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Once More, Like it's Our Last

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"Mr. Ackerman, we're calling from Sina Lawfirm in regards to the late Kenny Ackerman and we extend our sincerest condolences. You're listed on his will and we would instruct you come to our office at your earliest convenience. You can reach us at..."

 

Levi didn't bother listening to the rest of the voicemail, his stormy gaze narrowed in annoyance as he ended the call. He stood inside his kitchen, leaning against the counter of the middle island and sipping quietly on his tea. Erwin had already left for work, leaving a dull silence lingering inside the apartment. Everything in the apartment was lavishly decorated to the point everything felt sterile. There wasn't anything remotely comforting about it. While Levi thoroughly enjoyed cleanliness, a bit of life inside the white walls would have been nice.

 

His fingers drummed thoughtfully, wondering what in the possible fucking hell Kenny would have wanted to leave to him. They hadn't spoken in over ten years after they had both left Shiganshina― Levi moving to Trost to finish out his college degree and Kenny moving to Sina with one of his many girlfriends. Levi huffed inwardly at that, remembering how many women that man brought home on a weekly basis during the horrific six years he had lived with him. 

 

He thought about phoning Erwin, letting him know he'd be driving to Sina for the day. Curiosity was getting to best of Levi and he couldn't help but decide he may as well take the hour drive and see what the hell was going on. He had only been there a week prior for the man's funeral, knowing not too many would have been attending anyway. 

 

Kenny Ackerman hadn't been a very civilized human being if Levi were to put it lightly.

 

Levi's bare feet padded across the apartment, his eyes glued to the screen of his phone as he texted Rico. He let her know he had personal affairs to deal with for the day and said he'd be taking the day off, which he knew she'd understand. It was incredibly rare that Levi would call out from work, so he knew she'd honor it. He sifted through his closet, finding a casual outfit to wear during the cooling month of October. As he walked, he ran a tired hand through his hair and strode into the bathroom to get changed. As he gazed at his reflection, his expression soured.

 

He could faintly see it, that light purple bruise just beneath his jaw. He tilted his head to the side, his gaze wracking over where yellow was starting to form over his pale skin. He didn't understand what prompted him to stand there, feeling miserable for himself. But he ended up turning away and scowling, dressing in haste while shoving his wallet and phone into his pockets.

 

Fuck Erwin, he'd handle this on his own.


 

"He what?" 

 

Levi's words came out sharp; brittle as his gunmetal orbs traveled from the lawyer sitting in front of him to the young girl with her back pressed against the leather couch. Her onyx hair was cut at her shoulders, her dark eyes staring impassively at the hardwood floor. He feet dangled as she swung her legs, her hands occupied inside of the red scarf adorned around her neck. 

 

The lawyer sitting across from Levi sighed, his graying hair pushed back from his wrinkled face. "Kenny Ackerman listed you as this child's guardian if something were to ever happen to him. He had me compile a list of―"

 

"―you've got to be fucking kidding me! I can't take this kid in! Do I look like a parent to you? Where is her mother?"

 

When Levi had arrived at Sina Law Firm, he wasn't expecting much. He figured if Kenny was going to leave him anything, it'd probably be nothing but debts.

 

But this―this was not what he had been expecting.

 

"We aren't sure on Mikasa's mother's whereabouts and since Mr. Ackerman's passing, she's been in custody of the state."

 

Levi wanted to laugh in incredulity. "Of course they don't know where her mother is. Christ, how many women did this man knock up? Any more children I should be aware of?"

 

Levi's eyes glanced toward Mikasa, noticing her dark gaze was still glued to the floor. She wore a knee-length maroon skirt and a long-sleeve dark top. A small barret held some of her hair from her face. She couldn't have been older than eight, Levi realized. While he observed her appearance, Levi could see the slight resemblance she had with his Uncle. Her eyes... looked so incredibly dull. He could understand the pitiful feeling of being pushed through the foster care system and he hated himself for feeling that pity.

 

"None that we're aware of. Mr. Ackerman, I know you're frustrated, but it's my job to ensure each case and point is met on this will. If you're not interested in taking Mikasa in, we'll sort out the process of finding her a foster family until a family is willing to permanently adopt her."

 

Levi's gut clenched when he noticed Mikasa's body stiffen, but she kept herself steady with avoiding Levi's eyes.

 

Fuck. Fuck, that bastard. I don't... know what the hell I'm supposed to do. I can't just abandon her, she's my family. Probably the only family I have left at this point. I hadn't spoken with Kenny in almost ten years, so I guess it's no surprise I've never heard of her before.

 

"Can I have some time to discuss this with my partner? Leaving the house and then coming home with a kid isn't exactly how I planned on starting my day."

 

Trost was a busy, bustling city. Levi had moved to Trost nearly a decade ago, leaving his hometown of Shiganshina behind in favor of a different lifestyle. It was there he finished out his college degree in business and settled as an account manager at Trost Bank. It was also where he had met his partner, Erwin; who had somehow wormed his way through the walls Levi had created with his calm demeanor and his insistent charm. They owned a house together, worked their respective jobs and lived comfortably.

 

Well, semi-comfortably.

 

The lawyer leaned back in his chair, regarding Levi while saying with a sweeping hand, "You can call him now if you'd like. My schedule is open today but unfortunately, I need an answer before you leave."

 

Shit. 

 

"Fine," Levi huffed, standing from his seat and reaching into his pocket for his phone. He looked down at Mikasa, noticing she still hadn't fully acknowledged his presence.

 

"I'll be right back," he told her, not realizing it was probably the first words he'd ever actually said to her. She nodded mutely, not giving Levi much of a response after.

 

When Levi stepped outside, he dialed Erwin and tapped his foot against the pavement of the sidewalk. While Sina was a smaller city in comparison to Trost, it was still quite busy. Many people passed him as they walked along the sidewalk and vehicles drove by in haste. Cool air tousled his raven hair and his long-sleeved sweater didn't do much to deter the cold.

 

"Hello?"

 

"Hey," Levi responded quickly. "Listen, I've got a bit of a situation here, and―"

 

A sigh was all he heard and Levi fought the audible grinding his teeth were making. "Levi, I'm working. You know better than to call me―"

 

"Evidently," Levi's voice drawled, which probably didn't work in his favor. He wasn't in the mood for this game. "I wouldn't be bothering you if this wasn't something important," he clarified.

 

Levi heard Erwin speaking to someone else and his eye twitched, clearly not being regarded as how significant this was. He had an overwhelming urge to bring his hands to his hair and rip it out of his scalp. "Can you stop talking to someone else for five fucking seconds so I can discuss something that involves the both of us?"

 

There were a few moments of silence before a beeping reached Levi's ears, causing the raven to bring his phone down with wide eyes. That fucker hung up on me.

 

Levi knew better than to try to call the man back, instead, he laughed bitterly and slipped his phone back into his pocket. He closed his eyes, taking in several deep breaths in an attempt to ground himself back to reality. He weighed his options, knowing, either way, it was going to cause complications. Erwin wouldn't be happy, already expressing more than once that he didn't plan on having children. Levi was more than willing with that discussion when it had come up merely for the fact Levi couldn't picture himself as a suitable parent. Given his chaotic upbringing, he wasn't sure if he'd ever be a stable parent.

 

On the other hand, Levi knew what it was like to be in and out of the foster care system. He couldn't count the amount of the times CPS came and took him away from Kenny, forced him to stay with a more than incapable family only to send him right back to the bastard again. The most stability Levi felt he ever did have was when he and Erwin purchased their apartment together.

 

And he'd hardly call that stable at this point.

 

Opening his eyes, Levi knew he had to make a choice. As he turned on his heels and stepped back into the law firm, a part of him deeply knew he had already made his decision. 

 

"So how does this work? I highly doubt you're just going to throw this kid at me without some sort of process happening in court."

 

Levi could briefly see Mikasa lifting her head and for the first time, an array of emotion was behind her young gaze. She looked unsure and... almost expectant.

 

"Seeing as you've been appointed her guardian, you're free to take her home with you. We'll need to go over several documents and notarize them here, but I'll be the one to handle sending them to the courthouse. If there's anything else I'll need from you in the future, I'll call you and have you come back in." The lawyer explained slowly, as if in disbelief.

 

Levi crossed his arms over his chest, his foot tapping on the granite tile before sighing out, "Let's get this process started, then."

 

He couldn't see it with his back turned, but Mikasa brought the deep red scarf up to her mouth, concealing the small smile that was hidden behind it.


 

Paperwork was a bitch, in Levi's opinion. He dealt with it on a daily basis at the bank but it didn't make this less overwhelming. His pale hands gripped the steering wheel as they drove along the highway, his companion quietly staring out the window as he observed her through the rear-view mirror.

 

Mikasa didn't have many belongings with her, a simple backpack and a roll-on suitcase Levi had put in his trunk. It made Levi silently wonder what her short life with Kenny was like but squandered it.

 

"We'll need to get you some clothes... we have a second bedroom, so you'll have furniture. Do you watch TV? What the hell am I asking, of course, you watch TV. Everybody does. I'll move the one in our bedroom into your room for now. Erwin will be home by the time we get back... we can figure everything else out tomorrow."

 

Levi wasn't sure at this point if he was talking to Mikasa or himself, the young girl barely acknowledging him. She nodded silently, keeping his tight grip on her scarf while headlights reflected off her pale skin. It was starting to get dark, the sun setting quickly over the horizon when he pulled into his Ford Fusion into the parking lot of the pristine apartment complex. 

 

The raven adjusted his keys and opened to door, letting Mikasa walk in first before he followed her through the threshold. He closed to door quietly behind him, taking his key and tossing them into the dish along with the side table. 

 

"Where have you been?" A deep voice rose from the kitchen. 

 

Erwin appeared from the kitchen into the main foyer, his deep blue eyes settled on Levi before shifting to Mikasa. The young girl instinctively moved toward Levi, one small hand reaching for his pants and gripping the fabric. Levi looked down, somewhat stunned at how close she had moved. Levi knew he was much shorter than an average man of his stature, so he wasn't surprised if Mikasa was slightly intimidated by Erwin's height. He towered over him, after all.

 

"Who might this be?" Erwin inquired, his voice a little calmer.

 

Levi took a deep breath, placing Mikasa's luggage on the floor. "My cousin."

 

"Your cousin," the blonde repeated, somewhat dumbfounded. "Your uncle..."

 

"Apparently had a daughter," Levi finished for him, ushering Mikasa to step toward the long hallway across from the dining room. "Kenny assumed I'd look after her if something were to ever happen to him. I'm surprised the bastard even had a will."

 

Levi didn't need to face Erwin to feel his jaw was clenching, wanting to say more. "Levi..." he exhaled deeply. "Kitchen."

 

Levi's gunmetal orbs turned toward Erwin, giving his partner a critical look. "Let me get her situated first." 

 

What that really translated to was not in front of her.

 

The raven led Mikasa down the hallway, away from Erwin and into the guest room. The room was furnished with a simple queen-sized bed with a deep oak frame, a matching dresser, and walk-in closet. There was a desk along the far wall and the bright carpet was a deep contrast to the light in the room. "I know it doesn't look very inviting, but that mattress is comfortable as all hell," he tried to coax the tension from her shoulders. "I'll go into my room and get you my laptop so you have something to watch for the night. You can get cleaned up and I'll order us something to eat after I speak to Erwin."

 

Mikasa hadn't uttered a single word since she had been thrown into Levi's life that day, and Levi could understand why. He knew the feeling of not belonging far too well and wanted to do what he could to make Mikasa comfortable. She and he shared the same blood; they were family whether Levi wanted to accept it or not. But when Mikasa had clung to Levi earlier, it made him realize it was him she was concerned about.

 

"Erwin's not a bad guy," Levi said as he came back into the room with his laptop. He typed in his password and propped the device up on the bed. "He comes off a little strong... but he's not a bad person."

 

Levi wasn't sure who he was trying to convince.

 

"I'm going to close the door," he explained to her as she leaned forward to search on YouTube. "I'll be back in a few minutes."

 

Levi's shoes sounded on the floor as he walked toward the kitchen, only to screech against the hardwood as his body was being pressed against the wall connecting to the living room. "What the hell were you thinking?" Erwin hissed in his ear. Levi felt a sharp pain blooming along his lower back but kept his gaze steady.

 

"I tried calling you," Levi started viciously. "You fucking hung up on me when I tried to explain what the hell was going on."

 

"You shouldn't have brought her here without my permission," Erwin continued, his strong hand reaching to grip Levi's jaw. The raven flinched, the bruise already there throbbing under Erwin's grasp. 

 

"Last time I checked this is my house as much as it is yours," Levi snapped, pushing the taller man away from him while gingerly rubbing his chin. "What the fuck was I supposed to do, leave her to be sent off to some abusive family? We're blood-related, Erwin. I couldn't just leave her there."

 

"You very well could have and you should have!"

 

"I don't expect you to understand, but I do. Do you have any idea how terrifying it is for an eight-year-old to be thrown from house to house? It's traumatizing, Erwin. I know it fucked me up more than I'd like to admit."

 

The blonde male muttered something under his breath and Levi barely caught the word, "Evidently."

 

Levi's blood boiled, roared in his ears. How fucking dare he?

 

"Fuck you," he breathed out, his eyes narrowed to slits. He pushed himself away from the wall, his hand carding through his hair to move it from his eyes. "I'm ordering us some food and don't bother worrying, I'll sleep out here tonig―"

 

A smack had sounded crisply and clearly through the apartment, causing both men to freeze in place. Levi felt an overwhelming stinging on his cheek while involuntary tears collected in the corners of his eyes. He had never shed a tear and he wouldn't start now. The burning in his eyes was merely from the impact, he knew. He brought a shaking hand up to his cheek, already feeling the flesh plump against his fingers. He kept his fractioned gaze on Erwin, who looked just as stunned as Levi had.

 

"―as I was saying, I'll sleep out here tonight."

 

Levi didn't give Erwin a chance to respond, his rigid body moving on its own toward the back of the apartment.

 

"I'm giving you a few days to figure something out," Erwin had finally said, causing Levi to stop momentarily. "That child is not staying here."

 

He swallowed the lump in his throat, not bothering with a rebuttal as he disappeared from Erwin's sight.


 

Mikasa had bathed, changed into pajamas and settled into the bed after eating their Chinese take-out. Levi stayed in the guest room with her, helping organize the few belongings she had. He hadn't spoken or seen Erwin since their initial confrontation which he was silently thankful for. He set up a movie on his laptop, hoping he could move the television in his and Erwin's shared room into her's tomorrow while he was working. He had already texted Rico, telling her he'd need another day to sort his affairs out.

 

His normally unruffled mind was racing, thinking of what he could possibly do to appease both Erwin and Mikasa. He couldn't formulate any plan that would benefit either of them. Erwin had made his stance clear and Levi couldn't just dump the only family he had left on this earth because his selfish partner had demanded him to.

 

While he was placing articles of clothing in the closet, Levi heard a soft voice ask, "Why do you let him do that to you?"

 

Levi's hand froze mid-air, his usually slitted gaze wide as he turned toward Mikasa. She had slipped off of the bed, trotting over to Levi while raising a small hand to his cheek. "Why do you let him hurt you?" she asked again.

 

He was momentarily stunned by her touch and her words, hearing her speak for the first time since they had been forced to meet. Her dark eyes shimmered with a wisdom that was beyond her years and even Levi could see that. He closed his eyes briefly, chuckling deeply to himself.

 

"That's a good fucking question, isn't it?" he responded with a brittle edge to his tone. 

 

Mikasa tilted her head. "I'm sorry."

 

Levi took Mikasa's hand, lowering it from his pale cheek. "You have nothing to be sorry for, you understand? You didn't ask for this shit and you definitely don't deserve it."

 

"Neither do you," Mikasa responded boldly, surprising Levi.

 

She removed her hand from Levi's, strolling back over to the bed while resting her back against the headboard. She made herself comfortable, balancing the laptop on her knees and focusing her attention on its screen. Levi felt the lump in his throat from earlier return full force, the stinging that his eyes felt forming yet again. Only this time it wasn't from Erwin's hand.

 

I'll figure this out, Levi thought to himself as he turned his attention back to the closet. He couldn't bring his mind to focus, instead, he softly bid Mikasa goodnight and settled into the living room as planned. It had to have been after 11 PM, so he knew Erwin was asleep. Exhaustion was present in the corridors of his mind, gripping him in its clutches. But he couldn't close his eyes, instead, he stared up at the ceiling while the thoughts raced and whirled. 

 

What the fuck am I supposed to do?