extremely careful about the notebook and the pencils that he had been hoarding. He tried to not too sucked up into sketching, always keeping an ear open listening for any tells that they were going to open the door. Somehow, he always manages to tuck the book and pencils between the bedframe and the mattress before the door is fully opened to reveal his guards.

One time, however, he was to focused on working on her cat, Bean, and planning to give it to her, trying to repay her in some way for everything she’s done for him so far and for what she’s going to do too. He didn’t hear the door open and continued to draw the patterns in the cat’s black and white fur.

“Where the hell did you find that?!” one of the guard’s voice echoed throughout the room.

He tried and failed to hide the evidence in his hands by putting the notebook where he usually hid it but failed when the guard ripped it from his hands. He reached out to grab it back but the other guard, he recognized as Mark, grabbed his hand and yanked him to stand in front of him. Gripping both of his arms and pinning them behind his back, causing him to yelp in pain. The other guard held the notebook in front of him, waving it around.

“Where did you get this?” he questioned, authority oozing out of his voice.

They’ve had to know where he got it from. He only saw one person regularly but refused to open his mouth and give them the satisfaction of actually saying her name. His head shook in response and Mark brought his arms closer together, making a pained whine escape his throat. The guard frowned at him, clearly not expecting him to rebel, and opened the book to start looking through.

“Oh, what do we have here?” he snickered.

The guard ripped a page out to show Mark one of his many sketches of Petra. “Really? Do you have a crush on that slut of a nurse?” Mark laughed.

Eren continued to struggle against him as the guard took the page and started tearing it apart and then throwing it into the toilet. He started begging them to stop, as he continued to shred the notebook apart and could do nothing as the last of the notebook was throw into the hallway. Mark finally let go of him and he sagged onto the floor, frozen as the only evidence that he was good at anything was flushed down the drain. The guards left the room mostly without another word toward him, laughing at his drawings, and closed the door behind them. They didn’t return to take him down the hall like he expected, and Eren couldn’t bring himself to get off the ground and look at the remaining shredded drawings surrounding him.

 

He knew that they were starving him again, or maybe the time was flowing so slowly because he didn’t have his sketches to keep him company and Petra never visited him. When the two guards that were always stationed appeared, he hoped that she would have managed to sneak in, or that their deal was still on so he wouldn’t have to deal with this silence anymore. However, their shift ended and replaced by other guards and she didn’t come. He started fearing that she had met the same fate of Hitch but threw it aside every time that the thought reared its head. Eren couldn’t live through any other person dying for him and he just hoped that the next time the door opened that it was Petra with her warm smile, instead of Djel with more photos.

The stomach pains and cramps continued to eat at him as time went on without a meal or any indication that one was coming anytime soon. However, when the door opened the next time, he expected to see his guards since he didn’t hear Petra’s tell of two knocks, but we greeted by another woman in blue scrubs. She was extremely pale with black hair and ruby lips, her black eyes frantically looked over him before placing the tray next to him and hurrying out of the room. He looked at the food but couldn’t bring himself to reach down and gobble it down within seconds, not when Petra wasn’t the one delivering his food anymore.

His mind ran in circles as he tried to think of what had happened to her. She had to be lying in a morgue somewhere, dead and gone from this world. He couldn’t see that she suddenly quit and left him behind, not when she promised to help him escape. He kept fearing and imagining the worst, that Petra was gone and he was going to rot away in this place.

The next time that the door opened, it was his guards, the ones that Petra only used when she came to visit him in-between her meal delivery. He wanted to ask them if they happened to know anything but they didn’t say anything but one of them indicated with his head to start moving down the hall. Getting off the bed and abandoning his forgotten food, though he regretfully swallowed his pills, Eren started to follow them both down the hallway. They were the only ones that didn’t restrain him and he kept looking at the back of their heads, trying to summon the courage to ask them where Petra was but failed every time he started to open his mouth.

When they arrived in front of the white double doors, one of them swiped his card while the other went behind him. Once the doors opened, he felt the man’s sudden breath at the back of his neck.

“I’m sorry but she’s not coming back,” he whispered before escorting him into the dark lab.

 

He couldn’t feel anything. He barely ate anything that his new caretaker brought him, just the pills. Every bite felt like too much to push down his throat even if he barely nibbled at the bread and he had to constantly remind himself to actually swallow the medication instead of letting it just sit in his mouth, coating every inch of his mouth in the chalky substance that he hated. He spent hours staring at the wall, always feeling a chill even when he surrounded himself with every blanket and pillows he was allowed to have. The warmth kept leaking out from him.

Eren tried to understand what he’s done for Petra to suddenly leave, to quit and leave him still trapped in this place. He thought that maybe the same people that hurt Hitch were trying to hurt her and she had to leave for her own safety...but she still promised to take him with her. His hand twitched every once in a while, feeling the need to draw once again but he just shook his hand and ignored the need.

The nightmare of his mother's death still haunted him in his dreams, but before it would end, he found himself in this room. Petra would be waiting for him on his bed, sometimes she would greet him with her familiar smile or she would stare blankly at the door. She would comfort him, saying that she'll come back, before she stiffens and blood would bloom under her blue scrubs. Her body would suddenly slack and she'd fall onto his bed, straining it in blood, lifeless, and he could do nothing but stare as her body turned cold. Other times, she would scream at him, raising her once comforting voice and lashing him with words he never imagined coming out of her mouth. She would call him a monster, that he was, in fact, the reason why Hitch and that man died, that she couldn't believe that he bought her lie of saving him. The place he belonged was behind these walls, where he could be contained and controlled, and if he died, then no one would know or care.

It didn't matter which way the dream ended, he awoke with tears staining his face and his breath coming out in painful pants.

When every time the door opens, somewhere in his heart, he hopes that it's Petra, to greet him with the only warmth he was ever given. However, it's always his guards or the new caretaker that refuses to make eye contact with him, and he scolds himself for thinking that she would come back for him. He wants the hope in his chest to just die, to flicker out, so he can stop thinking that there was a chance to escape.

 

While he laid down, wishing for the hundredth time that he wouldn’t wake up from the nightmare that plagued his dreams, the heard two faint knocks. His heart sped up but choose to ignore it, especially from the many times that his mind played tricks on him and imagined the knocking but the door never opened. He pulled the blanket more over his head and burrowed himself into his cold mattress, trying to make himself warm again. Then the door opened. He sat up in one fluid motion, though it made him lightheaded and watched as Petra, in her blue scrubs, entered the room. His body froze as she smiled at him and walked across the short distance to him.

I must be dreaming. This has to be a dream.

“Eren, I’ve missed you,” she continued to smile.

She went to touch his arm but flinched away in response, staring at her with wide eyes and waiting for the other shoe to drop. Waiting for the blood to start staining her scrubs and for to grow pale before falling dead on the ground beneath her. His ears started ringing as he saw her mouth moving, probably trying to comfort him, but he just covered his ears with his hands.

“Wake up, wake up, wake up,” he commanded himself.

Please just let this dream end.

Suddenly he felt his shoulders being grabbed and shaken, Eren pulled all of his attention onto Petra. “This isn’t a dream, I’m here, sweetie,” she whispered to him, trying to keep eye contact with him.

“Why?” he asked when he found his voice. “Why did you leave me?”

She placed her hand on his cheek, giving him a sad smile before rubbing the pad of her thumb on his cheek. “Once they figured out that I’ve been spending a lot more time than just the scheduled feedings with you, they put me on suspension as punishment so we’re going to have to be more careful with our visits,” she explained.

“It wasn’t because of me?”

“No, sweetie. I would never leave you here, especially if I thought I couldn’t get back to you.”

The heavyweight that had been on his shoulders lifted off of him, filling him with relief but then he started to worry about Petra. They now knew that she was spending unscheduled time with him, what if the people that hurt Hitch now came after her?

“I don’t want you to get into any more trouble, Petra,” he confessed.

“I made a promise to you Eren, that I would get you out, and I plan on going through with it,” she confidently told him as her hand squeezed his shoulder.

His old fears began to come to the surface as his doubts about getting out crashed into him. “What if the sessions become too intense, what if I die on that table before you figure out your plan? I don’t know if I can hold out any longer-”

“You have to Eren. It’s only for a little bit more, I swear.”

He started to shake his head but she gripped his shoulders harder, drawing his attention back to her.

“Someone is waiting for you out there, Eren. They have been waiting to find you after all these years. Your friends are waiting for you to come back, they want to go to the ocean with you,” she frantically added, he could tell that she was trying to get him to see reason.

“Don’t you understand?” he asked, starting to feel anger rising within him. “My mother is dead, my friends have probably forgotten all about me, and I can’t even remember what they look like! How am I supposed help you find people that I know nothing about?”

He could feel himself falling apart, shaking and finally realizing how hopeless he would be. Even if he got out, no one would be waiting for him. Petra grabbed his face with both hands, snapping out of the endless spiral that he was throwing himself into.

“The people that I’ve mentioned before, Levi and Hanji…they can help. They have the resources to find anyone even with limited information about them. I promise you that they will find them,” she declared.

He desperately wanted to believe everything that came out of her mouth, but he had more doubt in his body’s ability to keep going than anything else. It deteriorated with every passing day and the meager amount of food they gave him wasn’t coming close to the actual amount he needed to have any energy. He would deal with it though, put all of his efforts into living through each session while Petra continued to work on her plan to get him out. He believed in the woman in front of him that was offering him his freedom and he just hoped that he lived to see it to the end.

“Promise?” he asked as he placed both of his hand on top of hers and squeezed them gently.

She nodded in response, grabbed his hand and placed them on top of her heart, could feel it pounding beneath her flesh. “Promise.”

Chapter Text

Trying to get back to his normal schedule was harder than Eren thought. Pretending to not go into a panic when the door opened and hoping that they somehow haven’t heard Petra’s and his conversations about escaping. Whenever it was Petra that came through the door, the relief that rushed through him made him feel idiotic, that they were being as careful as possible. They barely mentioned her plan and he was mostly left clueless, which Eren hated but knew that the less he knew the better. When she wasn’t the one that greeted him, he tried to hide his panic and thankfully the guards didn’t notice or thought that it was nerves from having to go back to the lab. Part of it was.

Walking down the hall was becoming more of a challenge every time he left his room. He wondered if he’d even come back to his room or be carried out in a body bag, leaving Petra to find his room empty. They hadn’t thrown an intense session at him yet, which he was grateful, especially with not knowing how much more trauma his scarred body can take. With every visit, she reminded him that it wouldn’t be long before he was out, that he just needed to keep going for a little bit longer, but every time she said that he was getting more frustrated. He wanted to at least know a window, a time frame where he can up all of his remaining energy into, focus on surviving at least until then.

The only time that Petra was allowed to visit him was during his meals. Even if the guards that she bribed before were stationed, she didn't visit. He understood it was meant to not raise suspension but he missed the extra time she spent with him, even if he didn't understand half of the words coming out of her mouth meant. She was caught before, though it was mostly his fault for not hiding his notebook better, and she didn't want another thing to set them back on their plan. Well, her plan.

The food that had been delivered in his tray seemed like they were shrinking in size like they were trying to keep him from regaining any strength. Petra seemed to catch on too because she began sneaking food to him through her pockets. The amount of food she managed to fit inside of her pockets boggled his mind. She threw all of the pieces of bread and rice into the empty bags she carried and replaced them with meats and vegetables. Even with his senses numbed by his medication, he could taste the freshness of the food that she brought him and teared up at eating meat that didn't threaten to break his teeth. The vegetables that passed through, if he could even tell if they were, mushed into nothing inside his mouth, falling apart and almost tasted revolting. After he finished eating all of the food that Petra made him, she would make sure all of the bags that she brought were stuffed into her pockets and asked Eren if she looked abnormal. Usually, it was a no, but sometimes he could see the bulk that the plastic bags made if they were stuffed too close together, which he would quickly inform her before she took a step toward the door.

On top of bringing him food, Petra instructed him to just walk around his room, walk the perimeter a couple of times in between her visits. She explained that he needed to build some sort of muscles back in his legs, even if it was a little bit since she didn't know what could happen if something went wrong. When he first started, he tried to take it too far. Walking so much that his muscles in his calves ached for hours and he felt weak for not being able to last that long. Petra scolded him when she found out that he overworked himself, saying that he would make himself worse if he pushed too far.

He didn't push himself as hard as he did the first time but he could feel that he was making some progress with his legs. They didn't give out within twenty laps around his room anymore and the number increased almost every time he began the exercise. The praise that he receives from Petra helped him want to do better and last longer through, getting closer to his goal of going around the room sixty times before feeling his muscles starting to tense.

During one of his meals with Petra, his legs feeling sore and shoving down food into his throat, she was being abnormally quiet. Her mind was obviously somewhere else and not even asking if she wanted to update him on anything about her doctor show helped. She sat next to him, her legs pressed against his and the empty baggies were spread across the mattress.

"Eren, when I come to visit you again, it's going to be the last time we're going to be like this," she admitted. "I still can't tell you a lot but at least now you can prepare yourself a little bit."

His heart then decided to pound wildly in his chest. His mind hadn’t processed that he was leaving, that he was close to freedom but now that he had a time frame of how close it was, his hands won’t stop trembling. He had been frustrated and mad at Petra from withholding this information from him, but now he understood why she did. Anxiety started to grip onto him, fully understanding that he’d soon leave this god awful place and that he was still very much in the dark about this plan.

“I need you to understand something,” she cautioned, grabbing onto both of his hands to stop the trembling and pulling his focus completely on her.

She had an expression on that she only wore a handful of times, she was concentrated and cold, and he knew he needed to hear everything she had to say. “People are going to get hurt. It’s unavoidable since they will stop at nothing to get you back. You’re that important to them,” she confessed.

He was silent for a while, taking in her words before asking his one question. "How hurt are we talking about?"

"People may die."

Her response was too quick and emotionless to his liking but he had been thinking about their escape for a long time, and he couldn't see them just walking out of here without any bloodshed. Did the men and women outside of his room deserve to be killed so he can live? The lab coats that tormented him and created all of the scars throughout his body, yes. He surprised himself with how little empathy he felt for them but they have been laying blades into him and repeatedly killed him over their need to learn about him. Not all of the guards deserved to be killed, at least not the ones that Petra paid off. though if they stumbled upon the bald-headed one, his opinion might change. However, the other people that he's never interacted with or even know that he's here...no they didn't deserve to die, especially not over him.

Petra must have seen the inner war he was having with himself because she squeezed his hands slightly. "I will try to keep the casualties to a minimum but I can't promise that no one will get hurt."

He looked into her eyes and could see that she was telling the truth. There was a large possibility that they weren’t going to walk out of here without their hands coated in blood.

 

To distract himself from the impending escape, he walked. He probably did it a lot longer than he should since when he stopped, his muscles ached and screamed in protest when he pushed himself too hard. Eren couldn’t help it, he needed to pump all of his nervous energy into something and he couldn’t do it if he sat in bed all the time.

Shortly after Petra’s news, they took him in for another blood work and he worried that they’d be able to tell that he’s been getting extra food but everything went like they usually did. No one came barging into his room demanding answers after he returned but it still made him paranoid so he kept walking. When he wasn’t making a hole in the floor, Eren sat on his bed literally twiddling his thumbs, not knowing what to do with himself.

The next time that Petra came in, she brought more meat and protein with her and let him eat some bread that she gave him. She also grabbed the pills before Eren could pick them up and threw them into the bag with the mushy meat that he would have eaten.

“I’m going to need you more aware when we do this, Eren. I would have made you stop taking them on my last visit but I knew they planned on doing another blood lab but didn’t know when. Thankfully they did it after I left or else our plan would be a little harder than it already is,” she explained thoroughly as she placed all of the bags back into her pockets.

Even though she was masking it a whole lot better than he was, he could tell that she was getting nervous for what laid ahead. She was trying to put a front for him so he thought at least one of them was level-headed. However, he was pleased to know that he wasn’t the only one that was freaking out about what they were going to do.

“Just think, Eren,” she whispered to him, putting a hand on his knee. “The next time we see each other, it’ll be on our way to freedom.”

The smile he received from her was forced, even though she tried her hardest to keep him from knowing. “We’ll get through this together,” he found himself reassuring her.

She blinked in surprise but her actually smile appeared instead of the one she pushed herself to pull. Petra nodded before grabbing both of his hand and they both squeezed each other's at the same time, trying to convince the other and themselves that everything would turn out okay. That they would both live through this.

 

Petra gave him some advice before she left, don’t waste energy. She didn’t want him to walk around his room and his legs to be in pain or even aching when her plan was in effect. Her reasoning was that she didn’t know what could happen and if they needed to run, she wanted Eren to actually be able to use his legs. Though he had trouble following her only order, he itched to use all this pent-up energy that he’s gained from the food that Petra snuck him. With the nerves that were quickly overflowing inside of him, he wanted to run around the room, to just release at least some of it, but the fear of something going wrong kept him planted on his mattress.

He was beyond jumpy and it didn’t help with his senses slowly coming back, every minute it felt like he could hear farther and smell the scents of everyone that passed by his room. If he concentrated hard enough he could hear his guards breathing outside of his room and wondered if he wasn’t on his bed but rather closer to the door if he can hear their heartbeats. He would have to get used to having these heightened senses, especially when he would be hearing more than just gossip outside of his door soon enough.

The next time that the door opened, he was greeted by Petra with her usual tray of food. However, as soon as the door closed she rushed over to Eren and dropped the tray on the bed. She dug a bar, like the ones that Hitch had given him, and put it into his hands. He swallowed down the memory of Hitch, someone he hasn’t thought about in a while, as he tore into the bar of nuts and dried fruit. It tasted heavenly in his mouth and he wished he could taste the food that Petra made for him with his new tongue.

“Eren, can you promise me something before we start this?” she whispered to him as he consumed the bar. “If I say run, run...even if I’m not running with you.”

His head started shaking before he could respond to her. All he could think about how eerily sounded familiar to the last thing that his mother said.

“I’ll be right behind you, I swear, but if things go sideways, I need to know that you will do as I say,” she continued, taking his hand.

He caught on quickly that whenever she did that, she was trying to get through to him or to just get him to listen to what was coming out of her mouth. Unwillingly, he nodded.

“No, I need to hear you say it, Eren,” she demanded. “I can’t have you hesitating on me.”

“I’ll do what you say,” he uttered.

He didn’t know if he could keep his word but he would try his hardest. However, he didn’t know if he could leave Petra behind if she told him to. She searched his face before giving his hands a last squeeze before letting them go and standing up.

“So what’s going to happen is that I’m going to get the guard’s attention, he’s going to come in here and probably going to grab you. I’m going to need you to just go with it so we can avoid any injuries,” she explained as she grabbed the tray and stood near the bed.

“What are you going to do after that?” he asked.

“I’m going to knock him out, of course,” Petra continued. “Now get up and stand near me.”

He couldn’t imagine this petite woman taking down one of his guards but he trusted her and did as she said. Suddenly she slammed the tray down on the ground and screamed, turning into this person he didn’t recognize. She reacted to him like she never saw him before and ran toward the door. He was dumbfounded as the door slammed open with one of his guards rushing in, taking in the scene and immediately reaching for Eren. Instinctively, he wanted to twist away from the man’s hand but remembered that Petra wanted him to not resist. He found himself on the ground next, his arms being twisted onto his back, making him cry out in pain.

“Oh, thank you! He suddenly tried to grab me and I was so scared!” Petra cried.

“I’ve warned you many times, you can’t trust something like it. And!-...” he ranted before suddenly being cut off and the pressure on his arms was released.

Eren twisted around to see the guard’s body lying next to him and Petra towering over him with an empty needle in her hand. She reached out a hand toward him and helped him get onto his feet. “You hurt?”

He shook his head as an answer as she threw needle onto his bed and then unleashed the gun from the guard’s holster, stuffing it into the back of her pant linings. A knock on the door suddenly made Eren remember the other guard on the other side of the door. He looked wide eyes at Petra but saw her go to the door and open it fully. Recognizing one of the guards that she used to visit him, he started toward the door as he handed a bag over to her.

“The money is already transferred and I have someone ready to contact you about everything we’ve discussed,” she explained to the guard.

When he finally got to the door, the man eyed him and then Petra before letting out a sign. “He better be worth it,” he replied to her.

Before he could ask what was happening, the guard walked down the hallway and disappeared behind a corner. She turned to him then, already digging through the black bag and pulled out a plastic card, and put the bag into his hands.

“Change,” she ordered. “Hurry.”

He didn’t get that much chance to examine the contents before being hustled into his room. He changed into the blue scrubs that was inside along with a black long sleeve, meant to most likely hide his scars. When he stepped out of the room, Petra was nervously checking her watch and gave him a final look before looking pleased with herself.

“Follow me and keep close, no one should stop us and everyone’s shifts are changing so we should have enough time to get out before anyone notices,” she said as she grabbed his hand and lead him down the hall. “Hopefully it’s smooth sailing from here.”

 

Eren never imagined that the place that he’s been housed in was so massive. They’ve twisted and turned down many hallways and staircases, and the white that swallows his room also runs throughout the whole building. There weren’t any windows in the hallways, which he found himself slightly disappointed in, but at the same time, he would have wanted to stare at what he’s been missing out on for years and probably be scolded by Petra. He can enjoy everything he’s missed when he was safely out.

He had no idea how she was finding her way around since everything looked the same. The hallways lead to more hallways that looked exactly the same as the ones they just got out of and the only indication that it was a different hallway was the signs posted on each end.

“How the hell do you know where you’re going?” he suddenly asked.

“Where did you pick up on that language?” she fired back.

It felt like they were walking forever and it was definitely the farthest he’s ever walked that wasn’t in a circle around his room. He was grateful that Petra mostly commanded him to do some exercise to get him ready.

They hadn’t run into many people, but the ones that they have, they couldn’t have cared less that Eren and Petra were there. They completely ignored them, heads stuck in their vanilla folders or phones, something that Petra just recently showed to Eren. He, at first, reached for Petra’s shirt, holding it between his fingers. He would have tried to grab her hand but thought that the movement would have been too large and draw attention to them.

“I’ve been here long enough to know a basic route but I had to study the map for multiple ones,” she went on. “Levi always taught me to prepare for the worst and-”

“Petra!” a pleasant voice appeared behind them.

They both turned around to see a woman in blue scrubs smiling at Petra, making Petra curse under her breath. Confusion soon etched her cream face as she took Eren in with keen eyes.

“What are you doing here?” she questioned, studying him with her pale, blue eyes. “I thought you were off already.”

Petra gave her one of her warm smiles and tried to bring the woman’s attention onto her by stepping around him and moving closer to her. “I was planning to but then Chairman Fritz wanted to speak to me,” she explained smoothly. “You know, regarding my suspension.”

He didn’t understand how she could easily make up these lies on the fly, making them sound believable too. The woman nodded her head, making the bun of her dark chocolate hair move with the movement, but she brought her attention back to Eren. He tried to stay calm as her eyes flickered over him.

“You look familiar,” she suddenly stated.

Before he could say anything, most likely ruining everything Petra had been working for, she interrupted him. “Oh him? He’s new and asked me to help him find the breakroom.”

“But isn’t the breakroom-”

“He wanted the one that’s near the south lab,” she lied. “Apparently when they first showed him around, they put his things in there but can’t remember where it is.”

He nodded once she looked at him for confirmation. He didn’t trust his voice not to crack under pressure or for him to lose his nerve halfway through a lie. The woman continued to study him until Petra once again pulled her attention away from him.

“Well I’ll see you tomorrow for lunch,” she called out before signally Eren to follow her down the hallway they were previously traveling down.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the woman’s eyes grow, finally putting the pieces together of Eren’s identity, and suddenly sprinting down the hallway that she came from.

“She knows,” he cautioned Petra.

“We need to hurry,” she replied as she grabbed his hand and pulled him down the hallway at a quickened pace.

As they walked faster down the hallways, taking sharper turns around the hallway, moments passed before the lights went out. His grip tightened in Petra’s hand before the hall was bathed in red lights and a low siren erupted through the building.

“Fuck!” she cursed loudly as she sprinted to the end of the hall and looking around the corner before pulling him along.

Lab coats and the nurses covered in blue scrubs seemed to come out of the walls, suddenly they were everywhere. Everyone running in different directions and scrambling to wherever their destination was. No one paid any mind to Petra or him as they started to run down the halls, and soon they came to a hallway that lead to a set of double doors. However, there was a large group of lab coats standing outside of it, and there was no way to push through without them having a good look at Eren.

Petra then reached out to pull the guard’s gun from the lining of her pants and raised it to the ceiling. She stepped into the hallway and signaled him to stay put while she cleared her voice.

“Move!” she commanded before firing into the ceiling.

Eren had to cover his ears over the explosion coming out of the small device but it did its job. The lab coats came flying down the hallway, having to pass Petra and him to escape but they cleared out. She grabbed his hand again and moved down the hallway to reach the doors, swiping the card that the guard gave her before he left.

“Eren we can’t slow down now, they know the general area of where we are now so we need to move,” she reported to him as they waited for the light to turn green, telling them that they can pass.

It felt like it took forever before the light flashed and Petra slammed open the door, grabbing onto Eren once again. They ran down the hallway with her now fully displaying the gun, and he wanted to argue that it’d be better if it was put away so they weren’t suspicious. However, at least fifteen lab coats had seen her face when she fired it and that woman had seen them together. He realized that now Petra was preparing for the worst...and he should too.

The siren was still going and it was the only thing that muffled their pounding footsteps against the white tile, though he was starting to feel a headache forming from the constant noise. They turned the corner of two more hallways before Petra slammed into a meat wall. Eren looked in horror as the bald-headed man that had once been his guard stood in front of them. The man instantly recognized who he was and took in the situation before he could draw a shaky breath. He grabbed the gun out of Petra’s hand and within the same moment, it was sliding down the hallway. His hand grabbed past Petra and gripped onto his shirt, and then threw him down the hallway. Eren landed on his side, hard, and let out a pained whine before looking back to find that the man had Petra pressed against the wall with his hand surrounding her throat.

“I knew you were trouble the moment you showed up,” the man hissed as he seemed to add more pressure to her throat.

Petra started clawing at the man’s hands and he could only look in horror as she gasped for air. “Acting like an innocent airhead, you had everyone fooled but me, princess.”

Eren frantically started to look around to find anything to help. The gun. He began looking for the only piece of color that would contract from the white and found the gun a couple of feet behind him. Scrambling across the floor, he grabbed for the black object and found the gun heavy in his hands. Standing up on his trembling legs, he took a couple of steps toward Petra and the guard before raising the gun toward the bald man.

“Hey!” he proclaimed.

Somehow he didn’t let his voice display how frightened he was and it came out a short, loud command. The guard’s head spun toward him, still keeping his hand around Petra’s throat. Her eyes followed him and she seemed to be pleading with him not to do anything too extreme. The man suddenly let out a deep laugh at Eren, he was taking in his shaking arms as he tried to keep the gun steady, keeping it pointed at the man that was suffocating her.

“You think that you can handle that, freak?” the man laughed. “I don’t believe that you have the guts to pull the trigger. Now, wait your turn until I’m done with this bitch over here.”

A feeling of determination washed over his body as the man returned to adding more pressure to Petra’s small throat and she let out a painful gasp, still trying to get some air into her lungs. He focused all of his energy into his hands, making them stop trembling and aiming for the guard’s shoulder, away from her in case it passed through.

When he felt the vibrations pulse through his hands, it shocked him enough that he dropped the smoking gun. The noise was too loud for his ears but he resisted the urge to cover them as he saw the man’s black shirt growing wet where his bullet landed. The hand that encased Petra was gone, it now was cradling the man’s shoulder as he let out a string of curses and turned a heated glare in Eren’s direction. He could see that Petra was now sitting against the wall, gasping for the air that she had been deprived from and having both of her hands on her throat, feeling it. Before he could ask if she was okay, the man blocked his view, grabbed a chunk of his hair and threw him onto the ground. He tried not to let out the painful yelp that made its way out of his mouth but the man sat on top of him before he could struggle against the weight. Using his hands to try and push the man off, he just simple grouped his hands together and pressed it against his chest, still having a painful pull on his hair.

“I should have killed you that day,” he confessed. “But I can make up for that mistake tonight. Can always say that you were too aggressive, needed to put you down because there was no way to control you...Chairman Fritz would understand.”

The grip on his hair disappeared but then the hand moved to his throat and he immediately couldn’t breath. He started to struggle more against the man, wishing that his strength would kick in so he could get this heavyweight off of him. His throat began to throb and burn, even if his mouth was open trying to summon the air into his lungs and tears started to leak out from his eyes.

“Too bad, if you weren’t so fucking disgusting, you would have been a good fuck. Just imagining being buried in-”

“Hey, Fucker!” Petra interrupted.

Both of them looked over to see Petra standing with the gun pointed at the man’s head, then she pulled the trigger. Before he could see the gruesome scene that would unfold in front of him, he turned his head and closed his eyes. He felt a warm wet liquid splatter some of his face, making bile rise up in his sore throat, and then heard the guard’s body fall to the side of him. Thankfully it wasn’t the side that he was facing and once he felt the dead weight off of him, he scrambled to get off the floor and Petra grabbed his arm to help him.

“Are you okay?” she asked, concern written all over her face.

All he could do was nod and try not to look at the body lying at their feet, he knew if he looked then he would throw up the little food that Petra gave him and make his throat feel worse than it already was. She looked all over him before grabbing for his hand once again and pulled him down the hallway that the man came from. His legs didn’t want to move, only to tremor beneath him and threatening to give out but he repeated to himself that he could freak out when they’re out. He can sob and scream at what they’ve done when Petra says that they’re safe.

He could still the man’s blood dripping down his face but he didn’t make a move to wipe it on his sleeve. He wouldn’t be able to handle see it at the moment.

When they got near the end of the hallway, Eren suddenly picked up the sound of multiple footsteps behind him.

“Someone’s behind us,” he warned Petra.

They both looked behind them in time to see two guards rounding the corner, taking in the man’s body and the pair of them fleeing before pulling out their guns and aiming them toward Eren and Petra.

“Go!” she ordered, sprinting down the rest of the hallway and almost rounding the corner before they started shooting.

A grunt of pain escaped her lips before she fully made it around the corner and before he could try and see where she was stuck, a pain that made itself known bloomed on his right side. He knew he was shot, but fought through the growing pain until he made it around the corner. Petra had her back to the wall and taking shots when she could and with every shot the number of firearms going off decreased. He couldn’t focus on how many shots were being fired as he leaned against the wall next to Petra and looked down on himself. The color red was spreading against the blue of his clothing and bile once again built up in his throat. He started getting lightheaded and the numbness spread through his body until all he could feel was the pain radiating through his side. He felt himself sliding down the wall and grabbing his side as blood began to seep through his fingers.

“Petra,” he gasped.

A few more shots were fired before he felt hands on his shoulders. “Oh my god, Eren.”

Looking up, he saw that her face was worried but it was becoming out of focus, making him curse quietly to himself. Panic was seeping from his pores as he understood just how bad everything had gone. How much of the plan had gone out the window at this point, and him being shot was icing on the cake. He could see Petra quickly looking around, searching, and once she found what she was looking for, started to grab his arms, pulling him up.

“You have to help me, Eren,” she stated as he was mostly deadweight in her arms.

He found his footing, not before letting out a pained groan as he stretched his side standing up. She wrapped his arm behind her neck and led them to a white door that was labeled maintenance. Swiping the card that she tucked into her pocket, the door flashed green and she forced their way into the small room.

The room was dark besides a faint light that came in through a window in the back of the room. A window. If he wasn’t in pain and trying not to pass out from it, he would probably be pressing his face against the glass to see outside. Petra placed him against the door once it was closed, reached up toward the knob and messed it for a second before putting her full attention on the growing pain in his side. He felt like he couldn’t breathe enough air into his lungs and before he knew it, they were coming out in short pants.

“Eren, breath, I need you to breath for me, sweetie,” Petra repeated to him over and over again until he managed to get it under some control.

She peeled up the clothes to look at the wound, making another whine escape but tried to hold everything else in when she shushed him quietly. He could begin to hear footsteps outside the door, the other guards still searching for them, and he held his breath every time they got too close to the door.

“It’s mostly stopped bleeding but you’ve lost a lot of blood,” she told him. “Thank god for your healing abilities or else we would be completely screwed.”

He looked more closely at her face and found blood dripping down her cheek. He reached a hand out and touched his fingertips onto the deep scratch on her cheekbone. She let out a small hiss and swatted his hand away. “It’s fine Eren, I’m more worried about you.”

She smiled slightly at him, probably to try and calm him down further, and he couldn’t help but give a smile back before a painful groan replaced it.

“I’ll get it treated once we’re out, I didn’t see an exit wound so most likely the bullet is still inside,” she explained.

He nodded as she grabbed onto his arms, pulling him up once again. “What are we going to do?” he found himself asking her.

She had to have a plan, she herself said that she had a hundred backups in case anything happened, but he didn’t think that him getting wounded and trapped inside a closet was in one of them. Petra left him to lean against the door as she made her way toward the window, looked out of it before nodding to herself.

“Thankfully we’re on the first floor,” she muttered to herself.

“What’s the plan?” Eren questioned.

“We’re going to climb out the window, run across the clearing, and then climb over a fence,” she told him as she started to open the window.

He couldn’t believe that it was so simple. “And then we’re free?”

“Once we climb the fence, we need to run some more, but yes, we’ll be done.”

The hope that flickered to life inside made the pain still flaring up in his side die down to just a throbbing. It still announced it’s presence if he took his mind off of it for too long but he needed to focus on getting out. It had to be his main focus and his injuries he can worry about later. She climbed through the small opening first and then grabbed his arm to help him over the window sill. Once they were both outside, Eren tried to block out everything his senses were taking in but it was starting to get overwhelming.

Breathing in this fresh air for the first time made him want to sob, he couldn’t pick apart the many new scents that flooded his nose and he just wanted to enjoy the night air. He did allow himself to only look up into the sky for a couple of moments, seeing the large moon and the stars surrounding the night sky made him want to stop and stare. However, Petra’s pull of his arm made him remind himself that he can enjoy being outside when they weren’t so close to danger still.

There were spotlights circling from where they were tucked between two walls and the chained fence a hundred feet away from them. The black fence was at least twice his size and wondered how he would be able to make it over it before his limbs decided to fail him.

“I need you to stay on my heels and when I say that you climb, you need to climb,” she ordered as she looked up at the moon, it was barely there but gave just enough light to barely see Petra. “Thankfully there isn’t that much light from the moon or else this would never be happening now.”

He stared straight ahead at the fence, the only obstacle really left for him to conquer before finally leaving this place behind. He could hear her heart pounding inside of her chest and he was the same way, they were so close and couldn’t fail now. She was mumbling numbers to herself, probably counting how many seconds they had to get across before the light came back and would find them.

“Ready?” she asked, gripping his hand.

He only responded by tightening his grip but she nodded in understanding. The light swept by them and immediately after, Petra tugged his arm and they were off.

The run to the fence felt like the longest and shortest run he’s ever experienced in his life, and it didn’t help that Petra let go of his hand when they got close enough to see the holes in the chains of the fence. “Climb,” she commanded.

She jumped onto the fence, giving her a foot of a head start, and knowing himself he didn’t follow suit but rather tucked his bare feet into the holes. She was clearly making a lead and was already at the top of the fence when he was only halfway there. He knew he was being slow and willed his body to hurry up but his side throbbed painfully.

Petra reached a hand down to him while she sat on top of the black fence and he happily reached for it when he got close enough. However, he regretted the action when it pulled too much of his side and he let out a muffled scream as he was pulled up. His teeth bit into his lower lip, trying to keep his scream as quiet as can be but it wasn’t quite enough. He then heard the sounds of guards yelling at they know where they were and told her once he managed to sit on the fence with her.

Eren was already trying to bring his other leg over the side so he could begin the painful trip down but Petra stopped him, grabbing his arm. She looked at him with so much conflict crossing her face that he knew what the words were going to be before she opened her mouth.

“Keep going,” she uttered to him. “I’m going to be a distraction so you can go first, I’ll be right behind you.”

“No!” he proclaimed.

He knew that she was lying, that she wasn’t going to be behind him. Tears began to cascade down his face, shaking his head.

“I have to distract them or else we’re not going to get away,” she repeated. “Eren, I will find you, I promise.”

“You won’t-”

His tears wouldn’t stop and Petra shook his arm to get his attention. “I need you to listen to me...You see where all those lights are coming from?” she pointed out. He followed her finger to see some a large source of light raiding off of buildings and nodded. “Run there. Run into the city and find a large building called the Wings of Freedom, you can’t miss it, Eren. Demand to see Erwin Smith or Levi Ackerman, just make sure to remember those name, and say that I sent you there. I’ll meet you there.”

“I can’t go without out you.”

“You have to.”

She suddenly pushed him off of the fence, he expected to land on his face but his body manipulated itself so that he landed on his feet. Still, his side made him bend over in pain but he managed to look up to find Petra still on top of the fence, taking the gun from out of her pocket and reloading it with more ammunition. Before she jumped back onto the ground, she looked over at him and smiled.

“Petra!” he screamed, running to the fence but she held her hand out.

“Go, I won’t repeat myself again!” she ordered him.

He knew he needed to run, the guard’s footsteps were getting louder and doors that lead outside were opening. Reluctantly he turned around and started sprinting toward the source of all the lights on the horizon. He didn’t get very far before he could hear Petra’s voice one last time.

“Be safe, Eren. I will always love you,” her voice whispered to him.

The sounds of multiple firearms replaced everything. Louder than his breathing and heart. Eren allowed himself to look back once, to stop and stare at Petra’s escape, to convince himself that this wasn’t the last time he would see her. Instead, once the last shot went off, the ringing continued in his ears as he witnessed Petra’s body falling to the Earth.

 

He’d never run this hard in his life. His muscles argued and screamed with every movement but continued to push himself. Eren couldn’t let himself think of what he just witnessed, he couldn’t. If he did then he wouldn’t get away. He would curl into himself and never move, not until they found him and forced him back. They would find him if he didn’t keep moving. Everything that she would work for would be wasted. Everyone that they killed would have died for nothing.

About a couple of hundred feet, before he could see the concrete of the buildings, he decided that running in his other form would be faster. His body wasn’t going to last long and he still had no idea where he was going once he got into the city. Abandoning his clothes and seeing that the wound on his side was still bleeding, he forced himself to shift. He screamed from the pain of the shift but also from it feeling like his side was splitting in half. Knowing that shifting would make a temporary fix for the wound, forcing his body to heal it even with the bullet still inside of him. He still needed to get the bullet out or the wound would never fully heal, his body still knowing that there was a foreign object inside of him and kept the wound fresh so he could retrieve it easier later.

He ran until the grass turned into concrete and his senses becoming overwhelmed once again with the noises seeming to come out of nowhere and everywhere. Very quickly, he ran into people that walked the streets. The first one he encountered, paled, turned around, and ran down the street. The other people reacted to him the same way. After the fifth person turning tail, he decided to turn into the closest side street and sat down to catch his breath. Eren soon found out that deciding to rest his throbbing limbs for a second turned out for the worst because he began to feel light-headed immediately. He found himself trying not to hurl onto the pavement below him, his limbs shaking as adrenaline was leaking out of his body. He knew he needed to keep going, Petra would have wanted him to keep going. If he didn’t keep moving now then he wouldn’t be able to move soon.  Fighting to keep everything inside of his stomach, Eren started to pull himself up from his sitting position but collapsed on his front paws.

He suddenly found himself lying on the concrete, willing his limbs to move but they refused to obey him. The swirling in his vision that quickly overtook with nausea as it’s right hand and he could feel himself slipping.

I have to find them! I have to find them!

He could do nothing before the darkness crept over his eyes until he succumbed to it.

Chapter Text

The small room that they used for interrogating hid beneath one of the many clubs that the Recon managed in the lower districts of Maria.  The scent of sweaty bodies and vomit still managed to drift down the staircase and into the sealed room, making his nose twitch in disgust. Levi always hated coming to any of the interrogating rooms they constructed, the chance of running into someone covered in their own vomit was too high. Of course, having the loud, pounding music to drown out the screams of whoever their interrogating was always a plus. He didn’t have to hold back like he usually would if they were out in the open.

Levi had managed to point out two very high individuals their bouncers needed to keep an eye on while he walked across the floor to get to the staircase, to follow protocol if they continued to shoot up. Get them out and next door to the cheap motel, and make sure they didn’t die by the time they arrived there. They couldn’t stop the drug problem that heavily destroyed the civilians that lived in most of Maria, but the Recon could provide clean needles and help for those wanting it.

Of course, that was more Erwin’s forte. The large man standing next to him was more suited for the public appearance, he could gain anyone’s trust and support through one conversation, having the person mostly dedicating their life to his causes. His icy blues could analyze a situation and within moments would have five solutions, most of them not involving Levi to use the violence he was known for. Levi noted before entering the room concrete room that Erwin had come from a meeting, the only time that he wore his stupidly-proud emerald bolo tie. His startling blonde hair was gelled back, hair parted slightly to his left, and he was generally surprised to find that Erwin had cleaned up his enormous, bushy eyebrows. The same ones that made his recruits and underlings dub him Eyebrows, something that Levi himself likes to call him to his face, the only one that has the balls to anyways. The fresh pressed white button-up with his navy slacks didn’t fit with the situation that was unfolding in front of them but Levi held his tongue, wanting to make fun of his commander.

The man that was, unfortunately, going to be at the mercy of him knew he was in deep shit once he had walked through the door, Erwin following close behind him. Levi was mostly never called for interrogation, not unless someone was being difficult and refusing to say anything, or it was a special case. He wasn’t sure for which one of these cases he was here for still but leaning toward the first scenario when he saw the man’s face.

The man was handcuffed to the silver table that was bolted to the ground, his wrists red from pulling at the restraints, and his face had clearly seen better days. Erwin briefed him before they entered that he had infiltrated their ranks with the help of two gullible new recruits and tried to steal money from their main safe in headquarters. An idiotic move on his part and for whoever sent him with the order. The bruises that blacken his already paling face made him almost unrecognizable and reminded Levi to give some sort of praise to his men that caught him. Erwin would surely remind him later too. The man’s chin length, brown hair was splattered with blood, whether it was his blood or Levi’s men, he couldn’t care at the moment. There wasn’t another chair except for the one that the man sitting on so Erwin sat on the edge of the table, using his large body to intimidating the man below him.

“I’m going to ask you a series of questions and if you manage to answer them correctly, you'll be let out on your merry way," Erwin explained to him, crossing his knees over each other and placing his laced hands on top of them. "Of course, if you can't manage even that, then I'm going to have to ask Levi to take over for me and he's not...as civilized as I would be in these situations."

Levi wanted to roll his eyes at Erwin's lie as the man's complexion continued to pale, his eyes flickering toward him and the knife he always had at his side. Erwin had built a reputation as the one to never get his hands dirty but they were just as blood-soaked as Levi's, if not more. He sentenced many men and women to die in the senseless war with the other Corps that fought for control of Paradi. It's just more people had seen Levi kill people without a flicker of emotion and slaughter hundreds without blinking. It wasn't that he enjoyed the moment of the kill, ending the life of another, but it was about survival. To find victory out of a battle of life or death, though Levi outmatched everyone that he's crossed, and hadn't found a challenging opponent in a very long time. He was bored to put it simply. He knew what it took to break a man and have him confessing when the first time they shit their pants in grade school.

"Who sent you?" he asked the man.

He averted his eyes from Erwin's piercing gaze and kept his mouth shut, something Levi knew he was going to regret when Erwin was going to pass this onto him. He wasn't asked to be here to just watch, never once had he ever just witness a interrogation and didn't participate, especially if Erwin asked him.

“I’m going to repeat myself one more time,” he warned. “Who sent you?”

Giving Erwin some credit, he waited patiently for the man to speak up before letting out a sigh and sliding off the table. Looking at him, he flicked his head slightly toward the man and took Levi’s spot on the wall. Standing next to the man always made Levi feel small, even if he was slightly taller than the other male recruits, but anyone standing next to Erwin felt like a dwarf.

Levi started to stalk the man restrained to the table, staring him down as he rounded behind the chair. He let the man’s breathing briefly elevate, his hands barely trembling before grabbing the man’s bloodied hair and shoving his face into the metal table. He yelped in surprise and then in pain before letting out a long string of curses, however, he didn’t say anything else.

“So you can speak,” Levi announced. “I was afraid that we caught a mute, but that’s not the case.”

When Levi rounded him, he pulled himself onto the table, the opposite side of where Erwin sat and looked at the man he just threw his face into the table. His nose was heavily bleeding, and from the crooked feature, it was definitely broken. Blood dripped onto his already stained shirt and he glared at his tied hands, not daring to put the glare on him. If the man showed any challenge toward him, he would have done worse than break his nose, and he definitely wouldn’t be leaving this room alive. He had a reputation to hold, Paradi’s Strongest, and he could never back down from a challenge.

Levi gained another grip on the man’s hair, turning his head and brought his full attention to him. “I’m not going to ask because you already know what we want to know. Now, you tell me right now or you’re not going to have a fucking great time,” Levi asserted before letting go of the greased, tuft of hair, making the man bow his head.

He finally got a reaction out of him, just not the one that he wanted. The man spat on the table, blood mixed in with his fucking saliva, and it landed inches from his hand that rested on the table. He resisted the urge to yank his hand away from the small puddle and didn’t want to give the fucker the satisfaction that it was getting to him. “You’re just his bitch, aren’t you? Following his orders like a dog. You think that you’re his equal but you’re nothing more than the dirt underneath his feet,” the man spouted, trying to put enough confidence in his words to make them sound believable.

Levi had honestly heard the same speech from so many other mouths that he just tuned out from boredom. He never believed that he was Erwin’s equal, he may have some sway with decisions and be there for mostly every meeting, but he never got the final say. That was for Erwin, and him alone. He followed every order that he was given but still questioned him every step of the way if he disagreed with it. If he ever felt used by him, he would let him know, usually by bargaining into his office and start screaming at Erwin until he was calm again. Before it would conclude with a good fuck from both of them afterward, but those days were finished. If following orders and being mostly the only man Erwin trusted made him his bitch, then so be it. Make their enemies think that he was unstable or kept on a tight leash. Let them think he was uncontrollable to send more fear into their hearts when he walked onto the field.

He looked at Erwin from the corner of his eye, waiting for a signal to keep going. If they wanted anything from the pathetic excuse of an agent, then they needed to push him more.

“You’re not going to deny it, motherfucker!?” the man yelled, finding his confidence from Levi’s silence.

Once Levi saw the slight nod from him, he reached for the restrained hands, grabbing one of his fingers and snapping it back. The man howled in pain, all of the confidence that he had was thrown out as tears began to stream down his face.

“You’re barely worth my breath, and even though I think we should just put you down, Erwin still just wants one little question answered,” Levi insisted, still having a hold on the broken finger.

“Fuck you!” the man gasped.

His response drove Levi to grab the next two fingers and snap them back to. Thankfully, the music from above was still pounding because the man had a set of lungs. When all the man did was scream and cry, Levi added some pressure to the fingers he was holding, waiting for the man to finally speak. He just wanted to go home and drink his tea before going to bed.

“Pixis ordered it!” the man screamed.

The man’s confession actually made Levi laugh. It was such a lousy attempt to shift their focus, to think that the Garrison, the Recon’s only ally, decided to betray them.

“Pixis is too old to start a war between us,” Levi stated. “Nice try though.”

“All those skirmishes that you’ve been dealing with for the past couple of weeks aren’t from the Military, they’re from us,” he confessed as Levi started to go for another finger.

He turned to Erwin in surprise, though he didn’t allow it to show on his face. They had kept under wraps about the guerrilla tactics that Military threw their way, only the people involved and Erwin’s main circle knew about them. The Military had done the same. No one knew about the skirmishes but they hadn’t managed to capture someone during the fights, and no one on both sides has been killed yet. Leaving them with no bodies to investigate to see if it has in fact been the Military. They didn’t think that the Garrison was low enough to try and go after them, even with the peace treaty between them.

After the king of Paradi decided to step down, he announced that one of the leaders of the three branching governments would mostly take his place. Nile Dok, the power-hungry bastard and leader of the Military, saw a money grab and easy way to ascend to power, especially with his job description of being ‘Protector of the King.’ However, it wasn’t enough for the King, who wanted the branches to dish it out and see who would win for his own amusement and let his country mostly fall into ruin. It spurred Pixis and Erwin to sign a temporary treaty, between their branches and focus on countering whatever the Military threw at both of them. Pixis himself even said that he was too old for this shit and would support Erwin if he wanted the crown for himself. Levi himself has never heard of his desire to rule over Paradi, but with the amount of ‘secret’ meetings that he’s been having without him, Erwin must want something.

“Someone could have easily told you since you did infiltrate our ranks,” he noted.

“I’m telling the truth!” the man shouted.

Starting to get annoyed with the actual little progress they were making, Levi reached into the holster at his hip and pulled out the 9mm pistol that Erwin gifted him when he received a pay raise. It was silver and reflected nicely in the light as he pressed the barrel to the man’s temple. That’s when the waterworks truly started, especially when he saw that his finger planted on the trigger.

“Levi,” Erwin hissed his name.

He could tell that he was disapproving of his actions. “Everyone in this room knows that he’s not leaving alive, and even if we did let him go, the people who sent him would kill him for failing his assignment,” he stated coldly. “Anyways, this will just speed things along.”

Levi could hear Erwin move from his position on the wall and move to stand behind him. Getting close to his ear and whispered, "Control your trigger finger."

Knowing the tongue lashing he was going to receive for not showing restraint, Levi took his finger off the trigger but kept the gun planted against the man's head. He wasn't going to show weakness to this man that already thought he was Erwin's bitch, even if he was going to be dead within the hour.

"It doesn't matter, does it? I'm going to die either way," the man sobbed. "Another victim of the hundreds that fell at your hand."

"Are you going to answer Erwin's question truthfully or not," he asked, starting to get annoyed. "I would like to go home."

"It's Pixis!"

Rolling his eyes and feeling his little patience thinning by the second, he moved the gun away from the man's temple and fired at the wall, inches from his head. He went to cover his ears but they were still restrained to the table and sobs continued to rock his body. Levi pressed the hot barrel against the man's temple once again, earning a scream of pain from the man.

"Fucking get this over with," Levi growled at him.

"Furlan! It's was fucking Furlan!"

He couldn't help the surprise that overtook him, at hearing that name of someone he used to care dearly for, someone he still did, even if he wouldn't admit it even on his deathbed. Pushing down the anger that was quickly rising to the surface, he pressed the barrel more into the man's skull.

"Stop fucking lying," he commanded, getting all of the emotion out of his voice.

"No! I'm telling the truth! Pixis has done nothing but sit on his ass and drink. He's making the Garrison into a joke by letting the Recon walk all over us as you bastards gain favor for next of line. The King isn't going to chose an old man that drinks constantly to be in charge! Furlan decided to take charge-"

"Furlan is not the man that would senselessly kill others and steal for power."

He could feel himself losing control over his temper and fast, Erwin could see the same because he tried to place a hand on Levi's arm but he jerked it out of his grasp. "Levi," he warned.

"Furlan is not the man that you know anymore. You're the one that made him change."

He finally snapped, letting go of the little control he had over himself as he grabbed the man's hair once again and placed the barrel under his chin, his finger dangerously close to the trigger. It was begging for him to hold down the trigger and stop the bastard's loud mouth from spouting any more lies.

"Levi, that's enough," Erwin commanded, yanking his arm once again but this time actually moving away from the man waiting for his life to end. "Wait outside."

He grabbed Levi's gun before letting go of his arm, and he could feel his eyes on him as he slammed the door behind, not being his heard Erwin thank the man for his time. The sound of his gun going off filled the room and the hallway outside where Levi now stood. It wasn’t until after the ringing ceased in his ears that he realized that his breath was coming out in hard pants and his hands slightly trembled. The anger that he tried to suppress throughout the whole interrogation was finally be released.

How fucking dare he have the balls to lie to my face. To fucking get a rouse out of me before he could be put down.

By the time Erwin walked out of the room, leaving the man’s body to simply hang off of the table, Levi was pacing the hallway. Waiting for him to be released so he could go home and forget about the whole ordeal. Erwin remanded silent as he handed the gun back to Levi, to which he put it into its holster as he continued to be eyed by Erwin.

“What?” Levi snapped at him.

“You were getting too emotional in there,” Erwin stated. “You always do when Furlan, or even Isabel, are mentioned.”

He pulled his glare onto Erwin, hating to admit that he was right. Mentioning either one of them, heaven forbid that someone wanted to be dead in a matter of seconds if they mentioned both, always got a rise out of him. The thought of his former friends always put him in a mood that he couldn’t get out unless he worked out enough to where he almost passes out or Hanji pissed him off enough to get his anger moved to something else.

He’s only let a handful of people into his life, to let himself care enough to worry about their wellbeing when they were hurt, and they were once that. Not until Furland and Isabel stabbed him in the back and disappeared from his life. Just recently he’s heard rumors that they joined the Garrison but he couldn’t bring himself to ask Pixis himself if it was true.

“Do you believe what he said?” Erwin questioned him.

Immediately, Levi wanted to say no, that he couldn’t imagine that Furlan had changed that much since he’d seen him last. However, the man dead in the next room was right, no matter how much he hated to admit it. It’s been years since he’s seen or heard from both of them and he couldn’t possibly understand what happened between then and now. He didn’t know what Furlan was capable of.

“It doesn’t matter what I think, you’re the brains of the operation,” he answered. “I’m just the dog on a tight leash.”

He received a look from Erwin that mostly told him that he wasn’t believing anything coming out of his mouth. They started walking toward the end of the hallway, to the stairs that lead to the main floor of the club and hopefully meant he could go home.

“I honestly don’t know, but from the Furlan that I know...no, he wouldn’t be doing this...not unless someone is forcing him,” he finally admitted.

If Furlan had changed for the worse, there was one thing that he knew that wouldn’t change. He would move heaven and hell to protect Isabel. If someone was threatening her life than he would do anything to keep her safe, even if it was against everything he believed in.

“What will you do if it turns out to be him?” Erwin continued to question. “If he turns out to behind the Garrison’s sudden attacks?”

“Haven’t you been meeting Pixis? What have you been discussing in those private meetings?” he fired back.

“Answer my question, Levi.”

Feeling annoyed at Erwin’s demands, he thought about it for a second. His usual response would have been to kill him, to set an example of what happens when you try and mess with the Recon...but it was Furlan they were talking about. He knew in his darkening heart that he wouldn’t be able to kill his longest friend and he probably would aim his gun at whoever tried to.

“I’m going home,” he announced as they neared the staircase. “I’m also taking the weekend off so if you want to ask more questions, save them until then.”

He could see Erwin disappear from his side, stopping in the middle of the hallway before letting out a deep sigh and then heard him start to walk again.

 

Levi honestly didn’t remember climbing into his car, just that he had sped home and if he was just an ordinary civilian then he would have been pulled over. He lived in the upper end of the Shiganshina district, one of the four districts that were in Maria, the nicest part of the city anyways. It was nothing compared the Capital that was separated by two tolls away or even Rose, but he was never known for wanting an expensive lifestyle.

Pulling into the underground parking that his building provided for attendings, he parked into his normal spot before pulling out his card and approached the elevator. Slipping the card into the slot, the screen next to the buttons welcomed him and instructed him to press a floor. Once pressing his floor, he waited until the elevator stopped moving and then proceeded to walk down his hallway to get to his door. The one advantage to living on the top floor was having it all to himself, even a floor below him was shared by two apartments and he couldn’t stand the thought of having neighbors. He didn’t have to deal with polite nods or the occasional question thrown his way when all he wanted to do was take a proper shower and tell everyone else to fuck off.

Once he unlocked his door and stepped into his apartment, he leaned against his closed door and let out a deep sigh that he’d been holding in since leaving the club.

A shower and a nice cup of tea will help.

Pushing himself off the door, he navigated around his white couch and past his kitchen to get to the master bedroom. Kicking off his shoes and placing them neatly in his walk-in closet before heading off to the bathroom that’s connected to his room. Everything was spotless, just the way he left it, with both his jacuzzi bathtub and separate glass shower blindingly reflecting light off its surface. After opening the glass door to turn the water to scalding, he stripped the black button-up and black slacks off of his body and took in his appearance in the wall-length mirror. He noted he needed to shave, a faint black stubble began to peek out from his pale cheeks and chin. Running a hand through his onyx hair, he felt that his needed to also shave his undercut, it starting to get too long for his liking.

Might as well cut the front too.

When the front started getting too long, his friend, if he could even call Hanji a friend, would put pink clips in his hair if he was caught asleep at work. Of course, it would lead to an hour of him chasing her down and threatening to end her if she ever did it again. He usually was on top of it so he didn’t have to deal with Hanji’s hijinks but have been distracted by the guerrilla attacks on the Recon, something that Erwin usually pawns off to him as if he didn’t have enough paperwork to deal with.

Before he could tell himself that needed to work out again, that he could see the muscles he worked hard to keep looked like they were disappearing, even though to any else's eyes they looked the same way they were last week, he saw steam coming up from the shower head. His silver eyes flickered to the most recent scar that was introduced to his body that was caused by a knife being plunged into his shoulder from behind the last time he was on patrol with a recruit. He never commented on the scars that scattered his body, from the knife and gunshot wounds that he's acquired over the ten plus years he's been working under Erwin. They were apart of him and he couldn't do anything to change it, though even if a chance was given to get rid of them, he wouldn't. The scars were apart of his past and he couldn't let go of it.

He enjoyed the time he spent under the showerhead, even if it turned his pale skin red from the scalding heat of the water. Spending most of the time with his head directly under the water, he let his mind go blank and forget about the day's events. Once his fingertips were wrinkled, he decided to turn off the water and dry off. Wrapping his fluffy, black towel around his waist after getting the majority of the water off of him and letting his hair air-dry. He went to his black dresser and pulled out some gray sweatpants and a white shirt. Taking in the room as he changed, he noticed that he needed to once again dust his large TV mounted on the wall. He decided to do it tomorrow since he demanded the time off to Erwin's face before leaving, he could do focus on cleaning the apartment later.

His bare feet making almost no noise in the quiet apartment as he walked over to his newest addition to his kitchen, a Keurig. Grabbing one of his few square mugs and his favorite tea, Earl Grey, he placed the mug underneath the dispenser and waited. Once he wrapped his lips around the cup and took his first sip, his body immediately relaxed, and only became boneless when he sat down on his couch. Reaching across his glass coffee table, he grabbed the remote and turned on the TV. It was bigger than the one that he had in his room and illuminated the dark room with the news. Ignoring the current tragedy that was being repeated over and over again by different reporters, he decided that he may need to redecorate soon.

His whole apartment was decorated in greyscale, everything different colors of grey with the occasional white and black. It also felt too empty, with Levi investing in furniture that was barely socially acceptable. The dining room and kitchen next to his living room were conjoined with a double glass door that leads to his patio, with the dining room having at least a table but no centerpiece and only one chair. If he ever had guest, biggest hint at if, he would take one of the high chairs from the island in the middle of the kitchen or just have dinner there instead.  One side of his living room had a door to the master bedroom and the other side had a hallway that split off between a guest room, his home office, and second bathroom. It was a large apartment and Hanji liked to frequently remind him when he allowed her over...or when she pushed her way through the door and had the audacity to suggest him getting a roommate. He kicked her out after that, not before asking her if she consumed and injected five different types of drugs before coming over. He could barely deal with the people he worked with, the thought of living with another human being literally made him want to puke. Also with the fact that he would have to teach them how to clean after themselves properly and thinking about that effort alone made him exhausted.

As he sipped the last of his tea, his phone started to vibrate violently on the side table next to the front door. Deciding if it was important enough, they would leave a voicemail or call again. Once the vibrating stopped, a second later it started again. Letting out a groan and putting his now empty mug on a coaster, he got up and grabbed his phone off the table. Seeing that Hanji was the one that called him, he rolled his eyes and immediately regretted the action of answering the call.

"What do you want, Han-" Levi started.

"Levi! I need you to do something for me!" Hanji frantically said.

Suddenly hearing her panicked voice instead of her annoying chattering coming through the phone stopped his normal 'fuck off' he would give her. "What's wrong?"

"Just-...I'm sending you an address, bring blankets."

Before he could even ask her anything else, she hung up. He went to immediately grab his keys, but then stopped, ran to his room to grab spare blankets.

 

Hanji had given him less information before, sometimes just an address with no hint of anything else. Usually, it was nothing more than her being lost and she was too lazy to walk back home, though he would forward the message to her assistant, Moblit. She’s never called him in a panic and sounding out of breath like she was running away from something. Hanji was trained to defend herself but even with her being the most genius person he knows, she can be so fucking clueless. All he could think about was the fact she may be lying on the concrete of an alleyway, bleeding out and it stirred him to further break the speed limit. What was worse was that she was in the worst part of Maria, the slums where people would kill each other just for being looked at indifferently. He knew how bad it could be, he lived most of his childhood there and barely surviving with the help of Furlan and Isabel.

When he arrived at the address, he opened the glove department to find the gun that he kept there and shoved it into his large pocket, he hadn’t managed to change before leaving. Then he grabbed the blankets that he managed to get. Suddenly he saw Hanji come out of an alleyway, blood covering her hands and some of her cream long sleeves. He took in her dirt that littered her pants, especially around her knees before getting out of the car. She ran over to him, about to grab his arm with her blood-soaked hands but seemed to remember who exactly he is. Before she even opened her mouth, he already assessed that she wasn’t the one that was injured. Her bright, brown eyes were full of excitement and her unkempt brunette was in her signature messy ponytail, rushed as always.  

“You’re never going to believe what I found, quick!” she insisted as she started running back into the alley.

Dumbstruck and soon he found flaws when he thought that she would be dead in the street. She would have called Moblit, he had the necessary tools always on hand in case of an emergency while Levi didn’t have anything, not even a fucking band-aid for a paper cut. He would have dropped the blankets in the street and then drive off leaving her behind but knew that he would be worried if he just left.

Fucking Hanji for making me give two shits about her.

He muttered to himself and cursing repeatedly under his breath, he followed where she disappeared into the alley and witnessed what she was kneeling in front of. Before he could fully react, he dropped the blankets and lunged toward Hanji, pushing her away from the large animal she was in front of.

“Are you fucking idiot?” he shouted at her.

He didn’t know what the animal was, just that its paws were massive and the teeth were too sharp for his liking. It looked like it was passed out but who knew when it would wake up and tear them both apart.

“We’re getting the fuck out of here,” he announced as he started dragging her out of the alleyway but she let herself become deadweight, almost making him drop her on her ass.

“Leevvii,” she whined.

“Don’t you fucking Levi me.”

With her lean body, she managed to slip out from his grasp, even if he tried to grab for her again. She managed to pick up one of the blankets he dropped and returned back to the animal’s side.

“Hanji, what are you fucking doing? It could wake up and tear you apart,” Levi snapped at her.

He stared at her from the end of the alleyway, ready to leave her ass once again but then she started laying the blanket on top of the animal and caressed its head.

“I saw it running down the street, could see it was bleeding and afraid. Everyone else ran away and it seemed to know why, so it went into the alleyway and didn’t come back out,” she explained. “I was being careful Levi, I’m not that idiotic to run after a wounded animal. It didn’t look like it was going to last long and I couldn’t stop my feet from running after it.”

He’d seen Hanji through many things. He’s seen her with excitement rippling through her body that it almost couldn’t take it and so many more emotions that he himself couldn’t go through. However, the seriousness that washed over her only appeared when she performed surgery for their men. When she knew that death was ready to grab their hand and she would do everything in her power to kept death away. He knew somewhere deep down that if he managed to grab her and run, she would never forgive him.

“What do you want me to do?” he found himself asking her.

She looked at him with wide eyes and suddenly jumped up, going to hug him but he held out his arm to stop her assault. “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

Hanji went back to the animal and started shifting it around, trying to get the blanket underneath it. After staring at her sorry excuse of making progress, Levi sighed and walked to stand on the other side of the animal. Now actually looking at it, it looked more like a tabby cat, though with spots instead of the stripes, but the size of a large bobcat. He could tell that it was having difficulty breathing and it’s possibly white belly was soaked in blood. Internally cringing at the amount of blood and dirt that was going to touching his hand, he helped Hanji maneuver the large cat so it laid underneath the blanket.

“What now?” he asked.

“Well obviously we’re taking your car,” she stated like it was an everyday occurrence.

“If you think for one second-”

“Why do you think I told you to bring blankets?”

He looked completely dumbfounded at her as she moved to a squatting position and waited for him to do the same. Rolling his eyes and almost done with the bullshit that she kept throwing his way, he did the same.

“On three...one...two...three,” Hanji counted.

They both pulled the edges of the blanket at the same time, both surprised that the cat was lighter than they thought, and started shuffling out of the alleyway and to his car.

“Put it in the trunk?” Levi offered.

The look that she gave him almost made him laugh, the disbelief that consumed her face. “No! We’re not putting it in the trunk!”

She quickly decided to grab the other blankets laying the alleyway still, putting her side of the blanket down before Levi was able to let the blanket down slightly so the animal didn’t accidentally slide off it. When she came back with the bundle, Levi unlocked the car and she put down the passenger seat, covering the backseat in blankets. Together they somehow placed the animal in his backseat and if there was enough room, Hanji would have most likely jumped into the back to keep a closer eye on it.

“Where to now?” Levi asked once they were both inside the car.

“Go to our emergency center, the one that’s near the warehouses,” she instructed.

 

It didn’t take too long for them to reach one of the many trauma centers hidden in Maria. They were built years ago, before three commanders ago in case any of their members were too far away from their main base with Hanji and Moblit. It required all members to be trained with some basic knowledge of medicine and when they went up in rank, required more time with Hanji. The building housing their center was disguised as an old, abandoned deli with graffiti littering every inch of the brick structure.  

Levi got out first, approaching the door and moving the plaque of the building’s address to reveal a small keypad. Entering the ten digit code, he waited for the light to turn green and immediately opened the door. The room was dark before the sensors picked up the movement of the ajared door, and then it was bathed in a harsh artificial light. Grabbing a nearby metal stool, he propped it in front of the door to keep it from closing behind him and having to redo the code when they both have their hands full. Hanji already was positioned with her seat down, and ready for him to help carry it out of the car and into the building.

Once they brought the cat inside and placed it on the large metal table in the middle of the room, Hanji immediately started going to work. He offered to help, though he didn’t want his hands to get any dirtier with blood and grime for the day after he closed the door and made sure that it was locked.

“You’ll just get in the way,” she explained, waving him off.

He pulled up a chair and watched as she pulled out an electric hair clipper and started shaving its belly, around the area of where it was still slightly bleeding.

“How long has it been bleeding?” Levi asked.

“For too long,” she answered. “Poor kitty.”

He made a face at her comment mostly since the animal was nowhere near the size of a kitten, or even a house cat. As she continued to shave the area, Levi looked at the large cat more closely and noted how skinny it was, mostly just bones and skin. When she finished cutting the hair, she gasped at what she found. He got up from his seat and stood beside her to see the lines of scars covering its skin. There was so many that there was barely enough room to see the tan skin underneath, and he could understand that they weren’t inflected by another animal but rather a knife or other instrument. He’d seen enough of those wounds and scars to know it when he sees them.

“Who would do this?” Hanji muttered to herself.

Levi didn’t have the words to answer so he continued to study the animal, discovering that the wound that was bleeding was from a gunshot. “It was shot,” Levi reported to her.

She then equipped some blue gloves and started to feel around the animal’s stomach, searching for the possible bullet still inside of it. When she seemed to have found it, the cat let out a low whine, it obviously still in pain.

“Thought that it was going to be maybe a cut from escaping from wherever it came from,” she whispered. “Maybe that it was someone’s pet or it came from a zoo-”

“The closest zoo is in Rose and they have more farm animals than exotic ones like this one. Also, no one is wealthy enough to own something like this here, along with the thought of feeding it,” Levi mentioned.

Abandoning the cat, Hanji moved to where they kept all of their drugs and equipment in filing cabinets. Grabbing everything she needed, she turned on the spotlight above the table and focused it on the animal’s stomach. “So I may need you after all. Just hand me the instruments when I tell you to.”

He nodded in response and thought that Erwin would have been having a field day. If anyone knew that Paradi’s Strongest, the man that can kill without a hint of emotion, was assisting in a surgery to save the life of an animal, he’d probably lose all his credibility.

“In the meantime, just try and comfort it. It’s going to be in some pain and there isn’t enough time to administer pain medicine,” she explained as she tied a surgical mask onto herself.

He went back to his seat on the opposite side of the table and stared at the animal as Hanji prepared herself for extracting the bullet.  The only place in the cat's fur wasn't matted or covered in drying blood was its head and neck. Levi hesitantly reached a hand toward the brown fur was immensely surprised to find it soft, not corse like he thought it was going to be. He was so engrossed in petting the cat, even shushing it softly when it began to whine in pain and rubbing the side of it's muzzle as a permanent frown etched its face.

It was his secret that he loved animals, though he had been caught by Hanji when he dropped off some food for the stray cats that wandered around their main headquarters. He was bullied by her for weeks, every time he went to leave his office she would ask if he was going to feed the 'puddy cats'. His response usually by throwing whatever was in his hand at her head, usually his black coffee or pen.

"Its out," Hanji announced.

Forgetting about his duty of handing her the instruments that she needed, Levi looked up to find her holding the bloody bullet in her hand.

"No thanks to you," she poked at him.

He was tempted to apologize, but it wasn't his thing and if she really needed him, she would have made it well known to him. Placing the bullet down, she grabbed what she needed to start stitching the cat up, but froze looking down at the incision she made. Her eyes were large behind her rectangular, black glasses, and started to fill with wonder and confusion. He hadn't seen her like that since she stopped her research and became the main doctor for the Recon.

"What?" Levi demanded.

Returning back to her side, he stopped once he took in what surprised her so much. The cut that she made, widening the gunshot wound to get the bullet out was healing by itself. Flesh stitching back together and steam rising from the wound.

"Oh my god! Look at what we've discovered, Levi!" Hanji almost jumped for joy.

He could see and hear her launching into one of her rants, something that he hasn't seen in almost a year, and didn't miss it. She kept asking and answering questions to herself, wondering how much trauma it could stand before it's healing abilities couldn't keep up anymore, and more thoughts were rolling off her tongue. However, he could tell that someone else had those same thoughts Hanji was too caught up in to remember the scars peppering the animal's body.

"Hanji, look at its body," Levi instructed her, his glare turning onto the animal's stomach and cursing the ones that created the scars. "Someone has already figured out those questions...maybe even more."

He glanced over to see that even though she was quiet for once, she still had the childlike curiosity and had a million questions on the verge of her lips. The cat then moaned softly in pain, and he turned in time to see it clenching its jaw and it's breathing coming out in rough pants. Levi actually felt sorry for the creature in front of him, a foreign feeling that he hadn't felt in over a decade and thought of the only way he could help.

"We could put it down," he offered. "Put it out of its misery."

Levi didn't need to look at Hanji to know the look that she gave him like two small heads just sprouted out of his neck and began talking French to her. "Are you fucking insane?"

"That's hilarious coming from you, four-eyes."

"What would be the advantage of killing it? Wouldn't it better to show it some compassion rather than just letting it have only the memories of being tormented?"

"You just went off with wondering how long it would last before it's ability to heal would stop. It probably deserves some peace and suffered enough."

"That's my scientist brain talking, I can't control what sometimes comes out of my mouth. You know that!"

"You can't control anything that comes out of your mouth."

"What the hell are you two doing?" Erwin's voice suddenly commanded.

Both of Levi and Hanji's head snapped up to see Erwin closing the door behind him. Levi noted that he was still wearing the same thing from the interrogation at the club and that he looked exhausted.

"What are you doing here?" Levi questioned back.

In response, Erwin lifted his phone from his pocket. "You forget that I get notifications if any of our safe houses or emergency centers have it's sensors go off. Now can someone explain to me why we're wasting medical supplies on an animal?" he explained as he walked toward the table they were hovering over.

Levi glanced down to see that there was still steam coming off of the wound, that it was still stitching itself together. He could barely explain it to himself what he was witnessing, and there was almost no hope of making Erwin understand what was happening in front of them.

"I made Levi come and help me bring it here-" Hanji started explaining.

"No one really makes Levi do anything," Erwin commented.

Levi wanted to roll his eyes at his comment because Erwin was the only one that could make him do anything. Hanji had some sway but only if she bribed him with expensive teas. "Whatever needs to replaced can come out of my pay," he replied.

Erwin's eyes than settled on the steaming wound of the animal on the table, eyes widened a fraction before looking up at Hanji. "Explain," he commanded. He wasn't their friend anymore, he suddenly turned into their commander, and they had to follow their orders. Levi let Hanji do all the talking since she was the one that dragged him into this situation and now insisted that they keep the animal alive. He was now half-heartedly still committed to putting the cat down, but keeping it raised more questions that he couldn't think of the answer to. He was zoning out her voice, something that he usually did anyway since she talked so quickly that it all just sounded like gibberish even when he was trying to keep up. Erwin had the magic ability to understand everything that spilled from her mouth, nodding every once in a while, as Levi found his hand beginning to run his fingers through its fur. The cat physically seemed to relax at the action, something that hadn't been missed by Erwin.

"-been thinking that the animal had been experimented on to gain those abilities or something along the lines. Anyways, Levi thinks that we should put it down, while I think that we should make it the family pet," Hanji concluded.

"The family pet?" Erwin questioned her.

"Yeah, like a mascot!"

"Hanji...you do realize that it's mostly a wild animal, we don't even know what it is, and you want us to have it around like a normal house cat?"

"Well, obviously we can't keep it here or at any of the other centers."

Levi looked up from the petting the animal, furrowed his brow. "Why can't we?"

"Someone needs to have it under constant supervision since we don't know how long it's going to sleep for. It's lost a lot of blood and needs time to recover."

"Well thankfully someone just requested time off in this very room," Erwin smirked, looking at him.

"Fuck, no," Levi immediately replied.

"Come on, Levi," she started begging.

"Why not at your place?"

"Remember that I can't be trusted with animals, Petra stole my two babies from me once she labeled me an unfit parent-"

"You forgot that they were there have half the time and can barely take care of yourself," Erwin added.

"Yes, yes, I know, thank you for reminding me, but we're not talking about me at the moment," she continued. "And Erwin is almost never home, also his place is much smaller than yours. Another thing is that if the cat takes more than the weekend to wake up than you can always do your paperwork at home."

He hated to admit but she was coming up with valid arguments of having the animal stay at his house, but he hated more that he was finding himself agreeing with everything she said.

"Only on one condition," he found himself saying. "We need to clean it up before bringing it anywhere near my apartment."

"We're keeping it!" Hanji suddenly screamed in excitement.

Levi found himself just hoping that he wasn't going to regret letting Hanji convince him to keep the cat. That he wasn't biting off way more than he can chew. 

Chapter Text

Cleaning the animal was more difficult than they thought it was going to be and even though Erwin had the final say in bringing this animal in, he left right after Levi finally agreed to let the cat stay at his home. Leaving Hanji and him to deal with cleaning up the mess they made. If it had just been Hanji cleaning, she probably would have barely scrubbed down the instruments she worked with or just throw them out since she was still vibrating with excitement. He made sure that everything was cleaned properly before even thinking about closing up shop and bringing the cat back into his car to go home.

Hanji made a few calls around, seeing if anyone had an old dog cage they weren’t using, and thank god she had the sense not to blab to everyone about the new addition to the Recon.They agreed before Erwin left, even though it was more Hanji going off than anything else, that they wanted it to at least get accustomed to them and his place before introducing it to the rest of Erwin’s circle. While Levi finished patting the cat down with a towel, trying to get most of the water out of its fur, Hanji was running around the room collecting various things and muttering to herself. Knowing how she was, he ignored her muttering since it’s nonsense to his ears and thinking about the verbal throw up he was going to receive if he asked her what she was talking about wasn’t worth it.

After he figured that it was the best he can do with a towel, he looked over to see that Hanji was done and had a container full of equipment and clothes inside. She went outside to place the container in the trunk and then came back to assist him with carrying the animal back into his car. Now that the animal was clean, he didn’t mind so much but worried about getting claw marks in his leather seats instead.

Hanji informed him that Eld had an old dog crate for when he had his german shepherd years ago and he was just thankful that it was relatively close to his place. He didn't feel like driving all over Maria for pet supplies and then started wondering if he had enough food in his fridge for himself and the cat. Though he had at least a couple of days to worry about it before it could eat solid food.

"What about Fluffy?" Hanji asked.

"Really? What about that animal screams 'fluffy'?" he shot back, trying to remember exactly how to get to Eld's apartment.

She kept throwing out ridiculous names for it, cliche cat and dog ones that didn't describe the massive animal laying behind them. Spot, Puff, Max, Whiskers, Spike, and others were quickly denied by Levi. "Why do you get the final say in its name?" she complained like a child.

"Because you're not the one that's going to be housing it or taking the chance of waking up with half your face eaten off."

"Oh, please, he's probably going to be all over you if he understands that you're not there to hurt him."

"If, that's the important word, Hanji, if."

"Well we can't keep calling him, it or him, we've got to give it a name at least."

By the time they arrived at Eld's house, Hanji was still throwing him names that he immediately shot down, mostly because thinking of saying them out loud made him feel ridiculous. He sent her to grab the crate from Eld, mostly because he didn't want to leave the animal by itself, even if Hanji was certain that it wouldn't wake up for a couple of days. Also, instructed her to try and keep her mouth shut about what they had in the backseat, no matter how excited she was. While he waited for her to grab the large folded up crate and put it into the trunk, which it thankfully did fit, he thought about what he could name his new pet. Everything that Hanji offered literally sounded like the worst thing he's ever heard, ever suggesting Bean 2.0 after her previous cat, which he promptly shut down.

"What about Loki?" she suddenly asked.

Levi was generally surprised that he liked the name, and found it fitting, especially since the animal was already throwing their lives into a little bit of chaos. It probably could only continue when he was awake and alert. "Loki sounds good."

 

When they pulled into Levi's underground garage, Hanji wouldn't stop talking about how excited she was about having Loki as being the mascot for the Recon, even though he had to remind her that she needed to keep it quiet. She assured him that she remembers and that she wouldn't let it slip but he doubt that she could keep it away from Moblit for too long. As he parked the car, she asked him if he wanted to take Loki or the crate, and decided carrying Loki would be faster. Mostly because Hanji may just hold him, be too invested in just staring at him or trying to feel his bone structure and accidentally drop him. They somehow managed to get in the elevator and Hanji had to dig into his pocket to retrieve the wallet that had his keycard as he was holding animal over his shoulder. Loki hung limply in his arms that firmly pressed the cat against his body but his tail had managed to wrap his leg. Once in a while Loki would let out a groan, either of pain or being pressed against him, and Levi managed to shush him quietly, scratching his fur lightly where his hand was placed. He didn't need to look over at Hanji to know that she could hear everything he did and a grin was probably plastered across her face.

"Where do you want the crate?" she asked him when they finally got in his apartment.

"Next to the bed," he answered, following her into his bedroom.

She set up the crate pretty quickly and found the closet of spare blankets and towels, bringing some of them to make a bed inside of it. Before he tried to lay Loki down, Hanji stopped him and then laid down pads for him, she also hung up an I.V. bag. He placed Loki down on the bundle of blankets and watched as Hanji inserted the needle to the I.V. to his arm. The cat jerked slightly, a small growl emerging from his lips, but then settled down soon after. When she backed away, she left the crate open so that he could stretch his limbs while he slept and handed Levi the container that she brought with them. It was mostly empty but for a few pill bottles and more pads.

"When he wakes up, approach him slowly and try to make him comfortable. The pills are vitamins that he most likely needs so when he can eat solid food, crush them into chicken or whatever you're going to feed him," she explained. "Just call me when he does, I want to see him when he's awake."

She left in a whirlwind, and he was thankful for the peace and quiet that meant she was gone. Of course, she commented that he was being a bad host, didn't off her anything to drink or something along those lines, and he just told her to fuck off. She responded with a cheery, 'love you too' before Levi managed to hit her with a couch pillow.

He returned to his room and decided that it was actually too quiet for his liking and turned on his TV. Realizing that it was almost two in the morning, he almost felt guilty for waking Eld up for a crate, though they desperately needed it, especially when Loki would wake up. They probably woke up his little girl and would show up to work tomorrow cursing their names. Hanji would at least get the brunt of his rage, and she could complain about the encounter to Levi after dealing with the angry father.

Sitting on the edge of his bed and flickering through the different stations to find something to fall asleep to, Loki started whimpering in his sleep. He looked over to the crate to find the cat’s paws twitching and another whine coming out. Thinking that it was experiencing a nightmare, Levi found himself sitting next to the open crate and reaching a hand out pet his fur, trying to show it some comfort. Loki tensed his body up but then relaxed as he started to scratch behind his ears and underneath his neck. A quiet purr began to replace the whine which made Levi smirk slightly, leaning his back against his bed while still having a hand on his head. He didn’t notice when his eyes became too tired to keep open and fell asleep still holding onto Loki.

 

He immediately hated himself the next morning. His neck seemed to pop every time he turned his head and no matter the number of times he tried to stretch it out, it only got worse. It wasn’t his neck that only hurt, no, it was his whole body but that was what he got for falling asleep on the floor.

Loki hadn’t moved from what he could tell and Levi thankfully noted that the I.V. bag was almost dried out, replacing it when he could feel his legs again. After switching out the bags, he decided to eat something and go through his morning routine. He noted that he slept in once seeing that it was almost nine. Levi was lucky if he managed to get six hours of sleep and it probably only happened once a month, but he never slept in. Having the same egg whites and tea that he always had for breakfast, he was tempted to bring his plate into his room but his habits for keeping things clean weren’t going to change.

Once he finished, he placed his dishes in the dishwasher, already having the pan drying off to the side. He spent the majority of the day, tidying up his apartment but trying not to make too much noise as he went. It was the first time that he had been cautious in his own house and actually worried when he made too much noise. When he thought that he was being too loud, he’d walk into his bedroom and peek to see if Loki stirred but nothing was out of the ordinary. Even though he knew that nothing was going to wake him up unless his body was ready, he still tried to keep the noise down to a minimum.

By the time that the sun started to go down, he was satisfied with his cleaning for the day, even though he wanted to vacuum the little amount of rugs that he owned but decided to wait until after Loki was better. He could control the urges to scrub the floor another day. Making a quick dinner and consuming it before returning back to his room, finding the cat still in the same spot. Returning to his spot next to the crate, he brought a book that he’d been meaning to read and sat with his hand curling around Loki’s fur.

He spent the remained of the night putting a dent in the book and when he began to feel tired, he pulled himself onto his bed. Levi had no intention of waking up with a sore neck and aching body the next morning. Since he did mostly everything cleaning related the day before, he decided to work out for a bit and then see if Erwin emailed him some paperwork or find something else to occupy his time. Once he ate and went through the rest of his morning routine, he stepped outside to feel that it wasn’t starting to get cold yet, even if it was getting closer to October. He decided to do at least his warm up outside, to get his lungs going and finally breath in some fresh air.

After getting his muscles loose, he traveled to the guest room where his workout equipment was currently being stored. He wished that he could turn his home office into his workout room but he wouldn’t have any idea where to put all his books. Also, it was the only part of the apartment that wasn’t decorated like everything else, gray or black. It had wood elements to the room, his cherry wood desk, the wooden bookcases that surrounded the room, and a large window that illuminated the bright room from behind his desk. He built a window seat that attaches to the window sill, padding it with cushions and pillows so he had somewhere to read with natural lighting. It had quickly become his favorite place in his apartment and wouldn't trade it for a home gym, no matter how much he thought he needed it.

His treadmill and dumbbells lined one side of the guest room, it being simple with just a gray bed, black nightstands, one dresser, and then a smaller TV than the one that was in his bedroom. He thought about making the guest room into his gym but rather have somewhere that if he needed a place for someone to stay, he rather have them contained to one room than his couch and being able to have the ability to mess with his kitchen, dining, and living room. The only person that ever stayed at his apartment was Hanji, mostly because he lived closer to the headquarters than her or she had too much to drink when she went out with our co-workers. Erwin had probably only stayed once in the entire time that he's known him.

Going through his daily workout of cardio and lifting weights, it didn't take him long for him to finish. Before he took a shower to rinse the sweat off of him, he checked in on Loki again to see no further movement coming from the cat but breathing. After showering and changing the pad underneath the cat, which he had to hold his breath, muttered under his breath that Loki was lucky that he was cute.

The rest of the day and the day after followed the same, mostly because Levi really didn't have anything to do but sit with Loki and watch TV, though it gave him time to catch up on some of his shows that he let slip. If he hadn't workout, it would have probably made him feel gross, just sitting in his room and watching TV but at least he had the silent company of Loki. He couldn't talk back like Hanji did.

However, when he woke up the next day he felt like something was off. Quickly looking over at the crate, he discovered that there was nothing inside and the I.V. line was leaking onto the bundle of blankets. He looked over himself to make sure that he wasn't mauled in the middle of the night, even though he knew he would have woken up if his bed even tilted an inch from another weight being added. Finding himself clean of any bites or scratches, he grabbed his phone and started searching for Loki. He was a large cat so he probably won't be that hard to find, but he was proved otherwise when he searched every room, even the ones that he knew for a fact closed the previous night, and couldn't find him.

Opening his phone and looking for Hanji's contact information, rolling his eyes at the number of times she messaged and tried to call him with random questions about the cat, most of them he ignored. There were only three messages that he sent, them being mostly photocopies of each other, stating that Loki hadn't moved but was still breathing.  Deciding that even though she almost killed them, she knew more about animals than he did and called her. It took all but two rings before she answered the phone.

"How's our baby doing?" she greeted.

"Hello, to you too," he responded. "So quick question."

"Shoot."

"If I was a hundred and fifty-pound cat, where would I hide?"

"He woke up!"

He had to pull the phone from his ear, worrying that his eardrums may have ruptured from her shrill voice. "Yes, now answer my question."

"I wanna see him."

"Well, you can't see him if I can't find him, Hanji."

"So you lost him? Leevviii."

"You can't lose a cat in a locked apartment. I know where the cat is, just not his position. It's not like he could have unlocked the door, pushed the elevator button, and then walked out of the building."

She suddenly laughed. "Well, where do you think he went?"

"Hanji."

"Fine, take the fun out of everything!"

Starting to already lose the little patience that he had for Hanji, even if it had grown over the years, not by a lot though, he was already exhausted. Plopping down on his couch and letting out a sigh, rubbing the bridge of his nose with his other hand and already done with dealing with her.

"He's probably terrified so is there a place in your apartment that's dark and would be big enough for him to hide?" she asked.

Thinking about everything that he had in his apartment, and there was nothing that had enough room to hold Loki except for his walk-in closet and the one in the guest room but he already checked those places to find nothing. Suddenly he thought of a place. "The cabinets," he thought out loud.

"That's your best bet."

Pushing himself off the couch and traveled to the kitchen, he started to open his many cabinets, finding them empty or full of pots and pans. Thinking that he needs to clean out his kitchen since he didn't need that many when he opened the cabinets in the island, a growl greeted him. He looked inside to see yellow eyes reflecting back at him, but once he let out a sigh and kneeled in front of the cabinet, he noticed that Loki's eyes were actually a bright green. His tail was flickering around the small room that he had, knocking into the walls and making a thumping noise.

"Hey, it's okay," Levi whispered to him.

He tried to do what he always did, putting his hand out for the animal to sniff at it but apparently, he moved to fast because Loki moved his body flat against the wall and let out a deep hiss. He raised his paw as if to swat at him but then put it back down, letting another growl come out of his throat.

"What are you doing to the baby?" Hanji demanded in his ear.

"He's not a baby, I just moved too fast and startled him," he explained.

"Well move slowly, he's probably so scared."

"No shit, Sherlock."

Slowly he extended his hand toward Loki but stopped once he got a few inches into the cabinet space, letting him come to his hand if he wanted to. He could tell that he already had a lot of work ahead of him to get this creature to remotely trust him, but he could do it, especially if he had no plans but to do paperwork for a while. The cat's green eyes flickered to his hand and back up to Levi's face, putting a steady paw down and inched closer to his palm. Confusion and fear was a mix in his eyes, one fighting for dominance over the other. Soon Loki's wet nose was almost touching Levi's hand, but then a growl still pushed its way out. If he had been a normal person, he would have flinched away, scaring the creature and probably end up having teeth and puncture marks in his hand. However, he didn't move an inch, letting Loki know that he wasn't afraid of him and that he shouldn't be afraid of Levi. Another growl came out, but it was softer and not as threatening as the one before it, and he moved away from his hand, pressing his body once more against the back wall.

"Hey, I've been asking how it's going for a minute now," he heard Hanji whining.

"So at least he doesn't want to rip my face off," Levi noted. "But he's not ready to rub all over me, yet."

"Of course he isn't. He's not going to love all over you after smelling your hand once, but it's important that he sees you and knows that you're trying not to hurt him."

"You want me to sit on my ass all day in the kitchen?"

"Do you want to pet him or what?"

"I was against this, just so you know."

"But now you aren't. You probably already can't live without him anymore."

Letting out a deep sigh as she laughed, no, cackled, and he was rubbing his bridge again.

"Oh, you can probably try and give him some solid food, chicken or something like that," she remembered. "So when can I see him?"

"Goodbye, Hanji."

Hanging up the phone even though he could hear her starting to talk again, he placed the phone next to him and then sat on his ass in front of the cabinet. His back pressed against the wall so he was facing Loki, who looked at him curiously.

"Better hold tight, it's going to be a long day," Levi muttered.

He wasn't sure if he was talking to Loki or himself.

Chapter Text

Eren couldn't remember exactly how he ended up in his dark box, just that he woke up with a pain in his leg and he had no idea where he was. He could hear the person that was sleeping in their bed, breathing. He remembered that there was no way out, that he couldn't open the door with his teeth or useless paws, so he did the only thing he could think of. Hide. He pawed at the small doors in a certain room and tried to find one that wasn't full of metal objects or smelled of cleaner. When he finally found one, he slipped his long body into the dark compartment, hoping to figure out where he was and how to get out.

Looking at his body, he noticed that some parts of his fur were shaved off, revealing a long scar where he was shot. The person in the other room must have taken it out, but it didn't stop him from wondering what insane person would save him. Especially in the form he was currently in. Taking in deep breaths, he tried to change back but yelped in pain when his sides began to tighten and seemed to snap in half.

Why can't I change back? Why?

Trying to control his breathing, he tried once again but more pain consumed him the more effort he put into it. Panic began to tear through him realizing that he was stuck, that he couldn't get out unless the man sleeping in the next room mistakenly left the front door wide open. He couldn't see anyone making such a stupid mistake. Petra would be able to calm him down.

Petra.

Suddenly remembering everything that happened before he woke up, it struck him to his core and the numbness began to fill his body. She was gone, dead. He would never see her again and he failed at what she asked him to do. He racked his brain trying to remember her parting words. The ones that she wanted him to remember no matter what. He remembered asking for Levi, but couldn't remember the other person's name, and to say that she sent him. It was a large building that he needed to go to.

What did she say the building was called? Freedom something...Freedom.

Shit. Shit. Shit!

Before his breathing was beginning to get out of control, he heard movement coming from the direction of the room he was sleeping in. He stilled himself after pressing his body into the wall, trying put as much distance from him and the opening of his box.

His ears picked up the sound of footsteps padding around, growing fainter and louder depending on where the man went. If he had hands, they would probably would have been pressed against his mouth, trying to get his breathing under control. He didn't know what to do if he was found. If he attacked, he didn't know if the man was armed and then there would probably be no way of getting out. He also didn't want to kill anyone else, so many people already died for him, he didn't need to kill more.

The man sighed before he could hear a faint ringing coming from where he was standing.

"Hello, to you too," the man suddenly said. "So quick question."

Who is he talking to?

He could heard a female voice coming out of somewhere but it was too faint for even him to hear. If he was out in the open, he may have been able to hear everything but not from within his box.

"If I was a hundred fifty pound cat, where would I hide?...Yes, now answer my question...Well you can't see him if I can't find him, Hanji."

So they were talking about him, and the name that he spoke sounded familiar, but he knew that it wasn't the other name that Petra mentioned. It bothered him anyways while he kept listening to the conversation, trying to see if he could gather any information about where he was.

"You can't lose a cat in a locked apartment. I know where the cat is, just not his position. It's not like he could have unlocked the door, pushed the elevator button, and then walked out of the building...Hanji," the man continued.

So he was in the building and vaguely remembered seeing glass as he was searching for a place to hide. Kicking himself for not taking the time to check out his surroundings because fear had gripped him too much. The man in the other room was quiet for a bit and didn't say anything.

"The cabinets," he suddenly exclaimed.

Footsteps then reappeared and they were heading straight for him. Realizing that he still had no plan for getting caught, he just decided to wait until the moment happened and rely on his instincts. He can hear the squeak of other doors opening, getting closer and closer to his hiding place. When the first stream of light appeared in his box, a growl pulsed unexpectedly through his throat. He could only see the man's baggy grey pants and a pale arm before the man squatted in front of him. Eren found himself surprised to admit that the man was pretty. His features were sharp but had a soft edge to his mouth, even if it seemed to be permanently in a frown. Silver, hard eyes stared back at him with dark circles under them and onyx hair fell almost into them. Though from the frown and hard eyes on him usually would have made him uneasy, he didn't feel threatened by this man. His tail seemed to think otherwise though, twitching like it did when he was scared or frightened.

"Hey, it's okay," the man whispered to him.

The man made a sudden movement with his hand, causing a hiss to come out of his mouth, his body seeming to know what to do. His paw instinctively went up to swat at that the man's hand, but Eren realized that trying to injure him or anything like that wasn't going to help him. He returned his paw to the ground and instead let another growl come out, at least to warn the man to not get too close.

"What are you doing to the baby?" he heard the woman's voice more clearly, though it was still pretty faint.

His eyes searched for anything that it could be coming from and landed on a black device pinned between the man's ear and shoulder. Remembering that Petra showed him something familiar, he realized that it was a phone. She had let him mess around with the phone even though he couldn't use it to actually call someone, the building that he was housed in was apparently a dead zone.

"He's not a baby, I just moved too fast and startled him," the man explained to the phone.

"Well move slowly, he's probably so scared," he heard the woman whined.

"No shit, Sherlock."

The man moved once again, but slower, just like the woman said to do. His hand moved only inches into his box and stopped. It was like the man was waiting for him to do something and then realized that he was actually waiting for him to sniff his hand. He didn't want to get closer to this mysterious man but it seemed like he was making a lot of effort to show Eren that he wasn't a threat. Thinking to amuse him, he moved his head closer to the man's pale hand, almost brushing his nose against his flesh, and breathed in his scent. He discovered the man to have smelt of earthy herbs and faint chemical. Eren didn't understand how they worked so well together but they did. Another growl slipped out of his throat, him cursing at the animal inside of him to stop, but noticed that the man didn't flinch like many others have. He could easily sink his sharp teeth into the man's palm or even rip his face to shreds with his claws but he continued to stare at him, waiting patiently. Finally, his animal started to understand that the man in front of him was not a threat at the moment, even if it growled one last time, though it was much softer than the others. He moved away from the man's hand then, pressing his body once again against the back of his box, seeing what the man would do next.

"Hey, I've been asking how it's going for a minute now," the woman spoke again.

"So at least he doesn't want to rip my face off, but he's not ready to rub all over me, yet," the man explained to the phone.

"Of course he isn't. He's not going to love all over you after smelling your hand once, but it's important that he sees you and knows that you're trying not to hurt him."

"You want me to sit on my ass all day in the kitchen?"

Eren's ears twitched at the man's statement. He wouldn't be able to make his escape with the man's eyes on him all day, though he could try and warm up to this stranger, especially if he fed him. He could focus on building his strength, enough to shift back where he could open a door with actual hands. Eren didn't have wholeheartedly like the man that would be his caretaker and he didn't plan on staying for too long. Once he found Levi and wherever he was supposed to go, he would repay the man for housing him, even if he didn't know what he actually was.

"Do you want to pet him or what?" the woman asked.

"I was against this, just so you know," the man confessed.

"But now you aren't. You probably already can't live without him anymore."

The man rubbed the bridge of his nose once the woman on the other end laughed, though Eren couldn't tell if it really was a laugh or not.

"Oh, you can probably try and give him some solid food, chicken or something like that. So when can I see him?"

"Goodbye, Hanji."

The sound of food or even possibly chicken almost made Eren's mouth water, and he could feel his stomach constrict for a moment, realizing that he probably hasn't eaten that much. He still didn't know how long he was out for.

The man then moved to sit with his back pressed against the wall behind him, facing him still and Eren continued to watch him with keen eyes.

"Better hold tight, it's going to be a long day," the man muttered.

He didn't know if the man was talking to him or himself.

 

They kept staring at each other for the longest time and the man wouldn’t back down from Eren’s gaze, though he mostly just looked bored. A feeling that he was very acquainted with all the time he’d been isolated by himself. The only time that the man took his silver eyes off of him was when he messed with his phone, which he didn’t do too often. Sometimes he would get up and Eren was tempted to poke his head out from the box but by the time he would gather enough courage, the man came back. He wondered what he would even do if he came out of his box, he knew where the door was and that he could use an elevator, whatever that was, to get out of the building, but nothing besides that. He didn’t know how far he had escaped from his capturers, it could be a couple of miles away or maybe a hundred. If he went outside and got caught because he was so close to them, then everything him and Petra have done would be nothing. The blood that he spilled would be gone. Petra would have died for nothing.

He was so caught up in his thoughts of her that he didn’t notice that the man had moved from his spot. Once he pulled himself out of his thoughts, now becoming aware of the missing presence, he slowly poked his head out to see the man standing in front of a large metal box. He opened the door and Eren could feel the chill from inside of it from where he sat. The man was looking for something but seemed to have found it, grabbed it, and closed the door to the box before Eren could look around him to see what was inside. He turned in time to see his head poking out, the corner of his lip turned up.

“You planning to come out now?” the man asked him.

He quickly retreated back into his hole and was once again cornered by the man when he sat down. In the man’s hand was a container with a red lid and once he opened it, the air was filled with the familiar smell of chicken and spices. His stomach growled loudly at the thought of just having a taste of the meat, even if he only had a bite of it. The man reached inside of the container to pull some pieces of the chicken off with a gloved hand. Eren was immediately suspicious of the gloved hand, mostly because the only people that he's seen with gloves had the intentions of laying a knife into him or more. However, the need to eat was overcoming his fear of the gloves. The white was thrown into his box, inches from his paws by the man, and he immediately devoured it. He'd probably be sobbing from how great it was if he was in human form, but all he could do was continue to gobble up the pieces that were thrown at him. When there was no more meat being thrown his way, he looked up at the man, a small chirp coming out of his mouth. The closest he could come to asking him anything. The man showed him the empty container.

"There's no more," the man explained.

But you can make more.

He answered with another chirp, the man's eyebrows raising slightly.

"Do you want me to make more?" he asked slowly, suddenly becoming unsure of himself.

Eren had a choice to make, either to actually nod and answer his question, making it known to this man that he wasn't just an animal, or stay in blissful ignorance. However, not responding could make his process of leaving slower and he must know that there was something off about him already. Especially he treated his wound. The man had to have seen his flesh stitching together and stream, rebuilding itself. Before he could talk himself out of it even more, he noted his head. The benefit was outweighing the risks at the moment but he wouldn't reveal himself fully to this stranger. He wouldn't show him his true form and keep acting like an intelligent animal. The man's eyes seemed to grow in size when Eren nodded.

"You can understand me?" the man questioned.

He was still hesitant but nodded after taking a moment.

"Hanj is going to lose her shit," he whispered to himself.

Eren was generally surprised at the man's reaction to him, the only other person that remotely acted this calm was Petra. She also was prepared, she knew that he could transform and had other abilities. Everyone else reacted with disgust or ran away like the people that saw him running down the street. Of course, the man doesn't know that he can shift, and he probably wasn't going to ever know if he got his way, but know he knew that Eren was smarter than the average animal. Maybe he was just taken in by an insane person but at least he was being fed.

The man cooked him another breast of chicken and he had enough courage to step out of his box, watching the man prepare his food. His nostrils flared at the different spices that filled the air and he poured powder or plants into the metal object he used to cook it. The man was muttering to himself and over the sound of food sizzling, he couldn't understand everything that he said. It mostly had to deal with him, he could tell that. 'Shitty Hanji' was muttered multiple times, referring to the woman that he talked to most likely. Once he was done cooking, the man placed the meat on a plate and went to place the objects he used into a hole in the counter, then water came pouring out a nozzle attached to it. Eren lost interest in what the man was doing and eyed the piece of chicken for him. Before he could even think about reaching it to snag the meat off the counter but once he took a step toward it, the man was there, taking it away from him. A mix between a growl and a chirp came from deep in his throat in response.

"You'll burn yourself if you eat it right away," the man explained.

Eren didn't mind getting burned so he can stop his stomach from eating itself but needed to be obedient toward the man. The more the man trusted him, the more likely he would let him out. Waited for something that he wanted was something he was going to have to get used too, especially if he wanted the man to give him his warm chicken. When the meat was brought down to him, it was only half, disappointed but he swallowed it down before the other half was given to him. Eren almost choked on the other half, trying to devour it to fill his belly, which he saw the man shake his head in amusement. The man slowly approached him, grabbing the dish from in front of him, and Eren retreated back to the safety of his box. He heard water turning back on and then shut off again before the man returned to the floor in front of him.

"So my friend didn't know that you were this extraordinary animal that didn't just having amazing healing abilities but also can fucking understand us, she named you Loki," the man explained. "But I highly doubt that that's your name."

He found himself shaking his head and huffed through his nose, already hating that he couldn't speak.

What kind of name is Loki?

"I'm guessing that you didn't like the name," he chuckled slightly.

Eren was surprised how much he liked how the man laughed, though his face barely changed, his eyes filled with the laughter.

"Was going to suggest that we can keep calling you that but apparently you don't like Loki...did you have a name before?" the man further questioned.

Nodding his head once again, the man thought for a bit. He then starting off listing off letters to see where it started with. Eren would answer with a shake of the head.

"F...K...R...T...E," the man listed off.

His ear twitched and perked up at the man's last letter ranted off to him. He had decided to actually lay down and rest his limbs, his paws about to hang out of his box and tail curling out of it.

"Please don't tell me your name is Erwin," he suddenly asked.

Shaking his head slightly, the man let out some of the air in his chest.

"Thank fuck," the man breathed. "I wouldn't be able to deal with two."

Then the man started rattling off different names, some of them he's never heard.

"Edward...Ethan...Eli...Eugene...Emmett...Eld...Edmund...Eren," the man continued.

He had honestly started to zone out before he said his name. Eren understood how Petra must have felt when he was asking her a bunch of questions about the outside, he was exhausted even when he couldn't talk. It felt weird, to hear his name from someone's mouth. He's been referred to as it for so long that he feared that he would have forgotten his name if it wasn't for Dr. Djel and Petra's visits.

"So your name is Eren," the man commented. "Well, if it helps, mine's Levi."

He snapped his head toward the man, this new information making his head pound. The coincidence was too much, it wasn't possible that the man that Petra begged him to find and talked so fondly over was right in front of him. However, the Levi she told him about won't have sat on a floor for hours, trying to get an animal to come out of its shell and be this rationally calm about discovering that he wasn't just an untamed creature. The Levi she portrayed was a calm before the storm, a clean freak, and someone who cared ferociously for the ones he let in but couldn't give two shits about anyone else. He now wished that he pushed for more information about her former savior. even if he knew that it hurt her whenever she mentioned her past. Wished he found out what her Levi looked like besides calling him dark and mysterious once.

As Levi gave him one of his smirking smiles, he decided at that moment that Petra's Levi and the one sitting in front of him were not the same.

 

After the shock of finding out his stranger's name, Levi announced that he ass was falling asleep and that he was moving to something called a couch. He told Eren that he could stay in the cabinet, the thing he was currently hiding in, or join him in the other room. Levi honestly didn't care, just as long as he was comfortable wherever he wanted to be. He didn't move from his spot, even when he could see the light from the various windows turning darker, the shadows of objects running across the ground. Inside he was cursing himself for not taking the chance to walk around, explore the place that he was calling home for a few days. He should be happy. Happy that he's finally out of his hell and breathing in different air. He should have ran to the various windows in this place, taking in the new views, and watch the clouds, something that he's been wanting to do for so long.

However, he couldn't move from the cabinet that was acting as his safety blanket at the moment. Deep inside he knew why he wasn't letting himself enjoy the moment. He was punishing himself, for not following Petra's orders, for not being strong enough to get them both out of there...for running away while Petra became cold on the Earth. Even though he knew that if he didn't follow her orders to run, he never would have made it as far as he did, and probably would have been recaptured. Be back in his white room instead of the gray walls that surrounded himself outside of his dark cabinet.

Eren didn't know how long he sat there tormenting himself, staring at one spot on the spotless, tiled floor, not having enough courage to find where Levi's couch was and find out where all the excess noise came from. Soon enough the noise disappeared suddenly and he noticed that there were almost no lights within the house, but the kitchen and another light source. He could hear Levi's footsteps coming closer to him and a smirk greeted him as he kneeled in front of the cabinet.

"So you decided to stay in here all day," he took in. "That's fine, hopefully, you'll feel more comfortable soon."

His hand reached out, to touch him, and Eren instinctively pulled away from the hand. A flash of realization crossed Levi's face as he started taking his hand back.

"Sorry, I've been used to petting you when you were out," Levi explained.

Eren looked at the man in front of him, thinking that it wouldn't be so bad to be taken care of before he went on his own. He's only experience with someone petting him was with Petra, and he was surprised that he enjoyed it as much as he did, especially when she rubbed his ears. Slowly, Eren leaned his head toward the man, giving him silent permission to touch him. His eyes instinctively closed when he felt the man's fingers running through the top of his fur. He'd forgotten how good it felt, to be touched by another.

Levi soon left, announcing that he was going into his room to sleep and that Eren was welcomed to join him, something that was tempting. Thinking of sleeping in the cabinet was making his body ache but he's slept on worse. He also didn't want to be surrounded by Levi's unique scent and completely have a panic attack from the unfamiliarity of it. The lights were soon all turned off, leaving in Eren in almost complete darkness but the moonlight coming in through the windows. Being used to always having an artificial light on him, it was weird to be in the dark but found himself being lured to sleep by the sounds of pages turning in the next room.

 

When Eren woke up the next morning, he was correct about his muscles aching and limbs being numb, but he didn't expect to find a warm blanket covering him. Looking out from his cabinet, he found Levi leaning against the wall and reading something in his hands. He seemed to notice the moment that he stirred, because he paused briefly and looked up to him, realizing small, black glasses framed his face nicely.

"Good morning," Levi greeted.

The small smirk, that Eren figured out was actually the closest to a smile that Levi could pull, stirred something within him that he didn't expect. He wasn't sure if everything involved with Levi was going to end in disaster.

Chapter Text

Levi busied himself with making them breakfast, something that Eren hadn’t heard since being captured but it surprised him how quickly he remembered what the word meant. He managed to gather his courage again to step outside of his cabinet and watch as he started to pull small boxes and vegetables out of the cold, metal box. Levi noticed that he came out of his hiding hole but didn’t say anything else, closing the metal box once he grabbed everything. He would take some of the items that he grabbed and place them in front of Eren’s nose, letting him sniff the ingredients. He looked questionably at the man, mostly because he didn’t understand why Levi was letting him sniff everything, though he was curious about the items on the counter. Everything that was placed in front of him was completely different from the next and he was surprised with how much he was enjoying the array of scents that was placed to his nose. Levi explained what each item was, eggs, ham, spinach, bread, and different spices that made him sneeze the first time he breathed them in. He watched as Levi began to cook again but retreated from the scene when he pulled out a short knife from a wooden block. Deep inside he knew that Levi wasn’t going to turn the knife toward him but the fear of the metal instrument being pointed in his direction crept up on him. Levi didn’t seem to notice his absence until he heard the knife stop cutting at whatever ingredient he was hacking at. He could hear the food being cooked on the flat, metal bowl but Levi’s footsteps could be heard coming toward his cabinet. Once Levi came into full view, he studied Eren and realization spread over his face, probably understand why he suddenly retreated to safety.

“I’ll be more careful for now on,” Levi stated before leaving his sight.

The smell of whatever he was cooking made his stomach start to growl loudly, and he was pretty sure that Levi could hear it since he heard him let out a small chuckle. If he was in his normal form, he would be head-to-toe red from embarrassment and grateful for once being in this form still. He heard the sizzling of cooking stop and return of running water, signally that food would soon be in his belly and that Levi was cleaning up. Once the water stop, Levi appeared again and sat down in his spot while juggling two white plates. On the plates was a yellow blob, though it didn’t look appealing, it smelled wonderful. Levi placed one of the plates in front of Eren on the ground and started digging into his own blob. He quickly noticed that the one in front of him had a lot more of the food than the plate that Levi was currently eating from. Eren sniffed the plate before inching closer to it and gingerly took a piece of it in his mouth, surprised how easily that it tore apart. An approving chirp came from his throat before he started consuming everything on his plate, getting a small chuckle from Levi. When he finished the plate, he licked his lips knowing that he could feel pieces of the food covering his muzzle and looked up in time to see Levi rolling his eyes at the mess on his face.

“So I can see that you enjoy my cooking, but you don’t have to make a mess to prove it,” he teased.

Levi grabbed both of their plates and he heard the water run briefly again before he was back. In his hand was a wet piece of cloth and he squatted closer to Eren than he did before.

“I’m going to clean you up a bit since you still have pieces of egg around your mouth,” Levi explained.

He waited for Eren to nod, making sure that he knew what he was going to do before he moved toward him and wiped the warm, wet cloth over his face. He was surprised with how gently the cloth was as it wiped against his fur, how gentle someone can be while cleaning them up. Back in his prison, they would throw him underneath freezing water and scrub him down with cloths until he was raw if he could stand. If he could barely hold his own weight, they would throw buckets of the icy water on him and scrub him down. He enjoyed being clean after those washings but he hated the process to get the grim and blood off of his skin. After Levi deemed him clean enough, he moved away from him once again.

“I’m going to be in the other room and you’re free to join me if you want,” he heard Levi tell him.

He left Eren to his own accord as he walked by him and disappeared from his view of the wall and kitchen. Taking a deep breath and growing tired of seeing the same three walls surrounding him and the same view that he’s had for the past two days, he stepped out of the cabinet.

Looking around the kitchen, he was happy to find that the color white wasn’t involved too much in the decoration of Levi’s place. He didn’t know that he despised that color as much as he did now if he never saw it again it would be too soon. Cabinets, like the one that he spent two days in, lined the ground and also the ceiling and each was interrupted by metal blocks that he hoped Levi would explain what each was in time. A portion of the kitchen’s wall had been taken out and he could only guess that Levi was on the opposite side of the wall. If he was in his humanoid form then he could probably see into the other room but chose to continue exploring the place he was calling home until he left. The kitchen opened up into another room that had a black, slick table and one chair; there was nothing else in the room beside the glass wall that leads to a platform outside. He immediately stopped at the wall and stared outside, wishing that he could feel the air on his skin-...well fur at the moment and breathe it in. The sky was the prettiest blue he’s ever seen and there were no clouds to disturb the color, leaving Eren to take in every detail. He pressed his face against the glass, wanting to be outside, and could feel how cold it probably was.

“Do you want to go outside?” Levi’s voice said behind him.

Eren quickly whipped his head around to see Levi leaning against the wall that separated the room he was currently in and from where he must have emerged from. He hadn’t changed from the dark gray sweatpants he wore this morning and long sleeve black shirt. It didn’t feel cold enough to wear something like that but Petra always told Eren that he ran higher in temperature than normal people. She used it to her advantage by always sitting almost in his lap when she complained that they kept his room cold so it wouldn’t be uncomfortable for him. It always made him laugh to himself, mostly because they would cut into his body and make his heart stop but also wanted to keep the temperature in his room low so he’d be comfortable.

“It’s starting to get cold outside,” he explained as he walked across the small room and grabbed onto the metal frame of the glass wall. “Just be careful.”

Suddenly the wall started opening, making Eren jump slightly at the movement. Feeling a cool gush of air that hit him made his fur suddenly rise up, trying to trap in the heat that his body expelled. If he could start crying then he would already be a mess as he hesitantly took a step outside. This was different from the first time he went outside. He was running for his life and couldn’t afford to take everything in or else he’d find himself back in his white room. As he breathed in the chilly air, he finally realized that he was free.

 

Levi watched as the cat hesitantly walked around his porch, sniffling everything that he came into contact with. The plants that desperately needed to be watered, his metal chairs and table set, and the hanging couch that he barely used. Eren’s fur had puffed out to almost twice it’s normal length, probably trying to keep himself warm. It was getting chilly and probably would snow before December from how quickly the weather was changing already. He didn’t move from the doorway of the sliding glass door, trying to stay warm as much as possible, but continued to watch as Eren finally stopped walking around and sat in front of the railing. His head was angled down so he could look down the slit between the concrete and railing to see the ground. He waited for him to see that they were on the thirtieth floor and freak out from the height, which he did. Eren mostly jumped back and looked back at Levi with wide eyes.

“Yeah, we’re pretty high up,” Levi found himself chuckling.

Eren’s soft green eyes were almost impossibly wide as soft chirps and growls came out of his throat like he was trying to understand how they were so far up without falling to their deaths. He found himself surprised at how cute he thought his reaction was.

“We’re perfectly safe, Eren,” he responded back to the large cat.

He gave him a look that completely said that he didn’t believe anything that came out of his mouth. Levi continued his watch even when Eren finally calmed down enough to sit in the middle of the deck. The sun had crept up and now was starting to take over the porch. This would normally be the time that Levi would move away from the doorway and hightail it into his dark house. The sun and his pale skin were not friends and never be friends from the red burns he received from just being out for a few minutes. However, he watched as the sun crept onto Eren’s fur and he seemed to freeze at the sudden warmth. His eyes started to close at the sun’s warmth and seconds later his body started to shake. It didn’t take Levi too long to understand that he wasn’t shaking from the cold, but he could guess that this was the first time that Eren had ever felt the sun or he’d forgotten what it had felt like. He felt a sudden anger at the monsters that created the scars that littered his stomach, and probably his whole body. He wanted to get closer to the large cat, comfort him by running his hands through his warming fur but knew that he would frighten him. He had never cared for something this fast, at least with the level of intelligence that Eren showed. It was easy to care for an animal that all it wanted to do is eat and be loved on, especially when you’re the one giving it the food. Obviously, Eren had enough knowledge to understand everything that came out of his mouth and could probably do much more than he’s shown so far. He left his spot then, to let Eren have his moment without his prying eyes and retreated into the living room.

 

He didn’t know how long he stayed out in the sun, just taking in the years that he’s missed this very opportunity but when he opened his eyes once again, Levi was gone. His body was starting to become unbearably hot from standing in direct light for god knows how long and decided to go back to his tall home. It still boggled his mind that they were so far up on a building and even though Levi said that it was perfectly safe, he swore that he could feel the building sway lightly with the wind now. He could hear voices and other noises coming from behind the wall that Levi appeared from and poked his head around. He saw the back of Levi’s head poking out behind something he was sitting on, probably the couch that he told him about last night. The space in the room was large and not a lot of items filled it, making it feel empty. The noises were coming from a massive square object that seemed to float on the wall by itself. The images were moving but the figures that appeared on the screen were drawn instead of living people. When Eren moved closer, he could see that something they said on the object would draw a small chuckle or smirk out of Levi. Eventually, Levi noticed that he was there when the screen went to black for a second and actual people started filling the screen.

“You’ve had your moment in the sun?” Levi asked him.

He nodded in response and then looked over at the wall, different people and scenarios kept changing through the screen within moments of each other and he couldn’t keep up what was happening on it. Then he began further confused when it returned back to the moving drawings. Suddenly he felt the urge to draw once again, something that he hasn’t felt since Petra first disappeared on him and reappeared in his life. When he turned his head away from the object, he noticed that Levi was coming back from the room he was just previously in, probably to go close the glass wall he left open. He returned to his spot but grabbed a black blanket that was hanging on the back of the white couch and laid it down next to him.

“You can come up on the couch, if you want, instead of sitting on the hard floor,” Levi suggested as he patted the blanket.

He hesitant placed his front paws on the couch but making sure that he stayed on the blanket. Eren didn’t know if he shed, mostly because he was never in his this form for too long. The longest time that he’d been in this form was when she wanted to see him like this and stayed like that until she left. He climbed onto the couch, surprised to find the blanket was the softest thing he ever felt but had to curl his body to fit his body on it. Eren wanted to stretch out but didn’t want to stray off the blanket at all. His attention went back to the rectangle screen on the wall and still found the drawings moving and talking. His head cocked to the side as he tried to grasp what he was seeing and heard Levi shuffle next to him.

“Have you seen a TV before?” he was asked.

The words sounded familiar and when he tried to recall where he’s heard it before, his head started to pound slightly. So instead of dwelling on that, he shook his head and looked back over at Levi. He scratched the side of his head like he was trying to think of how to explain how this TV worked. Somewhere inside of him, he wished that Levi was using that hand instead to scratch behind his ears or underneath his chin, a place that Petra discovered made him relax within two seconds.

“What you’re seeing on the screen is millions of pictures that have been sped up until it looks like a fluid movement. There are shows and movies. Shows are short segments that usually has a story and it continues for multiple episodes. Movies are just condensed shows that usually don’t have continuations,” Levi explained. “Most shows are live-action, meaning that they have real people acting in different roles and almost all the time is fiction, meaning it’s not real. And then there are animated shows, like the one we’re watching now, that are hand drawn and then put through a computer to animate the drawings into moving things.”

He could tell that Levi was trying his best to explain this strange concept to him, but his head was swimming from all the new information through his head. Soon he fell into his old habit of just nodding, letting it be known that he was listening though he wasn’t really understanding everything coming out of his mouth. He looked at the colorful drawings that flickered across the screen and wondered how long it took to make the hundreds or thousands of drawn pictures to create such a smooth movement. Just thinking about the number of drawings they had to create made his hand twitch for the need to create once again.

 

Levi eventually stopped explaining after he probably guessed that Eren still had no clue what a TV was made out of, something called pixels, and chalked it up to magic. Something that somehow made it easier to understand than the actual answer. They both continued to watch TV, Eren grasping some of the jokes that the figures made and was starting to understand when a show ended and when it began, especially when a tune signaled the beginning of it. It made it easier when it was the same show one after the other, though each segment was different from the last, even if it had mostly the same cartoon people in each one.

Eren had placed his chin on the top of his paws that he eventually crossed over each other and stared almost absentmindedly at the television when he felt a sudden presence on his head. He jerked up into a sitting position, a growl pulsing from his muzzle, and looked over in time to see Levi’s hand up in the air. Feeling foolish for reacting so suddenly and harshly because he just put his hand on him, Eren slowly laid back down.

“Sorry,” Levi simply said.

He put his hand at his own side and returned his attention back to the screen. Eren guessed that he once again had been used to petting him when he was passed out that he absentmindedly tried to pet him once again. He inched closer to Levi at that point and was pleased to find that the blanket reached his side, so he moved his head to nudge against the hand that tried to pet him. Levi seemed to understand what he was trying to do, to say that he forgave him and now giving him permission to do what he originally wanted. His hand started stroking his fur, rubbing behind his ears, and making Eren let out a soft purr that he couldn’t control.

Eren surprised himself with how relaxed and...happy he felt at that moment. Even though he was still confused at the situation he was placed in and sadly knew that he would have to leave Levi’s side, he was...content. He just hoped that he wouldn’t just suddenly just wake up and find himself in his white room. He wanted nothing more than this to be real.

Chapter Text

Eren slept in the cabinet again, though Levi had padded it with several blankets so it was more comfortable than just sleeping on hardwood. He offered numerous times before leaving him for the night that he was welcomed to sleep in the room with him, or even on his bed. Though it sounded appealing and much more comfortable than the hard surface of the cabinet, he still needed a place to feel safe and wasn't in the open. If he was in his other form he probably won't be like that though, the animal inside of him wanted a dark enclosed place to feel safe or else it would become reckless.

He woke up before Levi did, wishing to find him sitting in front of his open cabinet or just getting ready to make delicious breakfast for the both of them. Poking his head out from his box, he saw that none of the lights were turned on but the sunlight was beginning to spill into the apartment. Getting out, he rounded around the island of cabinets and out of the next room, to find the door that led to Levi's bedroom ajared. Using his paw to push the door enough for his body to slip through, he saw that Levi was laying on his side playing on his phone. He was surrounded by a large, fluffy dark gray blanket and black pillows encasing him, and his thumb kept moving on the screen. His steel eyes moved lazily across the phone until the movement of the door opening caught his attention. Those liquid metal eyes landed on Eren and he sat up, abandoning the phone on the bed.

"It's almost eight, isn't it?" Levi muttered to himself.

He looked down at his phone once again and nodded once he saw the time. Then he pulled himself off of the bed, passing by Eren and gently placing his hand on his head, scratching behind his ears.

"Let's go get something to eat," Levi smiled slightly at him.

Eren prepared himself for the touch but his body still jerked slightly at the contact, making a sense of disappointment wash over him. The feeling came as a surprise to him and in the back of his head, something nagged at it that it wasn't good. That he shouldn't be feeling anything like that when it came to this man that he's only known for less than three days. He didn't want to think about how not seeing Levi as the first thing his eyes settle on made his chest deflate or how being this close to him made a sense of safety and comfort seep into his skin. He didn't know when these thoughts and foreign feelings began but choose to swallow them down, putting them in the back of his mind because he wasn't going to be here for very long and didn't need them clouding his judgment. He couldn't take Levi with him when he leaves his apartment. Levi has his own life and he would be eternally grateful for everything this man has done for him so far, and what he will do until he's gone. He stood there as Levi passed him and started his way toward the kitchen. Eren waited until he could make the sudden onset of nausea pass and push his heart back down his throat before following Levi to the kitchen.

 

The day passed like the previous one, though Eren wasn't hiding in his cabinet anymore. He didn't realize that he was mostly at Levi's hip throughout the whole day as the man cleaned until he commented on it. Feeling embarrassed, he moved  to the couch and laid on the black blanket that was still laid out for him. When Levi disappeared from his sight for a while, he hated the feeling that started creeping up on him when he was gone for too long. He tried to ignore it, on top of every noise coming from the quiet apartment and his mind running wild that they found him. It didn't help that he couldn't tell exactly where the noises came from, either from a different room or from below them, especially with him still getting used to his new profound hearing. He didn’t realize that every time that he heard a far off noise, a small growl would creep up his throat. That was until Levi would poke his head out from wherever he was, looking at him with a raised brow until eventually, he connected that he was growling at the random noises. Eventually, he returned to his side and sat down next to him, slowly moving his hand so that Eren could see the movement and placed it on his side, threading the fur between his fingers. It was sad how much excitement and stupid pride filled him when he realized that he didn’t flinch at Levi’s touch.

“Whoever took you, they have no idea where you are,” Levi explained to him. “Hanji made sure there wasn’t a microchip or tracking device implanted on you...they’re not coming for you.”

Eren didn’t realize he needed to hear something like that until the words came out of his mouth. He had been terrified that the Djel was going to burst into Levi’s place with his bodyguards hot on his trail at every noise the apartment made. That he was going to end up back where he was caged and treated like the animal they convinced him he was. While this person, who believed he was nothing more than an intelligent animal, treated him with more respect than they ever did.

 

Levi’s words didn’t completely hit home until the next day. He woke up in his cabinet and saw him already making himself busy with their breakfast. He stretched his long body as he climbed out of the cabinet, a yawn pulling his mouth open and alerted Levi to his awakened state. They continued to go through their normal routine of breakfast, anything that he made was devoured in two seconds which Levi always found amusing, and Eren took his spot on the couch. The TV was put on to a random channel, sometimes it was actual people or the drawings again, and Levi would put his two cents every once in a while.  He wanted to be in the other room with him but kept remembering the comment that he made yesterday, that he was literally attached to his hip and that he was afraid that he was going to hit him by accident. He hated it but every time that he heard Levi muttering to himself or when he came into view, his ears would perk up. He no longer growls at the noises anymore, Levi’s words always coming to the front of his mind when he did and relaxed him enough to not growl or flinch if the noises were loud or sudden. Whenever he would pop back into the room, even if he was just going to be briefly in the room, he would go up to Eren and pet him or just put a hand on his head, still trying to get him more used to his touch. He didn’t mind of course, especially when it relaxed him to no end when someone ran their fingers through his fur and giving him any form of attention. It was something Petra did when he came back  from bad sessions and reminded him of those tender moments that they spent together. After Levi deemed his place clean enough, he plopped down on the couch next to Eren, once again beginning to scratch and pet his fur. He turned on the television and then the patterns his created through his fur became simple as his attention was turned onto the screen. Eventually, his eyes began to close, the movement of Levi’s hands pulling him to sleep.

 

He opened his eyes to see nothing but white. White walls that he tried desperately to run away from and no matter how far he ran, they never seemed to end. Twisting and turning down the hallways that he’s only seen once, it led to nothing but more white walls. His legs burned and it wasn’t until then did he realize that he wasn’t an animal but running on his actual legs instead of paws. His lungs painfully breathed in the artificial air and kept pushing to keep running, to find an exit from this place that he thought he finally escaped.

He turned down more hallways than he could count and no matter how much he pushed himself to keep going, it felt like he was going nowhere. Finally, his legs skidded to a stop once he flew around another corner and saw a blood-soaked figure standing in the middle of the hallway. Rubbing his eyes and looking at the figure once again a face that he thought he would never see again greeted him. Warm chocolate eyes greeted him, the same soft smile that would never leave his mind, her petite hand moved her strawberry blonde hair to the side as the smile grew. The last time he saw Petra was seeing her small body falling as he ran away. That she sacrificed her life so he could escape. He didn't know that he had slowly moved over to her until his hand was already reaching out to touch her face. Tears streaming down both their faces when he felt warm skin upon his fingertips. He wished with all his heart that it wasn't a dream and he actually convinced himself for a second that it wasn't until she grabbed his hand with both of hers and placed it over her heart. There was no movement, except her breathing. No heartbeat, nothing that he could feel at least and even when he focused on hearing it, nothing was there.

"You need to find them, Eren," she whispered to him. "Gather your strength first and then you need to find them."

Before there was anything that he could do or say, Petra suddenly folded over and gasped in pain. She looked up at him, her face paling as she held both of his hands over her stomach. Red began to leak out between her fingers and staining her blue scrubs.

"Do this for me," she gasped.

It was almost in slow motion as she started falling backward, a hand out reaching toward him, like there was some way for him to stop her death. Could stop her before she could hit the ground and be lost from him forever. As he reached out to grab her hand, she suddenly disappeared, mid-fall, and he ended up on his knees, his hand still reaching out for hers. He kept staring at his hand, excepting to find hers somehow there and with the rest of her too. Before he could even think of  standing up, the bloody figure appeared right in front of him. He could feel the heat of the blood radiating off of the figure and landed on his ass, trying to get away from it. When his eyes landed on its face, he realized who it was even with their hair soaked in blood and covering their face. He knew his mother even when he couldn't remember what she looked like.

"Why did you let this happen?" she cried.

Her hand reached toward her chest, where the blood was the most concentrated, some of it still trickling out of a bullet hole. There was another one on the side of her head but refused to look even near it.

"Why didn't you run?!" her voice shrilled screamed at him.

She took a step toward him, reaching a bloodied hand at his face and before he could react the world was surrounded by white.

 

When Eren's eyes focused on his surroundings, he felt the remains of a growl still echoing through his throat and saw the steel, grey eyes of Levi staring back at him. They were calm but they flashed with an emotion he couldn't trace and realized very quickly what position he was in. His front paws were pinning Levi to the couch and he was dangerously close to his face. Levi's hands were open and besides his head, showing that he had nothing in his hands and was completely defenseless. Eyes widening and knowing that he mostly just unconsciously attacked Levi, he quickly pushed himself off of his chest and faced the other way, refusing to make eye contact with Levi. He kept thinking about his dream, of Petra bleeding out and his mother's accusing hand reaching out to him, that it made his breath become fast and harsh.

"Hey, hey," Levi tried calling to him.

Before he knew it, Levi filled his vision, gently touching his face and turning his head so they would make eye contact with each other. He started coaching him to breathe, take deep breaths and let them out slowly. Soon enough the panic that started to spread across his chest began to creep away from his being, and he was left stunned at how quickly Levi managed to make the panic go away. It usually overtook him so quickly and only Petra had been able to help him through it, but never stop it before it fully started.

"That's it," he encouraged him.

He pet Eren's head softly and gave him a small smile, well what was considered his smile which was just the lifting of the side of his mouth slightly.

"I tried to wake you up for dinner, but I guess I should have left you alone," Levi confessed.

His head briefly turned to the doorway to the glass wall and indeed see that it was getting dark outside, usually the tell that they were going to eat once again. Not knowing how to apologize, especially with his inability to speak anything but grunts and growls, he simply just placed his head on Levi's shoulder. Trying to show that he was sorry for the way he reacted.

"Hey, it's okay," Levi commented.

Once he felt Levi's arms surround him did he realize that his body was trembling slightly. It was almost sad how much tension left his body once his arms encased him, how he leaned more into the embrace and finding comfort in this man that he barely knew. When Levi started to pull away, he knew that if he was human, if he had hands and fingers, he would have grabbed him back to continue the embrace, once again surprising himself. He never really wanted anything, besides to leave the horrible place he was trapped in for years and to find his family, and he couldn't help but feel guilty for wanted something more than that. He didn't understand and even begin to either why he felt that way, but he knew that it was going to be trouble.

 

Levi once again offered to let him join him on his bed, but Eren responded by only just walking into the kitchen and falling into his nest of blankets. He only scratched his head once before leaving his sight and turning off the lights, bathing him in the darkness. He dreamed of Petra again, leaking blood from the many bullets that his guards filled her full of and pleading with him to find the people she told him about. Even when he begged for her to remind him of who they are and where to find them, she always succumbed to her injuries and replaced with his bloody mother. She screamed at him for his failure to run away, that the blood on her is of the people that died by his hand and who died protecting him. He almost preferred watching her die protecting him than seeing Petra repeatedly bleeding and his mother reminding him of his failures. Though he wished that he didn't have either of those dreams. He'd actually prefer if he didn't have any.

He woke up once again to the smell of breakfast being made by Levi, his mouth immediately watering and stomach growling suddenly. Before he even fully woke up and stretched his way out of his cabinet, his plate was placed next to Levi on the floor. The plate was quickly cleaned before Levi managed to eat half of his food, though he was eating his food a bit slower than normal too. He was looking at his phone in one hand while the plate was balanced on his thigh and a furrow was beginning to etch into his forehead. Whatever he was reading on his screen, he wasn't becoming happy about. Letting out a sigh, he rubbed the bridge of his nose, something that Eren picked up that he did when Levi was annoyed or becoming irritated.

Levi looked over at him to see his equivalent of asking 'what's wrong' with tilting his head slightly and flattening his ears slightly. He responded by shaking his head briefly like he was getting rid of a thought, and placing his phone on the counter above them.

"I'm going to have to leave for a while," Levi explained.

Wishing that he could ask him what he meant and where he'd be disappearing off to, instead he chirped to get his attention, hoping that it would convey enough of what he was asking. Levi got up, grabbing his half-eaten plate and his own, and placing them in the sink.

"I got called back into work, though he promises that it's not going to last that long," Levi answered his chirp. "And then you'll have me for the rest of the day and hopefully the rest of the week."

After he cleaned the dishes and placed them in what Levi called a drying rack, he turned toward Eren as he dried off his hands.

"Oh don't give me that look, I won't be gone for long," Levi smiled, walked over to him and rubbed his head.

He didn't know that he was giving Levi a look, but he couldn't only guess that it was disappointment. Eren didn't like him out of his sights for too long, mostly because he always hoped that this great man in front of him wasn't a figment of his imagination and he needed the noise of another person near him. He hated just hearing the air conditioning, something that was the only a constant in his previous life.

Levi gathered everything he needed too quickly and was stationed at the door, probably thinking if he grabbed everything he needed. He had turned on the TV as he walked by it to go to one of the three branching rooms to the right. Eren watched him as he had walked around the house and reappeared from one of the many rooms with a vanilla folder. He realized that Levi was leaving the TV on for him once he was near the front door so he would have noise in the house while he was gone. He wished he could show how grateful he was for that action, and how important it was to him that there was noise to distract him.

"I'll be back soon, just don't leave the apartment in ruins," he cautioned in a joking tone.

After a brief wave, he was gone. He proceeded to pull his focus onto the TV, trying to distract himself and force the pain of not seeing Levi in his sights down his throat.

 

He didn't realize how much Eren had ingrained himself into Levi's life until he was physically away from the cat. Where he couldn't just simply poke his head into the next room to make sure that he was still staring in the direction he disappeared from. If he had rooms that were more connected, he'd probably make a game with the cat, disappearing and reappearing into a different room, making him chase after Levi. Eren needed to exercise or else he was going to get fat off of his cooking, which the image of an overweight cat made a smile appear on his lips. Smiling was so foreign to him but the cat always seemed to make it come naturally and he couldn't think of the last time he generally smiled.

Erwin had called him three times this morning, all three of them he ignored since he didn't want to hear his voice even after not seeing or hearing anything from him for five days. Meeting Erwin would mean that they would go back to their previous conversation that he left hanging and Levi wanted nothing to do with it, at least not until he consumed three shots of whiskey. Then he'd be able to stay calm during the conversation...or he would throw a glass at Erwin's face, not caring if it actually made contact or not.

After stopping at a red light, he got a notification that Hanji had called him once again and an address that Erwin wanted him to go to. Ignoring the call, he clicked on the address so it would direct him where to go. It was surprising how not guilty he felt about not telling Hanji the new discoveries he made with Eren. He had to put his phone on silent most of the time because she mostly called every few hours and would know that the random noise would freak Eren out. At the end of the day, he always sends her an update on how he's doing though he never mentions his intelligence. Even if he explained that he could shake his head for a yes or no question, Hanji would book it to his house and demand to run simple experiments on him, and he didn't think that Eren would even be able to handle those. She mostly just asked to come over and see him but Levi was just getting him used to his presence and his touch. Introducing Hanji would most likely throw their balance off and start the whole process over again. He wouldn't mind since he would be able to ask Erwin for extra time and he had more than enough money to live off of if he didn't work for an extended amount of time. Though the thought of Eren having to trust him all over again made his cold heart twist in disapproval.

He had surprised himself by the amount of times he caught himself wondering if Eren was adjusting well to his place and if there was anything he could do to help. If it was just a random outsider coming into his home and this skittish, he didn't know if he would treat them the same way he was treating Eren. He wasn't completely heartless, though he'd prefer if everyone believed that he was, and would keep up the appearance to keep it going. Eren couldn't tell people the extra mile that he was going to get him to trust him.

As he drew near to the location Erwin, he wondered if Eren was doing okay without him.

 

"Fucking waste of time," Levi muttered to himself, slamming the door of his now dirt covered car.

Erwin didn't inform him that the address he sent was in the middle of nowhere, next to one of the many small abandoned airports that surrounded Maria. It was a simple deal, with the Recon giving supplies to some uncover agents that had invented one of the gangs that gave them more grief than most. His attendance was needed in case actually members of the gang followed. A simple word from Levi would have stopped any shootout before even a gun was raised and Erwin preferred if everything went as planned, especially with the drama with the Garrison still happening. Their agents were late and even with their excuses of trying to shake some of the gang's members off their trail, it still didn't help Levi's mood of having to wait. He promised Eren that he'd be back and it was already two hours since he'd seen his cat.

Eren isn't my cat. He's not anyone's cat.

He didn't know when he started to refer to himself as the owner of Eren and it didn't help that it felt right to say that Eren was his. He was taking care of him and gain his trust. Out of everyone that knows about him, he's been the only one  spending all of his time and effort into him. If anyone was going to have ownership over the cat, it was going to be him.

He cursed Erwin, internally and very much externally, as he walked into their main headquarters, a plain brick building that was hidden behind one of the many casinos that littered the avenue.

He had to walk through one of the largest casinos to gain access into the building, Wings of Freedom, which he found ironic, especially when most people that walk out flat broke or more in debt walking out than they did walking in. The casinos were the only place that every social class was welcomed and interacted with each other. It also didn't help that the avenue was the only street in all of their country to have so many casinos in one place and that served alcohol alongside the gambling. Levi didn't like the idea but it was where most of the money for the Recon came from and they needed money to try and fix the rest of Maria.

Ignoring his coworkers once he was granted access to their headquarters, which was just them looking at his pissed off expression and opening the door immediately for him. With his folder full of paperwork in hand, he climbed the metal staircase up two floors and walked down the glass hallways to Erwin's office at the end of the hall. Every office but his had a large glass window so they were visible from the hallway, including his, which he still threatened to cover it with black paint for some form of privacy.

Levi didn't knock when he opened the door, knowing the Erwin was already expecting him to drop by after the deal was done, even if it turned south he would still come. Though he expected him to be alone, Mike was sitting on Erwin's desk, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.

"It smells like sex and shame in here," Levi commented.

Though they both tried to put the effort in hiding their embarrassment, Mike was the only one that gave some of it away, his ears turning slightly red which he tried to hide with brushing his blonde hair over them. Erwin didn't give anything away, which was exactly what Levi expected from him.

"Would you both put a restraint on both of your cocks until you get home?" he continued as he threw the folder on Erwin's desk.

Mike was dismissed with a flick of Erwin's head and greeted Levi by only nodding his head at him. Barely taller than Erwin, he still towered over his form as he left the room, closing it behind him as he went.

"So I'm the guessing the deal went as planned?" Erwin asked as he grabbed the folder thrown at him and glimpsed inside of it.

"No shit, if it didn't then I'd be staining your white carpet with blood," he countered, itching to get out already so he can see Eren again. "Though it probably won't be the worst thing to stain your carpet."

Instead of the stern look he usually received, Erwin just continued to look through the papers that Levi signed and constructed for him. Finally, when he was done and deemed all of them correct and up to his standards, he placed them next to his closed laptop on the cherry wood desk. He leaned back in his large, black chair and crossed his leg over the other before gesturing toward the two other chairs in front of Levi.

"Why don't you sit? We haven't seen each other in a few days," Erwin stated.

Reluctantly he pulled the plush, black chair out and sat down. He would have preferred to be on his way home, not liking the thought that Eren had been alone for more than two hours. Though he wasn't worried about Eren tearing the place apart since he'll most likely find him sitting in the same exact place waiting for him or even at the door once he heard the lock being turned.

"How's our new edition to the family?" he asked simply. "I've been told that you and Hanji named it Loki."

"Fine, scared, but fine," Levi answered quickly.

He knew the amount of shit he'd be in if Erwin found out about the cat's intelligence and didn't hear it from Levi himself, but he wasn't ready for Eren to be in the spotlight. It would probably be a few more weeks before he felt like he was comfortable enough to be introduced to more than just himself.

"Just fine? You adopted mostly a wild animal into your apartment and no scratch marks?" Erwin chuckled.

"Loki has only just recently got used to me," he explained. "Though he still is hesitant about me touching him and making sudden movements."

"So he hasn't tried to maul you in your sleep?"

"No, not yet."

Erwin nodded, folding his fingers together and bringing them up to his lips, something he did when he was thinking. He usually did it when he was trying to ask or bring something up to Levi in a way that wasn't going to make him just get up and leave. Something that he was already considering doing once he saw the action.

"Besides that, has your time off been well?" Erwin questioned.

"It's been fine," he hesitant answered.

If he brings up Furlan or Isabel, I'm leaving.

"I know that this may seem odd, but have you heard from Petra?" he suddenly asked.

"Petra?" he found himself asking. "I haven't spoken to her in almost over a year."

The last time that they talked, Petra had called him on his birthday and wishing him good luck with the new year. People who left the business usually never stayed in contact, mostly in fear that past involvements with the Recon would catch back up to them. Most former members moved out of the country altogether and move to America or even somewhere in Europe. Of course, the Recon offered to help them with the move, which most of them take. Petra, however, refused the help, saying that we've done more for her than she could ever repay. The last time that he saw her in person was when she requested a meeting with him and Erwin, informing them of her desire to leave and start a life with her and her father somewhere else. After that, she mostly disappeared, only calling once every few months and stopped altogether in late December.

"Why do you ask?" Levi asked.

"Ever since you two found Loki, it reminded me of Petra. You know how much of an animal lover she was.  I would have thought that she would have been one of the ones to keep in contact with us, at least you anyways," he acknowledged.

"Me? Why at least me?"

He knew the answer already. She had built this complex toward him for saving her life the day that they meet and he never been able to tell her that Erwin originally sent him there to interrupt the deal and kill everyone there. Though when he saw the way she fought for her life and the only killed when she needed to, he knew that he needed to help her. She was only one that he took under his wing and taught her everything he knew, and she'll probably be the only he ever will. "Because if she were to contact any of us, it would be you."

 

They continued to talk about trivial things, most of it was just Erwin going on about how his meetings were boring without Levi, which he called bullshit on. They were boring with or without him there. He thankfully didn't bring anything up about the Garrison or his two former childhood friends, but he wished he did so he would have a reason to leave. If he really wanted to, he could just get up and leave while Erwin was in mid-sentence, but he didn't need to be punished by doing a shit ton of paperwork. He knew how much Levi hated paperwork.

Erwin must have seen that he was becoming restless in his seat, of course he saw, Erwin sees everything, because he let a smirk take a hold of his face. "I have a confession to make," he suddenly presented.

Levi stared at him with a raised eyebrow, waiting for him to continue.

"I've been enlisted by Hanji as a distraction so she could beat you home," he confessed.

Realizing what that meant, that Eren would be suffering by himself with Hanji, he got up suddenly, the chair flying out from behind him.

"You've got to be fucking kidding me," Levi growled.

Erwin raised his hands in submission but the stupid fucking grin was still plastered across his face. "Hey, she offered to buy my round of drinks next time we go out, and you know how much I can drink," he laughed.

Wanting to grab Erwin's perfect blonde hair and slam his head into his pristine desk, he instead grabbed his coat, sent the bird in his direction, and mostly ran down the hallway. He just hoped that he got home in time before Hanji can reverse all of the progress that he made with Eren.

Chapter Text

He honestly didn't know how long he had been sitting on the couch, but his legs were beginning to go numb underneath him and the same animated show that was running had done five of its theme songs. Eren couldn't think of anything else to do, mostly because Levi had shut all the doors in the apartment but his bedroom so the only available rooms were the one he was in, the kitchen, and what Levi called the dining room. He wanted to go outside again, something he hadn't done since Levi had opened the glass wall for him the first time. Thinking about feeling the sun on his fur again made him yearn for it even more so he continued to distract himself with the TV, trying not to think of the sunlight feet away from him. He was beginning to catch onto some of the references that some of the shows made, of course only after Levi had to explain exactly what they were and where they were from. He had begun to worry that Levi was becoming bored and tired of explaining every little detail to Eren, but when he looked over with the tilt of his head, Levi had an explanation ready.

While trying to distract himself, he entertained the thought of trying to shift but he honestly didn't know if he could. He still felt weak and not like himself. He wanted to try but knew that if he did, he didn't know if he could turn back in time when Levi came back home. Immediately he shook his head at the thought. He shouldn't care what Levi thought, or care that Levi wouldn't find him, at least in his animal form. Honestly, he didn't know how he'd react to finding Eren in his actual form and that scared him more than leaving Levi.
Before he could fall into this spiral of self-pity, he suddenly heard a ding faintly out from behind the front door. He immediately hopped down from the couch and paced in front of the door, waiting to hear the familiar footsteps walking down the hall. The footsteps that he memorized for the past couple of days didn't come but were replaced by slightly lighter ones. He could tell that whoever was outside the front door were making an effort of trying to keep their movements quiet and breathing limited. Immediately thinking the worst and that the lab coats had finally found him, he did the only thing he could think of.

Hide.

Eren's immediate reaction was to go to his cabinet, the first place that he ever felt safe in this apartment, but it was currently open and he couldn't close it with his paws. His mind started searching for things that he can get underneath or wide enough for his feline body. Foregoing the room he was currently in and the kitchen, he quickly poked his head into the dining room to find nothing to hide under and moved to Levi's bedroom. Kicking the door closed behind him, he could hear the brief squeak of the lock turning and he began to frantically search for something, anything. The other doors in the room where both closed and his eyes landed on the bed. He could see that there was space underneath and other things, hopefully, enough to keep his body hidden from the intruder. Flattening his body enough to get underneath the wooden frames was harder than he thought and found that there were black containers on both sides of the bed, with just enough space for his body to fit in between. The containers mostly covered the whole length of the bed and were just tall enough to cover him if he lowered his head. He looked back to make sure that his tail was tucked in before lowering his head enough to just see over the top of the containers.

He could hear the door opening, the shuffling of feet, and then it closed. Too quickly did he smell a familiar smell that was mixed in with the stranger’s scent that drifted through the apartment. A small growl emerged once he inhaled the smell of sanitizer, something that he hadn't smelt since his last session with the lab coats. He could barely smell anything on this new scent but that and his tail flicked involuntarily at the memories that he pushed away. He could freak out after they were gone and Levi came back.

"Lookkkii," a feminine voice rang throughout the house.

His ears perked up as he realized that he heard that voice before. It clicked suddenly that it was the voice he heard on Levi's phone, the first time that he came face to face with his savior. He couldn't think of what he called her, but he was suddenly conflicted about what he should do. Obviously, the person was trusted enough with Levi to let her in the apartment by herself, but she still called him by Loki. He hadn't told her his real name and wondered what it could mean.

"Where you at, pussycat?" she sang slightly.

She seemed to cackle slightly and at that moment he confirmed with himself that the woman currently stalking around was the same one that was on the phone. He could hear her walking through the apartment and visualizing where her footsteps came from. He could picture her movement and followed her as she moved into the kitchen. Soon enough he could hear the cabinet doors being opened and closing, and she let out an almost defeated sigh when the noise stopped.

"Lookkiii...are you hiding from me?" she asked with a small laugh.

He decided then that he should stay in his hiding place, hope that Levi arrived before she found him, and have him explain to Eren what exactly was going on.

She walked out of the kitchen and eventually back into the living room. The woman probably began to get on her hands and knees, searching underneath anything that his body could slip into, though he could only guess since he refused to move out from the bed. He was generally surprised that she didn't touch the room he was in, though he had made sure that the bedroom door was closed before even hiding. She hadn't been checking rooms where the doors were closed but it was eventually going to come to that once she couldn't find him in the three rooms that were open.

Eren wasn't sure how long it lasted, but eventually, she did move on to another room, just like he thought. Though, thankfully it was on the opposite side of the apartment. He'd still never seen the other rooms so he tried to think of where she was and how far away from the living room she could be. The sound of doors opening and closing and various things being moved made Eren's fur stand on its end, especially when she seemed to have moved something a little too sudden. She kept calling out the name he was given when he first woke up but it never seemed to lose the singsong attitude and tone in her voice, like she enjoyed trying to find him. Like they were playing hide n' seek as if they were children.

She once again moved to the living room and let out another sigh.

"Come on Loki, I just wanna see ya," she called out.

Before she could continue her journey of trying to find him, he quickly picked up the sound of another pair of footsteps coming to the door, though this time he knew who was here.

"Hanji! What the fuck are you doing in my house?" Levi's voice growled at the woman.

"You won't return my calls," she answered simply, before seeming to turn toward Levi's bedroom door because her voice became louder. "Come here, puss, puss."

"Sit your ass down or else I will throw you off of my balcony."

Levi's footsteps then started toward the kitchen, but before he could get far Hanji's voice rung out once again. "I already searched there...and there...oh, there also...come on Levi, I thought you would know where your cat is."

"You probably fucking traumatized him, of course, he would be hiding from your shrill voice."

"I didn't mean to scare him, I just wanted to see him since I am the one that saved his life."

"You should have waited for me to come home."

His footsteps then came to his bedroom, the knob of the door turned slightly but before it could turn fully and the door be open, he seemed to have turned to Hanji.

"If I come back and you have moved an inch off that couch-" he started.

"Yeah, yeah, I know. Whole death by throwing over the balcony."

Eventually, the door opened and Levi slipped through the crack he made for himself, then leaned his body against the door once it was closed. He let out a deep breath and hit the back of his head on the door.

"Fucking ridiculous woman," he muttered under his breath.

His silver eyes immediately found his, surprising him how fast he was found out. Hanji most likely would have done the same but he just hoped that Levi just knew him well enough to guess where he'd go, it also helped that this was his apartment and knew where he could hide.

"Hey, Eren," he whispered, getting onto his knees so he could see underneath the bed. "You okay?"

Hesitantly he nodded and Levi patted the white carpet next to him, telling Eren to come out. His eyes moved away from him and onto the door, worried that Hanji would disobey Levi's threat and come busting into the room to see him.

"Hey, don't worry about her, she's not going to come in," he explained, patting the carpet once again.

He nodded once again to say that he understood. He was grateful that his body was flexible or trying to escape the tight fit between the two containers would have been an embarrassing effort, but eventually, he moved his body around so he could get out. Eren sat down next to him and leaned into breath in his scent of earthy herbs and artificial citrus that he's secretly learned to enjoy, making the tension that he's been harboring since Hanji first came here leak out of his body. Levi reached up and rubbed the side of his neck, scratching every once in a while to help him relax.

"Sorry about all of that. Hanji has no boundaries and doesn't know when she's stepping over other people's," he apologized for her.

Nodding as Levi moved his hand toward Eren's face, rubbing his muzzle and cheek softly, making him lean into the touch. A deep purr emerged from his throat, something that still embarrassed him but didn't mind it that much anymore, not when Levi seemed pleased with himself when he managed to make him do it.

"You don't have to come out and meet her," Levi explained to him. "I know she probably scared you, but she isn't that bad. I can plan on her coming over when I'm actually here and having an actually civilized meeting."

Eren once again nodded. He didn't feel like meeting anyone new, especially not after thinking how the lab coats had found him and it turned out to just be Levi's friend. He honestly felt stupid for feeling nervous about meeting the person in the other room, especially with him knowing that once he could shift back to normal, he would be gone. Meeting another person just meant that he would be leaving another one behind when he left.

Levi ran his fingers through the fur at the top of his head one last time before nodding and using the bed to stand up. He pressed a finger against sealed lips, warning him that he needed to be quiet, before leaving the room.

"Okay, you scared him half to death and he won't come out of his hiding place no matter how many chicken breasts I promise him. So now you gotta go," Levi commanded, probably ushering Hanji out of his apartment.

"Leevviii," she whined.

"I don't care if you want to see him, now you have to wait until he's used to me again and that could take a couple of days."

"I just wanna see him."

"Stop acting like a child and take responsibility for what you did."

She huffed but he could hear her footsteps walking over to the front door.

"You know I can't help it," she argued. "My animal loving side just wants to cuddle him and love all over him, but my scientist side wants to poke and prod at him, even if it's just making sure he's healthy."

"You start poking him and I'll break every pair of glasses that you own," Levi threatened.

"It's not like I'm going to be cutting him open or anything like that."

The thought of being cut open again made his breath freeze in his throat. He didn't know if he could go through everything that he's already been through with his former guards and lab coats. He could barely be in the same room when Levi was making their meals and had to use a knife to cut the ingredients, though Eren noticed that he's been finding meals that didn't have the use of the knife that much.

"It doesn't matter if you do or want, I will text you when it's okay to come over," Levi explained to her. "And don't you dare use Erwin as a distraction again or I'll hunt you down and leave you to rot in a warehouse."

"Fine," Hanji huffed.

He heard the front door opening and finally close after he heard her footsteps retreating outside of the door. Walking over toward the slightly opened door, he backed away in time for Levi to open the bedroom door fully so he could go back into the living room. He was greeted with one of Eren's favorite smiles and gestured him to walk with him to the couch, where they both spent the rest of the day relaxing in front of the TV.

 

That night when Levi began to get ready for bed, Eren hesitantly walked into the man's bedroom and saw that he changed into a long-sleeved black shirt and white sweatpants. He must have just put on his pants because he was adjusting the waistband and only looked up when Eren had to open the door more for his body to slip through.

"Hey, buddy," he smiled at him. "Whatcha' doing?"

His eyes moved to the bed and then back at Levi. He had been thinking about it for most of the day, that he should try to sleep in a place that wasn't made out of wood. Though the blankets that cushioned the cabinets helped, he still felt sore when he woke up. He would have just jumped onto the bed and make his intentions clear but didn't know if Levi slept in a certain place or wanted him to lay on a blanket like he did on the couch.

"You finally going to sleep in here?" he questioned.

Eren continued to look at him, not really knowing what to do with himself but stand there until he was given a signal to wait before coming on the bed. He figured that he didn't know what would happen to him once he left and tried to find the people that Petra wanted him to, and didn't know if he'd be able to sleep on a soft looking bed like the one that Levi had. That was at least what he told himself.

Levi climbed onto his bed, grabbed the remote to turn the TV on and got situated, grabbing his laptop and opened it up on his lap. His thin fingers began to move effortlessly across the keyboard but eventually noticed that Eren was still staring at him on the ground.

"You can come up, Eren," he said, patting the open space next to him. "You don't shed that much so don't worry about where you want to sleep."

Placing one paw after the other onto the bed and feeling the almost cloud-like texture of the mattress, he jumped onto the bed and laid down next to Levi. His back toward Levi and his eyes settling on the door but if he moved his head, he could see what was on the TV. He could hear his fingers pressing against the keys once again, but it slowed down and then felt fingers running through his fur. His body immediately relaxing, a purr slowly being coached out of his body, his eyes quickly began to feel heavy and quickly started to succumb to sleep.

When he woke up the next morning, he felt a heavy presence on his side and he turned slightly to see that Levi was pressed up against him, an arm laying across his body, sleeping. Eren had never felt this at peace, especially when he woke up. He always had a split second scare that he was back in his white room and it took him a moment to remember that he escaped, but he didn't have that scare this time. Honestly, he couldn't even remember what or if he dreamed last night either. He didn't see Petra bleeding out or his mother covered in blood, haunting him with his past failures. Some part of him thought that it was because of Levi that he didn't have those recurring nightmares, but he shook his head. It may have been that his mind finally decided to give him a break from its constant torment of the people that once cared for him.

That must be it.

He couldn't let himself think of Levi as this almost god-like person for taking care of him, for treating him like his normal and for making his nightmares go away. Every day that he stayed he came up with more reasons to not leave Levi behind. The only thing that kept him from staying was Petra's plea before she left him alone. Eren could only guess that she left him with specific instructions because the lab coats would do anything to find him again and the people she entrusted him with were the only ones to keep him safe. He had to remind himself that he wasn't safe here and that meant that Levi wouldn't be either if he kept staying here. He just didn't know if he had the strength to leave when the time was right.

 

Levi announced during breakfast that he had to leave once again and promised that they wouldn't get another unexpected visit from Hanji while he was gone. After they both consumed their food, Levi didn't take anything with him this time except a black jacket and threw it on over the rest of his black clothes. His clothes made his cream skin paler, though not like he was sick, and if he was in human form, Eren probably would have said that out loud like the idiot he was. He also knew that if he was in his other form than the blush that he felt over his skin would have been known to Levi instead of just himself.

Just because I think he looks nice doesn't mean anything.

Shaking his head to get rid of his previous thoughts, earning a raised eyebrow from Levi and a small chuckle. Yeah, his face would have been fully red with embarrassment if he was in his other form. Soon enough Levi left, promising not to be gone for long and left the television on for him. After making sure that he didn't hear his footsteps anymore, Eren moved into the bedroom and stood in the middle of the room, taking a deep breath.

This morning thoughts kept circling his head. That he wasn't completely safe with Levi, even if this was the only place he ever felt remotely anything like that. He hadn't tried to shift in a while and even though he still didn't feel complete and ready for it, he knew that he needed to try at least. Breathing slowly and he tried to work up the courage to actually get the progress started.

After a few deep breaths, he willed his muscles to start contracting and bones to shape into something else.The familiar intense heat that came with shifting at first filled his stomach and began to spread like wildfire, burning every inch of his body. Soon enough the pain of everything constricting came in waves, more intense than the previous ones. He looked down in time to see his paws thinning out and extending out, the fur retracting into his skin. Before he could fully see the scars that coated his fingers, a burst of pain smacked him in the chest, making him double over and almost fall to the ground. Whimpers started falling from his lips as his fingers transformed back into the paws that he's becoming too familiar with.

Crap. Crap!

Pain continued to pulse through his frame, even after his body conformed back fully to his animal form. How long was it going to take before his body would let him change back...what if he wasn't able to go back? The panic started setting before Eren could stop it but swallowed it down, even if it took a couple of minutes.

He had to remind himself that his body needed time, time to heal and recover not only from his recent escape but from everything that he's had to endure over the years of torment. This was the only time he's ever been able to catch his breath and not constantly living in fear if he was going to die the next time he walked down the white hallway. He'd keep trying to shift but if he couldn't, then oh well. He just hoped that he had enough time to gather his strength before his haven was snatched from him.

 

When Levi arrived home, he had completely calmed himself and was laying on his side of the couch. Immediately Eren realized that there was something different about the man. His face, usually a faint smile crossing his face when he saw him, was dark and overcast. The eyes that were full of liquid silver was dull and hardened. However, it wasn't just his appearance, but his scent had the hint of blood, something that made Eren's eyes scan all over his body. Searching for the sources of the smell, even if it was faint. He spotted it when Levi set his ring of keys on a tall, small table. Dark, dried blood splattered Levi's knuckles, though it was only on one of his hands, from where he sat, he could tell that it wasn't that bad. Levi seemed to notice at the same time that he identified where he was bleeding because he cursed slightly underneath his breath.

"I'll join you in a second," Levi sighed before heading off into his bedroom.

Eren didn't know what to do with himself, to either stay in the living room and continue watching television or follow him into his bedroom. He didn't know what he could do to help but he didn't just want to sit by and do nothing.

Jumping off of the couch, he walked into Levi's bedroom to hear water running in one of the two rooms that split off inside of his bedroom. One Eren discovered was a closet, full of his clothes and shoes, somewhere where Levi refused to have him in. Saying that he'll tear apart his clothes because of his catlike nature, though he hadn't had the urge to scratch and claw at things yet.

Since he couldn't just barge into the room that Levi was currently in, especially without the use of hands and fingers, he climbed onto the bed and waited for him to come out. If he angled his head a certain way and looked out the doorway of the bedroom, he could see half of the television, so at least he was entertained until Levi emerged from the side room.

When Levi finally came out of the room, his hair was wet and wearing clothes that he wasn't wearing before. They were something that he wore when it was almost time to settle down for the night or when Levi didn't have any plans for the day but relax. Eren immediately looked at his hand, seeing now that he indeed had been bleeding but it was clean now and clotting. Levi noticed his eye movement and raised his hand to further show him that he was fine.

"I'm okay, Eren," he explained, showing off his hand more. "Just messed it up a bit at work."

He walked over to Eren and placed both of his hands on his fur, rubbing and scratching his skin. The smell of blood was gone. Gone like it was never there in the first place and the smell of herbs took over his senses, making a low purr pulse through his throat.

"Now, come one. I had a long day at work and want to relax," he commented before doing something he's never done before.

His arms went around Eren and suddenly he was hoisted over his shoulders, a bark of protest and chirps coming out of his mouth. He'd never been picked up before and his stomach dropped at the action, though he secretly enjoyed it. He would never tell Levi though, that he enjoyed being in his arms and being touched by him. Though he would never be able to in this form so he indeed never planned on telling him.

"Yeah, yeah," Levi teased it. "You're just a big ol' puddy cat."

Ignoring the foreign feelings that began to bloom in his chest, he didn't fight as Levi carried him into the living to beginning another one of their lazy days.

 

When he woke up in Levi's arms and surrounded by the black blanket that was thrown over him in the middle of the night, he realized that he once again didn't have any nightmares. No Petra or mother. Besides feel refreshed after not being shocked awake by his dreams, the weight of Levi on his side was reassuring and reminded him that he wasn't alone at the moment. Though when he shifted slightly, he felt Levi move too and ended up moving away from him, a growl of protest almost moving past his lips. He swallowed down the growl and turned over to see that Levi was sitting up, rubbing his eyes and then ran a hand through his onyx hair. Some pieces of his usually combed and neat hair was sticking up, especially in the back of his head, making him look younger. It helped that he didn't have the frown that usually etched his face when he was thinking or focused on a task.

"Morning," he muttered to him, before flopping back on the bed but only after he grabbed his phone.

It was his morning of routine to grab his phone and check things like emails and any messages that he'd missed during the night. Though from what Eren could tell, Levi didn't sleep either that well or almost not at all. The dark circles seemed darker some days or barely lighter, but he hadn't seen Levi without them at all. He wasn't sure if they could disappear quickly or it was more like a bruise that took days to recover, though they didn't turn yellow or a sickly green color. They just stayed dark. As he looked at Levi's face, his grey eyes flickering across the screen and the wrinkles in his forehead returning every once in a while, probably depending on what exactly he was reading.

Eren wished that he was in his other form. The sudden need to reach across the distance between them and press his fingertips against Levi's face, to feel how different the bags were from the rest of his face and wondering how the stubble that only appeared in mornings every once in a while and disappeared once he entered a room in his bedroom. He wondered if Levi's hair felt as silky as it looked or if his plump, pink lips were soft too.

What would they feel like pressed against-

Before he could finish the insane thought he was about to have, he sat up quickly off the bed and headed off to the kitchen. He had seen out of the corner of his eye Levi looking at him with a raised eyebrow, probably silently asking him what the hell was wrong with him...and he was asking himself the same question and completely ignored the man. Sitting in front of the machine that Levi took most of their food out of, something he called the fridge and pressed his burning up face against the cool metal. His whole body felt flush with embarrassment and he was disgusted with himself. He's never thought of anything like that before, of kissing another person. He wished that he could completely shut the idea behind a closed door and throw away the key.

When did I start caring so much for Levi?

He blamed the new influence of the shows that he watched with Levi. People kissing and things that Levi tried to explain but he still didn’t understand. It had to be the reason why he was suddenly thinking of doing those things with him.

He couldn't pinpoint the time when he started to care for Levi and just felt that it just gradually came to that, though it had only been almost eight days since he's been here.

Eight days? No, that doesn't sound right. Maybe it's been seven...

It didn’t matter if it was eight days or twenty, in such a short amount of time he's accepted someone into his life and already trusted them so fiercely when it took such a large amount of time to even say hello to Petra. To even show any interest in getting to know her. He wanted nothing more than to learn everything he could about Levi and he honestly didn't know what that meant what his relationship with Levi even was becoming.

 

"Its cleaning day again," Levi announced as he ended the living room.

He walked into the living room wearing another set of his loose clothes and a black piece of cloth was tidied around his forehead. His black bangs that usually hung in front of his forehead were now pushed back by the cloth so they blended in with the rest of his hair.

Eren had been sitting on the couch ever since breakfast, waiting for Levi to join since he didn't mention work or having to go out. In his hand was a bucket full of colorful spray bottles, rags, and other cleaning utensils.

"You can come with me," he teased, probably referring back to how last time that he started cleaning, Eren was attached to his hip and won't stray too far away from him.

He could feel a flush of embarrassment taking over his face and thanked for the coverage of fur, knowing that he would further be teased if Levi knew. He tried to not notice the increased amount of times he’s been blushing lately, most of the time with embarrassment, though it didn’t make him feel any better with that fact. Levi turned the TV off and instead opened the doors of the cabinet to reveal a large black box. Pressing a button and he starting to mess with a knob, music began to pour through the apartment. The music was soft, guitar chords playing lightly while a beat was almost loud enough for Eren to feel it in his chest, though he didn’t know if that was because of his new sensitivity to noise. The singer's voice was deep as it emerged from the speakers and he listened half-heartedly as he focused his eyes on Levi as he began to clean up in the living room.

Eren decided to stay on the couch, at least until Levi moved into another room. He told himself that it was going to follow him around to see the other three rooms that he hadn't seen yet, but knew inside that it wasn't the case.

While he waited, he heard another voice join the male singer, but it wasn't until Levi turned around to grab another spray bottle that he realized that he was singing along. His voice was much deeper than the actual singer's and had a gravelly tone. He actually preferred his voice than the one coming out of the speakers.

"-Cause I've seen enough of it, heard enough of it, felt enough of it. I've had enough of it. I am so frickin' bored, nothing to do today, I guess I'll sit around and medicate... I am so frickin' bored-" he sung softly, almost under his breath but stopped abruptly when he turned around and saw Eren watching him.

His cheeks actually became dusted with a bit of color, like he was embarrassed that he was caught singing, and Eren hated immediately that he thought it was cute.

"Yeah, I know I'm not that great but you don't have to look at me like that," he joked as he went back to cleaning, shutting his mouth.

He wanted to tell him that it was the opposite of what he thought. If he could actually talk, he would encourage him to keep singing. That he actually preferred his voice to the singers but he could do nothing but sit there and wait for Levi to get done cleaning the room. He didn't sing anymore to Eren's disappointment.

 

He discovered eventually what were the other three rooms in the apartment. One was another bedroom that Levi said was almost never used except for the rare event that Hanji needed a place to stay. The second room was a bathroom, which was what the mysterious room that Levi went into every once a while, and like the bedroom, was almost never used. Finally, the last room was what Levi called his study. Shelves lined every wall and were covered completely in different colored book spines. Eren's eyes widened at the sight of the many books and wondered if he could remember ever seeing so many in one place before. The only interaction with books were the ones that Petra brought and they were children books when she tried to reteach him how to read. He had grasped most of it but still every once in a while didn't understand certain words or meanings behind some phrases. Pushing the memories of Petra, he focused on exploring this new room.

Levi was dusting the shelves individually, taking books out and deep cleaning the dark wood before making sure that there also wasn’t dust on the books and placing them back in their designated spots. He was sure that the shelves looked almost spotless, but Levi probably had a need to make everything perfectly clean so there was never a hint of dust ever being there. Eren found himself taking in the many books, recognizing some words that were printed on their spine but most of them were foreign. The itch to figure them out ate at him but he couldn’t ask Levi what everything was. Even if he somehow communicated to him get his attention and try to point out the jumble of letters, he wasn’t sure if Levi would understand what he meant. Also, he didn’t want to interrupt his cleaning ritual.

The whole room left like it didn’t belong to the rest of the apartment. The room was full of sunlight that drifted in from the large window behind Levi’s wooden desk. Below the window were cushions and an abundance of pillows and seemed like the perfect place for him to lounge while he waited for Levi to be done with the room.

Before he climbed onto the plush cushions, he suddenly got hit with Levi’s scent as he passed by the desk and paused immediately. Finding that his line of sight barely let him see the top of the desk, he swept his eyes across the flat surface to find the object that was laced with his scent. A black, antique looking lamp greeted him first, then he came across a cup full of pens and pencils, something that he tucked into the back of his head, and finally, a worn, leather book sat in the middle of the desk. He breathed in then to tell himself that the book was where Levi’s scent was coming from.

Glancing over at Levi to see that he was still busying himself with cleaning shelves and books, he placed his front paws on the desk and was pleased to find that it was sturdy enough to hold his weight. Cursing the fact that he didn’t have hands, he used the tip of his nose to try and turn the book so the spine of it faced him. If the book smelled so much like Levi, then it had to be something of value to him and he couldn’t stop himself from wanting to know what it was. He was so concentrated on getting it turned that he didn’t seem to notice how close it was getting to the edge of the desk and the lamp. His head bumped into the lamp, making him jump at the sudden feeling of something touching him, sending the book and the lamp crashing down to the ground. He closed his eyes at the noise, hoping that nothing broke and he didn’t have to look at Levi to know that he definitely heard the noise of something crashing to the ground.

“Eren!” Levi snapped his name.

Opening his eyes, he saw Levi dropping everything in his hands and running toward the mess he just created.

“What did you do?” he demanded.

Eren got his front paws off the table and rounded around the desk, trying to figure out a way to fix what he’s done. He’d never heard seen Levi this angry, at least not at him. He only directed it at Hanji from what he heard when she was here and didn’t understand how she could joke in his face after having this anger towards her. Doing the only thing he can think of, he tried using his paw to stand the lamp back up, letting out a breath of relief when he saw that the bulb wasn’t broken. When that didn’t work, he tried using his mouth and hoped that he didn’t puncture the cloth.

“Eren, stop,” he snapped once again. “You’ve done enough.”

Taking a step back, his ears flattened against his head and he lowered his head instinctively, trying to show that he was sorry but Levi’s attention wasn’t on him. He had the worn out book in his hands, flipping it around, flickering through the pages, and seemed to be making sure that nothing was wrong it. He wasn’t paying any mind to the lamp that Eren was more concerned smashing on the floor. Once he seemed to see that the book was fine, his cold eyes turned to him and Eren actually flinched at the look, taking a step back and further lowering his head.

A hole started eating away at his chest, guilt consuming him now that he understood that he could have damaged something that had to be important to Levi. Eren desperately wanted to see the gentle warmth that he always received from him and not this chilling stare that turned his eyes into steel. He didn’t know that it was possible for this side of him to shed tears, but he could feel his eyes beginning to water and his vision slightly blurring. Cursing himself, he wanted to shove them back in, to not cry because he did something wrong and Levi got mad at him. He shouldn’t feel this guilty, he shouldn’t let Levi has this much control over his feelings, but he couldn’t stop the tears.

Though the look that he received only lasted for less than a few seconds, it felt like it dragged on for hours before Levi’s eyes finally softened. He felt his eyes taking in his body and the few trails of tears that managed to escape before he could wipe his face against his shoulder. He placed the book on the ground next to him and reached out toward him. Eren hated his body at that moment because it flinched away from Levi’s hand, his body recognizing the distress that plagued his body frequently when he was back in his old room.

“Eren,” Levi called him softly, moving his hand slower this time.

His eyes instinctively closed, even though he knew that this hand belonged to Levi and not his guards. That he wasn’t going to get smacked across his cheek because Levi wasn’t his guards. He felt the gentle pressed of his hand caressing the side of his face and then the same thing happened on the other side before his head was tilted down slightly. When his eyes opened, Levi’s face was starting to be pressed against the top of his head, his forehead now pressing against where his would be.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, using his thumb to wipe the wet fur underneath his eyes. “I overreacted, I’m sorry that I scared you...I promise that I won’t get mad at you again.”

Eren then felt his body begin to tremble but not because he was afraid, he’s never been afraid of Levi, not after he learned who he was. Relief hit him like a tidal wave and the weight of the promise seeped into him, that this one person would never hurt him intentionally and he ignored completely the side of him that screamed that this was still temporary. That he would leave this amazing and beautiful man in front of him, disappear from his life completely so the both of them could be safe from himself.

He always had to look into his future. Looking forward to the next meal, the next time he opened his eyes, the next time he would be able to feel the sun on his skin, and never had a reason to live in the moment. He decided then to live in the moment, even if it was only for a few more days, or at least until the side he was ignoring reared its head back and told him how selfish he was acting.

He couldn’t stop the tears now flowing down his face, his breath coming out in gurgled gasps and knew that he was sobbing. Levi pressed his face against his shoulder and pulled his body onto his lap, rubbing circles and patterns on his back, trying to help him calm down.

Realizing that he hadn’t cried since Petra climbed back over the fence, to sacrifice her life for his, everything that kept piling on top of his shoulders suddenly came crashing down. He started to cry for everything; for the man’s life he took, for the bloodbath he created in those white hallways, for the countless lives he ruined because of who died in the crossfire, and for the man holding him. The man that didn’t know how much blood stained his hands but still held and treated him like he deserved this kindness.

“What have you done to me?” he barely heard Levi muttering to himself.

I could ask the same thing.

Chapter Text

It took an embarrassing amount of time before Eren managed to calm himself down and by the time the tears had subsided, Levi had moved them to the cushions underneath the large window. He had been picked up like before and he tried wrapping his arms around Levi’s neck but realized that it was almost impossible in this form. His head had ended up in his lap, his fingers rubbing his head where Eren could feel a headache beginning to form and the faintest of a content purr emerging from his throat. The music was still carrying throughout the apartment and he had lost count of the number of times the songs switched over to another. He had buried his face into Levi’s leg, wiping his tear-stained fur against the soft fabric and had wrapped his tail around himself. Levi’s hand would move from his head and curl his fingers around it, making it wrap around his fingers and further sending Eren’s body into a relaxed state.

“Did you calm down?” Levi asked, once again stroking where his headache was beginning to pound slightly.

He hadn't cried that hard since he first found out about his shifting abilities, how he had never been truly human. He’d forgotten how painful crying was, especially when he realized that he hadn't been drinking as much water as he should. Nodding, Eren shifted so he was on his side but kept his head on Levi’s lap.

“I wanted to say sorry again for the way I reacted...just that book is very important to me and it's the only thing that I have from when I was growing up,” Levi explained as he slowly maneuvered his head so he could get up.

He stood up, stretched his arms slightly before grabbing the leather bound book that Eren still felt guilty about knocking over. As it opened, he could hear the spine creaking slightly and saw that the pages were stained yellow with age. He could see that the printed ink was beginning to fade but Eren guessed that that part wasn't the reason why the book was cherished by Levi. Blue and black handwritten ink was etched into the margins of the pages. As he flipped through more pages, Eren could see that the writing filled most of the available blank space and didn't leave much room for anything else.

He sat back down and Eren got up so he could clearly see the book in Levi’s hands. Flipping through the pages once again, he closed the book suddenly and then let out a deep breath.

“It's probably stupid to still be holding onto a children’s book...I should have gotten rid of it a long time ago,” Levi commented, talking to himself probably more than anything else.

A protest of chirps came rolling off of Eren’s tongue and he wished to some invisible force that he could at least talk in this form. He wanted to tell him that he wished that he had something from his childhood, even if it seemed as stupid as a children’s book. That it'd still be important to him no matter if he threw it away or not and he would regret the action, especially if there was no way of getting back. Once those memories were gone, they were gone forever.

Levi raised an eyebrow at his sudden vocalization and waited for the grunts and chirps to stop vomiting out of his mouth.

“You just yelled at me, didn’t you,” he chuckled slightly.

Not appreciating being made fun of, Eren headbutted his shoulder and growled slightly. Though it just made another laugh roll out of Levi before his attention was brought back to the little book. Opening it to the front cover, more handwritten penwork was revealed but unlike the other cramped in the margins of most of the pages, it was neat and elegant. From the fading and smudging that he could see, he could guess that it was the first thing that had ever written into the book. The black ink was thick and though it looked like the same handwriting that was throughout the rest of it, this entry was created with more care than the others. He couldn’t read much of what was written, much of it barely eligible and faded into the yellowed paper, but Levi seemed to have no problem reading it. Much of it was probably already committed to his memory. Most of the words he could see, he understood and quickly realized that the entries that covered all of the pages were from Levi’s mother. The next page over was text from the actual book and Eren couldn’t put together what the letters could possibly mean.

“It’s French,” Levi suddenly spoke, seeming to reading his mind. “It’s my mother’s fairy tale book that she’s had since she was little.”

Turning his eyes to Levi’s face, he caught of glimpse of a somber sadness before it was taken over by a blank stare like he was trying to hide his emotions behind a wall. He headbutted his shoulder once again but lighter, and kept it there, turning slightly so he could look at the book still open in Levi’s hands. Letting go of the book briefly with his right hand, he moved it to Eren’s head, scratching his ears before returning back to the book.

“She died when I was very young and I don’t have many memories of her, just of her reading to me at night. She’d read to me in French and then explain what she just said, even writing the translation on the side of the pages,” he continued.

He then connected all of the writing throughout the book was indeed the translations of the fairy tales as Levi flipped through it once again. Making out some of the written text, the sentences and character’s names itched at his memory, like he should know who they are.

He wanted to tell him that he could understand some of Levi’s pain. That his mother also died when he was younger, though he barely remembered anything about her and couldn’t picture her doing anything other than screaming at him for his failure to run away. He wasn’t even sure if the voice that yelled and screamed was actually his mother’s or not...he couldn’t remember anything about her.

Levi kept flipping through the pages, seeming to almost be in his own world, reminiscing about something in the past that made the sorrow creep back into his silver eyes. His eyes kept moving from Levi’s face to the book, going back and forth, wishing that he could do something before he shook his head slightly, wondering why he was concerning himself with his feelings. He heard the pages stop turning and tore his eyes away from Levi’s to find that he stopped to find an old, aged photo had been stuck between two pages.

“I thought I lost this,” he muttered to himself, grabbing the photo before closing the book.

Eren looked over his shoulder to take in the four figures in the darkened yellow photo. He could immediately pick out which one was Levi, something that he found some pride in sadly, and thought how cute he looked. It was definitely when he was younger, possibly six or seven, his black hair was a mess and eyes were full of laughter. Everyone that was in the photo had full smiles, though only one seemed to be forced, something that he’s been able to quickly pick up on. The only adult in the photo was, without a question, Levi’s mother. They were almost photocopies of each other just her onyx hair reached her hip, the opposite of where Levi was currently sitting on. Her white skin was almost alarming compared to her child’s. He also realized that with age, Levi looked more like her than he did when he was younger if that was even possible.

The two other children in the photo looked around the same age as Levi. A girl with vibrant green eyes and dirty auburn hair, that was tied into ponytails had her arm wrapped around another boy. He seemed like he was annoyed by the action but still had a smile on his face, his gray eyes full of love as they were forever settled onto the girl. His startling blonde bangs hung between his eyes, a small hand reaching up to them, either to fix them or move them to the side.

“I thought that I lost it on the street...Furlan must have found it and put it in here,” Levi continued, speaking more to himself than anything else.

He looked over at Eren in time to see his equivalent of raising his eyebrows in question. He hated how much he wanted to know more about this still mysterious man in front of him. How he craved every detail that was being freely given to him so far and was almost salivating to know more about the people in the photo. To know anything about his childhood.

“My mom had me out of wedlock, something her family shunned her for like the old traditional sons of bitches that they are, and we mostly lived off the street. She did odd jobs to keep us fed and somewhat safe, but eventually got sick and we didn’t have the money to get her help...that’s when I met Furlan and Isabel,” he started explaining and Eren hung onto every little detail that was given to him. “They, like us, lived on the street, picking pockets to stay alive and almost got me killed. Isabel had been too reckless and stole more than she could handle, making them flee the scene and running right into me. Even though I had never seen them before in my life, I had no way of proving that I wasn’t involved in their scheme. The mobster that they managed to steal from could have easily killed us. Children dying in the streets wasn’t an uncommon thing, even today it’s not, but he decided to break one of our fingers instead. Being the idiot child that I was, I offered up the finger.”

Levi held up his right hand at that moment, showing Eren his fingers and moving his middle one slightly. Never noticing before that the movement was off, instead of it going up and down, it slightly turned to the right when it went down.

“My mom was terrifying when I got home, Furlan and Isabel in tow. Once she saw my broken finger, she was livid but stopped once she realized who was behind me. It was almost comical how she turned from a mother bear to dotting mother within seconds. Even when she could barely stand on her feet, she was a force to reckon with.”

A small smile crossed his lips in a memory but it was short-lived, leaving with Eren the want for it to come back.

“From then on, they were apart of the family... even when mom died a few weeks later…,” Levi drifted off.

Eren, trying to show comfort in some way, nestled his head against Levi’s neck. He seemed to appreciate it to some extent because he didn’t push him away or tell him to stop. Being so close to his neck, he couldn’t bring himself to stop from taking a deep breath and inhaling the man’s scent.

“It’s been a long time since it happened, Eren, I’ve gone through the motions...I’m fine now,” he explained. He knew that Levi would never be over the death of his mother, the same way he knew that he would never be over the death of his own either. Knowing that her death will always be on his hands, that he’ll never be able to wash away her blood even if others continue to bloody it further.

“Anyways, someone that was good friends with my mom made sure that the three of us at least had an education. He was a former teacher and wouldn’t have been able to take us in, so it was the least that he could do. We lived on the street, picking pockets and selling whatever we could find to turn a profit, and managed to live pretty well off for some snot-nosed brats,” he continued his story. “When we were about twelve...maybe thirteen...honestly I don’t remember, but we were doing our weekly pickpocketing routine. Isabel was the quickest on her feet, could spin a believable story within moments and could captivate anyone with her storytelling. She served as the distraction as Furlan and I picked the pockets of the men and women that were too captivated by her.”

Levi let out a sudden deep breath like it was getting difficult to talk more and more about his past. Eren wished to tell him that he didn’t have to continue, but he continued anyway.

“We managed to grab gold watches, a few bucks in cash and change, and a silver pocket watch that looked like it could be pawned for a month of rent of our one-room apartment. However, we didn’t get far though. The man that we stole the pocket watch from was the now-former head of the Recon Corp, Keith Shadis, the branch of government that I now work for. We managed to sneak away with our loot but they tracked us down to our apartment the following day. He could have snapped his fingers, made the men that surrounded us in our place gun us down or take us down to the Military and have us publicly executed for stealing from a government leader, but he offered something else. He offered us a way out of the slums. Furlan and I understood what it meant, that even though we’d be free from the slums and stealing, that we’d have another set of shackles on our wrists. We’d committed to many crimes; of stealing, fraud, and more, and the law didn’t care if the ones who committed the crimes were children or not. Every man, woman, and child were equal when facing judgment and the number of crimes stacked upon them would have sent them to execution tenfold,” he confessed. “Isabel was just happy to not sleep in the same small bed with two other bodies. That was mostly how I signed my life away to the Recon, becoming it’s lap dog and errand boy until I drop...Though Erwin, my boss, says that I could quit at any time and just leave...I owe too much of my life to Shadis and even though he’s gone too, I’ll never be able to repay my debt to him.”

As he finished his tale, Levi stood up and placed the photo face down on his wooden desk, like he was avoiding the eyes staring at him. Eren’s eyes followed him as he grabbed the leather bound book that was laying next to where he was sitting previously, opening up to the back and placed the turned down photo there. Closing it with a snap, he turned toward Eren, a somber look still plaguing his face though he was trying to hide it with his small smile.

“Now don’t go blabbing my past to everyone that you can find, Hanji and Erwin don’t even know about it though they can put some pieces together...you’re the only one that knows so keep it a secret, will ya?” Levi asked of him.

He knew that Levi was trying to make light of the situation, though if he was serious about this being the only time he’s ever told anyone about his past, then he knew that it must have been hard on him. Though Petra had told him that it was easier saying personal things to a stranger than someone that’s close, especially if they were important to you. It possibly helped him more that Eren couldn’t respond back to him and try to give him words of comfort that would have just made him feel worse than better. Also, there was no possible way of him blurting out something dark and personal about the man to people he doesn’t want them knowing. At least not in this form.

At that very moment he made a promise to himself, to Levi, that when he left, he wouldn’t mutter anything about the man in front of him or anything that was just told to him. He would take everything that Levi trusted him with to his grave.

 

Levi could feel the headache beginning that was going to plague his day once he heard the two short vibrations of his phone going off on his bedside table. Everyone in the Recon knew not to bother him before seven until it was an emergency, which only included if it was a life or death situation that had to deal with him personally. Erwin was the only one available to contact him no matter the time or day, mostly he was his fucking boss and didn’t give to shits if he actually managed to get some form of sleep throughout of the night or not.

Opening his tired eyes, they fell upon Eren’s large sleeping form next to him. He was surprised when Eren suddenly wanted to sleep in the bed with him, though he offered every night since he first woke up. He could see how nervous the cat was, like he was ready to kick him out even though he had offered the space every night, and thought it adorable that he waited to see if it was alright. Though his fur did shed, it was easy to clean up and he surprised himself with how much he didn’t freak out and feel the need to wash the covers of his bed. The spot where they shaved his white belly had begun to grow back but still was noticeably lacking hair and he absently started to stroke the shorter fur there at that moment. He could still feel the sharp ribs that emerged from the cat’s skin, though he had noticeably gained some weight over the week. Even if he mostly ate chicken and a few other vegetables that Hanji suggested, though she didn’t even know if it was completely safe for him to it. They didn’t know his limits on food and what his stomach could or couldn’t handle so they went with more of the feline diet.

Looking at the sleeping cat, Levi recalled what happened the previous day. His snapping at Eren and seeing the most heartbreaking emotions passing through his face, trying to make up for what he’s done. He didn’t know that Eren could cry and it ate away at him knowing that he was the cause of the tears that stained his caramel and chocolate fur. He’s never felt guilty for making someone burst into tears since it mostly had to do with him trying to burn and cut information out of them. He had felt discomfort once at hearing that he fucked up with Hanji, saying that he couldn’t give two flying fucks about what experiments she was conducting at the time. Erwin had always been on his ass about giving some form of approval and understanding toward their men and that also included Hanji. Now when she came to him with new findings, he at least confessed to her that he’ll listen though he couldn’t promise that he would retain everything she ranted about.

After seeing Eren bawl his eyes out, he felt like the only thing he could do to make it better by explaining the importance of the book, something he’s never told anyone about before. Furlan and Isabel were the only ones to truly know about his past and that was because they were there, and with Hanji and Erwin, he’s only let details slip once in a while but they can gather most of the details themselves. Erwin was the one that trained him, that dealt with his stubbornness of being forced into submission, and most of his anger of being caught and thrown into another life was put toward him during their training. Of course, he never let that anger show, only once when a trainee pushed him too far. They had taunted him while training with Erwin, trying to get a rise out of him and it worked when they mentioned his mother. Calling her a whore and a waste of breath, and he ended up snapping the boy’s arm before Erwin could pry him off. That was when Erwin learned of the death of his mother.

Hanji constantly reminded him that talking about the past would help, though he never believed half the bullshit that escaped from her mouth...not until he spilled his guts to Eren. He’d never just sat down and said what still plagued his life, how he still had nightmares about waking up and seeing his mother’s decaying body laying next to him. He still dreams about the deals and pickpocketing that went bad, how Furlan and him would do anything to get them out of the situation, especially if they managed to grab Isabel before Levi or Furlan could make her go behind them.

Erwin and Hanji always suggested that he should go to therapy, that mercilessly killing would also have an effect on his psyche. Though he already knew what was wrong with him, that he developed some form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder from his childhood. Needing everything in his home to be cleaned regularly and if something was off kilter or dirt somehow managed to get into his apartment, the itch to clean would scratch and claw at him until he cleaned the whole apartment once again. He sometimes had a manage on it, especially when other people where in the vicinity but it could get out of hand. He didn’t need to pay almost five hundred dollars a session to know that there was something wrong with him, even if Erwin said that the Recon could pay for it.

It honestly surprised him to see the photo of the four of them together, weeks before mom succumbed to her illness. She managed to save enough money to rent a small camera and wanted to take a photo of all of them together. She may have already known at that time that she wasn’t going to last long and wanted to give Levi something to remember her besides the book. The photo and book were both placed in the top drawer of his dresser, feeling the need to have her closer recently.

Grabbing a hold of Eren’s middle, he pulled the light cat closer to him, snuggling his face into the soft and warm fur before sighing and pulling himself away. It still surprised him with every passing day how much he’s grown attached to him. Of course, it was easier to grow attached to something that literally depended on you for food and water, and didn’t talk back, though that mostly came out in chirps or soft growls. Levi had always had the talent of being able to read any emotion off of people’s faces, though it surprised him once again with how many of Eren’s emotions sat on his shoulder. He was an open book and his bright, almost fluorescent green eyes told him exactly what he thought.

Grabbing his phone, that buzzed once again, off of his bedside table and finding that he had a couple of emails, that he was going to ignore for now, and three text messages from Erwin.

 

Sudden meeting today dealing with the relationship between Recon and Garrison.

 

Levi, I know that you’re not sleeping. You never sleep.

 

The meeting is at 11.

 

Rolling his eyes, he placed the phone back down and laid against Eren again. He was surprised that Eren didn’t wake up when he started moving around on the bed. He was just like Levi when it came to waking up suddenly if there was movement on the mattress or a noise comes from within the apartment. Though, it was more of his training and living on the streets that gave him this ability. He didn’t want to imagine what Eren went through where he couldn’t get a full night's rest if the downstairs neighbor decided to be a dick and cause unnecessary noise.

Ever since Eren had joined him on the bed, he’s been able to actually get more than four hours of sleep a night and he slept longer too.

I should have gotten a pet a while ago.

If he’d known that an animal had this much of a soothing effect on him, that he’d actually be able to sleep without waking up every half an hour, he would have gotten one a long time ago. Though he liked to think that it was because it was Eren that was making him this way, not because it was just another warm body in his bed.

He laid in bed for a bit longer, letting Eren catch some more time to sleep and running his finger through his fur, earning himself a purr that slowly grew over time. It brought a small smile to his usually stoic lips. He’s been catching himself actually smiling before, something that has been foreign to him since Furlan and Isabel walked out of his life almost five years ago. He knew that its return was because of the creature next to him.

When it was growing close to nine, Levi decided that it was enough lounging in bed for the moment and started to shake him slightly. It was enough to start rousing him out of sleep though when he stopped, his body relaxed once again, dragging him back to sleep. He leaned over Eren’s body and poked at his wet nose, making his face scrunch up in a kind of adorable way.

“Eren,” Levi whispered his name. “It’s time to get up.”

The cat groaned then, almost saying ‘five more minutes’ before he tucked himself deeper into the mattress and closer to Levi’s body. He moved off the bed at that moment, Eren once against groaning and then growling softly. Levi moved around the bed to Eren’s side to see the gorgeous emerald eyes opening up for him. The desire to fall back to bed, most likely with him still in it, was plastered across his face and he huffed once he noticed that Levi was out of bed already.

“I’m going to make breakfast, if you want any, I would suggest getting up,” he commented before heading out to the kitchen.

Before he could get two feet out of his bedroom door, Eren already sprung from the bed and was at his heels, stomach growling for food. Reaching down to pet his head, he wondered what he would make them.

 

When Levi had to tell Eren that he wasn’t going to be home all day once again, he was actually greeted with a whine and then a cough, like he was surprised to make that noise. He could see an inner conflict reflecting in the cat’s eyes and he couldn’t think of what he was having such a problem over but chose to put it in the back of his mind as he arrived at Wings of Freedom. He just hoped that the meeting wouldn’t take too long, especially when he promised Eren that he wouldn’t be gone for less than three hours and then they can watch television or whatever else he wants. He’s never watched this amount of television within such a short time with Eren. Usually, if he sat all day on his ass and did nothing, he would feel disgusting and have the need to at least clean or work out but not this time. He actually enjoyed seeing Eren’s reaction to everything that played out on the screen. Whenever his ears would flatten and head tilted the slightest, he could tell that he was confused by something they said or what exactly happened on the screen. Levi would explain whatever he needed to help him and at first, he thought he would eventually get annoyed by it but found that it was entertaining at the least. He had the most difficulty when it came to anything that was remotely fiction or sci-fi, though he warned him before the show came on that it wasn’t real life every time. He seemed to enjoy those shows the most.

Once again ignoring everyone that tried to greet him or just walked toward him, he headed to the elevator this time instead of the stairs and went to the top floor where all their business meetings took place. Thankfully no one was in the elevator and no one needed it while he was transported to the fifth floor. Exiting the death trap, he was greeted by windowed walls that displayed the three different meeting rooms that they had. They all were attached to the casino, each given a view into the floor where civilians were throwing away money like their lives depended on it.

He didn’t see Erwin or anyone else in the first two meetings, the ones that they always used for meetings that had to do with the Recon themselves. That was when he started to get suspicious when he spotted Erwin sitting by himself in the last room. He wore his usual work outfit, white buttoned up with black slacks, and his blonde hair was slicked back. Once he saw Levi through the glass wall, he just moved his head to signal him to enter the room. Before he even entered the room and Erwin gesturing for him to take a seat, he knew that there was no meeting. So why was he lied to?

“Good morning, Levi,” Erwin greeted him as he sat across from him.

“Where’s this oh so important meeting? Or was it just a rouse?” Levi questioned him, already knowing the answer.

“If I had said that I needed to talk to you, would you have come?”

“Depending on if you made it an order or not.”

The comment made a line form in Erwin’s forehead appear and a sigh leaving him before he reached up to rub at the line. “I don’t order you unless you’re being difficult, which is sadly most of the time.”

“I’m not that bad.”

He couldn’t finish the sentence without breaking into a sly smile. He couldn’t help but still give some hell to Erwin when he could, he was the closest thing to a friend that he had.

“So what was so important that you had to fake a meeting for me to come out of my hole?” Levi asking, wanting to know why he had to leave Eren all by himself, especially when he was still afraid of his own shadow.

“Can’t we sit and talk like the two old friends that we are?” Erwin chuckled slightly.

“You’re always business, Erwin, even when you’re off the clock.”

They both knew what he was referencing, though they both agreed to lay that side of their past to bed, especially when Levi only stayed in that kind of relationship with him for the sex. He’d never tell Erwin or anyone else for that matter that when Erwin started lusting for him, he entered it as a repayment for making him his right-hand man. If he did find out, then Erwin never said anything about it or was completely blind to the lust that eventually turned into something more. Levi had enjoyed the meaningless sex, something to keep his mind off of the numerous people he’s had to kill and everything else that he went home with, but once Erwin wished for something more for him, he actually got frightened. He didn’t want to go anywhere with the relationship and even when Erwin hadn’t brought up his recent change of feelings, he could tell that something was off. More lingered kisses that happened outside of the intimacy of being pounded on Erwin’s desk or against the wall, and soft touches when they passed by each other. Levi could see Erwin falling for him when he couldn’t see it himself and had been selfish knowing that he had a few more mind-blowing sex before Erwin admitted to himself about the growing feelings.

When Erwin brought up the possibility of bringing the relationship to something other than sex, Levi quickly interrupted him by saying that they would never be able to get to that point. He himself didn’t know if he could feel anything like what Erwin began to feel toward him. He cared about a handful of people, even Hanji and Erwin made that list but it was nothing like the emotion that he must have felt for Levi. He’d murder someone if they laid a hand on them, especially if they got hurt, and maybe that was the extent of what his ‘love’ was, but it was all he had. He played with the thought that he couldn’t let himself feel those emotions because the people that felt even remotely close to ‘love’ was either dead or betrayed him. He didn’t have the greatest track record with that emotion.

After they ended that affair, Erwin found someone that would run at the mention of feelings other than lust, Mike. Apparently, Mike had a long time crush on him, going almost all the way back to their childhood together and being the good friend that Levi was, told him to hop on that dick before it got away again. That was almost over two years ago and they were still going at it like rabbits, resulting in Levi walking into Erwin’s office to see more than he ever wanted to.

“How’s Mike by the way?” Levi teased.

“He should still be passed out at home,” Erwin answered seriously, though Levi could see mischief in his pale blue eyes. “Now, I know that you probably want to go home to your new pet so we can get down to why I faked a meeting for you to come down.”

Levi leaned back into his seat, his recently cleaned nails drummed against the white, slick table, waiting for Erwin to continue.

“A couple of days ago, the King announced that he’s traveling to Maria the day after tomorrow and holding a small party-” Erwin began.

“So I can guess that a hundred or so people are coming?” Levi poked in since nothing was ever small about the King.

“You’re required to join, especially as my right hand. I can’t always make excuses for your absence and saying that you’re taking a long shit doesn’t fly with the King and his advisors.”

Rolling his eyes, he realized that there was no escaping from the event. He hated attending any of the social parties that the King or anyone else invited the Recon too. If Erwin was invited, he had to go as his right hand and bodyguard. He’s only managed to get out of events only a handful of times, but they knew that Pixis was going and Nile, the head of the Military branch. Their temporary treaty was still in affected with Pixis but was currently up in the air with the recent attacks that possibly came from them. He couldn’t sit this one out.

“I know that you would rather sit at home and drink tea, but this could be a way to confront Pixis and see if he’s truly behind the attacks or not...maybe Furlan will be there,” Erwin stated.

Levi’s eyes hardened and narrowed at him when he spoke Furlan’s name. He hated that Erwin knew his soft spot for his childhood friends and from the emotional outpour that occurred yesterday, he could still tell that the pain was still fresh, even if his betrayal was committed years ago. Though he knew that if Furlan did show up, he could finally confront him after all this time and try to get things the way they were before everything happened. If he showed up. If he didn’t then he could get the opportunity to ask Pixis if Furlan did join the Garrison, just hoped he got to him in time before he becomes too drunk for his own good.

“It’s not like I have a choice,” Levi concluded. “Just send me the details before the event and I’ll be there.”

He nodded as Levi stood up from his chair and started to head out, already having a hand on the handle before turning around to face Erwin once more.

“Nothing else ya want to surprise me with? Need me to go on a hit? Need some coffee?” he asked.

“Coffee is always good,” Erwin smiled at him.

Rolling his eyes, he went to open the door before Erwin seemed to remember something.

“Oh, Hanji wants to see you before you retreat back to your pet and hole,” he suddenly said, smirking before getting up as well.

“Fuck,” Levi simply said.

 

When he got to the basement, Hanji’s office, lab, medical office, anything to do with Hanji was located in the basement. She originally had an office across from Levi’s but when she snuck acid and other chemicals into it, making every evacuate the building twice, Erwin made the basement her’s. It had ventilation that went directly outside so there was no possibility of her poisoning the rest of the building, though she hadn’t been experimenting recently. Focusing more on surgeries and making sure that our recruits were trained to deal with emergency encase she or her assistant, Moblit couldn’t get there right away.

Already wanting to go home and watch television with Eren, he found himself getting annoyed when he just saw Moblit in the large space. He was sitting on Hanji’s four screened computer, probably searching for something odd that she requested, most likely the newest tech that just came out. Though he didn’t know where she’d put it in the almost overcrowded lab. He had to give credit to Moblit at least, he managed to keep each section from spilling onto each other and cleaned up every time the whirlwind of Hanji. He was dressed in his usual attire, a buttoned-up lime green shirt, black slacks, and his white lab coat. His light chocolate hair, that was usually parted down the middle, was all over the place like he’d been running his hands through it over and over again. His hazel blue eyes raced across the screens, reading paragraphs after paragraphs of text.

“Moblit, where is Hanji?” Levi announced his presence as he leaned against Hanji’s main desk in the center of the room.

He swore that Moblit jumped five in the air before quickly turning his chair around to see him. Letting out a sudden breath, he didn’t know that he was holding, Moblit placed a hand on his heart.

“I get enough scares from Hanji, I don’t need any from you, sir,” he said like he was catching his breath.

If it was anyone else, he probably would have made them rephrase the way they talked to him, but he gave the poor man a break. From the way that Hanji wore down the man, he’s surprised that Moblit doesn’t have a head full of gray hair already. It’s probably the reason why she called him the night she found Eren instead of Moblit, he needed a couple of hours where she wasn’t making him want to pull out his own hair.

“She should be coming back from a call,” he finally answered, turning the chair back around so he could look at the screens again.

“What happened?” Levi found himself asking.

Hanji going on a call usually didn’t mean things were going well or that the members hurt were top rank. “It’s a hit and run, probably an accident but nothing is never a coincidence in our line of work. They were close to the hospital so he was transported there, though you know Hanji. She needs to do everything herself or else she doesn’t think it’s done right.”

He was right, nothing in their line of work was coincidence, every move toward them was a strategic and meant to look like they had nothing to do with it. Levi would bet money that the Military was at least involved, their tactics always being a hit and run type.

When thirty minutes passed, he considered just heading home and with it getting closer to the time that he told Eren he would be home. He busied himself by checking the emails and piling up paperwork that Erwin and few others had sent him, approving shipments and price changes of exportations, and various other things that he doesn’t really read anymore and sign. Especially if Erwin sent them to him. He only read something if it was said to in the subject bar, highlighted and bold.

Just as he was about to say goodbye to Moblit, he heard the elevator ding announcing that someone had arrived. They both turned to the opening double doors to see Hanji walking out, cleaning her glasses with a rag that had dirt and blood on it. Hoping that she didn’t just randomly pick up the piece of cloth already dirty but knowing her, it could go either way. She wore a yellow long sleeve and tight jeans, styled with her ridiculous bright, red sneakers. Her shirt was smeared with dried blood, most of it was concentrated on the ends of her sleeves. He looked for the deep lines that usually consumed her face when she lost a member, not getting there in time or not being able to save them. It would be the only hint that she was upset about it and he knew that every death hit her hard, no matter how much she says she’s become numb to it. Usually those days he would give money to Moblit so he could grab her a large jug of coffee and her favorite desserts after he left. She knew that Levi was the reason why she was suddenly gifted things by Moblit, but she never said anything to him only sometimes he’d find new, exotic tea leaves on his desk.

“How did it go?” Moblit asked, being the first one to break the ice.

She looked up, no lines in her face to the relief of them both. At least the man was alive when Hanji left him.

“Levi!” she greeted him loudly, completely ignoring Moblit’s question. “So Erwin told you, I have expected him to forget.”

Walking to the walls of cabinets, she grabbed one of the many spare shirts that she kept right next to the array of blue towels. Without hesitating, she stripped her shirt and grabbed a blue hand towel to wipe away the blood that managed to get on her skin. Realizing that she wasn’t wearing a bra and had no shame walking half naked around Levi and Moblit, made him want to know Moblit’s reaction. Levi looked over at him to see his face turning bright red and eyes widen to an almost impossible degree. A chuckle managed to escape him as Moblit turned toward the screens once again, trying to act like he was actually interested in whatever he was reading. Hanji and Moblit were oblivious to each other, more of Hanji didn’t know about her feelings and Moblit having them since they mostly first met. If they didn’t end up together then he doesn’t know if anyone would be able to stand to be with Hanji for a week.

She wiped at the little blood that managed to stained her skin and then threw the towel into a red bin with other bloodied towels, though currently, it was empty. Still shirtless, with her breasts out for the world to see, she messed with her clumsy made ponytail and pulled it tightly, and then decided to put her clean shirt on. He cleared his throat, signaling to Moblit that her tits were away and could join the conversation again. He could see a blush still lightly dusting Moblit’s cheeks and he wished that he could just throw them into the elevator, shut it down and give them a bunch of boozes to start the confessions already.

“How did it go?” Moblit asked once again, clearing his throat before speaking.

“Those idiots at the hospital don’t know how to properly set broken bones,” she complained, tugging down her shirt to fix it and inspecting her nails, probably trying to see if there was blood underneath or not.

Knowing that she wouldn’t really look, Levi grabbed both of her small hands and scanned her fingers for any form of blood or extra dirt.

“Right ring and pointer finger have a bit of blood,” he told her before dropping her hands.

She inspected them again and just shrugged before walking over to the large metal sink in the corner. Spending less than a few seconds with her hands until the warm water and the tiniest bit of soap. Deciding that she wasn’t allowed to touch him until she properly cleaned her fingernails, he moved closer to the elevator, hoping to be able to leave once she finished saying what she wanted to say.

“If you don’t need me, I’ll start heading home,” Levi announced, inching closer to the elevators.

“Oh! So I was wondering since it’s been a couple of days,” she started, looking like she was ready to burst. “Can I see Loki?!”

He was about to ask who the fuck Loki was, but then remembered that it was Eren’s former name before he found out exactly what the cat was. Then he remembered that it was supposed to be a secret between Erwin, her, and himself, he looked over Moblit but he didn’t seem to be confused.

“She told me four days ago,” he tossed in.

Giving a ‘really?’ look at Hanji, she reached across and hit Moblit upside the head.

“You didn’t have to tell him that,” she hissed at him.

He didn’t respond but just massaged the area where she hit him.

“But can I? I promise to be on my best behavior and not get in his face, or do anything to upset him,” she promised.

Feeling a headache already making itself known if he said no, he rubbed the bridge of his nose and wished that he could warn Eren before he unleashed this chaos on him.

“Fine, but only if you wash your hands properly. You’re not touching him with your dirty nails,” he finally agreed.

“They’re not that bad!” she argued, even though she raced over to the sink to wash her hands again.

“Good luck,” he heard Moblit say under his breath.

 

He already knew that he would regret letting her over once they both arrived in his underground parking. Hanji must have broken the speed limit because, by the time that he arrived, she was already waiting for him outside of her car. If she had a key, it wouldn’t surprise him if she would be waiting by his front door, though he took away her copy of his keys after she barged in the last time and scared the shit out of Eren.

She seemed to be pulsing with energy when he finally exited his car and headed toward the elevator. By the time they arrived on his floor and started walking to his door, she was a ball of raw energy. If she walked in like this without a warning, Eren would hide and never come out.

“Wait here,” Levi ordered her before taking out his apartment keys.

“Leevvii,” she whined.

“I have to warn him and you with the way you are now, would terrify him.”

“Warning him isn’t going to help him, just because you talk to him doesn’t mean he can understand you.”

He would snap at her that he understood everything that came out of her mouth but then that would give away the secret that he’s been holding for the past week. No one could know about Eren’s intelligence and if someone like Hanji did, then she would bug him to no end to bring him in for testing, something he knew that Eren wouldn’t be able to handle. He couldn’t even be in the same room with Levi if he had to use the knife, making him find recipes that didn’t have the need to use a knife that much.

“Just stay here,” he ordered once again.

Unlocking the door, stepping inside, and quickly shutting the door before Hanji managed to snake herself into the room without him knowing. He looked up to see Eren sitting on the couch, underneath the blanket that he set out for him, and staring questionably at the door. Locking it for good measure, he walked to him and sat down next to Eren. He breathed in suddenly, most likely taking in Hanji’s scent from outside the door, and a soft growl emerged from his throat. Like he was asking why the hell she was here.

“Yeah, I don’t like it either, but she won’t stop bothering me until she sees you again,” Levi sighed.

He reached over to scratch between his ears, something he discovered made Eren’s body become lax. It did it’s trick to an extent. His ears were still standing straight, listening to whatever Hanji was doing outside of his apartment, just thankfully she stayed put. His tail twitched next to him, flicking wildly when he heard Hanji groan loudly on the opposite side of the door. Levi could tell that she was getting impatient and that he needed to get her into the apartment before she found her own way in.

“I know that last time she came, it didn’t go very well, but if you deal with her for five minutes and then she’s gone for a week or more,” he started to reason with him.

He could see the gears turning in his head and he offered the only thing that Levi could think of.

“I’ll open the door to the porch again,” he offered. “You can stay outside as long as you want, even if it’s all day and all night.”

The sudden excitement and life that pops into the emerald globes, made a hint of guilt crawl over his thawing heart. That he was dangling some time outside, something that he probably didn’t have before he arrived here so that Hanji would get off his back about seeing him. He reminded himself to give him extra chicken and let him try some vanilla ice cream tonight.

“Five minutes, I promise,” Levi states before getting off the couch and heading toward the door.

He waited to see Eren nod at him that it was fine before releasing the whirlwind that was Hanji.

 

It was definitely more than the five minutes that he promised Eren she would be at the apartment, but if he felt like Eren was truly uncomfortable, he would have stepped in and thrown her out. Her attitude took a total one-eighty, the rolling energy that couldn’t find a way to escape was gone by the time he opened the door and she took slow steps toward Eren, treating him like an actual animal instead of a house cat. She did everything that she didn’t do last time, letting him sniff her hand and get acquainted with her scent, and making slow movements for Eren to see. It was almost like he didn’t know who this Hanji was.

She ended up petting him, something that he was very surprised that Eren let her do, though she worked her way up to it. Thankfully she didn’t just reach out toward him and start petting him like a normal house cat. She gave him time to get used to her presence but he could tell that he was a little uncomfortable about the situation and would look over at Levi to make sure that everything was still good.

Eventually, she announced that she was leaving, saying that she needed to get to Moblit before he decided to throw away out some important papers by accident. Before she stood up to leave, she leaned into Eren’s space and whispered something in his ears. By the time that Levi tried to pick up on whatever she said, she was done and left in a rush.

“What was that all about?” Levi questioned him.

Eren did what he could only guess was the equivalent of shrugging his shoulders.

 

After the unexpected visit of Hanji that Levi mostly threw at him, he was completely surprised by the woman that greeted him. Eren had expected the half-mad woman that searching and crawled her way through the apartment trying to find him, but was greeted by an almost different woman. The only way that he could tell that they were the same was their scents.

He’d look over at Levi while she was in the room, watching him to see if the five minutes was up or not, but he just stared at Hanji. Like he was waiting for Hanji to just transform into this monster and try to attack him. When she announced that she was leaving, Levi’s grey eyes slightly widened, like he was surprised that she volunteered to leave. Before she got up though, she suddenly got close to him, freaking him out for a second before she began to speak.

“Thank you for taking care of Levi. I don’t know what you’ve done but I can see that he’s changing for the better. Keep at it, Tiger,” she whispered in his ears.

 

Eren fell into this hazy that consumed him for the rest of the day like he couldn’t move past what Hanji whispered in his ear before departing. He tried to get out of the rhythm and Levi seemed to notice that there was something off about him but didn’t push him. Something he was grateful but also wanted to distract himself from what was swirling around in his head. The hazy continued to follow him through the next day.

He realized as he woke up the next morning that his thoughts were consumed by Levi. It was the last thing he thought about before falling asleep and the first thing when he woke up. Understanding that just wanting to not think about Levi in any way besides his caretaker for the moment, was more difficult than he ever imagined. So he did the only thing he did best, the only thing he could think of. He put some distance between himself and Levi.

Every opportunity he got, he would sit or stand as far away as he could, but not far enough to make Levi wonder what’s wrong with him. It worked for a bit until he asked if he felt okay or if there was nothing wrong. He responded by only shook his head, trying to avoid minimal communication with him, hoping that it would work.

Of course, he came to find out that it didn’t help, but probably made this abnormal feeling in his chest worse and adding guilt into the mix as well. He could tell that Levi thought that he did something wrong for Eren’s sudden change in attitude toward him.

He told himself that he would try and change one more time if he couldn’t change than he would wait a few more days, two at most and do it again, but if he changed, then he had to leave. He’d been here too long and still didn’t know if the lab coats could find him or not. Eren couldn’t pretend that there was no possible way for them to find him and that he could live out the rest of his life as Levi’s pet. Petra had told him that they would do anything to get him back and with everything they did to keep him alive for years, he knew that she was telling the truth. He just didn’t know if he’d be able to go without leaving a piece of him here with Levi.

Chapter Text

Levi knew that there was something wrong with Eren. He was being distant and he’s been so used to having him attached to his hip, that it felt weird walking around without Eren at his heels. It was almost as bad as when he refused to leave the cabinet after he first woke up. He raked his brain, trying to find out if it was something he did. The only thing he could come close to why Eren was being this distant was the unexpected visit of Hanji, though she had been on her best behavior to his surprise. He wanted to soothe him and show that whatever he did to get this reaction from Eren, that he was sorry but he didn’t want to push himself onto the cat.

Whenever he did get close enough, he would pet him lightly on the head and nothing else. Trying to show that whenever he wanted to come to him, he’d be there but Eren refused to make eye contact with him. He’d only been able to catch his eyes when he thought Levi wasn’t looking at him and he could see a sadness the glazed over them. He wanted to know what caused this sudden change but mostly still came up with nothing.

By the time that he decided to turn in for the night, Eren didn’t join him in at first and seemed to be fighting with himself when Levi said to hop on the bed with him. Wanting to pick him up and put him on the bed himself, he chose to let Eren decide by himself, grabbing his laptop and deciding to check the emails that managed to sneak by him throughout the day. He got through a document that Erwin marked him to read, already feeling his eyes drying out from the bright screen and digging out his almost never used glasses before Eren decided to join him on the bed.

He expected him to laid down where he always did, right next to him and usually his head in Levi’s lap so he could easily be scratched and loved all over without taking too much of his attention off his work. Instead, he laid at the foot of the bed, his paws crossed under his chin and watching whatever was on the screen. He would have reached down and attempted to stroke him but Eren’s tail was being twitchy and never stayed still for more than a few seconds. A clear indication to Levi that he didn’t want to be touched or messed with. He could only just hope that Eren would start to get better the next day.

The next day it didn’t get better. It actually felt like it got worse. When making breakfast, Eren wasn’t even in the room, still laying on the bed and only coming out when he called out that their food was ready. He scarfed it down, fast enough that he worried that he was going to get sick and throw up afterward, and then headed into the living room without Levi. Finishing his meal and cleaning all of the dirty dishes, he headed into the living room to see that Eren was laying on the couch. Not knowing what else to do, he turned on the television and tried to find something that he would like, hopefully bringing up his mood.

Leaving him alone with the flashing images coming off the screen, he headed into his bedroom and grabbed his phone. It took less than three rings for Hanji to pick up, and he expected her to pick up after the first.

“How’s mister grumpy?” she asked cheerfully.

“Are you talking about me or the cat?” he responded.

“Of course I’m talking about you, no one is as grumpy as you.”

Rolling his eyes, he sat on the bed where he could see into the living room and the top of Eren’s head.

“So what do I owe the pleasure of hearing your voice?” she asked.

He could hear typing in the background, guessing that she was at her lab or home on her computer. “Something has been bothering...Loki ever since you’ve come over...like he’s shutting down on me.”

“What do you mean?”

“He’s just become very distant. He usually follows me around everywhere and now he won’t move.”

“Has he been eating fine?”

“Yeah, he gobbles everything down so fast that I’m afraid that it’ll make him sick...it’s almost like he’s trying to eat everything so he doesn’t have to spend time with me.”

It was something that occurred to him when Eren was consuming everything off his plate, but he didn’t want to think that it was true. Now that he said it out loud, it was the only thing he could think about, that it had to be true.

“Maybe he’s just gotten bored, let him outside and run around on the porch or something. It’ll possibly change his attitude for the better,” she answered.

“I’ll try it, thanks,” he said before hanging up.

“Did Levi just thank me-”

He managed to hear that before the call fully ended and he rolled his eyes once again before heading over to the glass doors. Opening them, he heard movement from the living room, like Eren had sat up on the couch and was trying to see what caused that noise. Soon he saw Eren’s head poking out from behind the corner, seeing the door open, his eyes grew enormous and his pupils turned to slits, letting the flakes of gold be known in his green irises. He hesitantly walked over to the door, looking up at Levi like he was asking for permission to leave and enjoy the limited sun. It was cloudy outside with sunlight poking out from the heavy gray clouds every few minutes, meaning that it was wicked cold outside.

“If the door is open, you can come and go outside as much as you want...maybe I should get a bell so you can tell me when you want to enjoy the weather,” Levi begun but then started talking to himself more than anything else.

The next time he went out he would go to the nearest pet shop to get a bell or something that Eren could easily make noise to inform him he wanted to go outside. He looked at him to see something flash through his eyes, but he wasn’t fast enough to identify the emotion.

Opening the door wider, Eren walked through the doorway, his fur puffing out to retain his body heat against the chilly weather. Levi actually preferred this type of weather than anything else. He still had to worry about getting sunburnt but at least he would be cool instead of sweating to death under the intense heat.

Leaving the doorway so he could grab a jacket from his closet since his thin black long sleeved shirt wasn’t cutting it, he came back to see Eren soaking in the chill and breathing deep breaths. He just hoped that this would help with the sudden distance that he made. Putting on the jacket and sitting on his patio chairs, he watched as Eren enjoyed his time outside and wondered if he should just keep the door open for the rest of the day. He would have to leave for the King’s party later tonight and it wasn’t like he was on the first or second floor so he didn’t have to worry about anyone breaking in. If any animals got in, they’d probably drop dead the sight of Eren, even if he didn’t chase them down and try to murder them. He just hoped that he didn’t come home to blood splattering the walls and tiled floors because he decided to kill whatever came into the apartment.

He let Eren relax on the cold cement ground, his limbs stretching every once in awhile and tail flailing around happily, before telling him that he would have to leave again tonight.

“Eren,” he said, trying to get his attention. The cat took a second to open his eyes and look over at him. “I’m going to be leaving tonight but should come back after a few hours.”

He nodded to his once to let him know that he understood and then returned to his position of enjoying the weather. Tomorrow he would see if any of his efforts made this distance between them disappear or made it worse.

 

Eren stayed outside for the majority of the day, only coming in to get water and possibly warm himself up from the weather before going back outside. Though Levi liked to think that he had a good immune system but from the flood of cold wind that swept through his apartment, his nose was red and getting sniffily. He popped a few allergy medicines and an antibiotic just to be safe before moving the door so that it was wide enough for Eren to come in and out. At least there wasn’t that much of the cold seeping into the apartment and making it feel five degrees colder than what his A/C told him. Levi just watched television on his couch, wrapped in a light blanket since a heavy one would be too much, and missing the furnace of heat that kept him company. He would give him another day before actually confronting him on what the hell happened to him or what Levi did to get some a change of attitude toward him.

Around seven, an alarm on his phone began to beep and scream at him, warning him that he needed to change or else he would be late. Though he considered the action of being late to piss off Erwin just for the hell of it until thinking that it probably wouldn’t be appropriate, no matter how funny it would to him.

Unwrapping from the cocoon that he made with the blanket and checking on Eren outside after he got up, he headed off to his bathroom to take a shower and clean up. Looking into the wall mirror as he let the water run to get to his desired temperature, he realized that this was the best opportunity to cut his growing hair or at least shave his undercut. Grabbing his electric razor and a small mirror to check his work as he went, he started to trim and cut away at his undercut until he was happy with the length. Once he was satisfied, he grabbed a pair of small stainless scissors out from one of his drawers and began to cut the rest of his hair. After a few minutes, he got an even cut that had the longest pieces reaching the middle of his ears. Happy once again he inspected his pale face, seeing that he didn’t need to shave, his facial hair barely being seen since he shaved the other day.

After he got into the shower and let himself soak in the warm water, not wanting to be exposed to the chilly air that was seeping into his apartment. However, the alarm that he set went off, informing him that this was the most amount of time he could spend in the shower so he had time to get ready. Regretfully shutting off the searing hot water, he quickly dried himself off with his fluffy black towel and started putting on his black three-piece suit. It was mostly never used and began to collect dust since the last time he wore it was almost over a year when the last time the King came by and declared to have a party thrown for him.

He was adjusting his silver cuffs and straightening his deep black tie that laid on top of his white undershirt when he heard movement outside of his doorway. Looking over, he spotted Eren standing outside his doorway, fur still twice the size it usually was so he probably just came inside once again. The large emeralds were almost engulfed by his pupils like he was soaking up the sight of Levi in a suit. If a cat could blush, Eren would be doing so right now. He had done it a few times before but Levi didn’t have the heart to make fun of the cat. His ears would tuck down so it was almost impossible to tell where they actually were and an intense heat would consume his body though he could only feel it if he was sitting right next to him. He found it adorable honestly. Even though he hadn’t gotten laid in over two years, at least someone found him good looking.

“I’ll leave out some food for you to snack on while I’m out but don’t stay up for me, I’ll be home late,” Levi told him, straightening his cuffs once again once he saw that one was slightly turned than the other. “I’ll also leave the door open for you so you can go in and out as much as you please.”

After his cuffs were fixed correctly, he looked at himself in the mirror, adjusting his suit and making sure that he looked up to Erwin’s standards as his right hand. He wished that he could have found his silver handkerchief to put in his breast pocket but didn’t have the time or energy to search through his dressers. Ignoring the need to find it, he grabbed his phone and checked the silver Rolex, that Hanji gifted to him years ago for some holiday, to see that he needed to start heading out. He started heading toward his closet and opened the bottom drawer, finding a button underneath the wooden frame and popped the false bottom. Once he grabbed the false bottom, it realized his array of stainless steel knives that were arranged from largest to smallest. Grabbing two of the smallest, the blades being as long as his pointer finger and folded them into themselves, before slipping them into the hidden slot in the platform of his dress shoes. The event would already be heavily armed by security but there was no way in hell he was going into there without some security of his own.

Safely securing the false bottom and double checking that it wasn’t noticeable, he left his closet and set out to grab his keys before heading off. Though after keys were in his hands, he scanned the room to find Eren still standing in the doorway of his bedroom.

“Protect the house for me,” he called out to him.

He only got a chirp in reply before leaving the apartment even though all he wanted to do was walk across the room and give him at least a pat on his head.

 

Hanji had the nerve to ask him, while he finally thought he would arrive on time if she could get a ride to the party. He tried to ignore her at first but once his car speakers were about to blow out from how many times she called, he finally answered and said that he was on his way. Not before she quickly drew out a long ‘love you’ and replying with a signature ‘fuck off.’ She didn’t live too far from him but it never felt far enough. She was the only one out of him and Erwin that actually owned a house, living in one of the many gated suburban communities in Shiganshina. If you didn’t own an apartment or penthouse in Shiganshina, then you lived in gated communities. It was the only section of Maria that had the most security, the rest fending for itself, something that haunted Levi all the time. Though the richest of Shiganshina still looked like filth compared to the average civilians that lived in the Capital.

After gaining access to her neighborhood and finding her house among the many lining the streets, though it was easy to find since it was the only one with her yard becoming out of control. The weeds were about to take over her driveway and her grass was almost up to his mid-calf. He tucked into the back of his head to send some landscaping employees over so her neighborhoods wouldn’t start complaining and don’t order a hit on her. Parking in her driveway, she was nowhere to be seen and he was forced to honk his horn, not wanting to get out and make them later than they already were going to be.

Thankfully she emerged shortly after, though he was two seconds away from honking it again because he was beginning to get annoyed. There was one thing that he could admire about Hanji when she took something serious and actually committed, she could freshen up and actually look beautiful. She had a blood red dress that hugged every curve, a slit that ran up to her mid-thigh on her right leg, and a deep v that displayed her absence of a bra. Her brunette hair was still in her usual ponytail but it looked like she actually put effort into taming it. He wished that Moblit would have been able to come tonight, just so he could see his reaction to her in the dress. However, someone needed to always be on hand in case someone on their team got injured and Hanji couldn’t resist passing up on free drinks.

“You couldn’t drive yourself?” Levi asked when she climbed into her seat.

“A lady can’t go herself, that would be unacceptable,” she pouted with a smile.

“You’re no lady.”

“Okay, so I mostly wanted to get some drinks going without worrying about how I’m getting home.”

Rolling his eyes, they started making their way to the party.

 

They had only been here for an hour and Levi was already prepared to go home. He’d forgotten how draining these could get and Erwin had ordered him to be on his best behavior, which consisted of drinking his scotch and nodding whenever someone droned on and on about their ‘fabulous’ lives and which famous celebrity they talk to on the daily. Even with the rants that Hanji makes, at least if he listened he would learn something but the different elitist gave him nothing but boring details.

They criticized his city and Maria, calling the less fortunate savages and wondering how Erwin and he let it get this bad. Hanji found him then, to the mercy of the current three elitists surrounding him with champagne in their hands because he could feel himself ready to snap or just stab one of them in the throat. Of course, it would happen so quickly that no one but Erwin and Hanji would suspect that he did it because why would he act without his boss’ orders. The knives tucked in his shoes felt heavy at the moment, almost begging to be used. She made something up, talking too quickly and throwing random names into the mix to make it sound important.

“Remember to be on your best behavior,” she whispered in his ear as she pulled him away.

“And we used to worry about setting you loose during these parties,” he mumbled, taking a long sip of his scotch.

“It can’t be all that bad, you’d just got to be a social butterfly, not the… anti-social moth in your case.”

“That the best you can do?”

The party was taking place in the nicest hotel that Maria could offer, security checks at almost every door and Recon’s finest serving as security, of course that’s what they told their privileged guests. Most the security were their new trainees, with a few senor members that they could spare from patrol, though the ones that managed to get out were given a bonus for dealing with the guests. Chandeliers of gold and crystals hung from the ballroom ceiling and illuminated the hundred or so bodies in their thousand dollar dresses and tuxes. Servants walked around with the small amount of food that was served, along with the ridiculous amount of booze that was circulating the room. His hope to find Pixis before he drowning himself in booze was good as gone, especially now when he’s been here for almost an hour. Levi still searched for him, nodding in his previous conversations like he gave two shits about the people that looked down on him and his movement, but haven’t managed to find the bald headed man. He’d spotted Erwin twice and managed to get a brief nod from him even when he begged with his eyes to get him out.

Hanji grabbed his drink before he could take another drink, downing the rest of his scotch and coughing before throwing the empty glass onto a tray that passed by. Resisting the urge to snarl at her, remembering an extra pay raise if Levi didn’t cause a scene, and tried to pick up the nearest drink to him, just to have it stolen by Hanji. Her face scrunched up and stuck her tongue out in disgust like a child.

“What’s wrong with you?” Levi snapped under his breath.

If he had to suffer this party then he needed to have something in him, anything to make himself feel slightly better. “You’re driving so that means no drinking, no matter how tempting it is,” she winked at him.

Wanting nothing to do but strangle the woman next to him, his eyes drifted across the room to find a shiny, bald head disappearing behind a tall blonde in a white gown. “Excuse me Hanji.”

Quickly leaving her side before she could ask what he was up to, he grabbed a scotch off a passing tray, thinking that if he was going to have this conversation with Pixis then he needed some liquid courage. Downing half the drink then, hoping that Hanji didn’t manage to swipe his currently drink before he could finish it. He and herself knew how much alcohol he could take, and a couple drinks of scotch wasn’t going to inhibit his driving skills.

After finding and losing sight of the older man, he just leaned against the black marble bar and waited for when Pixis need to refill his glass. Thankfully he didn’t have to wait long for him to spot the man. He was walking backward, still trying to hold on to the last bit of a conversation before turning around with his almost empty drink. His thin, gray brows raised for a second when his soft brown eyes landed on him, but his surprise vanished when he arrived at the bar.

“You know the drill,” he simply said to the bartender who was already on their way to get his new drink ready. “Levi, what do I owe the pleasure?”

Before the man even spoke, he could smell the alcohol on his breath and knew that it was possibly too late to get any actual information out of him. Everything would boil down to a joke with the old man and Levi’s patience was already wearing thin.

“I don’t see Erwin with you. He finally let you off the leash?” a toothy grin emerging from his face.

If it had been anyone else, anyone that made a backhanded comment at him, he probably would have punched and especially after he’s had to put up with for the past two hours. However, Pixis knew about Erwin and him well enough, especially with setting up the treaty that he honestly didn’t know was still in place or not. He just hoped that the man was just trying to blend in with the others.

“I need to speak with you Pixis,” Levi mentioned, already knowing the answer he was going to receive.

“Oh, come on, Levi. You and Erwin, always business and more business. It’s a party, enjoy yourself, drink,” he replied, grabbing his new drink and taking a large swing.

“It’s about one of your recruits-”

“You know I have hundreds of recruits, I don’t know anyone by hand. Go talk to Hannes, he knows more than I do.”

“It’s Furlan, sir.”

That seemed to catch the man’s attention.

Got you.

“What makes you suddenly want to talk about him? You don’t ask about him for years and now a sudden interest,” Pixis committed.

“Our meetings are sparse and I know better than try and approach Furlan when he doesn’t want me,” Levi fired back.

He tried once, leaving messages on his old number when they first left and he even tried to hunt them down, but his efforts were fruitless. He received a letter at his old apartment, the one that they shared together, that mostly said to fuck off.

“Don’t we both know that...but Levi, you know that I don’t like to discuss business outside of meetings-”

“Sir, this isn’t business.”

“From everything that has been going on, yes Levi, it is. Even though you are Erwin’s right hand, this is currently only between him and me, and though it’s only been mostly arguing.”

He could feel himself getting annoyed, especially with Pixis mostly avoiding Levi’s unspoken question but at least now Levi knows that he is aware of the things happening in his Garrison. That he isn’t completely the drunk old bastard that most of his recruits believe that he is. He knows that someone is undermining his authority and using the Garrison to stir up trouble between them. Levi just didn’t know why Pixis wasn’t doing anything to take back his Corps.

“Can you at least tell me that they’re okay?” Levi almost snapped.

Pixis had raised his drink to finish it off but stopped as his lips touched the glass.

“They’re fine. Not great, but fine,” he reassured Levi as he lowered the glass, surprising him that he actually answered his request. “That’s all we can say that we are, fine.”

Wanting nothing more than to ask him what the hell he meant, or if he was starting to be too far gone with his drinks, he was interrupted by Hanji once again appearing at his side.

“Pixis!” she warmly greeted him.

He took her outstretched hand and sloppily kissed the top of her hand, something that he vaguely remembered him hearing that she hated, mostly because of the sharpness of his mustache.

“Hanji, what a nice surprise...so you’re the designated owner when Erwin is unavailable,” he winked at Hanji.

They both knew know that he was acting like an arrogant jackass to appease the elitist around them, but the comments still made him want to punch the closest face to him. Once she was given her hand back, Hanji grabbed Levi’s upper arm and began to drag him away from Pixis.

“I’m sorry but I have to take Grumpy back to Erwin, he’s needed for urgent business,” the lies effortlessly rolling off her tongue.

He didn’t see why they bothered to bring him along to these functions, especially if they were hosting the party themselves. All Hanji and Erwin did was take him out of conversations and situations that would set him over the edge. They usually got him before he accidentally punched someone in the face, but there had been one incident where they arrived just a fraction of a second too late. Before Hanji managed to drag him away to an undisclosed location, Pixis managed to grab his other arm and briefly bring his lips to Levi’s ear before giving him a warning.

“Don’t trust your past,” he whispered in the shell of his ear. “Or the people from it.”

Hanji continued to pull him along as Levi suddenly realized that his question of if Furlan would be capable of everything that the spy said that he’s done. He suddenly felt cold all over and just wanted to come home.

 

Erwin eventually found them, dressed in his black suit and a neat tequila in hand, though he honestly wasn’t paying attention to anything that Hanji was saying for the past couple of minutes. All he could think about was Pixis’ words before Hanji pulled him away from the drunk, old man and he could only guess that Erwin knew this already. Just waiting for Levi either to come to the realization that his childhood friend was orchestrating the hits to the Recon or someone like Pixis telling him what he needed to hear. If it was anyone else saying those things to him, he would have easily brushed them off but this was Pixis, the only other person outside of the Recon that Erwin wholesomely trusted. He wouldn’t dare say those things just to mess with his right-hand man, especially if it was regarding an important issue such as the attacks.

After Erwin had tried and failed to hold a conversation with him, he offered for both Hanji and Levi to leave the event early.

“Erwin, it’s almost over, I can hold out for another hour or so,” Levi snapped out of his gaze.

“I mostly wanted you out of the house, you’ve been cooped up with that cat and needed some human interaction,” Erwin suddenly confessed. “The worst thing that could happen here is that I get vomited on by Pixis while we’re talking.”

Rolling his eyes, he scanned the floor out of habit, looking for any potential threat but all he saw were drunks. He could even see the King, barely, surrounded by his bodyguards and no one being allowed too close to him. Believing that Erwin would be fine for the rest of the night, he reluctantly agrees even though the thought of going home almost made him smile in relief. He was closer to seeing Eren, even if he was acting abnormal and didn’t want to be cuddled recently.

“Just don’t get too fucked up,” Levi called out to him as he escorted Hanji toward the front door.

“Don’t kill anyone on your way out,” Erwin smirked back.

“That’s why I’m here!” Hanji laughed.

Now with direct permission to leave, anyone that tried to stop them with conversation was completely ignored, even Hanji tried to throw an apology their way before Levi pulled them out of sight. Passing through the golden hallways with fewer and fewer guests trying to stop them as they went, they finally found the massive glass doors that would lead them outside.

The chill air made Levi pass over his jacket to Hanji, already knowing that she would bitch and complain about the cold until he passed it to her. The chill also managed to sober her up fairly fast, even though she honestly didn’t drink a lot, especially when she could almost outdrink him. Though he regretted it the moment the piece of warm clothing came off of him because holy fuck was it getting cold. He dragged her past the nervous valet, probably new to his job and wanting nothing more than to be inside the warm building, and headed to his car near the end of the massive parking lot. Hanji made fun of him for not trusting the valet to drive his car and just wait at the entrance instead of running across the parking lot to get to it. He didn’t let anyone drive his car, even though Hanji begged almost every day to get behind the wheel, so no snot-nosed brat was driving his car.

The sound of the party was quickly drowned out by the nightlife of the city. There were high-end nightclubs that covered the avenue and there were lines of people waiting to get inside the booze-soaked floors. Hanji was talking about how much fun she had as she ranted about different theories and random science information that was too overwhelming to most of the guests there. At least he had the decency to pretend to listen to the guests, Hanji just wanted to see how much they could go before their heads started to spin at the information being shoved into their minds. He did find it hilarious to watch though.

They finally neared his car when his teeth began to chatter and wanted nothing more than to blast the heat. He couldn’t even imagine how cold it was going to be in his apartment, especially when he just left the porch doors open. Reaching for his keys and too distracted by Hanji still complaining about the cold even with his jacket, he didn’t manage to catch the quiet footsteps behind him.

“Stop bitching about the cold, you have my jacket,” Levi snapped as he unlocked the doors.

“I didn’t ask for your jacket, you’re the one that willingly handed it over,” she pouted.

“You would have complained more and I can only deal with so much-”

“Levi!”

Her eyes widen as he noticed that she was staring behind him and his ears managed to pick up a quickened pace behind him. However, before he managed to fully grab the knife in his shoes, a large sharp pain bloomed in his side and a painful gasp escaped his lungs. Fighting through the pain, he grabbed the hilt of the knife and aimed for where he hoped was his assailant’s head or neck. Before he felt the knife make contact with flesh and could feel it slip into the attack’s skin, he could pick up them saying something before they began to choke on their own blood.

“Furlan sends his regards.”

The whole encounter happened within seconds, but it felt like it lasted hours, especially when the man’s small frame fell onto the ground. He could instantly tell that the man who attacked him was barely old enough to drive, nothing more than a child and thankfully had the strength like one. As he watched the figure gasp for breath, his knife embedded into his neck and blood pouring out of the wound and his mouth, he made himself lean against the car before he fell to the solid ground. Hanji was already at his side, making him turn so that whatever was sticking out of his side was being evaluated by her.

His body was numb and he didn’t know if it was just his body was reacting to just being stabbed or from the news that he just received from the dying child. Furlan sent a child after him. He knew that he acted first and asked questions later, especially if he ended up fucking stabbed and knew that he was sending this child to his death. He didn’t want to think if the kid already knew that it was a suicide mission or he somehow thought that someone was going to save him last second.

“We need to go to HQ,” Hanji suddenly said, it most likely wasn’t the first time that she said that because she slightly shook him to get his attention.

“I’m not going there,” Levi quickly told her.

He didn’t need everyone in the Recon to know that he was personally attacked. That they managed to get him and from what he could tell, a deep injury.

“Levi, stop being fucking stubborn and letting your pride get in the way, our Strongest can get injured too-” Hanji began.

“This is between me, you, and Erwin. No one else can know. What do you think will happen to our recruits if they see that I got injured by the Garrison? They’ll fucking retaliate and there will be a full-blown war between them and the Recon. Pixis wouldn’t be able to resolve it or do anything to stop it,” he argued, finding it harder to breathe as he continued.

He turned his head to see Hanji fighting herself and trying to decide what was best for Levi, not as her friend but as her patient.

“Fine,” she finally agreed. “Just get in the fucking car before you start to bleed out.”

He was forced into the passenger seat and forced to hand over his keys, even in the state he was in, he still felt like he would be the better driver. As she started to speed away from the scene, he saw that the child laying on the ground wasn’t moving anymore and had grown stiff.

 

He regretted ever giving Hanji the wheel. It felt like she was aiming for every pothole and crack in the road, making Levi hiss in pain at every bump. He wanted to feel his wound but knew he would earn a slap on the wrist if he even attempted to move or adjust in his seat. Thankfully she still listened to him because she didn’t go behind his back and drive them to HQ, something that he would raise hell about, and drove them to the closest emergency center. She allowed him to call Erwin at least, but that was it, and it only happened because he wouldn’t let her drive and talk on the phone. She gets distracted easily already, he didn’t need her accidentally crashing and making his injury worse.

From the way that she was reacting, not being in full doctor mood, that the weapon wasn’t too deep inside of him and that it wasn’t life threatening...at the moment. However, he knew how quickly something like this could turn for the worse if he moved a certain way or accidentally bumped into it. He tried his hardest to stay exactly the way she placed him in the car, facing her and barely sitting in the seat, not letting his upper half bend in any way.

They arrived at the center shortly and though he wanted to get out of the car and quickly get the fucking weapon out of his body, he waited for Hanji’s instructions. No one was on the streets as she helped him out of the car, either sleeping or partying at the many nightclubs that they passed to get here. Each step send waves of pain through his body as Hanji punched the code in and helped him through the door. She left him next to the metal table as she grabbed all the equipment and bandages that she would need before instructing him to carefully lay on his side. Every movement was almost agonizing and even though he’s had worst injuries, ones that almost had him at death’s door, each one felt worse than the last.

She gave him something for the pain and everything became a blur, his body going into some form of shock but all he could think about was going home and seeing Eren. It was the only thing preventing him from passing out and he knew that if he did fall asleep, he would stay asleep until the next day. He promised that he would be home tonight and he didn’t need to give Eren a reason to distrust him, especially with the way he had been acting for the past couple of days.

Eventually, she tapped his shoulder, her signal of saying that she was finished, and he sat up, even though his body painfully protested. He felt along his side and there was already a bandage placed where he was stabbed.

“Thankfully it was only a flesh wound,” Hanji explained. “Though I would recommend staying the night here or at a hospital-”

“I rather recover at my own house and not freak Eren out if I don’t come home.”

“Eren? You mean Loki?”

Fuck.

“You renamed him? I thought you liked the name,” she whined, becoming his annoying friend rather than his doctor in two seconds.

“Loki didn’t fit him after I got to know him,” Levi quickly lied. “Now, what the fuck was I stabbed with?”

Puffing her cheeks out like she was trying to hold in more complaints, she reached behind him and grabbed a plastic bag with the words ‘evidence’ in red lettering across the front. Inside the bag was a cheap looking knife, nothing sturdy and durable like the ones that he owned, and it still had bits of his blood on the blade. He wanted to look at the knife properly but knew that they needed to get fingerprints off the handle, though they could easily identify the kid with his body now cold. He just hoped that Erwin managed to get the body out before people starting leaving and stumbling upon it. They didn’t need any more drama with everything else that was going on.

“What did he say to you before he went down?” Hanji asked him suddenly.

He looked up at her in surprise, not knowing that she managed to hear something that the boy said before his neck was punctured by his knife. “It’s not important...it just confirmed something that everyone knew was true but me,” he simply answered.

Hanji drove him home after she made sure that he was all stitched up and gave him specific instructions for taking care of it, though this was the hundredth time that he’s come home with an injury. Levi could do everything with his eyes closed and one hand tied behind his back. She promised to get his car deep cleaned and the blood off of his passenger seat before he came back to work, he didn’t have the energy to fight with her about dropping him off.

He would prefer her to drop him off with the car and to find her own way home but after everything that happened, he didn’t want her just waiting outside while she waited for someone to pick her up. She at least returned his jacket and he put it on after he slowly got out of the car. He made sure that she left safely before making his way to the elevator. All he could think about as he traveled to his floor was seeing Eren again and taking a long, hot shower before throwing himself onto his bed.

Chapter Text

No matter how much time he spent outdoors, Eren couldn’t bring the sense of calm that only came to him when Levi was around. He experienced a glimpse of it when he first went outside to the chilly air but it was long gone now and no matter how long he stayed outside, he continued to stay on edge. When Levi had explained to him that he would be leaving the house once again, his heart sank because it meant that it was now the time to leave. However, when the front door had shut and he was left alone, Eren could do nothing but stand outside and watch the sky turn pink and orange. He didn’t know why but he didn’t want Levi to go like everything had been going too smoothly for the both of them and something horrible was going to happen. He would be furious with himself if he shifted and left, especially if Levi came home hurt and saw that Eren was nowhere to be seen. Of course, then he would feel stupid if nothing does happen to him and he just wasted another day because of his irrelevant feelings toward the man.

He briefly remembered how Levi looked before he left, not letting his mind wander too much on how great he looked. That weird and foreign feeling emerged in his gut when he first stumbled into the bedroom. The black suit that fit snuggly against his form and Eren did try to ignore the unforgotten feeling that he felt one morning. The one that he couldn’t get out of his head and filled him full of shame. His mind kept going back to him in the suit even long after Levi left and wondered if this was normal. If it was normal to feel this way about someone taking care of you, but he never felt anything like this toward Petra or Hitch. Of the time that he spent with Petra, she most filled him in on everything that his mother should have, which he thought was ridiculous since why would he worry about kissing when he would never escape his white walls. It led to Eren almost covering his ears and turning bright red from embarrassment whenever she brought up those conversations. Though, when she talked about that stuff like kissing and other things that he didn’t want to think about, she only mentioned it happening between him and a woman. Everything that he’s seen on television with Levi that deals with any romance was between a man and woman. Was his desire for something other than guardianship with Levi abnormal and if it was, then it was another thing he can add to his ever-growing list of things wrong with him.

By the time he began to grow tired, the sun had gone down long ago and the outside air now had a bite to it, nipping at the pads of his paws. He had grown accustomed to the noises of the city down below, it was never silent and he had to pull himself away before his body became numb from the cold. Thankfully Levi left the television on or else he would have continued to brave the chill instead of staying in the warm apartment where it was silent. He tried to close the glass with his paws but ended up moving it to where it stayed open an inch, still letting some of the freezing air into the apartment. It was better than leaving it wide open like it was before but still felt guilty, especially when his paw prints smudged the glass and left marks on it.

Levi had left him something to eat on his plate, but he didn’t feel hungry, not when he wondered when he would be home.

Not home. This isn’t my home.

Shaking his head, he wondered if he should sleep in the bed that he and Levi have been sharing or on the couch. The only thing that was stopping him from hopping onto the bed, and imprinting Levi’s scent into his head, was that he didn’t know how to turn on the television in that room. Deciding just to lay on the couch and watch the screen until he passed out was his option unless he wanted to be in the dark room. He didn’t know what channel that Levi left the television on but there were three women talking and it was just boring enough to act as background noise for him to sleep. His head was pressed into the pillow that Levi always used as an armrest, breathing his scent and luring him to sleep.

 

Eren didn’t know what exactly what woke him up, whether it was a sudden noise from the television or from outside the apartment, but he startled awake. He realized quickly that it was colder than before in the room and wished that he managed to close that last inch of the glass doors. Looking at the screen, he noticed that numbers were displayed on the bottom corner and read that it was 2:38. He stood up them, not knowing exactly what it meant other than that it was very late, and wondered if Levi managed to come hom-...come back yet. Breathing in a deep breath, he didn’t pick up a new wave of his scent and Eren began to worry. He tried to not let it consume him but this was the latest and longest that Levi had ever left him alone. The last time it took this long, he had come back with bloodied knuckles though he claimed that it was just a work injury. He began to pace. Especially when another thirty minutes passed and there was no sign of anyone moving outside of the apartment.

When he finally heard a familiar ding from what Levi called the elevator, he raced from the couch and pressed his ear against the door. He could hear footsteps slowly making their way down to the front door and could barely recognize them as Levi’s. However, before the pair of footsteps managed to get to the door, the familiar scent reached him but before relief could flood through him, a powerful wave of blood slammed into him. It wasn’t like before where he could tell that Levi had bleed before but it was the tiniest bit. The scent of blood almost overwhelmed the natural musk that he loved and he wanted the door to be open now so he could see what was wrong.

The lock turned slowly and when the door opened, Levi stepped in looking paler than normal and the stench of blood smacking him in the face. He didn’t even seem to notice Eren almost at his heels as he walked through the apartment and leaned against the wall window that lead into the kitchen. His usually styled, black hair was in tufts and a faint layer of sweat coated his forehead.

“Should have fucking listened to Hanji,” he grunted as he pressed the heel of his palm into his forehead and took in a deep breath.

His green eyes were still intensely scanning every inch of him, trying to find the source of the bleeding and only noticed that the black suit was slightly darker than the rest on his one side. He tried to press his nose closer, seeing if that was where the smell was coming from, but Levi’s hand reached down and lightly swatted him away. A growl of protest quickly emerged from his throat as he tried to near it again but Levi turned around and pushed his face away from him, still having a gentle touch. His face suddenly twisted in pain and gasped slightly before reaching to hold his side that Eren suspected he was hurt.

“Eren, stop,” he snapped slightly. “Since when did you care?”

That stopped him dead in his tracks. Feeling like a knife was just embedded in his chest, he watched as Levi almost limped into the bedroom and turned to the bathroom. The numbness began to spread over him and he knew that he shouldn’t be feeling this way, especially when he was the one making the distance between them. He couldn’t help but feel like this was somehow his fault, like him distancing himself from Levi somehow made him get hurt. A small part of him knew that it wasn’t but he couldn’t help the guilt consuming him. Wanting to do something, anything, he made himself follow after Levi.

Seeing that the bathroom door wasn’t completely shut, the gap that was offered gave him a view of the spotless counter and Levi leaning against it, both of his hands mostly holding himself up. He breathed deeply a few times before using his hands to push himself off the counter and began to take off the black jacket. Eren knew that had been bleeding but he didn’t know how bad until he saw the dark blood coating his white undershirt. Seeing the blood soaking his side brought him briefly back to the metal table that he was strapped to daily, imagining the blood coating his skin like a second layer and he had to shake his head to bring himself back. He couldn’t go back to that, not when he needed to do something for Levi.

As he peeled away the white undershirt, even though he hissed and cursed under his breath at the movement, Eren could see where the source of the bleeding once was. A thick, white bandage covered most of his side and Eren quickly growled a protest when he began to pull away at the bandage. He probably wanted to see how bad it was and he also couldn’t help but want to know.

The wound was stitched with black thread and only ran no more than three inches across his pale skin but the area around it ran an angry shade of red. Sadly knowing too much about stitches, he could tell that whoever sewed him up was friendly with a threat and needle. Though from Levi’s movement, Eren could see that they were pulling and beginning to loosen. If he kept moving around then he would continue to make them pull and he would start to bleed again. He nudged the door open so he could fully go into the bathroom but Levi didn’t seem to pay him any attention as his eyes trailed over the stitches.

After the shock of seeing the angry looking wound, Eren’s eyes began to drift off of his side and discovered familiar white lines that littered his pale skin. Scars peppered Levi’s back and front, some drifting to his arms but the majority of it remained on his chest. Something pulled at his own chest then and he wanted to know every story associated with each scar. He wanted to show that he also had scars and knowing that they actually shared something in common, made him feel more connected to the man in front of him. Even if he was trying everything in his power to still detach himself from him, Eren knew that he’d never completely forget about Levi. Then his gaze traveled past the scars and onto the well-built muscles. Shaking his head suddenly, he felt frustrated with himself, knowing that Levi was injured and he was ogling over the man’s built.

“Fuck,” he suddenly muttered to himself.

Eren focused back on the man standing in front of the mirror. He leaned against the counter once again but his head hung as his hands turned into fists. His knuckles became bone white as he continued to tighten them more.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck! Fuck!” he growled, becoming louder and louder before punching the wall closest to him.

Glass shattered onto the floor as a web of broken mirror spiraled around his fist. Eren’s heart landed in his throat, panic spiking through him as he remembered the violence that had once surrounded him by his previous guards. Pushing the fear and panic down and knowing that Levi would never hurt him, another growl ruptured through his throat, louder than before. He just hoped that Levi understood that it was his way of saying ‘stop’ rather than threatening him. He wished he could shift so that he could properly saying what he wanted to say, but growling and chirping was the closest he could come to at the moment.

When Levi pulled his fist from the mirror, pieces of glass fell and landed on the counter. He could see that blood remained on some of the pieces, meaning that Levi must have split his knuckles, making Eren run over to his side and try to find some way to help. He watched as Levi leaned against the nearest wall, thankful that it wasn’t covered in the pieces of mirror, and slid down to where he sat against the wall. He hung his head once again and placed it into his awaiting hands near his knees. His right hand had blood dripping down his arm but he didn’t seem to mind or care.

What happened?

Eren moved his eyes to his side, seeing that blood was beginning to leak from the stitches but before another growl or chirp could escape from him, he actually looked at Levi. The palm of his heels dug into his eyes and he found water dripping from his wrists but quickly came to the realization that it wasn’t water but tears. His rock and savior was crying. A quiet chirp made its way out and that finally seemed to get his attention.

His beautiful Levi looked exhausted, the dark circles under his eyes turning almost purple and the liquid silver he began to love was dull. Tear streaks stained his cheeks and ran down his neck. His face was cold and emotionless until his eyes suddenly began to burn with rage. Eren could quickly tell that the anger that quickly engulfed him wasn’t directed at him, but at whoever did this to him. Whoever dared to injure him and Eren fought to keep the same anger from emerging from him. However deep the hatred that filled his eyes was a sorrow that was pushing for control, the two emotions clashing against each other. It was almost like he suddenly realized that tears were escaping because he started wiping at his face, trying to get rid of them while getting blood on his check from his still bleeding hand. Eren did the only thing he thought he could do, something that he’s been purposely avoiding for days now but couldn’t leave Levi like this, he stepped closer to him and pressed his body against Levi’s. He stepped in between his legs, using his head to move Levi’s arm to the side and nuzzled into his neck. Levi seemed to completely freeze at the contact, probably wondering what the hell had gotten into him but it took seconds before the man wrapped his arms around him. He could feel his fur becoming damp from where Levi pressed his face into him and could already guess that blood was smearing his fur too. Eren wished that he could return the embrace, to wrap his actual arms around him and hold him like he was being held.

“Fuck,” Levi whispered, cursing once again. “Fuck Furlan.”

His ears perked up at the name, remembering that it was the childhood friend of Levi’s and tried to put together why he was cursing the man. He had clumps of his fur in his fingers and when he tightened them once again, Eren could feel his skin stretching, and he knew that the split knuckles were getting worse. Mind racing, knowing that he could bandage the man himself, he tried to think of another way of helping him when an idea struck him.

The moments he spent in the white lab were always forced into the back of his mind, buried deep but never completely forgotten. Though he suddenly remembered that they used his saliva to see how much faster he healed with it’s help compared to his ‘normal’ healing speed. He never thought that it would work on anything but himself, however, it couldn’t hurt to try. Especially if the injury on Levi’s side continued to bleed and open.

It took a few tries but he finally managed to pull himself out of Levi’s tight embrace. Confusion etched the man’s face when he pulled away and continued to consume his face once Eren moved toward his injured hand. Knowing that Levi would most likely freak out and pull away if he moved too slowly, he ran his large tongue over the cuts on his knuckles before he lost his own courage. The familiar and unpleasant taste of iron coated his tongue and quickly the rest of his mouth. He always hated the way that it covered everything and no matter how much he drank, the taste wouldn’t leave his mouth. It briefly brought back memories that he quickly repressed, trying to focus on the man in front of him instead of the horrors playing out in his mind. Of the lab coats forcing unknown liquids and blood down his throat and seeing how his body reacted, how quickly his body fought whatever diseases they pumped into him.

Levi reacted the way he thought he was going to. Even with how exhausted and upset he looked, he liked being clean and having Eren run his tongue over an open wound was probably the opposite of clean in his mind.

“Eren!” he gasped, quickly yanking his hand away from his tongue and almost staring at him in horror.

If he wasn’t anxiously waiting for the steam to begin raising from Levi’s knuckles, he probably would have laughed at his wide eyes and dropped jaw.

“That’s fucking disgusting,” he groaned. “Why would you do that?”

He chose to stare at the hand he unceremonially licked and ignored Levi’s rant about how much germs were probably in his mouth.

His mood seemed to turn quick.

Though he didn’t appreciate being called disgusting, even if it was just describing the action that he just made but he was pleased to see that Levi’s eyes weren’t engulfed in anger and sorrow. Even if some of the sadness remained, the majority of it was replaced by annoyance. Relief flooded his chest once he saw steam emerge from Levi’s knuckles, that he didn’t annoy him for no reason and there now was a way to actually help him. The steam was mostly unnoticed by Levi until he must have spotted it out of the corner of his eye. His eyes, that were already wide from Eren licking his open wound, grew to an impossible size as he watched his skin stitch together.

Eren waited patiently for his reaction but from everything else that he had learned about him, his intelligence and healing ability, he could only hope that Levi would take this well too. However, there had to be a limit to what he could take. This ability wasn’t that different from his ‘regular’ healing ability, just this one he can share with other people, but his ability to shift would probably be the one that pushes him over the edge. When the last bit of steam vanished from his skin and almost back to normal, he used his fingers to trace where his injuries used to be. Where the skin stitched together, the area around it was an angry pink and he was happy to note that it didn’t scar. He knew that the one on his side if he healed it, would turn into a scar but at least there wasn’t a chance of infection or bleeding when he’d be done.

While Levi was still fascinated by his newly grown skin over his knuckles, Eren moved out from in between his legs and looked at the still bleeding cut. It wasn’t to the point that the blood was pooling out around him but it had been worse than the last time he looked. He noticed, happy with whoever stitched him up, that they used similar ones that the lab coats frequently used on him. The ones that didn’t need to be professionally taken out but dissolved over time and fell off. The only thing he had been worried about was that they would have to remove the stitches, which involved opening him up again. He would still heal him though, especially when Levi looked like he could barely move an inch off the floor and Eren didn’t know how to operate a phone to call for help.

He repeated the action that Levi called disgusting, the iron continuing to build up in his mouth and the feeling of wire from the stitches running across his tongue almost made him want to gag. Levi jerked slightly from the contact, probably because his tongue was slightly rough, something he learned from Petra after she told him when she wanted to know more about his animal form. Stepping away once he made sure that he coated the cut fully and saw that Levi had moved his attention to his side. He seemed to be holding his breath, waiting for the steam to start appearing like how it did on his own hand. Moments passed before it eventually started steaming.

Once his flesh stitched together just like the one on his hand, Levi did the exact same thing that he did with his knuckles, he started stroking the now scar with his fingers. Probably still trying to prove to himself that the wound healed already and all that was left was a new scar.

“How?” Levi whispered.

I’m a freak, that’s how.

 

Levi took everything the way that he expected him to, quietly thinking things over in his mind and just accepting it. He didn’t know how he did it. Just go back to normal and pretend that Eren wasn’t a freak when he clearly was. Maybe it was the fact that he couldn’t speak for himself and that’s why he wasn’t grilling him. It would be hard to explain everything if the only thing he could do was growl and chirp. Though he would never be able to explain everything because next time Levi left, he would be gone and out of his life forever. A pain struck at his heart a moment later, he wanted to rub at his chest to help it go away but looking at Levi made it worse.

The pain continued when he thought of how much pain Levi would have been in, knowing how much it hurt to pull stitches and have open wounds.

“Thank you,” Levi suddenly spoken up. “I don’t think that I would have been able to stitch myself back up...not in the state that I am in now.”

Not knowing how to respond, he just nodded to make it know that he understood and the pain in his chest began to subside then.

“We definitely can’t tell Hanji about this...she is already too excited about your healing ability,” he started, talking to himself more than Eren.

Of the few times that actually meet Hanji, he could understand what he meant. The first time, she mostly broke into the apartment to see him and relentlessly searched for him until Levi came to stop her. She probably only knew about his healing abilities and nothing of his intelligence for an animal. She didn’t need another reason to break into Levi’s house.

“Furlan ordered a hit on me,” Levi confessed suddenly.

He heard that term before but only on certain shows that he watched with Levi, and they were the ones that he said were fake. His head tilted slightly, confused on what he meant. Levi looked up at him before reaching across to run his still bloody fingers against his cheek and letting out a deep sigh. His face seemed to twist in pain, but it couldn’t be from his injuries since they were already healed up, just tender if it was anything like what happened to him. It must be with whatever he was admitting to himself and Eren wanted to tell him that he didn’t have to say anything, he didn’t have to explain why he came home with the scent of blood almost overpowering his own.

“He sent someone after me...christ he was just a kid,” he continued, raking a hand through his hair and ended up grabbed a fist full of it. “He sent a kid after me.”

Still confused but seeing the struggle that was conflicting Levi, he moved closer to him and pressed his head against his shoulder. Hoping to pull some of the attention onto him so Levi wasn’t overthinking and become trapped in his own head. He wrapped an arm around Eren and ended up running his fingers through the fur around the back of his neck.

“We’ve survived through so much together...somehow managed to live in the slums as children and this is what I get for showing compassion. I literally get stabbed in the back,” he ranted.

He then placed his head on top of Eren’s, burying his face in it and letting out another deep breath, like he was trying to get a hold of his emotions once again.

“Erwin always warned me that Furlan was the jealous type and I didn’t believe him...not until I was chosen to be his second in command and that’s when they disappeared. Gone, along with everything they owed in our apartment together, like they never existed. He claimed that I changed, that I replaced him and Izzy with Erwin and Hanji, but that couldn’t be the further from the truth. Nothing could replace the two of them and I don’t think anyone ever will,” Levi poured out of him. This was probably another thing that he’s never told anyone, just like the past that he shared with the same two people he now spoke of. “I couldn’t believe that Furlan was the mastermind behind the attacks on us...I wouldn’t. No matter how much evidence was piling toward the actual truth...I refused to see it.”

His hold on Eren tightened and even though he was trying to understand that was pouring out of Levi at the moment, he stayed quiet so that he could continue. If he stopped him then he wouldn’t get what he needed off his chest.

“Furlan tried everything to get Shadis’ attention, to prove himself as something other than bastard children that he picked off the street. He matched me at combat and intelligence but was too emotional...maybe that was why as Shadis laid dying that he specifically chose me as Erwin’s second. Of course, Erwin had already picked me but needed Shadis’ approval. When they announced Erwin as the successor and me as second in command, that was the first time that Furlan ever snapped to. He had mostly been avoiding me for months and when I tried to talk to him, he ranted that he couldn’t compete against me before disappearing with Izzy...I haven’t seen him since then...I never saw him as my competition but as my brother, the same way I thought he saw me...but I guess that's just the way I viewed it.”

Eren continued to listen to everything that poured out of him, every detail he could absorb, things Levi’s never told anyone and only kept to himself for years. He was putting an image of what Levi was like outside of these walls, that he put up a front to everyone around him and only showed his true colors to him. He took everything in because when he left, it was the only thing that he allowed himself to take from this.

Next time Levi leaves...I’m leaving too.

 

He didn’t know how long they both sat on the tiled floor but it was enough for both of their limbs and butts to go numb. Before he was ushered out of the bathroom so Levi could take a shower and change, he rubbed the blood that managed to get on Eren’s fur with a wet rag. He would have apparently preferred to give him a bath but it was late and he admitted that he was dead on his feet. Eren didn’t have to wait long for his shower to end and he emerged from the bathroom with a trail of steam behind him, dressed already in sweatpants and his usual black long-sleeved shirt. Turning on the television, he slid into his bed but continued to hold up the blanket he was under like he was waiting for Eren to slide in with him.

“Don’t fight me on this, Eren,” Levi mumbled, sounding like he was already falling asleep.

Deciding to not do exactly that, he climbed onto the bed and went underneath the blanket with him. Before he could probably arrange himself, planning on putting his back against Levi so he didn’t make himself feel weird, he was grabbed and forced down onto the bed. Not enough force that would have probably send him into a panic attack, but the action did squeeze his heart painfully, remembering being held down by his guards and thrown onto his bed. The pain in his chest turned into something altogether when he realized that Levi’s face was inches from his own. Heat bloomed throughout his face and chest and he couldn’t decide if he wanted to move closer or further away. He chose not to move mostly for the fact that it looked like Levi already passed out, the fastest that he’s ever seen him fall asleep. The line that had etched its way into his forehead over the past hour or so remained, even though it was barely there. Whatever haunted him since he got home still bothered him in his sleep and all Eren could do to make himself feel better was snuggling up closer to him. Resting his head underneath Levi’s chin, causing the man’s loose hold on him to tighten slightly so he couldn’t move away.

He wished then that he could stay for as long as Levi would have him. To stay in this man’s arms and not worry about the lab coats that could be close behind him. Though he worried about the foreign feelings he was developing for Levi too, he had felt something remotely close for Petra, but he never wanted to kiss her or anything close to the intimate things plaguing his mind with Levi. Immediately pushing those said thought away, he closed his eyes and tuned out the soft voices that came out of the television, focusing on instead of the gentle breathing of the man in front of. It quickly lured him to sleep and he welcomed the darkness that awaited him, no white hallways or bloodied mothers plagued his dreams that night.

 

Levi stayed in bed for most of the next day, only getting up when Eren’s and his stomach began to growl, and he didn’t know why. He’d never seen him stay in bed past ten in the morning and always complained when he did. However, it didn’t seem like he minded and he dozed on and off all day long. Eren wasn’t sure if it was because what happened yesterday really struck a chord in Levi or if it was the stress of his body healing too quickly than it was used to. He was betting on both actually.

He stayed by his side the whole day, moving wherever Levi went, except when he went into the bathroom of course. It seemed to make him feel better, a faint smile crossing his face when he saw that Eren was chasing after him. It was honestly an apology for the past couple of days and for what he was going to do next time. An added bonus was that it seemed to raise Levi’s spirit. He tried not to feel proud about that but no matter how many times he reminded himself that he could be leaving tomorrow, it wouldn’t die in his chest.

It didn’t help that Levi was also extra clingy as well. He always was keeping contact with him, whether it was simply laying a hand on him while he sat up and watched television with Eren or wrapping an arm around his waist while he slept. It surprised Eren how much it didn’t bother him, that he enjoyed every touch that he received from the man. He was savoring everything that he could get. More purrs managed to erupt through him and Levi managing to pull them out of him with a few strokes of his fingers. It seemed like he was trying to reassure himself that he wasn’t bored just laying around all day.

Throughout the day, there was a conflict deep inside of him. He was trying to come up with more reasons to stay. That Furlan could send more people after Levi and he could help protect him, though that ended with him wondering how he’d even fight in this form. He could barely do anything in his human form too, but that was when he was half-starved and malnourished. Maybe he’d stand a chance on two feet...but Levi has never seen him in human form and didn’t even know that he could shift. Everything always went back to that he hasn’t shown Levi that he was actually human...well as human as he could be and that the lab coats would eventually come after him.

Petra warned him that they would hunt him down, they kept him alive for this long so he was important to them in some way. They wouldn’t just let him leave and they were so quick to kill anyone that helped him, that he was worried for Levi’s sake. From what Eren could put together, Levi had some form of power than the average person, but it wouldn’t be enough to stop them. Nothing would stop them until they found him or he was dead, and he didn’t lose so many people just to end up dead. He needed to leave not just for his own safety, but for Levi’s as well. Petra gave him a place that was capable of taking care of him and making sure that they never found him again. That’s what she promised anyways, he just hoped that he showed up and immediately turned away at the door. He didn’t know what he’d do if that happened and when his thoughts traveled down that road, his chest tightened and a quiet panic would creep into it. He would have to remind himself that he would worry about it when he got to that and that there was no use panicking over something that possibly wouldn’t happen.

Their little bubble of peace was interrupted just as the sun began to set with Levi’s phone buzzing annoying amount of times in a row. Eren had been in the middle of watching him taking the third nap that day, his face slightly scrunching up from whatever he dreamed about, and he actually jumped at the sudden noise and vibration. Levi immediately shot up, already in full alert and eyes searching for trouble before he heard the phone vibrate once again. Letting out a deep sigh, he fell back onto his bed and grabbed Eren before pulling him next to him, completely ignoring the phone. A quiet chirp came out of his throat, mostly questioning him if he was going to ignore the phone that kept vibrating on and off.

“Shh, if you ignore it then it’ll go away,” he groaned, pulling Eren closer to him so he could press his face into his fur.

It didn’t go away like he said it would, it continued for at least five minutes and Levi actually growled as he sat up and snatched the phone off the side table. Slamming a finger on the screen after rolling his eyes at whoever has been bothering them, he placed the phone to his ear.

“What Hanji?” he lightly snapped, rubbing his fingers on the bridge of his nose, something Eren picked up when he was getting or already annoyed.

“I wanted to make sure you didn’t bleed out in the middle of the night, this is the thanks that I get for stitching you up?” Eren could hear her laughing from the small device.

“I’ve been sleeping all day, recovering, like I should be doing right now.”

He absentmindedly reached across the bed to start twirling Eren’s fur with his finger, something that he didn’t mind at all. “Maybe you should get stabbed more often, you’ll actually get some sleep.”

“Yeah, I rather have that not happen.”

“How’s it looking? Did you change the bandage and check the stitches?”

Levi suddenly froze his movement with his fur and it hit him too. How was he going to explain how his injury most healed overnight when it should take weeks before it was properly healed? Eren wondered if he should have just left it and made Levi call her so she could have fixed the stitches but he didn’t regret healing him. Though now he was in a tough situation with Hanji.

“Levi?” she questioned.

“Yeah, I did,” he lied. “Everything’s looking good.”

“You’re never this upbeat, usually it’s a ‘fuck you’ and a ‘stop calling my goddamn phone,’ specially if you get injured.”

“That’s what happens when I have more than four hours of sleep and have someone that I actually enjoy spending time with.”

His heart broke a little at that. “You saying that you don’t love me?”

“Goodbye, Hanji.”

“Oh! Wait, wait, wait!”

Levi had to pull the phone away from his ear for a second because of her sudden screaming and he gave Eren a look like he wanted to murder her.

“What?” he snapped once again.

“Tomorrow Erwin wants to see you and I know you don’t like people coming over to your house-” she started.

Tomorrow? Tomorrow is too soon.

If Levi left the apartment tomorrow then that would mean that he would be gone too. He hoped that he would have maybe three or four days to spend with Levi, not barely one. “He wants to come in, doesn’t he? He knows that I just got stabbed last night right?”

“It’s not that bad...unless you want to tell me something that could have made it worse?”

“It’s fine, Hanji.”

“It’s about what happened last night with you and the recruits want to hear everything from your mouth. Like you said last night if they think that your injury is worse than it is, then knowing them, they’re going to try and take down every Garrison that they can find. You and Erwin are the lifeline of the Recon, if one of you go down then they will do anything to avenge you.”

“Loyal bastards.”

There was no malice in his voice but rather sympathy as he took a deep breath, pressing the hand that once was running through his fur now into his forehead as he thought.

“Why didn't he ask me personally?” Levi asked her.

“You wouldn’t have picked up,” she simply said.

“Damn right I wouldn’t have.”

“Since I have your car still, I’ll pick you up.”

“Just text me the details later. Now, let your patient sleep.”

“Good night, Mr. Grumpy.”

Levi tossed his phone onto the bed and ruffled his hair, a frown now consuming his face.

“What do we do about this?” he asked Eren, pointing to his side where there should be an injury. “She’ll be persistent to see it. I’ll probably have to tell her...god she’s going to be a pain.”

Eren half-heartedly listened to his ranting about how Hanji was going to make his life a living hell after she finds out, but all he could think about was that he had less than a day to spend with him.

 

The day passed too quickly and even though Levi didn’t succumb to sleep until later in the night, he still didn’t move that much out of bed. His body was still recovering and Eren had to remind himself that when he healed himself for the first couple of times, his body reacted the same way. It was a normal reaction but he wished that he spent more hours with an awake Levi since he went to bed pretty early for them too. What made it worse was that he was already getting dressed to leave when began to wake up.

He was dressed in fitting dark jeans that hugged his thighs and a dark grey long-sleeved sweater. Levi was in the bathroom when he fully came to his senses and realized that he would be the last view moments he would have with him. Immediately jumping off the bed, he rushed to his side, breathing in his scent and filing it deep in his memories so he wouldn’t forget.

“Morning,” Levi greeted him by reaching down and rubbing the top of his head before returning to fix his hair and brush his teeth.

The morning routine passed too quickly for Eren’s liking, even when he tried to eat as slow as he could, Levi consumed his breakfast faster than normal and because he wanted to be at his side for the remainder of the time, he abandoned his food to follow him around. When he managed to stand still for more than two seconds, either looking for something he needed or staring down at whatever was on his phone, Eren rubbed his head and neck against the man’s leg. Trying to get the last bit of contact that both of them were going to receive. Everytime that he did, Levi would reach down and pet him before going back to whatever he was doing. It surprised him how the constant rubbing and trying to get his attention wasn’t bothering Levi, but rather he seemed to enjoy. Especially with the last couple of days, he would barely look at him.

“I’ll be back in about two hours, I don’t plan on staying for very long,” Levi suddenly said after looking up from his phone.

He had sitting on the couch while scrolling through his phone, probably taking in all the emails that he missed yesterday and the night before. Eren had planted himself right next to his feet, placing his head on Levi’s knees as he had used one hand to swipe and reply on his phone and the other to rub behind his ears, earning him a deep purr. Every minute that passed by, his heart grew heavy and his eyes grew foggy with unshed tears but held them back in so Levi wouldn’t take more time to ask him what’s wrong. When Levi began to get up, Eren, without thinking, put more of his weight down on him so that it almost made him fall back onto the couch.

“Eren, come on,” he chuckled slightly. “I’ll be back before you know it.”

But I won’t be here.

When he attempted to stand back up, he used his actual strength and easily moved him to the side. As he walked closer to the front door, every step he took almost felt like a needle to his heart. Paining him more and more as he walked farther away from him. He chased after the man and watched helplessly as he grabbed his keys and other things that he stuck in his pockets. As a last resort to make him stay for a bit longer, when Levi reached for the knob of the front door, Eren snagged his sleeve with his teeth, yanking his hand away from it.

“Eren, really?” he asked, a hint of annoyance beginning to thread into his voice. “I know that you’re probably worried about me but it’s getting a little much. Now, stop and wait for me like a good boy.”

With those final words, he left.

 

Eren had his head pressed against the front door for god knows how long. His body long becoming numb, from sitting on the floor for so long or the fact that he would never see Levi again, or maybe it was both. Silent tears had been darkening the fur around his eyes and he felt it completely soaking his fur. He probably sat there not as long as he thought he did but it still felt like an eternity. Eventually, he told himself to stop feeling sorry and wishing that Levi would just magically appear back in the apartment, and do what he needed to do.

Deciding to shift on the bed so that at least he’d be comfortable while going through agonizing pain, he headed into the bedroom. He sat in the center of the soft bed, looking around the room one last time through the eyes that he had now. He knew that he wouldn’t have long to leave after he shifted, mostly because he didn’t know how long it would take to make himself leave. Letting out a deep breath, he let himself go and welcomed the shift.

The heat was almost as uncomfortable as the waves of his muscles contracting, and bones snapping and reforming. It’s never been as bad as the first time that he was forced to shift, the first one that he could remember anyway. When he didn’t shift back and forth regularly, at least once a week, then the first shift was always the hardest. Still, the pain wasn’t as bad as what he felt in his chest. He apologized over and over again in his head to Levi, asking his forgiveness for leaving, for going to make him sick with worry about his pet. The immense amount of pain that made him stop mid-shift didn’t appear, probably because he actually needed to leave and actually believed that he had to go.

Too soon was the shift completed, his fingers tightly gripping the bed sheets as the last of his muscles constricted and began to lightly spasm. A groan slipped past his lips as his sweat covered body collapsed onto the soft bed below him. He turned his head slightly to breath in the scent that he began to love, making his body and muscles relax. Moving at first was such a weird and foreign feeling that he needed a second to just slightly move his limbs, getting them used to their movements again. His bare feet touched the carpet, feeling softer than it did against his paws, and when he first tried to stand up, he landed right back on the bed.

Fuck.

He looked down at his scared-feet, his toes still a shade lighter than his skin from the electricity that he could still feel phantom pains of if he stood on his feet for too long and long scars across the top of his right foot. They wanted to see if he could regrow or reconnect the tendons in his foot, something that still made it freeze up randomly, like it never truly recovered. He willed them to work, begged them to work with him so he could leave as soon as possible. Though he needed to stumble across the room to grab some clothes since walking around naked probably wasn’t the best, especially when it was cold outside.

While he waited for his legs to wake up and actually function, he felt his body, making sure that his shift didn’t miss anything, something happened more than once. He would feel for his ears and find that they’re further up than normal and fluffy, his animal ears still remaining or his tail still there. That was the first thing he felt for but just found smooth skin instead. Next, he looked at his hands, seeing that the same scars that covered his toes still covered his fingertips that almost traveled to his knuckles. His chipped and uneven nails weren’t long and clawed, much to his relief. While his hands traveled to his ears, his tongue traced over his teeth, searching for the long canines that could puncture his lower lip if he wasn’t careful and found nothing. Noticing that his ears were normal and that his hair was still greased and long enough to brush his shoulders, he searched for where he was shot before coming here. He found it certainly fast, one of the few scars that were circular and it had another one that ran straight through it. It was probably when Hanji cut him open to get the bullet out from his stomach when they first found him. He thought another quiet thank you to her and Levi before trying to stand up one more time.

His legs finally decided to work with him and he didn’t have that much trouble reaching the dresser that he’s seen Levi take clothes out of. The first drawer was socks and undergarments, something he didn’t want to take from Levi. Honestly, he didn’t want to take anything but he couldn’t leave naked. He grabbed a black shirt and one of Levi’s many grey sweatpants that he owned. As he stepped into his clothes, he had been so used to mostly walking around naked with fur for so long that the cotton and cloth felt weird against his skin.

Realizing that he was shorter than Levi because the shirt was almost comical how it hung to his mid-thigh and barely held onto him. Thankfully the sweatpants were elastic and secure around his small waist and thin ankles. He already noticed that even though he gained some fat and weight from staying here, his wrists were still paper thin and so was the rest of his body. Rubbing his wrists, feeling the scars that ran down his inner forearm and deciding if he wanted to see if he could find shoes that would fit him or just go barefoot. He’s gone barefoot for as long as he could remember and if nothing that Levi owned seemed to fit him, then most likely his shoes wouldn’t work for him either. Hopefully, he just didn’t injure his foot or anything while he looked for the building that he still couldn’t completely remember the name, just that it was one of the largest buildings in the city.

He ran through his head of whether he should take any food, not knowing how long he was honestly going to be running around, but he couldn’t bring himself to go through Levi’s food. Not when he’s already going to be stealing his clothes. He wondered if he’d be able to return them somehow, to find Levi again and possibly introduce himself once again but actually as himself and not an animal. As he took in the familiar room around him, the hole in his heart, that he tried to desperately to ignore, continued to widen, eating everything in its way. Before he summoned the willpower that would be needed to make himself leave his haven, he grabbed the shirt that Levi wore to bed and brought it up to his nose. It was the last time that he was going to be smelling this soothing scent and he had to commit it to memory. He didn’t want Levi to become like his mother, that he couldn’t remember anything about her. Couldn’t imagine her voice, her smile, nothing. He couldn’t let Levi become that, just another faceless memory that tormented him in the middle of the night.

A noise of a sharp whistle made Eren’s head spin toward the door and what he found made the shirt slip through his fingers. The man that he was desperately trying to avoid in this form and leave behind was now standing in the doorway of the bedroom with a silver gun pointed at him.

Oh no. Oh no, no, no!

“Care to explain how you got into my house?” Levi asked him.

Everything about the man in front of him was nothing like the one that he’s been growing to cherish and lov... no he wouldn’t like himself finish that thought. This man was cold, a lethal predator that had his hard, steel eyes lasered on him. Taking in every breath that he took and probably calculating how overwhelmed Eren was with his whole being shaking almost violently.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. It was never supposed to be like this.

“Are you too scared to talk or just stupid?” he snapped.

He actually flinched at that words that were thrown his way.

He wanted his Levi back. The one that held him during his panic attacks, who stopped them before they even came crashing into his chest. The one that had to be in constant physical contact with him for the past two days, his body too tired after he saved his life. Tears began to blur his vision and he couldn’t do anything to stop them from their silent downfall. From what he could see, the tears had no effect on the man and actually looked a little irritated to see them.

“I’m going to ask you one more time, why are you in my house?” Levi questioned once again.

The more he spoke, the more his voice became more calm, cold and unmoving. He didn’t understand how he could be so calm with a gun in his hand. The one time that himself held a gun was a mess and it was a miracle he managed to save Petra from his previous bodyguard. Suddenly the image of the bald man laying on the floor, blood and pink matter splattering the floor and himself, made him almost vomit in his mouth. He tried to push the images out but it continued to overtake him and even replacing the man’s body with his own. Though he wasn’t in the white hallways but on the carpet that his own feet touched now. Levi could kill him and he’d never know what happened to his pet, he’d never know that the one he gunned down was the same being.

He opened his mouth, hoping to diffuse the situation but found nothing coming out. He hadn’t used his voice in so long, he didn’t even know if he could speak properly. Trying once again, the only thing that came out with a pathetic wheeze and high pitched whine.

“Furlan sent a mute child after me,” Levi suddenly whispered to himself. “Another kid for me to kill.”

He shook his head and tried to open his mouth once again, trying to deny any involvement with Furlan. Eren would never involve himself with that man, the man that broke Levi apart and sent someone to hurt one of the most important people in Eren’s life. He wouldn’t want to even breath in the same air as the man.

Eren could see the calmness that he once had, flickered to the same anger that plagued his eyes the night he was stabbed. It was there for more than a few moments and Eren shrunk onto himself, trying to make his already small body, even more, tinier, showing Levi that he wasn’t the threat. The anger faded away, even though he could still see it behind the false calm Levi placed over himself.

“Levi,” he managed to whisper even though it barely sounded like his name.

He wanted to explain everything to him, about who he truly was but he honestly didn’t know if Levi would actually listen to him. He knew that Eren as an animal had abilities beyond what a normal cat would be able to do, but changing into a human was pushing it too far. He would never believe him unless he shifted and he knew that he wouldn’t be able to, not for at least another few more hours. If he managed to even shift, he’d probably pass out right after shifting or a few minutes after, he body not being able to handle that much stress in one day.

When he said Levi’s name, his eyes refocused onto Eren and readjusted his hold on the gun that was still pointing straight at his chest.

“Get out,” he finally ordered.

Not completely sure if he heard what Levi said correctly, his body continued to tremble.

“You’re just a kid that he’s sending out to the slaughter. Now get the fuck out of here before I change my mind,” he commanded.

He cocked his gun while he spoke, making Eren imagine those white walls again, of the blood that spilled in the hallway because of him, because of his desire to not be trapped anymore. He was consumed with those images that now wanted to be present, wanted to be known again. For him to remember what he’s done to others so he could escape, to remember the people that died so he could leave.

The next thing he knew, the unforgettable sound of a gunshot filled his sensitive ears and he honestly didn’t know if it was some form of trauma of seeing a gun pointed at him once again or if Levi actually fired at him, but he would never hurt him. However, when pain bloomed in his arm, a discomfort slamming into his bones and he realized that Levi could indeed hurt him. Being forced out of the white walls, he instinctively grabbed for the pain. Looking down at his arm, he saw blood flowing down to his wrists and coating his fingers with the red liquid.  His wide eyes turn toward the man who shot him, who no longer was Levi who took care of him and he couldn’t stop the tears that continued to cascade down his face.

“I said get the fuck out of my house,” he breathed through his teeth.

Not knowing what else to do, he ran. The apartment that once had been his haven flashed by him as he slammed the front door open, revealing a long hallway with two doors near the end. His brain mostly shutting down on him, the only command that it giving was to run and he threw himself into the first door that he saw. The door gave away and revealed stairs that seemed to go on and on forever as he looked over the edge. As he slammed into each wall, running and tripping over himself to get to the lowest floor, he didn’t care that his muscles were screaming at him to stop. That it was too early for him to be using this much energy so soon after a shift and his legs weren’t ready. Eventually, the numbness of everything that happened in that small bedroom took over his body, taking away the pain that grasped onto his being and only left behind the ache of his heart being torn apart every time he thought of Levi’s cold eyes staring at him.

Chapter Text

He couldn’t find Eren.

No matter where he looked, he couldn’t find the large cat and he was worried that the fucker that came into his apartment let him out. However, it wasn’t like he could have gone anywhere, he could barely reach the elevator and doubted that he’s ever seen one in his life. Also, the stairs door was closed when he came back up to grab some papers that Erwin messaged him about. He had to be somewhere in the apartment. Searching in almost ridiculous places, places where Eren’s large body couldn’t possibly fit and then began searching in places he already checked again.

As he searched, his mind went to the child that had somehow snuck into his home and frightened Eren enough to make him hide. He’d known something was wrong when he got back onto his floor after receiving the text message from Erwin. He had been waiting in the underground garage for Hanji to show up, taking her sweet ass time getting there. When he entered his apartment, everything that’s been learned over the years of living on the street and everything drilled into him, he quickly felt something was off. Pulling open the drawer that his keys usually sat on top of the table, he grabbed the small pistol that he kept in there.

For such a small gun, it weighed heavily in his hand and headed into his bedroom where he heard quiet footsteps coming from there. His first instinct was to shot on sight, to take down the introducer or injure them enough to take them in for questioning, but he held himself back. Furlan had sent a child after him last time and as he opened the door more, he realized that he wasn’t afraid to do it again. The kid who stood in the middle of his room was almost painfully thin and reminded Levi of himself when he was living on the street. He couldn’t completely see what he was doing, his back turned toward him but he could tell that the clothes that covered him were far too big for him. It would have been comical if it wasn’t happening in his own home. The clothes probably made him look smaller than he actually was but he didn’t focus too much on that, he just needed to know why this kid was here.

He whistled to get his attention and the boy immediately turned his way, letting a piece of Levi’s clothes fall to the ground. Before he could think of why this kid had his clothes, he tried to keep his face neutral as his eyes scanned him and discovered unnerving scars. It took less than a few seconds to take him in and weigh down that he wasn’t a threat, probably wouldn’t be able to lift a finger against him. However, the white, thin scars that covered the kid’s arms, one that ran from his elbow to wrist and from how wide the scar was, it had been deep and wondered how the kid survived.

He thought that the numerous scars that covered him, almost making the tanned flesh look like dirt and the white lines his actual skin. He briefly looked at his hands and found that the tips of his fingertips were consumed in scars, some of them reaching up to his knuckles. The same could be said for his toes, from what he could see from the bare feet. The only scar that he could see that was worse than the one on his forearm was the one on his neck. He was trying to understand how this kid had survived with all of these scars if some of them were self-inflicted or not. The one on his neck, he couldn’t imagine someone doing that to themselves. It was the only place where scars didn’t litter his skin and only one was known. The scar started and ended at his jugulars, he could tell where whoever did this to the kid started on the left side, it slightly wider than the other side. He had more scars that plagued his face, one that cut his right eyebrow in half and another one that cut through his left cheek that ran to his jaw. Those being the most prominent ones anyways.

The kid’s hair was in desperate need of a cut and wash, grease covered the roots of the chocolate locks and he could see the split ends from across the room. His face was thin but he could see that it still needed to build some fat in his cheeks. The brightest set of green eyes locked onto him, gold filling the edges of his irises and they looked at him with such terror and sorrow that he almost felt sorry for the kid. If the kid managed to be able to gain some muscle and meat on his bones, he admitted to himself that the kid would have actually been attractive...

Snapping back into reality when he heard the front door open, Levi grabbed the gun that he placed on his bed and prepared himself encase someone else was sent after the kid came back in one piece.

“Levi!” Hanji voice drifted through the apartment, a sing-song tone attached the end of his name.

His body completely relaxed at her voice, knowing there wasn’t any danger at the moment, and dropped his gun back onto the bed.

“In here,” he called out to her before returning back to his search for the large cat.

“I was waiting for you in the lobby and found a bunch of mail that-Oh, my god, why is there blood?” she started.

He looked up from underneath his bed, seeing that she was pointing out the blood trail that led from the front doorway to where the kid once stood. Levi didn’t feel that guilty for shooting the kid. The kid was mostly just staring at him shell-shocked, probably that he was letting him live instead of killing him outright like he usually would have done. No matter how much he would have yelled at him, it would have taken forever for him to get the kid out of his apartment. Shooting him was the next best thing and it did the trick, made him fly out of his home like a bat out of hell.

“Furlan sent another kid after me,” he stated simply, getting up from the bed and moving to his walk-in closet.

He didn’t see the furball there either. “He got in? How? And what are you doing?” she questioned.

“I don’t know how, I came back after Erwin messaged me and there he was, just hanging out in my bedroom. And I’m looking for Eren, I can’t find him anywhere.”

“So soon after he literally sent someone not even two days ago? Why would he do that?”

“Hanji, I really don’t care at the moment. The only thing I do care about is finding Eren.”

“Where’s the body?”

He stopped looking under all of his heavy jackets that resided in the very back of his closet and came out to give her a glare. “You think I’d just kill a kid for being here, especially if they didn’t attack me first?”

“You let him get away?”

“Of course I fucking did. He sent a child after me on a suicide mission with nothing but the clothes on his back. I don’t fucking do kids, that’s where I draw the line.”

He turned toward the closest once again to see if he managed to miss Eren and then continue his search in the bathroom. “So he was just standing in your bedroom?”

“That’s what I said.”

She stayed silent for a second. “You realize that almost no one besides us and the rest of the inner circle knows exactly where you live...if Furlan managed to sneak someone in here than that means that you aren’t safe here.”

He stopped his search and turned to her in realization. The Recon had always gone great lengths to keep their Commander and Second’s living arrangements a secret. If everyone knew where they lived there would be more security and funds that they could be focusing on other resources rather than themselves. Erwin’s location had only been found out once and he moved everything he owned in less than twelve hours. It turned out there was a mole for a large gang, that once existed, that managed to sneak through their screening. They were quickly snuffed out and now most likely the same thing was happening again.

“You think we have another mole?” Levi asked her.

She placed a hand underneath her chin, thinking. He realized then that she was holding a large stack of mail in her hand and that he’s been neglecting to pick it up from the front desk on the first floor. “There haven’t been any new recruits since the last batch a few months ago, but Furlan could have been planning this for months. However, no one has been chummy with anyone in the inner circle and everyone’s mostly under death threats if they slip,” Hanji spoke to herself. “Anyways, we shouldn’t speak about this until we can tell Erwin ourselves. Probably not at the meeting, of course, we don’t need anyone else knowing about this.”

She placed his mail on his bed, making it spread out across his bed and probably doing it knowing that it bothered him to no end.

“Anyways, we should start heading out...also I need to look at your wound,” she said, already coming toward him and reaching for his shirt.

“It’s alright, just sore a bit,” he told her, not completely lying to her since it was still tender.

He fought bravely but she managed to snag the end of his shirt and yank upward. If he really wanted to, he could have taken her down but he didn’t feel like explaining to Erwin why their leading doctor wouldn’t be able to operate for a few days. She persistently would find some obscene way to see under his shirt and find the already healed wound. When she laid eyes on the new scar, she gasped lightly and her wide eyes turned to him.

“How?” was all she asked.

“Eren’s healing abilities doesn’t just extend to himself,” he simply said, tugging his shirt out of her grasp and yanking it back down. “I’ll explain later but before we go, I need to know that he didn’t at least get out.”

She almost looked like a fish out of water and he would have chuckled slightly if he wasn’t focused on trying to find his cat. However, first, he started scooping the mail together so he could at least put it somewhere he could get to it when he came back after the meeting. As he grabbed bill after bill, a large grey envelope caught his attention. Placing what he had in his hand back on the bed, he reached for the envelope and his eyes widen at who it was from.

“Petra sent you something?” Hanji said into his ear.

He jumped slightly and turned around to see that she had mostly pressed herself against him to read over his shoulder.

“Aww, why didn’t she send me something?” she whined, trying to reach for the envelope in his hand.

“Excuse me, does this say your name? No, it saying Levi fucking Ackerman-” he began.

“I didn’t know that your middle name was fucking.”

Rolling his eyes, he was torn between reading whatever she sent him now or when he came back. However, they were already running late.

“Why did you let your mail get piled up anyway?” she asked, trying again to grasp the envelope.

He thanked whatever god or mythical beast let him continue to grow despite him being malnourished in his younger years as he kept the envelope a good six inches away from her. “I’ve been busy with a large cat that needs attention and also, I’m a lazy shit that doesn’t leave my apartment,” he simply answered.

“If you don’t open it, I will. We haven’t heard anything from her in almost a year and all of a sudden she writes a letter to you, and you’re not going to immediately open it? You are a terrible friend.”

Rolling his eyes and deciding to open it before Hanji manages to take it from him and open it up with her teeth, he carefully ripped open the thick envelope. Once he pulled the thick paper, the smell of strawberries hit him, a perfume that Petra used to wear when they worked together. He always teased her for having a child’s perfume and it fit her because of her height. Unfolding the stacks of paper, a flash drive came tumbling out from between the pages and Hanji managed to snatch it before he could even think to reach for it.

“Don’t you dare try to plug that in,” Levi told her as continued to examine the letter before fully opening it up.

She huffed suddenly and dropped the flash drive back on the bed but instead went into the other room, probably to grab his laptop from his office. Deciding that there was no point in stopping her, he began to read the letter in his hands.

 

Levi,

I hope that you’re doing well.

It’s been awhile since we’ve spoken and I’m sorry that it couldn’t be over the phone or even through text. There’s something that I need to confess. Something that I’ve been hiding for almost two years. However, I wanted to say that I’m sorry my monthly calls ended but my work began to overtake my spare time until it was the only thing that I could think about.

I want to apologize for lying to you but I never moved to America or any of the European places that I’ve said I traveled too. I’ve been in Paradis and had never left. The only person that knew that I’ve stayed here was Erwin and that was because he gave me the mission to retrieve an object from a lab research.

I’m probably going to get disobeying Erwin but you have the right to know because I’m entrusting this ‘object’ to you when I manage to get it out.

Erwin had managed to capture a high ranking officer in the Military, I never asked for details because they almost left him within an inch of his life, and heard of the Facility. With some research on my part, the Facility seemed like a government-run medical research that was funded by the Military. Nothing seemed the unusual but that they haven’t released any research or any information but rather that they’re working on a miracle drug.

Erwin’s thought process was that obviously, they were working on something other than that, especially from what their intel had told them and wanted a spy to see what they were really doing. Moblit was the one that cracked into their system, to see if there were any irregular positions or anything out of the ordinary until he found what he needed to get a position that could have me at least close to whatever they were working on. We obviously couldn’t tell Hanji, even if she can keep some secrets but everyone would have known something was off.

I ‘quit’ and wanted to sever ties everyone encase something happened to me but I couldn’t help but at least stay in some form of contact with you, even if every word I said had to be formed into a lie. No one could know that I previously worked for the Recon or had any connections to it. Moblit managed to set myself up with a new identity even though my only request was to keep my first name, see that it was fairly common enough.

Not soon after I quit, I got the job that Moblit found for me and it didn’t take too long for me to find what the Military had been throwing thousands of dollars a month. However, it wasn’t what Erwin or I expect to find. I expect a serum or possibly a nuclear weapon but it was nothing like we thought.

They handed me a tray, told me not to look at anything but just walk in and deliver the food and medication at the foot of the bed. When I walked into this isolated room, there was a child laying on a lone bed, small and terrified. It didn’t take too long for me to understand that this child was what the Military was hiding. Even though I mostly knew nothing about him and no one would give me any details about him other than that he was a monster and killed one of their scientists, I tried to warm up to him. It took months before he even said anything back to me or even his name. They told me that I got the job because no one wanted it, that the last caretaker, Hitch, died because of him and tried their best to make me afraid of this child. I could see that the child was scared and just needed someone to be there for him. I quickly found out that Erwin found members that could easily be bribed and stay bribed so that I could spend more time with the child. To gain his trust.  

At first, I tried to keep it professional, tried to not let myself get too attached to the boy, but it’s me. How could I not want to protect this child who didn’t know anything other than pain? I wanted to show him that there was something other than suffering and that he had things to look forward to if we managed to get him out.

Months had passed before I learned what made Eren special. Of why they have kept him in isolation for years and why he was covered in scars...It would be difficult to explain in writing and that’s why I included the flash drive in the envelope. You wouldn’t believe me unless you saw it with your own eyes, it was the same for me.

Erwin and I made arrangements for Eren to get out, to steal him from the Facility so that they couldn’t use him for whatever they wanted. There was no way in hell that they were using him for a ‘miracle drug’ but for his other abilities and it could be dangerous in other hands. We needed to get him out before they killed him, either by accident or need to dispose of him.

This letter was supposed to be sent by my father, in case anything happened to me while evacuating Eren or if I never came home. If this reaches you and Eren managed to get to you and Erwin like I will instruct him to, I have a selfish request.

I want you to take care of him. It’ll serve you both well.

I can’t ask anyone to do this. Hanji will most likely cause him to panic every time she comes home smelling like her lab and Erwin isn’t equipped to take care of someone when all he thinks about is the Recon. You’re the only one that I can entrust him with. You just need to have patience with him at first but he’ll open up pretty quickly if he understands that you aren’t there to hurt him.

I’m sorry that I’m asking this of you, but this the only thing I can think of to keep Eren safe. However, I know you and I know this child. You’ll find him annoying at first or even a pain but you’ll find yourself watching out for him and caring for him like I did. He has that effect on people.

Erwin already promised this but I need you to enforce this, I promise Eren that we would try to help find him his family. I know that it’s probably an impossible task, especially when he can’t remember anything from before he ended up in the Facility besides minor things, but we need to try. Once we get Eren out of the country and with his family then everything will go back to normal but we need to do this one thing.

I’m sorry again but this was the only thing that I could think of that would actually work and manage to keep Eren from reverting back to the way he was before. I entrust him to you. Do me a favor and tell him that I love him and that whatever happened, that it wasn’t his fault. He’s probably tormenting himself with whatever happened when he escaped.

I’m sorry.

 

Love,

Petra

 

By the time he finished the letter, he’d sat down on his bed and had to reread it again to make sure that he was reading everything correctly. He was fearing the worst, that this Eren that she talked about was the same Eren that has been spending the last two weeks with him.

No, that’s not possible. She’s talking about a child while I’ve been housing an animal.

He suddenly remembered the flash drive that had been tucked into the envelope and grabbed it just as Hanji returned to the room, his laptop in tow. Even though he knew that it was impossible, something inside of him was nagging at him that they were the same and the only way to tell was to see whatever was on the drive. Throwing the letter on the bed and almost ripping the laptop out of Hanji’s arms, he anxiously waited for his laptop to start up and see the information.

“Whoa! What happened?” she exclaimed when he took the laptop from her.

Once she saw that he wasn’t going to be answering her but instead pounding his password into the keyboard to gain access to his laptop, she reached for the letter. He didn’t care that she was reading something that Petra personally wrote for him, he needed to know that he was overthinking everything and that he couldn’t be possibly right. That the animal he’s been taken care of was actually this weapon that the Military was hiding from the world. By the time he uploaded the flash drive and found the only video file in there, Hanji with her reading skills managed to finish the almost four-page letter.

“She’s dead, isn’t she?” Hanji suddenly whispered.

He froze in that second, realizing that he missed the whole reason why this letter had been delivered to him. It was only supposed to sent if something happened to her if she didn’t make it when she got her Eren out, but it could also mean that she could have been captured. It didn’t mean that she was dead. However, if they could find her Eren as soon as possible then they can ask him first hand if she managed to survive. It almost surprised him how much hope he had in his chest that she was still alive somehow...even though it wasn’t the Military’s way to keep prisoners. Neither was the Recon’s.

“Do you think the Eren she’s talking about is the one that has been living here for the past two weeks?” he questioned her, avoiding her wanting to talk about Petra.

“What do you mean? You named him Eren, right?...Didn’t you?...Levi?” she began and then became quiet. “What aren’t you telling me, Levi?”

“...Eren is much more intelligent than I was letting on, on top of his healing abilities, he can understand everything that I say. I was going to tell you but I didn’t know how, especially when you were being already suffocating with knowing about his healing ability.”

Before she managed to reply back, he already pressed play on the video and watched as the black background took over his screen.

“Levi, before you see what I’m going to show you why Eren is so special, I want you to know that Erwin hasn’t seen this,” Petra’s voice flowed out from his speakers. “I lied to Erwin and didn’t give the full details about Eren. I only told him about his healing abilities and nothing else because it would have been hard to explain, especially when I’ve only been able to recently get this footage. Please show this to Erwin when you’re done and I wanted to apologize again. If you’re angry, I just ask that you don’t take it out on Eren. He doesn’t need any more trouble in his life.”

As Petra’s voice disappeared from his laptop, the video continued to play and lit up to reveal a lab that reminded him too much of the one that was underneath their HQ. He could feel Hanji pressing herself against him and chose to ignore the heat of her breath against his cheek. They both looked at the screen to see someone laying on a metal slab, the clothes on them swallowed them whole and making their already small body look like a twig. The video quality was less than desirable but he focused his attention on the face of Petra’s Eren and found himself growing restless when he realized that he’s seen that face before. That it was in his apartment not even an hour ago, though from what he could see, there were barely any scars littering his skin. A pit began to form in his stomach, understand that what he thought was impossible was possibly now very real, but he needed to see it happen. If he didn’t then he couldn’t completely commit to his trail of thought.

As they both watched the video, the pit continued to spread in his chest. The screams that forced its way out of the small body managed to rock Levi. It was the screams he’s only heard from men who knew they were going to die and had given up hope of surviving. He felt Hanji grabbing onto his upper arm once they began and tightened once the boy’s muscles began to spasm violently and his limbs bend awkwardly.

By the time that the video went to black, Levi didn’t know what to think, but he did the only thing that he could think of.

“Call Erwin, now,” he commanded Hanji.

 

Erwin had to cancel the meeting, something that he wasn’t happy about and that he said multiple times over the phone to Hanji, but honestly, Levi could not give two shits. He didn’t know what to think or feel, that the last two weeks he’s been harboring this creature that could be human and cat, and that Erwin had been hiding something massive from him for almost two years. He understood that Erwin had liberties to not tell him certain things but one of their most trusted agents had been uncover and in enemy territory. She had been working for the enemy and committing her life to this mission that most likely killed her.

Hanji had been talking his ear off since after she got off the phone with Erwin, trying to theorize why how Eren was about to shift and if he was able to change into his human form while he stayed with Levi. He half listened because he was having an inner battle with himself.

He’s been thinking all along that this intelligent creature was just experimented on, that being the reason for its abilities and he poured his whole life story to it. It wouldn’t have been able to say whatever he told it, half the reason why he said what he said, but now…he’s shared such intimate information with it. Information that almost no one knows about him, that he would very much like to keep secret to his grave. He shared his bed with it, something he would never have done if he’d known. He’d never have taken it in if he’d known. Happily would have pawned it off to Hanji, let her take responsibility for it instead of letting it stay at his house. There were many things that he wouldn’t have done if he’d known.

Now he didn’t know what to do. He knew that he wanted to curse and yell at both Erwin and Petra, for keeping something so important away from. Even if he couldn't have done anything to help, at least being in the loop was better than being blindsided like this.

It looked like Hanji was taking this a lot better than he was, ranting about how excited she was to talk to Eren. To gather information about his shifting abilities and what else he would be able to do. Levi didn’t understand how she wasn’t feeling the same betrayal that ripped through him, learning that Erwin had both lied to them when they’re the first people he goes to for a second opinion, to see if he’s doing the right thing for the Recon or not. Maybe she was, but she wasn’t letting it be known to him.

When Erwin finally arrived, he had to resist the urge to slam his fist into the man’s face. Hanji didn’t really explain why he had to cancel the meeting and rush over, just that Petra contacted them and that he needed to see something. She took over talking for the both of them, something that he was grateful for or else he would have lost his job. His fist tightening and teeth clenching when he looked at Erwin for too long.

They had moved to his dining room and she plopped him down on the only chair with the laptop in front of him. He stayed quiet during the whole video, the only hint that he was taken back by this Eren on the video being the same as the one that’s been living with Levi, was the slight raise of his eyebrows. A react that made Levi want to hit him once again.

“Levi, I want to say before anything else I’m sorry that I-” Erwin started after the video ended.

“Don’t even fucking start,” he hissed. “You’ve kept this from me for almost two fucking years-”

“What have you been able to do? The only thing to do was sit on your ass and wait for information to come in.”

“She could have needed help getting out of there. Did you even give her a fighting chance when you sent her on that suicide mission to bring back something you didn’t even fucking understand?”

“If the Military knew that the Recon had any part of it then they would have a reason to fully try and take us down. I couldn’t have risked that chance.”

“Will you two stop it!” Hanji erupted.

Erwin and Levi both found their mouths open in surprise at her sudden outburst. Her face was red and anger filled her usually soft brown eyes.

“You two fucking idiots are forgetting about a little thing. Where is Eren? Because he obviously isn’t here or we would have found him hiding somewhere already,” she announced to them.

Suddenly remembered what he did to the kid that he now knew was his former pet, he already knew the amount of shit he was going to receive from them.

“He was the kid,” Levi admitted.

“...You mean the kid that you thought Furlan sent after you?...wait you shot him, didn’t you? You shot Eren?” Hanji put together.

“I didn’t fucking know that this kid that was in my apartment used to be my cat, how was I fucking supposed to?”

“Enough!” Erwin suddenly exclaimed. “I don’t care what happened just that we need to find him now, that’s an order!”

It was the first time in a very long time since Erwin had exploded like that and even gave them an order in this commanding tone. Levi found himself staring at Erwin, wondering what happened to his friend before grabbing his phone and ordering a manhunt for Eren.

 

Somehow he ended up between two large buildings, his lungs ready to burst and chest burning like acid had just been poured down his throat. Though he didn’t know whether it was because every inch of his body screamed at him for using them too soon or because of Levi. A painful twist emerged in his heart at that thought of that man and a spasm erupted through his right arm, a gasp escaped from him. He grabbed onto the gunshot wound and breathed deeply through his nose. Looking down at the blood trailing down his arm and seeing that most of his fingers were covered in the sticky liquid, they began to tremble. Trying to stop the movement and calm down his aching lungs, he pressed his hands together and focused on breathing in and out slowly. He couldn’t think about Levi, not without getting himself all worked up and his eyes already stung from sobbing all the way from the apartment to where he was now. Wherever he actually was because he honestly didn’t know.

After sprinting and tripping almost hit first into each wall of the staircase, he slammed his way out into the street. He chose a direction and ran, not caring where he’d end up, but now he actually needed to get himself together.

You can mourn later.

He repeated that to himself numerous times, trying to calm himself down with little effort. Wanting to rub his stinging eyes, but thankfully stopped before he completed the action. Eren didn’t need more people looking at him on the streets with blood on his face, he still needed help finding the building. Continuing to breathe slowly, he wiped his left hand on the black shirt, trying to get most of the blood off of it and moving his injured arm through the armhole to hide the bleeding limb. Looking down at himself, Eren just hoped that he looked passing enough for someone to talk to him and get what he needed. Even if he didn’t even know what he was asking.

Eren eventually sat against the wall, trying to remember Petra’s words as they sat on the metal fence before she pushed him over. Before she died right in front of him.

Stop.

Shaking his head and deciding that right now was not the time to be thinking about what happened afterward. He racked his brain, trying to remember everything that poured out of her mouth, all the information that she gave him in such a short amount of time. All he needed was the name of the building and one of the names that she told him about, but as he continued to remember, he felt increasingly stupid just sitting against the brick wall.

Minutes crept by and nothing seemed to help, it just seemed to make his chest continue to widen and crack thinking about his now dead friend. Finally, fate seemed to have some pity on him because the word Wings screamed at him. Though he knew there was more and he still needed a name, it was better than nothing. He continued to sit against the wall, trying to at least think of one of the two names and cursing himself for not trying to think of this while he was still in the apartment. When he didn’t have to worry about his arm, that was still bleeding, and that he needed to get off the streets as soon as possible. Deciding that he at least needed a name, whether it was their first or last name, anything was better than just walking in and not knowing who he needed to see. It took many an hour, maybe less but it honestly felt like he’d been sitting against the wall for a month, for a single name to pop in his head, Smith. It had to be a last name, but at least it was something.

Now armed with some information and making sure that his bleeding arm was still unseen from underneath his shirt, he adventured back onto the streets to try and get more information.

 

It didn’t take long to find where he needed to go, the first person mostly ran away after he mentioned a large building and the word ‘wings’ in the name. Not before saying that he must have a death wish. It didn’t help the pit in his stomach, wondering where Petra was sending but had to remind himself as he asked stranger after stranger where the building was. Every person he walked up to sent tremors throughout his body, the back of his head yelling at him that they could be a lab coat, that they were going to send him back.

The people he approached didn’t seem too thrilled to be dealing with him, a few backing up when Eren walked up to them. It took numerous attempts to get his voice from shaking when he talked to them, for the words to not seize in his throat and for the people asked to immediately looked annoyed when he couldn’t say what he wanted. Eventually, he got multiple directions. The first person just listed off random names, probably the street names that he needed to turn on and his head began to swim with everything they said. Before he could ask for simple landmarks or anything like that, they went on their merry way and left Eren dumbfounded, more lost then he was before. The next few people gave him mostly the same instructions and he thought he was going to go mad if this continued, however, he managed to stop an older woman and finally took pity on him. She pulled out a scrap piece of paper and grew him a simple map, using boxes and objects to describe where he needed to go and where to turn. Almost wanting to cry when she handed him the piece of paper and he thanked her until she was almost out of sight.

Closely following the black lines that the woman created on the paper, he suddenly found himself almost transported to another part of the city. His eardrums protested as he walked the streets, speakers from inside of the buildings drifted to him from the street. More people crowded the streets, acting like just the people on television do when they’ve had too much to drink, and made Eren want to curl up on himself, to hide in-between buildings to avoid their gazes. Though he was pretty sure that no one was paying him any attention as he continued to follow the directions.

Petra was right, that he would know it when he sees it. The building that he now stood in front of was the tallest building on the long, brightly colored street, and probably the tallest in the city from what he has seen. A sign that hung high on the building that read in bright lights ‘Wings of Freedom’ and relief slipped its way into his chest. Grateful to have anything but the pit continue to widen and swallow him whole. He recognized the name now, that this was where Petra told him to be since he escaped, however, he couldn’t help but listen to the seed of doubt in the back of his head. It wondered what kind of place she wanted him to be at, where drunks lined the street for miles and women that wore almost nothing walked the sidewalk. The only cars that managed to appear on the road, honked at the people that walked the streets and looked more expensive than anything Eren would ever touch in his life.

Who could possibly be here that would be able to take care of him?

Shaking off the doubt that was slowly taking over everything else, Eren told himself that he needed to believe that Petra wouldn’t send him to a place where they would hurt him. She said that they would help him and find his family for him, so he had to believe. Finding the courage that was buried deep within him, he reached for the double glass doors and walked inside.

 

Every inch of his body screamed for relief. He forgot how much pain his body could take, far more than the average person he learned years ago. His mouth had been coated with iron, blood filling it from the open wound inside of his cheek. It dripped from his split lips, pooling onto his chin and to the concrete floor below him. He could barely see out of his right eye, it pulsing with every heartbeat and burned every time he blinked. Eren didn’t want to think about the bruises that would cover his stomach and chest. How much purple and black would replace the normal coloring of his skin. It was getting increasingly hard to see out of his, now, one good eye, a reddish tint taking over and wondered if it was because blood was getting into it or the number of times that they’ve slammed him into the ground. He wanted to fight back, to let the claws that grew within seconds of the onslaught to rip into his closest attacker and gut him, but he couldn't. He buried the claws into his palm, ripping into his skin and adding more to the blood around him.

He was sent here to be safe.

She promised that I would be safe.

Then why were they beating him to a pulp? Why did she send him somewhere they kept throwing questions at him and before he could even say anything, a foot was introduced to his stomach? He could do nothing as the kicks and punches kept coming and wondered if this was what he gets for tricking Levi. For beginning to have feelings for someone who would never be able to return anything remotely similar to what he felt.

The pit that threatened to swallow him before now began to drown him in the sorrow and despair that’s been eating at him all day. As spots began to form in his eyesight, swallowing the room as more questions were thrown his way, he welcomed the darkness. Eren wanted to grab a hold of it, to hassen it’s envelopment over him so he couldn’t feel the pain inside of him anymore. He’d welcome anything to make it stop. Anything to make it go away.

Just as the darkness left everything but a slither of light left, a loud bang engulfed the room before a familiar scent overtook Eren’s scenes. One that he never thought he’d smell again and managed to whisper that man’s name before succumbing to the awaiting darkness.

Chapter Text

After listening to Erwin question the recruits that had taken Eren into their backroom, he was given an opportunity to say something to them and have final say over their punishment. Levi didn’t know why Erwin gave this to him but he said nothing as he walked out of the small room and onto the awaiting elevator. The paling faces of the recruits were enough when they realized that their punishment was going to be decided by him and honestly, making brats do errands for the next year or only coffee runs wasn’t front and center in his mind.

If it was anyone else...anyone besides the kid that they just issued a manhunt for, then their actions would have been more acceptable, but they were trying to be more like Levi. Using violence to get answers instead of talking.

If they had just talked to Eren then they would have known that the scrawny kid couldn’t even hurt a fly. He needed to have a sit down with Erwin and tell him that they needed to have an announcement, to nip this behavior in the butt before others began to copy him too. They didn’t need young recruits taking things too far and killing whoever they were interrogating. He knew that most wouldn’t be able to deal with the trauma of killing someone so personally. They were lucky that Eren could take more than the average person.

Everyone had been on high alert for weeks, waiting for another guerrilla attack from the Military or the Garrison, that Erwin had told everyone that if anything was suspicious, investigate it if they could handle it or call for a higher up officer.

They should have called someone. Fuck.

When Erwin got the call that someone was demanded to see him, some part of him knew that it was Eren but he couldn’t confirm it until they arrived at Wings of Freedom. They weren’t informed that whoever demanded to see Erwin had been taken into their backroom and were being questioned. Being questioned was putting it lightly.

As the door opened, the overpowering smell of blood filled his nose and he quickly saw where the source of the scent came from. The kid that not even two hours ago was standing in his apartment, crying and bleeding from the gunshot wound in his arm, was now laying on the ground. Blood oozed out of his face, dripping onto the floor and almost seemed to be coming out of everywhere. He instantly took in that his left hand was broken, they most likely stepped on it.

It wasn’t the sight of Eren laying on the ground, broken and bloody, but the eyes that he’s grown acquainted with for the past two weeks staring at nothing, dull and hollow. Like they were just waiting for his body to give up and be done with everything. He finally admitted to himself that his Eren and the one that Petra sent them were the same, he couldn’t deny the similarity in those eyes. With this realization, a feeling that was becoming well acquainted with him again once he saw that his two recruits were standing over Eren, anger. He caught himself before he lost his sense before he ran over to them and punched them in their jaws. It surprised him beyond belief and had to remind himself that whatever Eren was to him before, that it was gone.

After everything was made clear, Hanji made them help move him down to her lab so she could take care of him and help reset his bones. Of course, Erwin instructed them that after they were done, he wanted to see them and that was how he ended up in this scenario. When the elevator delivered him to Hanji’s lab, he expected her to be jumping up and down, wanting to poke and prod him like she’s been wanting to do since Eren appeared in their lives. However, she wasn’t anywhere in sight and the only bed had the sheets up for privacy. Though Moblit was sitting where he usually was stationed, in front of the computer screens. Before Levi could even ask or assume where Hanji was, he pointed to the bed and returned back to typing.

Once he walked across the large room and pulled back the sheet, he was greeted by Hanji’s head spinning toward him and was greeted with a glare.

“What?” he hissed, not appreciating being glared at as soon as he walked into the room.

“You fractured his arm when you shot him. It wouldn’t heal until I removed the bullet, so that means he’s been bleeding for more than two hours straight,” she explained, keeping her voice long, something that was abnormal for her.

As she spoke, he found his eyes landing on the bed to find that Eren almost didn’t take up half of the mattress. His eyes couldn’t help but linger on the scar that crossed the kid’s neck, but finally, they drifted down to see that the black shirt had been cut open to reveal the bruises that were already healing. Steam was slowly rising from his face and chest, healing his wounds and making himself whole again. Even though the amount of stream that Eren was producing, the scars that plagued his chest was on full display. Long, narrow scars littered his flesh and he could feel his eyes widen as he took all of them in.

“Christ,” he heard himself say.

“Mostly my reaction when I saw them too,” Hanji said, sitting down in a chair that she must have grabbed before he got here. “From what I could tell, almost all of these were made by surgical scalpels...I can’t even imagine what he’s been through.”

The same thought crossed his mind as he continued to see the vast amount of scars but his eyes kept focusing back on the two large ones, the one on his neck and forearm. He at first wondered if any of them were self-inflicted but Levi realized that if Eren had managed to get a hold of a knife, he wouldn’t be here. He would have done the same.

“He’s underweight and completely malnourished, feeding him chicken and the occasional vegetable helped but he’s going to have to go on a strict meal plan. You’re going to have to make sure that he eats what he can and doesn’t throw everything back up-” she started but Levi cut her off.

“Why the hell are you telling me this?” he suddenly questioned her.

“Because you’re going to be the one taking care of him.”

“No.”

She blinked at him, staring at him like he had grown two heads and they started singing ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb.’

“You have to-” she began again.

“I don’t have to fucking do anything, Hanji.”

He turned around and walked out from behind the sheets, trying to distance himself from the explosion that was going to be Hanji.

“What are you talking about? You took care of him just fine for the past two weeks,” she told him.

“That was all fine when I thought that he was a fucking animal. Now, I know that I’ve been sharing my space with...him. I want the bare minimum dealing with him.”

“Petra personally asked you to take care of him.”

“Petra is most likely dead because of him.”

Finally saying it out loud suddenly made it real, that Petra was most likely buried in an unmarked grave. Everything they knew about her was gone from this world and they had no idea that her life was snuffed out weeks ago. He could see that his words had effected Hanji more than he expected, her eyes briefly glazing over and her lip trembled for a second before she took control of herself.

“If we put him in my house or even with Erwin, it could shock him and revert whatever you did to make him better-” she explained softly.

“I shot him, pretty sure that’s already taken care of,” he retorted.

“He called out your name before he passed out.” Erwin’s voice suddenly said.

They both turned toward his voice to see that Erwin most likely listened to their whole conversation. He was leaning against the steel table in the middle of the room and patiently waiting for a response to what he said.

Levi knew that someone had said his name, he thought that it was one of the recruits, about to shit their pants when they saw that he walked into the room. He didn’t expect it to be Eren, who could barely keep his eyes open enough to see anything that happened in that small room. He realized suddenly that he must have smelt him and remembered that his Eren would breathe him when he was upset.

“No matter what you do, most likely he won’t see you as a threat or lose the established trust that you built with him. Even if you’ve lost it with him,” Erwin commented. “Even though you shot him, he probably blamed himself so a simple sorry should fix that.”

“I’m not apologizing for shooting a stranger in my house,” Levi lightly snapped.

“He’s not a stranger, Levi. No matter how you view it, he’s still the same Eren that you know...just a different form.” Hanji explained.

“A cat and a human are two completely different things.”

“Eren was no cat, even if he looked like one. He had quirks about him that made him more human than animal.”

“How the hell do you know that? You spent less than an hour with him.”

“Cat’s couldn’t give two shits if you’re talking to them and barely made eye contact with anyone. He looked me in the eyes as I talked to him and don’t think I missed him looking over at you, making sure that everything was fine still.”

He didn’t want Eren in his house. He honestly didn’t want to be anywhere near him until he cleared everything up in his head. Levi still needed to wrap his head around that the same being that he’s been sharing his life and space with was the same one laying in the nearby bed.

“He’s not staying at my house.”

“Where is he going to go? He needs constant supervision and the only one of us three that have that time is you.”

“Levi, he’s staying with you until we figure out what we’re doing with him,” Erwin commanded.

Knowing that he should stay quiet and not fight Erwin on this, he did exactly that even if every cell in him wanted to yell and rebel. He knew that he had to house Eren, even if he desperately wanted anything but that. Levi entertained the thought of eventually giving himself time to cope and letting Eren stay in the lab until he was ready, but he knew himself. He would keep putting it off and possibly be making Eren worse.

“What are we going to do with him?” Hanji questioned. “What was the plan anyway?”

“It was mostly about making sure that the Military didn’t have him anymore and seeing if Eren has any family left. If he does, then hopefully we can contact them to reunite them. Possibly move them out of the country and somewhere safe so the Military can’t find them,” Erwin explained.

“Bullshit,” Levi suddenly exclaimed. “There is no way in hell that you’re doing this out of the kindness of your heart...you have something else planned.”

Erwin stared at him, furrowing his brow and then laughed. “Always seeing the Military acting like a chicken without its head is never a downside either.”

Anger suddenly inflamed inside of him.

Did Erwin think this was a joke? Petra died to get Eren out and it was just to further bother the Military. There was no way that it was the end result. If he didn’t want to show his cards, even to his right-hand man, then he could go fuck himself. He can apologize and grovel all he wants to later, Levi wasn’t going to simply obey when the time came. He was going to make Erwin’s life a living hell until he understood that he wasn’t going to be treated the way that everyone believed him to be.

Levi then decided that he would play along, for now, house Eren until they found his family and get him the hell out of his life. Maybe his life could go back to normal after everything, even if it slipped back only slightly.

Before anyone else could say anything, an asseive beeping began to pulse from behind the sheets and only continued to escalate as he heard Eren shifting on the bed. Hanji was the first to jump to action, yanking the sheets out of the way to show Eren, whimpering and jerking his wrists on the restraints placed there. He didn’t even notice them until then and the same could be said about Eren. Eren began to violent yank against the restraints, trying to rip them off and get out. Then he started screaming.

Hanji was the first to run over, trying to calm him down but when she touched it, it seemed to make it worse.

“Eren, please, calm down!” Hanji pleaded with him.

“Don’t hurt me! Please! I’ll never leave again, I promise!” Eren sprouted.

Levi realized that he was in his own world, the shock of being restrained again and waking up in an unknown place probably sent him back to where he was before. Hanji suddenly looked at him and pleaded with her eyes.

“Help me, talk to him,” she instructed Levi. “I don’t want to sedate him if I don’t have to.”

When she said ‘sedate’ it seemed to push him over the edge. His screams grew and tears streamed down his face, pleading with them to not hurt him anymore. Reluctantly, Levi moved to the other side of the bed and grabbed a hold of Eren’s wrist, seeing a change instantly as his screams stopped.

“Calm down. We’re not going to hurt you but if you don’t stop then we’re going to have to make you calm down,” Levi explained, adding a little pressure to his wrist and seeing that it helped with getting him to settle more.

It took some time but eventually, he calmed down, though when he tried to take his hand off of Eren, he grabbed his hand and held it tightly, refusing to let it go. Not sure what to feel, he let it go and let the brat have a death grip on him. He didn’t enjoy it, he’s never liked holding hands or touching others but it was doing its job of calming Eren. As he got his breathing under control, Levi managed to look over at Erwin and see him smirking, something that he wanted to flick him off for but both of his hands were currently occupied. Eventually, Eren had completely calmed down and ended with him sitting with his knees up and his head laying on top of them. He still hadn’t let go of Levi’s hands even if the grip wasn’t as strong as before, something that surprised him since he looked like skin and bones. He didn’t try to pull his hand away, not until Eren’s breathing was completely back to normal and the tremors that once rocked through his body were barely visible. Levi was met with slight resistance when he withdrew his hand but finally, he got it back.

“I’m sorry,” Eren suddenly whispered.

He could hear that his voice was strained from the previous screaming and grief was evident in it. Honestly, he didn’t know what he was apologizing for and it could have been numerous things but Levi found himself not getting upset with him.

“Eren, you have nothing to be sorry for,” Hanji explained, about to reach out to touch his shoulder but she decided to reconsider that action.

He started to frantically shake his head, opening and closing his mouth like he was desperately trying to form words but couldn’t get anything to come out.

“You landed right where you’re supposed to be...Petra would be happy to know that you got here finally,” she continued.

The moment that Petra’s name was mentioned, Eren finally looked up at them. His emerald eyes were impossibly wide as fresh tears began to form in them. Levi expected him to go into another fit that they would have to pull him out of up, but instead, a laugh escaped him. A small smile managed to etch it’s way across his lips, however, he quickly realized that the smile was trying to mask the overwhelming amount of sorrow and relief that emerge from within his eyes.

“I’ve been worried about finding who she sent me after...but I’ve been with them since the beginning,” his laugh broke in a middle, a small sob managing to slip through.

Levi’s heart actually cracked at the broken sob that slipped out of him, surprising him when just a second ago was still furious that he was being forced to continue taking care of him.

He stayed quiet as Hanji and Erwin introduced themselves, for her, it was just another apology for the way that she scared him the first time that Eren quickly, quietly dismissed. Erwin naturally took charge of the conversation, informing him of who they were and what their organization did, at least the bare minimum of information. When he finally mentioned that they would keep the promise that Petra made to him, Levi could tell that Eren was getting overwhelmed with everything. Hanji was the one to suggest that they continue this another day, for Eren to settle down from everything that happened today and have a moment to catch his breath.

He couldn’t help but catch Eren looking at him from the corner of his eye when she mentioned that he would be leaving soon after she checked him over, quickly looking elsewhere when he caught his glance and a dust of red covered his cheeks. He was probably wondering where he’d go. If he’d go back to Levi’s house or stay with the other two. It would be understandable to have that question, mostly because the last time that Eren was in his home, he got shot.

As Hanji checked his temperature, commenting on his temp being higher than normal, which Eren quickly responded that it was normal, Erwin bid them goodbye. He started his way to the elevator, to which Levi started to chase after him and give him a piece of his mind before sharing his private life with another human being, but something stopped him. He looked down to see that the bottom of his shirt had been grabbed by Eren and from the look on his face, it must have been a reflex. Eren’s bright eyes suddenly became wide with realization to which he snatched his hand back immediately when he saw where his hand was attached to. He realized then that there was no one else that Eren could go without falling back into a panicked mess and that he was going to be stuck with the kid no matter what he said, but that didn’t stop him from raising a little hell with Erwin. Ignoring the quiet sorry that he received from the kid, he started for the elevator before it started to close.

“Levi,” Hanji suddenly called him.

He turned around in time to see her give him a look, one that said that he was dead if he just left Eren.

“I’ll be back,” he said simply, managing to stop the doors from closing and jumped into the elevator with Erwin.

The only reaction that he got from Erwin was a raised eyebrow, questioning what he was doing.

“Are you skipping out on your duties, Levi?” he questioned him simply.

A dry laugh managed to release from his throat. “I’m still going to take the brat with me...how hard is it going to be to find his family, he’s not going to be staying long, but that’s not the reason the reason why I came after you,” Levi explained.

“Oh? So what do I owe the pleasure?”

“I just wanted to say to you that if you ever keep something this big away from me again or even think of it...I’m leaving.”

“...You can’t be serious, Levi.”

“I am your second in command, Erwin. The second person to be notified of everything, the first only being you, and how do you think it looks when I’m the last person to know of something this big? Of the Recon infiltrating a research facility run by the Military, for almost two fucking years, and stealing their most prized possession. The amount of danger that the Recon could have been exposed to at any second if Petra failed and I wouldn’t have known until it was too late. No one would have been prepared but you.”

“Petra knew exactly what she was doing-”

“It doesn’t matter how careful she was, it only takes one mistake. We’ve had recruits killed for less.”

The elevator door opened to reveal their office floor, something that didn’t surprise Levi that after immediately dealing with them, Erwin would go back to work.

“I’m not joking Erwin,” Levi reminded him. “If anything remotely this big is hidden from me again, I’m out and never coming back.”

“Understood,” he simply said as the elevator doors closed on him after he stepped out.  

 

After Levi and Erwin left him with Hanji, he could actually feel most of the tense leaving his body. Then every time that Levi looked at him, the shame of hiding and tricking him from the real him slammed into his chest and threatened to send him into another panic attack. He hated that simply saying a few words in his ear and holding his wrist managed to halt the attack that had consumed almost all of his reasoning.

Waking up in such a white room with the pressure of the restraints on his arms and legs made him believe that he was back. Back in the hell that he thought he escaped and had done and sacrificed so many people to get out. If he ever went back, he was going to die there and never again feel the sun on his face and breath in air that wasn’t pumped into a room. It didn’t matter that when he heard Hanji voice, telling him to calm down but all he could imagine was the lab coats surrounding him and their hands replacing the restraints on his wrist, holding him down for whatever they were going to do next. Once Levi had said some words and barely touched him, he immediately calmed down enough to listen to reason, to start to understand that he wasn’t in his hell but just somewhere new.

When he managed to control his breathing and cleared his head enough to completely understand that he wasn’t there anymore, only one thing popped into his head.

Why is Levi here?

It wasn’t his imagination that he smelt Levi’s scent moments before he passed out. He thought possibly that it could have been something that his mind gave him, a sense of peace so that his body could fall into darkness without resistance and ignore the pain that still rocked him. It wasn’t as intense as before, but he could tell that his body was still recovering from what those two men did to him, pain flickering in his chest if he breathed in too deeply. Levi wasn’t supposed to be here, he was never supposed to see him ever again but here he was, holding his hand while he got himself under control. Though he understood that it was mostly against his will since Eren couldn’t release the death grip on his hand no matter how hard he tried to let out. He was still in a daze as to why Hanji was here as well...not until she mentioned Petra and he realized how stupid he had been. Eren had the sneaking suspicion that the Levi that Petra always went on about was the same one that he’s grown to care about, but it would have been too much of a coincidence. That Levi and Hanji had to be a common name because fate did not favor him enough for him to just land in their laps.

Apparently, fate decided to give him a break.

The other man in the room then decided to introduce himself, someone, that Eren had instinctively kept an eye on since he woke up. The build of the man was just too similar to his guards and he wondered if he’d ever get over thinking that every muscular man he met was going to throw him into his old room. Hanji even introduced herself and apologized again for scaring him the first time she came over. The man, Erwin, explained where he was and what the Recon was, the organization that they all work with, and even though he tried to keep up with all the information, he was becoming overwhelmed. Even with him being able to tell that he was dumbing it down for Eren so he could digest everything without too much difficulty.

It almost pushed him over the edge when Erwin mentioned that they would still try to keep the promise that Petra made to him. That they would try and find his family. He was thankful that Hanji decided to step in at that moment and declare that it was enough for today, that Erwin could talk his ear off another day when his body wasn’t still recovering. Then she announced that she was going to examine him to make sure that he was fine to go home, something that made his heart sped up for two reasons. He didn’t know how she was going to examine him and knew that something as easy as drawing blood would most likely send him into another attack. Also, he didn’t know what home was anymore.

His eyes subconsciously looked over at Levi, wondering if he’d go back with him but quickly understand that no, he wouldn’t. He was lucky that he wasn’t being treated with disgust and had been able to use Levi as a way to calm down. Eren wondered what he thought of him if he’d ever been able to forgive him for tricking him with his other form for so long. If he’d explained that he hadn’t been able to change back until today, maybe they’d be able to get some form of their relationship back. However, Eren knew how much of a slim chance that was. His chest hurt at that moment and he didn’t know whether it was because his body was still rebuilding or the feelings that he’s grown for the man was perishing inside of him.  That they would never even remotely be returned in any form.

Eren had been caught staring at him, making him quickly focus his eyes on a piece of threat that came undone from the light blue blanket that covered most of him. He could feel his face growing hot, embarrassed from being caught and wondered how long he had been staring at the man, wondering if Levi hated him or not.

Hanji started his checkup by taking his temperature which he surprised himself with how well he took it. It was a device that she simply rolled the end over his forehead and informed him that his temperature was higher than she liked. Once he explained that it was normal for him, his body always ran hotter than what everyone considered normal. He could see the gears turning in her head, that she wanted to question him more about the things about him that made him very different from her and everyone else in the room. However, he was thankful that she didn’t act on that impulse and simply moved onto the next thing.

Erwin caught their attention soon after, saying goodbye and that he had things to attend to. Before he left, he apologized for the way that Eren had been treated when he first came here. He didn’t have the chance to really say anything back before the man began to walk away. Suddenly he saw moment out of the corner of his eye, that Levi was beginning to move and most likely follow Erwin and he acted out of reflex. He didn’t know the next time he would see him again because there was such a massive chance that Eren was going to be staying Hanji than anyone else...or even in this room. His hand reached out and managed to grab the edge of his shirt, stopping Levi before he got too far away. Eyes growing wide after realizing what he’s done, he quickly let go of the piece of cloth and an apology fell from his lips. All to quickly Levi left his side and chased after the man, the farther away he got, the numbness that he had been trying to ignore was slowly creeping up on him.

There was no way that they would ever go back to the way they were before.

He clinched the hand he tried to keep Levi by his side with and repeated over and over again in his head that he needed to abandon his feelings and move on. Once they found his family, he would probably never see Levi or anyone else that he’s met here again. Hanji suddenly called Levi’s name and he simply replied that he’d be back. Eren hated the amount of relief that flooded his chest and chose instead to focus on whatever Hanji needed him to do so he could hurry and go back to sleep. He rather face his bloodstained mother then feel the cold eyes of Levi on him again.

“He doesn’t hate you,” Hanji told him after checking his eyes, thankfully not using the flashlight she was about to grab before a whine accidentally escaped his throat.

Eren was taken back and it took a little too long for him to realize that she was talking about Levi.

“He’s surprised and upset-...by Erwin and not you. He kept this secret from him and it hurt his pride. Levi doesn’t express his emotions well with others and that’s probably why he felt so open with you when you were...in your other form. Just give him some time and space. Everything will get better with time,” she explained as she placed a hand on his shoulder, giving it a slight squeeze and managing to help Eren breath a bit easier.

He realized that if he had to live with Hanji, it possibly wouldn’t be that bad, but he remembered suddenly that Petra had told him that she could barely take care of herself. At least they would be in the same boat with that.

He wanted to tell her that he didn’t think that there would be enough time in the world to rebuild anything that he and Levi had. Somehow he knew that if he hadn’t been in his animal form, Levi never would have told him about his past and struggle with believing Furlan was trying to hurt him. Instead of confessing everything that was on his mind, he nodded and did everything that she asked of him, just wanting to return to sleep and at least try and forgot the widening hole in his heart.

 

Cars were something that Eren learned rather quickly he didn’t enjoy. The fact that he could feel his body moving and see the streets passing by faster than he could ever run, but he never actually moved an inch bothered him. It didn’t help that he felt constricted too, the seatbelt that he was forced to wear weighed heavily on his chest and he was counting from twenty backward to see if it’d help. On top of wanting to jump out of the car every time that they stopped at a red light, Levi sat quietly next to him and refused to look at or even speak to him during the whole drive.

He had been confused when Levi seemed to magically appear back in the room with him and Hanji, and after receiving an okay from her, he quickly said that they were leaving. When he understood that he was heading back to Levi’s apartment and staying with him until Hanji managed to find his family, he didn’t know what else to do but follow after the man before he left him behind. There was a conflict growing inside of him, wondering if he should be the first to say something or make the effort to try and get rid of the heavy tension settling over them. He remembered then what Hanji said, that it would take time for him to open up and now he just had to play the waiting game. He just didn’t know how long he could take the silence.

The drive to the large apartment building that Eren barely recognized was longer than he hoped but still short. Once he finally heard the silence of the engine and the car no longer hummed quietly, Eren almost leaped out of the car with the seatbelt, that Levi forced him to wear, still on. He could hear Levi let out a deep sigh next to him, probably seeing him trying to escape too quickly and heat bloomed through his face again with embarrassment.

He probably is regretting this already.

Eren waited for him to get out of the car and hesitantly followed after him to a familiar set of doors. He realized that it was another elevator and didn’t want to be trapped in another metal contraption but Levi didn’t notice or seem to care about his hesitation to get inside it. The tension carried over from the car and it continued to thicken, almost enough that Eren began to feel like he couldn’t breathe properly. When the doors opened again, he forced himself to not run out of the elevator, not wanting to annoy Levi then he probably already has. He waited for Levi to take the lead, trying to put his slightly trembling hands in the pockets of his sweatpants so he wouldn’t notice. As they walked down the hallway and up to Levi’s apartment, all he could think about was the last moments that he spent in the once comforting home. He reflexively grabbed his arm where Levi shot him and rubbed the new scar absentmindedly as the front door was open to him and he walked in.

The first thing that he noticed was that smell of blood still hung in the air and probably guessed that Levi hadn’t had the time to clean up the mess that he made when he escaped. He could spot the drops of blood that lead to the bedroom and Levi seemed to finally notice at the same time because he cursed quietly to himself before heading off into the kitchen. Moments later he came back with bottles of cleaner, along with a couple of rags and started working on some of the drops of blood. Not knowing what to do with himself, he stood near the front door and looked around the apartment that he’s grown accompanied to. It was unnerving that he was able to see the top of tables and bookcases when the majority of his time here, he could barely see anything that wasn’t eye level.

After looking around the room and seeing that Levi was already making his way to his bedroom, following the blood trail, he hesitantly followed him. He stood a few feet away from him and chewed on his bottom lip, wanting to offer help but knew that he was going to be rejected once he made the offer. Still, he took in a deep breath before attempting to open his mouth and force words out finally.

“Do-...Do you need any help?” he finally got out.

There was no response given to him as Levi worked on the stains in the carpet and he wondered if he didn’t hear him properly, hoping that he wasn’t just ignoring him. Clearing his throat, thinking that his voice may have been too quiet, he tried again.

“Levi,” he called out. “Do you-”

“I heard you the first time, and no, I don’t,” Levi answer back without looking up from his task. “Just sit on the couch while I’ll clean up this mess.”

Continuing to chew on his bottom lip, he quickly turned away from the man and did what he was told. He didn’t know what else to do with himself as he sat there and was tempted to see if he could turn on the television, hating that he was surrounded in silence. However, he didn’t know which remote turned on everything and if there was a chance that he could mess it up, he didn’t need to give another reason for Levi to get annoyed by him. He was cleaning up his blood for god sakes.

It didn’t take too long for him to finish cleaning up the remaining blood in his bedroom and Eren continued to twiddle his thumbs until Levi came back into the room to turn on the television and leave. Eren followed his movement as he walked into the dining room, disappearing and only to see him reappear in the window of the kitchen. Abandoning whatever was on the screen, he got up and walked over to the window to see Levi grabbing food from the fridge and setting it out on the counter. Pulling out a list from his back pocket, he moved to the pantry to grab a few more things. Eren had seen Hanji give the list to him before they left but didn’t manage to catch anything that was said between them. He probably guessed that it was food that he should be eating. She commented on how he needed to gain weight and fat so his body had some chance of growing still, but he doubted that he was going to get any taller.

He leaned against the window and watched as Levi cut and cooked food, not seeming to care that he was wielding a knife and Eren subconsciously took a step back. Thankfully, he didn’t use the knife for long, placed it in the sink when he was done and continued preparing the food. Soon enough he grabbed two plates and filled them both full of food, then headed over to Eren’s side of the wall. He simply gestured his head toward the couch and placed one of the plates on the table, never saying anything as he sat down on the loveseat next to the couch, putting as much distance as he could between them. Eren tried to not let it get to him, not let this continue to make the hole where his heart used to consume more of him. When he sat down on the couch, he decided to go to the floor instead. There was less space between him and his plate and he didn’t need to make another mess, even if it was easier to clean up than blood.

“When we’re done eating, you’re going to answer some questions for me,” Levi stated as he began to eat.

He simply nodded in understanding before summoning the courage to say something. “Can I ask you some?” he questioned, his voice still quiet from being underused for so long.

“You know enough about me...you don’t need to know anything else.”

 

Eren felt like such an idiot as he tried to figure out the utensil that Levi had called a fork. It was simple, he knew that but he was discouraged after he got scolded by Levi because of the way he was going to eat the chicken. It had been cut up into thin pieces before Levi gave it to him and long, bunches of green beans was accompanied by the meat, a lot more than he was used to. He began to eat it the way he knew, with his hands. Before this, they never gave him anything to eat with and had to use his teeth and nails to tear things apart, and when he was in his animal form, his sharp teeth could cut through mostly anything.

Levi immediately put a stop to it and told him that if he wanted to live in his house then he needed to not eat like an animal. He’d grown red and instructed to pick up the metal object, to which he eventually got used to and ate some, but managed to lose his appetite. Eren couldn’t get the disapproval and disbelief that plagued Levi’s eyes when he scolded him. He couldn’t do anything right, even when he was walking on eggshells and trying desperately to not bother Levi more than he already was. Half of the chicken was still left and he didn’t eat much of the green beans either, to which Levi looked at the plate and then at him with a frown.

“You haven’t eaten since morning and I’ve seen you devour almost three chicken breasts even with other meals during the day,” Levi stated. “Eat.”

He emphasized this by pushing his plate closer to him and finished his own plate. “I’m not hungry anymore,” he lied.

Not two seconds later, his stomach growled and betrayed him. It was still getting used to being full and was getting greedy from the meals that Levi cooked for him.

“Whatever you say, brat?” Levi simply said before grabbing both of their plates and heading out of the room.

He mourned for the food that was taken from him, regretting that he lied about his hunger but he honestly probably wouldn’t have eaten that much more. He decided to move onto the couch, not sure if he wanted to have any conversation with Levi where he had to look up more than he needed to. Eren found that he didn’t enjoy being called ‘brat’ but it wasn’t as bad as being called ‘son.’ On the list of names that he’s been called, ‘brat’ was definitely the tamest of them all and wasn’t completely the worst. It didn’t take too long for him to come back after cleaning the dishes and whatever else he used to cook their meal in, and returned to his seat before turning the volume off on the television.

While Eren waited for him to return, he pulled his legs onto the couch with him and sit so that his chin could touch his knees. He realized, when he looked down, that had subconsciously sat down on the black blanket that Levi had set out for him in the beginning. That memory felt so far away and he raked his hand through his hair as he wishing that he could go back, even if it was only for a moment.

“What are you?” Levi started, not starting off simple.

He decided then that he needed to be truthful with the man in front of him and it was a struggle with his tongue to not twist the truth in any way. Petra had been the only one that had been truthful with, the only one that he felt comfortable enough.

“I-...I don’t know...they took me when I was young and-...it suddenly happened one day-the shift, I mean...they never told me anything,” he answered, his fingers already beginning to rub against each other.

He hadn’t done it in a while and only seemed to happen when he was anxious, something that constantly plagued him when he was in his old room. The only response that Eren received was a nod and soon after, Levi threaded his fingers together and then placed them over his lips as he thought.

“Petra sent me a letter, one that I was supposed to receive more than a week ago, but it contained a video of your shifting abilities alongside the letter. She explained why she was there and asked me personally to take care of you, though I don’t know why still until we find your family,” Levi explained. “I wanted to ask you something else before I ask anything else.”

Eren already knew what he was going to ask and even with preparing himself enough, it still felt like someone had thrust a knife into his gut when Levi asked his question.

“Is Petra dead?”

The image of her smiling face overwhelmed his vision, of her laugh after she tried to explain something that should have been simple to him but made his head hurt. Too quickly, the warmth of Petra disappeared as he was thrust into that night they escaped and witnessed as her body became riddled with bullet holes. Her final words, her declaration of her love for him echoed in his head as Eren flickered his eyes to his shaking hands.

“Yes,” he whispered.

“Are you sure?” Levi pushed.

He wished that he wasn’t. That he hadn’t witnessed her body fall limp onto the grass and already beginning to grow cold as he escaped. Wished that he could have hoped for some possibility of going back and rescuing her. That she hadn’t sacrificed her life for his when she actually had people that cared about her outside when he didn’t even know if anyone that he knew was still alive. Not trusting his voice and already feeling the pressure of unshed tears about to burst, he nodded as he pressed his bent legs against himself and wished that this conversation would end already.

“Fuck,” he cursed under his breath. “...how did you escape?”

Wanting to shake his head and say no more, he pushed through nausea that suddenly emerged in his stomach and throat at the thought of reliving those moments once again. However, he owed Levi so much. He couldn’t offer much, but he could offer the truth of that night. Eren was the only one that could tell this story.

“She bribed one of my guards to get the nurses’ clothes so that I wouldn’t stand out when we left...Everything was going according to her plan until someone recognized me, even though she tried to diffuse the situation as much as possible...the alarms went off then. We didn’t have that much trouble, only running into the lab coats until-...until we ran into an old guard,” Eren started and felt his hands shake at remembering the weight of the gun in his hand, of the warmth of the blood that splattered his face and coated his skin. “She was going to die and-...and it was the only thing that I could think to do...I didn’t want to hurt him-...she killed him when he went after me. There was blood everywhere-...so much blood...so much.”

He didn’t realize that his hand had moved to his neck, feeling like his throat was closing once again, the guard’s hand closing around it and forcing the air out of his lungs. “Eren,” Levi called out to him and managed to snap him out of the daze he put himself in. Pushing the sight of the guard’s body from his mind and continuing to fight nausea that still plagued him, he took a deep breath before deciding to go on.

“We didn’t make it very far before more found us and that’s-...that’s when I got shot,” he moved his hand to feel the one of two circle shaped scars on him, remembering the pain that raged through his body and where Petra also got injured. “With my injury, I slowed us down but we managed to get outside and even got to the fence without too much trouble...I alerted them to where we were. She tried to pull me over it and I couldn’t keep myself from crying out...it’s my fault for why she was forced to stay behind. If I had shut my mouth and fought through the pain-”

“You think she still would have been alive?” Levi asked him.

Looking up at him with wide eyes and unshed tears, he was surprised that Levi actually said something.

“...Yeah.”

“Don’t be an idiot. It was a miracle that you made it out with that wound. You wouldn’t have been able to be quiet, no one would have.”

He wasn’t sure if Levi was trying to make him feel better or was annoyed because he was putting all of the blame on himself. Either way, he blinked the tears out of his eyes and wiped them for extra measure before staring at the table, not wanting to see the expression in Levi’s eyes.

“Why didn’t you leave as soon as you could? She must have given you instructions on how to find us but it took you almost two weeks,” Levi continued to question him.

“...My body was too weak to change...even when I wanted to shift, it wouldn’t let me and continued to injure me further...I-I think that my other side understood that I was mostly safe for the first time and that I could finally start recovering for the first time-...of course that’s just a theory,” he answered, leaving out the parts where he didn’t want to leave Levi’s side and was beginning to care for the man across from him.

“How old are you?”

It was such a simple question, that anyone besides him would have been able to answer in less than a second but Eren couldn’t remember how old he was when they kidnapped him. He didn’t even remember the year that he was born or how long that he’s been inside of his prison. Petra had been with him for almost two years but it didn’t feel like they’ve known each other for that long. Time was so warped when you’re trapped in a white box.

“I don’t know,” he truthfully said, feeling his chest tighten as he waited for the other questions he wouldn’t be able to answer.

“Where are you from? Before you got kidnapped.”

He tried to think of the house that he’d only been able to remember when he told Petra about his love for drawing but could only remember trees surrounding the windows. However, he could have easily imagined it like that, not trusting his memory in any way. “I don’t remember.”

“How long do you think you were captured?”

Too long . “I don’t know.”

“Do you remember anything?”

Why am I so useless? “Barely.”

Levi stayed quiet after that question and as the silence took over, Eren was becoming more and more frustrated with himself. He already knew that Levi was getting irritated with him and knew that he almost didn’t want anything to do with him either. He couldn’t answer simple questions, ones that would probably make their search for his family easier and he couldn’t give them anything. Ever memory that he once had of his family had been replaced by the years of torment and pain and the only good memories that he could think of where with Petra. However, those were beginning to be stained with her blood and he could only think of how she should be alive as well. He had nothing to give to Levi to help aid him in any way and he just kept thinking of how useless he was outside of his prison. Eren knew nothing of this world, of how things work and were a fumbling mess when it came to everything around him.

He could feel the tears that he had once tried to ignore beginning to overtake his vision and this time he didn’t try to stop them. Eren honestly didn’t care at the moment that he would continue to lose respect from Levi and think that he was childish, he couldn’t deal with being this useless.

“I’m sorry,” he choked out, almost breaking up the last word with a small sob.

Levi turned to him with an arched brow and then his eyes widen a fraction like he just realized that tears were flowing down his face. “Why are you apologizing, Eren?” he questioned him once again.

“I can’t remember anything,” he confessed out loud, pressing his face into his knees and placing both of his hands on top of his head wanting to pull at his hair with how frustrated he was with himself, how weak he was. “I can’t help, no matter what little I can offer, I can’t do anything.”

“Hey.”

He didn’t look up, not wanting to see how Levi was looking at him and pressed himself further into a ball. He waited before letting out a soft sigh and then Eren heard him move off of his seat. He wondered if he just let, not wanting to deal with a crying child but then his scent suddenly grew stronger and he felt a slight pressure at the top of his head.

“Don’t blame yourself, blame the people who did this to you. Get angry. Get upset but don’t put everything on yourself,” Levi told him. “Even if you don’t remember anything, we can still find your family...it’ll be tough but Hanji won’t stop until she does.”

Hearing that they would still try even if he could offer them nothing, gave him a wave of relief that he didn’t know he needed. The hand on top of his head scraped lightly against his scalp, further forcing Eren’s body to relax slightly and he instinctively leaned into his hand. He couldn’t stop the sobs that soon rocked his body and he didn’t know why he was crying anymore, for the loss of all his memories, for finding out that they could still try even without his help, or that Levi may not hate him like he thought and just needed to do what Hanji suggested, to give him some time.

 

Eren never managed to fully calm back down, only when he passed out later in the night that the tears stopped flowing. Levi didn’t know what overcame him when he walked over and tried to make an attempt at comforting the crying kid. Even just touching his head seemed to help him more than the words that he offered him. He could tell that the kid was walking on eggshells around, being more cautious than he was before when he first came out of the cabinet in his other form. It didn’t help that he was still frustrated with Erwin and Petra, and he took out some of that frustration on the blood stains on the floor and Eren himself.

After telling him that they would still help him find his family and the hard sobs had rocked his body had subsided, Levi sat on the opposite side of the couch and turned the volume back on the television. When he looked over at Eren, he was still hugging himself but it wasn’t the tight ball that he was in before and his hands didn’t tremor violently like it did minutes ago. He noticed rather quickly that Eren was also sitting on the black blanket that he set out for him the first time that he ventured out of the cabinet that once served as his haven until he grew comfortable around him.

As they watched the screen together, he heard faint snoring next to him and looked over to see that Eren had passed out next to him. He’d managed to fall asleep in what looked like the most uncomfortable position, his head falling back onto the back of the couch and his body still curled up. Deciding to turn off the television, he got up and tried his best not to wake Eren up as he picked him up slowly. A whimper of pain passed through his lips but it didn’t continue as Levi fully picked him, his knees under one arm and the middle of his back under another. Eren was surprisingly light but at the same time, he wasn’t blown away by this realization. Even with the food that he had been giving him over the past two weeks, he was still thin and decided that he would probably have to give him more food, his metabolism most likely higher than normal people.

“Levi?” his sleepy voice whispered.

He didn’t even open his eyes, only moving slightly in his arms and turning his head into Levi’s chest. “Go back to sleep,” he found himself saying quietly.

A soft nod was his only response before he pressed himself further into Levi, wanting to find that he disliked being touched but the familiar feeling never came and he chose to ignore the strange moment. He carried him into the guest room, managing to shift him onto one arm and raised his leg to open the bedroom door without waking him up again. He placed his body on the bed and threw a spare blanket onto him before looking at Eren as he slept.

He had decided before they even walked into the apartment that he would try to be on his best behavior with Eren. Petra had told him that he’s been through enough and his grouchy behavior probably wouldn’t make him feel that welcomed. Of course, he couldn’t find himself liking him too much because once they find Eren’s family, he was gone. He’d never be able to see him or interact with him again, to make sure that he isn’t involved with this country anymore and that the Military doesn’t find him again.

He looked at Eren’s long hair and decided that tomorrow he needed a good wash and a haircut. They could tackle one thing at a time and just hoped that Erwin didn’t need him to come in anytime soon.

Chapter Text

Levi couldn’t sleep. It probably had to do with the fact that he’s grown used to having another body next to him, even if that body was a shapeshifting Eren. The warmth that he produced was almost unreal and his own body refused to produce anything close to a normal body temperature so Eren was his own space heater...until now. Grabbing a hold of his cell phone and realizing that it was almost two in the morning, he reached across the bed to turn on the television. He could probably find something boring enough to knock him out for a few hours before he had to get up to take care of Eren.

Before he could even come close to sleep, he swore that he faintly heard noise coming from outside of his room and quickly muted the screen. Listening intensely, he slowly moved off the bed and grabbed the metal blade that hid underneath the pillows he didn’t use. Not even a second later, a scream ripped through his apartment and his feet carried him to the guest room. Almost body slamming the bedroom door open, he realized that no one else was in the room beside Eren and relief washed over him until Levi saw that Eren continued to make noise. He whimpered and yelled into his pillow, his fingers clenching onto his blanket and pillows, leaving claw marks on them.

Abandoning the knife on the dresser, Levi jumped onto the bed and tried to place an arm on him but it resulted in another scream ripping through Eren’s throat.

“Eren!” he called his name.

As he called out his name, Levi grabbed for his wrists and managed to pull him up so Eren now was sitting up. Suddenly, green orbs greeted him and the claws that replaced his fingernails further extended out, making him hold his arms out further so they weren’t anywhere close to him. He didn’t need them to scratch at his face. If they could easily tear apart his blanket and pillow, he didn’t want to think about what would happen to his flesh. Whatever haunted Eren’s dreams continued to reality, his eyes wide and unfocused began to fight against his hold, and surprised him with the strength that he had.

“Eren, it’s me,” Levi called out to him once again, trying to sound calm and hoping that it would settle him down.

His body suddenly froze, his eyes becoming wider than he’s ever seen and realization swept through them.  Immediately he tried to pull his hands away from Levi but he held on as Eren’s body began to shake and breathing became irregular. “Look at me,” he instructed Eren and repeated his command until those emerald eyes focused on him. “Breath with me.”

He’s dealt with enough recruits that have panic attacks over their first kill but Levi’s never been so personal with them. He never touches them, just gives his instructions and raises his voice, using the commanding tone he only used with them. He’s never done touched them or circled his thumb on their wrists, moving it with the rise and fall of his chest. However, he knew that they’d be fine getting themselves over it and Eren was another story altogether. Levi didn’t know how much he was touch-starved until he could see Eren physically restraining himself so he wouldn’t touch him. He needed this to get over his panic attacks and he didn’t know if it was ever going to change.

The more that he made Eren follow his breathing, the more he could see the tension and tremors leaving his body.

“That’s it,” he found himself encouraging him.

Levi found that the movement with his thumb was probably having a better effect on him than just instructing him to follow his breathing. Making his thumbs move across his skin with a wider motion and confirming that he was in fact following the movements, eventually, the tremors subsided and his breathing calmed down to an acceptable pace. Eren refused to look at him, resting his eyes on the corner of the bed and letting his limbs hang limp even with Levi holding his wrists still.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, a silent tear rolling down his cheek.

Resisting the urge to wipe it away and upset with himself for wanting to touch him even more, he finally let go of Eren’s wrists and witnessed the clear claws transform into his fingernails. It fascinated him but realized that he hadn’t replied back to what Eren had said.

“It’s not your fault,” Levi commented.

His head whipped toward him then, more tears collecting on his cheeks and a protest already on his lips. “But I probably woke you up-” he began.

“I was already awake, Eren. You didn’t do anything wrong but have a nightmare, scared the crap out of me when you screamed.”

“I screamed?”

Once he nodded to confirm, guilt washed over Eren’s face and he began to chew on his bottom lip signaling that he was either nervous or anxious, something that he just recently discovered about him. He wanted to pull the lip out from the assault that was soon coming to it and possibly wanted to save it from being punctured by his sharp teeth.

“Hey,” Levi caught his attention. “It’s fine, there’s nothing to feel bad about...I probably should have turned on the television or something like that.”

He muttered the last part to himself and wondered if Eren’s issue was the same as his. That he couldn’t properly sleep because of not having a warm body next to him but he didn’t know if he was ready for the breach of privacy. Levi didn’t mind sharing the bed with him when he was in his other form, mostly because he thought that was the only form that he had. It’s easier to open up to an animal more an actual human being.

Deciding to get off the bed and turn on the said tv, he flipped through the channels until he found some infomercials, deciding that turning on the news with the constant reports of violence and shootings weren’t going to help Eren. The screen was supposed to help with falling asleep so he also didn’t want to put something on that would make him have any possible interest in watching. He quickly went over how the remote worked, realizing that he never showed him how it worked before. He only pointed out the few buttons that he would actually use but mostly focused on the off button. Once he felt like Eren had a grasp on what he told him, he placed the remote next to him and then began to head back to his room.

“Wait, I-” Eren suddenly started but then snapped his mouth closed.

“What is it?” Levi questioned him, deciding to lean against the doorway since it looked like it could take some time for him to say whatever he wanted to.

He clenched his fingers around his almost ruined blanket, reminding Levi that he would need to eventually buy replacements, and he let out a few deep breaths before he turned his glassy eyes onto him.

“Can you stay-just-...just till I fall asleep?” he finally spit out.

Eren’s whole face turned red and it rapidly extended down onto his neck, showing off just how embarrassed he was for asking this. His first instinct was to say no, that he wasn’t a child but thought that may possibly be a little too insensitive.

“It’s late, Eren. Goodnight,” he replied back.

He couldn’t help but catch his face fall before he turned away and ignored the guilt that emerged in his chest. When did he even start to feel guilty over something this small? Reaching to close the bedroom door behind him, he stopped and decided to keep it open in case Eren started to have a nightmare again. His family wasn’t going to coddle him for the rest of his life and he needed to learn to fall asleep without someone watching over him. That’s what he told himself anyways as he headed back to his room, leaving his own door open as he entered.

 

He kept running down the white hallways again. Every twist and turn made him end up exactly where he started, back in his old room. Though every time that he reappeared in those walls, blood splattered and pooled around him and he couldn’t find an escape. He was finally released when he once again run into the room and saw bloodied bodies covering the floor, the tile covered in nothing but the red liquid and his mother stood in the middle. She raised her arm, pointing a red finger at him before a high pitched scream escaped her throat. Suddenly, he was thrusted into a soft mattress and a tattered up blanket wrapped around him.

For a second, he didn’t know where he was and then the memories of the previous night slammed into him and heat traveled up to his face. He couldn’t believe that he asked Levi to stay with him, knowing that there was such a slim chance of him actually saying yes and then getting upset that he said no. Looking next to him, he saw that the other pillow on the bed was shredded and looked like it could barely be even used. The same could almost be said for the blanket that laid on top of him.

He suddenly remembered that his nails transformed into claws last night, probably while he slept, and that he turned them on Levi when he woke up. Shame bloomed in his chest. He tried to attack Levi last night, thinking that he was still in his nightmare, and thankfully Levi had been able to easily fight him off. He didn’t want to imagine the guilt he would feel if he actually managed to hurt him but thinking about the first nightmare that he had made his limbs want to tremble once again. He could still feel the phantom hands wrapping around his throat, of the grey eyes, that he cared so much for, staring down at him with no empathy or emotion laid in them. As the hands tightened their hold over his throat, Levi called him disgusting and that his mother should have smothered him in his crib. Once he opened his eyes and saw his attacker in front of him again, his instincts told him to attack or else he’d die for real this time. However, when he actually realized that the man in front of him was not the same as the one in his dream, he quickly stopped. He forced his nails to retract, afraid of what he could have done if Levi hadn’t been so quick to react. Eren hadn’t been able to control his breathing, still imagining his hands on his throat and Levi managed to calm him down, something that still amazed him. Petra couldn’t come close to bringing him back to normal so quickly but just a few words and instructions from Levi and he managed to do just that.

The television was still on from last night and choose to turn it off, bathing the room in the little sunlight that came from his small window. Slowly pushing himself out of the bed, letting his feet touch the carpet and reminding himself that he no longer had to walk on all fours, he slowly got up. Still getting used to having legs, he stretched them a bit before a scent drifted into his room that made his mouth water. Breakfast was being made and Eren suddenly realized how little he’d eaten in the past two days as his stomach let out a loud growl. He’d be surprised if Levi didn’t hear it from down the hall. Opening his door fully, he walked down the small hallway to peer into the kitchen and see Levi cooking over the stove. He recognized the empty eggshell in the sink and his mouth already began to water at the thought of Levi’s cooking.

“Morning,” Levi said without turning around.

Eren wondered how he knew that he was standing there but decided not to question. “Morning,” he greeted back quietly.

It still felt foreign to use his voice and reply back to someone instead of just nodding or shaking his head in response. Not entirely knowing what to do with himself, he leaned against the wall and watched as he cooked their food.

“What do you want to do today?” Levi suddenly asking him.

He’d been almost hypnotized by the food cooking and sizzling that he didn’t realize that Levi had turned toward him and was waiting for his response. Eren thought about it for a moment and he honestly didn’t have a reply for him. No one has really asked him what he wanted to do and Petra had asked a few times but there was such a small amount of things they could do without getting caught. Drawing was one of the few things that he could do and it was always laying on the edge of being not safe. They did manage to catch him but he hadn’t been fast enough and was too focused on his drawing.

“I...I don’t know,” he confessed.

Levi divided the eggs into two different plates, one having a larger helping than the other before throwing the pan into the sink, steam soaring into the roof once the water hit the heated pan.

“If you can’t think of anything, we can do something small...like cutting your hair,” he suggested.

Eren instantly touched his hair, briefly remembering the only time that he’s had his hair cut. Well, it was more that they shaved it after he began to pull it out the first few weeks into his sessions. Levi didn’t seem to miss the movement and passed him the plate with the larger amount of food, making him raise his eyebrow.

“Hanji wants you on a diet so you can gain some weight,” he explained. “Your hair needs a good wash and I won’t be cutting it all off.”

Nodding to what he said, he began to dig into the eggs that Levi made for him and realized that they were somehow better than when he tasted them in his other form. The fluffy texture almost melted in his mouth and he had to resist the urge to shove every last piece down his throat, to actually enjoy the food that was made for him. After he devoured what was left on his plate, he looked up to see that Levi hadn’t even made it through half of his eggs and stared at him with a raised brow before returning to his own meal.

“Still hungry from last night?” he questioned Eren as he finished off the rest of his meal and grabbed his now empty plate.

Remembering the very obvious lie that he caught in last night, a slight heat overtook his cheeks and he avoided any eye contact with the man even with he saw the faintest of smiles across his lips.

“Would we be doing anything else?” Eren found himself asking.

He honestly didn’t know how much of the outside world he could deal with in one day. Just being in Levi’s car for more than fifteen minutes almost made him mad and wanting desperately to get out of the metal death trap. He didn’t have too many pleasant memories outside of the apartment either. The very same thing could be said about the actual apartment too but he’d shared enough good memories with Levi that it completely outweighed the bad. Even if that memory involved him getting shot.

“Not if you don’t want to, you know you’re limits...not me,” he replied as he washed the dishes and set them into the other side of the sink to dry.

Not entirely sure what else he'd be up for after getting his haircut, he honestly didn’t know how he’d react either, so if he reacted horribly like every other time then he would rather just sit all day and try to distract himself with television. Preferably with Levi at his side, but he knew that maybe was asking too much of him. “Haircut sounds good,” Eren said, hesitantly. “...and then we’ll see.”

“Sounds like a deal.”

 

As Levi lead him into his bedroom, Eren spotted a bunch of cardboard boxes that were stacked next to the bed and gave him a raised brow before the bathroom door was opened for him.

“Hanji stopped by early this morning and found some clothes that may fit you,” he explained. “Can’t be wearing my clothes all the time, especially when they clearly don’t fit you.”

Reminding himself that next time that he saw the crazed scientist, he needed to thank her and watched as Levi turned on the shower. Water began to spray out of a faucet from that fanned the liquid out from the ceiling and quickly the heat of the water began to fog up the clear door.

“Take as much time as you need and once you’re out, I can cut your hair,” Levi said as he walked out of the room and came back with a set of clothes.

Placing the clothes on the counter, he pointed to a folded black towel that he could use to dry off when he was done. Eren continued to shut his mouth, wanting to say to Levi that he’s never actually taken a shower by himself and didn’t know exactly what to do, but didn’t want to give Levi more reason to believe that he’s a child. As the bathroom door was shut, Eren went to the opened door of the shower and hesitantly went to put his hand underneath the water to find it not hot enough to immediately jerk his hand away but enough to eventually turn his skin pink. Looking into the shower he only saw a few colorful bottles lining the walls so at least he didn’t have too many things to chose from.

Stripping the clothes that he’s been wearing since he shifted for the first time, he avoided looking at the wall of mirrors and climbed into the shower. It surprised him that he enjoyed the warmth that instantly spread throughout his body as soon as he stepped underneath the stream of water. He just enjoyed the warmth before setting out to figure out which bottle was meant for his hair and what the hell the other two were for.

Grabbing two of the bottles, he tried to read the labels but there were so many words smacked across them that he didn’t know what was what. The only other bottle didn’t help him either and he decided that the best course of action was to see what was inside of each one. Eren squeezed a bit of each into his hand and looking for the soap consistency that he’s only seen on television. Two of them came out as a liquid while the other one was fluffy and puffed up like he’s seen on the screen. Deciding that the later had to be the soap, he discarded the other two bottles and used the one made out of metal to push out a nice dollop of the white, fluffy, what he hoped was soap. Sniffing the substance hesitantly, he smelled the musk that clung to Levi when he emerged from the shower so he concluded that this had to be soap.

Wiping the soap onto the top of his head, Eren began to massage it into his wet hair and then placing it underneath the stream of water when believed that most of his hair had been covered. The water came out almost milky with bits of brown dirt running out of his hair and he second thought his decision that this was soap but it was probably too late. He’d probably spent more time than he should in the shower and Levi would be wondering if he managed to somehow drowned himself in the inch of water at his feet. Even if he didn’t pick the right substance to put in his hair, at least some of the grime managed to get out and hopefully Levi didn’t notice right away. Deciding to use the same bottle to quickly wash the rest of his body, he ignored how he could feel his scars underneath his fingertips and slightly raised than the rest of his skin. Washing whatever he just placed on his body off quickly, he turned off the water without too much difficulty and reached for the towel that Levi pointed out. Noticing that he didn’t get too much water onto the floor, he dried off to the best of his abilities and tried to ignore the memories that kept poking at him, tempting him to remember the few times that they allowed him to take a shower and clean himself. He placed his palm on his forehead and forced those memories back down, focusing on getting dried off instead. He didn’t need to fall apart again today. Not when less than twelve hours ago he imagined himself back in those white hallways and that Levi was choking the life out of him.

After drying off the rest of his body and beginning to change into the clothes that Levi set out for him, he quickly realized that these fit him a lot more comfortable than the previous pair that he wore before. The gray shirt only reached to his elbows and he wished that it reached to at least his wrists, wanting to cover the scars that would forever be etched into his skin. The black sweatpants that he put on next were soft against his skin and he rubbed the material between his fingers. A knock on the door suddenly distracted him from his new pants and Levi’s voice drifted in from behind the wood.

“Are you done yet?” he called out.

“Yeah,” Eren responded, opening the bathroom door to let him in.

Immediately, Levi’s eyes scanned his body, probably seeing if he did a decent job at cleaning himself and he doubted that whatever he used to wash his hair was actually supposed to be used for it. The liquid metal eyes narrowed in at his hair and a hand reached toward the wet mop. As the man grabbed a tuft of the hair, Eren face heated up to an almost embarrassing degree as he suddenly realized how close Levi was to him. He could feel his breath hitting his forehead and he took a step closer to inspect the wet hair. Only now did he realize how short he was compared to the other man, only coming up to his chin and how simple it would be to just tuck his body into Levi’s. Quickly getting rid of that thought, he looked at Levi to see his brows furrowed as he continued to inspect his hair.

“What bottle did you use?” Levi questioned him as he finally let go of his hair.

He hesitantly pointed at the metal bottle, which made Levi laugh slightly under his breath.

“Eren, you used shaving cream to wash your hair,” he sighed. “Did you ever wash your hair before?”


He wanted to say that no, they’ve always done it for him and that was mostly roughly putting it on him and shoving him under freezing water. His hair was almost never washed unless it felt like creatures had been making it their home for years and forced to wash them out. So Eren shook his head instead, feeling foolish for not knowing what to use when someone showered, probably something everyone who was normal knew. Refusing to see the reaction that Levi made, he looked over at the metal bottle and cursed its existence. Just bathing seemed more complicated than Eren thought it would be.

Levi moved into the still wet shower and grabbed one of the bottles that he discarded, placing it on the tub and then opening a small closet to grab another black towel.

“Sit,” he instructed.

He pointed to the side of the tub and Eren didn’t know exactly what he meant so he sat on the edge but he was motioned to move. Now with his back against the cold surface, he turned slightly to see Levi messing with knobs on the wall until water began to pour out of the metal faucet.

“Wait right here,” Levi said before disappearing out of the room.

It didn’t take too long for him to come back, but he had a large plastic cup in his hands which he placed right next to the bottle that he knew now was the soap he was supposed to use. He then kneeled beside him and reached over to check on the temperature of the water before drying his hand on the new black towel.

“Lean back,” he commanded.

Eren wanted to ask why but just obeyed instead. The cool temperature of the tub pressed against his neck and the rest of his head was hanging over the edge.

“Don’t look so terrified, I’m just washing your hair, you’ll have to take another shower later to get the rest of your body,” he continued.

The next thing he knew, warm water was being poured over his hair and he jerked at the sudden warmth. His fingers dug into his palms and his breath briefly got caught in his throat before he forced himself to remember that Levi was the one doing this. That Levi wouldn’t try to drown him or anything like what the lab coats did to him. Light fingers began to massage his scalp, almost like he was apologizing for scaring him and continued to pour water over him.

It had been so long since anyone’s run their fingers through his hair and he didn’t really count the times that Levi did it in his other form. Petra used to do it after coming back from sessions that made usually ended with them having to restart his heart. He always welcomed her touch at those times and remembered almost slamming into her when she would finally come into the room.

“Close your eyes, if it helps,” Levi suggested to him.

He realized then that he was just staring at the ceiling, probably with wide eyes and looking terrified so he did what Levi suggested. Closing his eyes helped more than he thought it would. All he could hear was the sound of the running water and both of their breathing. Soon enough he could hear the cup being placed down and then a few seconds later, Levi’s hands were back on his hair but an overwhelming smell of pine. It was almost the same scent that he had sprayed around the house while cleaning one time but with fewer chemicals.

Eren half expected the pine-scented soap to burn his scalp but nothing happened other than feeling his hair becoming slightly heavy. The fingers continued to lightly scratch against his skull and knew that if they kept going the way they were headed, eventually a purr would be pulled out of him. It happened a lot sooner than he thought it would, but eventually, it did come out and he tried to close his mouth as tightly as possible and hope that it wasn’t audible to Levi.

“Didn’t know that you could do that outside of being a cat,” Levi eventually commented when he returned to pouring water over his head.

Trying to ignore the heat that spread to his face, he told himself that he could blame it on the warm water and tried to suppress the purring that kept pushing through his throat. Eventually, the stream of water was turned off and Levi’s hands tugged lightly on his hair, probably getting as much water as he could out of his it. Opening his eyes, Eren saw that Levi was mostly leaning over him to get to all of his hair and then after he was done, he threw the black towel in his lap.

“Dry it off as much as you can,” he instructed once again.

Eren did as he was told, drying his hair out to the best of his abilities and then he was instructed to set the towel out on the floor and then sit on top of it. Levi went to the counter and pulled out a drawer, grabbing a silver pair of scissors from and then kneeled behind him.

“I’m going to start cutting your hair,” he informed Eren before grabbed parts of his hair and could hear the snipping of the scissors closing.

His hands grabbed for the hem of his shirt, trying to stop the brief trembling the appeared in them at the familiar sound. He honestly didn’t know if closing his eyes would help mostly because he could already picture himself being strapped to a metal, foldable chair and having his hair shaved. Looking up into the mirror in front of him, he could see the top of Levi’s head and if he moved a certain way, he could see his face. Keeping his eyes focused on his reflection, it kept reminding himself that he wasn’t anywhere close to those lab coats but safe with Levi instead.

Eren could feel his head feeling lighter and he actually wondered if his hair actually weighed that much or he was becoming light-headed from pushing the memories away from him as Levi cut. Ever once in a while, Levi would run his fingers through his hair, most likely getting stray pieces of hair that didn’t manage to fall away but Eren revealed in the motion. The small touches kept him grounded, keeping him in the bathroom and away from whatever his mind wanted him to remember. Eventually, the clang of the metal scissors being placed on the floor rang through the bathroom and Levi raked his hands through his hair again. As he stood up, his knees popped and he cursed lightly underneath his breath, whispering that he was getting too old. Eren watched as he walked around and placed the scissors back in the drawer, closing it before turning around and leaning against the counter.

“Well are you going to see or not?” he asked before crossing his arms.

He was tempted to shake his head, not wanting to see the scars that plagued his arms and realized that he couldn’t remember the last time that he looked at himself. Every time he passed anything that could offer him a reflection of what he looked like, he would quickly turn the opposite direction, refusing to see himself. He could look down and see the damage that they inflicted onto his body, he didn’t need to see it all at once. However, he wanted to please Levi and show him that he was grateful for the haircut, the loss of his hair was already noticeable. He moved his head slightly, already preparing himself to feel his hair trailing behind and moving across his shoulder but felt nothing there.

Grabbing behind him and onto the edge of the tub, he pushed himself up enough to have the use of his feet and stood up completely. His eyes focused on a specific place in the marbled counter that had a deeper color than the rest and he could barely see his shirt out of the corner of his eye. Tightening the grip that he had on the hem of his shirt, he wished that Levi had grabbed him something that covered his arms because it was the first thing that he focused on when he built enough courage to look at himself.

Looking down at the marks that littered his skin didn’t seem to have the same effect as looking at himself in the mirror, to see what everyone else around him saw him as. Even though the golden skin that he managed to somehow keep a hold of over all those years away from the sun was still there, the amount of the white slashes and holes that peppered his skin was shocking. His eyes drifted to where they dug a knife from his inner elbow to his wrist and spotted the circle scar that was the newest of his collection. His eyes flickered to Levi briefly to see that he was also staring at the scar that he created but returned back to the mirror before Levi saw that he was staring at him.

Happy that he couldn’t see his chest or back and couldn’t imagine the damage that they managed to do there, his eyes drifted to his neck. He flinched when his eyes landed on the large and ugly line that ran across his neck, nausea building up in his throat as he briefly remembered the session that almost made him walk hand and hand with death. A shaking hand reached up toward it, his fingertips barely making contact with the harden flesh before a whimper managed to claw its way out of his throat. He couldn’t hide this scar. Eren could somehow make up stories and spin tales for the numerous scars that covered his body but nothing could ever cover up that one. He’d never be able to go out without covering every inch of his body. If he didn’t, everyone that he passed on the street would just stare at him like the freak that he was. It was probably the reason why it took so long for people to give him some answers before he was able to find Wings of Freedom.

Clinching his hand into a fist, he pressed it into his neck so that his eyes didn’t have to focus on it, so he could at least pretend that it didn’t exist so he could look at the real reason why he was doing this to himself. The first thing that crossed his mind was that he didn’t know that the scars carried over to his face. He thought that the one saving grace was that his face was spared but now he knew differently. Even if they were few on him compared to the rest of his body, it didn’t help the dread that pulse through his body at finally understanding that he’d be constantly reminded of what he’s been through. That even if he got over the trauma, his body was going to remind him for the rest of his life of everyone and everything that he lost.

Resisting the urge to let nausea overtake him, he finally looked at his hair. He had imagined that his hair was a dull, dirt color that was beyond every taming and saving. His hair had been full of knots and tangles for the longest time that cutting it had been the only way to get some of them out, but now he didn’t know what to make of it. Eren’s hair now barely brushed the tops of his ears and what he imagined as dull was now shiny and almost looked soft to the touch. He wanted to ask what miracle liquid did he put into his hair because from what he saw from what fell around his face looked nothing like what he saw in the mirror.

“Is this the first time-...the first time that you’ve seen your reflection?” Levi suddenly asked him hesitantly.

Turning his head toward Levi, Eren nodded before looking back at the mirror.

“Take all the time you need,” he simply stated. “You deserve it.”

 

Eren spent too much time taking in every detail of everything that he’s missed behind those four walls. He watched as his muscles moved when he moved certain limbs and took in how little of fat and weight he actually had, of how small he actually looked.

Levi had left him shortly after saying that he could take as long as he wanted but his eyes kept adventuring back to his neck. To the scar that brought him the closest to death than any other and nausea that smacked him in the chest almost made him dove toward the toilet after staring at it for too long. Eventually, he ventured out of the bathroom and found Levi sitting in the living room with a laptop in his lap, typing away at the keyboard. He joined him on the couch, sitting on the blanket that was still laid out for him and curling around a small, square pillow that he placed in his lap. Eren half paid attention to whatever Levi put on the television but kept grabbing his hair, expecting to find the strands of it to extend down to the top of his shoulder or lower. It would take him a while to get used to this short length again but at least it wasn’t as shocking as having no hair at all. He was happy that Levi didn’t decide just to shave it all off.

The day passed quickly, with them just sitting next to each other and at least Eren enjoyed the presence of another person next to him. He was still confused on how Levi viewed him, on if he saw him as nothing more than a child that he had to take care of or if he’d eventually be able to see him as himself. Even if he was completely broken and was a long way from even remotely being put back together.

He could feel himself growing tired after they had dinner, even if they only cut his hair today, he felt exhausted from the day. Levi was still typing on his laptop when he announced that he was heading back into the bedroom and was issued a quick goodnight from the man. He didn’t look up from the small screen and didn’t stop the assault on the keyboard. Eren tried to ignore the disappointment that made its way into his chest, wishing that he had at least stopped what he was doing to give him a proper goodnight. He told himself as he went back to the bedroom and climbed into the cold bed that Levi still needed some time, that it’s only been less than two days since he found out about who he really was. They all needed time.

 

More nightmares plagued Eren that night and every time that he managed to pull himself out of one, the next time that his eyes closed, he was forced right back into it. He spent the majority of the night staring at light gray walls, barely listening to the men and women that took over the television at night trying to sell things and wishing that Levi was here. His eyes kept growing heavy and once they managed to fully close, his body would jerk away and propel himself back into reality. Eren eventually just pressed his face into the new pillow that Levi must have replaced and hoped that the nightmares would just go away so he could sleep. He knew that if he managed to get Levi to come in here, to spend some time with him before he fell asleep, it was possible that they would go away. He never had a nightmare when he slept next to the man and if he had enough guts, he would probably have left the bed and head into Levi’s room so he could at least ask. Though he clearly didn’t because he was rooted to the mattress and even if his legs itched to move, to go to Levi, he held himself back. It was too early in their new relationship to be asking if he could share the bed with him. To bother him because a nightmare wouldn’t let him sleep.

Eventually, he was able to fall asleep, but only after he fought sleep for the hundredth time and managed to earn a headache that echoed the blood pulsing through his head. When he woke up with light barely making its way into the window in his room, the headache came back with vengeance, hacking away at his head and sending pulses of pain every time that he moved. He was tempted to just lay there, to focus on blocking out the pain and hope that it would go away but his stomach had other plans. Growling loudly multiple times and making it well known to Eren that his body was hungry, he pulled himself out of bed slowly. Once he exited the hallway and saw Levi nowhere in sight, he wondered if this was one of the rare moments where he woke up before he did.

Heading into the kitchen and grabbing a glass, he poured some water into it before he chugged it down and placed the glass next to the sink. Drinking water seemed to help a bit with the headache, making it more bearable at least. He was tempted to go into Levi’s room and wake him up, to ask if he had anything that he could take the headache go away but didn’t. From what he’s seen over the past couple of weeks that he’d been here, Levi didn’t sleep that well and couldn’t manage to get more than a few hours of sleep a night. He didn’t want to wake him...but he could check on him and see if he was actually asleep.

Almost tiptoeing into the other bedroom, he poked his head in and expected to see either Levi sleeping or slumped over looking at his phone. Instead, he was greeted by a made bed and nothing inside of it. Instantly he turned his head and saw that the bathroom door was wide open and that no one was inside. He wondered if Levi was in the apartment at all and inhaled slightly to smell that there was no new scent of him the place so it’s been a while since he’s been here. Heading into the kitchen, he searched for a piece of paper or anything so he wouldn’t have a valid reason to listen to the little voice in the back of his head that he was abandoned again. It didn’t make any sense mostly because this was Levi’s home, if he didn’t want to do anything with him Levi would have shipped him off to someone else.

Finally, he spotted a small piece of paper in the middle of the island and looked at it, thanking Petra silently for helping him regain the ability to read.

 

Eren,

I needed to drop off some paperwork to Erwin.

I’ll cook breakfast when I come back so just wait.

Don’t burn down the house.

Levi

 

The thought of food made his stomach growl and wondered how long it would be for Levi to come back. He didn’t really give a time estimate and he honestly didn’t know how long he’s already been gone too. Looking over at the pans that Levi always used for making food, an idea seemed to creep up into his mind. He could try making some eggs, like the ones that are always cooked for him and he’d seen Levi do it so many times before that it didn’t look that hard. A giddy feeling erupted in his chest at the thought that he could prove to Levi that he wasn’t useless at everything. If he could do something as simple as making breakfast, then that would mean that he had to be good at other things too, right?

Looking into the fridge and grabbing objects that looked familiar, he placed them next to the stove and then went to figure out how to turn on the stove. He noticed that there were pictures on each of the large knobs and quickly put together that each one was for a specific circle on the stove. Deciding to pick the one closest to him, he put it on the highest setting and then placed the metal pan onto it.

Suddenly remembering that Levi placed some of the yellow substance into the pan before putting eggs or anything into it, he grabbed the container that he guessed where it came from. Happy to see that the stuff inside of the container was indeed what he was looking for, he grabbed a random utensil, the fork being the closest thing to him and dropped a large chunk into the pan. Instantly it began to melt into the liquid that he began to recognize. Happy with the outcome so far, Eren grabbed an egg and tried to crack it just like Levi did, with one hand. He ended up crushing it in the palm of his hand and got the runny egg all over the counter. Not knowing what to wipe it up, he decided to wait until he was done before cleaning up and grabbed another egg.

Whatever he put into the pan was completely liquefied by now and a burning smell quickly began to overtake his senses. Trying to open the egg without it going all over the counter again, he managed to put most of it into the pan but the liquid sprayed everywhere. The hot liquid splattered his hands and forearm, burning him and instantly turning his skin an angry red. Gasping out in pain, he backed up and slammed his back into the island, grasping his arms and rubbing at the spots where he was hit, trying to make the pain go away.

He suddenly realized that he couldn’t breathe, his breaths coming out in short gasps and his body began to tremble almost violently. Willing his body to stop, to try and suppress the tightening in his chest, he couldn’t stop it from spreading. He kept envisioning himself strapped to the table, having his back exposed and experiencing the same pain that now traveled throughout his arms and hands.

Please, stop!

He didn’t know if he was pleading with himself or the lab coats that were very quickly taking over his vision.

I can’t breathe

I can’t breathe!

The smell of burning flesh filled his senses and he could do nothing as he was thrusted back into that world of pain and suffering.

Levi, I'm sorry!

Levi!

Please help me...

Chapter Text

Levi was honestly beyond annoyed. After having another sleepless night and working the majority of the day before on paperwork that Erwin emailed him that could have easily been passed off onto anyone else, the cherry on top was that he had to come by work. He argued with Erwin this morning over why he couldn’t easily fax or email him back everything that he took care of but he couldn’t reason with the man. Deciding not to actually fight too much with him, he eventually agreed and printed out everything that he would need to bring with him. Printing everything in his office, he just hoped that the noise didn’t wake or bother Eren. Levi also knew that he had difficulty sleeping and wondered if the animalistic hearing that he had as a cat transferred over to his human form.

He made Erwin promise before he ended the call that he wouldn’t be gone long and he would just drop off the documents then leave. Levi honestly didn’t trust leaving Eren by himself for too long, especially with how the smallest things could send him into a panic attack. Though he left a note and mostly hinted that Eren shouldn’t go anywhere the kitchen, too many objects that could remind him of where he used to be.

Honestly, he was pissed off more at the fact that he was forced to give a detail report on Eren, on how he’s reacting and coping being in his human form. It could have easily been done over the phone and he wouldn’t have to leave Eren by himself for more than twenty minutes if he’d just drop off the paper and run. Erwin commented on that if he’d done it over the phone then he could have lied about how Eren was, which he thought was completely ridiculous. Eren knew how bad it was, how his panic attacks stopped him from functioning and the tiniest things could easily send them off. Talking about it in front of him or where he could easily hear wasn’t going to make it worse, rather it would concrete something he already knows. He may be naive about a lot of things, most things actually, but from the way Levi’s seen his reaction to certain things, he’s experienced more pain than most people feel in their life.

As he drove home, looking at the time and realizing that it was still early, that Eren would possibly still be asleep and probably not have destroyed his house made him not in a full rush to get home. Though he did have a light jog over to the elevator when he got into his underground parking garage, even if it was more for the fact that his stomach was beginning to eat itself if it didn’t have food soon. He didn’t have enough time to make anything small or enough for Eren when he’d eventually wake up before he left. Erwin wanted him there as soon as possible, saying that he’d have important meetings throughout the day and pointed out that Levi was still on paid-leave so he wasn’t allowed in on these. It ticked him off, mostly because he knew that whatever Erwin was planning with Eren was most likely being discussed at these meetings or what he had planned for the Military. No more secrets behind each other’s backs were obviously bullshit.

When he stepped out of the elevator, he knew that something was wrong and it didn’t just have to do with the burning smell that quickly filled his nose. Once again jogging, he quickly pulled out his keys as he drew closer to his front door and could hear the smoke alarm going off like crazy. Opening the door, he was greeted by a wall of light gray smoke and shut the door behind him so the fire alarm outside wouldn’t be triggered and turn on the buildings water sprinklers. Pulling his shirt over his mouth and nose, he looked for where the smoke was the heaviest and found it coming from the kitchen.

Once he managed to not bump into every piece of furniture that he owned, he found the source of all the smoke. A pan that was mostly charred to a crisp with whatever unholy concoction that once was in the bottom and he could have sworn that it almost burst into flames when he went to grab the pan. Quickly opening the porch door, he mostly threw it outside and grabbed the bucket of water that was used for watering the plants, throwing the liquid into the still burning pan. Now that the burning source was smothered and the pan was now crooked from the sudden temperature drop, he walked inside and made sure that the stove was completely shut off.

It took him until that moment to understand that Eren literally almost burned down his home when he told him to not do just that. A silent anger grew inside of him that could have easily overboiled and turned into an actual rage if he didn’t find that kid anytime soon. First, he needed to turn off the smoke alarm so that the incessant beeping would stop. Grabbing a chair from the dining room, he climbed on top of it when he placed it in front of where the alarm was and just ripped it out of the wall. It didn’t stop until he yanked the batteries out and placed them on the dining room table, his ears still having a phantom beeping that wouldn’t go away until a few seconds after he turned it off.

“Eren!” he yelled his name.

He breathed in a deep breath and tried to calm himself slightly, yelling at Eren like he was a recruit was not the way to go. It would probably make him resent him or pull into himself further than he was already. Now with the annoying beeping gone and his ears getting used to the silence once again, he quickly understood that it wasn’t just silent. Levi could hear the sound of something that he was becoming acquainted with, short, fast breathing and high pitched whimpers.

Quickly jumping off the chair and hurrying into the kitchen, the smoke finally managed to start heading outside and he could see a figure curled up in the corner of the kitchen. Getting closer, he could see that Eren had tucked himself into a ball, his arms crossed over each other and placed on his head. The warm emerald eyes that usually greeted him in the morning were dull and hollow as he rocked himself slightly. He could see his mouth moving slightly, talking to himself or whatever demons he was facing in his own mind.

Levi slowly approached him and when he was close enough, he kneeled down and gently put an arm on his shoulder. Eren jerked his body away from him and quickly scuttled away, putting his back into the corner and his breathing continued to escalate.

“It hurts, it hurts!” he cried.

Quickly surveying him, Levi quickly picked up the red splatters that littered his arms and guessed that it got splashed with whatever he put in the pan sent him into this attack.

“Where does it hurt?” Levi questioned, trying to get him to come back, to answer to something that wasn’t in his mind.

“I’m sorry, sorry-...please stop- please,” he continued to plea.

His eyes quickly began to overflow, silent tears streaming down his face as he fought against whoever was tormenting him. He eventually moved his hands so they were laced on top of his head, his body resuming the rocking that it’s done before.

“I won’t leave-...I won’t leave ever again, please,” he whimpered. “I won’t-...I won’t hurt anyone else.”

“Eren, it’s me,” Levi tried to reach him. “No one’s going to hurt you.”

He slowly moved toward him again and placed a hand on his forearm. When he didn’t get a reaction, he continued and grabbed him fully, dragging him across the tile floor to pressed Eren against his chest. He needed him to breath in his scent or realize that there was someone holding him, something that most likely never happened where he used to be. It could bring him out of whatever was plaguing him.

Eren briefly fought against him, pushing against his chest and a high-pitch whine escaping his lips before he inhaled sharply. He could feel the tension in his muscles slightly beginning to lacks against Levi, even if the trembling continued to shake his frame.

“Hey, it’s okay,” he whispered to him.

The apartment still smelled of smoke and Levi desperately wanted to get it out before it seeped into his furniture and would forever smell like it, but Eren would grip onto his arm every time he adjusted himself on the floor. He somehow ended up with his back against the wall, Eren sitting in his lap and pressing his head against Levi’s chest. The moment that he moved his head there, he continued to get some control of his breathing but couldn’t stop the tremors. Remembering when he was washing Eren’s hair and how quickly he seemed to relax when he ran his hands through his hair, he did just that. He lightly scratched his fingernails against Eren’s scalp and his body almost instantly suppressed them. His hands and arms would tremble slightly every once in a while but the worst of it was mostly gone.  

“I’m sorry,” he heard Eren whisper.

Levi wasn’t entirely sure if he was talking to him or he was still stuck in his own world but from the way that his grip on his forearm tightened when he didn’t respond suggested that it was the former.

“For...you know, almost burning down the apartment,” he continued, hiding his face in his chest, something that some small part of him thought was only slightly cute.

He could see that the tips of his ears were bright red and that it extended down to the back of his neck.

“Just leave the cooking to me for now on,” he replied simply, already forgetting the anger that once boiled inside of him.

Some part of him still wanted to scold Eren, for being so naive as to try and cook something, especially when he wasn’t home. He found himself surprised that if he came to him and asked him how to cook, he would at least show him some of the basics. That he wouldn’t just flat out reject the idea, but now that he knew that something so simple as oil or butter spraying on him made him have this bad of a panic attack. Cooking wasn’t something that Eren would or should be able to tackle for a long time. Though he didn’t know if he would be helping him that far in the future, his family would have to do that for him.

Eren only nodded to his reply, burning his face deeper into his chest and still having a strong grip on his arm. He wanted to admit to himself that he felt uncomfortable holding Eren, his fingers still laced through his hair and arm wrapped around his middle, but he couldn’t. If it was anyone else, he wouldn’t have touched them with a ten-foot pole but he didn’t hesitate to take Eren into his arms to try and calm him down. He told himself that it was because he needed someone to be there and Levi was the only one available. If he wasn’t living with him and sharing mostly every second together than he probably wouldn’t come even remotely close to Eren.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Levi asked, almost hesitantly.

He just recently learned that talking about the things that plagued his mind actually helped lift that weight, even if he just thought he was talking to an animal that wouldn’t repeat whatever he said. He wondered if the same could be said for Eren.

“No,” he replied rather quickly, shaking his head.

Understanding the need for space, he thread his fingers through Eren’s hair on more time before slowly prying the kid’s hands off of him. “I’m going to get rid of the rest of the smoke and get breakfast started,” he explained, untangling his arms away from Eren and finally being able to stand up.

Eren continued to sit on the floor and returned to the corner that he had previously been cowering into. Not wanting him to be alone on the floor, he grabbed one of the stools on the opposite side of the window and placed it next to the island. He gentle grabbed Eren’s arm and gestured him to sit on the stool. He didn’t fight him but just obeyed him and sat down on the seat. Keeping a constant eye on him as he grabbed a portable fan from his hall closet and tried to direct the linger smoke outside, Levi decided that the pan that was almost set on fire was beyond repair. Thankful he had more than one and the one that was destroyed could easily be replaced.

Levi kept checking in on Eren, simply just poking his head into the kitchen and saw the same thing that he saw all the other times that he checked up on him. He continued to sit on the stool, his hands laying out in his lap and eventually, he placed them on his head as he leaned against the table. His eyes remained closed most of the time, probably overthinking everything he did and what haunted him during the panic attack. When he leaned against the island, his shirt lifted up slightly and Levi could see some more scars peeking out. Something inside of him wanted to go to his side and lift it fully up to see what else they carved and marked into his body.

Eventually, once he realized that there was little he could do besides just waiting for the smoke to leave the apartment by the fan, he headed back into the kitchen and began making breakfast. He saw that the usual ingredients that he used were out, he made sure to check the temperature of most of them and saw that mostly all of it was still relatively cool. There were also bits of egg yolk and whites all over the counter that he noticed almost immediately and cleaned it before continuing with breakfast.

“Levi?” Eren suddenly whispered.

He had been barely able to hear his voice over the eggs sizzling in the pan in front of him and he turned to see that Eren had somehow managed to cave in more on himself.

“I’m never going to be able to fully run away from them, am I?” his voice asked him.

Levi could barely see his mouth moving to form his question and his hands gently trembling against his arms as he held himself. His heart actually twisted in pain at Eren’s confession and understood that this kid may have a lot more common himself than he thought. He pulled the pan off the heat so he could walk over to the island and lean against the cool surface. Instinctively, he started to reach out to Eren, about to grab ahold of his hand or arm but he stopped himself.

“I’m not going to sugarcoat it for you Eren, you’ve been through too much to just be lied to. You’re most likely going to haunted by everything for the rest of your life but it’s your choice to either fight or let it consume you,” Levi told him. “It’s not going to be easy, it’s going to be a hard fight but it gets easier the longer it goes.”


Finally, Eren raised his head to him and their eyes met. They still were dull but at least they weren’t empty looking and hollow anymore. The only response that he really received with a short nod but he began to space out once again.

Levi went back to making their breakfast and he wasn’t completely surprised when he placed Eren’s plate in front of him, he barely touched his food. He had a few bites of the eggs and then pushed the plate away from him, refusing to look at whatever food was left over. He wanted to persuade Eren to keep eating but knew that he needed some form of space right now, he would eat when he was hungry. Levi put the leftovers away and motioned for him to come with him into the living room, which he followed him almost too obediently. The remainder of the day he tried to keep him entertained by playing shows that he knew that Eren enjoyed and could get some form of reaction out of him when he was in his other form. It worked for the most part, getting a smile out of him every once in a while but Levi would catch him, when he glanced over at him, just staring into space. He wanted to do something but he didn’t know what Eren could handle, taking him outside was probably out of the question and he remembered how tense and terrified Eren looked when he was in the car. There was nothing close to his apartment that he could take him too either, mostly just restaurants and small businesses, and even that may be too much for him. He just didn’t want this apartment to become another prison to Eren.

The day passed slowly and Levi hated that he spent the majority of it on his ass. His fingers itched to be on his laptop, to get something done, or even head into the guest room-...Eren’s room and pull out some of the workout equipment. However, he didn’t want to leave Eren by himself for too long. The only time that he left was to make him lunch and then dinner, both times he made something light so Eren would hopefully eat most of it. Though like breakfast, he didn’t eat much but a few bites of each meal. He wanted to say something to Eren, to tell him that it eventually will get easier but it’s going to be hell at first. Just to not let these days where he can’t pull himself out of his mind win.

 

Eren passed out not too long after his failed attempt at eating dinner and Levi had been tempted to carry him back to his room but ran the risk of waking him up. As the day went on, the bags under his eyes managed to worsen and he wondered if Eren was getting any sleep during the night. The only time that he’s actually seen him sleep through the night was when he slept in the same bed as him.

He continued to watch whatever appeared on the screen and even checked his phone to see if Erwin or Hanji was annoying him but there was nothing from them. Eventually, he found himself slouching more and more onto the couch and soon enough he passed out. The only reason he knew that he passed out and didn’t just close his eyes for five minutes was that there was no more sunlight coming in from the glass double doors and that Eren somehow ended up laying next to him.

Levi didn’t completely understand how his body didn’t wake itself up when Eren even moved in his direction. It’s been trained to react to the slightest movement and awake instantly if someone even tries to touch him, but somehow Eren managed to move from his spot on the opposite side of the couch and fall asleep next to him.

At first, he leaned into the warmth, forgetting how comforting it was when Eren had been in his other form and cuddled next to him in his bed and was tempted to fall back asleep. However, then he realized what he was doing. He couldn’t allow himself to be comfortable with the kid or be anything other than a brief rock for him to lean on until Hanji found his family. If everything went to plan then Eren would be gone within two weeks and he would never see him or contact him ever again. That’s why he jerked out of his seat and ignored the dazed look that he received from Eren when he startled him awake.

“Levi?” he called out, sleepy.

“I’m going to bed, goodnight,” Levi replied back, quick and crisp.  

He knew that it probably came out sharper than he meant it but didn’t make any effort to soften the blow. He needed to make some distance between them and putting actual physical distance wouldn’t work, especially with the only way to get Eren out of a panic attack was holding him. The apology was already on his tongue while he headed into his room and closed the bedroom door behind him, but swallowed it down and leaned against the piece of wood. Levi wondered how long he’d be able to keep him at arms-length without completely destroying whatever they had between them. He still needed to be someone that Eren could rely on, just not completely become dependent and just until they found whoever was left of his family. His actually family would take over and his hands would be clean of this matter, hopefully never talking about it again so that he could return back to his broody and workaholic self.

Two knocks were barely audible in the silence but he could feel the vibrations on his back. He wanted to open the door and confront Eren, but instead, he didn’t move and kept his back against the cooling wood.

“Levi, are you...are you okay?” Eren’s voice drifted in, barely hearing the boy on the other side of the door.

“Yes, Eren, I’m not feeling so great all of a sudden,” the lie easily spilling out of his mouth.

Why am I lying? Why am I faking being sick just so I can get away from him?

“Oh, do you need anything?” Eren suddenly finding his confidence, worry evident in his voice.

Levi suddenly realized that his form of a cat didn’t suit him but rather a dog, waiting patiently and doing anything to try and please him. The sudden image of Eren with floppy brown ears and a fluffy tail entered his mind and actually made a small chuckle pass his lips. Quickly coughing to hopefully cover up the laugh that managed to escape him and adding to the effect that he was ‘sick.’

“No, I’m good...just head off to bed whenever you want,” he continued to lie.

He could hear the hesitation in Eren’s steps as he walked away from the door and didn’t move from his spot on the door, not until he couldn’t hear his footsteps anymore. Hoping that Eren just headed straight into his room and decided to call it a night, he headed into his bathroom and splashed his face with water as soon as he turned on the facet. He leaned against the counter and hung his head, deciding what Eren really was to him.

Levi could barely stand the company of the ones he called his friends but didn’t mind the silence that encased them whenever Eren sat with him on the couch. He secretly enjoyed finding shows and movies that he thought Eren would like, and to notice the tilt of his head, indicating that he didn’t understand something. An answer was always on the tip of his tongue, a simple explanation for him to understand and if he still didn’t completely grasp it, it didn’t bother him to further dissect the topic. He did it for Eren when he was in his other form constantly and even with the heavy awkwardness that he felt between them, if Eren asked, he would answer anything he was confused about.

If it was anyone else, he didn’t know if he would do the same thing. He got annoyed if he had to explain himself to his recruits more than once and god forbid that they had any questions. If there was remotely even a question that had to do with anything he already said, he made them do a hundred push-ups or thirty laps around their training grounds in some of the abandoned aircraft hangars on the outskirts of Maria.

He didn’t know if he would have willingly taken Eren in if Petra hadn’t picked and asked him personally. He could admit that he was intrigued about the boy and how he could shapeshift, along with the fact that he didn’t need Hanji or Erwin hearing that everything involving with Furlan affected him a lot more than he was letting on. Levi had a feeling that it was something that Eren wouldn’t voluntarily tell any of them but both Hanji and Erwin had a way of discreetly trying to pull information out without the person knowing.

Finally grabbing the hand towel nearby to wipe his dripping face, he wondered what his role exactly with Eren was. His savior? His protector? His caregiver? Even as he prepared for bed and long after he climbed under his sheets, he couldn’t completely solidify their relationship.

 

Eren had yet another sleepless night. He laid awake for most of the night, listening to the voices that came out on the television that he grew too attached too. He was actually afraid to turn off the screen, terrified of the shadows that seemed to shape and form into other beings if he stared at them for too long without the light. His fingers already trembled at the figures his imagination created out of those simple shadows. Of the lab coats, tall and lean with crooked backs and long, bony fingers, ready to grab at his exposed ankle and drag him back.

If the light from the screen wasn’t enough to drive the shadows away, he would turn on the lamp that rested next to the bed. It would help until he began to grow sleepy and then it was a constant struggle to keep those shadows from transforming and making him restless once again. It also didn’t help that he couldn’t do anything but blame himself for being the source of Levi’s sudden behavior change shortly after he fell asleep. He didn’t realize that he passed out while they watched the screen in the living room and didn’t expect to find himself falling face first into the cushion. Soon understanding that he had somehow crawled over the space between him and Levi, and was most likely ended up leaning against the only other warm body in the room.

He thought he was making progress with Levi. At first, he would barely make physical contact with him and even with the attacks that plagued him before, the most that he would touch Eren would be his wrists or hands. Now this morning, he had pressed him against his body and tried to restore the warmth that was seeping from his body from the nightmares that still knocked at the back of his mind constantly. Digging its claws in and refusing to let out, even if he fought with all of his might to loosen just a finger away.

From the few moments that he saw Levi retreat into his room, rejection was a heavy taste in his mouth with the quick and emotionless response that he received from the man before he disappeared. He wished this his body didn’t seek out the warmth from Levi’s while he slept and reopen this distance that he could already feel between them. It had seemed like they had made some progress but now...everything could go back to the way the way they were when Levi first found out about him.

Eren knew that he was probably overthinking everything and the lack of sleep that has been taunting him for the past couple of days were messing with him more. Putting all the blame upon himself couldn’t possibly help either. Whatever the factor may be, he found himself spending the majority of the night laying on the mattress, staring at the ceiling, and trying to find ways to once again rebuild whatever was between them.

Growing tired of just laying on his back, he pulled himself off of the bed and made his way over to his only tiny window. It was still dark outside, though bits of purple and yellow were beginning to color the sky and wondered how long it would be before the sun began to peak out from the buildings surrounding them. His eyes were too sensitive for the screen, dry and heavy from the sleepless night and the light from it continued to irritate, causing him to rub his eyes if he stared at it for too long. Hesitantly, he pushed open his bedroom door to see that the hallway was almost completely black and he could see nothing of the living room except for the faint line that came from underneath Levi’s door. Eren was growing tired of his room and needed a change of pace, now having the ability to freely move around, something he would never have been able to do before. However, he didn’t know where the switch to turn on the lights were and didn’t feel like fumbling through the dark and easily making himself go through another attack because of the darkness.

His eyes went to the door across from his, remembering that the only time that he’d been in the office was when he knocked over Levi’s childhood book. Grabbing the knob and opening the door slowly, he was greeted with another dark room but he easily found the switch next to the door. The room was then bathed in a warm, yellow light coming from the various lamps around the office. The lamp that he knocked over last time was planted in the same spot and offered the room the most lighting. Eren never really had the chance to look around, too low to the ground to not see the vast amount of books that covered all of the walls. The whole room had a different smell than the rest of the house, he could tell that it was cleaned regularly like everything else but the chemical lemon wasn’t as heavy as other rooms. It was musty and the scent of age was prominent when he managed to pick up a random book, realizing that all of it was coming from all the books surrounding him.

Placing the large book into the exact spot that he took it from, he made his way to the wooden desk that sat near the other end of the room. Seeing the cushions that Levi and he sat on when he first told him about his past, made him remember the coldness that he felt toward Levi and shook his head. If he dwelled on it, he could still feel the warmth against his side like they were still pressed against each other on the couch. He brushed his side and hoping to get the warm off of him, Eren spotted a stack of white paper underneath the desk. His fingers then began to itch, to draw and create something under his hands rather than destroying, like the pan that he ruined yesterday.

Reaching for the paper and grabbing a thick stack, he looked around for something to write on and ended up finding a black pen in the first drawer that he opened. He couldn’t find a hard piece of cardboard or anything that could be used to draw on, so instead, he laid down flat on the hard floor. The first couple of objects that manifested on the paper were in his eyesight and they were crudely drawn. Eren tried not to let frustration eat away at him, that his once proud drawings were reduced to shaky lines and barely recognizable objects. It didn’t look as horrible as the first time that he picked up a pencil, his hands not remembering how to properly hold it, but it wasn’t far off. He filled the first page with the same oval shaped lamp that sat on a low table at the end of the room. Each lamp grew better in design and when the second page was filled, it actually looked like what he was trying to draw, though it didn’t help that he couldn’t erase and fix the lines that he messed up on or when he added too much shading. He was tempted to try his luck in finding a pencil in the drawers of the desk but he already felt like he was invading too much space already after opening just one.

Eren began to expand on the objects that began to overtake the white pages. He filled up every area that wasn’t already marked with the black of his ink and forced himself to move onto another paper when he could barely make sense of the drawings lettering it. It wasn’t until he mostly drew everything in the room that he dared to adventure toward actually breathing things. He began drawing the general shape of a face, carving out cheekbones that were looking too familiar to him and etching out features that only belonged to one person. At first, he wanted to draw Petra, something that he could keep a hold of so that she wouldn’t become like her but his hands betrayed him. It wasn’t until that he carved out the face that laid in front of him and beginning to work on the eyes that he realized that he was creating Levi.

Immediately he wanted to scrap the idea and shred the paper into bits, not wanting anyone to discover what he just drew. Though his fingers itched to finish it at least...and that’s what he did. It didn’t take too long for him to completely Levi, even if he felt like he couldn’t get his eyes right, and he didn’t let himself become too proud of being able to capture Levi in some way. He quickly moved onto actually making Petra and was happy to find that he hadn’t forgotten any of the details of her face.

He had made her soft eyes looking at Levi, remembering then that she had admitted to him that at one point she thought that she liked him, but now just saw him as a dear friend. An unfamiliar feeling crept into his stomach when he thought of how she could have easily made him fall for her and how simple it could have been. Petra was so easy to love. Pressing the feeling down, he continued to add details to both of their faces, the small smile lines that can barely be seen on Petra’s face and the phantom wrinkles that appeared in Levi’s forehead. Once he was done, he fanned the paper so that the ink dried completely before folding it and placing it next to him.

It wasn’t until the light began to stream through the large window that he realized that he’d been drawing for more than a couple of hours. His hand cramped multiple times, warning him that it’s been so long since he held a pen and actually used his hand this way. He couldn’t help himself but draw Levi, wither it be his hands and fingers, or just his eyes. The more he drew, the more that he felt uneasy that Levi could easily walk into the room and see him creating a mirror image of him on paper.

Eventually, he sat against the base of the wooden desk, letting him stretch his limbs before changing the paper and adding it to the growing pile of drawings of Petra and Levi. He sat there for a bit, deciding that he shouldn’t be focusing on the both of them and rather on other things. Once again, he began to draw random object around him but eventually, he grew bored of making the same things over and over again but in different sizes and shapes. Switching out for a new sheet of paper, he began to create random face shapes and trying to avoid any that resembled Levi’s.

As he drew, he realized that he was doing grouping together three facial shapes and quickly came to the sickeningly realization that he was trying to draw his mother and two childhood friends. His throat dried and immediately his hands began to tremble thinking of how his hands were beginning to betray him. He hadn’t thought of them, only in his nightmares and he hadn’t been able to distinguish the difference between those and his actual fettling memories.

Though he knew that he should stop before he began to spiral down and have an attack like he always did when he thought of them, Eren couldn’t stop his hands from trying to create more of them. He tried everything, didn’t set of eyes, different cheekbones, different everything, but their faces never looked right. Tearing through numerous papers and having to rip some of them, hating the empty look they all gave him when they landed on the floor. He x’d out all of their faces too, trying to get those incorrect features out of his head. All too soon he ran out of the thick stack of paper that he drew with and he sat there, hands grabbing fistfuls of his hair as he took in all the filled pieces of paper of failed versions of them.

Eren closed his eyes and tried to block out all of their faces now surrounding him, trying to push back nausea and anxiety that made its way up his throat. Why did he do this to himself when he knew that nothing he did, nothing he drew would help him remember them more. Hot tears began to leak out from his shut eyes and he tried in vain to wipe them away as more replaced the ones he just soaked up with his shirt.

What if they managed to find his family and he couldn’t remember them at all? They would be complete strangers to him and he would most likely have no say if he didn’t want to go with him. But who wouldn’t want to stay with their family after being separated for so long? What kind of freak rather stay with constant living reminders that he’d been kidnapped and tormented than with the family that’s been searching for him since he’s been gone? He wanted Levi in that moment, to tell him how selfish he was being, that even if he didn’t recognize them then it would take only some time to remember them once again. He always seemed to say the right thing or just his presence next to Eren always calmed him and brought him back.

However, he couldn’t move from beside the desk, surrounded by vast pieces of paper with his faceless mother and friends. He couldn’t stop the small sobs that managed to escape him as he grabbed for the only sheet of paper that didn’t make his heart weep. Pressing it against his heart, he wished that he could remember something as simple as his mother’s face.

 

Like the past couple of nights, Levi didn’t manage to sleep through the night without waking up at the slightest noises. Most of them came from outside, either a bird landing on his porch or a loud city noise that managed to stir him awake. He left the television on, a habit that he got from having cat Eren sharing the bed with him and it didn’t take him long to distinguish between the noises from the screen and ones that didn’t. Eventually, he managed to close his eyes and sleep some before he opened them again to see the sun beginning to come in through his large window.

Deciding that he was due for some water, he pulled himself out of bed and padded his way into the kitchen to pour a large glass. He drank it greedily and even went to fill it up again before placing the almost empty glass in the sink. Levi wondered if he should go back to bed or start making breakfast for both him and Eren, knowing that the latter probably didn’t get any sleep either. He leaned against the counter, rubbing the non-existent sleep from his eyes and letting out a low sigh before noticing a new sound coming from within his apartment. Listening in and separating the artificial noises of the televisions from everything else, he could hear something coming from down the hallway. Wondering if Eren was actually awake, he headed down the hallway and saw that the room that was serving as his room was wide open. A quick glance in told him that no one was in there and he couldn’t see a light from underneath the bathroom door so Eren wasn’t in there. The blankets and comforter were a mess and he itched to fix the bed, but instead, he needed to focus on finding Eren.  

The noise sounded once again and Levi quickly recognized as a sob, a suppressed one, but still a sob. Turning around and heading into the office to see a familiar scene that he was coming acquainted with. He just didn’t expect to find a mountain of shredded up paper surrounding Eren’s tiny, balled up form. Eren didn’t seem to either care or notice that the office door opened, but it gave him time to assist the situation, taking in the drawings of hundreds of faces. All of the faces were different but he couldn’t completely tell since all of them were x’d out and barely recognizable. There was a small stack of paper to the left of Eren that had objects drawn onto the white sheets, but none of those had black lines running through everything on them. Eren’s right hand was smudged with ink and he was clinching another piece of paper to his chest, while his other hand grabbed a fistful of his hair.

Silent sobs managed to shake his small frame and his white long-sleeved shirt was completely becoming soaked with tears. He didn’t realize that the boy was talented from what he could pick out that wasn’t completely destroyed with pen marks. Taking a few hesitant steps into the room, afraid that a wrong move could send him into another panic attack, he made it a few steps from the desk before kneeling down.

“Eren,” he softly called out.

He was quickly greeted with wide, glassy emerald eyes. There were so much terror and sadness that suffocated those eyes, that Levi was afraid that he was so close to being pulled over the edge. He wanted to reach out at the point and try to soothe some of the terror away, to try and bring him back.

“What happened?” he asked, keeping his voice low and calm.

Levi didn’t want him to think that he was being scolded, though he wished that Eren had asked if it was alright to come into his office. However, he could let that slide especially when it looked like he didn’t break or move anything, just sat on the floor and drew. Eren stared at him, the tears stopping momentarily before they continued their trail of running down his face. He couldn’t stop himself from reaching out and wiping the hot tears off of his cheeks, ignoring the way that Eren slightly moved to lean into the touch. He seemed to understand what he did because his cheeks sudden turned pink and he turned away from Levi.

“I-...I can’t remember their faces,” Eren finally confessed. “I can’t remember anything about them...what if-...what if-...they’ve forgotten about me too.”

Levi’s heart broke a fraction at his confession, that he was terrified of such a simple thing and that he somehow managed to crack away at his frozen heart. He did the only thing he knew would calm down Eren, he grabbed his arms slowly and pulled him into him. Eren didn’t resist, just let himself be pulled along but the sobs that had rattled his body managed to stop once he was in Levi’s arms.

“They hadn’t forgotten you, Eren. They probably never stopped searching for you,” Levi told him, trying to not further shatter this illusion that his family most likely gave up looking for him.

He didn’t do anything but nod as he pressed his head into the base of Levi’s neck, clinching the paper that was still against his chest. It still surprised him that he didn’t find the tears and other fluids escaping from the boy disgusting, that it was getting all over his shirt and skin and he didn’t feel the need to immediately get away and take a shower. He was perfectly fine with Eren using him as a safety blanket and slowly getting back to his normal self, even with the few hiccups that they’ve had in the past couple of days.

Levi sat on the hardwood floor, legs becoming numb with the extra weight in his lap, rubbing the boy’s back and wondering how he got into this situation. How he became the shoulder to cry on and beginning to care for Eren within such a short amount of time. It honestly scared him and he didn’t get frightened easily. Honestly, he hadn’t be frightened or scared of something in years. He put a reminder in the back of his head that he needed to clean up the shreds of paper but right now he needed to focus on what was in his arms at the moment.

Eventually, the balled up Eren ran out of tears and became limp in his arms. Guessing that the lack of sleep had finally caught up to him because even when Levi managed to get onto his feet and almost knocked his head into the door frame, an accident, of course, he didn’t wake up. He didn’t want to put him back in his room. He wanted to keep an eye on him in case Eren started to have nightmares as he slept so he put him in his own bed. It took some effort to loosen the death grip that Eren had on him, but eventually, he laid him down and placed one of his pillows in his arms instead. Immediately, he snuggled against it and buried his face in it, letting out a small sigh like he was content with it instead of Levi himself, that it was a fine substitute. As he looked down at Eren, he wondered how much longer he could do this without finally cracking and eventually retreating back into his old, hateful self. He wasn’t used to being so accepting of another person, especially with one that was now living with him for the unseen future. At least until they found his family.

He grabbed his phone and let his phone ring, calling the one person that he could talk to about what he was going through. He needed to hear from someone that he wasn’t completely going insane and that he didn’t have to deal with these new feelings for too much longer.

Chapter Text

“What a pleasure,” Hanji’s voice almost boomed into his ear. “You never call me...well unless I’ve done something to annoy you and...nope can’t think of anything.”

She cackled like the witch that she is, probably thinking of all the little ‘pranks’ that she pulled on him over the years, which he would like to completely forget about. Levi should know by now to wait to put the phone to his ear before she answered, especially when she sometimes answered in sometimes orthodox ways. Usually, it all involved with her screaming something into his ear and laughing hysterically for hours. He always avoided her like the plague no matter how much she begged him to answer her back or just talk to her. She fucking deserves it every time.

“I honestly don’t know how long I can do this for,” the confession fell faster from his lips than he thought it would, surprising himself and probably more than Hanji.

“Tell me how you really feel,” she shot back at him. “Levi, you had Eren for what-...less than four days, what could have happened in that time?”

“It's the touching, the fucking touching. I’m not a touchy-feely person, never am and never will be, but this kid-...”

“What do you mean touching? Levi did you touch him in his no-no-”

“Hanji, I swear to God, if you don’t stop-...”

“I thought you were atheist.”

He had to physically put his phone down and put it on speaker after he made his way into the kitchen. If he didn’t put it down, either he would have crushed it in his hands or thrown it across the apartment. Both of those scenarios he would have a mess to clean up and he didn’t feel like doing anything like that today. At least he put her on speakerphone and didn’t just leave her talking into the open air, thinking that he was listening.

“Okay, okay, I’ll stop,” she breathed, having laughed her ass off at her last comment.

“You ready to act like a fucking adult?” he growled, getting his morning tea prepared.

“Speaking of Eren, where is he?”

He subconsciously looked up toward his bedroom, wondering if Eren managed to fall completely to sleep and hadn’t been woken up by her cackling. Knowing that his senses were extra sensitive compared to his own, he asked himself if he could actually hear everything they were saying.

“He’s sleeping,” he answered, lowering his voice. “I’d like to keep it that way so don’t scream into the phone.”

“Wait, he can hear our conversation? Am I on speakerphone or regular? Oh my god, this is so cool-” she began rambling

“Stop it,” he snapped lightly. “I don’t know if it’s possible, but most likely he can. It wouldn’t surprise me if he actually could. Besides, the more sleep he gets, the better.”

“Has he been sleeping regularly? Eating well?”

He prepared his Keurig with Earl Grey, something that was a morning favorite and waited for the water to warm up enough so he can actually start his day. “It was fine in the beginning but yesterday he had one of the worst panic attacks I’ve ever seen.”

“He was fine before right?”

“You mean before that or before we knew that he can turn into a fucking animal?”

“Animal, of course, dumbass.”

Taking his first sip of the hot tea actually made his bones turn into liquid and immediately relaxed him. He hadn’t been able to enjoy his tea since everything happened with...well everything. Before it was constantly worrying about Furlan and his next move and now it was Eren, worrying about what would set him off next. However, Hanji did have a point. When he was in his other form, he only seemed to have an episode maybe twice since he’d been here and now it was almost every day. Maybe it was easier to ignore reality when you literally can’t do anything but meow and purr.

“He could be in shock still...the last time he was able to walk on two legs was when he was escaped and that now he can interact with more things,” Levi confessed. “Before when I showed him something, I offered it like you would for any other animal...getting them slowly used to it and letting him sniff it.”

“Maybe you need to do just that,” she concluded.

“Like he’s still an animal?”

“Not exactly like that, but the slowly part. You don’t want to shock him further and make him keep reliving a panic attack every time you do something or anything...What caused his last attack?”

“...he almost burned the apartment building down.”

He could hear her suppressing a laugh and he ignored it in favor of drinking the rest of his tea.

“Anyways,” quickly ushering the conversation along. “He got burned from the oil or whatever he used and he shut down...or that’s what I can gather from what happened. He hasn’t really told me completely what happened.”

“Levi...you have to understand that whatever Eren has gone through, you’ll never be able to fully comprehend what they did to him. He may not be able to tell anyone what he went through...he may never be able to,” she answered rather seriously, something that some part of him still didn’t believe Hanji could fully be.

He knew that. Levi was the last person that she should be telling this, especially when he still had his own demons that he carried over the years. Eren is the only other person alive that knows so much as his past, besides the two that lived through it with him. Though it struck him that it didn’t really matter if he should care or not if he could never understand Eren. Once Hanji found his family then he would never see Eren again and wouldn’t have to spare another thought on the matter. Speaking of finding his family…

“Anyways, did you make some progress on finding Eren’s family?” Levi questioned, moving the conversation along.

“So...about that,” she confessed, laughing lightly at the end.

Annoyance began to eat away at his already thin patience for her. “Have you even started?”

“Hey, don’t get annoyed or angry with me.”

“Erwin made this number one priority-”

“My number one priority is making sure that every recruit that comes in here gets back out alive. I’ll do what I can but not when we keep getting hammered by the Military and now the Garrison.”

“...How bad is it? Erwin won’t tell me anything.”

“It’s worse than usual, but nothing we can’t manage. The recruits are strong and eager, most the time they get injured because of that eagerness.”

“Just...just do as much as you can when you get the time. I want to get Eren back as soon as possible.”

“Is he that bad?”

“No...Just-...”

Why was it hard for him to say what he wanted to say? That he just wanted to get back to his normal life. The faster he got Eren out of his house and life then the better off they’d both be. He could get better and actually have a life with his family while Levi himself could have nothing distracting him as he finally focused on the Garrison, on Furlan. It would just better that way.

“I’ll talk to you later,” he finally answered, hanging up the phone before she could say anything else.

He placed the phone on the counter and let out a deep sigh that he didn’t know he was holding inside of himself. Rubbing the bridge of his nose and disposing his mug into the sink, he decided that the only thing he could really do was make breakfast and hope that Eren managed to eat more than a few bites.

 

Eren slept through most of the morning and managed to wake up only when he smelt food, though he didn’t crawl out of Levi’s bed. Levi didn’t want to set their plates on his clean bed, but he didn’t think that he would be able to get the boy out of bed. It looked like he still needed a full days rest, the dark circles that developed under his eyes had lessened but not by much. So reluctantly, he placed the full plate in front of Eren and sat on the side of the bed, turning on the television so that they both had something to pay attention to instead of each other.

By the time Levi ate the rest of breakfast, he looked over to see that Eren barely picked up his fork. Grabbing only his plate, he headed into the kitchen to quickly wash it off and headed back into the room to find that nothing had changed. Eren continued to just stare at the screen, not completely actually looking at it but rather just staring off into space. He needed the kid to eat something. Either he was going to eat or they would have to stick an IV or feeding tube in him. Hanji would have his head if Eren managed to lose weight instead of gaining any.

“Come on, kid,” he sighed as he sat in front of Eren.

He blinked like he had to pull himself out of a daze and refocused those eyes onto Levi.

“Huh?” Eren asked.

“I need you to eat. I don’t care if it’s only a couple of bites but you need to eat something. The whole point of me keeping you here is so you have somewhere to stay and get healthy. I can’t very much do that if you faint from eating almost nothing.”

He grabbed the abandoned plate and placed the fork in Eren’s hand, holding the plate in front of him in a silent order to eat. His eyes took in the food for a moment like it was foreign before lifting up the fork, scooping up some of the eggs, and then finally eating it. Levi didn’t care if he only had a few mouthfuls, just that he actually ate something but he wasn’t going to go as far as force feeding him or feeding him himself. Eren made a move to stop twice but he pushed the plate toward him, silently telling him to eat more. He huffed a bit before consuming more and when at least half of the food was gone, Levi grabbed the fork and headed into the kitchen.

After putting the pans and utensils away, he wondered how long it would take before Eren managed to bounce back, or at least pull himself out of the hole that he’s made for himself. It could take weeks or more but he didn’t have the time or patience for that. He needed to bring him out soon, especially if they wanted to get him to a healthier weight and to find his family. Deciding that he could brainstorm that with Hanji later, he hadn’t properly cleaned from all the smoke from the other day and the itch to sanitize everything was finally getting to him.

 

The majority of the day passed with Eren laying down in his bedroom, sleeping on and off and only spending his waking hours watching whatever was on the television. Levi took that time to clean his kitchen and dining room from top to bottom, getting rid of the invisible dirt that’s managed to build up over the smoke and the last time that he cleaned. The living room could be done another day and the same could be said for the rest of the apartment, he wouldn’t touch his bedroom especially if this was the only time that Eren had been able to get some actual sleep.

He checked in on the kid periodically, most of the time he was greeted by those emerald eyes turning to him before they returned to the screen. However, when he took a break from scrubbing the light smoke residue from the ceiling cabinets, Levi saw that he had passed out once again. His hair fell in his face, ruffled beyond repair and a mess, and he had curled himself around on of Levi’s pillows. The piece of paper that he had grasped for dear life before laid limply in his hand and he didn’t come up with a good enough reason as to why he shouldn’t look at it as Levi grabbed it from his hands. Eren didn’t put up any fight, just let it slip through his fingers and then further wrapped himself around the pillow.

Unfolding the crumpled up paper, Levi found almost the last thing he expected on the white surface. He thought that it would be a letter that Eren made or maybe a thing that made him remember something about his family but he didn’t expect to see himself or Petra. Quickly admitting to himself that the kid had some skill, he tucked into the back of his mind that this could be the way to bring Eren out of the episode that he was going through. Suddenly remembering the mess that currently littered the floor of his office, he tucked the paper back into Eren’s hand before heading off to clean that up.

He wondered if the kid had a natural talent or somehow Eren was able to get a hold of supplies to draw and built up his skill. It wouldn’t have surprised him if Petra managed to sneak in those supplies so he would have something to distract himself from whatever he endured. When he walked into his office, he was pleased to notice that most of the mess was centered in one area and easy to clean up. Grabbing the small trash can underneath the wooden desk, he started collecting the shreds of paper and throwing away the ones that were covered in scratches and x’s. Levi quickly found the thick stack of drawings that almost hid behind the side of his desk and after seeing that everything else was placed in the trash can, he sat down next to the large windows with the papers in hand.

The drawings in his hands didn’t feel like they belonged to the kid in his bedroom, Eren who barely knew anything about the world and that he could create such realistic work. The first couple of papers were filled to the brim of objects that he could find around the room and he could see the mistakes that Eren made, ones that were completely scratched out like he tried to make them never exist. The kid had been drawing with a pen and Levi himself could barely write more than a page without making a mistake with one.

After passing through those papers, he found that the rest of the pile were mixed drawings of himself and Petra, though the focus was mostly on him. He thought that he would feel creeped down out Eren had perfectly drawn him, found every wrinkle and imperfection on his body that he could see and placed it on paper. However, he still made him look more inhumanly perfect and those flaws work with his body. He wondered if this was how Eren saw him and if he’ll see him the way that Petra saw him for the longest time, as his savior. Levi hadn’t been able to get her to move from that mindset for the longest time after he ‘saved’ her and got her involved with the Recon. Even after a few years, she still worshiped the very ground that he walked in and he had snapped at her multiple times that it was beyond annoying. It had been cute at first, mostly being served at, at almost every second of the day when he was at Wings of Freedom but it quickly becoming infuriating. She backed off eventually and they managed to have a normal friendship, as normal as his friendships got, but Petra would once in a while slip back into those times, and with a quick light smack to the back of the head she would go back to normal. He just hoped that Eren wouldn’t go through the same thing. Though first, he needed to bring him out of what he was going through now and get some meat on his bones.

After going through the rest of the drawings, he placed them in one of his desk drawers in case Eren wanted them back or just to show him later and remind him that he has an amazing talent that he could use. Having nothing else to do and not wanting to actually leave the apartment, he grabbed his laptop and made his way into his bedroom. Eren was still passed out, the drawing of himself and Petra clung to his chest now and it looked like he was trying to suffocate himself with the pillow.

Deciding that he could still breath properly, Levi opened up the computer and looked through the emails that managed to stockpile up since yesterday morning. He had been too busy keeping an eye on Eren to do anything but sit on the couch with him and mostly do nothing. Thankfully the Recon hadn’t gone to shit in the last twenty-four hours and Erwin wasn’t bothering him that much with work, he went through the emails faster than normal. After exiting out of the window, his finger hovered over the mouse deciding if what he was going to do was a good idea or not. He had hatched it while going through the drawings that Eren made and it continued to grow in volume as he went through the emails. Deciding just to go for it, he searched for art supplies and clicked on the first link that could hopefully help him.

Levi’s never really used his own money to buy things for other people. Though it didn’t really count when he gave his card to Moblit whenever Hanji did manage to lose a member, on that rare occasion. He wasn’t the one that swiped the card at the register and pick out the items, he just offered up the money. For the holidays and birthdays were the same, though sometimes he forgot about the birthdays and didn’t get Hanji or Erwin anything at all. Though they were lucky that he got them anything for the holidays, which just included Christmas and that was it. He never really touched his money, only using it for the bare necessities and the occasional splurge, which happened maybe once a year. Though as he searched through the pages of items online and continued to add more and more to his cart, he didn’t feel the uneasiness that he got from spending too much money.

It wasn’t that he was a Scrooge or loved the fact that his bank account rarely fell below a certain line and only continued to go up. He constantly gave back to his community, giving large tips to servers that he liked and didn’t give him a fake sob sorry to get more out of him. He donated monthly to an organization that helped get kids off the street and into schooling, though he would gladly take that secret to his grave. The amount of shit that he would get from Erwin and Hanji would make him suffer for years to come.

As he added to the ever-growing cart, he wondered where exactly he would put all of the supplies at. He could convert part of the office into a temporary studio for Eren, but that run the risk of paint or whatever he would use to get all over his study. Levi couldn’t even imagine the cost of replacing some of the books in there if paint managed to get on them. If he could get a large tarp and clean sheets to put over them then he wouldn’t have to worry about that, he just needed to make sure that it was secure when he placed them. He would honestly prefer that Eren would do it outside, though it was becoming too cold to even enjoy the sun out on his patio.

When it gets warmer, we could move it out there and have the office as a back up if it’s too windy-

He quickly banished those thoughts. He was acting like this wasn’t also a temporary setup. Eren wouldn’t be staying into the new year. He possibly wouldn’t be staying for more than a few weeks and would be back with his family before Christmas. Levi wondered what he was doing then, about to check out with over seven hundred dollars of items for a kid that he barely knew. He was tempted to just exit all of it out right there, to just forgot about the idea but remembered that this could be what can get Eren out of whatever plagued his head and also give him an output. He rationalized that he wasn’t doing this out of the kindness of his heart and he could easily recover financially from this with not even a third of his next paycheck.

Finally convincing himself to continue and completely checked out, pleased to see that they could deliver to his apartment the same day and decided that he could set that up for the rest of the day while Eren kept resting. Closing the laptop once he received the email that it was being processed, he looked over at the kid sleeping and let out a sigh before deciding that he should start making lunch.

 

Lunch was uneventful and later than he hoped, though he did convince Eren to eat more than what he had at breakfast. He made tomato soup and figured that it would be easier to consume, he even added a straw to the mug with the spoon in hopes that it would make him eat more. Levi was right about that, he ended up using the straw more than the spoon and almost drank all of it, though he barely touched the crackers that were brought in. While he waited for a confirmation email that everything that he ordered had been delivered, he sat in bed with Eren and flipped through the channels to fuel his boredom. Eren didn’t seem to mind, not when he was passing in and out of sleep for most of the day and only managed to stay awake for half an episode of whatever he decided to watch for the half hour before falling asleep once again.

Everytime that he opened his eyes, the bags under his eyes diminished slowly and his face began to gain some color. Before it was almost hard to distinguish the difference between the coloring of his scars and the paleness of his face, but now the warmth slowly surfaced back. Though he never really got the grogginess out of his eyes and sometimes only looked around the room briefly like he was reminding himself of where he was before going back to sleep.

When his phone rang, he cursed to himself that he didn’t put it on silent because Eren shot straight up and clung the pillow to his chest. He looked around the room and it took a few seconds for him to recognize the sound of his phone before calming down enough to plant his head into the pillow.

“Hey, it’s okay. Sorry, I woke you up,” Levi consulted him, reaching across the bed to place on hand on his knee and squeeze it slightly before grabbing his phone.

He didn’t miss the way that Eren’s eyes focused on the knee that he touched and didn’t look away until he muttered that he’s going back to bed. Levi recognized the number as the front desk and only answered long enough for the receptionist to tell him that he had a few packages downstairs. Wanting to recruit Eren to help him bring everything upstairs but deciding against it since he didn’t need the employees gossiping behind his back about his new temporary tenant and asking unnecessary questions. The fewer people knew about Eren living here, the better.

“Eren, I’ll be right back,” Levi explained as he got out of bed and grabbed the closest shoes to him before starting to head back.

“Where are you going?” Eren questioned, sleep plaguing his voice and showing just how much sleep he still needed.

“I’m just going downstairs. I wouldn’t be gone for long, less than five minutes.”

As he passed Eren, he ruffled the mess that he called hair and continued on his way out the door, though he didn’t miss the way that Eren’s face turned a light shade of red when he messed with his hair.

Levi didn’t speak to anyone when he finally arrived in the front lobby. It had been ages since he’s actually been down there, always using the underground garage to come in and out. He only came down to get his mail and renew his lease every couple of months. The lobby was the same ugly cream color with accents of black coloring the walls. He didn’t take too much time taking it in and headed straight down the long hallway to the front desk, immediately seeing the multiple boxes behind the desk and guessing that all of those were for him.

The receptionist had worked here for years, long before he signed his first lease and officially moved in after everything happened with Furlan and Isabel. She at first gave him the whole warm welcome every time he walked through the door but when he continued to ignore her and then started using the garage as an entry, she stopped altogether. He never learned her name but she confessed to him one day that she appreciated his no-care attitude and was the only tenant that she actually enjoyed seeing. Levi still didn’t completely understand whatever the hell she meant but it didn’t matter, especially when he rarely saw her for more than a second a few times a week.

Not even giving her a nod in acknowledgment, Levi grabbed one of the spare luggage carts next to the desk and began piling up the boxes. He did appreciate that she wasn’t coming over and helping him, wasn’t asking questions of why there were so many boxes. Of why there were suddenly so many boxes arriving at his house when he mostly only received ads for nearby restaurants and electronics. Though most of the boxes were heavy, he managed to stack everything without too much trouble and nothing seemed ready to fall over. Barely giving her a brief hand wave over the shoulder, he headed back into the elevator and rode it to his floor.

After pulling the heavy load off the elevator and through his front door, he turned around to see that Eren had moved to the couch, his pillow still encased in his arms. He had the blanket that served as his sitting place since he first arrived wrapped around his shoulders and leaning against the arm of the couch, his head against the pillow. Levi wondered how long he waited until he decided to move and wait for him in the living room. He told him five minutes though he remembered the last time that he told him a specific time he would be home and he arrived with a knife stab in his side.

“You came back,” he heard Eren whispered from across the room.

Sleep still heavy plagued his voice and eyes, very much telling Levi that he needed to go back to bed. The last properly sleep the kid had must have been the night before he shifted and that was days ago.

“Of course, I came back. Now go back to bed and sleep,” Levi commanded, grabbing the handles of the cart and pulling it toward the hallway to his office.

“I’ve slept long enough,” Eren yawned, getting up to follow behind him.

He could easily pick him up, throwing him over his shoulder and carrying him back to his bedroom, but it would be troublesome if he somehow managed to trigger Eren. So Levi let him follow him into the office and pointed at the cushions on his window, silently telling him to sit there. He didn’t put up a fight and obediently sat down, folding up the pillow and using it to prop up his head.

“What is all that?” Eren questioned him.

He ignored him for a second, trying to come up with something that sounded believable and not wanting Eren’s complex for him further develop. It didn’t take a rocket science to figure out that he was becoming too dependent on Levi and he understood that he needed to be that rock for Eren until his family was found. He could be that rock but he didn’t need to give more reasons for Eren to become attached to him.

“I found some of your drawings,” Levi explained, he turned to Eren in time to see his face quickly turning pink and pressing it into the pillow to hide. “I talked to Hanji after you first fell asleep and briefly mentioned your skills. She may have gone overboard.”

“Is all this from her?” he asked, his head still buried.

“Yeah, just don’t mention it to her. She gets flustered about that kind of stuff.”

The lies easily slipped through his lips, lying being the main component of his job and he just hoped that Eren didn’t poke his nose where it doesn’t belong and ask Hanji. She would lie for him...hopefully...actually most likely not. Especially if it was a chance to make fun of him and ruin his plans.

Why am I friends with her again?

“Do you need help?” Eren quickly asked, a yawn hanging at the end of his question.

“No,” he answered simply, walking over to his desk and opening one of the drawers to grab a box opener. “If you get bored, you can go back to my bedroom.”

The only response that he received with a short nod and he didn’t wait too long after to start opening the boxes and unpacking everything inside.

 

It didn’t take too long to take everything out of the boxes and organizing them into a semi-neat pile in the corner of the room. Eren tried to be engaging, trying to pull conversations out of him and asking what everything was when he pulled items out of the cardboard boxes. Like all of the other questions he asked previously, he wasn’t annoyed by the constant chatter and curiosity, though he had to be truthful and explain that he didn’t completely know what certain items were. He honestly bought almost one of everything on the website, not completely knowing what he was getting into. Levi admitted to himself that he probably should have waited on buying everything the moment he had this idea. Needed to do some more research before blindly buying hundreds of dollars of supplies and other materials that he didn’t know if Eren would need.

He looked over at said kid once, seeing that he was fighting sleep, his head nodding and blinking his eyes rapidly to get the sleep out of them. Levi suggested going back into his room again but the idea was quickly shot down by his stubbornness. He said that he didn’t want to leave Levi alone but thought that instead, Eren didn’t want to be left alone. He did drop it and returned to organizing and breaking down the boxes to make room for the others. When he did manage to see everything he bought and deciding that just looking at the items spread across the room, that it didn’t feel everything he bought was there. Though after checking his cart list and marking off everything at his feet and on the list, everything was there. It just didn’t feel like he got the bang for his buck but art supplies were expensive and wondered if Eren’s parents would be able to fuel them.

After he completed the list and made a pile to take out to the garbage, he turned toward Eren to see him passed out. His chocolate hair had flecks of gold woven in as the little sunlight that managed to come from the window shrouded him in light. He turned his body so that it pressed against the warm glass and curled against the pillow in his lap. He realized suddenly that Eren was very much like his other form, sleeping and finding places comfortable where a normal person wouldn’t think of falling asleep. At least he managed to fall asleep pretty fast and unlike Levi who took hours of staring at the ceiling until he felt even remotely tired.

He wondered how much sleep the kid managed to get over the past couple of nights. Levi knew for a fact that he barely got any from the first night. The nightmare he had made sure of it. Even though Eren never told him, he could tell that nightmares continued to plague him after that night and either kept him awake before or after they happened, maybe even both. He didn’t need to check in on him to know that because he went through the same thing after he got out of the streets.

Levi thought about what made the difference between when Eren had nightmares and not. Obviously, he didn’t seem to have those dreams when they slept in the same bed together, though he didn’t want to start that up again. Sleeping in the same bed with an animal was completely different when instead it is another person. Suddenly it hit him that even though Eren was restless, he hadn’t once woken up from a nightmare and had been clinching to the pillow for dear life. It was the pillow that he used the most while he slept so his scent was all over it. If he couldn’t sleep next to the kid, then the next best solution would be giving him something to sleep with. He decided that he would give it a try tonight and let Eren curl up with his pillow to see if it helped in any way.

Deciding that they could have an early lunch, Levi decided to make something light again and went with more soup and crackers. It was the only thing that he managed to eat almost all of it and Eren actually needed something inside of his stomach so it didn’t digest itself. It didn’t take too long to heat up though by the time he got the soup into two mugs, Eren slowly made his way out of the office and sat down on the couch.

“Hanji didn’t have to get all that stuff for me,” he sheepishly said as he adjusted the blanket on his shoulders. “I don’t even know how to use half the stuff in there.”

“Like I said, she can get carried away sometimes and I’ll show you how to use some of it,” Levi replied as he handed the warm mug over to Eren with a straw and put a plate of crackers in between them as he took his seat.

“You know how to draw?”

He turned on the television to drown out some of the silence between them. Levi had only picked up a pen for one thing and that was to sign and seal documents. He tried his hand at drawing at a younger age but quickly realized that he had no talent and didn’t have the patience for the craft. His hands weren’t meant to create.

“No, but it doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate it,” he concluded.

They continued to eat their soup silently and Levi couldn’t help but let a small smile encase his lips when he saw that Eren almost eat everything in his mug and even had some crackers. He quickly wiped it away before the kid could see it, not completely knowing why he had let it escaped or why it existed in the first place. Eren munched on crackers, nibbling on them as he waited for his mug to be taken away and Levi reminded himself that when he was better, he would teach him how to clean properly and where everything went. If he continued to live here for awhile then he would pull some of his weight, even if he would be leaving soon, at least he would have some household skills.

“When would I be able to use that stuff?” Eren nervously asked, looking away from him when he popped this question.

Looking at him now, the kid still looked tired from the constant on and off sleeping and still needed at least an actual full night rest before. Though the dark circles that sickened his face had already lessened and almost disappeared. Sleep still consumed his body and Levi could still tell that he was fighting it off to some degree. The only difference was the glimpse of excitement and curiosity glimmered in Eren’s eyes, most likely at the prospect of playing with all the new toys that he just bought him. He now was pleased that all of his money didn’t go to waste and he was actually interested in creating something with everything in the office. Levi looked at the window and saw that it was getting dark.

“Tomorrow, it would take too long to set everything up and it looks like you’re about to pass out...again,” he answered.

“I’m not tired,” Eren countered but then two seconds later and his body betrayed him by yawning.

A chuckle bubbled it’s way up his throat, thankfully one that was small and hopefully barely noticeable. He quickly banished the thought that the kid looked cute at that moment and turned his attention to the screen.

It didn’t take very long for Eren to pass out once again, though this time that he most likely was out for good. Levi waited until the end of the current episode of whatever played on the screen. He hadn’t paid any attention to the television, looking over at Eren and making sure that his theory about the pillow was still holding up. He didn’t stir that much, only to slightly adjust himself in his sleep. Levi decided that he should get him in his bed and then start to head to bed himself, well more like staring at the ceiling until he passed out for a few hours.

Picking Eren up, he carried him into his own room and found himself surprised when he didn’t wake up in his arms. He tucked a blanket around him and turned the television on in case he did wake up but turned down the volume to almost where he couldn’t hear the voices coming from the screen. He ruffled the kid’s hair before leaving and decided that tomorrow he would get Eren to take another shower, already feeling that his hair was becoming greasy.

When Levi began to clean up the living room, folding up the blanket that Eren used all day and organizing the remotes on the glass table, he could hear buzzing emerging from his bedroom. By the time that he realized his phone was going off and he made his way to his side table on the opposite side of the bed, the call ended. Turning over his phone, he let out a groan when he read that Erwin was the one that called him. He knew that he wasn’t going to call again and if Levi didn’t call him back than Erwin would make his life a living hell with paperwork.

“What do you want? I was just getting ready for bed,” Levi greeted as he fixed the bed.

“It’s only eight. What have you done with the real Levi?” Erwin questioned, a small laugh coming out of the speaker.

“Dealing with the brat wears me out. Now, what do you want?”

“Always so quick to the point.”

“Well, I learn from the best so spit it out.”

Levi could feel the tone of the conversation shift suddenly, from joking as friends to the authority of a commander and his underling. “There’s been hostile movement around your side of town. Fairly close to your apartment building to put it bluntly.”

“What does that have to do with me? I’ve been perfectly fine living here for the past couple of years and they haven’t been able to find where I live.”

“I know that you can take care of yourself but it's not only you now. With another person added to the mix, it's easier to make mistakes.”

“I don't make mistakes.”

“Anyways, I think that in the best of interest of you and Eren, that you should both move to a safe house and wait there until his family is found.”

The offer was ridiculous and Levi wondered if Erwin had a fever dream to come up with this solution. Eren was still adjusting to living in his apartment with limbs and was always on the verge of an attack. Moving him or putting him an unfamiliar environment would backtrack everything that Levi has done and worked toward over the past couple of days. No amount of art supplies would bring him out of wherever his mind would take him.

“There's no chance of that happening. Doing that to Eren would shock him and hurt his psyche. Hanji will agree with me that it would be the worst thing for him at this point.”

And he knew how much he and Hanji disagreed on everything. She wasn't stupid enough to think that this would benefit Eren in any way. “You think that you can protect the both of you?”

“Nothing is going to happen. I have a fake name under the lease and barely show my face. If someone finds out about me, they would be leaving with that information. I've been taking care of myself for years, the addition of the brat won't break me.”

“If anything were to happen to the boy-”

“I didn't realize that you cared so much for the kid. Don't worry, nothing is going to happen to him.”

“I made a promise to Petra that he would be safe, even if the Recon doesn't benefit from taking him under our wing, it doesn't mean that we go back on our word.”

He sat on top of his comforter, realizing that he was in desperate need of a shower and needed this conversation to end soon. “Is this all you wanted to talk about? If so, then I would rather be taking a shower than having this talk.”

“Hanji hasn't been able to make any progress with finding anything related to Eren. She explained to me that she needs blood samples and other procedures so she can actually find something.”

“Why didn’t she say anything to me about it this morning?”

Levi could feel irritation and anger beginning to build up in his chest and throat. He had to start moving around, pacing in front of his bed to get some of the energy out so he didn't snap at Erwin. The images of Eren’s scarred flesh flashed before his eyes. The red dots that looked like they would never properly heal, even with his superb healing abilities, on the inside of his elbow that were only visible to him when he stretched. He knew needle marks when he saw them and how whoever that punctured him with the needles did not care how they harshly they administered whatever they injected him with. After all the progress that he's made with Eren so far, all the panic attacks that he's helped him through and just simply seeing a needle could completely destroy him.

“Is there any other way?” He said through gritted teeth.

Why did Eren have to go through that again? Hasn't he suffered enough? “What's the problem, Levi?” Erwin questioned him.

“He's been through a lot already and I'm not just talking about whatever happened before he came to us. We need to wait a bit longer before-”

“Eren needs to go back to his family as soon as possible, before the Military catch wind that he's still in Maria. The sooner we get everything sorted out, the better it is for everyone involved.”

Letting out a sigh of annoyance, he rubbed the bridge of his nose and tried to think of how he approach this with Eren to convince him to go. If he just took him there without saying what Hanji would be doing to him then it'd take some time before the kid fully trusted him again.

“Fine,” he agreed regretfully.

“Now who seems to care so much about the kid?” Erwin teased him.

“Shut up.”

He hung up the phone and then tossed it on the bed, probably with too much force since it bounced on the bed and then landed on the floor. Deciding that a shower would hopefully clear his head, he headed into the bathroom and began to think of a plan for getting Eren to agree to be punctured by needles once again.

Chapter Text

He couldn’t remember most the other day. Eren could feel his body constantly phasing in and out of sleep, only remaining awake for moments to remind himself that he was in Levi’s bedroom. Levi. His scent surrounded him entirely, filling his senses and making purrs rumble through his throat silently, his body becoming laxer as it continued to envelop him. He had imagined that Levi’s body laid underneath him, the warmth seeping into his flesh but he would awaken to find the white pillow in his arms. He would once again begin to feel his body growing cold, the heat that filled him would diminish inside of him, at least until he drifted back to sleep.

Eating had been something he enjoyed doing with Levi, but over the past couple of days, it’s become more of a chore and necessity. He had been forced to keep eating, having to sit up and getting a plate shoved in his face if he didn’t eat the right amount. Eren didn’t mind it, just thought of it more as a hassle and preferred this mentioned over shoving food down his throat. Though Levi did mention good points that he wouldn’t get any better and get healthier if he didn’t eat properly. He told himself after Levi left the room and continued to let him sleep that he would try harder and eat more, not for himself but for the worry that plagued his face. Levi may not even be aware of the expression being on his face, that the wrinkles in his forehead deepened if he didn’t eat more and his eyes flickered back and forth between the food and Eren.

He managed to eat most of Levi brought him for lunch, though it cost less energy to drink than actually use his muscles to eat. The sleepless nights that plagued him for the past couple of days had seemed to finally catch up with him. He could barely stay awake for more than a few minutes before his eyes grew heavy and he was called back to sleep. The only time that he’d be roused and startled awake was when Levi’s phone went off unexpectedly. Everything had been so quiet, just the sound of the television on a low volume and Levi’s gentle breathes next to him, imagining the breathing coming from underneath him. He had shot up from the bed, startled and clinging the pillow to his chest at the sudden noise. It took only a few moments before he recognized the noise as being the phone and plopped his head onto the pillow in front of him, wanting to return to sleep already. He didn’t bother fighting the lure of sleeping anymore.

However, he felt a warmth presence suddenly on his knee and looked up to see that Levi was comforting him. It surprised him, mostly for the fact that it felt like the space between them was widening after everything that happened for the past two days, but Levi still felt the need to reassure him that everything was fine. The action sent a warmth through him, though he wouldn’t admit to himself that it was from that. That the warmth that he felt must because of the blankets that have been encasing him for the past couple of hours.

It took him two seconds to realize that Levi said that he would be back and then moved to ruffle his hair like Petra did when she didn’t want to explain something because he was still a child. The memory cracked his heart in his chest but felt his cheeks heat up at the sudden touches that Levi was giving him in such a small amount of time.

He tried to not think about the last time that Levi left him alone in the apartment, how he came back with stitches and blood covering his whole side. However, the image of his pale face speckled with old blood kept repeating in his head and no matter how much his body willed him to go back to sleep, he couldn’t. He mustered some of the energy that sleep hadn’t sucked out of him and headed into the living room, turning the television up enough so he could hear it from the other room.

Grabbing the blanket that’s been there for almost as long as he has, Eren draped it across his shoulders and holding the pillow that provided him comfort over the past couple of hours. He immediately felt foolish for wanting to stay awake while Levi was out, not wanting to fall asleep and wake up to realize that he’s been gone for hours rather than the few minutes that he promised. The blood that coated his skin kept replaying in his head and phantom iron filled his mouth thinking about healing the man, revealing another abnormal trait about himself. He counted numbers as the times passed but eventually he got to a certain point that he didn’t know what came next and gave up on that hope. He didn’t even know how long a minute was and there wasn’t a clock in the living room that could tell him what time it was. Instead, he just enclosed the blanket around himself and squeezed the pillow to his chest, hoping that nothing happened to Levi.

It felt like time flew too fast as he sat there, though the shadows created by the sun never moved or change in shape. Eventually, the sound of the elevator dinged outside of the apartment and Eren anxiously awaited the familiar sound of Levi’s footsteps. Not only did he recognize his footsteps, Eren also picked up an unfamiliar squeaking noise. Once the front door opened, revealing the man that he’d been waiting for and a large metal platform on wheels that carried brown colored boxes.

The relief that rocked through him at seeing that Levi kept his word, came out in a simple statement, stating that he came back. He didn’t mean to say anything and was surprised to see that Levi gave him a look of wonder, mostly asking him of why he wouldn’t. He could think of a million reasons of why he would never come back, to abandon him or trade him off to someone else and get him off of his hands. He could only guess how much of a handful he was.

Levi suggested for him to get more sleep and even though his body very much agreed with him, even making a yawn cut off his denial to go back to bed. He pulled the large platform across the room, making sure to stay off the hardwood floor as much as possible and made his way into his office. Eren followed after him, knowing if he either returned to the bedroom or stayed on the couch, he would fall back to sleep. Before he began to pull the boxes off of the metal platform, he instructed Eren to sit on the cushions underneath the window. Something that he obeyed almost immediately, his legs already wanting to give out and let him collapse onto the floor.

Sitting on the soft cushions, he realized that the only time that he had touched these was when Levi first told him about his past. His fingers skimmed over the fabric and thought of how things would be so much more simpler if he could just transform back and had never shown Levi who he really was. However, then guilt would have eaten away at him. Of the people that died because of his desire to get out and live anywhere else but the four walls that he called home.

Deciding that he could think about those times when he was alone, he looked up to see that Levi was beginning to take boxes off the moveable platform and circle them around himself. His curiosity got the best of him, asking what they were and he could see the hesitancy in Levi’s movements. His fingers briefly hovering over a box, something that most likely happened in less than a second but he’d been so used to Levi’s quirks. He breathed in slightly faster for only one breath and the muscles in his back stiffened for a second. Levi recovered quickly and he wondered if to anyone else, if anyone would have been in the room, would have been able to pick it up? Though he highly doubted it, if his senses were as dull as a normal person when they drugged him then he wouldn’t have picked it up. A bit of pride flickered in his chest but he quickly destroyed it, smothering it as it flared.

The thought that Levi had found all his drawings of himself and Petra made him pressed his face into the pillow, trying to avoid his gaze and not let see the embarrassment that consumed it. Most of those papers were full of different parts of Levi and it didn’t take too long to guess that he also saw the paper that he had previously clung to his chest for most of the day. He remembered that he left it in the bedroom and took a note to himself to hide it in his room somewhere. Then when Levi explained that Hanji was the one that gave him all of this, he couldn’t help but feel like he was being lied to. He could easily see her doing something like this, especially when she gave him mountains of clothes for him to wear but the hesitation, in the beginning, was telling him something else completely. Though he didn’t believe that Levi had ever lied to him before so he just dropped it, he would say something to Hanji whenever he saw her next. He wanted to believe that there was a possibility that Levi himself was the one that bought all of this but from the short amount of time that he’s known him, he wouldn’t admit it. Not willingly anyway.

Eren offered his help and knew that his offering would be rejected by the man, which happened exactly like he thought. Somewhere deep down he did want to help, even though he still felt weak from the constant on and off sleep he’s gotten today. He just continued to sit on the cushions, watching as Levi began to cut open the boxes and take out everything inside of them. He decided to at least try and keep a conversation going between the two of them, even if he was just asking a bunch of questions about what the man was pulling out. Most of the conversation just being Eren asking questions and Levi answering him but sometimes being honest with him and saying that he had no idea what the hell it was. There were over ten different sized canvas, with there being almost forty in each size, what felt like hundreds of shades of paints and colored pencils, along with charcoal.

Levi just continued to pull things out and organize them into a corner, seeming to know where some stuff should go until he would be able to use it. Eren never used anything but a pencil and paper to draw before and the thought of getting his hands on all these new instruments made his fingers itch. There were so many things he wanted to create and if Levi and his body would let him, he would probably start now and stay up all night. He tried to keep the conversation going but he seemed to have passed out when Levi had been explaining something because he closed his eyes briefly and the next second he was alone in the room.

The boxes had been completely broken down and there was a large pile of items in the corner, things that must have come out of the boxes. He noticed quickly that the sun had descended further and that there were now long shadows surrounding him. He could faintly hear noise coming from the kitchen and venture out when he got his bearings and woke up enough. Eren saw Levi pouring some more soup into mugs in the kitchen and decided to just sit down on the couch rather than going to the bedroom, knowing that he would pass out as soon as he got something in his stomach.

They mostly sat in silence beside the occasional question from himself, one being that Hanji, if it was in fact her, didn’t need to buy those things for him and the other wanting to know when he could get his hands on them. No one had really bought him anything before or given him something this nice, besides Petra. He was already grateful for Hanji since she did bring all of the clothes that he could now wear and now it was possible that she bought everything in the office for him. Though his suspension that Levi was the mastermind behind all of it continued to eat away at him. Eren did manage to eat most of his soup and even munched on some of the crackers that Levi brought out for both of them. It didn’t take too long for sleep to call him back, even if he was actively fighting against it.

 

Eren opened his eyes and found himself lying on the couch. He could feel the sensation of fingers running through his fur and scratching lightly behind his ears.

Wait...fur?

Looking down, he was greeted by the familiar limbs and paws that he’d grown accompanied to over the time he’d spent with Levi. He flexed his limbs slightly, connecting that he was back in his other form, though he couldn’t remember shifting. The last thing he remembered was watching television with Levi, that they just finished an early dinner and he couldn’t keep his eyes open any longer.

The fingers that continued to rake their way through his fur and kept up the assault on his ears, something that he didn’t mind at all. He looked up to see that Levi sat next to him, his silver eyes filled with warmth as he gave Eren a slight smile.

“You finally awake?” the man asked him, taking the opportunity to move his hand and begin scratching underneath his neck.

A loud purr managed to be quickly pulled out from him, almost at an embarrassing speed but Eren couldn’t help but briefly close his eyes at the sensation.

“You like that, don’t you?” Levi questioned him, a light chuckle rolling off his tongue.

He felt himself nodding his head briefly before sitting up and leaning more into the touch. He couldn’t help but admit that he missed this closeness with Levi, of not being afraid of his reaction if he leaned too close to him or tried to reach out and touch him. Eren than scooted closer to the man and leaned into the warm body, placing his head on Levi’s shoulder. Turning briefly to pressed his nose against Levi’s neck, he breathed in the scent that he enjoyed more than anything else that he’s experienced. He could feel his body physically relaxing with every inhale of his scent and wished that they could be this close when he wasn’t in this form and had all of his fingers. Closing his eyes and breathing in one more time, he began to pull away but when he opened them, Levi was staring at him with wonder in his eyes.

Confused on the sudden change, he’d only stared at him a few times with this same expression and they were both when he discovered that he could understand everything that he said and his healing abilities the night that he got stabbed. Levi reached out toward him, grabbing a hold of his arm and felt his fingers meet bare skin.

Wait! Skin?

Quickly looking down at himself, he was horrified that he had effortlessly slipped into his other form and very much naked. His face heated up so quickly that he thought that it was going to explode in embarrassment. No one had seen him this exposed, at least someone that he actually cared about and the lab coats didn’t count. He quickly went to cover himself up and made the move to sprint into his room so he could actually get some clothes on his too naked body. However, he felt a hand grab onto his wrist, stopping him from moving and he looked over to see that Levi was closer than he was before. Looking down, he could feel the heat that flooded his face spread down his neck to his chest as he realized how close Levi’s hand was to him.

“Levi?” his voice came out sheepish.

Now noticing that the man was much closer than he was before, almost kneeling in front of him, Eren felt a battle beginning to wage war inside of himself. Torn between wanting to hide in his room and lean into the touch of the man in front of him. Feeling the heat to continue to consume his whole body as Levi lowered himself closer to him so now they were now face-to-face. The silver liquid studied him, making him feel exposed to another degree and suddenly understanding that Levi now saw him on full display. His scars were out for the world to see and no one, not even himself saw the degree of damage that had been done to his body. The other hand that wasn’t being held in place by Levi’s tried in vain to cover himself up. Trying to shield his eyes from what lay on his skin. All too soon his other hand was captured by Levi’s and raised to the man’s lips, pressing the soft flesh against the rough skin on his fingers. A slight pressure began to build in his core, something that he’s only experienced on a handful of occasions, as the lips moved down to his palm, leaving open-mouthed kissed in its wake. A small whimper managed to escape from his throat, something that came as a surprise to him and Levi, raising his eyebrow slightly.

“You don’t have to cover up your scars,” Levi told him, taking his hand off the one that Eren used to cover himself and gently placed it on the side of his neck.

Eren could feel his thumb rubbing against the scar that ran along most of his throat. He could feel the pressure building up behind his eyes, feeling them beginning to water and trying to not let them spill. Eren didn’t realize how much he wanted and needed to hear something remotely like this. That he didn’t need to be ashamed of what lay on his skin. He couldn’t do anything as some of them managed to escape and Levi leaned forward, dropping his hand altogether and using his thumb to wipe away some of the tears. Breathing in suddenly, he realized how quickly Levi had moved closer to him, how close they were and remembering that he was very much naked still. Levi moved his hand that rested on his neck to the side of his head, immediately beginning to lightly scrap at the base of his skull and calming down Eren within seconds. He leaned into the touch, closing his eyes momentarily to enjoy the bless but snapped them open once he felt Levi move once again and now feeling those soft lips on the side of his neck. Gasping at this new sensation, his body involuntarily shivered as those lips skimmed lightly over his neck and hovered over the scars that plagued his skin.

“You’re beautiful...especially with these,” he commented, adding more empathetic by leaving another open-mouth kiss on his flesh.

He whimpered once again but a pulse of an unfamiliar feeling throbbed through his body and it ended with a low moan. Levi pulled away from his neck, leaving it with another kiss before coming face-to-face with each other once again.

“Eren,” Levi whispered his name, moving his other hand to his neck where he once kissed.

His breath came out in shaky, the heat that consumed his face at first could be felt throughout his body and he could feel his hands shaking. He wanted to put them on Levi, though he wasn’t even sure where he would even put them and afraid that he would upset him if he placed them somewhere he wasn’t supposed to. The liquid metal, that he only admitted to himself that he loved, kept scanning his face and solely focusing on his own lips. A sudden need filled him, something that hasn’t happened to him since that one morning as he watched Levi looked at his phone and laying next to him. He’s never kissed someone before, though he could barely remember his mother kissing his forehead or when Petra would do the same when she comforted him. However, this was something completely different.

He wanted to keep Levi’s hands where they were, maybe even have them explore more areas but he was too nervous to move. The only experience he’s had anywhere close to this was what he’s seen on television and Levi always switched it to something else, claiming that it was nothing like what they made it out to be. He could feel Levi’s fingers get themselves tangled in his short hair, pulling slightly to angle his face so that he could look at him in his eyes.  It was something that he surprisingly didn’t mind Levi doing. The only other time someone pulled on his hair was to drag him down the hallway when he had no strength in his legs.

Eren slowly lifted one of his hands, the one that wasn’t still covering himself, and placed it hesitantly on the side of Levi’s face. He’d never been given the opportunity to actually touch his face or anything like that, sure he’s touched his arm but that was it. Even with his rough pads, he could feel that Levi’s skin was smooth underneath his touch with some of his unseen stubble rubbing against his fingertips. He once wondered what his lips would feel like and hoped that he would finally be able to do just that, even if it was just his fingers brushing against it. He could feel Levi’s breath hitching on his thumb as he finally made contact with his lips, and looked up to see that his silver eyes were completely on him. An unknown look overcame those eyes that he’s never seen and how he suddenly looked like a predator about to pounce on his prey. Before anything else could happen and before Levi managed to grab his wrist, looking like he was ready to fully pounce on him, it suddenly felt like his body was falling into darkness.

 

Eren could feel something wrapped in his arms and for a split second, he wondered if it was Levi. It sure smelled like him but then all of the previous day came crashing down on him and realized that everything that just happened to him was all a dream. He couldn’t help but feel disappointed, something that he immediately felt guilty for thinking of Levi in that light and especially with the dream that he just had. Fully opening his eyes and seeing the pillow that he’s become well acquainted with for the past couple of hours, he wanted to push it away. He fully blamed the sudden change in his dreams on the blasted thing and possibly getting Levi’s scent away from him would help with a growing issue. Even before he completely woke up, he could feel the heavy sensation between his legs, something that he’s only dealt with a handful of times.

The first time that it happened, he had no idea what to do or what was happening to him. He didn’t touch himself or anything like that, just wondering what the hell was happening. There was no one to ask, not when everyone refused to say anything to him besides simple instructions and the one time that he acted on his instincts to touch himself, they very quickly caught him. His punishment for doing such a disgusting act was breaking both of his hands, making sure that they would have to break them again to reset them at a later date. It wasn’t until that he met Petra and she took over as his guide of everything he didn’t know.

Eren didn’t want to hear about anything that came out of her mouth, feeling completely embarrassed that she had to explain something so simple to him as masturbation and kissing. Also, that he had to learn it from her was the cherry on top. He’d only explored himself in a handful of times, on the encouragement of Petra and wanting him to know his body, and he still couldn’t get used to the feeling. Though know his member throbbed between his legs and he willed it to go away, the horror that would go through him if Levi saw him this way. However, the thought of the man didn’t help his situation downstairs because his mind wandered off to his previous dream. He wondered what would have happened if he kept dreaming if his mind let his Dream Levi continue with what he had planned. The thought did not help, probably made the situation completely worse. Clinging the pillow to his chest didn’t help either, especially with it still full of Levi’s scent.

Before he could completely think about his actions, he slowly moved his hand away from the pillow and underneath the sweatpants that were in dire need of a wash. He thought back to his dream, thought of how much he wanted those lips being pressed his palm once again, his neck. Pressing his face into the pillow was a double-edged sword, muffling the pants and small moans that managed to escape his throat but let him breathe more in that scent that fueled the growing pit in his core. His member pulsed in his hand, smooth skin becoming slick with pre-cum, and through the handful of times that he’s done this, he could tell that he was getting close. He didn’t have the time to think about the aftermath, about the cleanup, but rather the pleasure that licked at his spine and curled his toes.

Soon he wasn’t thinking about anything but the feeling of those lips on his flesh and the rhythm that he set for himself, though he quickly was losing said rhythm as the pressure continued to build inside of his core. Eren thought of the way Levi whispered his name to him and how barely running his lips across his skin made him melt. All too quickly the pleasure consumed his being, rocketing through his body until a wave of bliss overtook him. Though the bliss didn’t last long, especially when he realized that with horror at what he just did and that he came with Levi’s name on his lips.

What have I done? What did I do?

He honestly didn’t know how loud he had been, the only barrier being the pillow that he still clung to. However, that wasn’t the main issue. Of course, he worried that Levi could have heard him, moaning and saying his name as he came. Eren wouldn’t be able to face him, not with the shame that completely consumed everything that once felt pleasurable inside of him. How could he think of Levi like that? Cumming at just thinking about simple touches and his scent. Mostly lusting at this man that would never see him as anything but a kid that has too much emotional baggage.

Should he be even feeling this way toward another man when every show and every interaction he’s ever seen with two people together being male and female? There had to be something wrong with him...besides everything else that made him barely function throughout the day. Releasing his grip on the pillow, he looked at his hand, at the ugly scars that covered most of his skin and came to a realization. Whoever was in his dream, whoever pampered him in them was not the same Levi as the one that was most likely sleeping on the other side of the apartment. How could someone see these hideous scars that littered most of his skin as beautiful? They were just a constant reminder of what he’s been through, of all the times that he’s almost died, and how he would never be anything remotely close to normal. There was no hope in that last department though, not when he could heal from wounds that would kill anyone else and could turn into an animal. Not when he couldn’t remember his own mother.

A knock on the door pulled him out of the spiral that he began to fall into and held his breath as he waited for something else to happen.

“Breakfast is ready,” Levi’s voice drifted in.

He quickly picked up the sharp and direct tone that plagued his voice and wondered if Levi had heard anything coming from the room. Eren hoped to dear god that he didn’t and didn’t need to give another reason for Levi to dislike him in any way. He listened for his retreating footsteps and finally breathed when he heard him going into the kitchen. Looking down on himself, he realized rather quickly that he either needed to take a shower or at least wash himself off, and to change his pants. He could worry about his actual pants later and figure out what to do with them. Deciding to quickly step into the bathroom, grabbing a washcloth on the wall and wetting it, he wiped himself down and made sure that he was at least somewhat clean.

After changing into new sweatpants, he stood in front of his door and gathered himself together before facing Levi. He just needed to not think about what he just did for the rest of his life.

Chapter Text

Levi hoped that the kid at least got some newfound sleep because he could barely get any that night. After the unfortunate news from Erwin that he had to somehow convince the kid to come back into Hanji’s lab and give blood samples. He could already think of how the kid was going to react, the worst thing that could happen was that it would send him into another attack. He didn’t need Eren to go into attacks anymore, at least in the next couple of days. The kid needed to build up strength, physically and mentally, and the emotional strain that came during and after that attacks reverted the progress that he made. Levi had only been able to stop a few of the attacks before it hit him full force but all those instances where he was in his other form. Though most of the times that he’s seen Eren in one of the attacks, it was already too late to try and stop it in its tracks. The other thing that he could do was hold Eren, talk to him calmly, and let him get out of it himself. He wished that the kid have to go through them, especially when it felt like he was having one at least a day. It physically exhausted the kid and he knew that Eren could be happy one day, even if that day would be somewhere in the distant future, he needed to fight for it. He needed something to fight for and Levi just had to phrase his words right and mention the right things for him to understand. Obviously, his main motivator was his family. It was what made him fight to get out of the Military’s hands so it had to be what makes him want to keep going. Getting blood samples and whatever else Hanji needed were necessary for the search of finding the rest of his family. If he could convey how important it was and essential for him to do this, then Eren wouldn’t have a valid reason to deny the visit to her. He would most likely freak out the whole time, on the verge of an attack but Levi could stop it from happening or lessen it in some way. He was confident in that ability at least.

Levi spent the majority of the night thinking of how he’d approach the kid to go with him without too much resistance. He came to the conclusion as the sun began to stream through his bedroom window that he’d use the art supplies as another additional motivator. After they came back from her lab then he would have the full range of everything that he bought yesterday. If he wasn’t up for it or if anything triggered him to the point that he fell back into his emotionless state, then he could have all of tomorrow too. He just needed to get the kid motivated.

Grabbing his phone, he discovered a not so threatening text from Erwin that stated that he needed to convince Eren to do the blood sample. Rolling his eyes, he replied back with a simple ‘yes, sir’ and threw his phone back up on his nightstand before wondering if he should just lay in bed for a bit longer or get up. Moments later, his stomach made the choice for him as it rumbled suddenly and demanded food. Truthfully, he hadn’t eaten much yesterday and had been more focused on forcing Eren to eat almost everything that he placed in front of him.

Running a hand through his disheveled hair, he pulled himself out of the nest of blankets he made around himself and headed off into the kitchen. As he combed through the fridge, Levi tried to think of what he should make besides his standard eggs. He knew that Eren greatly enjoyed them, even looking like he was going to burst into tears the first time that he ate them in his current form. Though everything that placed in front of him, cooked by Levi or coming out of a can, was mostly devoured within seconds. He knew that he was fond of chicken...but that was the only meat that Levi let him have. Quickly he was understanding that he didn’t know what the kid would like or if he was allergic to anything, which he was thankful that he haven’t given him any peanut butter or shellfish. However, he didn’t know if he’s healing abilities went as far as keeping him from having an allergic reaction.

Maybe I’ll make him something different.

However, that thought was quickly proven wrong when he discovered that he needed to go grocery shopping. He wondered if he’d have to leave Eren by himself or take him with him to the store, though he honestly didn’t know how the kid would react to something like that. If he went on a weekday and closer to when they closed, there wouldn’t be as many people. He would talk to Hanji about it when they visited today. They at least needed to get him tip-toeing his way back into society, even if it was just a simple trip to the store. First, he had to tackle the challenge of convincing Eren to come to Hanji’s lab. 

Deciding just to add some leftover chicken and spinach into his normal eggs routine, making it an omelet as a last minute decision was the best that he could do at that moment. He’d experiment with other food when he actually had the ingredients for it. Cutting the omelet in the pan and then plating it in two different dishes, he was surprised that Eren wasn’t almost tripping over himself to come out and eat. The amount of sleep that he got yesterday should have refueled the energy he knew the kid had. From what he could see, Eren wasn’t stuck in his head anymore and most likely would have woken up already. Putting both plates on the window in between the living room and the kitchen, he decided that he needed to wake him up himself.

Making his way around the corner and into the hallway, he was about to knock on the bedroom door when he heard an unmistakable noise. He could actually feel a flush creeping up to his cheek as he realized that the kid was jerking off. Now he knew that Eren definitely wasn’t in his head anymore and haunted by nightmares. Though the last thing that he expected him to be doing was this, but he was a teenager...or looked like a teenager. He still didn’t know how old Eren was.

He was about to leave and give him at least some privacy, to wait at least another couple of minutes and even put their plates in the microwave so they wouldn’t get cold but something stopped him in his tracks. The lightest moan carried over through the door and not even a second later, he heard his name. A mix of emotions slammed into him and it became difficult to distinguish the difference between them. Only one stood out from the rest, one that he immediately felt disgusted over was the lick of lust that ate away at his stomach. His core tightened and grew heavy as a brief image of a flush Eren came into his mind, his emerald eyes full of desire and pleasure.

What the fuck am I doing?

He quickly shoved the image away and wished that he could have forgotten about it all together. He’s never thought of Eren that way and rapidly came to the conclusion that his reaction was because he hadn’t gotten laid in months, almost a year. Not since he called it off with Erwin. Taking a deep breath and calming down himself and the semi that was beginning to grow in his sweatpants, he knocked on the bedroom door.

“Breakfast is ready,” he announced before hurrying back to the kitchen, trying to make his pace seem normal.

He hadn’t managed to keep his tone in his normal calm voice but came out more crisp and sharper than he wanted. Levi tried to keep his footwork casual, knowing that Eren could probably hear him walking away and listening to see if it affected him. He probably didn’t even know that he heard him. He would like to keep it that way. Deciding that he would ignore what just happened to him and what he felt inside in that moment of weakness, he grabbed both plates and placed them on the living room table.

 

It took some time before Eren finally built up the courage to come out of his bedroom. As he took him in, he could tell that he thought that Levi heard him but he would continue to act innocent and naive about the subject. He refused to eye contact with him, just giving him a nod in greeting before shoving food into his mouth. Pink dusted the tips of his ears and a bit of his cheeks, either an aftermath of what happened in his bedroom or that he thought that Levi knew. From the glances that he got when Eren thought he wasn’t looking made him think of the later.

As he ate, watching the kid out of the corner of his eyes, he briefly thought of the image of the flush, lust filled Eren and wondered what suddenly came over him. It had been months since he’s been laid or even attempted to jerk off, he only guessed that he felt aroused because of that. It had to be. He didn’t let himself think that there was another reason because it wasn’t the case, he wouldn’t know what to think about himself. The kid that sat next to him was just that, a kid and one that probably only saw the sun for the first time only a month ago. He didn’t even know how old he was and for all he knew, he could have briefly lusted for a fourteen-year-old. The thought actually made him feel ill for a second.

There was a sudden crash that pulled him out of his thoughts and saw Eren diving for the floor. He restrained himself from grabbing the knife that he hid underneath the table after noticing that Eren’s cup of water was no longer on the table. He cursed his instinct for a fleeting second, mostly for the fact that it could have sent the kid into another attack and the whole plan for the day would have been thrown off.

“I’m sorry,” Eren began and was about to continue to spew apologies from his mouth if he hadn’t walked over to him, kneeled down, and grabbed his wrist to stop him.

He had been in the middle of picking up pieces of glass and placing them in his palm. His hand hovered over his palm, dropping the glass that he had in his hand as he stared at the hand on his wrist. Levi admitted to himself, entertaining the thought that Eren was adorable as his whole face flared up in a blush. It completely took over his face and neck, and if he hadn’t seen it before, he would have worried how quickly it spread.

“It’s just water, it’s fine,” Levi reassured him. “Sit down while I clean up. Don’t want you to cut yourself by accident.”

Eren repeatedly opened and closed his mouth like he was trying to say something but his brain wasn’t connecting to his tongue properly. He didn’t know what he was trying or wanting to say but Levi grabbed a napkin on the table and placed it on his palm, waiting for Eren to give him the glass. Eventually, the glass slid out of his hand and he went to sit down. Focusing on cleaning up the shattered cup, thankfully it most cracked into large pieces and would vacuum when they come back from Hanji’s lab. He tried not to look over at Eren, already knowing that either he was avoiding looking at him as well or staring at his wrist where Levi touched him.

After picking through the carpet and getting all the pieces of glass that he could see, he went to dispose of the napkin. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Eren following his movement with his head and he continued to go about his business. As he made his way back into the living room, Eren was grabbing the plates and about to head into the kitchen but instead yelped in pain and almost dropped the plates.

“Eren,” he called out as he managed to grab the plates before they fell out of his hand and the kid started to hop on one leg.

Placing the plates on the table and grabbing both of Eren’s arms to keep him steady, he looked down to see blood dripping from his foot and onto the carpet. He understood then that he must have missed a piece of glass and hoped that this wouldn’t send Eren into another attack. Instead, his face just pinched in pain and he let out a deep breath.

“Think I stepped in the glass,” Eren pointed out.

“Yeah, sorry about that. I thought I got all of it...Let’s get you on the couch,” he instructed him.

Levi was tempted for a second to just pick him up and carry him to the couch, but he didn’t need the kid to turn into a stuttering mess. Instead, he just helped him keep his balance as Eren hoppled over to the couch, dripping blood along the way. Now he definitely needed to clean it before they left if he wanted to blood to come out.

“I’m sorry,” he apologized as Levi placed him on the couch.

He looked up and saw that Eren was staring at the blood trail he was leaving behind. “It’s not your fault, it’s mine. I didn’t pick up all of the pieces,” Levi explained, propping his foot on the table so the rug wasn’t getting another more blood on it.

“But if I hadn’t-”

“Hey.”

Eren had been curling in on himself, looking down at the hands that knocked the glass over and his eyes snapped up at him when he called him out.

“It was an accident, no one’s fault. Now, stay here and I’ll be back in a second,” Levi spoke as he started to make his way to his bathroom.

He didn’t give Eren the chance to talk back to him or shift the blame back onto himself before he disappeared into his bedroom. Heading into the bathroom and finding the first aid kit in one of the cabinets, he made his way back to Eren but not before grabbing a hand towel. Sitting on the table, he placed the towel on his lap and opened up the first aid kit to grab tweezers and an alcohol wipe. Then he grabbed Eren’s still bleeding foot though now it dripped out of the wound instead of a steady stream and placed it on the towel. He was happy to see that Eren’s foot was surprisingly clean but at the same time Levi kept the floors almost spotless and he didn’t go anywhere but this apartment.

“It’s going to heal soon, you don’t have to do this,” Eren commented, trying to pull his foot off of Levi.

“It’s not going to if there’s still a piece of glass in your foot,” Levi told him, keeping a strong grip and angling the bottom of his foot so he could see the damage.

Eren huffed at him and he raised an eyebrow at the kid as he seemed to almost be pouting. He didn’t understand him, mostly for the fact that not too long ago he was a blushing mess and now acting like a child. Levi understood that he would know his body better than anyone else but no matter how great his healing ability was, having a piece of glass inside your foot wasn’t going to be pleasant. He didn’t want his skin healing around the piece of glass and having it stuck inside of his foot. It would bother him to no end and he didn’t feel like having to bring him to Hanji to have her fish it out of his heel when he could deal with it now.

He watched Eren’s reaction carefully as he gently wiped the blood around the wound so that he could see the piece of glass. The glass stuck out slightly and thankfully the tip of the chunk made a slight hook so he didn’t have to dig it out. He just hoped that it wasn’t too deep, though Eren was surprisingly calm for someone that had glass in their foot. However, as he scanned the rest of his foot he realized that this most likely wasn’t the worst pain that he ever experienced. The scars that covered his toes were twins with the ones on his fingers and couldn’t think of how they could have been made. Levi angled his foot down and discovered another set of scars, ones that ran across the top and looked like they cut right across his tendons. He couldn’t help but run his thumb against the raised skin and feel a slight bump where his tendons were.

Did they cut his tendons? Why would they do that?

“When did these happen?” Levi found himself asking.

The foot in his hands stiffened suddenly and he looked up to see that Eren was staring at Levi’s thumb. His emerald eyes almost became empty as he seemed to transport to wherever the Military had kept him.

“I don’t know,” he simply said. “But...I think-...it was one of the easier scars.”

Levi just nodded, surprised that he managed to pull any of that information out of him. He wanted to ask more, questions on the tip of his tongue about the numerous other scars that covered his body. Especially the one that collared his throat. Though he may never be able to tell him the full story of that scar, he didn’t know if anyone would be able to. He also wanted to ask if most of these scars were from a sicking pleasure from whoever did this or they truly thought that they were learning something from carving up Eren. What could they have learned from severing his tendons and slitting his throat? No. Some of these were precise cuts...others were full of brutality and hatred. He had scars of his own to prove that he knew that difference.

The only response Levi gave was a hum before running his thumb once over the scar, feeling the slight raise of the skin and the bump in his tendons of where they healed themselves together. Eren continued to stare at his foot and Levi’s thumb, probably still finding himself going back to those times of when he was captured. He squeezed his foot, careful to not touch anywhere near the glass still in his heel, to get his attention and it worked. Those green stared at him with such a hidden sadness and he could already think of what Eren was thinking about.

“You don’t have to think about them ever again,” Levi reassured him. “We’re not going to let them find you again.”

His eyes widened a fraction before they returned back to normal but in that second he could see the disbelief in his eyes. Levi didn’t know whether he didn’t believe that they could keep them away from him or that he didn’t believe that they would keep him safe. Either way, he needed to take that distrust out of Eren and give him a reason to trust him at least until they found his family. The only person that he had trust before was Petra and she died getting him out, he probably had trusted Levi at one point but honestly didn’t know if it remained or shattered when he shot him.

Finding his family would be the only way for him to completely trust Levi and everyone else in Recon.

 

He managed to pull the piece of glass out of Eren’s foot without too much hassle though he hadn’t expected it to be impaled an inch into his heel. Levi honestly almost gagged as he continued to pull it out, feeling like it was never going to end. It just kept going and going. He wondered how he didn’t see this one in the carpet when it was so large.

Eren took it like a champ, only whimpering once when he stopped pulling briefly to adjust his hold on the tweezers. Though he didn’t make too much noise, Levi could see him squeezing his hand and turning his knuckles white as he pulled out the glass.  He didn’t comment on what he saw, knowing that Eren has holding in his whimpers for a reason. By the time the glass was out and he ran an alcohol wipe over the cut, the steam started and soon swallowed up the majority of his heel. It didn’t take too long for it to subside and showing the smooth skin underneath. He was pleased to see that it wouldn’t leave a scar, knowing that there wasn’t a lot of his skin left that could be scared.

Even after the steam had disappeared and the wound was closed, Levi continued to hold his foot, thinking of ways to bring up Hanji and her need for blood samples. He could just bluntly say it and rip off the band-aid right then and there but that may scare Eren out of it. Levi was going to use the art supplies as motivation as well, convince him that if he went then the next two days could be full of him just painting and drawing to his heart's content. A bit of guilt ate at him for using it and holding it above the kid’s head to make him go. However, if it didn’t motivate him and the prospect of finding his family then he didn’t know what to do.

“Levi?” Eren questioned him.

He pulled slightly on his foot, trying to get it out of Levi’s grip but he didn’t let go, not at least until he brought up Hanji.

“You want to find your family, right?” he asked him, looking up to see Eren looking at him with confusion in his brows.

“Of course...if there’s a possibility that there is anyone-...I want to find them,” Eren answered.

His fingers rubbed the edge of his shirt, messing with the bits of thread that were fraying as he talked. Levi noticed rather quickly that it was one of the many nervous habits that he had. He chewed slightly on his bottom lip after like he was thinking of other things to say afterward.

“Hanji has been working on getting the information but she needs something that could make the whole process a lot easier,” Levi continued.

“...What does she need?” he asked, caution now consuming his voice.

“She needs to take a sample of your blood-”

“Why?”

The color in his face drained into an almost ghostly white, the pink that faintly dusted his cheeks disappeared into nothing and his forest eyes turned hollow. Levi already knew what he was thinking about, even before his fingers traced the dots that littered his inner elbow. The foot on his lap had stiffened once again but remained tense as Eren waited for him to keep going, to rationalize why he should put himself through more needles.

“It’ll help the process-” he started.

“How?” he questioned further.

“I truthly don’t know but it has to do with your blood type and DNA, Hanji can explain more when we go today-”

“Wait, today?”

Fear suddenly plagued those eyes and Levi squeezed his foot and then ankle to try and bring him back to him. “She’s not going to drain you dry, Eren. Hanji only needs a little bit and then it’s done, no more needles.”

“No more?”

“Yes. Afterward, when we come back, you can paint and draw as much as you want.”

“...Is there no other way?”

He can see Eren fighting internally with himself, the more that he stayed in his head, the worse the scenarios that he thought of would continue to grow. “I promise that she won’t hurt you.”

Eren uncurled himself slightly, reaching down to him and offering his pinky. He looked at the kid and furrowed his brows, wondering what the hell he was doing.

“Pinky promise,” Eren insisted and as he took in Levi’s look of ‘you gotta be kidding me,’ a bit of the blush began to come back. “Petra said that you can’t break pinky promises...is that not true?”

Levi actually found a chuckle escaping from him and it didn’t help the spread of the blush of Eren’s face. He sometimes forgot how naive that Eren could be, that he didn’t have a normal childhood and didn’t know basic things. It didn’t surprise him that Petra made him believe in something so breakable like a pinky promise. He hadn’t made a pinky promise in years...not since he himself was a kid but if it would help convince Eren to go today, then it wouldn’t stop him. Eren was already beginning to pull his hand back, shame splattered across his face but he managed to grab his hand, stopping his retreat. Before he could lose his nerve, thinking of what he was doing was childish, he wrapped his pinky around Eren’s and squeezed slightly.

“I pinky promise,” Levi stated.

He expected to see slight confusion in him after he suddenly grabbed his hand and for the flush to continue its path across his face. However, he didn’t expect to see the blinding smile that Eren gave him after he saw their pinkies intertwined. Levi couldn’t help but admit that the smile belonged on his face and hoped that it would remain there. It fit him and somewhere deep inside of Levi, he thought that his smile was beautiful.

 

He could tell that Eren was putting on a brave face as they got ready to depart his apartment. First, he tried to leave without his shoes and turned sheepish when Levi had to point to his own feet for him to get the message. He would have preferred for Eren to at least take a shower but he worried that the kid may go change his mind about going. The sooner they get out and inside the car, the better.

Levi ushered him out the door once the kid was dressed properly and put on some sandals that Hanji managed to find before. He had realized as Eren found some shoes that it was the one item of clothing that Hanji didn’t find a lot of. Though she could guess his size in shirts and jeans but not his shoe size. Either he would buy something to properly measure his feet or buy a large variety of sizes and return whatever fits him. He would have to deal with it later.

He hadn’t stepped outside in days and the same could be said about Eren. Though he was thankful that he checked his phone before leaving his apartment because he would most likely freeze his ass off when he stepped outside. It had been October for a week now and mother nature decided that fall wasn’t happening this year and skipping to winter. At least for the next couple of days anyway, he just didn’t look forward to the snow that would happen in a month or two. Levi had grabbed a light grey cardigan that broke up the black of his shirt and jeans and grabbed another jacket in case Eren needed it.

They walked down the hall, Eren mostly on his heels as they arrived at the elevator. He kept an eye on the kid as they rode the elevator, noting his behavior as his eyes roamed over the four walls encasing them. Eren only rode this once and Levi wasn’t paying the kid any attention, still irritated that he had to take care of him. He only knew that Eren didn’t like his car, though it most likely had to do with the seatbelt that restricted him to his seat. He would ask Hanji if she could prescribe Eren anxiety medication or give him something to take the edge off when he had to interact with anything outside of his apartment.

The actual ride to the Recon wasn’t as bad as the first time that Eren rode in his car. He messaged Hanji at a red light that they were on their way and the kid actually managed to speak up and ask if it was alright if he should be texting. It actually pulled a slight smirk to his lips and reassured him that it was fine as long as the light was red. The only response that he got was a nod before Eren stared out the window. From the few glances that he spared to look over at him, Levi could tell that his eyes were full of wonder as they passed restaurants and small shops lining the street. He knew that he wouldn’t be able to see Eren become comfortable enough to freely walk the streets, not in the short amount of time they would know each other but he wondered how the kid would be. If he would stop every person that had a dog to gush over it or smile at everyone that he passed. Though he would have to deal with people staring at him, at the scars that covered his body and especially the one that ran across his next. Levi found even himself staring at it when he looked over at Eren and tried to play it off if he caught. He couldn’t imagine how uncomfortable he felt about it.

It didn’t take too long for them to arrive at the Recon and Levi opt to park in the back instead of parking in the underground parking lot that led to the casino in the front. He knew that Eren could barely deal with a few people in the same room with him, he didn’t want to see how he’d react with hundreds of drunk fucks throwing their money away. The major challenge for Eren would be walking from the front door to the elevator that was about a hundred feet away. It was in the middle of the day and a lot of their new recruits were training, others were doing patrol. There shouldn’t be almost anyone in the building, at least near the front desk or first floor. Not even Erwin, the workaholic of the Recon, was there.

“Just follow me,” Levi instructed him as he turned off the car and got out.

It took a little bit for Eren to figure out how to properly take the seat belt off but eventually, he got out of the car without too much trouble. As Levi made his way to the side entrance, he heard Eren’s quick footsteps behind him as he caught up with him. He stayed inches behind him and Levi had been surprised that he didn’t step on the back of his shoes with how close he was. As they got closer to the side door, he felt a slight tug on his jacket and he turned his head slightly to see that Eren had grabbed the end with one of his hands. He suddenly looked like a child that didn’t want to be separated from their parent, though he could understand why. Eren had only been here once and he ended up beaten and then having a panic attack once he woke up.

Once they got inside, Eren managed to slow them down enough for him to take in the short hallway that they traveled in and then the elevator. Levi was happy to find that the first level was indeed empty and didn’t have to rush to the elevator with a panicking Eren behind him. The grip on his jacket didn’t disappear after the doors shut in front of them and he checked his phone quickly to see that Hanji wrote him back. Mostly just saying that she was excited to see Eren again but Levi worried that her excitement might freak the kid out.

“If Hanji gets too much in your face, tell me and I’ll make her stop,” Levi told him as he stuffed his phone into his pocket.

“In my face? Like if she gets too close to me?” Eren asked, showing how much he needed to learn some sayings.

“Like if she makes you uncomfortable or yes, getting too much in your personal space...also, remember don’t bring up the art supplies. She’ll never shut up.”

He didn’t need to see Eren to know that he nodded to show that he understood. All too quickly the doors open, revealing a wound up Hanji about to explode with excitement.

“Before you say anything, before you even breath. I need your voice to be down here,” he said before she managed to even open her mouth as he motioned his hand at his hip and then moved it to above his head. “I can tell you’re already at here.”

She took in a large, deep breath and he honestly thought that she may be just exaggerating her actions to get a rise out of him. It was already working. He quickly noticed that it looked like she hadn’t showered in days, though that could just because she rarely washed her hair. Her lab coat was clean at least, though her yellow buttoned up shirt that peeked out had either coffee stains or day old blood. He hoped that it was coffee.

Eren’s emerald eyes were flickering all across the room but heavily rested upon the two operating tables in the room. He would thank Hanji later for putting her scalpels and other operating tools in a bin on a nearby table and mostly hidden from the kid’s eyes. Levi reached across and grabbed the hand that held his jacket in a death grip, managing to pull those frantic eyes on him.

“Hey, it’s going to be fine,” he tried to reassure him. “Simple in and out, then we can go back.”

“Don’t worry, sweetheart. It’ll be over before you know it,” Hanji chirped in, trying to diffuse the situation before Eren started to have an attack.

His eyes flickered between the two of them and his grip loosened and letting out a deep breath in an effort to calm himself.

“I’m so proud of you for doing this, Eren. It’s going to help me a lot, you have no idea,” she continued to make an effort to calm him down.

The praise seemed to have more an effect than Levi thought because Eren simply nodded and then managed to peel himself away from his back. He still kept a hand attached to the end of Levi’s jacket, but it was better than not being able to move with him attached to his back.

“Come on, the faster we start then the faster we can leave,” Levi reminded him as he made his way next one of the operating tables.

She had laid a blanket across one of the tables, probably trying to make it slightly more comfortable for Eren and something that he was grateful for. Anything that helped him with the kid was a welcoming surprise. There was a rolling, steel table next to the table that had a few items like ink for fingerprints and a capped needle with some small vials. He could only guess that this was the one that she was going to perform what she needed to do.

She patted the blanket, instructing Eren to hop on and truly Levi didn’t know if he had the strength to pull himself up. Before he thought too much about it and once Eren was close enough to the table, Levi grabbed his waist and placed him on the blanket. He didn’t have the chance for the blush to consume his face until after he was already on the table and Levi ignored the smirk that he received from Hanji.

“Thanks,” Eren muttered as he refused to make eye contact with him.

Eren was only a few inches taller than him now, with the edge of the table only reaching his own hip though it didn’t help that he was hunched over as he chewed his lip.

“How about we get the hardest part over?” Hanji suggested.

He thought that it was the best option, getting the worst over with first. Though it was completely up to Eren and what he wanted to do. Levi turned to him and saw that Eren was already looking at him for guidance.

“It’s up to you,” Levi told him.

He looked taken back that he was getting a say in what was going to be done to his body. That he had an opinion on the matter. “Do I have to lay down?” Eren asked.

“No, you don’t,” she answered.

Eren nodded repeatedly, more to himself than anyone else. “Okay...we-...we can start with the hardest part.”

“You sure?” Levi found himself asking.

Hanji seemed to give him a look that asked why he would say that but ignored it as he focused on Eren. He only got a nod before he himself nodded at Hanji to tell her to do what she needed to do.

Eren began to mess with the hem of his shirt as she grabbed some spare gloves on the small table. He could see his fingers beginning to shake as she snapped them on and then grabbed the capped needle. Levi quickly rattled his brain to do something that could help Eren calm down even a bit. A sudden idea struck him.

“Hanji, do you have any more needles?” he asked before she managed to uncap it.

Her brows wrinkled in confusion. “Yeah...why?” Hanji questioned him.

“I think that I'm scheduled to get my blood tested soon.”

The lie fell easily from his mouth as he began rolling up his sleeves, flickering his eyes over at Eren once and hoping to dear god that she would get the hint. She did, even if it took her a few seconds and rolled his eyes when she unceremonially dropped the needle back on the table and rushed to get another.

“You need to get blood drawn too?” Eren asked as he began to do the same thing as Levi, rolling up his own sleeve.

“Might as well do it now,” he commented as Hanji came right back with a second needle and another vial.

He honestly hated needles, always have and always will but he could deal with a simple needle if it showed Eren that even he could do it. Being the first to go, he held out his arm as she finally uncapped the needle and wiped down the area with an alcohol wipe.

“Your veins have always been so small,” Hanji casually mentioned as she searched for a vein to stick the needle into.

He was tempted to make a sly comment, about his veins being the only part of him that was small but decided against it. Mostly for the fact that Eren was sitting right next to him and he didn’t need to explain something like that to him, especially after what happened this morning.

Levi hid the small spike of pain that shot up his arm when she stuck him with the needle. She expertly pressed the vial into the other end and quickly filled the small container with his blood. Quickly the needle was removed and a piece of cotton took its place. He replaced her fingers on the cotton for her to grab a band-aid. Once she waved his hand away and placed the band-aid over the cotton ball, he wanted to throttle her. Cartoons kittens stared back at him and quickly glared at her.

“It’s the only ones we have left,” she crackled, laughing enough to make her slightly bend over.

“I find myself not believe you,” he simply replied back, narrowing his eyes slightly.

In the corner of his eyes, he could see that Eren had a slight smile on his face. Either way, no matter how it happened, Levi found himself pleased to see that whatever he did manage to help him calm down.

“Ready, Eren?” Hanji suddenly asked him.

She already had everything ready for him, an alcohol wipe already in hand and the uncapped needle waiting on the table. Suddenly the work that he put into relaxing Eren disappeared in front of his eyes. His tan face drained of most of its color and before his fingers began to tremble once again, Levi placed a hand on his wrist.

“Hey, I’m right here. It’s going to be fine,” he continued to try and reassure Eren.

He knew that his scent had a calming effect on him and he could deal with the shit he would get from Hanji later as Levi used the same hand to grab the back of his neck and pressed his face into his shoulder.

“It’s better when you don’t see the needle going in,” Levi rationalized, more talking to Hanji than anyone else.

Levi didn’t miss the way that Hanji’s eyes widened at his actions but choose to instead focus on the kid next to him. He could feel his neck warming up as the blush spread past his cheeks to the base of Eren’s throat. He decided then that Eren would definitely need the next two days to just paint and draw to his heart’s content.

 

Drawing his blood went a lot smoother than he had hoped. Before Hanji stuck the needle, he pinched Eren’s arm and earned a yelp but it was enough to distract him from the pain. Eren didn’t even notice that the needle was inside of his arm until Hanji switched out a vial for another. He didn’t completely freak at the sight of the needle in his arm but just tightened his grip slightly on Levi’s jacket.

The needle was removed quickly after Hanji filled the three vials and pressed the piece of cotton into his arm. By the time she tried to replace the cotton with a band-aid, steam already emerged from his skin and healed the mark that was created by the needle. He could see that Hanji was holding in her excitement and grateful that she managed to keep it in check.

Once she disposed of the needles, Levi removed his hold on Eren’s neck and waited for him to move. It took him a few moments to pull himself away, probably breathing in his scent one last time to fully calm himself down. Surprisingly, Levi didn’t find himself feeling creeped out or uncomfortable anymore like he original felt when Eren breathed in his scent. Maybe it had to do with the fact that he’s done it so many times, that it was almost an instinct to stick Eren’s face into his shoulder. It was the fastest way to bring him back from a panic attack and to calm him down. Even with the memories of this morning still fresh in his mind, he knew that, that small incident was a small price to pay for helping Eren not fall apart. Someone had to do it.

“The hardest part is now done, yeah!” Hanji cheered, smiling bright and trying to spread that excitement to Eren.

It didn’t work as well as she hoped because he just nodded. “What’s next?” Levi asked for him.

“Oh, I just need some fingerprints and then I want to do a basic exam. To see if you’ve gain some weight since the last time that I saw you.”

Just as she opened up the pad of ink, Levi’s phone began to vibrate violently against his thigh. Pulling out the pulsing phone, he realized that Erwin was the one calling him.

“I’ll be right back,” he said to mostly Eren.

However, before he could move very far, the grip on his jacket stopped him in his tracks. By the time he turned toward Eren, he already let go of his hold on him and looking away from Levi, the blush still present on his cheeks.

“Less than five minutes,” Levi promised and to emphasize this, he held out his pinky finger.

The action managed to pull a small smile out of him, something he now considered a blessing, as Eren wrapped his own pinky around Levi’s. He ignored whatever reaction that it got out of Hanji and just knew that she would talk his ear off about everything he did with Eren today. Detaching his finger, he hurried out of the room into the long hallway that led to their large laundry mat before answering the phone. He wanted to get some distance between him and the room so Eren couldn’t hear whatever Erwin had to say.

“Hey, what you want?” Levi said in greeting.

“Is that how you talk to your boss?” Erwin teased.

“Normally no, but you’re not a normal boss.”

“That is true...but the reason that I called was to see if you talked to Eren about the blood samples.”

Levi suddenly realized that he didn’t inform Erwin about their visit today. “We’re actually doing that right now.”

“You’re with Hanji?”

“Well, not right now. They’re in the other room and she already drew his blood. Now I just think she’s doing an exam on him.”

“How?”

“What do you mean ‘how?’ I asked him if he could do this and it was the only way for him to find the rest of his family.”

“The almighty and powerful Levi asked someone instead told them-”

“Yeah, yeah, shut up.”

He leaned against the wall and looked down the hall to where Eren and Hanji would be. He just hoped that she didn’t unhinge the moment he left the room.

“Is that all you wanted to talk about? If this was it, it could have been easily done over text or email,” he pointed out.

“Would you believe me if I missed your voice?”

“Fuck no.”

That managed to pull a small laugh out of the man, but Levi just patiently waited for the reason why he was being bothered. He really should be in the other room with Eren incase anything happened.

“We received an anonymous tip that the Recon is going to be hit soon...though it mostly enclosed that whoever sent this, most likely Furlan, is coming after you, Levi,” Erwin explained to him.

“Does he want to get caught?” Levi asked, more talking to himself than Erwin.

It was such an immature and rash move, especially from someone that Levi knew was intelligent. Either Furlan truly believed that this was sane of a move or he had an upper motive for getting the Recon on high alert. He couldn’t think of the man’s logic. Everything he knew about Furlan seemed to go out the window as soon as he sent a kid to stab him on a suicide mission.

“On top of that, there has been more movement in your neighborhood and I highly suggest that you move yourself and Eren into a safe house,” he continued.

He honestly hadn’t worried about the Garrison or even the Military in the past couple of days, his sole focus had been on Eren and getting him out of the funk he was going through. Levi still believed that moving Eren into a new place, so soon after beginning to bring him out of his shell would revert everything that he’s done. Even if he haven’t gotten that far with him, only managing to bring out a few smiles, it was better than him tucking himself into a cabinet and rushing to move. He would consider moving them next week, but not right now, especially when Eren was being reintroduced to needles and having a panic attack at least once a day.

“Whatever is thrown at us, I can deal with it. I’ve dealt with worse and now it’s from my own home. No one knows it as well as I do,” Levi countered. “If the situation worsens and doesn’t get better by this time next week, then I’ll reconsider moving both myself and Eren.”

“At least you’re not opposed to talking about it,” Erwin sighed.

“Anyways, I need to talk to you about-”

“Levi!” Hanji called out.

He snapped his head up to see her sprinting out from her lab, her face in a pinch of worry and spots of blood splattering her shirt.

“Please, I need you now,” she demanded before turning around and running back through the doorway.

“I’ll call you back,” Levi simply said before thrusting his phone into his pocket and running down the hall to see what the fuck Hanji did wrong.

 

Once Levi entered the room, he quickly found Eren curled up on the floor, his whole body shivering and jerking slightly. His breaths were eratic and the fingers that gripped his own arms were digging his nails deep into his flesh. Levi worried that he would eventually pierce his skin if he didn’t do something fast.

“What happened?” Levi demanded.

“I-...I don’t know, I was checking his eyes and suddenly he started having an attack. He fell and knocked over my table. He cut himself with some of the scalpels on it but those are already healed,” she quickly explained.

That would explain the blood on her shirt.

“I tried to get close to him but every time I tried to touch him, he would yell and beg me not to hurt him,” Hanji continued.

As he slowly walked closer to Eren, he noticed that his eyes were barely open and tears stained his cheeks. He hiccuped slightly and gasped for breath like he couldn’t breathe properly. Levi kneeled right in front of him and reached out to touch him, barely running his fingertips across his bare arm. Eren jerked beneath his touch and yelped, pulling away from him and squeezing his eyes closed.

“No, no, no!” Eren screamed.

“Hey, hey,” Levi found himself whispering, keeping his voice calm and light. “Eren, I’m right here.”

The sound of his voice had an immediate effect on him, his body froze, though the shivers managed to shake his body for a few seconds at a time. Seeing now that he recognized his voice, Levi slowly grabbed Eren and pulled him onto his lap. He put him in the position he always did for the past couple of attacks, Eren’s head in the crook of his neck and chest flush against his own. Immediately he lacked onto him, gripping his jacket and shirt, pressing himself closer to his body and sobbing. Levi moved his hand to the back of his neck, scratching lightly on his scalp and running his hand through his hair. He shushed him quietly as the sobs subsided and the trembling vanished from his frame.

“I’m sorry,” Eren whispered to him. “I can’t do something this simple-”

“It’s not your fault. Nothing is your fault,” Levi quickly interrupted him. “You did well today, Eren.”

He didn’t get a reply but rather Eren just pressing his face closer to Levi’s neck, hiding his face and taking shaky breaths. Levi finally turned his attention to the only other person in the room and saw that Hanji was leaning against the operating table. A small smile stared back at him and he could see that there was pride in her gaze as she stared at him.

“Oh, fuck off, Hanji,” he growled at her as he continued to scratch at Eren’s scalp.

He could already imagine the amount of shit that he would have to go through once Hanji told Erwin what happened today. He wasn’t looking forward to it.

 

Chapter Text

He stared helplessly as Levi exited the room and left him at the mercy of Hanji. Eren had felt smell the excitement that poured out of her skin the moment he walked into the room, especially when she witnessed his skin heal the small mark left by the needle. He had caught Levi giving her a look every time she looked like she ready to burst, not being able to keep herself in check any longer. Now he just hoped that she could keep calm without the eyes of Levi on her. He expected her to comment on the other needle-shaped marks that littered his inner elbow, ones that formed because they refused to remove the needle, even hours after the lab coats finished collecting his blood or injecting him with unknown liquids. To even comment on the one that collared his neck. Eren was at least pleased to see that the needle didn’t add any other mark to his skin and that he wouldn’t be coming back hom-…to Levi’s apartment with more scars.

Levi offering his pinky surprised him as he promised to be back within five minutes and if Eren hadn’t known better, had witnessed what he’d done minutes before, he might have thought that he was making fun. He remembered the ridiculous look that he received from Levi when he offered to make a pinky promise the first time. It was something that Petra made with him constantly, promising for another visit or extra treats when she came by next. She never broke those so in his naïve mind, he thought that they were unbreakable if they weren’t then she would have promised him that she would live through their escape. It would have motivated him more to leave, to escape without her…and may have possibly saved her if he didn’t stay behind briefly and refuse to leave Petra behind.

He ignored the sudden pain in his chest, the gentle squeeze around his heart at the thought of her and stared at the door that Levi disappeared behind. The panic that he’s been managing to suppress and keep contained throughout this visit was creeping its way back into his muscles and limbs. It reared its head only briefly when Hanji pointed the needle his way but Levi managed to drive it away. Distracting him with pinches and the scent that drifted into his nose to completely ignore the needle that sunk into his arm. He honestly had no idea that Hanji inserted it into his arm, not until the process was almost over and she just needed to fill another vial with his blood.

“Levi doesn’t break his promises and if he doesn’t come back in less than five minutes, then I’ll drag his ass in here myself,” Hanji laughed, pulling his attention from the door and onto her.

Eren tried to ignore the lab coat that encased her body, focusing on her face but her gloved hands would pull his attention back to it. He knew that underneath the coat was Hanji, someone that Levi trusted and someone that with time, he thinks he could trust too. However, all he could focus on was the whiteness of the coat and how those figures in the same exact coat still haunted his dreams.

“Can you-…can you take off your coat?” Eren managed to say, his voice cracking slightly, something that he scolded himself for instantly.

She turned toward him, puzzled for a second before clarity consumed her.

“Oh! I’m so sorry, Eren,” she apologized, shrugging off the coat and throwing it onto the other operating table. “It’s a force of habit.”

He nodded at her apology and the relief that ran through him managed to suppress some more of the anxiety running through his veins. Eren wanted to ask if the gloves could come off too but knew that he would be asking too much. It had to serve some purpose besides to not touch him, skin to skin anyways.

“I’m going to grab a few things and then come back, hang tight right here,” she smiled at him, emphasizing to stay by squeezing lightly on his upper arm when she reached toward.

He resisted the urge to pull away, knowing that she wasn’t going to hurt him and that flinching away from her would make things uncomfortable. She would look at him with such sadness in her eyes like she had another time and he hated it. He hated that he couldn’t control his body.

His eyes followed her until she walked somewhere behind him. Immediately the hairs on the back of his neck stood up and his mind began to run wild about what she could be doing or grabbing. He couldn’t help but imagine that she would be grabbing a scalpel and approaching him from behind, ready to end the job that the lab coats planned on following through. Eren knew that he was being paranoid but couldn’t stop himself from turning slightly to see behind him. Hanji was rummaging through a cabinet and had an armful of familiar looking equipment but nothing sharp and dangerous were included.

She’s Levi’s friend. She wouldn’t hurt me.

He blamed his suspicious behavior on Levi’s absence and the actual room he was in. It reminded him too much of the lab that he was dragged into daily for the majority of his life. The walls were too white, everything was covered in that ugly color and he couldn’t focus on anything when he first walked into the room. He didn’t realize that he pressed his body against Levi’s, hiding himself from Hanji and everything else. He couldn’t pull his attention off the tables that looked so similar to the ones that he was strapped to, tormented on. Though now he was thankful for Hanji placing a barrier between the cold metal and himself, even if he could still feel the coldness seeping into his legs.

The silence was beginning to eat away at him, all that took its place was the sound of their breathing and Hanji still going through the cabinets. Trying to fill some of the void, Eren said the only thing that he could think of.

“I wanted to thank you,” he suddenly announced, his voice recovered from the last time he spoke.

“For what?” Hanji replied and he could hear her stopping her search for whatever she was looking for.

“The art supplies that you got me...Levi said not to mention it because-...well I don’t really remember the reason but it didn’t feel right to not thank you.”

He was rambling and Eren shut his mouth before he could continue to unload word vomit. Hanji didn’t say a word and he worried that Levi had been right, that he shouldn’t have said anything at all until she let out a deep breath.

“Don’t mention it,” she finally told him, resuming her searching through the cabinets. Seconds later she let out an irritated sigh and began muttering to herself. “Fucking Levi...forcing that one on me...can’t fucking own up-”

“You didn’t buy them?”

He turned around in time to see her smack the top of her head and Hanji quickly faced him. Rubbing the top of her head and smiling largely at him. “No, no, of course, I did,” she laughed and then began to scratch the back of her neck. “Why wouldn’t I?”

If this wasn’t definite proof that Hanji had no part in the mountain of art supplies than either he was incredibly stupid or completely naive. Deciding to just drop it all together and possibly bring it up to Levi later, he turned back around and heard her continue her search for whatever she’s looking for.

Looking down at himself, he wished that he could have found closed shoes or wear something that covered the scars on his feet. He hated looking at the pale scars that littered his skin and touched his arm, his sleeve still rolled up, running his fingers across the bullet hole that Levi gave him. As he yanked down his sleeve, he just hoped that it would be the last scar that would be added to his collection.

“Okay,” Hanji announced her return. She dropped all the equipment in her arms next to Eren and reopened the ink pad that was on the table. “So I’m going to take your fingerprints, blood pressure, temperature, and then some other things. I’ll be quick so you can go back home.”

Home. He wasn’t going back home. Levi’s apartment was just that, Levi’s. Eren didn’t feel like he truly belonged there even though deep down, he wished he did. Wished that he could be comfortable even to call it that but constantly walked on eggshells around Levi. Everything he touched, like the glass that he knocked over this morning, shattered and caused Levi more trouble than he was worth. Of course, he didn’t even know if he had a home to return to. He only confessed this fear once, that he would have no one to come back to or that the Military didn’t just kill his mother but everyone else that was once a part of his life. Eren cursed his memory at that moment, cursed the lab coats and Djel that took him from that life.

“Can you hold your right arm out?” Hanji requested.

In her arms was a velcro strap with a long tube, he recognized it from the last time that he was here and that he could barely make it through the process. Hesitantly, he held his arm out, allowing her enough room to wrap the strap around his upper arm and secure it tightly. Eren ignored the tightening in his chest, the feeling of velcro on his skin again and forcing to remember when it had been tied to his wrists instead. Taking a deep breath, he swallowed the anxiety and letting his breath out slowly.

“That’s it, Eren. Just take deep breaths and we’ll be done soon,” she encouraged him.

The praise helped take the edge off but it did nothing at the building pressure in his chest as she began pumping the strap full of air. Each pump squeezed the strap tighter around his arm and he couldn’t help but grab onto the edge of the table, feeling the bite of the metal into his flesh.

“Just a few more seconds,” Hanji commented, finally stopping pumping the strap full of air and taking whatever data, she needed at that moment.

Seconds went by and she finally released the trapped air inside of the strap, pulling the velcro apart and taking it off his arm. The pressure in his chest slowly lessened though now his fingers were beginning to tremble. Pulling his hand off the edge of the table, he waited for Hanji’s next instructions and wished that Levi would come back already.

“Okay, now I’m going to need your fingers,” she smiled, probably trying to get him to relax around her.

Truthfully, he’d been so used to fake smiles, false words of encouragement that he would have written her smiles off as a way for her to gain his trust and then have her break it a second later. However, he wasn’t in his prison anymore. So he placed his hand out, the same arm that she used to take his blood pressure and barely flinched as she gently grabbed his wrist. She wheeled the table closer to him and repeatedly tipped his fingertips into the pad of ink, then pressing his coated fingers into a piece of paper. The dark liquid stood out against the pale flesh that covered his fingertips.

Eren didn’t know why she wanted to take his fingerprints, mostly for the fact that the scars most likely destroyed the ability to read them. He never looked at them in detail so he didn’t know if he could still see the swirls that used to cover them. Though if this helped in any way to identify who he was and if it helped to find whatever was left of his family.

After each of his fingers was dripping in ink and had been pressed into the piece of paper, Hanji carefully wiped the liquid away with a wet towel from the metal table. She wasn’t rough with his fingers like she was putting extra effort into irritating the sensitive skin. He could see the gears turning in her hair, probably trying to figure out how these scars were made but restrained herself from asking. Her eyes briefly roamed over the skin that wasn’t hidden behind his clothes, looking at the scars, especially the one collaring his neck before returning to her task.

“They had electricity pumped into a treadmill if I didn’t run…” Eren began, she suddenly looked up at him with wide eyes. “If I slowed down or almost collapse, they would use it to shock me…I don’t know how long they made me do it.”

“Oh, sweetheart,” she whispered, her chocolate eyes full of pity and sadness.

There. That was the reason he didn’t want to say anything. Didn’t want to explain the stories behind his scars. He couldn’t handle the pity that everyone looked at him with. Levi didn’t look at him with pity, but rather with understanding. Like he could understand the pain that he’s been through, though he honestly had no idea if there was anyone that could ever understand what he’s going through.

Ignoring the look, he pulled his hand out of hers once the dark substance was off his fingertips and stared at the door, wishing for Levi again. He knew how dependent he was becoming of the man but he couldn’t find himself giving two shits. Not now when the only thing that seemed to give him any peace of mind was the man’s scent. He knew that he would have to ignore whatever he felt in his chest every time he saw the man or whenever the raven managed to touch him in any way. Especially with whatever came over him this morning. Eventually, Hanji would find his family and that meant that he would leave Levi’s side…but did that mean he would never see the man again? Surprising himself, he admitted that he wished to keep some form of contact with Levi after his family was found.

Hanji brought him back from his thoughts by running the tiny machine over his forehead, the one he recognized from before. It beeped shortly after she lifted it away from his head and read whatever data was on it.

“You said that you usually run warm, right?” she questioned him.

He nodded reflectively but then hummed a yes when he saw that Hanji wasn’t facing him and instead writing on the same piece of paper that had his fingerprints on them. Eren studied the blobs of ink while he waited for her to finish writing, and couldn’t distinguish each finger from the other except for the size.

“So one more thing and then we’re done,” she explained, turning toward him and giving him another smile.

The thought of getting out of the lab and hopefully finding himself curled up on the couch sounded better than anything at the moment and gave her a small smile back. Hanji grabbed a small tube off the table and twirled it around her fingers before instructing him to look at her. She stood in front of him, slowly moving her hand to the side of his face and making the movement known to him, something that he appreciated. Grabbing and touching him suddenly always freaked him out, and the only person that could do it without him almost having an attack was Levi.

“I’m just going to check your eyes,” Hanji informed him.

He’d never been great at direct eye contact and he couldn’t help but try and avoid said eye contact with her, but he was quickly scolded by her. She reminded him that the faster this was over than he could get home faster. He stopped himself from correcting her and stayed closed-lip instead.

Hanji placed the tube in front of his eyes and muttered a quick apology to him, saying that it’s going to be a little bright. A sudden light overtook his senses, making his chest tightening to an impossible degree as he was thrust into his memories. Of the same bright light that hung over him, blinding him as shadows appeared above him with sharp instruments in hand. Ready to turn those instruments into his flesh and carve him until all he could see on his skin was a crimson red.

He couldn’t remember anything after the light consumed him.

 

The next thing he remembered was his voice. The voice that’s saved him time and time again from the figures that plagued his vision. That chased away their spiteful tongues and hate-filled, dark eyes. The black-haired raven that swooped in and ripped him from his mind and brought him back into reality.

He couldn’t focus initially, like a fog was clearing from his vision and then Levi’s scent slammed into his chest, filling his lungs and a sob crawled out his throat. From the pounding that thundered through his skull, he knew that this wasn’t the first sob to come out of him. On top of that, his throat felt bare, like he’d been screaming for hours.

Eren focused those memories that briefly plagued him once again, the knives barely touching his skin before slicing straight through his flesh. Blood. So much blood covered his skin and he had to look at his hand, that clung to Levi’s jacket before realizing that the crimson color wasn’t on him. He could feel the slight pressure of Levi’s finger raking through his hair, scratching lightly at the base of his skull to calm him down, to further bring him back. It worked like it always did.

What would he do when Levi wasn’t here? When he couldn’t bring himself back?

He ignored those intimidating thoughts as the tremors that pulsed through his body vanished with every passing second and the sobs managed to subside. The scratching at his scalp never let up, continuing its gentle rhythm even when simply leaned more into the comforting scent of him.

Eren’s mind raced as he thought of how much he missed up in such a short amount of time that Levi left. How quickly things turned out for the worst. This was supposed to be easy in and out procedure but he would always find a way to ruin it. He was already apologizing, to both Levi and Hanji, for not being able to do something so simple as getting a basic exam. Though he was quickly by silenced by Levi and stressing to him that it wasn’t his fault. Eren couldn’t help but refuse the words that came out of his mouth so he didn’t say anything, just pressing himself closer to Levi’s warm body and breathing more of his soothing scent.

He wanted to go home.

 

Eren passed out shortly in his arms. His ass was becoming numb from sitting on the floor and his legs had gone past the numbness, a needle-like sensation peppered the muscles. He said nothing as the kid snored lightly on his shoulder and sniffled in his sleep slightly. On top of that, Levi refused to look over at Hanji, knowing the smirk hadn’t left her face and staring at him with mischief in her eyes.

“I’ve only seen you run that fast, maybe twice in my life,” she finally spoke, crossing her arms over her chest.

“You don’t see me on the field…anyways, you mostly said that something was wrong. I’m his caretaker, shouldn’t I be concerned about the wellbeing of whom I’m taking care of?” Levi asked her, shifting the boy in his arms so he could move his legs, try to return circulation to them.

“There’s a difference between a caretaker and actually caring.”

He didn’t reply but narrowed his eyes in her direction instead. If his legs weren’t tingling still and the pain didn’t make him wince every time that he moved slightly, he would have already left before this conversation started. Now, he was trapped and couldn’t leave, stuck under the eyes of Hanji. Somewhere he definitely didn’t want to be.

“Just get the blood work done so he could go back to his family,” he simply told her, testing out his legs once again and seeing that the numbness was going away.

“Yes, sir,” she smirked, saluting him by placing a closed-fist on her chest and then headed toward her massive computer in the back.

Levi sighed as soon as she was far away enough not to hear him and began his journey of trying to get up on his own two feet without dropping the sleeping Eren in his arms.

He didn’t know how exactly he got home but Eren managed to sleep through most of the car ride, only being roused awake when he was first placed in the car and when he went over a large bump in the road. Levi was still amazed that he could sleep so much but he was most likely catching up on all the sleep that he missed out over the years. Or that the panic attack that took a hold of him not even an hour ago managed to take a large toll on him than he thought.

Managing not to break the kid’s head on the elevator ride or when he opened the front door, he carried him into his own bedroom and had to pry Eren’s hands off of him. Throwing a blanket on top of the sleeping form, he decided that he desperately needed a drink. He checked his phone to see that it was already three in the afternoon and he wondered where the majority of the day went. Heading into the kitchen and opening the tallest cabinet in his kitchen, he was welcomed to the site of his top-shelf whiskey and vodkas. He rarely dived into the liquor, only drinking when he had seen multiple of his men dying right in front of him in one night or those rare nights where he actually felt lonely.

Pouring himself a glass and adding a singular, large ice cube, he took a large gulp, enjoying the burn that erupted in the back of his throat. He’d forgotten how much he loved the smokiness of the whiskey and groaned slightly as he took another small sip. Quickly draining the rest of the glass, he pondered on what happened during his talk with Erwin.

Eren had been fine before he left, from what he could see before leaving, except for the faint trembles that plagued his hands. He didn’t expect something as simple as checking his eyes would have sent him into a panic attack. If he’d know, he wouldn’t have left Eren at the mercy of Hanji and would have at least tried to stop the attack from happening in the first place. He’d been able to do it a handful of times, he’s most likely be able to do it again. On top of that, he hadn’t managed to completely escape with Eren before Hanji went back to her old habits of sticking her nose in places they don’t belong. She asked such an obscure question that had him slightly taken back, though he refused to allow that surprise to reach his face or give any indication that it affected him.

“What exactly are your feelings about Eren?” she asked, having her back turned toward him but snuck a glance over her shoulder at him.

His grip on Eren stiffened but managed to not wake the boy and not let the motion be noticed by Hanji herself. He didn’t completely know what to say but knew that if he didn’t answer almost immediately, even if he was just shifting through his thoughts, then she would jump to some ungodly conclusion. So he just said what he thought the situation called for.

“I don’t have any,” he answered. “It’s my job to simply take care of him.”

“That’s complete bullshit and you know it,” she suddenly said, turning to him.

He glared at her as he readjusted Eren in his arms, realizing that having the kid in his arms wasn’t helping his case.

“I’ve seen you around recruits, ones on the verge of panic attacks and ones that were already going through it, and you couldn’t have given two shits,” Hanji continued, crossing her arms across her chest and leaning against her desk.

“Petra asked me-”

“That may have started it but what if I said that I wanted to take care of him, to take him away from you.”

He hated that Levi immediately wanted to snarl in disagreement. The thought of Hanji taking care of Eren, not knowing his basic needs and moods, would be a disaster that would undo everything that he’s done to make him comfortable. On top of that, Hanji forgot to eat unless Moblit or Erwin texted her a reminder to stuff her face full of food. Eren would be too timid to ask for food and his diet would be thrown off from the junk she ingested into her body. Even with all these facts that laid out in front of him, somewhere deep inside of his chest refused to let go of his hold on the kid in his arms. Levi didn’t want to think of that unknown feeling in his chest. He didn’t like unknown things.

“If that’s what he wanted,” Levi concluded.

She pursed her lips and nodded. “Sure,” she simply replied, obviously seeing past the bullshit he was spouting from his mouth.

“What’s the point of hounding me?”

“If you didn’t have any, then you wouldn’t have gotten art supplies for him and say that I was the one that bought of it for him. There must have been a reason why you didn’t want him to know that you were the one that actually got him that stuff.”

He left soon after that with a sleeping Eren still in his arms. Levi refused to say anything else to her, to entertain her any further. She had called after him as he left but said nothing as the elevator closed in her face.

He didn’t feel like being pressured to talk, especially about his feelings or anything about himself. Even now, as he poured another small glass of whiskey and sipped on it, he was growing irritated at Hanji’s small interrogating. He honestly didn’t know what his and Eren’s relationship was. It tilted between protector and savior but now he knew that the kid saw him in a different way, in a way that made Levi remember what he discovered this morning.

Levi carried his half-full glass into his bedroom with him, deciding that he wasn’t hungry and just wanted to lay down. Turning on the television and flipping onto a random show, he sipped from his glass and tried to entertain himself enough to not think about this morning. Of the soft moans that echoed off Eren’s door and the small gasps that made a flicker of pleasure lick at his spine. Disappointed at himself, for not pushing those sounds and memories to farthest regions of his mind, the image of a wanton Eren filled his vision briefly. He almost dropped his glass, his grip becoming slack at the sight of those emerald eyes full of want and lust, and thankfully he snapped out before the liquor ruined his sheets.

He could feel himself becoming uncomfortably hard. Deciding to abandon his drink and take a long, nice, cold shower was the best course of action to steer himself away from the road he was going down.

The shower did nothing. Just pushed off the inevitable and the disgust that filled him almost brought him to his knees.

Levi tried to let the freezing water wake him up, seep into his bones and kill the sudden horniness that pulsed through his blood. He told himself that it was because he hasn’t gotten laid in months and hadn’t touched himself longer than that. Even as he gripped onto his member and imagined a dark-haired stranger replacing his fingers, running light touches across his chest and kisses on his neck, it wasn’t enough. The stranger kept morphing into the emerald eye beauty that slept across his apartment, those bright eyes staring at him with wonder as small groans fell him Levi’s lips.

He’d never been vocal, not even with Erwin’s cock had been buried up his ass or his large mouth wrapped around his own member, but the thought of Eren touching him made him almost come undone. He could see the excitement that would fill his eyes as he got more of a response out of Levi and all Levi wanted to do was run his own hands through Eren’s unruly hair and caress the scars on his neck. To run his mouth over those scars and leave open-mouth kisses along the hollow of his neck.  Levi had envisioned him now with a fuller face, his skin a healthy olive tan, and his body already growing into itself.

He eventually leaned against the tiled wall, his forehead cooling against it as the pressure suddenly built up in his lower abdomen. The pleasure pulsed through his body and he welcomed the continuous build at that moment, imagining an eager Eren kneeling in front of him and hesitantly mouthing the base of his cock. It wasn’t the thought of him sucking him off, of his mouth becoming full of him, or even of him licking the pre-cum off the head that sent him over. It was those eyes. Those eyes that looked up at him with so much want and determination to make him feel good that made Levi thrust into his hand erratically and finally coming all over his shower wall.

He ended up sitting against the glass, his eyes focusing on the mess that he made and his cum dripping down the wall. The disgust filled him for two reasons. That there was cum currently dripping down his shower wall and that he imagined Eren in such a vulnerable state. That he wanted to touch and kiss this boy that he was assigned to protect. Levi couldn’t blame this on anyone else but himself. He allowed for his imagination to go wild, to imagine Eren touching him and kneeling in front of him, just because he heard a teenager acting on their hormones. He didn’t even fucking know how old Eren was and he could have jacked off to a fucking fourteen or fifteen-year-old.

Filling himself full of self-pity, he decided that he needed another drink or three to drown the guilt that began to eat away at his chest. However, before that, he needed to wash away the evidence of what he's done on his shower wall.

 

Running, why was he always running?

He didn’t know how long he had been running but his feet felt ready to bleed. Eren’s legs refused with every step that he took, screaming at him to stop and at least lean against the white walls for a moment, but he couldn’t. Her voice kept beckoning him, commanding him to keep running. So he pushed through the pain, even with his lungs feeling ready to burst and collapse on themselves.

Eren, you need to keep going ,” her voice commanded.

You have to save him .”

He’s running out of him .”

Please, find him before it’s too late .”

You’re running out of time .”

Eren! He’s going to die!

It took him multiple turns through the white hallways to understand that Petra was the one ordering him to keep moving. The only person that she could be talking about was Levi and the thought of him in their hands, the hands that tormented him for years of his life and snatched him away from everything he knew, shot spikes of icy fear through his spine.

No doors offered him an escape as he sprinted down the curving hallway. Still, Petra told him to keep going, to find an escape and save him. So he kept pushing, even when his legs felt ready to give up and everything inside of him begged him to stop running. He kept slamming his body into every corner, giving it seconds to rest before pushing himself once again and he wasn’t sure if it was better or worse for his body. It didn’t matter, not when her voice was in his ear, constantly talking about how he might be too late.

Another turn and his body hit the wall, he briefly tried to catch his breath and realizing that he has never run for this long or fast before. He knew that he wasn’t going to last for much longer. Swallowing gasps of air, he looked up to a sight that almost made him want to weep. There was a door. A white door that barely stood out from the hallway, the only thing that gave it away was the black window in the center of the metal.

Eren, go now!

He doesn’t have that much time left!

It suddenly felt like he was pushed forward and he almost landed flat on his face. Thankfully, his feet readjusted to slid underneath him and catch himself before he ate tile. Quickly looking around, he saw that no one was there or anyone in the hallway behind him. Dismissing it as losing his own balance, he put all of his remaining energy into the last sprint down the short hallway and to the door.

Grabbing a hold of the metal door handle, it bit into his skin as he slammed the handle down in an attempt to open it. It swung open to reveal a dark room and the overwhelming smell of blood filled his nose. The smell almost made him gag, covering his nose with his hand to make an attempt to stop some of the smell from entering it but it almost did nothing to help. His other hand reached across the wall, searching for the light switch so he could actually see inside of the large room. As his fingers made contact with the switch, he realized sudden as he continued to involuntarily breathe in that blood-filled room that there was another scent mixed in. He felt his stomach drop before he could turn on the lights and took in the scene before him.

He was back in Levi’s apartment, looking into the living room that he’s spent so much time in. So many memories with Levi slammed into his chest but he quickly noticed that broken glass covered the rug in the living room. Eren turned his attention to where the glass table should be but was greeted by a sight that he never wanted to see.

A scream erupted from his throat as he threw himself at the body lying in the middle of the living room. He reached his hands toward his throat, trying to desperately to find a pulse or some indicating that the man in front of him was alive. That his Levi was still breathing. Blood began to cover his hands and skin, staining it as sobs ripped through his chest and he tried to watch his chest, to see it move once. However, the only thing he found was multiple bullet holes riddling his chest, blood still leaking out and covering his once white shirt into crimson.

He looked around, desperately trying to find something that he could use to help save the man underneath him and quickly found nothing. He could do nothing as Levi turned a ghostly white, so much different than the pale skin that he’s grown attached to and those liquid metal eyes moved slightly toward him.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” Eren cried out.

Sobs continued to constrict his chest as those eyes kept trying to focus on him and Levi tried to force a small smile at him, even if it was just the corner of his mouth. Eren could barely see through the tears that clouded his vision but he blinked in time to see him mouth something to him. Blood beginning to leak out the corner of his mouth and the crimson liquid staining his teeth.

Run.

Before he could say anything else or try to find another way to save the man, Levi went limp in his arms. Those silver eyes becoming dull as his head rolled slightly to the side, his face pressing against the glass that covered the floor.

“Levi?” he whispered.

His voice sounded so small to his ears but yet consumed the space of the living room, the only sound in the whole apartment. He reached down and grabbed his cheeks, smearing blood over Levi’s ghostly white face and screamed his name as those hollow eyes refused to look at him.

“Levi, please! Don’t leave me alone!” Eren begged, trying to shake the limp body underneath him.

He moved closer, trying to get a better grip so he could try and wake him up. Eren couldn’t stand the coldness that was seeping into his once warm flesh or this new scent that was coming from Levi. His knees pulsed in pain, shards of glass scraping against his flesh and penetrating his skin and muscles, but he couldn’t care. It hurt to breathe as he pressed his forehead against Levi’s and wanted nothing more than to feel Levi’s chest rising and falling against his.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he kept chanting, like if he kept apologizing then the coldness that was beginning to take over Levi would disappear. If he kept apologizing then Levi would wake back up.

He sat there for long enough for his legs to go numb, for the phantom pain in his ankles to say that they’ve had enough but he refused to move. Eren kept pressing his forehead against Levi’s and mixed the tears that never seemed to end with the blood that stained his face. The blood on his hands and chest were cold and beginning to dry but something in him kept saying to hold Levi, that he didn’t want him to wake up with Eren not holding him.

“This wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t run away,” a familiar voice suddenly told him.

He wiped his head around to see Djel, someone he hoped that he would never see again. Those pale, blue eyes bore into him as a smirk erupted on his lips. He looked exactly the same from the last time that he’d seen him, though his tousled black hair had flecks of gray in it now and more wrinkles had been etched into his face. Eren had forgotten how tall the man was and he did nothing as Djel pulled a handgun out from behind his back and aimed it right at his head. He did nothing to stop it, not even when the gun went off. He just wanted to feel anything else besides the emptiness that filled his heart.

 

Jerking awake, Eren sat up and placed a hand over his rapidly beating heart. He was still alive.

It was just a bad dream.

Slowly, he touched his face and felt the tears that fell while he slept. He used his sleeve to wipe his face and take deep breaths to soothe his beating heart. Looking down at his hands, they trembled and he could only press them into the mattress to try and stop them. His chest hurt and it wasn’t sure if it was because he had been breathing so hard or the emptiness that ate away at him from his dreams still. All he could see was Levi’s lifeless eyes staring off into the distance and could still feel the flesh below his fingertips becoming ice cold.

Shaking his head and trying to get that haunting image out of his head, he turned toward the clock at his bedside table and held his breath as he realized how late it was. Levi never let him sleep past nine and he’d only let him wake up at ten before once. So when he saw that it was just past noon, he knew that something was amiss or wrong. The image of Levi dying in front of him made him bolt out of bed and with his legs still trapped underneath the blanket and tangled, he almost landed on his face as he got out. He grabbed the wall to steady himself and yanked the blanket off of him fully before opening the door and heading down the hallway.

“Levi?” Eren called out for him.

He received no answer and the worry ate away at his throat as he entered the living room and smelled something he never wanted to smell again. Blood. But where was it coming from? Too quickly he spotted it from the kitchen window. There were bits of broken glass on the kitchen island, drops of blood covered the marble top, and he could spot half a bloody handprint on the edge of the counter. His body sprinted around the living room to head into the kitchen before his mind even processed what happened and he just hoped that he wouldn’t find either an unconscious or dead Levi around the corner.

Thankfully, he found nothing. Just more pieces of glass that almost pierced his heel and the arch of his foot when he skidded to a stop. He didn’t see any more blood in the kitchen and figured that the only place that he could be would be his bedroom. Though the pieces of broken glass kept bothering him, that Levi wouldn’t have just left it there, especially the blood that splattered the marble. Something else had to be wrong.

Abandoning the kitchen, he walked briskly out of the kitchen and dining room to turn immediately toward Levi’s bedroom. The door was ajar and the smell of blood came from inside of the room as well. He breathed in slightly, trying to see if he could smell anything past the blood and found Levi’s scent. He prayed to himself, praying that he didn’t scent the smell of death with the herbs and lemons that was Levi.

He swore for a brief second that he could smell it, the death that filled his nose in his dream and he couldn’t stop his feet from commanding the rest of his body to move. To move now and try to save him, something that his dream self wasn’t able to do.

Levi was lying on his bed, his body twisted around the blankets he usually slept under and his skin paler than usual. Dried blood covered his right hand and had dripped onto his white shirt, and Eren couldn’t stop his body from moving. All he could think about was how cold his skin felt, how the stench of death covered his body, and how those silver eyes would never look at him again. He jumped onto the bed and grabbed a hold of Levi’s shoulders as fresh tears began to leak from his face.

“Levi! Please wake up,” he pleaded.

It happened so quickly that he didn’t even see Levi reflectively reach underneath his pillow until Eren was suddenly on his back and the man that he cared about so much was on top of him. He could feel something pressed against his throat and he tried to stop the panic that rose inside of him at realizing that it was a knife. A whimper escaped him as he closed his lips, trying to silence the sobs that desperately wanted to escape. His vision turned blurry, tears refusing to stop as he took in the solid, metal eyes staring back at him. It took a second for them to soften, probably understanding who attacked him and woke him up suddenly before the knife was removed from his throat and thrown off the bed altogether.

“Eren, what the hell were you thinking?” Levi snapped, anger evident in his voice. “I could have killed you.”

He didn’t care that he was being scolded by Levi. A smile pulled at his own lips, wanting to reach out to touch Levi, to feel the warmth coming from his skin and another sob shook him. The anger that had consumed his face quickly vanished and he could have sworn that he saw concern written in his eyes as he looked over Eren. His now warm eyes looked all over him, probably searching for the reason why Eren was hysterically crying underneath him and they landed on his throat once again.

“Fuck,” he breathed.

He reached down and gently wiped at his neck, a spark of pain erupted from the spot and Eren held in a gasp. His hand came back into sight to see fresh blood on Levi’s thumb.

“I’ll be right back,” Levi informed him before he started to pull himself away from Eren.

However, he didn’t let him get very far. Eren’s arm reached out toward him and managed to wrap them around his middle before he got too far away. His scent filled the air around him and it encouraged the tears to keep falling from his tired eyes.

“Eren,” Levi called out his name, probably ready to tell him to let go but he just shook his head in response, tightening his hold on him and burying his face into his shoulder.

“Don’t leave…please…I don’t want to be alone,” he sobbed, trying to calm his breathing enough to actually say something without sounding like a mess.

It didn’t work. He could already feel the heat of his steam raising from the small wound on his neck and knew that it would nothing more than smooth flesh again in just a few, short moments. Levi grew stiff in his arms and it took some time before he felt an arm snake around his back and he pulled them both into a sitting position. He was almost in his lap, his face still buried in Levi’s neck and if he wasn’t a sobbing mess, his face would have turned bright red realizing their position.

He couldn’t stop the sobs that shook his body and the images of the man holding him, bloody and dying right in front of him, didn’t help them.

Eren realized as he sat there that Levi has been trained to take care of himself, he saw it in the moments he took him by surprise or when he surveyed the garage as they headed to his car the previous day. He wouldn’t have just sat there and been killed without fighting back or taking a few men down with him. Though even with that thought, he couldn’t shake the image of the blood soaking his shirt and the smell of death burning in his nose. He couldn’t look at Levi’s face, even with the man very obviously alive against him, he was afraid to find those liquid eyes turned hollow and empty. He didn’t even know what he would do if he stumbled upon Levi’s body. Probably scream and sob like he had in his dream. Would he call Hanji?... He didn’t even know how to use a phone. He didn’t know how to do anything without Levi.

“What happened?” Levi whispered to him, his voice soft and comforting.

Eren managed to pull himself away from his shoulder and far away enough to wipe his face with the end of his sleeve. He looked past his sleeves to see that Levi had been staring at him but when he caught Eren’s eyes, he quickly turned his attention somewhere else. Levi suddenly became very interested in the blanket that had once been wrapped around him before he woke him up. He could have sworn that a bit of color dusted his cheeks but he honestly was too focused on trying to get his breathing under control.

“Was it a nightmare?” he questioned further.

Eren nodded as he sniffled, finally managing to suppress the sobs that shook his body and caused an ache in his chest.

“They found me…in my dream,” he started, continuing to wipe his face and making the ends of his sleeves soaking with tears. “You…I found you-…”

He wasn’t able to finish the sentence without another sob that broke from his throat. His throat constricted and it was starting to become harder to breathe again as he thought of his dream again. Levi turned toward him then, tightening his grip that he still had around his waist and making Eren come close enough for him to reach behind his head, scratching lightly at the back of his head. The action immediately melted his bones, relaxing his high-strung body.

“They’re not going to find you…and nothing is going to happen to me,” Levi told him, moving his hand from the back of his head to his chin, making Eren look at him as he said those words.

Eren could do nothing but nod as he stared into those alive and silver eyes. All too quickly, Levi dropped the hand that touched him, like he was suddenly burned and Eren tried to not let the disappointment eat away at his stomach. How he still wanted Levi to touch and comfort him.

His eyes landed on the dried blood on Levi’s other hand, seeing the blood that stained the hidden bandage on his palm that he didn’t see before. He was tempted to reach out, to look at it with a closer inspection…and give an excuse for him to touch Levi again. He already lost his grip on the man when he moved slightly off the raven’s lap to wipe his tears.

“What happened?” he asked, gesturing toward the blood on Levi’s hand and shirt.

Levi looked down at himself and sighed slightly before touching the bandage, adding slight pressure to the covered wound like he forgot about it. “I dropped a glass last night while I may have been slightly…tipsy. It was late and figured I would just clean it in the morning…but now it’s afternoon,” Levi explained, pulling at the stain on his shirt and huffing a groan. “This is going to be a pain in the ass to get out.”

“Can I help-…heal it?”

The words came out of his mouth before he could think of a good enough reason to not say what he just said. Levi looked at him with furrowed brows, like he didn’t understand what he was talking about before realization swiped across his face.

“No, it’s fine. It’ll heal in no time,” Levi stated, unwrapping his leg that was still wrapped around a spare blanket.

Eren reached about before he could think, once again, and stopped him from moving too far away from the bed. “Wait!-…I-…I want to help,” he spouted, heat creeping up his face as he tried to continue without stuttering like a blushing mess. “I haven’t been able to do anything-”

“All I need you to do is enjoy yourself and be the kid that you are.”

His response took Eren by surprise and he unhooked his fingers around Levi’s arm, allowing him to move away from him slightly. The moment most likely wouldn’t have been noticed by anyone else but Eren noticed the distance that Levi put between himself and Eren.

“I’m not a kid,” Eren almost deadpanned.

He honestly didn’t know if that was true or not, but he felt like it was too late for him to try and have an actual childhood. Not when he didn’t remember the little that he had and the majority of it trapped in a white room.

“Say whatever you want, but I don’t know a man that almost always cries when a humane society commercial comes on,” he teased him, smirking slightly before going over to his drawers and pulling out another white shirt.

“They’re cute, shut up,” Eren lightly snapped, not knowing where this light mood suddenly came from and thankful that they moved past his nightmare.

Levi disappeared into his bathroom, not closing the door completely and he could see through the crack of his broad back as he changed into his new shirt. He turned his head, not wanting to further tempt himself and be caught staring at a half-naked Levi.

“What do kids do anyway?” he suddenly asked, trying to fill the silence with anything.

“What?” Levi called out from behind the door.

The bathroom door opened to reveal him in an almost identical white shirt, just no bloodstains covering his middle. He leaned against the doorway, waiting for Eren to continue whatever he was saying.

“Well-…you said that I should be a kid…but I don’t know what kids do…” Eren started but left the question hanging, not completely sure where to go from there.

“Hell if I know…probably watch movies, play video games…flirt with girls-” he tried not flinch slightly at that last listing, another reminder that whatever he felt for the raven staring at him was not normal. “Some can draw, though probably not as good as you…you can try out the art supplies that Hanji got for you.”

Yes, the art supplies that he definitely got from Hanji.

Someday in the future, he would ask the actual truth about where the art supplies actually came from but Eren already had a strong feeling that Levi actually bought them. The reaction that he got out of Hanji yesterday almost proved it to him completely that his theory was true.

“What would I draw?” Eren asked, more talking to himself than Levi.

“Whatever you want,” Levi answered without missing a beat.

He nodded, thinking of the unlimited possibilities of what he could create with the goodies that awaited him in the other room.

“When can I start?”

Chapter Text

He didn’t know what he was thinking when he took Eren into his arms when he was falling apart right in front of him. Levi already told himself as he drank himself into numbness last night that he wouldn’t come close to the kid unless he was having a panic attack. He couldn’t allow himself to think of what he did in the shower, of how touching himself to an image of a lust filled and eager Eren made him cum like a fucking teenager.

However, the sight of a sobbing Eren wasn’t the first thing he expected to see first thing in the morning, especially when he had a massive headache forming in the front of his head. If he’d know it was the kid, he wouldn’t have instinctively reached for the knife he kept hidden underneath his pillow. He never had to use it before, since he’s never had someone break into this house yet but after the warnings that Erwin had been giving him over the past couple of days, he couldn’t be too safe. Levi regretted his actions, from seeing the terror in those emerald eyes as he pressed the large knife against his neck. He had thrown the knife across the room, trying to put as much distance between Eren and the instrument before he went into a panic attack.

However, the attack never came. Even after he scolded him, stressing how close he could have been to killing him, the kid had the balls to smile up at him with so much warmth filling those bright eyes. He could see his hands twitching slightly, like they wanted to reach up and touch him, which was something that Levi needed to draw the line at. Especially, when he realized that he was mostly straddling the Eren, his hips resting on right above his knees. The anger for this kid and his idiotic way of waking Levi up started to slowly disintegrate and he started searching for the reason why he’d been hysterically crying.

He didn’t find anything, not that was new anyway. The knife that been pressed into his neck was extremely sharp and even when he lightly placed it on the Eren’s neck, it cut into his flesh still.  The cut wasn’t deep and only a couple beads of blood leaked out from the small wound. He reached down and wiped the small amount of blood off of his neck. No more blood came out so he figured that it was going to heal very soon and it wasn’t going to turn into another scar.

Wanting to wash the blood on his thumb, he tried to get up but Eren snaked his arms around him and kept him in place, pleading with him not to leave. He hated himself at the second, mostly for the fact that instantly his mind started creating inappropriate scenarios with the position that they were currently in. Deciding that the faster that he can get to the root of the problem, then the faster he can get Eren safely away from him.

Once Levi understood why he was being hysteric and sobbing into his shoulders, he couldn’t imagine what actually happened in Eren’s nightmare. He couldn’t think of what he saw that made so much fear and terror fill his emerald eyes. That he actually believed that Levi was dead in the reality as well. He wanted to do something that could subside the lingering fear that stayed in his eyes and the art supplies that he bought could finally be put to use.

He’d completely forgotten about the shattered glass in the kitchen and the small amount of blood that leaked out of his palm. Levi had been aware enough to try and not pick up the glass being slightly intoxicated and left the mess for the next day. Now, he wished that he had cleaned it up, feeling partly responsible for causing Eren to cry. Though it surprised him that Eren offered to heal the cut on his palm and the thought of the kid’s mouth on his skin made his gut tighten, thinking of the previous night of where that same mouth and tongue came into contact with. He quickly shut down the idea before his imagination could run wild with another fantasy that would never happen. Getting Eren to paint or draw with the art supplies that he got from him, it would distract him from whatever still plagued his mind from his nightmare. On top of that, it would get the brunette out of his hair for a bit so he could take control of his thoughts again and work a bit. He just hoped that whatever was happening to him, that made him act like a horny teenager, would go away and fast.

He made a quick breakfast, well lunch, of just oatmeal with some brown sugar, so Eren could eat as he cleaned up the glass and blood in the kitchen. It didn’t take too long, thankfully, and Eren was still eating when he headed into his office and began setting up a small art studio. Laying down the clear tarp on the ground and securing another one to the wall across the easel, not wanting to find any of his books with a spot of paint on them.

Levi had to dig through his hall closet to find an old, foldable table that he had bought for some ungodly reason and decided that Eren could use it to hold all of the paint instead of it being placed on the ground. He placed all of the variations of colors all over the table and grabbed paint brushes of various shapes and sizes to be placed in a plastic cup. Then on the side, he placed one of the many sketchbooks that he purchased and a handful of pencils next to the book. After he was done, he almost didn’t recognize half of his office.

Eren came in shortly after he fixed and placed everything in order. His bright eyes grew massive as he took in the transformation of the office and almost tripped over himself getting to the easel and the paints that covered most of the table. His scared fingers ran over the various tubes, each color different than the last. He could see Eren’s lips beginning to quiver, trying to hold in whatever he was feeling and Levi was tempted to go over and give the kid a hug. Those emerald eyes turned toward him, beginning to fill with tears but he quickly wiped them away with the end of his sleeve.

“Thank you,” he simply said.

He was tempted to tell him that Hanji was not the one that bought all of this, that he did it but he quickly shot down that idea. “Don’t thank me, it’s Hanji that bought everything,” Levi explained.

Eren’s eyes narrowed slightly like he remembered something but just nodded before turning his attention back to the paints below his fingertips. He tried to ignore his instinct to reach across the small space between them and place his own fingers against Eren’s.

What the hell is happening to me?

 

Work had eventually ruled the majority of his day. Sitting in his chair with laptop switching between his lap and desk and answering the various emails from Erwin and other members of the Recon. Every once in a while, he would look up from his screen to check in on the other half of the room. The first time he was surprised that Eren was just sitting in front of the canvas that Levi placed on the easel. In his hand was a paintbrush but he held it as his side, looking from the mountain of paint and the blank canvas.

Finishing up the sentence for one of his emails, he got up from his large, rolling chair and made his way behind Eren. He checked his phone and realized that Eren had been mostly staring at a blank canvas for twenty minutes, barely moving.

“Whatcha doing?” Levi asked as he stood behind the kid.

He could have sworn that Eren almost jumped three feet in the air and almost tripped over himself falling out of the stool. Luckily, he managed to grab a flailing arm before the kid slammed into the canvas and the table full of paints. Eren turned to him when he finally regained his balance, a blush consuming his face and traveling down his neck.

“What are-What are you doing?” Eren asked, stuttering through his sentence and making Levi think that the action was cute.

Dismissing his last thought, he raised an eyebrow at Eren and removing his hand on his arm. “I asked you first,” he simply stated.

The only answer he really got back was a huff before he climbed back onto the stool he was sitting on before and stared at the canvas again.

“I don’t know what to do…like to paint,” he began. “I haven’t really…you know…seen anything besides what’s in this apartment…”

Levi nodded as he tried to explain what how he felt and he offered the best thing that he could do at the moment.

“Take a break,” he suggested. “Eat something and then come back…maybe inspiration will strike you.”

All Eren did was nod as he placed the paintbrush that he still had between his fingers on the table and headed off out of the office. As soon as he left the room, Levi found himself going back to his laptop and googling images of landscapes. Of mountains, springs, fields full of bright flowers, and the ocean. He didn’t know what came over him as he printed photo after photo of a bird’s eye view of New York City or the little blue houses of Greece. All he could think about was the smile that Eren would wear across his face as he took in these photos from around the world and what he could recreate with them.

He trusted Eren enough to find the small number of snacks that Levi had in his pantry so instead of checking in on him, he placed a large number of photos in the only available place on the table. Eren had learned his lesson from the morning he burned himself and almost everything in his apartment to the ground, so he wasn’t under Levi’s carefully watch completely anymore. He wouldn’t come near the stove with a ten-foot pole and he only managed to show him how to work the microwave shortly after the mishap in the kitchen that one morning. At least he could heat up leftovers and follow simple instructions on the back of frozen food bags if Levi asked him to.

Levi returned back to his seat, trying to go back to the rhythm that he had before but kept finding his eyes going to the door, waiting for Eren to come back. It didn’t take too long to hear his bare feet walking back into the office and noticed the napkin in his hand, full of crackers, the only thing that he really had in his kitchen. Maybe later he would go shopping and ask if Eren wanted to join him if he did than he would wait until it was almost dusk. He nibbled on a cracker as he moved back to his stool and was about to place the napkin on top of the pictures that Levi printed out. His hand hovered over the pictures, realizing that there was now something covering the only place that had been free space. Placing the napkin into his lap, he grabbed the large stack and began going through the photos. With every turn of the pictures, his emerald eyes widen and scanning the landscapes in each of them.

Those eyes lingered on one of the photos and then they turned toward Levi, who wasn’t pretending to be very interested in an empty email reply.

“Wh-…how?” Eren started, still clinching the pictures in his fingers.

“They’re just photos that I found on the internet. No big deal,” he dismissed quickly, trying not let his eyes linger on Eren’s quivering lip and the slight shake in his hand.

“Can you-…can you show me-…or tell me where these are from?”

Levi finally looked up to see that the kid looked ready to burst into tears and for a second he worried that printing out those photos may have done more harm than good. However, the worry was quickly vanishing when a breath-taking smile overtook Eren’s face and it felt like someone was tugging at his heart.

“Of course,” he whispered before signaling Eren to come over.

 

They eventually moved to the cushions so that Levi could show him the locations of the various photos that he gave him. Eren had been standing next to him, almost hovering over him with wide eyes as he absorbed all the information that he was receiving. Though Levi quickly noticed that he was shifting his feet and favoring neither of them. Once he suggested sitting on the cushions, relief swept across his face and once Eren sat down, he started to rub lightly over the scars on the top of his feet. He took a reminder for himself that his feet would bother him if he stood for too long on them.

The next few hours passed quickly, with Levi researching different countries and locations that were on the photos. Everything that the kid was hearing was being absorbed like a sponge and more questions kept pouring out of his mouth seconds after Levi answered one. He expected to feel annoyed with answering question after question, with no end in sight, but the reward of seeing Eren so determined to remember everything he was told, was good enough.

They spent the most time on places that were either surrounded by water or beaches that had crystal clear waters. Levi couldn’t help but notice that excitement that filled the kid’s eyes when he saw them and he had to hold his tongue, stopping himself from asking why the ocean got such a different reaction out of him more than anything else.

As they read articles and scrolled through photos side-by-side, a question popped into Levi’s head and he couldn’t stop this one from rolling out of his mouth.

“You know how to read, right?” he asked.

Eren looked over at him then, another blush threatening to consume his face as he bit his lip lightly. “Petra taught me…or just brushed up on what I’ve learned before,” he explained. “I don’t remember school…if I even went to school so obviously I don’t remember the lessons. She taught me basic math and a couple of other things…I told her that it was a waste of time because I truly believed that I would never escape from there…Now I’m happy that she pushed for me to learn.”

Levi nodded as he talked and it honestly didn’t surprise him that Petra would go as far to try and teach the boy everything that Eren missed out on. She had told him during one of their late nights at the office, when tiredness almost had them on the verge of drunkenness, that if she hadn’t been involved with this life, she would have become a teacher. He wanted to tell her to follow her dreams, to abandon this life but no matter what he would have said, she would have continued to follow him until her dying breath. Levi hadn’t known it, even when she ‘resigned’ that she would do exactly that, but just not for him. He looked over at the only student that Petra managed to teach, wondering what she managed to teach him in the two short years that they were together. Even before she promised to help him escape, before she even knew that it was possible, Petra wanted to educate and reintroduce him into society somehow.

She had so much faith in getting him out.

He had the uncontrollable urge to reach out and touch Eren, whether it be the side of his face or even his upper arm but he quickly suppressed those foolish desires and turned back to his computer screen. Levi blamed his pint up sex drive for his sudden inappropriate thoughts about the person next to him if he’d only get laid before he did something he would regret.

“I think I know what I want to paint,” Eren suddenly said, turning toward him and understood quickly how close they were to each other.

Their noses almost touched and if Levi managed to move slightly forward, his lips would be pressed against Eren’s. Alarm bells began ringing at that thought, warning him to back the fuck out of the situation before something he'd regret happened. He was the first to move, to put some distance between the two of them and ignored the way that Eren’s blush traveled past his face and spotted his neck.

“Do you want me to print anything out for you?” he coughed, clearing his throat and scrolling through more images of beaches and waves from the ocean.

“No…I think I have it handled,” Eren explained as he got up from beside him and headed back over to his stool.

Levi stared after him as all of the excitement that filled his eyes and frame deflated from his body, and he couldn’t help but know that he was the fault of that. He couldn’t do anything about it and shouldn’t, so he put his laptop back on his desk and sat back in his own seat. The hours that spent informing Eren of places that he's probably never see put him behind schedule, meaning that he’d most likely work into the night. He didn’t plan on getting that much sleep tonight anyway.

Levi dove himself into his work, doing as much as possible and only remembering to take a break when both his and Eren’s stomach growled, realizing that it was almost seven in the evening. He had managed to almost do everything that Erwin sent him and files that had been missed up by members below him. Annoyed that he had to clean up the mess of other’s below him, Erwin claimed that it was because he had nothing better to do than be babysitter. He wanted to rip him a new one but didn’t want to bother Eren, not when he seemed so focused on what he was creating on the canvas in front of him.

It was the first time that he saw so much determination etched into Eren’s face. His emerald eyes constantly flickering across the whole canvas, muttering to himself about colors and shapes, and shaking his head as his fingers came across the different paint available to him. Levi found himself captivated when he allowed himself to look up, giving his eyes the tiniest break before pulling himself away and back into his work.

Deciding to take a short enough break to make dinner and go back to work, he headed into the kitchen and pulled out the little that he had in his fridge. He definitely needed to go grocery shopping. While they both ate, he would ask if Eren wanted to go with him. It wouldn’t be that busy, almost no one went to the store this late at night when they were about to close in less than three hours.

Spaghetti was the best course of action after he found some spared noodles and an unopened jar of sauce in the back of the pantry that was only two months away from expiring. He tasted it to make sure that it was still fine and thankfully it didn’t make him want to throw up at the smell or taste. There was some jarred garlic that he used as a last resort and other vegetables that looked a few days from going bad but still had a slight snack when he cut them. If something he put into the sauce had gone bad, at least Eren would be the first to know and hopefully say something before they ate half of their meal.

It didn’t take too long for the sauce to come together and the noodles were almost cooked when Eren must have smelt the food. Levi saw him from the kitchen window and he couldn’t help the small smile that curled his lips at the amount of green and blue-hued paint covering his face and hair. He quickly shut it down before Eren rounded the corner and entered the kitchen, sitting on the island.

“What do you think you’re doing?” he found himself asking, turning his back on the simmering sauce to stare at the kid.

“My back hurts,” Eren complained.

“You have paint all over you.”

He looked down at himself and Levi noticed that his face and hair were not the only casualties of being smothered in paint. The splattering of paint covered his fingers, nails, and even some on his lower arms. Eren gave him a sheepish smile and he couldn’t help but notice that the green and blue paint managed to bring out another color that was hidden in his eyes. Flecks of gold and blue were now visible in those emerald eyes and he had to stop himself from getting a closer look at them.

“Wash your hands before you eat,” Levi instructed him, turning back around to taste test the noodles and make sure they were fully cooked.  

Eren hoped off the island and began to wash away the paint that stained his hands at the sink. He was about to shut off the water when Levi saw flecks of paint still underneath his nails and reached across to turn the water back on when Eren shut it off. He looked at him questioning his action and Levi just simple pointed at his nails.

“You missed a couple of spots,” he simply said, but returning to stirring the sauce, waiting for Eren to be done so he could drain the noodles.

Eren huffed a sigh in response before scrubbing rough underneath his nails and he had to roll his eyes at the intensity of how hard he was scrubbing.

“Okay, okay. You can stop before you scrub your nails off,” Levi told him, grabbing the strainer and pressing his hip against Eren to make him get out of the way.

He did move but it took a little bump of his hip to make him fully get away from the sink and sent him a small smirk to tell him that he wasn’t trying to be mean about it. The kid went over to the island and instead of sitting on it, he leaned against it and watched as Levi poured the boiling water into the strainer.

“Food’s ready,” he announced before grabbed two bowls and handing one to Eren.

They ate in silence, the only thing that played was the television in the living room and they just opted to eat on the island. Eren went back for seconds, consuming his bowl in seconds while he only managed to eat a couple of mouthfuls. It amazed him at how quickly food disappeared into the kid’s mouth and wondered if he should ask about a grocery adventure before he disappeared into the office again.

“Hey,” Levi said, trying to get his attention. He cringed slightly as Eren looked up at him, a noodle hanging out of his mouth and sauce smeared on his chin. “I need to get groceries and a few other things. Would you want to join me?”

He could see that Eren was trying to hide his reaction to the question, his eyes becoming wide and his hand slightly trembled. Eren dropped the fork into the half-empty bowl and placed his hands on his lap so he couldn’t see them.

“Where is it?... What would I have to do?” he asked.

“You don’t have to do anything, Eren. It’s to get you out of the house for a bit and see a little more of the world around you. The store is a five-minute drive from here and no one is usually there this late at night,” Levi explained.

Eren nodded as he talked, taking in his words and he could see the concentration dancing around his face.

“You don’t have to go if you don’t want to-” he started, trying to emphasize that if he truly didn’t want to go, Levi wasn’t going to drag him there.

“No!-…I-…I want to go…but would there be a chance that I can wear something to cover…you know, to cover these,” Eren said, gesturing to the scars that covered his neck and his fingers.

“Of course…”

He wanted to tell him that he didn’t need to be ashamed of the scars and had to hide them. Though he understood the need to cover up, it took himself a while to workout shirtless after he had surgery from a drive-by a couple of years back. The surgical scar ran across the top of his right hip and traveled to his navel. One of the bullets shattered a part of his hip and he’d been forced into bed rest for almost two weeks. Probably the worst two weeks of his life but Hanji was constantly with him to make sure that he didn’t do anything to mess up her hard work.

Levi had to dig through his winter clothes to find a scarf for him and possibly some gloves if he wanted them.

“You need to change before we go. Don’t need to get paint all over my car,” he told Eren, grabbing both of their bowls when the kid shoved it slightly toward him, signally there he was done.

 

It didn’t take too long for Levi to finish cleaning the kitchen and the dirty dishes. By the time he was done, he could still hear Eren fumbling through the piles of clothes that were still in the plastic bags that Hanji brought over. He reminded himself that he needed to make a list of things he needed, including more hangars for those clothes. First, he needed to find a scarf and gloves for Eren so he wouldn’t be as nervous going out…at least he wouldn’t have to worry about showing off most of his scars. Of course, the ones that covered his face, his right eyebrow severed in half and the one that ran along his left cheek to his jaw, would be harder to hide. There were others besides those two but Levi had to come close to Eren’s face to see those faint ones. Though, he didn’t plan on getting that close to him anymore.

Drying off his hands and heading into his room, he made his way to the back of his closet and pulling out a cardboard box that was labeled ‘Winter.’ It was in Hanji’s crude handwriting and suddenly had no confidence that there was any winterwear in the box. She had offered her help when he needed to go through his clothing and get rid of items, and he regretted it. Mostly for the fact that she didn’t listen to him and kept clothes that he now disliked.

Opening up the box, he was pleased to find that it was full of scarves, gloves, and a few heavy coats. Grabbing a large black infinity scarf and thin grey gloves, he put the box next to his closet, deciding that he would have to take them out eventually since it was getting colder by the day. Even from inside his cozy and warm apartment, every time that passed the glass doors to his porch, his teeth started chattering. He hated how quickly the weather changed here.

Maybe he would retire early. Move somewhere to a place that had almost nothing to do with the cold. He had more money than some hoped to ever earn in a lifetime and then some.

He could think about that another time, when the whole scenario with Eren passed and he was safe with his family. Holding the scarf and gloves in hand, he froze for a second, remembering that the kid would be gone from his life in a short amount of time. He wondered what he felt in his chest at that moment…it couldn’t be…sadness. This kid had done nothing but turn his entire life one-eighty and he couldn’t wait to go back to his workaholic life. Quickly dismissing the unwanted feelings, he went into the living room and placed the items on the glass table.

Eren was still in his bedroom and he was tempted to knock on the door to see if he was anywhere close to being done but he hadn’t forgotten the last time he had done that. So, he sat on the couch and started messing with his phone, trying to entertain himself for Eren to come out.

After another five minutes of sitting on the couch, he was wondering if Eren was really going to come out of his bedroom.

“Eren? You almost done?” he called down the hallway.

He swore that he heard a slight bang like he had hit something with any number of his body parts against either the wall or drawers. Levi was tempted to go and see if he was okay, but then a second later he heard the door open. He turned toward the hallway and saw Eren come out with at least a clean face, though there was still spots of paint in his messy hair. It looked like he tried to wash some of it out, at least. He dressed in jeans that should be skinny jeans and once he gained some weight, they would be, and a long-sleeved black shirt. In his hands was black army boots and white socks were already on his feet. His face was red from where he scrubbed the paint off but he looked away from Levi as he held up the boots.

“I don’t know how to put these on,” he confessed.

Suddenly remembering that the only thing that Eren had worn so far was sandals and flip-flops, or he’d just go barefoot, Levi just patted the seat next to him and got up. After he made Eren sit down and grabbed the boots from him, Levi found himself surprised that he wasn’t cringing that he had to touch another person’s foot. He figured that it was because he was wearing socks and that was it.

“Was there nothing else for you to wear?” Levi asked as he held up one of the boots in his hand before opening it up enough to slip Eren’s foot into it.

“It’s mostly sandals and other open-toed shoes…there is other boots but that’s about it,” he explained, staring intensely as Levi began to tie his shoelaces together.

“Sounds like Hanji.”

She had forgotten to get him something simple like sneakers. Shaking his head as he finished the first shoe, he patted the side of his foot to tell him to give him the other shoe. He obediently switched his feet and let Levi tie his other shoelaces before he placed his foot back on the ground.

“Ready?” he asked.

Eren just nodded in response before getting up.

 

Thank fuck that he grabbed his jacket because even as they stepped out of the elevator and headed to his car, his limbs were already beginning to grow numb.

“You sure you don’t need a jacket?” he asked Eren’s way as he tried to climb into his car as fast as humanly possible.

“No, I’m good. It actually feels nice outside,” Eren replied as he pulled the seatbelt across his chest and clicked it into place.

He wanted to look at him like he had grown two heads but was too focused on getting the heat going and getting blood circulation back into his hands. Yanking the black beanie, he managed to dig out from the same cardboard box, off his head and placed into Eren’s lap, he held his hands in front of the vents. He tried to make it at least warm, resisting the urge to crank it all the way to the highest setting since Eren got hot from just having a light blanket thrown over him.

“You can turn the heat up more,” he heard Eren tell him.

“It’s fine, you’re wearing enough layers and I don’t need you to sweat your ass off just because I’m a bit cold,” Levi told him once he felt something when he moved his fingers. “Fuck Paradis and it’s fucking weather.”

A small chuckle could be heard next to him and he turned toward the kid to throw a glare his way. It managed to shut him up immediately but did nothing against the smile that he was biting back. Turning back to the steering wheel, not admitting that he thought the smile on Eren’s face was nice, he turned the engine over and started pulling out of his parking space.

The nearest grocery store was a five-minute drive from his apartment and the large parking lot barely had any cars filling it. The building itself with spacious and had advertisements lining the grey, concrete walls of the weekly deals for food and other items. It was mostly an off-brand Walmart, something that Paradis didn’t have but something he only experienced once when he traveled to Nevada for a short business trip. He never wanted to experience anything like it again but at least this place was cleaner and friendlier with its customers.

The whole ride over, Eren at first had been bubbling with excitement and he had to remind himself that the kid had only been to his apartment and Hanji’s lab. The trip that he took to the Wings of Freedom didn’t completely count, especially with the experience that he had there within such a short amount of time. However, as he pulled into the parking lot, Eren started fidgeting with the bottom of his shirt and the gloves that covered his fingers. The excitement was quickly becoming nerves.

When Levi parked as close as he could get without too many cars surround his, he didn’t turn it off but turned toward Eren.

“We don’t have to go inside,” Levi stated.

“What?” he questioned, Eren’s eyes widening as they turned toward him.

“You’ve been doing great so far, Eren…but I can see that you're nervous-”

“I’m not.”

He rose an eyebrow at that and Eren blushed as he realized that he cut him off. “Yes, you are.”

“I’m okay, really.”

Levi wanted to believe him but the way he fidgeted with his gloves and obviously trying to avoid eye contact with him told him otherwise. Though, he knew how much Eren needed this. Needed to feel like he could do something that was considered normal by others. So, instead of driving home like he wanted to, Levi took a deep breath and did something that he felt like he was going to regret.

“If you start feeling anything, anything at all. Either like you’re going to start having a panic attack or anything like that. You tell me immediately, understand?” he explained the rules to him.

Eren just nodded as he talked but he needed an actual verbal agreement or he wasn’t going to believe anything.

“Say it,” Levi instructed him.

“I will, I promise,” Eren told him, holding out his pinky finger as he said those words.

Levi reached out toward the extended pinky and wrapped his own around Eren’s. “You better.”

 

The kid was constant on his ass, never moving two feet away from as they walked through the mostly empty parking lot and grabbed a shopping cart, not being grabbed a disinfecting wipe and ran it across the handle. Eren had given him his beanie that he threw on his lap before they left the car and he was pleased to have some sort of barrier between his ears and the outside world. He kept sided eyeing the kid and looking at the mannerisms that he’s grown accompanied to, especially the ones that said that he was nervous or had anxiety. Besides him messing the ends of his shirt, nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary.

“Take the cart,” Levi suggested, letting him take over pushing the metal cart and giving him something to do.

“You sure?” he questioned him as he grabbed the handle and took Levi’s place.

He nodded as his response and walked in front of the kid as they walked into the grocery store. “Just don’t ram me with it when I stop walking, so just watch out.”

Levi got a hum in understanding before an employee in a lime green shirt and cargo pants greeted them. Eren reached out instantly, grabbing a hold of his sleeved arm and almost jerking Levi into him.

“Welcome,” the teenaged employee with too much eye makeup greeted them.

He simply waved her off and kept moving forward which made Eren be dragged after him.

“Thanks!” Eren suddenly called out and he turned his head to see that the kid held a hand up toward the employee, then turned back toward Levi with a light blush covering his cheeks.

He got a smile out of the girl and sudden need of possession came over him, surprising himself as he grabbed the edge of the cart and forcibly turned it down the closest aisle. Which he found out quickly that he didn’t need anything from it. He didn’t need baby formula or diapers.

Quickly getting out of the aisle, he turned toward the produce section and heard the cart squeaking behind him. He started throwing different fruits and vegetables, even ones that he particularly didn’t like but something that Eren may enjoy. The cart was already half-way full when he finally grabbed everything that he could find and pulled out a list had he made before they left. He gestured for Eren to follow him as he started to walk to another aisle but didn’t hear the squeaking of the cart behind him.

Turning around he saw that Eren was becoming way to absorbed with the different colors and scents surrounding him. His nose twitched as he picked up some of the fruits that were placed in the cart and sniffed at them, a grin appearing on his lips before moving onto another fruit.

“Eren,” he called out.

He quickly turned toward his voice and the blush that kept reappearing, returned to his cheeks as he dropped the orange in his hands.

“Sorry,” Eren muttered as he caught up with Levi and he simply waved him off.

“You’ve never done this before, don’t worry,” he replied.

They continued their shopping adventure and Levi couldn’t help but feel a bit of pride building up in his chest over Eren. When someone turned down the aisle that they were on or someone was already there, he would inch closer to Levi but had stopped grabbing onto his arm every time he saw someone new. He actually grew in confidence to smile lightly at them if they turned in their direction or give them a quiet hello if they said something first. Levi would turn toward him when they grow far enough from the others in the aisle and ruffle his hair lightly or scratch the back of his head, silently telling him that he did well without drawing too much attention. Every time that he did, Eren slightly leaned into the touch and closed his lids ever so slightly, and Levi couldn’t help remembering those eyes looking at him that exact same way in his imagination. With him kneeling in front of him.

After that, he only patted him on the head when he reacted well in front of others.

Eren’s eyes never stayed in one place and had a question ready for him every few steps. Thankfully it was things that he could easily answer and he seemed satisfied with everything that Levi gave to him. There were a few that threw him off and a simple search on his phone answered anything that he didn’t know himself. He enjoyed the way those emerald eyes quickly filled with curiosity and not that terror that filled them this morning. Eren actually looked like he was enjoying himself. Though he could see when they stood still for a while, usually him deciding on what type or brand to get, he saw that Eren would shift his feet like he’d done before. Either the boots were starting to bother him or his tendons were bothering his feet like they had before.

He needed to hurry up…but he had one more thing he needed to add to his list of items. First, he needed to grab a crap ton of meats. He looked at the cart as they found their way to the meat section of the store and Levi started piling beef, chicken, and pork into the top section of the cart. This was more than twice the amount of food he usually gets whenever he goes shopping but now he was currently living with Eren, who had twice the size portions of a normal person or more.

“We’re almost done,” Levi told him as he went down the list and mentally checking off everything that was in the cart already.

“Whenever you’re ready,” Eren simply said, sniffing at the meat briefly before disgust consumed his face.

He just shook his head and made them go to the front of the store, bypassing the line of people waiting to check out and toward customer service. Letting out a sigh of relief, he was pleased to see that the little technology center next to customer service had his cell phone carrier.

“These look just like what you have,” Eren noted when he abandoned the shopping cart to look at the different display phones littering the counter.

Levi simply hummed in response as he looked at the various phones laid out. He didn’t need the newest and latest phone that came out, just something simple enough to call and text, maybe even go on the internet. He would have preferred if he could have gotten a flip-phone or even a blackberry but could find nothing. However, what did he expect? The only people that have flip-phones are drug dealers or so behind in technology.

“May I help you?” a man came over, speaking to Eren than himself.

He stiffened and immediately looked over at Levi for assistance.

“Yeah, you can help me,” Levi gestured for the man’s attention to be pulled onto himself.

Eren gave him a thankful look before going back to looking at the displays.

 

He acquired what he needed within a few minutes and Eren was so engrossed by the phones and tablets that were lining the counters, he was surprised that no one tried to make off with their shopping cart. Though now they were approaching the part of the trip that Levi was most worried about, checking out. There weren’t that many people in the store but it was approaching the time that it was going to close and everyone was now rushing to get out. The only pro was that most of the lines were open so they could get people out as fast as possible, but it still had piled up.

Getting behind someone with almost the same amount of food in their cart, he waited for the woman to pile everything onto the conveyor belt and have the cashier scan everything. He felt a pull on his sleeve and looked to the side to see Eren pointing over to another line were they had customers getting out of the store faster.

“Why don’t we go over there?” he asked.

Levi shook his head. “I don’t want you to get surrounded by people, look behind us.” He did exactly that and found no one there. “No one is going to go into a line where there are two people with full carts when there are more people with fewer items.”

“Oh…I didn’t-…I didn’t realize.”

“It’s fine, brat. This has been going great so far and I don’t want this to end on a sour note.”

He turned toward Eren to see more blush consuming his face, eating away at his cheeks and parts of his neck.

He probably didn’t realize that I was doing this for him.

He just hoped that his feet weren’t going to bother him too much. The faster they got out, the better.

It took some time for the cashier to scan every time in the woman’s cart and hand her the receipt, but eventually, she began to scan their belongings. Levi annoyingly noted that their cashier was the same girl that greeted them when they walked in and she tried to flirt with Eren. Though him being Eren, had no idea what to do or say. He just stood there frozen and tried to at least keep up small talk. The possession that flared up inside of him before came back in full swing and he wanted to reach over and grab him by the waist, pressing him against Levi and flicking the poor girl off. He wouldn’t outwardly say that Eren was his…because he simply wasn’t. He was his guardian until his actual ones were found and that included protecting him from certain individuals. Dirty, flirty teenaged girls had to be somewhere on that list.

He ignored whatever what was happening in his head and chest, deciding that he had been watching too many soap operas and romcoms with Eren, he handed over his card and didn’t even look at the total. Whatever what was going on in his head recently needed to set itself straight.

Eren at this point stopped trying to talk to the girl, just nodding and shaking his head at her questions, probably having no idea what the hell she was talking about. Though, as she mentioned things like high school and other mundane things, he could see that Eren was becoming uncomfortable. So, he decided to step in, especially at her next comment.

“Isn’t a bit much wearing all of that? Like the gloves and scarf?” her nasally voice carried throughout the store.

“Would you kindly stop talking for a second?” he boldly requested.

Her brown eyes traveled over to him, scoffing at him for talking to her that way and even flickered her bleached hair over her shoulder.

“We all want to go home so would you stop trying- and failing- to flirt with him so we can do exactly that?” Levi smiled slightly at her, though he knew for a fact that his eyes were anything but warm.

She didn’t say anything, her shit brown eyes widening and quickly handing him his receipt. Levi only then noticed that there was a bagger that had already placed everything into a plastic bag and back into their cart.

“Thanks,” he simply said, snatching the receipt from her fingers and she slightly jerked at the action.

Using this side of his mask didn’t fill him with pleasure. He only used his calm and polite voice when he was trying to extract information out of his victims, right before he either stabbed them or continued whatever torture he was inflicting on them. Though this girl was starting to annoy him and it was true that he just wanted to go home, put everything away, and possible watch some shows before passing out.

“What happened back there?” Eren asked timidly after they walked outside of the store and made their way to his car.

“What do you mean?” he commented, unlocking his car and popping up the trunk before they were a couple of feet away.

“I’ve only seen you that way a handful of times and…usually it doesn’t end well.”

Levi saw Eren reach up to his throat, touching the place where just this morning, he had a knife pressed against his throat. Guilt tore away at his chest and he turned away from Eren as he started to put the bags into the trunk.

“I was just getting annoyed…it’s late,” he shrugged, bullshitting his way through this conversation.

No one had ever called him out on using this side of him outside of those rooms. Hanji usually made a joke, saying that he was never going to get laid if that’s what happened whenever he got annoyed. Erwin would just scold him slightly before telling him to save it for whoever actually deserved it next. “Do you get annoyed that easily?”

“By people who waste my time? Yes. A lot of things annoy me, Eren.”

He sighed then, stopped putting the bags into the trunk and put his hands on the edge.

“I’m not going to sugar coat this, Eren,” Levi suddenly said, turning toward him and making sure to look him in the eye. “I’m not great at social…things, meaning I would rather be in my house and sipping my tea than interacting with people that I will pass on the street once and never see again. I get annoyed easily and only like as many people as there are fingers on one hand. Everyone else can fuck off. Also, I could tell that you were becoming uncomfortable and they only way to make a person like her stop, is to be a little forceful. ”

He didn’t know what to expect Eren to do after receiving yet another slither of information about his life but the kid nodded and rubbed the back of his neck.

“Am I-…Am I on that hand?” he asked.

It took a second for Levi to understand what he was talking about and he couldn’t stop the slightly heat rising in his face, cursing his body for whatever the fuck that was. He turned back around and began to load up the trunk again. “You’re okay, I guess.”

He didn’t need to see Eren to know that a grin was plastered across his lips.

After putting all of the groceries into his trunk, he instructed Eren to put the cart near a cluster of others. As he went off to put the cart away, Levi dug into his pocket and pulled out the cell phone that he managed to buy without Eren seeing. Though, he didn’t completely know if Eren had any idea how to even get a phone or what the hell he was buying while he was looking at all of the display phones and tablets. He already set it up, the only number currently in it besides the emergency number was his own and he turned on all of the parental controls. Levi was only giving this to him for emergency reasons and that was it. Eren didn’t need the internet or anything like that. If he wanted that, then he could just borrow his laptop or even his phone.

The kid came jogging back, looking ready to go back to the apartment and falling onto the couch, where he would never get up. He just needed to give this to Eren or else he would lose his nerve and never will.

“Eren, I have something for you,” he announced, holding out the phone to him.

“Isn’t think yours?” Eren asked, tilting his head slightly as he reached hesitantly for the phone.

“No, it’s yours now…at least until we find your family. Most likely I have to go into work tomorrow morning and I don’t need to come home to my house burning down again. I’ll show you how it works tonight and-”

“Thank you!”

He didn’t expect to almost be knocked to his feet as Eren’s small frame came crashing into his stomach and chest. This was the last reaction he expected out of the kid. Levi expected him to just start sobbing in the middle of the street or simply thanking him and wanting to go back. He sometimes forgot how short Eren actually was, the top of his head only reached right below his own chin and his arms felt like they barely made it around Levi’s middle. Eren kept thanking him, over and over again as his face was pressed into his chest and he even jumped up and down slightly, as much as he could being pressed against him.

“Okay, okay,” Levi started, trying to pry him off of him.

This was the opposite of what he wanted to happen. He was trying to keep some distance between the two of them, especially with what had been happening for the past two days.

Eren loosened his grip finally and smiled up at him, and Levi had to clench his teeth to stop from saying whatever was on his old, perverted mind. He was right that if he got close enough, he could see the gold flecks and other hues of blue in those irises again, and he had to pull himself away. Reaching over to Eren, he just ruffled the kid’s hair but stopped his movements when he felt an almost fur-like object on the sides of his head.

“Eren?” he asked cautiously.

On the sides of Eren’s head were a familiar sight that he thought he would never see again. The striped cat ears that he used to rub and annoy Eren with his other form was on full display and before he could start freaking out, he ripped his beanie off his head and shoved it onto Eren’s.

“Ow, what are you doing?” Eren almost demanded, trying to yank the beanie off.

“Stop,” he commanded and the kid instantly froze. “Eren, your ears are out.”

“Yeah, I know, they have been-”

“No, your ears .”

Realization swept across his face and he reached up to further shove them into the beanie. “I didn’t…I didn’t mean.” He could see that Eren was beginning to fall apart, that everything they accomplished today slowly turned into nothing, at least if Levi couldn’t stop whatever hole he was spiraling down.

“Hey, hey,” he called at him, grabbing the sides of his face so he could put all of Eren’s attention onto him. “It was a mistake, no need to freak out. No one saw it.”

Just to emphasize this, he looked around the parking lot and the people that were walking around were rushing to their car to get out of cold and back to their homes.

“It’s okay. You didn’t do anything wrong,” he continued to reason with him and managed to pull a nod out of Eren, even with his tears looking ready to burst out of his eyes and biting his lip.

He couldn’t help imagining what the ears looked like underneath the piece of cloth, probably lying flat against his head and some part of him couldn’t help but admit that it probably looked cute.

Stop, he needs my help.

“You’re fine, so let’s go back and you can keep painting, yeah?” Levi kept going, ushering Eren to the passenger seat and even opening the door for him.

He didn’t say anything, just had a grip on the beanie on his head like he was afraid that the wind was going knock it off his head, as he climbed into the car. Before Levi closed the door, he gripped his arm and gave him a gentle squeeze, trying to emphasize that it was okay.

Eren stayed quiet most of the drive back and Levi couldn’t help but chastise himself for pointing it out instead of dragging him into the car and then telling him. Things might have gone differently and made their little adventure mostly unsuccessful. He had been doing so well too and he made sure to mention it as he drove them back. Saying that he was proud that he did so well and that he actually talked to some people. Some of the praise managed to stop the death grip that he had on the beanie but he didn’t take it off.

When they pulled into his underground parking, Eren finally spoke. He quietly mentioned that his ears might have popped out because he felt a strong emotion, and Levi could only guess that it was happiness. They never came out before, not when he was scared beyond relief or during any of his attacks.

Maybe they only come out when it’s a positive emotion.

Eren continued, keeping his voice low like he was scared that someone else was going to hear, that when he transformed, sometimes parts of his other self remained. Either his tail or ears were the most common, sometimes his claws and teeth but that was rare. Though they never just sprouted out like they did in the parking lot. It probably wouldn’t be the last time that is going to happen either. Though, he said the last thing like he was talking more to himself than Levi.

He let him talk, knowing how hard it was for Eren to talk about himself and anything about his transforming abilities or whatever happened when he was in the Military’s hands. So, he stayed quiet as Eren took a deep breath.

“I think they drugged me…no, I know that they did...so that I couldn’t turn on my own accord and dull my senses…When Petra came up with our escape plan, she made me stop taking the pills they gave me and…almost immediately my vision started to unfog and I could hear things that I hadn’t been able to before. Conversations that reached up and down the hallway outside of my room and I could actually see and smell how disgusting food was that they gave me.”

Levi had already parked the car but left it running, letting the warm air surround them before they had to go out back into the cold. He didn’t want to interrupt Eren as he talked, especially when he knew that he needed someone to talk about what happened when he was captured.

After he was sure that Eren had stopped his story and had nothing else to add to it, he turned off the car and got out. Thankfully someone had left a luggage cart near the elevator so he managed to grab it and bring it over to his trunk before Eren fully got out of the car. Popping the trunk and beginning to unload all of the bags onto the various hooks and the bottom of the cart, he was going back and worth, wondering if he should say something to Eren about what he shared with him.

“They’re wrong,” he simply said.

“Huh?” Eren questioned, stopping his movement of putting some of the bags onto the cart.

“Everything they did to you was wrong and they’re sons of bitches for doing that to you. You did nothing wrong.”

“…Right.”

Levi couldn’t help but think that he wanted to say more but bit his lip instead, silencing himself.

They managed to put all of the grocery bags into the luggage cart and only had a few of them almost fall out it before Levi managed to stop them. After the ride up the elevator and opening up the front door, he banished Eren from the kitchen and helping him. The brunette was ready to fight him on the subject, already saying that he wanted to help but Levi held up a hand to stop him.

“Rest your feet and keep painting. I know that they’ve been bothering you. Just make sure to change back into your old clothes,” he warned him before beginning to put everything away.

Eren stood in the kitchen doorway, looking torn between continuing his work in the office and helping Levi but a quick, light glare over his shoulder made him retreat.

It thankfully didn’t take too long for him to put everything away; the only problem was shuffling items around and finding enough space for everything in the fridge and pantry. He bundled all of the plastic bags together and stuck it inside the pantry, always saving them in case he ever needed them and then went in to check on Eren in the office.

He had changed back into the paint covered clothes at least and he was indeed painting, though he didn’t look like his heart was completely into it like before. His paintbrush would hover over the canvas as his eyes skimmed whatever he created on it like he was trying to figure out what was wrong with it.  Those eyes turned toward him when he entered the room but went straight back to the canvas.

Levi walked around him and saw what he had spent the last few hours creating. It was a whirlwind of bright blues and green with all shades in between to create an ocean. The view from the canvas looked like someone was about to break the surface, only the top of the painting reflecting an orange and purple filled sky. He wished that he had more of an eye for the art as he moved a bit closer to the canvas to get a better look. He didn’t realize that he stepped into Eren’s space, not until he heard him clear his throat softly and saw that they were inches away from each other. Stepping back, Levi just simply leaned in more and inspected it that way.

“It’s beautiful, Eren,” he commented on it.

He turned in time to see Eren shaking his head slightly. “There’s something off…I don’t know what it is…” Eren trailed off, putting the tip of his paintbrush against his lips as he thought.

“You’re always going to think there is something wrong with it. No matter if it’s painting or writing, you’re the artist so you’re going to nitpicks it more than anyone else would. You could see it as missing or unfinished but someone else can see it as a perfect piece.”

Eren simply nodded before putting the brush down on the table and wiped his hands on his pants, staining them in more blues and greens.

“Why are you so fascinated with the ocean?” Levi suddenly asked, something that had been bothering him since he first saw Eren’s reaction to the photo he printed out. “There are so many things that you haven’t seen, but the ocean is your main focus.”

The kid stiffened, probably surprised that he managed to pick that up and looked ready to shrug but his shoulders barely moved. He stayed silent for a while and sat back down on the stool but fidgeting with his fingers, rubbing the paint off of them and picking under his nails. Levi was about to tell him to forget about it, that he didn’t need to explain himself but Eren suddenly took a deep breath and looked up at him.

“I don’t remember much from before…before I was taken. Of the things I remember, I feel like those memories are going to disappear soon so I wanted to paint something that-…that would help me remember at least one of them,” he started. “I vaguely remember promising someone…either my mother or two friends that we would see the ocean together but-…I can’t keep the promise with my mother.”

“Why not your mother?” Levi questioned softly, keeping his voice low and calm.

“She sacrificed herself to save me when I was taken.”

His response was too short and chipped for his liking. He wished that he could say something but he already knew that he understood. Levi knew what it was like to not have a mother anymore. Something ungodly inside of him wanted to tell Eren that he would take him to see the ocean. They honestly lived almost an hour away from the closest beach but he would prefer if it was during summer or spring.

No. That wouldn’t happen. Eren was going to be leaving soon, most likely before Christmas and he would never see him again.

So he didn’t say anything. Just nodded at him, saying that he understood and even resisted the urge to just touch him. Placing a hand on his arm or head would be too much right now. He noticed then that Eren was no longer wearing the beanie on his head and that those ears that almost ruined their day were gone.

“Your ears are gone,” Levi noted.

Eren perked up slightly and gave him a shy smile, rubbing the side of his head where the ears once were. “Yeah, they probably went away in the car.”

“Do they just naturally go away?”

“I guess…I-…I honestly don’t know. Sometimes it hurts when they sprout out but other times like today, I didn’t even notice that they came out.”

Levi nodded and turned his attention back to the painting. “Are you done for the night?”

“Yeah…”

He heard a but being added to the end of that sentence but it didn’t come. “Take a shower and then once you’re done, I’ll show you how to work your new phone.”

“Sounds great.”

Levi watched as he hopped down from the stool and exited the room, turning into his bedroom and closing the door behind him. Finally alone, he looked at the painting again, noticing that none of these strokes were gentle, at least not the ones where the paint still looked fresh. He wondered if he should call Hanji and ask if they could get someone for Eren for him just to talk to. Personally, it never worked for him, talking to a professional and expressing his feeling but it could benefit Eren. If they could get some of the things that haunted him off of his chest and shoulders, maybe it could help him adjust more to normal life.

Of course, it could only be someone they trust and not a random therapist off the street. He would say something to Hanji when he sees her tomorrow. Erwin already texted him saying that if he didn’t finish all of his assignments then he needed to do it at his office and attend a meeting. He didn’t want to leave Eren all by himself but it was what compelled him to get him a phone in case something did happen while he was gone.

Making himself busy, he closed all of the opened paints and tried to organize them as best as he could. He also grabbed all of the brushes that Eren used and went into the kitchen sink to wash them and let them air dry. Hopefully, he would want to paint in the next couple of days while he was off of on whatever business meeting Erwin needed Levi to be in.

Eren came out of his room not long after he plopped himself on the couch and turned on the television to the news. He honestly hated the news but he was behind on whatever else was happening outside of his apartment and needed a quick catching up. The brunette sat down next to him, his hair still wet from the shower and Levi was pleased to see that all of the paint had been washed out of the dark locks.

“Okay, I’m ready to learn,” he announced as he sat up and turned toward Levi who had the phone in his hand.

Eager.

Levi spent the majority of the night explaining the basic features of the phone and saying that he wouldn’t have any internet browsers. After he handed the phone over to an eager Eren, he played with the device for the rest of the night. He looked over after watching a few reruns of Doctor Who and saw that Eren had fallen asleep with the phone against his chest. Levi was about to get up and carry the sleeping brunette into his own bed but decided to close his eyes for a few seconds, feeling the pull of his lids and lure of sleep.

Somehow in the middle of the night, he woke up to find Eren pressed against his side and almost curled into his chest. He was going to push him away, keep the distance that he’d been trying to keep between the two of them but the warmth that spread across his body pulled him back to sleep. The presence next to him making feel safe enough to pass out on his couch and out in the open in his apartment.

What is this kid doing to me?

Chapter Text

Eren didn’t remember passing out but he was suddenly roused awake from having his pillow ripped from underneath him. Rubbing his sleep-crusted eyes, he realized that said pillow was now cursing loudly to himself and running into his room.

Crap, I slept on Levi again.

However, he was surprised that Levi hadn’t kicked him off of him and then retreat back to his room like before when he realized that he had been sleeping on him. Though he was glad that he had managed to sleep through the night without a nightmare, at least one that he could remember at least. Also, grateful that there hadn’t been a repeat of a dream that only occurred because he had been wrapped around the pillow full of Levi’s scent. His dream had been pretty tame, compared to something that he’s seen on television, and he couldn’t imagine what his body would come up with when the source of those feelings and scent was right beneath him.

Eren still had the phone in his hand. His phone. Something that he could actually say was his. Joy had overwhelmed him when Levi gave him the phone and he couldn’t stop his body from colliding with the raven. Of course, the happiness and joy were short-lived when his ears managed to pop out without his knowledge. As far as Eren could remember, they never popped out of their own. Almost like they had a mind of their own.

He still felt discouraged after it happened, even after he surprised himself by enjoying the trip that Levi took him on. Especially when he offered more insight into his life and the protectiveness that he could sense from the raven when he smiled coldly at the woman that checked them out. He didn’t know how to feel as those hard, steel eyes settled on the woman and a predatory grin crossed his face. They had only been set on him once when he thought that he was an intruder in his home, and he never planned for it to happen again.

Eren tried to pull himself out of the sleep that kept trying to bring him back, looking over at the now closed bedroom and wondered why Levi had suddenly jumped off the couch like dinner was about to burn. Though he kept finding himself about to lean his head back into the cushions and just rest his eyes for a few seconds. Placing his new phone on the glass table, he grabbed the black blanket that Levi folded on the back of the couch and draped it over himself. He wanted to get up and see what had gotten Levi up in such a rush but before he could get the strength into his legs to actually get up, the man came crashing out of his bedroom.

“Shit, shit, I’m late,” he muttered, a black suit jacket hanging off of his shoulders and a messenger bag hanging off his lower arm.

He half jogged across the apartment and disappeared into the office, only to come back out with him shoving his laptop into the bag. His black locks were in disarray and his pale fingers ran through it a few times to try and smooth it down. Eren was tempted to do it for him, have an excuse to run his own scared fingers through it but after yesterday, he decided to not act on his thoughts. He had felt the slight distance that Levi tempted to put between them, even with everything that he’s done yesterday.

Eren had surprised himself with how easily he admitted a promise to friends he couldn’t remember and that his mother was most likely buried in an unmarked grave. Or the fact that they drugged him for most of his life to dull his senses enough. Levi had said that he had done nothing wrong but he didn’t know about the man he killed in cold blood or the death of Hitch that would rest on his shoulders for the rest of his life. He wondered if Levi would look at him the same way if he knew.

“Hopefully, I’ll be back before dinner but there’s microwavable food in the freezer when you get hungry. Don’t touch the stove,” Levi warned, fully putting his jacket on and pointing a finger at him. “I don’t need to come home again and find the apartment full of smoke.”

“Promise, I won’t,” Eren yawned, placing a hand over his mouth to cover up the yawn.

He was ready to fall back to sleep, especially when he looked under the television and the clock read that it was almost seven in the morning. They had stayed up pretty late after Levi gave him a detailed explanation on how to work his new phone. The only number that had been put into it was his and Eren had asked him why Hanji’s wasn’t in there or anyone else’s. He simply replied that he wasn’t going to make Eren suffer from the constant threat of her texts and calls from her and that there was no one else that needed to be on his phone.

“I mean it, Eren. Anyways, if you need anything text me, no calls. I’m going to be in a meeting and can’t take calls,” he continued, grabbing his keys and stuffed them into his pocket with his phone. “Unless it’s an emergency, which means that either you’re dying or the building is burning. That’s it.”

Eren nodded, trying to suppress another yawn but ultimately couldn’t stop it from happening. He looked over at Levi to see him slightly roll his eyes before opening the front door and turned toward him for the last time.

“Just go back to sleep and clean up after you do something. Maybe I’ll cook something new for dinner if you’re well behaved,” Levi announced before closing the door and he could hear the lock turning into place.

He raised his hand before Levi managed to turn around and leave, waving his fingers as a goodbye and briefly caught a small smile pull at his lips.

 

He tried to stay awake, but sleep lured him back and he passed out not long after Levi left. Thankfully, he didn’t dream of anything even as he had the cushions that the raven slept on pressed against his chest. When he did wake up, the front of his head was pounding slightly and usually meant that he slept too much, something that he quickly picked up from living in his four walls. It helped slightly with keeping some track of time.

Seeing that it was now eleven and he’d gotten some more sleep, he unraveled himself from the blanket and reached for the remote to turn the television’s volume up slightly. He didn’t recognize the show but there was a laugh track, something that made him easily identify that he didn’t have to know the plot to watch it. Of course, he didn’t have Levi here to understand the pop references that the actors made but he at least could understand the majority of them now.

Grabbing his phone, he swiped his finger across the smooth screen to be welcomed by a photo of the night sky with hundreds of stars littering the background. He was tempted to send a simple text to Levi, saying that he woke up or going to be bored out of his mind in a little bit but decided against it. The man said himself that he was in a meeting, something that seemed important enough that he wasn’t allowed to answer a call. Just sending an unimportant text about his day would distract him from his job.

He remembered last night that every time that Eren had moved in closer to see something that Levi pointed out about the phone, he would slightly tilt away from him. He tried to not let it get to him, that even with everything that they’ve been through and what Levi had helped him though, they still would never be at the level of closeness that they once were. Where Eren could simply lean against him and remain there without worrying about Levi pushing him away seconds later or only being able to come close to him when they’re both sleeping. He was lucky that the man held him when his panic attacks consumed everything about him and the only thing that seemed to bring him back was Levi. It was something that he needed to grow out of, no matter how much he wanted to refuse that idea.

Levi couldn’t be with him constantly, not if he wanted to be with what was left of his family. Though he had promised that he would at least remain in touch and would at least visit once when he officially left. He believed that promise, had to, even when Levi hesitantly agreed to it and took a few seconds to wrap a slightly shaken pinky against his own. The shaking was almost invisible to the naked eye and probably wouldn’t have been noticed by a normal person…but he wasn’t normal. Though it could just be passed off as his hand was slightly shaking, Eren’s own hands did that but that was because some of his nerves had been destroyed and then rebuilt in an abnormal way. On the rare occasion, he would lose the slightest feeling on some parts of his fingers but it didn’t last more than a few seconds.

How am I going to ‘fit back into society?’

Levi had said that once, during one of their late nights of watching movies because neither of them to could sleep. They never really watched the same thing over again and Eren had asked why. It seemed silly to think that watching some shows and magically he would be ready to act ‘normal’ but Levi had explained that the easiest way to fit in was to have something in common with someone else. Even if it was just a show he watched once. To strike up a conversation and start a relationship, even if was a small one. Though shows did nothing to stop the feeling of his throat closing whenever someone approached him or seeing someone new. It didn’t help him yesterday while the woman talking on and on, and he could do nothing but nod. Even if that had his first time actually talking to others that weren’t Levi or Hanji, it didn’t completely feel like a success.

Deciding to distract himself from the building pressure of disappointment on his chest, he threw the blanket onto the back of the couch and turned off the television. Grabbing his phone that he placed next to him and slid it into his sweatpants pocket. Walking down the hallway and into the office, he discovered that Levi had cleaned up the paints that he left unopened and washed the paint out of his brushes. The painted canvas still hung on the easel and he ran his fingers against his ocean, feeling the brush strokes, rising and curving, as they slid down it. As he stared at it, he felt like something was off still. Like there needed to be more green hues to mix in with the water, the ocean being too blue for his liking. However, he remembered Levi saying that he would never see the painting as a finished work. That he would find something wrong with it even if someone else thought it was perfect.

He wanted to paint, to make himself busy enough until Levi came back home, to give his hands something to do. Though as he looked through the photos that were printed out for him, he couldn’t find the excitement that consumed him when he thought of creating the ocean on the canvas. Nothing came to him and he tossed the photos back on the desk before leaving the room and closing the door behind him.

His stomach growled as he passed the kitchen window and remembered that Levi mentioned frozen food in the freezer.

The thought of food actually made his mouth water as he rounded the dining room and headed into the kitchen. Opening up the freezer side of the refrigerator, he was greeted by various boxes with pictures of food printed on them. Grabbing the first thing he saw, he sniffed the box and couldn’t get a hint if he had it before. It was a pasta but instead of the tomato sauce that Levi made for him before, it was white and had pieces of chicken in it. Shrugging, he looked onto the back of the box for instructions and closed the door with his hip.

The high-pitched ringing of the microwave bothered his ears but not enough that he had to leave the room. He would probably have to leave the floor to not hear it anymore and it would be bothersome to even consider doing that. Even with the ringing of the machine slightly bothering it, it was better than using the stove again. Eren grabbed his arm where he burned himself before, though thankfully it didn’t leave a scar. He hadn’t earned a scar since Levi shot him, something that he didn’t hold against the man at all.

He was a random stranger in his house and on high alert since not even two days before he had been stabbed by someone sent by his childhood friend. It didn’t help that Eren couldn’t talk and try to defuse the situation before Levi jumped to those conclusions.

Eren reached down and thumbed the circular scar as he waited for the microwave to shut off and he could at least quiet down his stomach. As it was seconds away from declaring the food was warm enough to eat, he could smell the food from inside the machine and he was slightly less hopeful about it. It smelt stale and barely had any of the seasonings that he enjoyed when Levi cooked for him. After opening the door and removing the rest of the seal on it, it only confirmed what he smelt.

Grabbing a fork, he moved around the chicken, broccoli, and white pasta to mix with each other and the bits of broccoli began to turn the sauce green. Sniffing it once again, he started to become hesitant about eating this but the frozen food was the only thing that they had in the fridge. Levi rarely made leftovers and everything in the pantry and fridge needed to be cooked over the stove, something that he wasn’t ready for, especially with what happened last time. Discouraged, he swirled his fork around some of the noodles and stabbed a piece of bone white chicken at the end, and placed it in his mouth.

The pasta and chicken mushed into one thing and he couldn’t really tell the difference between them in taste. It reminded him too much of cardboard as he at least tried to swallow the food in his mouth. The food went down but he was ultimately done with this experience. Throwing the fork into the sink, he opened up the drawer next to the pantry and threw away the food. He could snack on some of the fruit that Levi bought yesterday and ask him if there was anything he could do about the so-called food in the freezer. If his tongue and senses weren’t so sensitive, maybe he would have been able to eat the whole container but it reminded him too much of the slop that they gave him to eat for years. It wasn’t nearly as bad but still up there in worst foods he ever stuck in his mouth.

After grabbing an orange and having trouble peeling away the skin, he finally managed to quench the hunger in his stomach for the time. Though he almost got impatient and ate the skin as well since he couldn’t get some of it off.

What to do? What to do?

He was becoming bored, a feeling that he had become well acquainted with the inside of his prison but something he hadn’t felt in a while. Usually, Levi would come up with something, even if it was just watching television together but it was boring by himself. He liked to see if something that made him laugh got a chuckle out of the man and if he had any questions, Levi wouldn’t be able to answer them. Not unless he texted him, which that was something he wasn’t going to do.

Maybe he would go outside for a bit, enjoy the chill in the air and with Levi gone, he could keep the glass doors open and let some of the cold air drift in. Breathing in the fresh air seemed to always relax him in a way that was only rivaled by Levi’s scent. Though the sun wasn’t out, being hidden by dark rain clouds and when he passed those glass doors, he could already taste the rain. It wouldn’t be long before it would downpour though Eren didn’t completely mind. The rain was something that never experienced until recently but didn’t freak him out like it thought it would, water coming down from the sky.

He remembered vaguely of being soaked even though there was no pool of water nearby, but what came from the sky and running around with two figures chasing after him. His laughter was distant and followed by more coming from behind him. It had been another memory that was within reaching distance but couldn’t wrap his fingers around. Instead it just simply flipped through his fingers. He couldn’t remember anything more than the rain. Not if cement surrounded them or if it were woods. No indication of where he used to live before being taken.

Eren tried not to think about it again, didn’t want his frustration tear away at him and ruin his mood for the rest of the day. Didn’t want Levi to come home and see him tucked away in his room, either about to fall into his panic attacks or staring off into space. He wanted to prove at least that he could take care of himself, even if it was only for a few hours.

Looking into the living room, he set his eyes on the clock underneath the television to see that it was almost noon. That he almost wasted an hour just mopping around the apartment and failing to find a way to entertain himself. Pulling his phone out, there was no notification that anyone had texted him…well that Levi had messaged him. He did ponder the thought of asking him for Hanji’s number, at least she would talk to him even if it was about things that he couldn’t wrap his head around.

A loud bang coming from outside of the front door made Eren jump and almost drop the phone in his hand. His ears immediately picked up soft footsteps coming from behind the door and hushed whispers that he could barely make out from the sound of his pounding heart. Dread filled the pit of his uneasy stomach as he began to pick out voices he never heard before and he could see the door bend slightly as whoever was on the other side, banged against it again.

He threw a hand over his mouth to silence the gasp that came out of him and gripped the phone tightly in his hand as his mind rapidly tried to take in the situation he now found himself in. His first instinct was to hide and that was exactly what he did. Sprinting through the kitchen and dining room, he managed to round the corner to Levi’s room, keeping his feet as light as he could, and made sure to close to the door without making noise. Another bang made him almost jump out of his skin and he went into the only place that he had hid before, underneath Levi’s bed.

The space was barely big enough for him to fit and it was exactly as tight as he remembered it when he hid from Hanji. Now, he didn’t have a tail to worry about poking out from beneath the bed, Eren made sure that the only thing that could be seen were his eyes. His heart leaped out of his chest when the sound of wood breaking and a loud crash echoed through the apartment, making him almost yelp at the noise.

Keep quiet. Keep quiet.

“Fuck, that was loud,” an unknown voice chuckled.

“Will you shut the fuck up?” another hissed.

It was hard to distinguish the two voices from each other, just one slightly rougher than the other. “What you scared of Levi, John? Tough shit, he isn’t here.”

“What if they hear us from downstairs-”

“HELLO?! Is anyone there?”

Eren actually managed to jerk his head against the top of the bed frame at the sudden noise, probably bruising it from the pain that pulsed around it.

“Shut it!” John hissed once again.

“No one is here. Everyone went to work, we made sure of it before even attempting to break in,” the other man explained. “Stop being a fucking pussy and let’s do what we need to do.”

“Yeah, but what if-”

“Why are you suddenly so nervous? All of the nearby guards are distracted with the diversion we created down the street. No one is looking this way.”

“What if he comes back? What then, Austin?”

Another crash could be heard from the living room, almost like glass shattering and made Eren almost want to vomit with how much his body was shaking. Terror was eating away at what he was hearing and how vulnerable he was.

Were these men sent by Furlan?

“Then we’ll fucking deal with him,” Austin simply stated, laughing heartedly as something else was knocked over.

“There’s not dealing with Paradis’ Stronger. No one has survived a fight with him-” John started, panic beginning to rise in his voice before being cut off.

“He hasn’t dealt with me before. Why do you think Furlan sent me? I still have no fucking idea why he sent you ?”

“To keep you from trying to pick a fight with him .”

“He’s. Not. Going. To. Show. Up. How many times am I going to say that before it gets through your fucking skull?-” another shatter rung out through the apartment, this one much closer to Levi’s bedroom and Eren curled up on himself, trying to make himself as small as possible. “-We just need to screw with him. Ruin his apartment. Send a message to him that he isn’t safe in his penthouse anymore. That Furlan can find him and fuck him up.”

After every sentence, something else broke, falling to the floor and shattering. Austin’s voice drifting closer and closer to the bedroom before his footsteps traveled somewhere else.

“Furlan thinks that this is going to scare him? I’ve seen him mow down five people without flinching. Messing up his home isn’t going to do jack shit,” John quickly stated, fear evident in his voice.

This man was terrified of Levi, of this version of him that Eren had never seen before. The man he was describing was nothing like the raven that he’d been living with for the past couple of weeks. His finger squeezed against his phone, the metal and plastic biting into his palm as he