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Damaged Goods - Ereri Angst Weekend

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Levi was just starting another night shift as San Antonia Memorial Hospital. He was on the phone with his boyfriend, Eren, who was on a bus back home from the military base. He was finally getting back from his fourth tour in Afghanistan, and you couldn't tell by looking at him, but Levi was elated.

"I missed you," Eren said in his ear, and Levi could help a small smile.

"Yeah, I missed you, too, brat."

Eren laughed. "Oh yeah? Well, you know what else I miss?"

Levi hummed. "Tell me."

"Apples. Like, real apples, not the fake stuff the army tries to convince us are apples."

"There's a dozen of them in your kitchen."

"Oh my God, you're the best," Eren laughed the words, infectious and bubbly, enough to make Levi's smile brighten into something most people would actually recognize as a smile. It was a good thing he was hiding in an empty room to escape the director, Moblit.

Just then, Oluo, a nurse, came in and grabbed his arm. "Ackerman, you have got to see this, it's the most hilarious thing I've ever seen."

Levi rolled his eyes. "Can you give me a sec, I'm obviously busy."

"What could be more important than Moblit's dating profile?"

Oulo had clearly meant for that to peak his interest. It didn’t work. Levi mentally dug around in his Excuse for Talking to my Boyfriend bag and pulled out the first thing to come to mind. "I've got a plumber coming tomorrow."

Oulo shrugged. "Your loss."

Sighing, Levi ignored him. "Sorry about that, Eren."

The younger man snorted. "Whatever, it's fine, I know you're at work. But just so you know, calling me a plumber just cause I'm sticking something in your 'pipe' is kinda a crappy pick-up-line."

Levi totally did not blush at all. Nope. He doesn’t do that, ever. "Shut up," he groaned. "Anyway, I've got to get back to work. I'll talk to you later, okay?"

Eren hummed. "Of course, Dr. Sexy. The patients await."

Levi rolled his eyes. "Mhm. I'll see you in the morning."

"Not if I see you first. Love you."

Levi didn’t exactly smile, but it was a close thing. "Love you, too."

Levi hung up the phone and left the room just in time to see Petra, one of the residents at the hospital, and one of two people who knew he was gay. It wasn't really his decision to tell her, though. She'd kissed him and had figured out he wasn't interested pretty quickly... "Hey, Petra, wait up."

She stopped and turned to him with a smile. "Hey, Levi, what's up?"

Levi grabbed her arm and gently pulled her to walk with him down the hall. "I have to get out of here on time after this shift, so if you'll cover for me today, I'll cover a weekend shift for you."

Her face lit up, immediately realizing why it was so important. "Oh, yeah!" She leaned in conspiratorially. "Eren's coming home today, isn't he?"

Levi rolled his eyes and begrudgingly nodded. "Yes, he is. So do we have a deal?"

She snorted. "Duh. I wouldn't dare come between you and your lover ." She deepened her voice and said the last word in a mockingly seductive tone.

"Tch."

They rounded the corner just as Moblit and Dr. Hanje, their head surgeon and co-manager of the night shift with her boyfriend, Mike, called them all to a meeting. "Thank you all for coming in early," Moblit began.

"I live with 2 infant daughters and their cranky mother, I'll come in whenever you like," Ymir, another doctor, interrupted. Her wife, Christa, was a nurse who used to work the night shift but had switched to the day shift when their daughters were born so that there would always be someone home with their kids.

Everybody laughed at the light jab until Hanje called them all back to order. "Mike is running late, but he'll be here soon, so y'all behave until your babysitter gets here, alright?"

"You're one to talk, Shitty Glasses." Levi smirked as she squawked, unable to come up with a comeback, seeing as Levi's statement was completely accurate.

"Okay, well, I hate to break up Hanje-roasting - especially when Ackerman gets involved," Jean, one of the nurses, broke in, "but we've got a major accident on highway I90. Bus carrying military personnel got hit the hardest, and they're splitting up the soldiers between all the hospitals in the area. We're the only trauma unit, so we're going to get the worst of it. Our share of the vics will be here in 20 minutes."

Levi shared a look with Petra. Eren's bus?

Moblit nodded. "Okay, you heard the man. Make sure everything is stocked and prepare for a huge influx of patients. I'll call Mike, so Jean if you'd call Erwin? He's still not here yet either."

Levi swallowed and got to work, trying to ignore his worry and focus on the tasks at hand. Even if it was Eren's bus, he might not have been hurt. And if he was, that didn't mean it was going to be bad. He might have a minor break or something and get sent to another hospital. Levi only really needed to worry if he was sent to S.A.M.

Levi took a deep breath. It was going to be a long, tough shift.

*****

The ambulances began arriving with victims. Dozens of soldiers were pouring in, all the doctors scrambling to assess wounds and prioritize who needed help first. Levi maneuvered around ambulances, checking the faces of every soldier to make sure they weren't Eren. He wasn't sure if he wanted to see him because then he would know where he was and how he was, or if he hoped that he got sent somewhere else because that might mean he wasn't hurt that bad.

Mike's car pulled up to the scene of the chaos, parking with a screech as Mike got out of the driver's side, Erwin getting out of the passenger’s side, too. Hanje narrowed her eyes at the sight of her boyfriend showing up to work with his ex, but she didn’t say anything. They had more important things to worry about at the moment.

Levi ignored Ymir's call for his help with a patient, continuing to look for Eren. He checked several ambulances before he saw a tall, lean soldier being rolled out with a bandage on his leg. Levi froze. He'd know that frame anywhere. He swallowed and steeled his nerves before looking at the face.

He sucked in a breath when he saw Eren's unconscious face. "Erwin, get over here!" Levi scrambled to assess the situation. Taking over from the EMTs as they rattled off what was wrong with him. "Eyebrows, I need you here now!" He was frantic, on the edge of panicking, and Erwin must have heard it in his voice because he got Mike to take over for him with his patient and ran over.

"What's up?"

Levi took a deep breath, hoping to steady himself but failing. "Erwin, this is Eren."

Erwin's ridiculous eyebrows shot up into his hairline. "Oh shit, the Eren?"

"The Eren." Erwin was the only other person besides Petra who knew about his sexuality and his relationship with Eren. He'd been his best friend for years now, and there was no one else he trusted more to help Eren. His field experience as a combat medic in the Rangers was invaluable, and knowing how important Eren was to him would push Erwin to be even more creatively miraculous than usual. "He's lost a lot of blood, Erwin!"

"Okay, I got it, I'm on it." Erwin took a quick look at the wound on Eren's leg and took over for the EMTs, pushing the bed into the hospital.

When they got inside, Hanje called out to them. "Erwin, give me that patient, I need to take him up to the OR. Ackerman, they need you out front with another patient."

Erwin shook his head. "He's mine, and Levi's with me."

Hanje let out a harsh sigh. "Do you really want to question me right now?"

Levi finished putting on the protective scrubs and pushed the bed into a room. Erwin shrugged. "Levi's Army Reserves. I need to teach him some stuff he'll need in the field. We get a lot of injuries like this is combat."

Hanje rolled his eyes. "Fine, but get him up to pre-op in an hour. We need to amputate."

Erwin didn't reply. He knew there was no way Eren was getting an amputation in an hour. Like hell Levi would let that happen.

Erwin joined Levi in the room and surveyed the wound as Levi got him hooked up to the machines and got his stats. Oluo came in to assist, helping Levi get a pulse. Erwin applied pressure to the wound as he looked it over and called out orders for Levi and Oluo. "Type and cross 6 units of pRBCs and at least 4 units of FFP. No palpable distal pulses. He must've ruptured his popliteal artery. We need to stop the bleeding. Hand me a large hemostat."

Levi was scrambling for some calm as he did what Erwin said, feeling himself slipping away into panic as the full weight of Eren's wound hit him like a truck. "Erwin, you've got to save his leg, we can't let them amputate."

Erwin nodded. "I'll do everything I can, you know that, Levi."

Levi was not comforted by that. "Oluo, page the on-call vascular surgeon and get him down here ASAP."

Oluo shook his head. "Jean called him when we got news of the accident. He's at the University hospital with another soldier, and he won't be able to get here until morning."

Levi saw red. He grabbed the front of Oluo's shirt, eyes practically on fire with rage. "That's not good enough. You get him down here now!" Oluo tried to argue and Levi almost punched him before Erwin pulled him away, Levi still shouting at Oluo to 'do his damn job'.

"Levi, stop it, that's not going to help Eren at all. You need to calm down, now." Levi struggled against Erwin's arms for another second before sagging back against Erwin's chest, fear hitting him like a sack of potatoes to the face.

Erin held him up and half-led half-carried Levi to the exit. "Go outside and catch your breath. I promise I'll call you if anything changes."

Levi breathed heavily, Erwin still supporting him for a moment before gently pushing him out of the room. "You've got to save his leg, Erwin. You have to," he pleaded. He'd never begged for anything in his life, but he would beg for this.

"If it's possible, I'll get it done. I promise." Then Erwin closed the privacy curtain.

*****

Once Levi had calmed down (relatively) he went back in to help Erwin. He was attempting to perform an emergency bypass to get blood flow to Eren's foot to keep it alive until they got the vascular surgeon there to determine if there was enough to salvage the leg.

Erwin got the tube in place and released the clench to continue blood flow through the tube from Eren's thigh to his lower leg. "We'll know if it's working right away, but we won't be sure if it's enough for a couple hours." Levi nodded, sighing with relief when Erwin found a weak pulse in Eren's lower leg. "You know," Erwin hesitated to finish the sentence, "this is just a Hail Mary. The chances of it working are slim. so don't get your hopes too high."

Levi swallowed. "Yeah." He cleared his throat when his voice broke. "Yeah, I know."

Erwin gave him a grim smile and stepped away from Eren's bed. "Come on. There’s nothing more we can do right now. Let's find someone else to help."

Just as they were moving away, a few soldiers from Eren's unit stepped in the doorway. A buff blond guy, the name on his uniform saying Braun, cleared his throat. "How's he doing?"

"Yeah, is his leg going to be okay?" That was Mikasa, Eren's adopted sister. She'd been assigned to the same unit as Eren, despite their relation to each other, much like Erwin's brother had been in the same unit as him.

"What about my leg?"

They all turned to see Eren, eyes open and looking around in a daze. Eren looked up at Levi and smiled. "Levi? What are you doing here?"

Levi put his hands on his hips, clearing his throat. "I, uh, I work here, Eren." Levi swallowed and turned to Eren's men. "Eren and I went to basic together," he clarified, lest anyone get any ideas. Mikasa squinted at him, obviously not buying it, but Levi knew Eren hadn’t told her about him so he didn't worry about it too much.

He turned back to Eren. "I work as an E.R. doc at San Antonio Memorial. You were in a bus accident and the ambulance brought you here."

"I was going to make you an omelet after work," Eren said, still dazed. He smiled. "With apple slices."

Levi's eyes went wide. "Um, Eren, you might be confused. The, uh, pain meds are probably making you groggy." He shot Erwin a desperate look.

Erwin cleared his throat, drawing attention to himself. "Well, guys, we have to examine the patient, so if you guys could clear out and give him some privacy, that's be great." He shrugged. "Captain Jaegar is probably not himself right now anyway. I might've given him too much pain meds to help with the leg. You guys can visit him later." The soldiers slumped but left the room. Erwin went with them and closed the curtain behind himself.

Eren looked around the room. "I'm at a hospital? Was I hurt?"

Levi winced. "Um, yeah, you-"

"Oh my god, my leg- What. What the hell is wrong with my leg?" Eren franticly reached for his leg, and Levi jolted forward to stop him.

"Stop! Don't touch it, Eren, stop. Don't dislodge the tube!"

"What's wrong with my leg? What happened to my-"

"Eren, hey, stop. Look at me." Eren's were stuck on his leg, and he was still half-heartedly trying to touch it. Levi cupped Eren's face with his hands and forced him to look away from it. "Look at me. Eren, I need you to rest, and I need you to trust me. Okay? Can you do that?"

Eren nodded, though he didn't seem all that sure, and he dragged his eyes up to look at Levi. He swallowed. "Yeah, I- Yeah, I can do that."

Levi let out a breath of relief. "Okay, good. That's good. I've got our best guy on this, so you're going to be okay. Okay?"

"Okay."

"Okay, so I need you to get some rest." Levi used one hand to inject a sedative into Eren's IV. "I promise you, I'm looking out for you."

Eren smiled at him, eyes glassy from the sedative. "You always do."

Levi graced him with a smile of his own, though it was tight, both from disuse and worry. He huffed and stood up, finally getting a good look at his boyfriend's face after so long apart. He made a mock frown. "When did you get those gray hairs?"

Eren snorted. "I thought you'd want to match, old man, so I painted them on just for you."

Levi shook his head, grin widening, more genuine now. "How thoughtful of you."

Eren was on the brink of sleep, but he made out one more slurred sentence before losing his fight to stay awake. "I wouldn't be surprised if they were real. I'm getting old now too... Not a kid any...more..."

Levi sucked in a breath through his nose and wiped his eyes, ignoring the water pooling in them. He ran a hand through Eren's soft hair, too long and falling in his eyes. "No," he whispered quietly to himself. "You're not."

*****

Levi repeatedly punched the wall in the break room. It was too busy for anybody else to be in there, but Levi needed a break to keep his head on straight. And to let out his frustration before he put Oluo through a wall.

Petra came in while he was still punching the wall. "Hey, hey!" She grabbed his arms and pulled him away from the wall, Levi letting her. "I only have a minute, but you know you can talk to me right?"

Levi shook his head. "I can't believe this is happening."

She nodded. "I know. I know, Levi, it's terrible." She pulled him into a hug. "It sucks, I know. Is there anything I can do?"

Levi shook his head and pulled away, sagging against the wall in defeat. "No. Nothing. That's the worst part. I can't do anything either. I want to hold him and be there for him and talk to him, but I- I can't. I can't talk to him when I want to, the way I want to - this place is a fucking zoo - and I-" He took a deep breath and cleared his throat, wiping away his tears with the back of his hands, not even caring that Petra was seeing him cry.

Petra placed a soothing hand on his shoulder. "Do you really think anyone would care?"

Levi's eyes flashed in defiance. "I will not be the gay doctor! I will not play that role. I will not be the old gay doctor with the hot young boyfriend. I won't- My patients wouldn't be as happy for me as you are, Petra. They wouldn't- And Eren's men are here, I can't-" He shook his head, fighting for any control over his body as his diaphragm spasmed in his chest, making him hiccup as he spoke. "I’ve got to get back to work, Petra."

Petra nodded. "Me, too, I know, hun. But just give yourself a minute. Just try and breathe, okay?"

Levi nodded and they breathed together for a minute. Then Levi wiped his eyes one last time and returned to the battlefield of the ER.

*****

The next time Levi saw Eren, the privacy curtains were pulled back to allow Eren and his men to talk to another soldier in their unit in the next room over, Marco. Jean was in there helping him out and Marco was obviously smitten. He kept flirting with the nurse, and Jean clearly was both flattered and interested but he was making an attempt to still be professional.

One of the soldiers, Braun, called over to him. "Hey, Bodt, you gunna do it or what?" The other soldiers egged him on.

"Do what?" Jean asked, an eyebrow raised as he bandaged Marco's arm.

"All right, all right!" Marco sighed in resignation, waving his free hand at the soldiers to get them to quiet down. He turned back to Jean, a nervous smile on his lips. "So, since I haven't been on a date since high school prom-"

"Wasn't that your cousin?" Braun interrupted.

"Nah, your sister, and she said I was an even better kisser than you."

Everybody 'ooh'ed at the burn, Jean smirking at Braun’s dumbfounded expression as he refocused on the bandage job he was doing.

"Anyway, as I was saying, since it's been a while, and you already told me I was sweet, I was wondering if you would be willing to," he cleared his throat, "to do me the honor of going on a date with me." Marco's freckled cheeks were blushing up a storm, but he was holding eye contact with Jean, so brownie points there.

"An honor, huh?" Jean raised an eyebrow disbelievingly.

"Absolutely, an honor. You're a doctor! And you're hot, and smart, and funny. And way out of my league."

"You bet he is." Marco shot a glare at Braun.

Jean laughed. "Well, as much as I would love to go on a date with you, since I'm, you know, in charge of your medical care, I don't think I'm allowed." Marco pouted, and Braun laughed and told him not to take the rejection to heart.

Just then, Ymir came in to check Marco's stats. She overheard the conversation and grinned. "Actually, Jean, technically I'm his doctor of record, so legally, you're fine."

Jean blinked. "True..." He looked down at Marco and smiled. "Well, in that case, I don't see why we can't. I guess we'll be getting a beer after you get out of here." Jean winked, finishing up the last of his work on Marco’s arm.

Marco's eyebrows shot up. "Really?"

Jean snorted. "Yes, really."

All the guys cheered and started congratulating the two on their date. Using the distraction, Levi slipped up next to Eren's bed. Erwin, sporting a fantastic bruise on his face, managed to get the soldiers out of there with something about nurses and an empty whirlpool up in Rehab, and Levi couldn't help but smile from gratitude as Erwin closed the privacy curtains on his way out.

Eren looked up at him, both of their smiles fading into seriousness. "What's up with my leg, Levi?"

Levi sighed. "I don't know."

Eren rolled his eyes. "Don't lie to me, Levi."

"I'm not lying to you-"

"You are-"

"I'm not, Eren," he almost yelled. He sighed. "I'm not lying to you. I really don't know. But it'll be okay."

Eren glared at him, anger sparking in an instant. "Don't tell me it's going to be okay. Don't say that! Four tours in Afghanistan and all I get is a splinter and a sunburn, but one afternoon back, and this?" He gestured at his leg, almost hitting it in the process. "We were going to go hiking tomorrow! That was the plan!"

Levi swallowed and held his hand. "Whatever happens," he said, as calm and assuring as possible, "we'll deal with it."

Eren snorted and pulled his hand away. "What's this we? It's my leg! As soon as your shift is over, you can go hiking or whatever else you want!"

Levi's eyebrows furrowed and his lips pulled into a deeper frown. "What are talking about? You think I don't care?"

He sneered. "Why would you? I'm damaged goods now." His voice was dripping with derision and it would have just about broke Levi's heart if he didn't know that Eren was just scared and taking it out on him.

Just then, Hanje came in, a nearly identical bruise as Erwin's on her face. Apparently Hanje had been pissed because she'd been waiting in the OR for Eren because Erwin hadn't let her know that he was doing his own thing. They'd yelled at each other and then Hanje lost it when Erwin got in her face and she threw a punch, which, of course, prompted Erwin to throw one back.

Hanje, ever the professional, acted as though nothing had happened. She introduced herself to Eren and asked Levi to leave so she could examine Eren's leg.

"I'd like to stay." Hanje gave him an odd look, so Levi 'explained' himself. "I've never seen a wound like this before."

Hanje looked to Eren for permission, which he gave, so Hanje shrugged and got to work.She removed the towel that had been covering Eren's wounded leg. It was black and red all over. The limb obviously wasn't going to make it. Hanje nodded and sighed. "We need to get you up to the OR, Mr. Jaegar. We have to amputate. The procedure Dr. Smith tried didn't take. It's necrotic, and it'll become septic if we don't act fast."

Eren's eyes widened and he immediately shook his head. "No. Hell no. You are not amputating anything." He turned to Levi. "You said it would work," he accused.

"I said it might."

"Well too fucking bad, you're not amputating." He turned back to Hanje. "I'd rather die than lose my leg!"

Levi swallowed and exchanged a look with Hanje. Hanje paused for a moment, thinking about how to proceed. "And why is that?"

Eren fumbled to answer for a second, his brain moving faster than his mouth as he descended into mild panic. "I'm a jock. A soldier. I lead men, for God's sake! Without my leg, I'm nothing."

Levi ignored the twinge of hurt at hearing that, at hearing Eren say that basically Levi didn't mean anything, that their relationship didn’t mean anything. "That's ridiculous, Eren. Your platoon loves you; they'll stay by your side. And with today's prosthetics, you'll be able to do anything anyone else can do." He huffed and tacked on a mumbled, "Even hiking."

"That's easy for you to say now," Eren yelled.

"Well, now is all we have, Eren! I don't have a damn crystal ball. I can't tell you the future, and you can't expect people to just promise you the whole damn future like that! You can't-"

"We're debating between amputation and death and you're talking in fucking riddles?" Eren turned to Hanje, face red with fury. "You know what's going on here right? You know what this is, Dr. Zoe?"

"Eren, don't." The last thing they needed to add on to this drama was coming out of the closet.

Eren laughed, almost maniacally. "What's the matter, tough guy? Now who's afraid of something? It's not so fun, is it?"

Levi closed his eyes and sighed. "Eren..."

"Get out."

Levi blinked his eyes open, taken aback by the pure loathing in Eren's voice. He'd never heard him like that before. "What?"

"I said, Get. Out."

Levi swallowed. He hesitated, but after a moment, he nodded. "Okay. I've- um. I've got other patients anyway."

Levi stalked out of the room, forcing his tears not to fall.

*****

Jean stopped by Marco's room later, squeezing past all the soldiers who'd returned to check his stats. "So, I was thinking, maybe we could go ice skating? Or maybe bowling? Do you like to bowl?"

Marco swallowed and nodded distractedly, his face pinched in discomfort. "Yeah, yeah, that'd be great." He was trying to reach for his shoulder with his injured arm. "I'm really itchy."

Jean's eyes narrowed as he turned to check the machine to their left. When he saw the stats, his eyes went wide. "Ymir! Ymir, get in here!" He turned back to Marco just as he'd managed to get his hospital gown unbuttoned at the top and pulled it down to scratch at his chest.

Jean caught his arm and pull it back, staring at the lesions that had appeared all over his chest. Ymir ran into the room, Erwin hot on his trails.

"His temp is 103! Ymir, what the hell are those?" Jean was full on panicking, looking back and forth between the lesions and Marco's stats.

Erwin shook his head. "I've never seen this before. Ymir?"

Ymir swallowed. "He has visceral leishmaniosis."

"The hell is that?"

"I saw a mild case in Afghanistan once. He must've caught it from sand flies."

Jean shook his head as Marco slumped back against the bed, no longer trying to scratch the lesions on his chest. "His BP is dropping, Ymir, you've got to help him."

Ymir stood frozen in thought, mind racing to figure out what to do. "The steroids..." she whispered to herself before jerking forward. "We have to get him off the steroids!"

Erwin leapt forward to detach the steroid drip from the IV drip just as the machine next to Marco announced his heart stopping. Ymir reached for some supplies in a draw next to her as she called out for a nurse. "Get a crash cart! He's flat-lining!"

Oluo came running, shoving his way through the hallway and past the now-terrified soldiers in Marco's room. He handed the requested supplies to Ymir and started pushing as many soldiers out of the way as he could. Most left the area, but a few backed up into Eren's room, all watching with wide eyes and pale faces as the doctors worked to save Marco's life.

Thirty-eight minutes later, Ymir told Jean to stop compressions and called time of death. Jean paused for a moment, trying his hardest to choke back a sob, before going back to compressions, refusing to give up. Ymir sighed and wrapped her arms around Jean, pulling him away from Marco's body and into a hug. "I'm sorry, Jean. I’m so sorry… He was dead before he ever left Afghanistan."

Levi stepped into Eren's room, placing a comforting hand on his shoulder. He couldn't imagine how hard it must've been to lose one of your men. Levi'd lost plenty of people in his life, even people he was responsible for, but this... this was different.

Eren swallowed and looked up at Levi, face pale and eyes red. "I'm scared, Levi."

Levi clenched his jaw, determined. "I'm booking the surgery. And I swear, if you don't agree to it, I will drug you and do it myself." His eyes softened at the fear on Eren's face. "You are not a leg, Eren. You are so much more than that."

Eren steeled himself and nodded. "Okay."

Levi finally let his shoulders relaxed. "Okay." He marked on Eren's chart when the surgery was scheduled for and when the nurses needed to take him up to pre-op. Just before he finished, Eren reached out and tried to grab his hand. Levi jerked his hand away, stepping back from the bed until he was out of reach, looking around at the other soldiers and doctors in the area. He let out a breath of relief when he saw none were looking at them, too preoccupied by Marco's death. "I- I can't, Eren. I can't. I'm sorry." Eren's eyes welled up with tears, hurt marring his youthful face. Levi felt his heart clench in guilt, but he just- he couldn't. "But you have... a surgery to prep for. So I'm going to go get the nurses."

He walked away as fast as he could, refusing to look back at the disappointment in Eren's eyes.

*****

The nurses and Erwin were rolling Eren's bed out of his room and down the hallway toward the elevator that would take him up to surgery. All of Eren's men were lined up down the hall, saluting their captain and giving him encouragement. Braun said, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger," and Eren nodded in gratitude, though he didn't appear to believe it.

Down the line, Mikasa squeezed his hand. "You're not alone, Eren." A teared spilled over his eyelid at those words. He might not be alone, but he sure felt like it. The one person he wanted by his side wasn't there.

Levi was standing by Eren's room, watching them go. Petra came up to stand next to him, looking back and forth between Levi and Eren's retreating bed. "Go to him," she said. "He's terrified."

Levi swallowed and shook his head. "I can't. Not- not in front of everyone."

Petra glared at him, more anger in her tiny frame than Levi had ever seen from her before in all the years he'd known her. "Then don't you ever talk about how tough you ever. You understand me? The MMA crap, the Ranger aspirations - none of it means a damn thing if you let him go through this alone." Petra shook her head at him, disappointment replacing the fury. "You are an utter coward if you can't set aside your fear to help him through this."

Levi flinched. Yeah, he thought to himself. I guess that does make me a coward.

He thought about it all, about Eren's face when he'd pulled away, about Eren's fear in the wake of losing one of his men. He thought about their first kiss, and Eren saying he was going to make them omelets and apple slices for breakfast. He thought about everything that had brought them where they were in that moment.

He thought about what love was for, if not such a time as this.

He swallowed down the fear that was roiling in his gut and strode forward with purpose. "Hold it," he called out to Ymir with more confidence than he felt. Eren's bed had been turned around to fit in the elevator, and Levi walked right up to him. He only hesitated a moment, knowing that if he waited any longer he would back out.

"You are damaged."

Eren flinched. His eyes watered as he wondered why the hell Levi was doing this to him.

Levi steeled himself and leaned over the handlebars on the bed, cupping the side of Eren's face and ignoring everything and everyone else in that hallway. "You are damaged," he repeated, "but you are still worth it. You're worth everything." He smiled tightly. Bravely. "I'll be here for you, no matter what," he promised.

Then Levi sealed his promise with a kiss.

When he pulled away, Eren was smiling, bright as his beautiful green eyes. Levi stared into those eyes and decided he hadn't said enough. It wasn't enough, after everything he'd put Eren through. "I love you," he said.

Eren kissed him back, light and chaste and content. "I love you, too," he said as he pulled away. "I'll see you when I wake up, right?"

Levi nodded. "I'll make you omelets when you get out of here."

Eren narrowed his eyes. "With apples slices?" he asked, like he was bartering a sales price.

"With apple slices."

Eren hummed for a moment before nodding in satisfaction. "Deal."

And then he was in the elevator.