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slowly but surely

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Falling in love with Eren was slow.

Levi meets him in the first week of Summer and it's a whirlwind. Eren is as bright and blinding as the sun itself. He never stops and Levi gets caught up in it.

He laughs like there's nothing holding him back, bathed in the sun’s gold. Rapidly becoming intoxicated with Eren's voice, his smell, his toothy grin. Levi is absorbed by everything Eren. It's so fast.

But it's when Autumn comes that Levi slows down… The lack of sunshine and short days bring with them that inevitable darkness creeping into Levi's mind.

Levi has always been what people call “high functioning.” While he is always on top of everything - attending work, grocery shopping, cleaning his home and himself - it's so hard. Everything inside him screams to close the curtains and stay hidden inside.

Outwardly, he seems fine. But his chest is hollow and he cannot find emotions inside himself. Every interaction takes a little piece of his remaining strength. He feels as cold as the weather settling over the city; mist clouded mornings mirror the state of his brain, fogged with depression.

Eren's texts and calls get lost in the spirals Levi's brain takes him down. Hanji is the only exception, the only person he can bring himself to send a reply to. They know how he gets, and he has the heart to send them reassurances throughout the week. Yes, he's okay. No, he's not falling back into old habits.

It shocks Levi though, when Eren doesn't give up. No, he's too stubborn for that, most certainly. When his texts are left on read for a week or so, he comes to Levi's apartment.

They drink tea and Levi explains his behaviour, surprisingly, it doesn't deter Eren. He simply states that it doesn't matter, he'll be around no matter Levi's mood.

The statement weighs on Levi's mind each night, fills him with guilt. What does Eren see in his version of him? He has nothing to offer - he tries so hard, yet it hurts to witness himself putting in so much effort to no avail. The gnawing shame in his gut is something to feel, at least.

Eren comes around to Levi's apartment often, he chatters on when Levi finds little to say in return and he smiles on days where Levi's face stays blank.

Small touches start to pass between them, and one day Eren seems to be feeling bold. He takes Levi's wrist in his hand, and begins to rub soothing circles into the raised skin there, marks of past harm, now healed and silvery in the TV’s glow.

One night, Levi can't stop the crying, the overwhelming sadness and shame overflowing. He asks Eren why he stays and Eren simply strokes Levi's hair, kisses away the tears and insists he won't be leaving anytime soon.

The seasonal depression is hard, it drags Levi down like a weight on his ankle but Eren is always there, at the edge of the murky pool to take his hand. Eren's there to haul him out as he’s sinking.

It's not like Eren can cure him, but he makes it bearable… He makes sure Levi takes his medication, he accompanies Levi out of the house so he can breathe in the crisp air and try to live.

It's not Eren's fault that he's this way, but it's almost as if he's tasked himself with trying to make it better regardless. He does, Levi decides. Eren makes it better.

Soon, Eren begins to stay nights. At first he stays on the couch, simply there due to missing the last train home. But one night he makes his way into Levi's room in the darkness, cradles his smaller form under the covers.

Eren complains that Levi is almost like a lizard, cold to the touch and sapping all of his heat. Levi presses his toes to Eren’s bare shins and smiles for what feels like the first time in ages, secretive in the pitch black.

It's that night that Levi feels the emptiness start to shift, something unsure yet reassuring is planted there. It grows, slowly but surely.

Throughout the cold months, Eren is a constant. The chill lingers in Levi's bones, but it never stays for long, not with Eren by his side, radiating his almost unnatural warmth.

Unlike Levi, he is overflowing, always. Filled with so much emotion, Levi feels himself taking it all in. He tries to feel, he really does.

The happiness that comes along with Eren is out of place in Winter, but it's comforting. Eren is Levi's very own piece of Summer, nurturing the small seedling of hope deep inside him.

When Spring finally comes, Levi's mood improves drastically. He feels that lightness in his chest return, the now familiar weight of apathy lifts as the sun becomes more frequent and the days become longer.

Grey skies become a memory and Levi feels his eyes drifting to the blue up above at every chance. Everything is growing, the trees are lush and green. It's bright, it mirrors Eren.

The weather has changed but Eren is still the same, and Levi's feelings for him grow until they're blooming like the flowers rising up from cracks in the pavement.

Levi loves Eren, and with the ability to smile again comes the confidence that they'll be okay. They can do this… He’s sure. Levi can make Eren happy, he can.

Levi assures himself that Eren isn't stuck; he’s free to leave, but he hasn't. His promises that he won't go fall from his lips exactly when Levi needs to hear them. How does he always seem to know?

And so, Levi tells him. He lets Eren know that he loves him, and of course Eren just smiles, his crooked teeth bared. Eren knows that Levi loves him, he says so. He lets Levi know he feels the same, that he always has.

For Levi, the feeling was slow but sweet, like the way that honey caresses each taste bud and slides down your throat. But Eren insists that he knew far before, so filled with everything at once as he is. Levi wouldn't change him for the world.

Levi is in love with Eren.