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Sunshine and Pumpkin

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Eren looked at his phone in his hand with furrowed eyebrows. He had been looking at it for the last twenty minutes without succeeding in making up his mind. Should he do it? Should he not? If he did, will it bring the comfort he was looking for?

He let out a deep and long sigh, messed with his hair in a vain attempt to calm his nerves and finally opened his messaging app. He clicked on the familiar name with trembling fingers and started typing what had been on his mind since the beginning of the day and threw his phone on his bed in front of him once he pushed the send button. He put both of his hands in front of his eyes and tried to contain the tears that was threatening to fall on his cheeks.

He nearly choked on his own breath and fell backwards when after a few minutes he heard the familiar ringtone of his phone notifying him of a new message. Did he just received an answer to the text he just send? No way that was possible. It was probably Mikasa checking up on him or Jean sending him a dumb message to try to cheer him up.

With a deep breath, he reached out for his phone and opened his eyes wide at the name staring back at him on his lock screen. He really got an answer. How? Why? He unlocked his phone, still not believing it, but he needed to be sure. He pressed the notification to open the conversation and looked sadly at the name written in big black letters before turning his attention to the messages.

Me:
i know it’s been a while but i need to do this
everyday it hurts more than the day before
i miss ur voice ur face and ur laugh
idk what else to say other than this
i miss u so damn much

Armin:
Hey, sorry to break it to you kid but I think you have the wrong number.
I have no idea who you are and you look like you really need to say this to the person it’s destined to, so check the number again and send it to the right person.
Good luck brat.

 

Eren stared at his screen for at least ten minutes before comprehending fully the situation. Someone else had Armin’s number. Someone else had his number and replied to him. So, this meant his parents terminated his phone contract and gave up his number? Well it wouldn’t actually be weird if they did, considering it had been a year now. But still, it hurt Eren deep in his heart to know that a total stranger had the number he had come to know by heart for how many times he had been calling it before.

He took another deep breath to calm himself and decided to reply to the stranger that kindly told him he had the 'wrong number'. It was also a way for him to have some kind of closure. He knew from the first time he had sent him a message after the incident that it was in vain, but it cooled him down in a way, so he had started doing it frequently to appease his aching soul. But now would be the last time and he had to engrave this in his head so that he could move on.

Me:
sry i actually have the right number but didn’t know the owner changed
thks for telling me have a good day

 

He hesitated a bit while looking at his screen but decided to add another thing.

Me:
how do u know i’m not 40 or smthg anyway?

 

He then waited impatiently, sitting cross-legged on his bed, his hands on his knees. He had no idea why or what he was waiting for, but since he had asked a question, he couldn’t help but wait for an answer. Besides, seeing the familiar name of his best-friend on his phone was somehow comforting. He knew it was weird, that it wasn’t him on the other side of the phone, but it was bringing a familiar and warm feeling to his body. One that used to make him smile during the oh so many evenings he had spent texting his blonde friend. When his phone buzzed, he practically jumped on it and replied instantly.

Armin: 
Well, it’s my phone number now.
It sucks that you don’t have this person new number.

You text like a thirteen-year-old so I assumed you were a middle schooler.
You’re not then?

Me:
am not! i’m actually 20 so no brat here!

and well long story but i can’t have this person new number

Armin: 
Look who started to use punctuation at last.
Someone have to tell you this, but capital letters are a thing in the beginning of a sentence, punctuation at the end or in the middle of it too.
And there is actually something called spelling that you’re doing wrong.

That sucks. Had a fight or something?

Me:
Okay geez, sorry!
There, better? Aren’t you the one who’s 40 actually?

No, not really, like i said, long story.....

Armin:
Ugh no, I’m not there yet, thank you very much.
But yes, it is better, brat.

Man, sounds complicated... Want to talk about it?

It’s not like I can judge you or anything since I don’t know you.
You might feel better after letting everything out.

 

Eren looked at his phone while munching on his lower lip in a nervous way. Should he? Except from the 'brat' surname, this person didn’t sound that bad. And he could actually feel better to talk about it to someone that didn’t already know what happened. Maybe he wouldn’t take pity on him and give him some kind of comfort.

He should have been thinking of this long enough because he suddenly got another text from the stranger.

Armin:
Sorry, I didn’t mean to sound pushy or to meddle in things that are not my business.

Me: 
No it’s fine. I was actually thinking about what you said...

Armin: 
And?

Me: 
How do you know if i’m a guy or not?

Armin: 
You little shit... It’s a way of talking.
Do you prefer when I call you brat? Or should I call you girl since you felt offended?

Me: 
No it’s fine, i’m actually a guy
And stop calling me brat, i told you that I’m 20!

Armin: 
You’re younger, so you’re still a brat to me.

I’m a guy too if that helps.

Me: 
Younger? How old are you? If you’re not 40... ;)

Armin: 
28.

Now do you want to talk or not?
I actually don’t have all day.

Me: 
8 years doesn’t allow you to call me a brat!

Oh, yeah you asked me that, sorry.....

If you don’t mind i actually would like that.....

Armin: 
You were still a brat when I turned legal so yes, I have every right.

I wouldn’t have asked you if it bothered me you know.

And stop with the over punctuation, it’s weird since you found what it was minutes ago.

Me: 
Well excuse me OLD MAN

What’s your name anyway?
Kind of weird to talk to you with my friend’s name…

Armin: 
Levi.

Yours?

Me: 
Eren

 

He smiled to himself a few seconds before going to the settings to change the name of the contact. It was actually weird to erase Armin’s name to put another one. It even hurt a little. But it was better to change it since he was going to talk about him. He took a deep breath once the name changed and went back to the conversation, his throat starting to tighten.

Levi: 
I still prefer brat but that will do.

Nice to meet you.

Me:  
Nice to meet you too, Levi

There i changed the name

Levi: 
Will you actually start talking at some point or do you really not want to talk about it actually?

Me: 
Yeah, sorry, i will, it’s just kinda hard...

Levi: 
Bad story, huh?

Me: 
Not a good one, yeah. At least it doesn’t end well

Levi: 
My bad for urging you.
Start when you are ready.

Me: 
I am, just need to figure out how to start this

Levi: 
Maybe start by who this person is to you or something?

Me: 
His name was Armin and he was my childhood friend
Actually my best friend in the whole world

I did everything with him, bad or good things

Levi:  
Something happened to him?

Me: 
Yeah...

He got into an accident... 1 year ago

Didn’t make it...

Levi: 
It sucks. Sorry to hear that.

You must really miss him.

Me: 
Yeah i do

But you got my first message so you already know that

Levi: 
I hoped it wasn’t this kind of situation.
I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.

Sorry it happened to you.

Me: 
Thanks

But... What you just said...

Did you...?

Levi: 
Yes, I lost someone too.

Two someone actually.
They were my best friends too.

Like I said, it sucks.

Me: 
Man i’m sorry too...

What were the odds that the exact same thing happened to the both of us, huh?

Levi: 
I don’t think it’s exactly the same thing that happened, but you’re right.

Sorry to say that, but welcome to the club.

It’s not cozy and we actually don’t like having new members.

 

Eren started giggling a bit in front of his phone. He thought the conversation would start being kind of awkward once he would have said the cruel truth, but it actually didn’t. Levi was also trying to lightened the mood even though he went through the same atrocity.

He was actually starting to warm up to this new person who he only knew the name and it felt kind of good. Strange, but good. He didn’t want to be depressed all day even though he had assumed he would be. This 'texting the wrong person' situation actually helped him get rid of the cloud of depression that had followed him all day and he was actually glad. He wanted to remember his friend and smile, not be depressed all the time. He was sure that’s what Armin would have wanted.

Me: 
Thanks man, i actually feel a bit better
Talking about it really helps

Levi: 
You mean you’re feeling better that you’re not the only one that went through this situation and feels like shit after.

Me: 
No!! That’s not what i was saying!!

Sorry if you got it that way!!

Levi: 
Relax brat, I was joking.
It happened a long time ago for me, I’m fine.

You’re the one who’s not.
Don’t worry about my feelings.

Me: 
But i do, it’s not something to talk about lightly, even if you say it was a long time ago...

It’s pretty fresh for me but i assume it still hurts even after a lot of years...

Levi: 
It’s true, but you still move on.
That’s the best and only thing to do.

You remember them but you still go on with your life.
And make the best of it.

Me: 
I try, but sometimes it’s hard...
Everything reminds me of him...

Levi: 
If you were that close I can imagine.
Don’t you have other friends to support you?

Me: 
I do, but...

Levi: 
But?

Me: 
I don’t know, it’s strange sometimes...
One is always worried about me, but she was also very close to Armin so she must be hurting too, but we don’t really talk about it...
The other always try to make me feel better by joking around like we used to. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it just doesn’t...

Levi: 
I totally get it, my friends are actually like that too.

But sometimes you just want to remember them and let your emotions take you where they want to.

Me: 
Exactly!

Damn i’m glad you answered my text

Well it kind of surprised me at first and i didn’t know what to do, but yeah
It’s nice to talk about that with someone that gets it

Levi: 
Don’t get all sentimental on my ass, we started talking an hour ago, that’s too soon for mushy feelings.

But anytime, Eren.
If you want to talk, you can text me.

Me: 
Thanks Levi. You can do that too

Levi: 
It’s nice and all that, but I actually have to go.

Levi: 
Good night brat.

Me: 
Good night old man

Eren smiled to himself while lying down on his bed, his eyes glued to the ceiling. What started with a desperate need to talk one-sidedly to his late best friend on his anniversary ended up in a nice little chat with a stranger named Levi. Instead of feeling all depressed he actually felt kind of wistful. He was also feeling kind of warm on the inside, just like he had felt every time he had had a long conversation with Armin during the evening or the night. Of course, he wasn’t trying to replace him or anything! He was actually thinking that his blond friend would have liked the new friend he made.

What do you think of him, Armin? Nice guy, huh?

 

Chapter Text

Eren had started texting Levi regularly. Was it for small talk or when he was feeling depressed over something, Levi was always replying and making him feel better, or at least think of something else. It didn’t happen as much as for him, but the older man also contacted him when he was feeling a bit down. He wouldn’t say it clearly but Eren could feel it. As much as because Levi rarely started a conversation with him, or because he made either too many jokes or not enough.

He was starting to get used to his sense of humor. It involved a lot of shit jokes and sarcasm, so it took him a while to get some of them, but now he was finding himself smiling more and more to his unrefined choice of words. He had actually noticed that Levi had grown more and more comfortable while talking with him because he had started paying less and less attention to his language. It was the same for Eren. He wasn’t afraid to unleash his real emotions when he was talking to him. Levi was an honest person and that made him want to do the same.

He had noticed very quickly that Levi got angry for the smallest things. Being for the “assholes who got their license in a fucking box of cereals”, or the people who were too slow for his taste at rush time and forced him to weave in and out of them, or even the people who smoked right next to the doors and made him walked through their “deadly inducing cancer smoke” every morning when he went to work and every evening when he got out.

He had also learned that Levi was a bit of a cleaning freak. Well, it was actually the understatement of the year, but you got the picture. So he got a lot of messages from Levi complaining about people not being able to clean after themselves like “normal and polite human beings”, about people dropping their trash on the sidewalk or about one of his best friend making a mess in his apartment. It might be weird, but he really found Levi cute in those moments, even though his way of talking was a bit… crude when he was angry.

Eren had had his share of complaints too. From Jean being an asshole to him – even if he is used to it, sometimes it is just too much, or from the dumb customers at his workplace. He had recently started to work in a coffee place to earn a bit of money during the summer and he was already losing his mind and getting tired of it. He texted Levi a lot during his breaks to tell him about those dumb customers because he knew it made Levi laugh, or at least he liked to think that it did.

They had been talking for a month now but Eren didn’t know much about his texting friend except for his name, his age, and the fact that he was working in some kind of office. Well, and that he was a guy, but that wasn't really important. Sure, he knew a bit of his habits and pet peeves and stuff like that, but he knew nothing about his life and how he had lived until then.

On his side, Levi knew almost everything he could possibly know about Eren by now. He was very talkative, especially in his nostalgic moments, so he had told him a lot of stuff about himself. For example, he had told him about his parents, how wonderful his mother was and how much he loved her even though she was quite overwhelming sometimes; how he and his father disagreed on a lot of things but still cared for each other; how protective his other childhood friend Mikasa was but also how much fun he could have with her when they went out sometimes. He had also told him about his flatmate Jean, with whom he fought a lot but with whom he also made a lot of prank to his other friends such as Connie, Sasha, Historia and Ymir. He didn’t see those four that much actually because they weren’t in the same university, but it was always nice to see them from time to time. And he had told him how turbulent he was as a child and how sometimes he used to let his anger overwhelm him, and how his friends used to try to calm him down.

He really had told him a lot of things. He had also talked a little about his memories with Armin, and Levi always let him speak freely until he was satisfied, only asking questions from time to time. He really appreciated that and was very grateful to have made a friend like him. He wanted to return the favor but Levi was kind of secretive about his personal life thus making it hard to do so. Therefore, when Levi suddenly texted him one night, he really hoped that he would be able to be as good as a friend than Levi had been for him until now.

Levi:
Are you free now?

Me:
Yeah, what’s up?

Levi:
Nothing, just wanted to talk a bit, I'm bored.

Me:       
Same, i have nothing to do tonight :/

Levi:     
How was your day?

Me:
Same old same old
Dumb customers, nagging mom, annoying flatmate… >:(

Levi:     
Come on you love your mom.

Me:
True, but sometimes i just want to say to her: “Mom, you called yesterday, i didn’t do anything more in those last 24h and no i still don’t know what i want to do in the future but i’m working on it!”

Levi:
And what did your flatmate do this time?

Me:
Nothing you haven’t heard before but it’s still annoying! >:(
He doesn’t clean his mess, you would love him

Levi:
Yeah, he seems lovely.

So I take you’re different?

Me:
Well i clean after myself if that’s what you mean
At least in the common parts

Levi:
Can’t imagine how shitty your room should be then.

Me:
It’s fine! I know where everything is, that’s the most important :)

Levi:
So you’re that person that only cleans when someone is coming.

Me:
Well, yeah, if someone is coming into my room i’ll clean before ;)

Nothing’s wrong with that

Levi:
Never said it was.

Me:
I don’t believe you :0

Levi:
If you don’t want to clean your room that’s your fucking problem, not mine.

But I wouldn’t put one foot in it.

Me:
Why are we talking about this again?

Levi:
Don’t know, just making the conversation.

Me:
Did something happen?

Levi:
No, why?

Me:
I don’t know, you seem kind of strange and you never start a conversation just because you’re bored

Besides i don’t think talking about my boring life is going to help you with your boredom

And you didn’t tell me how was your day

Levi:
You didn’t ask.

Me:
Didn’t have the time to with you asking questions!

But i want to know

How was your day?

Levi:
Shitty as always.

Me:
Something happened at work?

Levi:
No.

Me:
You don’t feel well?

Levi:
Not really.

Me:
Come on Leviii!! x(

I’m pretty sure something is going on

You can talk to me you know

Levi? :(

Levi:
Can’t you wait 5 minutes without freaking out brat, I needed to take a shit.

Me:
Smooth, but okay, sorry

Levi:
Apologies accepted.

Me:
So?

Levi:
So?

Me:
Are you trying to avoid the conversation or to get on my nerves?

Because i can’t tell the difference right now

Levi:
Ugh fine you annoying little pumpkin!

Me:
You started it sunshine ;)

Levi:
Still with that nickname?

Me:
You still call me pumpkin

Levi:
Well that was an interesting Halloween story.

Me:
Ugh! Whatever! You’re changing the subject again!

Listen, i’m not asking to annoy you, but because i care, okay?

If you don’t want to talk about it it’s fine, but you seem like you want to that’s why i’m asking

Levi:

Let’s start from the beginning.

How was your day?

Me:
???

Sometimes it’s hard for me to follow you but whatever…

Boring as always, and you?

Levi:
The worst day I had in a while.

It’s their anniversary.

 

Finally, after almost half an hour of nonsense and small talk they were getting to the core of the problem. It was the anniversary of the death of his two best friends and Levi had had a bad day thinking about it, about them. Eren took a deep breath and sat more comfortably in his bed to optimize his concentration. He was determined to help Levi get all of his stress and bad thoughts out of his system and make him feel better like he did with him so many times before.

Me:
Your best friends you told me about?

Levi:
Yeah.

Isabel and Farlan.

Me:       
How long has it been? You said it was a long time ago?

Levi:     
Today will be 10 years.

Time flies by like a bitch.

But I still miss them like day one.

The only difference from 10 years ago is that my memory is getting worse.

And I have more wrinkles but that’s a different story.

Me:       
I bet you do…

Not the wrinkles thing, the missing thing!

Levi:     
I got that.

Me:       
Even if you move on you still remember them

They were once part of your life so it’s natural

Levi:     
I said that.

Me:       
So you remember?

Levi:     
Of course I do. My memory isn’t that bad.

Me:       
Just checking old man!

And i’m sure you remember more than you think you do

Levi:     
Maybe.

Me:       
What were they like?

Levi:
Isabel was a sly little rebel with her red hair held in two pigtails.
She got angry easily if people badmouthed her or her people.
No need to say she got into fights a lot since she had a bad mouth herself.

I had to save her ass more than I could count.
Not that I wanted to but I didn’t really have a choice.

Me:
You say that like it was a pain to do but i’m sure you were quick to react if someone started to attack her

Levi:
You bet I did, nobody hits my friends, especially not in front of me.

Me:
You’re a good friend
She must have liked you very much

Levi:
She did…

She even called me “big bro”.

Me:       
Nice ;)

What about the other one? Farlan was it?

Levi:     
Yeah.

He was like the voice of reason of the group.

Isabel and I, it didn’t take much to get on our nerves.
Farlan was always trying to calm us down and appease our anger.

Well mostly Isabel, for me it was more annoyance than anger.

Me:
So he tried to convince you guys not to fight?

Levi:
Kind of, yeah.

He was more the big brother of the group than I actually was.

Or maybe the father? Whatever.

He was the smart and reasonable one.

Me:
So back then you were wilder?

Levi:
Do you mean that now I’m a slug?

Me:
More like you have self-control?

I mean, you complain a lot about people and stuff but you don’t actually act on it

Levi:
Trust me if you get on my bad side I don’t hesitate to tell people to fuck off.

Me:
I don’t doubt that ;)

But i mean you won’t hit them, you will more attack them verbally than physically

Levi:
Yeah, I guess I’m not 'wild' anymore then.

Me:
That’s actually better right?
With you being an old man and all

Levi:
This old man can always kick some asses if he has too. And pretty well at that.

Me:
Are you buff or something? Do you do martial arts?

Levi:
I am and I know some, yeah.

Me:
That’s awesome!

I wish i could but i generally go with my instinct

And i rush right into things but that’s another story

Levi:
Yeah I got that from what you told me.
But good instincts can be a good defense as well as a good way to attack.

Me:
Are you giving me fighting tips? Shouldn’t you tell me not to fight or something?

Levi:
I’m not your dad, you're old enough to take care of your own ass and make your own shitty decisions.

Me:
True

And it’s a nice ass ;)

Levi:
Whatever pumpkin.

Didn’t see so I can’t say, but cool for you.

Me:
Want to see?

Levi:
Are you fucking serious right now?

Me:
Nah, sorry, bad joke…

Levi:
Too bad.

Me:
Wait, what?

Levi:
Don’t start a joke if you can’t go all the way.

Me:
Man i still got a lot to learn

Levi:
Yes you do brat.

Me:
That nickname seems strangely appropriate all of the sudden…

 

Their conversation had deviated a little but soon Levi started to talk about his two friends again. Eren then learned that they had all grown up in an orphanage. Levi had been the first to be there, then Farlan had come and finally Isabel. They were always together, or in the beginning the two of them were always following him until Levi had gave in, like he said. They didn’t have the best life but since they had each other it was better than what others had. They used to snick out of the orphanage at night to go to the nearest park and had almost never gotten caught, except for once. They had started to get into fights when they had entered high school. It was mostly because Isabel had a big mouth, and also because Levi had a ‘bad attitude’ when it was only him having a resting bitch face.

They all had this big dream of leaving the orphanage, going out of town and move in together. They would go to college if they could get a scholarship or just start working to make a living. So, when they had finished high school and Levi and Farlan had managed to get a scholarship for the university in the next big city, they went out on a trip road to celebrate. They had used the old but still comfy car that Farlan had succeeded to buy with the money he and Levi had saved from their lame part-time job. They had had a lot of fun, and after 5 days they had been on their way to their new apartment when they had had an accident.

Everything had happened so fast Levi told him. One moment he was talking with Isabel that was sitting in the back seat, and the next moment the car was rolling over and he couldn’t tell what was up and what was down anymore. He still didn’t know what had happened since he wasn’t looking at the road. He never knew if Farlan had tried to dodge something on the road or if it had been something else. But that wasn’t important, it didn’t change the facts. The facts were that at some point Levi had gone through the window while the car was turning and had ended up on the side of the road, badly injured, but safe, while Farlan and Isabel had stayed in the car which had ended its track into a tree. The doctors had told him that the impact had been so strong that they had been killed almost instantly and that he had been extremely lucky that his window was open and that he didn't have his seat belt on.

But Levi had never considered himself lucky, not even once. How could he? Being a survivor was far worse in his opinion. It had taking him a long time to even feel the tiniest happy to have survived the accident. But surviving meant he had to live for the three of them all at once. He had gone to college but had taken another apartment, smaller and more appropriate for one person. Then he had met the two people that he could call his new best friends, or more like his two only friends.

He admitted to Eren that sometimes he still felt guilty to have made it out alive without them, but recently that only happened on special occasions like on their anniversary or birthdays. He was trying to live his life to the fullest in order to make them proud and to remember them, because he was the only one who could. Levi had also tried to reassure Eren by saying that if before he could have called himself depressed it wasn’t the case anymore. He was content with his life and was trying to live without regrets even when sometimes it wasn’t all that easy.

Eren could understand the guilt part since it had also happened with him when Armin had gotten into his accident. However, he had had a lot of person to count on after it had happened, Levi hadn’t. But he had lived on and there he was 10 years later. In a way, it was kind of comforting for Eren. As much as he loved Armin, he didn’t want to ruin his life by mourning him. But still, he didn’t want to forget, not even one little detail of the life they had had together, and seeing how Levi was talking about his friends made him want to be able to do just that. He might talk about Armin sometimes and be enthusiastic while doing so, but he still couldn’t speak about the accident without bursting into tears.

Levi:     
Thanks for tonight pumpkin.

Sorry if you have to get up early tomorrow, it’s kind of late.

Me:
No problem sunshine :)

Anytime

And i have the afternoon shift so it’s fine

Levi:     
Good.

Me:       
Goodnight Levi

Levi:     
Goodnight Eren.

 

Eren laid down in his bed, his phone still in his hand. It had been an evening full of emotions. He had begun to know more about Levi’s personal life and intimate thoughts. He had learned a lot about him in one night, almost more than in a month actually. And it had been the longest they had talked on the phone. It was maybe 9 pm when they had started and now it was nearing 2 in the morning.

He really hoped that he had helped easing Levi’s pain and sadness and that he had made him feel better, even if it was just a tiny bit. Eren had always wanted the best for the people close to him and since he was beginning to grow more and more fond of his newly made friend, Levi was now part of the equation. He also felt kind of privileged that Levi had told him something so dear to him and some of his deepest feelings. The older man was very much introverted and secretive about his life, and that’s why he felt deeply touched that he had shared his story with him. He also knew, from what he already understood about him and how he had acted in the beginning, that saying such things was a very big deal for him. And that was why he was grateful.

 

Chapter Text

Eren went into his room and collapsed on his bed with a loud grunt. It had been a very long day and it didn’t seem like it was going to end soon. At least not soon enough.

After 3 months spent working as a waiter in a small coffee shop, September had arrived once more and Eren had started his third year of college. 2 months had already passed by since then, but college was already wearing him out. He wasn’t that much against going to his classes, he had actually really interesting courses and nice teachers, but like everything in life, nothing always happens like you want to. And today had been one of those days where everything had gone wrong.

He had started the day by oversleeping, having only 5 minutes to get up, prepare himself and go to classes if he didn’t want to be late as a result. Of course, he couldn’t do everything in such a short time, and even though he had hurried and run to the university, he had still been 5 minutes late to his first class. It’s not a big deal you would say, but it is when your first class is with the most severe and allergic to lateness teacher in the whole universe. Then he had had a pop quiz in his last class, for which of course he hadn’t studied at all, and when he had gone to the cafeteria for lunch, he had noticed he didn’t have his wallet. And to end his day marvelously, he had taken the wrong bus to go back so he had ended up having to take it the other way around to finally get on the right one, which had taken him one hour to finally get home instead of the short 15 minutes ride.

He was exhausted. Today was already a bad day for him but his bad luck had made it an even worse one. Why was fate being so hard on him when he was trying his hardest every damn day? Sure, today hadn’t been one of those, but he deserved to take a break once in a while. And today should have been an easy day so that he could use all of his energy not to break down in a public place and smile to everybody in order not to worry his friends. But no, no such thing for Eren. Life is hard, deal with it. Or maybe it was actually the reason of all of this? Distract him so that he wouldn’t think too much of the meaning of this day? Well, it didn’t work.

He yelled into his pillow in frustration and looked at his phone, exhaustion evident in his eyes. Should he text Levi today? Maybe not, he was too much on the edge and would end up being annoying, and that was the last thing he wanted. His friendship with him had been going well: they were texting each other more and more, getting to know each other better day by day. He couldn’t picture himself not talking to him now. It would be weird and make his day duller, and he didn’t want that.

Levi always managed to draw out the best and the worst in himself, and he kind of liked that. They had had a big fight late September – over something stupid really, but even though they were both stubborn, they got over it. They just agreed to never speak of it ever again, in order not to bring another fight on the table.

Maybe he should text him. Even just to talk about Levi’s annoying coworkers, or the nice reception lady, or even his best friend’s cat. Everything will do, even talking about the weather. He actually felt like he needed to talk to him, even if it was for something petty.

Me:       
Hey

Levi:     
Hey pumpkin.

Me:       
How was your day?

Levi:     
Same as yesterday. And you?

Me:       
You had coffee spilled on you two days in a row? Not cool

Levi:     
I didn’t mean that by same, dumbass.

I meant it as ‘normal shitty day at the office’.

Of course he didn’t spill coffee on me again, or else he would have been dead already.

Me:       
I didn’t check the news so i wouldn’t know

Levi:     
It wouldn’t be in the news if I did, I wouldn’t be that careless.

Me:       
Oh i have no doubt about that

Levi:     
So what’s up with you?

Me:       
Nothing, why?

Levi:     
Because you ignored my question.

And the only times when you don’t start talking about yourself is when something’s off.

You haven’t told me anything about your day in the last 10 minutes.

Me:       
I don’t always have something to say about me

Levi:     
Actually yes, you do.

So, want to talk about it?
Had a shitty day?

Me:       
I’m not that self-centered, right?

Levi:     
Don’t freak out brat.

You’re not.
You just like to talk, and I like to listen.

So talk. I’ll listen.

Me:       
Okay…

Yeah, i had a bad day

I’m pretty sure i didn’t see a black cat or anything but my luck was awful today

Levi:     
That bad, uh?

Me:       
Like you wouldn’t believe…

Levi:     
I had my fair share of shitty days, so try me.

Me:       
Well like i said, i had very bad luck throughout the day

I’m kind of exhausted right now

Levi:     
Why are you texting me instead of resting then?

Me:       
I am resting

And texting you. I can do both

It’s not exhausting talking to you, it’s actually nice

Levi:     
Well I’m flattered, I guess.

You sure you don’t want to sleep a bit right now?

Me:       
I’m fine, thanks though. What would i do without you?

Levi:     
Sleep I guess. And die of boredom.

Me:       
Might be true

Levi:     
So it’s only a matter of exhaustion and bad luck?

Me:       
What is?

Levi:     
Your depressing attitude.

Me:       
When was i depressing?

Levi:     
Since the beginning.

No smileys, no exclamation mark, no real enthusiasm.

Spill the bean, pumpkin.

Me:       
You're a mind reader or something?

Levi:     
No, I just know you well.

Is it about Armin?

Me:       
You’re sure you’re not?

Levi:     
I’m not what?

A mind reader?

So it is about Armin.

You want to talk about it?

Don’t start ignoring me now, brat!

Eren?

You’re taking a shit or something?

It’s been 20 minutes now, brat.

You better start talking before I kick your ass through your phone.

Me:       
srry levi!!!!

jean sudnly came n couldnt stop talkng

was serious n all couldnt ignore him

srry u mad??

Levi:     
Spelling, brat.

And no, I’m not mad.

Me:       
Good… Sorry again

Levi:     
It was about Armin too?

Me:       
Yeah…

He wanted to go to his grave together…

Levi:     
I thought his anniversary was when we met?

Me:       
Yeah, it was.

But today is his birthday…

Levi:     
And you don’t want to go?

Me:       
I don’t know…

I’m not very religious you know, i don’t think going there will change anything

I don’t feel like he’s here when i go there

It just feels weird… I stare at his name on the tombstone and i actually feel like I’m the furthest away from him when i do that

If that makes any sense

Levi:
It does, I get it.

I don’t go to their tombstones either.

It’s just names carved in stone for me.

Me:
Yeah, exactly!

But sometimes i feel like he would have wanted me to go?

Maybe… I don’t know…

Levi:
He was the religious type?

Me:
Not totally, but he believed in a lot of things

Levi:
There are other ways, you know.

To remember him, to honor him.

Me:
How?

Levi:
When I want to do that, I go to a place where I feel the closest to them.

For me it is a tree not far from the orphanage that we used to climb when we got out.
It was our place.

Me:
That’s actually a very good idea

Levi:
Do you have a place like this?

Me:
Hm… I’ll have to think about it…

But yeah i think i have

 

Eren looked absently to the wall in front of him. A place he felt the closest to Armin? There was a place they had called special, or at least it had been for the both of them. It still was for him.

When they were six, they had gone out to play just the two of them a time when Mikasa had been held back home with the flu. They had walked a lot, talking about the things Armin had read in his grand pa’s big book. They could always go on and on about the stuff that was in it since it was so big and the little blond was always amazed by what he had read. For Eren, it was looking at his best friend’s face lightening up that kept him asking Armin question to keep him going.

By the time they had both come back to their senses, they had been on top of a hill, towering over the city, an hour away from both of their home. The hill had been completely desert and the only thing that wasn’t grass or trees was an abandoned playground. There were a small castle with a slide, seesaws, a merry-go-round and even monkey bars. But all of the equipment had looked old, rusty, the painting peeling off in numerous locations. Grass had also started to grow in the sand that delimited the playground from the rest of the hill.

From the moment they had discovered this place and onwards, they had always come back to the hill when they wanted to escape and be just the two of them. They would climb the monkey bars, sit there, watch the sunrise, the sunset or the stars while talking about nothing and everything. Even years later, when the playground had been removed and benches had replaced it, they would still come there. It was their place. Their secret and special place.

After texting Levi about the playground, Eren had started dressing warmly and had come out of his room with a loud thump. His flatmate, Jean, was looking at him with wide eyes and a dumbfounded expression.

“I need you to take me somewhere.” Even if he wanted to go, Eren didn’t have a license and the hill was too far away, in another city. He wasn’t even sure there were buses going there at this time of the day or even at all.

“You finally decided to go, uh?” Jean looked at him with a relieved face that took Eren by surprise. Damn he hated when his nosy friend became sentimental, it didn’t suit his stupid face. The brunet let out a deep sigh, trying not to let his impatience make him too irritable.

“No, Jean, I’m not going there.” He waited for his words to sunk into his friend’s brain before continuing. “I need to go elsewhere.” He started to scratch his neck nervously in front of the questioning and worried glare he got in return. “But uh… It’s related to Armin…” Not wanting to waste any more time, he started to put his shoes on and looked at his friend. “So, you’re taking me there or not?”

Maybe it was because he was already used to his behavior or maybe because he saw the urgency in his eyes, but Jean finally shrugged and picked up his car keys. He grumbled “you owe me one jackass” while passing Eren, and the brunet smiled. He would never hear the end of it, or at least for a few weeks, but it was all worth it. His smile grew wider when he looked at his phone and saw a text from Levi: “Text me when you get there”.

Everything after was all too long and all too fast. They went into Jean’s car and started heading there, while Eren was looking out the window. Of course, Jean had tried to make him spill the beans but his answers were always vague like “it’s a secret between me and Armin” or “stop worrying about me it’s gross” so he had given up. Eren knew he was a bit abusing his friendship right now, asking him a favor without explaining, but he knew that Jean would eventually understand, or forget about it in a few days. Whatever worked for him.

The whole one hour and 15 minutes ride, Eren couldn’t stop thinking about Armin. He was heading for their place, alone, for the first time since the accident. The anxiety he was starting to feel was making his heart swell and his breathing deepen, but then he remembered Levi, all he had said to him, and his body started to relax. He went through this back and forth for what felt like an eternity before he finally closed his eyes to concentrate on what was important. He was going there to feel closer to Armin on his birthday. He was going there to remember him. Remember all the good memories they had shared, all the candles they had lighted and blown out together, the stars they had stared at for the longest hours lying on the grass hand in hand. Yes, he would only remember the good parts and put the bad ones aside. They had always celebrated his birthday with a smile on their face and today he wanted to do the same.

“We’re there.” Jean’s low voice pulled him out of his thinking. He opened his eyes slowly and looked out of the window. It was too dark to really see but he somehow knew he was right and they had reached their destination. His destination.

“Do you need me to come with you or just wait for you down here?” He nodded at the last part of the question, thanking his friend with his eyes, and he gave him a reassuring smile before opening the door and getting out of the car. He looked over to the two small lights that he knew was from the lamps that stood beside the benches, the only source of lighting of the hill, and sighed deeply before starting to hike up there.

It took him only ten minutes before he reached the two small yellow orbs he had follow since he had left Jean, and there he finally was. Their secret place, their special place. He scanned over the area, noticing that it hadn’t changed since his last visit a year and a half ago. He made his way towards the bench on the right side, the one that stood on the old location of the playground, and sat down while looking up ahead.

He had made it. He was there. He looked a bit more around him, trying to jog up his memories of his blond friend, but the area was too dark and the only things he could see were the part lighted by the lamps and the lights of the city in front of him. He then took out his phone, remembering Levi’s last text.

Me:       
I’m there

Levi:     
Good.

How do you feel?

Me:       
Honestly? I don’t know

It’s kind of a cocktail of different emotions, but it’s hard to separate all of them

Levi:     
You don’t really need to.

Me:       
It’s so dark, i almost can’t see a thing

It feels weird

Levi:     
You’re on your own?

Me:       
Yeah, i asked my friend to wait for me

That’s something i needed to do by myself

But in a way i’m not, i guess

Levi:     
What do you mean?

Me:       
Well… It’s weird, i know but…

Texting you like this, i don’t feel like i’m by myself

Levi:     
Do you want me to leave you alone?

Me:       
No!!

It’s fine, really

Sorry i’m a mess right now…

Levi:     
It’s fine, I don’t mind.

I’ll stay with you as long as you need me to.

Me:       
Thank you, Levi

Really

Levi:     
Anytime Eren.

 

Eren smiled while looking at his phone. It had felt weird coming here by himself, but now that he was talking to Levi, he felt a bit better. He wasn’t alone. He had someone who understood him, understood what he felt, and was there when he needed it. He had someone that could help him sort through his feelings and help him see the bigger picture.

He took a deep breath while leaning back his head with his eyes closed. He took a moment to feel the dry and cold wind of autumn caress his hair and his face. He breathed the clear, less polluted air by his nose and breathed it out slowly by his mouth. He was starting to feel a bit calmer, his emotions finally settling down in his head, and now he could start to identify them a bit.

He felt sad, obviously because of what had happened to Armin and the fact he couldn’t come here with him anymore, but not depressed. He felt nostalgic, thinking of all the times they had come here, all the secrets they had shared, and all the promises they had made, but not melancholic. But he also felt proud. Proud that he had had the courage to come here, and proud that he had had the chance of meeting and being friends with someone as extraordinary as Armin. Maybe he could also feel warmth by remembering all the happy memories he had on this hill and of all the birthdays he had celebrated the years prior with his best friend, warmth that in his misfortune he had managed to make a friend, a really good friend, who was helping him be the better part of himself.

He finally opened his eyes and instantly felt breathless. His head was still thrown back and he was directly gazing up the clear dark blue sky. It was filled with infinite small glowing white points that made him realized how long it had been since he last looked at the stars. He smiled widely to himself, enjoying the view, before he took out his phone once again, placed it in front of him, and took a shot of the amazing view that was laid out in front of him. He pressed the send button before putting it back in his pocket without looking away from the night scenery, a small lone tear rolling down his right cheek.

“Happy birthday Armin.”

 

Chapter Text

Levi plopped down on his couch with a heavy sigh. Working always had the tendency of draining him of all of his energy and leaving him exhausted by the time he got home. Sometimes he just wanted to leave everything behind for at least one day. One day where he could sleep to his heart content or at least rest. One day where he wouldn’t have to deal with the stupidity of his teammates or the never-ending nonsense of his hyperactive friend. One day where he could breath, take the time to take care of himself, and think of nothing.

The buzz of his phone in the front pocket of his pants broke his fantasies and he took it out to see who had texted him. His eyes gleamed a little when he saw the name of the sender, and a small smirk appeared on his lips when he opened the text and the picture that was attached to it.

The first time Eren had send him a picture had been that one evening on his late friend’s birthday, when he had gone to their special place to celebrate it in his own way. It had been a picture of the night scenery of a city and of the night sky filled with glowing stars. Since that time, Eren had continued to send him pictures, sometimes to illustrate his point, and other times just to send him silly things.

Levi had been amazed about how this relationship that had started from a wrong phone number situation, or rather from a wrong assumption of the owner of the number, had escalated into the friendship they now had. They were texting each other every day, throughout the day, about silly things as well as serious ones, doing small talk or also having deep conversations. He never thought that he would be capable of having such long conversations and keeping an exchange with someone for that long. He normally only texted his friends when it was necessary, and in return they only texted him when they had something to ask him or when they wanted to meet him. He never had been sociable enough to do this kind of thing before.

But apparently, that was before he met Eren.

Now he couldn’t imagine going through a day without one of his messages. Sometimes, that was actually the only thing that kept him going through his routine when he was too tired. That was also one of his only way of venting his frustration and anger towards others and the world when he was too pissed off. Eren always listened to him without judging and often made jokes, which appeased him in a strange way.

It was an odd friendship considering they had never met nor see each other faces, but it was nice and comfortable. And if Levi was being really honest, he really enjoyed that.

Eren:    
Didn’t go shopping, so tonight it’s pizza again! ;)

Me:       
Didn’t you eat pizza last night already?

Eren:    
Yeah, hence the again

Having exams is hard on us poor students! :(

Me:       
It’s also hard on your health.

You should eat more healthy food.

Eren:    
I’d like that but i don’t have time to cook and horseface doesn’t like sushi

So i tried to take one with a lot of vegetables to make up for it

Me:       
I don’t think it works that way brat.

Eren:    
I know, i know… But i feel less guilty like that ;)

Me:       
Go shopping tomorrow and buy some real ones.

Eren:    
I’ll try

Anyway, what are you eating? :)

Me:       
Don’t know yet, I just got home.

Eren:    
Seriously? Isn’t it like 9 already?

Me:       
Yeah, but we are working on a big project so I had to do some overtime work.

Eren:    
Man that’s hard

You okay? :0

Me:       
Tired.

Eren:    
Eat and go to sleep!

Me:       
That was my plan all along.

Eren:    
Then i’m not keeping you away from it any longer

Night sunshine! :)

Me:       
Good night pumpkin.

 

Ending their conversation with “good night” and both their nicknames was something like a ritual. He was already used to his own, even if it didn’t fit him in any way, but that was actually the point. The first time Levi had vent out his anger to Eren after a really bad day, he had called him like that, and had stick to it until now. As for the one he used for Eren, he had started to call him that way after he had told him about that one Halloween night when he and Armin had tried to carved pumpkins and it had really gone wrong. From time to time he also called him brat and Eren called him an old man too.

It was their way to show that they appreciated each other without being creepy and sappy like 15-year-old high school girls. Levi wasn’t someone really affectionate or expressive anyway. So taking the time to think about a unique way to call his friends was the only way he knew how to show that he cared enough about them. Well, there were exceptions to that rule, because him calling his coworkers 'moron' or 'idiot' didn’t mean they were friends nor that he cared about them. They were just morons and idiots.

At some point, Eren had started to send him pictures every fucking day. The road in front of his bus stop while he was waiting in the morning, his teachers when he managed to sneak a picture of them, his meal, his bedroom ceiling, flowers that he found on the side of the road in front of the university, the blue sky, the cloudy sky, and so on and so on. It was like he had been strike by this photographic frenzy and couldn’t stop. Everything that he could take a picture of and comment on it, he would send it to Levi.

At first, he didn’t know what to do of it or how to respond, if he should send pictures too, but he shrugged it off and eventually it started to make him smile. He then found himself wondering what kind of pictures he would receive from Eren during the day when he woke up in the morning.

But soon, Eren had started to send him pictures of his friends to ask for his opinion. “Horseface looks really dumb today”, but when didn’t he look dumb from Eren’s point of view? “Isn’t Mikasa really pretty today?”, well he never saw her before so he couldn’t tell about the ‘today’, but anyway how was he supposed to respond to that? “Sasha thinks she can eat a hotdog in only one mouthful”, well she was clearly wrong and that was actually disgusting to try it out.

Levi soon ended up being out of his comfort zone while talking to Eren, having no idea how to respond to the pictures he sent him, and started to dread a day he knew would eventually come. Yes, he knew exactly where this was going and he would be lying if he didn’t say he didn’t want that day to come. That day when Eren won’t be satisfied enough to send him pictures of his friends, like he had clearly started to not be satisfied with sending him only random pictures.

That day when he would send him a picture of himself.

Don’t get him wrong, Levi didn’t have a thing against seeing Eren’s face, on the contrary, he would be glad to do so. No, what he was worried about what the inevitable situation Eren sending him a picture of him would lead him to, and that was him asking Levi to do the same. And Levi was nowhere ready to indulge him with that.

He didn’t find himself ugly or anything of the sort, on the contrary he could tell that he was quite handsome, even sexy if he was pushing it a bit. Or that might have been the case when he was still the same age as Eren. Now he was nearing his thirties, wrinkles had started to made their way around his eyes and his eyebrows, accentuating the usual scowl on his face, and around his mouth because of the way it was always down turned. He also had really huge bags under his eyes that added to the already intimidating face he had every day. Maybe he was afraid that Eren would be scared of his bitch resting face from which he didn’t seem to find a way to go against, even – and especially – in pictures, or be disappointed that he wasn’t even able to smile for a fucking simple selfie.

Levi was feeling insecure over very trivial thing sometimes, which he himself didn’t understand and couldn’t control. He and Eren were only friends, so what if he wasn’t as attractive as he had been before? Would Eren really stop talking to him just because he looked a bit scary? What was even the point of showing pictures of each other actually, that was the big question on his mind. Talking was enough for him, they didn’t have to know how they looked like to do that. But maybe Eren wasn’t thinking that way.

And he had been right. The day he had feared had finally come and Levi was at a loss for words.

On his phone was a picture of man; or actually half of a man because of the way the selfie had been taken, showing him only the left side of his face, but that wasn’t the point. The point was that this man had brown messy locks, a sun-kissed skin with a bit of red on his cheeks, a well-defined jawline, but mostly and foremost, he had the most beautiful and most enigmatic eye he had ever seen. The quality and the lighting of the picture wasn’t really good, but he could make out a shade of green and blue he had never seen before.

But the finishing blow was his smile. He had a wide, genuine smile displaying perfect white teeth that made him question why he was the one being called sunshine. Because hell that smile of his was shooting rainbows and putting everything to shade with its brightness.

Levi wouldn’t lie, he had always imagined Eren as a handsome young man, but those words seemed like an understatement now that he was finally seeing it for real, and no words seemed to be enough to convey the beauty that was on his screen. He was in a total awe and didn’t know what to do and how to respond without completely lying or without giving away that he was literally astonished by his looks.

Yes, Eren had managed to hit right on his little gay heart and he could feel the heat radiating from his face.

Eren:    
guess who that is ;)

Me:       
Judging from the confidence that’s emanating from your text I would bet on you brat.

Eren:    
correct!!

and how dare you call me brat after seeing my face? :(

Me:       
Me seeing your face doesn’t change your age.

Eren:    
yeah sure old man

so? :)

Me:       
You might need to elaborate your question if you want me to answer.

Eren:    
so what do you think? :)

Me:       
Are you asking me how I find your pumpkin face?

Eren:
i don’t have a pumpkin face!
you might want to change that nickname now that you’ve seen me ;)

and yes i am!!

Me:       
Nah, pumpkin is good.

Well you’re not ugly if that’s what you want me to say.

Eren:    
oh come on leviiii!! can’t you be nicer than that?? :(

Me:       
Eren, is that actually alcohol on the table behind you?

Are you drunk?

Eren:    
not at all!

well it is alcohol but I’m not drunk

maybe a little tipsy ;)

 

Fan-fucking-tastic. Of course, the moment the brat finally decided to send a picture of him was on an evening he had been drinking.

Levi let out a very deep and long sigh while pinching the bridge of his nose in an attempt to calm his nerves. From the beginning Levi had never been good with socializing with people but Eren had strangely been an exception to that, surprising him the most. Therefore, he didn’t know how to deal with this situation. He didn’t how to deal with a ‘tipsy’ Eren, and even worse, a tipsy Eren asking him what he thought about his looks. That was beyond his capabilities and the whole situation was starting to be very uncomfortable for him.

Me:       
Figured with the overuse of smileys.

Eren:    
that’s not important! :(

Me:       
It is when you’re texting me and I am the one that needs to deal with your moods.

Eren:    
i don’t have moods :(

Me:       
Then why did you send me a picture of you all of the sudden?

Would you have done it without alcohol?

Eren:    
maybe not but that just helped me find the courage to send it!

Me:       
Courage?

Eren:    
yesss!!

it’s stressful to send a picture of yourself to someone you appreciate but never met before

i thought you would get that :(

and be happier to see my face :(

Me:       
Don’t twist my words, I never said I wasn’t.

Eren:    
you said i wasn’t ugly :(

Me:       
That was a compliment.

Eren:    
that’s not what you say when you want to compliment someone :(

Me:       
I’m shit at complimenting people, that’s not new brat.

And stop with the sad faces already.

Eren:    
:(

Me:       
Are you being fucking serious right now?

Eren:    
sorry…

i’m just kind of sad i thought you would react differently…

 

Levi tightened his grip on his phone while passing his other hand furiously in his hair. Was Eren trying to make him feel guilty? Was he trying to force a confession out of him? Damn him and his fucking perfect teeth and cute face, because it was working. He was started to feel embarrassed while typing his reply, but he tried to calm down a bit by reassuring himself that Eren was drunk out of his ass so it didn’t really matter if he was a bit more expressive than normal and indulging the kid in his antics for once.

Me:
Damn it Eren, do you want me to say that you’re good-looking, have a stupid gorgeous smile and fucking pretty eyes?

Eren:    
:)

only if you mean it :)

Me:       
Yes, happy now?

Eren:    
very :)

but i would be happier if i could return the favor ;)

Me:       
Are you asking for a picture of me?

Eren:    
if i was, would you send one to me? :)

Me:       
First, you would have to stop with the smileys, and even then, I’m not sure I would.

Eren:    
oh come oooon!!

pleaaaase?

Me:       
No.

Eren:    
you can’t be that bad!

even if you are i would still want to see your face!

Me:       
Well too bad you won’t.

Eren:    
leviiiiii

 

His pleas continued for a good twenty minutes without Levi backing down. He knew this was coming and he had been mentally prepared to reject his request for a few days now. Levi wouldn’t give in, at least not in the near future. He wasn’t ready yet to reveal his face to Eren, even less to a ‘tipsy not drunk’ Eren. It was actually his first time talking to him while he was intoxicated with alcohol, and he noticed that made him clingier and needier than Levi was used to. 

Eventually he stopped answering Eren altogether, figuring that he would never stop asking and since he wasn’t ready to cave in, that was the best solution for the night. He would wait for the next day for Eren to sober up before answering his texts again. Besides, he really needed a break to adjust to what had happened and think things through.

Morning finally came but Levi hadn’t succeeded in having a good night rest. He had thought about his conversation with Eren a lot, and his face had popped into his mind numerous times while he tried to fall asleep. Needless to say, he was dead tired, but it was Saturday and he had the day off so he could try to rest during the day. And the best way to rest was to first start the day with a good shower and a nice cup of tea.

Once seated in his kitchen with a steaming mug in his hands, he remembered to check his phone. He winced when he looked at his screen and at the notifications of 14 unread messages, all from Eren. He reluctantly opened the conversation and started to read while passing his hand through his hair. Most of them were from last night, in which he was still asking him to send him his picture, then he was asking him why he wasn’t answering and saying sorry for bothering him with that, but the one that caught his attention was one send minutes ago.

Eren:
Hey Levi!
Sorry about yesterday, you’re right i was a bit drunk
I didn’t want to annoy you or anything, i hope you’re not mad
You know, i still meant it when i said that i would like to see your face
But if you don’t want to now it’s fine, i’ll wait till you’re ready

 

Levi read and reread the message at least fifth time while drinking small sip of his tea. At least the brat understood that he wasn’t comfortable with sharing a picture of himself, there was progress. But one part of his text was the reason he had been rereading it so many times.

“I’ll wait till you’re ready”

Damn that shitty brat and his choice of words. Now he felt like a virgin afraid of taking the next step into his relationship. But one, he wasn’t a virgin, far from that, and two, they weren’t in a relationship. They were friends and that was it. So why was it so goddamn hard for him to make up his mind to send the brunet a picture if that was the case?

He mulled over that thought while drinking all of his tea and staring at his phone. Finally, in a long sigh and an annoyed groan he opened his camera on his phone and took a selfie while muttering “damn sentimental brat”.

The picture didn’t actually show his face, it was starting from under his chin and only showed his neck, shoulders and the upper part of his body. He was wearing a simple grey shirt and he was holding his white mug in front of him, not by the handle but by the top, in his own special way.

After debating a few times over, he finally hit the button and sent the picture to Eren with a single text:

“That’s all you’ll get for now.”

 

Chapter Text

After that picture incident night, Levi had started to send random pictures to Eren, much like the brunet used to do before. He hoped that receiving photos from him, even if it wasn’t of his face, would appease Eren and help him being more patient until Levi was ‘ready’. He didn’t send as many as his junior, but he sent him at least one every day.

After that picture of him holding his mug, he had sent a photo of the view from his apartment, from where he could see a small park with people passing by with their dogs or jogging. Then it had been of the view from his office, that overlooked the business center of his city with a majority of buildings for the various companies settled there. He had continued with useless pictures of small bits of his everyday and of his surroundings, and if he took a picture of himself, it was always from his chin down, never showing even a small part of his face.

Of course, Eren had complained a bit – even a lot – about those pictures, going as far as teaching him about ‘the art of taking a good selfie’ and sending him examples. However, Levi wasn’t dumb enough to fall into his trap to Eren’s great despair, but that didn’t discourage him from sending Levi photos of himself outside of his selfies’ lessons. On the contrary, since that first one, and maybe thanks to Levi’s forced confession about his looks, Eren seemed to have build up more courage and confidence and had started to send more and more pictures of himself. Sometimes alone, sometimes with his friends, with a smile, a pout or an annoyed face: he wasn’t refraining at all on his photographic pulsion.

Thanks to that, Levi had been able to see many different faces and expressions from Eren, and he wasn’t complaining. He looked back to some of them from time to time, especially the ones that were his favorites, and sometimes that made him cringe at himself.

What had become of him? Why was he looking at the photos of a 20-year-old kid he had never met while lying down on his bed? Why did that make him happy when he received a new one, especially if it was one where he was smiling? Levi had noticed that kind of pictures tended to be his favorites, and who could blame him? The kid had a stunning, beautiful and contagious smile. Sometimes he caught himself smiling just a little bit while looking at them, and at those times, he felt crept out by himself.

It was no secret to anyone around him – or at least to the people closest to him – that Levi was gay and proud of it. So yes, Levi enjoyed looking at handsome guys, just looking had never been a crime after all. But looking again and again at pictures of the same guy, younger than him, his friend above all things, seemed in every way wrong. At least that was how he felt it. He felt like a creepy old man, like a pervert – even if there was nothing indecent in the pictures he had received. He was beating himself up in his mind constantly every time he stared at Eren’s pictures for too long, or when he started smiling a bit too much. Those thoughts were even stronger when he was trying to fall asleep, or when he was starting to feel alcohol going to his head.

“What is wrong with you tonight Levi!” A chirpy voice coming from his right side put him out of his thoughts and he tilted his head to the side to watch his friend in the eye with a questioning look on his face. “You’ve been staring at your drink for the past 5 minutes! It was funny at first, but then it became a bit strange and now it’s totally depressing.”

A big pat on his back brought him completely back to his senses and he let out a short grunt of annoyance to let his friend know he hadn’t appreciated her action. He directed his best glare to her in order to emphasize his annoyed state and gulped down his drink in one go.

“Wow there, easy! I’m not going to carry you if you can’t walk after that!” His friend started laughing at his behavior, not at all put off by it or scared in the slightest, and Levi let go of a big sigh he had been holding.

“I know how to keep my alcohol down, Hanji. I don’t need you to baby-sit me.” She started giggling more after his reply and shook her head from right to left, making her chocolate hair put in a messy ponytail bouncing behind her. She looked like she was the one who had drank too much, not him, but he knew Hanji too well to know that wasn’t true. Hanji could actually seem drunk when she was completely sober, but her drunken state was very far from that.

“Clearly you don’t need me to, grumpy pants. But you seem more off than usual, and the alcohol is bringing that state out of you.” She pointed at him with her forefinger and poked between his eyebrows with another giggle. “Your wrinkles are even worse than ever! What’s eaten at you?”

“Nothing’s eaten at me, shitty glasses.” Levi put her finger away from his face and glared at her as a challenge to start again. He didn’t like physical contact very much and was always annoyed when his friend didn’t respect that, which was more often than not.

“Oh, come on! Tell everything to mama Hanji!” She ordered another drink for the both of them and hold his drink in front of him as a peace offering. But Levi knew better and understood it was more of a way to make him open himself to her. For all those years they had known each other, she knew the best ways to make him talk whether he wanted it or not. But maybe tonight he wasn’t actually against it.

He drank a bit from his glass to numb his mind a little more and make his annoying thoughts go away. Once he had drunk enough to not care anymore of the things he would say and how much it could be embarrassing for him, he looked at his friend with tiredness evident in his eyes and sighed a long time.

“You remember that kid I told you about?” Hanji’s eyes seemed to gleam in the obscurity of the bar they were sitting in and her face glowed with excitement.

“You mean the one you’re talking to on your phone every day?” She ignored the annoyed glare he gave her and started rubbing her chin with a look of utter concentration. “What was his name again? Erian? No that’s not it… Aaron?”

“It’s Eren.” Levi hissed at her while dropping his glass on the counter with strength but without spilling its content on it. Recognition passed on Hanji’s face and she pointed her forefinger at him while expressing joy like she was actually the one that had remembered the name on her own.

“That was it! Eren!” She started giggling for no reason and drank from her glass while never breaking eye contact with Levi to watch his every reaction. She smirked even more when her friend’s face passed from annoyance to embarrassment. It was a rare sight that she liked to be able to contemplate. “And what about Eren?” She almost purred his name, insisting on it way too much, probably to stir something in Levi.

“Nothing…” Levi was starting to regret even bringing the subject up and resumed his examination of the liquid in his glass, like there was something wrong with it, when he actually didn’t want to look at her. Maybe he was too drunk to talk about it, or maybe not enough. Maybe it was Hanji who wasn’t drunk enough for him to have this conversation with her. He actually hoped he could talk to her about it, have some of her rare good advice, and that she wouldn’t remember it the next morning and never speak of it again. But he knew that was too much to ask.

“Levii! You can’t start talking about something and drop the subject one second later!” She was shaking him by his shoulder, making him feel a bit dizzy and nauseous. He got out of her grip in an instant and made avoiding to look her in the eye his mission of the night. He was too desperate tonight and he didn’t like it.

“Listen Levi. I know something is going on in that little head of yours,” She marked her point by poking at his temple. “and I want to help you get rid of the burden, even if it’s just a little! Don’t shut down on me, please?” She gave him her best puppy eyes, hoping it would work, and it actually did, but not for the reason she thought it did. Levi simply found that expression of hers extremely disturbing and wanted to be rid of it instantly.

“Fine, fine! I’ll fucking talk!” He got out of his stool and put cash on the counter near his drink under the confused stare of his annoying best friend. “But not in here.”

When they reached Levi’s apartment, they both made it to his couch and Hanji put down the pack of beer they had bought on their way back. Levi had finally come to the conclusion that he wasn’t drunk enough to confess what was on his mind, and he was comfortable drinking a bit more now that he knew that he wouldn’t have to get home after that. As for Hanji, she could crash on his couch after their talk for all he cared, that wouldn’t be the first time anyway.

“So… Eren?” Hanji started carefully, judging his friend’s face while she talked. She adjusted her glasses on her nose and took a gulp from her can slowly. “Something happened with him?”

“Yes. No.” Levi furrowed his eyebrows in concentration, confused by his own contradiction, not knowing what to say exactly. He rubbed the back of his neck nervously, not even caring anymore if he was showing sign of distress or didn’t have full control over his emotions. “He wants to see a picture of me.”

“Ow that’s so cute! Did he send a picture of him? Can I see?” Her smile was getting bigger by the minute, and so was her curiosity.

“Yes he did, and no you can’t, back off!” Levi made a protective move to keep his phone away from his curious friend and like usual glared at her, but at this point of the night, his glare wasn’t as powerful as he would have liked.

“Wait… Don’t tell me you’re stressing about sending him your picture?” The blush that suddenly appeared on the raven’s face instantly gave her the response she was waiting for and she couldn’t stop laughing at his reaction. Levi knew that he shouldn’t have agreed to talk to her about that. She was only going to make a fool out of him and that made him more angry than embarrassed.

“Sorry, I’m sorry!” Even when she was apologizing, she was still laughing at him and Levi had enough. He stood up from his position on the couch and started to make his way towards the kitchen when he felt something ground his left ankle to the floor. “Wait! I’ll start being serious! Just give me a minute!” Levi sat down again reluctantly and sipped his beer to calm himself down while his friend was trying very hard to stop her fits of laughter. When she finally succeeded, she took a big breath before turning her gaze towards him in a serious way this time around.

“Why are you feeling nervous about sending him your picture?” Levi started fiddling with the tab opener of his can in an attempt to appease his nerves, but it wasn’t really working. It was only helping in keeping him from looking at his friend while he spoke.

“I don’t know. I’m older than he is… Fuck, I’m just old and my face is scary and I… I don’t want him to be scared of me, or… I don’t even fucking know myself.” The tab opener finally broke under his actions and he put it aside on the table while sighing slowly. He finally risked looking at Hanji’s face and opened his eyes wide. She was having this serious but understanding kind of face he knew he was one of the few to have witness, and it was for this face that he knew he could confide in her without worry.

“Come on Levi, you’re not that old and you know that! And you’re hella hot! Do you know how many people looked at you tonight at the bar? Because if you didn’t notice I definitely did!” She put a reassuring hand on his shoulder and squeezed it lightly to gain his attention a bit more. “Your looks are not the only reason you’re stressing over this, right?”

“I’m not stressing over anything shitty glasses!” He pushed her hand away from him, not as gently as he should have. “And the kid is fucking 20, so yes, I am old! I’m a shitty and creepy old man!” He stopped his ranting before giving too much information and hid his face in his hands in frustration.

“8 years isn’t a big deal, Levi. We’re 7 years apart from Erwin and it never was an issue for you. So why is it different this time? Do you think Erwin is a ‘shitty and creepy old man’?” Her voice was soft, low and comforting, but that only made Levi feel worse about the situation. Because she was right and he hated it.

“I don’t think Erwin looks at pictures of us while smiling like a fucking creep.” It was perhaps the biggest confession he had made at this point of the night and of course he had said it in his own manner, which meant really smoothly. He didn’t have the strength to face her, so he buried his face further in his hands with a deep groan instead.

“So, this is what this is really about… You’re in love with the boy.” Levi jerked his head up instantly at what she had just said and literally growled in anger.

“Fuck off! I’m not!”

“Sorry, wrong choice of words!” She held her hands up in front of her in complete surrender, knowing he would snap her neck in an instant if she angered him too much, but smirked a little nonetheless. “You’re developing feelings for the brat.” She insisted only just lightly on the last word and Levi’s face became red with both embarrassment and anger.

“Did you read my fucking text? Seriously?”

“Just once! And I didn’t see much! Your phone was still on and you weren’t there, and when I went to turn it off I saw a bit of the conversation, and… Are you actually trying to avoid what I just said?” Her smirk was even bigger than before once she stopped rambling on her apology and Levi really hated her for that. She was too smart for her own good and that always backfired at him. There was no way he could escape her perceptiveness and sharp senses, and now he started regretting for good to have started this conversation. He opened yet another can of beer and drank half of it in one go.

“I don’t see what’s the problem with that, Levi! It’s fine! He’s not that young so stop beating yourself for that and stop thinking you’re an old man! And if he’s really that handsome that you stare at his pictures, I don’t see the problem either. Stop belittling yourself!”

“I don’t even know if he’s interested in men, and he’s my friend for fuck’s sake! It’s disgusting! I’m disgusting!” Hatred was starting to boil in his stomach and the alcohol was getting to his head much faster than he had anticipated, so it was too late when he realized he had thrown an empty can across the room to the wall just above his television. His cheeks were starting to hurt for how much he was clenching his jaw.

“Don’t ever say that!” Hanji put her hands on both side of his face and pulled it toward her so he could look her in the eye. Anger had also started to form in her brown eyes and he could see the frustration emanating from every pore of her face.

“Maybe he doesn’t like men, but that doesn’t matter! You’re not and you’ll never be disgusting for having a crush on someone, even if that someone is younger than you! Eren is 20, he is an adult, he sent you those pictures knowing you would be able to look at them anytime you want, and he is even asking for pictures of you! He might actually want to do the same for all you know! And yes, he is your friend, but it’s not uncommon for people to fall for their friends, damnit!”

Levi was at a loss of words and didn’t know what to do after the outburst of his best friend, who was still holding his face in her hands. He had to actually take a minute, even two, to let the words she had spoken sunk in his mind. During that time, her expression had softened and she was just waiting patiently for him to respond or at least acknowledge her monologue. But the words that came out of his mouth next was a surprise for the both of them.

“I’m going to throw up…”

Everything after that became a total blur and he could only remember bits of it. Hanji had started to panic at his answer, asking him to wait and not to move, while she had run to the kitchen. He couldn’t recall if he had succeeded in refraining himself from throwing up on his couch or on the table in front of it, or if he had thrown up at all in the end. He could only remember the sickening feeling of his stomach clenching and spasming, the horrible and disgusting taste of his own vomit making its way up toward his mouth, the burning sensation he had felt in his throat, and the tremors which had taken over him while he was trying his best to keep control over his own body.

When he came back to his senses, he was lying on his couch, a blanket thrown over him. His head felt like it had been compressed under a car or like something was hammering his skull from the inside. It was hurting like hell, and it wasn’t the only place that hurt on his body. He could still feel the burning sensation in his throat and his stomach felt painfully empty. With all the information thrown at him at the second he had woken up, he could assume 3 things: he had thrown up last night, he had drunk way too much, and he had a really bad hangover.

The room around him started to tangle a bit when he tried to go from a lying position to a siting one, and he had to take his head with both of his hands to attenuate the feeling. He waited a few minutes to open his eyes, trying very hard to adjust to the light burning his eyelids. After a few minutes, he finally managed to open them enough to see a glass of water on the table in front of him, with some pills next to it and a note saying ‘Drink me’. He complied almost instantly, thanking his benevolent friend for her foresightedness.

Once he knew his headache had been taken care of and that he had extinguish the fire in this throat a little, he started to look a bit more around himself, and realized he was very much alone. He tried to call for his friend but never got an answer. She should have gone home late last night after taking care of him, or maybe even early in the morning. Then it occurred to him that he had no idea what time it was, so he went on a mission to find his phone. He didn’t have to go very far to complete it and noticed it was a little after 9 am.

After this first realization, he saw two notifications that caught his attention. One was from Hanji, that he opened right away, which confirmed that she had left early in the morning and went home safely. She told him to take care of himself and that she was always free to talk if he needed to. He replied quickly to thank her and letting her know that he was awake. His attention then went to the other notification that was from Eren and said: “Are you feeling better?”

He frowned deeply while looking at the message in the notification box of his phone, thinking really hard on it. He didn’t send any messages to Eren to let him know that he had drunk too much, did he…?

He was suddenly overwhelmed by a feeling of dread and quickly clicked on the notification to access the conversation and his face became very pale. He already had a fair complexion, never being someone that liked exposing his skin to the sun, so he must have looked like an awful zombie version of himself in that instant, but he had every right to.

On the conversation laid messages he had never saw, never read, and never wrote. And above everything else and what got most of his attention, was a picture. A fucking picture of him! He was lying on the couch, blanket all over him and, thankfully, over his head. Few strays of his hair were visible, but not that much, and in the anger he was feeling towards his excuse of a friend, he felt gratitude, but that disappeared right away once he started reading the texts she had send in his place.

Me:
Good evening Eren, my name is Hanji, I’m a friend of Levi!

Eren:
Hey Hanji, i've heard a bit about you!

But, uh, why are you texting me with his phone?

Is everything alright?

Me:
Yeah, don’t worry, don’t worry!

Levi is just a bit drunk right now, so I thought this was my chance to talk to you ;)

Eren:
He’s drunk? Really? He’s okay though?

What happened?

Me:
I said don’t worry, he’s fine! Just a normal Saturday night between us xD

But I find it cute how you’re worrying about him <3

Eren:
Well he’s my friend, so of course i’m worried

And i’ve never heard about him being drunk before, he told me he was very careful with that

Me:
Yeah, he’s no fun sometimes, right?

He passed out on the couch and I have no way to go back home and I’m still awake, so I was booored

Do you mind if we talk a bit? 8)

Eren:
No, i don’t really but… Are you sure you can talk to me like that with his phone?

Me:
Right, silly me! I’ll text you with my own phone!

You’re so smart Eren! 8D

Eren:
Huh, not really, but thanks i guess

Me:
As a reward let me show you something good!

 

And that’s when she had sent the picture of him on the couch and the conversation strangely stopped there. Did they continue to chat but with Hanji’s number? What did they talk about? Wait, no, that wasn’t the real issue there. Hanji had Eren’s number. She had his number and had talked to him, and could do it again whenever she wanted to. And she had sent him a picture of him while he was sleeping for fuck’s sake! But why didn’t she do it with her own phone? He wouldn’t have known if she had done so.

It was way too early and he was still too hangover to think about this kind of thing, so he stopped wondering about it and send what he thought about his friend in a very friendly message. She won’t get out of this easily, he will make sure of that personally. But he still had a problem. He still had to deal with Eren who had asked him if he was okay. He let out a deep sigh and put his hair away from his forehead.

Eren:
Are you feeling better?

Me:
Yeah, my head hurts a little, but I’m fine.

Sorry about Hanji, I had no idea she would do that.

Eren:
Hey, you’re awake!

Nah, it’s fine, she’s actually nice

Me:
Did you two talk to each other after that?

Eren:
You mean not with your phone?
Yeah we did a little

Me:
I’m going to kill her.

Eren:
Relax, she didn’t spill any of your dirty little secrets if that’s what you’re worried about

And she didn’t send me a picture of your face either

Though that would be nice :)

But i won’t ask her, i want you to be the one to send me one ;)

Me:
Fan-fucking-tastic, now I’m relieved.

And I’m too tired to have this conversation again.

Eren:
Yeah, figured

Maybe you should eat something and go back to sleep

Me:
I’ll do that.

Later, pumpkin.

Eren:
Later sunshine :)

 

Levi looked at his locked screen for a few minutes, trying to grasped the entire situation with the few brain cells that were awake and giving time to his body to recover a little bit. When he judged that he was fine enough to stand, he gave it a try and took another minute to steady himself on his feet. He grabbed the now empty glass and the pills to clean the table and realized the table was actually clean. There were no empty cans, no sign of the food Hanji had eaten with it, and he could see marks testifying that someone had used a sponge on the table. It had been done clumsily but it had been done, and that was a point he could give to his best friend. She rarely cleaned, even when he asked her to, but somehow she had done it for once. Maybe because she wanted him to forgive her for using his phone without his permission? That was definitely it, he knew her all too well.

Without having to clean the mess they had done the day prior, he concentrated on eating something light to fill his stomach a bit, he brushed his teeth to get completely rid of the aftertaste of vomit still in his mouth, and then went to sleep in his bed. He would take a shower when he would wake up, he was too tired for now and his head still hurt. He woke up only a few hours after, his head a bit clearer.

It was now 3pm. He had showered, eaten again, and since he didn’t know what else to do he opted for going to his favorite café. It was a small group that had a few stores scattered across the country and wasn’t very well known by most people, and Levi had always thought it was a shame. He couldn’t tell for their coffee because he didn’t drink any, but their teas were extremely good, and it was coming from someone who was very picky with his beverage. He had discovered it when he was in college and had continued to go there at least once a week ever since then. He could usually relax when he was drinking his tea in the small café, and since it wasn’t well known, there were hardly a lot of people, making the place rather quiet.

Once seated at his favorite place in one of the corners in the back, he took his phone out and started texting Hanji again, since she had answered him.

Shitty glasses:
Don’t be mad Levi! You should actually be thanking me!

Me:
Why? Because for once in your damn life you thought about cleaning after yourself?

Shitty glasses:
You noticed that? ;)

Anyway, I wasn’t talking about this, but about Eren!!

Me:
Why should I thank you?

You texted him behind my back, might still be doing it, and you sent him a picture of me.

Shitty glasses:
Don’t be grumpy, I made sure your face was covered

But didn’t you notice??

How Eren was all worried about you? <3

It’s thanks to me that you got to see that!

And if you want to see what we said to each other on the phone you can, I won’t mind shitty and creepy old man ;)

 

Oh, he would never be able to sit this one out, that was for sure. But in a way she was right, Eren had seemed really worried after he had known that Levi was drunk and had passed out. He had never seen the brunet react like that before, so maybe he was indeed grateful towards his friend, but just a tiny bit.

He had started to type his answer when he heard someone coughing next to him, drawing his attention to them.

“I’m sorry to bother you but…” He turned completely towards the stranger, first to make sure they were really addressing him, and second to let them know that he didn’t really appreciate being bothered when he was sitting quietly in his private corner. But the glare he was ready to give to the person died down instantly when his gaze met two green eyes that seemed oddly familiar, his own opening wide due to the shock.

There, in front of him, stood none other than Eren.

 

Chapter Text

Levi was staring at the person in front of him with a dumbfounded look that he instantly tried to cover with his best neutral face. The person, a man, had short dark brown hair that were slightly hiding his forehead. His face was angular with a well-defined jawline, round cheeks and small lips. His eyes were almond shaped and his irises were a shade between green and blue – he couldn’t decide which one.

This was, without a doubt, Eren. He had seen too many pictures of him not to recognize him.

But what was he doing here? Did they actually live in the same city since all this time? Did he know who he was? No, wait, that was actually impossible. Eren had never seen a picture of him before, he had made sure of that. So why was he right now in front of him, his cheeks a bit red, his eyes looking at him before looking somewhere else in a shy manner, and his hand rubbing the side of his neck in a nervous way?

“If you don’t mind, could you take a picture of me, please?” The deep but soft voice of the man still standing in front of him pulled him out of his thoughts and he looked up at Eren’s face. Damn. Either the brunet was tall or the table was very low. He tried not to glare too hard, softened a bit his face in order not to scare the kid away, and cleared his throat before answering.

“Sure.” He had shrugged while saying this, to emphasize the fact that he didn’t care and was okay with it.

But he was very far from okay.

Eren was there, in front of him, and had no fucking idea who he was. He was there, looking at him, and he was smiling with his goddamn mind-blowing smile showing his perfect white teeth just because he had agreed to take his picture. He was holding his phone out for Levi to take, almost bouncing on his feet, his eyes gleaming happily.

Levi tried not to let it show how agitated he actually was, and took the phone from Eren’s hand. It was actually bigger than his, he noticed, and he understood quickly why when he stood from his chair. Eren was definitely tall, at least 15 to 20 cm more than him, and even though Levi knew he was short for a guy of his age, he couldn’t help but feel self-conscious about the height difference between them. He had to hold his hands high in front of him in order to take the picture Eren wanted and that embarrassed him even more.

“Thank you so much!” Eren had retrieved his phone from Levi’s hands and was now checking the result eagerly, his lips stretched in a big toothless smile.

Levi was still standing in front of him, staring at him, and he was trying very hard to come with something to say. He knew exactly what he should be saying in this situation, something along the lines of “Hey, it’s me Levi”, but instead of that what actually came out of his mouth was:

“You don’t have friends to take your picture?” Eren turned his attention towards him, surprise evident on his face, and Levi slapped himself in his mind. He was just fucking stupid.

“No, I came alone. Sorry if I bothered you.” Eren was laughing but Levi could sense that it was more of a nervous laugh than anything. Damn him and his social skills.

“You didn’t, I was just asking.” Eren seemed to relax a bit at that but Levi didn’t. He still hadn’t told him the only thing he wanted and needed to say, and the words were starting to burn in his mouth, waiting to come out.

After a few seconds of silence, Levi was actually surprised when Eren addressed him once again.

“Do you come here often?” Wait. Did Eren actually just asked him that? As in the cheesiest pick-up line that had ever existed? Was he hitting on him? Or was this a complete innocent question to try to start a conversation? Did he want to start a conversation with him?

“It’s actually my first time coming, but a friend of mine recommended the place.” Oh, so that was where he was getting at. He just wanted information about the place. Levi actually felt relieved, because he wouldn’t have known how to react otherwise.

“Is the picture for this friend then?” It was something that Levi often did, answering a question with another question. The other person would then concentrate on answering the new question without noticing that he had never answered theirs, and he could get away with not sharing information about himself. It was really convenient sometimes, but other times it was just a bad habit of his he couldn’t seem to be able to shake off.

“Yeah, it is! I wanted to show him that I tried the place!” With that being said he took a sip from his beverage, maybe for the first time because his eyes widened and he looked at his cup with delight. “Man, it’s good! It’s the best Pumpkin Spiced Latte I’ve ever tasted!” Levi almost burst out laughing when he heard this because that was actually hilarious. Did the kid really ordered something with the word pumpkin in it? But of course, he was very capable of composing himself – years of practice would do that – so his amusement never transpired to the eyes of his counterpart. “What did you take?”

“Comfort Wellness Brewed Tea.” His reply came instantly and he felt the need to elaborate a bit more because of the look of puzzlement he got in return. “It has lemon, ginger and mint in it.” Eren actually looked relieved he gave him an explanation and gave him another smile.

“Any recommendation you could give me?” Levi looked at him while frowning, trying to search for a drink that was on the menu that would fit Eren’s taste from what he had told him until now. Maybe Eren thought he was pissed at him for asking the question because he had winced a bit at his expression and had put his hands in front of him, surely to apologize, but Levi beat him to it.

“Cinnamon Dolce Latte.” The tall man’s mouth that had opened seconds ago without having the time to emit any sound shut up instantly and changed into a small smile. “It’s one of their specialty.” Levi suddenly remembered he had a drink and drank a bit from it to calm his nerves and in an attempt to seem nonchalant. His tea had started to get a bit cold but he didn’t really care in that moment.

“I love cinnamon!” Oh, of course Levi knew that. Eren had went on and on about the magical taste of cinnamon and how he liked to put some in his hot cocoa. It was actually a habit of his mom that he had kept from his childhood. “Thanks, I will try that next time!”

He offered another big and brilliant smile and Levi realized that pictures hadn’t done Eren any justice. If he had thought that Eren was beautiful before, now he could only acknowledge that he was in fact gorgeous. His phone had never been able to convey the true beauty of his eyes either, and he was also a bit more tanned than he had thought.

But that wasn’t a good moment to stare. He still hadn’t said the most important thing. He still hadn’t given his identity to the brunet. He was gathering all of the courage and social energy he still had left and started to open his mouth, the words on the tip of his tongue, but it was Eren’s turn to be faster and speak first.

“I should probably go.” Levi looked up at him, surprised and a bit annoyed to have been cut short. The words that he had spoken sunk in a bit too late and he watched, powerless, as Eren was moving away from him with a shy smile and a small wave. “Thanks again, and have a nice day.” He didn’t even have time to answer before Eren was already by the door and leaving the café.

Levi looked at the closed door a few minutes after Eren had left, mouth agape, and then finally sat down again, his now cold tea in his right hand and his left one grabbing the corner of the table with a bit too much strength. He tried to order his thoughts a bit to understand what had just happened.

Eren had been in the same café as him. That meant that he was living nearby, right? Levi tried to remember what Eren had told him about his studies and university. Was he studying at Rose University? That was the most logical possibility if he looked at the clues. But the college campus was situated far from the outskirts of Trost, in the suburbs on the south-east side, and the café was near the business center on the north-west part of the city. Had he come all the way from there just to go to the shop? Wasn’t there one around where he lived? Probably not, the group didn’t have a lot of stores.

Then, the second fact that caught his attention was that Eren had asked him for his picture. Certainly, he wasn’t the only patron in the café, but still he had come to him. And after he had gotten what he wanted, he had even tried to have a conversation with him. Had he been interested in talking with him or had it only been him trying to be polite? Didn’t his looks deter him from talking with him? It happened most of the time and he was actually used to it. But thinking back about it, the kid had seemed a bit nervous during the conversation, so maybe it had been it. He had tried to be polite.

Levi was still trying to calm his nerves while replaying their interaction in his head when the most important fact struck him hard in the face.

He hadn’t had the chance to tell Eren who he was.

He had tried but still, in the end, he hadn’t done it. What was wrong with him? That should have been the first thing to tell Eren, but no, he had kept quiet about it until the very end of their conversation. But maybe Eren wouldn’t remember him after today, it was actually more than highly possible. After all, he had only been one stranger in a café whom he had talked to for 5 minutes. He would maybe remember briefly the exchange, but he wouldn’t remember his face. All hope was not lost.

After his inner monologue, Levi decided it was time for him to leave. He lived only a few blocks away from the café so it merely took him 15 minutes to reach his place. He had just removed his shoes and his coat when he sensed his phone buzzed in his back pocket, and he went to sit down on his couch before looking at the notification. It was a message from Eren with a picture attached to it. Levi opened the conversation and chewed the inside of his cheeks when he saw that it was actually the picture he had taken moments ago.

Eren:
I went to that place you told me about!
Guess what I took? ;)

Me:
I didn’t know you had one near your place.

And I guess something with a lot of sugar and milk.

Eren:
It wasn’t exactly near my place but i found one not too far

And why would you assume that?

Me:
You look like the type of person who likes that kind of gross drink.

Eren:
It’s not gross, you’re just an old man

I guess you don’t know then?

Me:
How do you want me to guess, brat?
It’s not like I can see what it is on your picture.

Eren:
Fair enough

It was a pumpkin spiced latte ;)

Me:
I didn’t know you had cannibalism tendencies.

Eren:
What? I don’t!
There’s no actual pumpkin in it!

Me:
So you admit you are a pumpkin?

Eren:
No!! That’s not what i said!

I assume you’ve recovered from your hangover if you can make lame jokes again

Me:
I’m feeling better.

But I don’t do lame jokes.

Eren:
Sure, whatever help you sleep at night!

But anyway, it was actually reaaaally good! I was so surprised!
No wonder you like it there!

Me:
Of course, I wouldn’t drink something if it was shitty.

Eren:
Mister have high standards ;)

But you only take their tea drinks there, right?

Me:
Yeah, I don’t like coffee.

Eren:
Oh, right!

Me:
What?

Eren:
When i was there i actually talked with someone!
I asked him to take the picture for me

He was drinking tea so i remembered

Me:
You went and asked someone?
You couldn’t take a selfie?

Eren:
I could have, but i thought it would be better if someone took it

I went there alone so i asked someone

There weren’t a lot of people in the shop, so i asked someone who was alone

 

Levi pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed deeply. Eren was talking about his meeting with a stranger who was none other than him. He was putting more salt into his newly fresh wound without even knowing, and the raven felt guilt build up in his stomach once again.

Should he take this opportunity to actually tell Eren that it had been him? Or would it be too strange and too late to say it? Should he just play along and just keep quiet?

He groaned loudly to externalize his annoyance with his own stupidity and concentrated on the conversation again.

Eren:
I think i bothered him with my request though

He looked a bit annoyed, but he still did it

Me:
He could have told you to fuck off so maybe he wasn’t.

Eren:
Yeah, maybe you’re right, or maybe he was just too polite to refuse

I actually tried to talk with him a bit and he didn’t turn me down

Me:
If he talked with you then I don’t think he was that annoyed.

Eren:
Maybe he was just a bit shy?

It was kind of weird but nice

He recommended the cinnamon latte to me :)

Me:
Cinnamon dolce latte.

Eren:
Yeah, that!
I’ll try next time :)

Still, i don’t regret talking to him even if it was a bit awkward

Me:
Why?

Eren:
He was kind of cute ;)

 

Levi froze in front of his phone from the surprise. Cute? Eren actually thought he was cute and had enjoyed their little conversation even if it had been awkward? Now it was definitely impossible for him to tell him the truth. It was too late and too embarrassing. He had let the opportunity slip.

Me:
You’re talking about a guy, right?

Eren:
Yeah! Guys can be cute you know, it’s not reserved to girls!

And it’s not an insult

Me:
Sure.

Eren:
I think he was older than me though i’m not sure, but he was short

Like, shorter than me short

And you know what they say: small things are cute

Me:
No I don’t, whose ‘they’?

And how tall are you anyway?

Eren:
Well, you know, people

I think 180 cm? Haven’t checked in a while

Me:
No I don’t actually, fucking giant.

Eren:
So you’re shorter than me? ;)

Me:
I won’t answer that, wouldn’t want you to call me ‘cute’ just because I’m shorter than you.

Eren:
So you are then! :P

And I wouldn’t dare do that

Me:
Scared I would beat up your ass if you did?

Eren:
Yeah, something like that

But you’ll have a hard time doing it since you don’t know where I live ;)

Me:
True.

Eren:
Well, i’m glad you’re feeling better anyway!
But i actually have to go do something

Me:
Is that something called homework?

Eren:
Yeah… :(

Me:
Good luck pumpkin.

Eren:
Thanks! See you, sunshine :)

 

Levi looked at his phone with a pointed glare. That must have been the most embarrassing and weirdest day he had had in a while.

First, he had been hangover, which didn’t happen often. Next, he had discovered that Hanji had texted Eren without his consent, then he had met said person at his usual café, actually talked to him while withholding his identity, and he had to talk about himself like it was someone else and got called cute in the process.

Did Eren actually try to hit on him that time? Could he take it that he was interested in men then?

His brain was starting to overheat because of the million thoughts that were crossing his mind in an instant. He definitely needed to take a break and think about it another time. Or he needed to talk about it with somebody else to better grasp the situation.

He then suddenly thought about Hanji’s proposition. “I’m always free if you need to talk!” she had said. Well, he would take her on her offer. It’s not like he had a lot of person to choose from anyway.

He unlocked his phone once again, opened the conversation reading ‘Shitty glasses’ and typed:

“I fucked up.”

 

Chapter Text

Since he had met Eren at his favorite café the other day, Levi had stopped going there by fear of running into him again. Hanji had called him a coward, and maybe she was right, but there was no way the raven would admit it to himself, and even less to her. She had actually listened to him quite carefully when he had told her about it and what had happened. Well, she had laughed at him, that was to be expected, but after that she had become more serious and had shown to be quite supportive. She was trying her best to help him be less insecure about the whole situation, but Levi was too stubborn to actually listen to her. She kept on trying again and again anyway, being the type to never give up.

It was now nearing the end of December. The whole town had been decorated for the upcoming festivities, lights shining on every street and in every building. That was all everyone was talking about, thinking about how to spend their holidays, what gifts to buy, who to meet, but Levi couldn’t even care less. He had never been someone who enjoyed this time of the year, December being just another regular month for him. He would still buy small gifts for his friends because he knew it meant something for them. It was his way to show them how grateful he was to have them in his life, even if he didn’t give that impression most of the time.

But this year, Levi had another friend he was grateful to on his list, Eren, and just this tiny addition had made this month different from the ones he had experienced in the last few years. His life had slightly changed since he had started talking to him, even if it was only small changes, but they were still noticeable for his long-term friends. Apparently, he was socializing a bit more, answering texts and calls more often, and getting angry less quickly than before. Maybe they were right, and maybe he didn’t mind the changes. Maybe he actually liked them.

However, the two weeks prior to Christmas had been quite boring for him and he had turned back to his old unsociable self. The reason behind it may or may not have something to do with the fact that Eren was extremely busy working for his midterm exams. The brunet was apparently a procrastinator and always ended up studying at the last minute, so he had to spend all of his free time working if he wanted to have decent grades for his exams. Armin had always been the one to come up with study schedule in order for this disaster to not happen, and Eren had realized how much he had been relying on him at those moments, he had confessed to Levi.

So, with his schedule being extremely busy, they rarely had the chance to text each other, except for the ‘I’m so tired’ and ‘I want to be on vacation’ kind of messages. On his part, Levi was also buried in his work. The end of the year was always quite hectic at his company and he ended up having extra hours almost every day of the week, even on Saturdays. At least he had something to keep him occupied, so he wasn’t complaining too much.

Eventually, Eren’s exams ended and he was free once again, which meant Levi was receiving more texts from him.

Eren:
It’s been a while since i slept for that long!
I love being on vacation :)

Me:
At least one of us have some.

Eren:
You didn’t take any for Christmas??

Me:
No.

Eren:
How come?

Me:
Everyone wanted to take their vacation, but the company can’t be empty, some people still have to work.

Eren:
Can you blame them?

Me:
They do what they want, so do I.

Eren:
But still it’s a bit sad, working on Christmas :(

Me:
Technically I’m not, I’m working on Christmas Eve.
My company is closed on the 25th.

I took my vacation for the New Year.

Eren:
Nice! Starting from when?

Me:
28th evening, and I go back to work on the 3rd.

Eren:
Are you planning on doing something? :)

Me:
Usually with Hanji we go on a little trip.
Don’t know where we’re going yet.

Eren:
Cool! You guys are really close :)

Me:
What about you?

Eren:
I’m going back to my parents’ in 2 days and i’m going to stay there until the end of the holidays

It’s been a while since i’ve seen them

Me:
So it’s a good thing, right?

Eren:
Yeah, it is

Me:
You’re not really convincing.

Eren:
I’m happy to see them again, really!

It’s just…

Me:
Hm?

Eren:
Maybe it’s because back home is where i think the most about Armin…

And he really enjoyed Christmas

Me:
You can always text me if you need to talk when you’re there.

Eren:
Yeah, thank you Levi :)

 

Levi had actually lied to Eren about a few things.

First, the reason he was working on Christmas Eve was because he hated that day, and working helped him think about it a bit less before going to his friends’ party in the evening. He had noticed that despite his small reluctance to go back home, the brunet seemed really enthusiastic about the celebrations, if his texts for the past few days were anything to go by, so he hadn’t wanted to ruin the mood.

Second, and another reason for him to hate Christmas, was that his birthday was on December 25th. He was sick of people trying to be funny and wish him a ‘Merry birthday’, or the ones asking him if they should buy two different gifts, or even worse, the people calling him a ‘Christmas baby’. Celebrating his birthday has never been on the top of his list, but with Christmas happening on the same day, it was another version of hell for him.

And finally, he actually already knew where he was going with Hanji after New Year’s, because it was the same place every year. They would go back to Levi’s hometown to visit Farlan and Isabel’s graves, clean them, put some flowers, and Levi would also use this opportunity to go back to the park near the orphanage and see their special tree. He had told Eren he never went to their tombstones, but that wasn’t entirely true. He went there only once a year, because it was very far from his current place, and he normally had too much work to go there during the year. But once was enough for him.

After 2 days, like he had said, Eren went home to his family and started using his phone less and less once more. Levi was both happy about this – because it meant the brunet was doing fine and was enjoying quality time with his parents, and bored – because he had to spend his entire day at his office alone without a distraction from his annoying work.

The 24th finally arrived, after 3 days of mental torture, and Levi was sitting in his office chair, lurking at his watch every minute to know when he would finally be granted freedom. He wasn’t looking forward to the party he had to head to after his work, his mindset the same as every year, but he still preferred it to being enclosed between four walls, a pile of papers waiting to be taking care of in front of him. So, when he could finally read 4 pm on his watch, he wasted no time to stand up, take his case, and leave the office with long strides. He had enough time to go home, take a shower and prepare for the night before it was time for him to leave.

The party they held on Christmas Eve had been the same for many years now. They were celebrating Christmas until late at night, exchanging gifts, and simply enjoying each other’s company. The party members were always the same and consisted of Erwin and Hanji, his best friends, and their partners, Mike and Moblit, respectively. They had been worried that Levi would feel like a third wheel but he had shrugged them off. In the end, he was only going there to please his friends and make them happy, so it was counter-productive if he deprived them of quality time with their significant other. Besides, he didn’t mind their company, even if he didn’t see them often.

There was only one ultimate rule: talking about Levi’s birthday was forbidden. It was a Christmas party, not a birthday one, and it sure wasn’t a double party or whatever. It was Levi’s one and only condition to go to the party, and his friends had always honored it, waiting patiently for him to wake up the following morning to finally wish him a happy birthday.

Levi had taken his sweet time to prepare himself once back to his apartment, not wanting to come too early to Erwin’s place, where the party was being held. So it didn’t come as a surprise that he was the last person to arrive for the evening, his tall blond friend almost jumping on him the second he had rung the bell. Erwin pushed him inside the room while holding him by the shoulders, directed him towards the Christmas tree that was standing proudly in one corner of the room, and told him to put down his gifts with the ones already there. Once his hands free, he was greeted by Hanji who had already started drinking and eating without waiting for him, and by Moblit who was desperately trying to calm her down. Mike gave him a short nod while leaning against a wall, quietly acknowledging him while sipping his drink.

After Hanji’s third drink, she had started singing carols with her broken voice, making Levi want to rip his ears off so that he wouldn’t be able to suffer any more than he already had. He actually felt pity for Moblit at some point when he saw how desperate the man was to calm her down (again) and make her stop. At some point, Erwin had started to asked the raven a lot of questions to catch up as if they hadn’t seen each other in a long time, when they were literally working in the same company. Fair enough, they were working in different section, but they still saw each other frequently. During all his interrogation, Mike had been standing behind him – one hand on Erwin’s waist the other holding his drink, sniffing his boyfriend’s hair like it was a bouquet made of flowers with sweet fragrance and not, well, just hair. At this point, Levi had felt frustrated that he wasn’t drunk enough to not feel awkward at the whole situation, but seeing the smiles on his friends' face had eventually made him think that it wasn’t that bad.

Later during the evening, after eating until their stomach were full, they all exchanged their current drink for a flute of champagne and clinked their glasses with one another while shouting “Merry Christmas!” in a cheerful tone. Then, the time to exchange gifts had finally came, and they all gave their presents to their rightful owner while exchanging smiles and hugs – Levi had managed to escape all of them except for the one from Hanji. The raven got a dark blue woolen scarf that was way too big and too long for his short stature from Hanji, and new ties from Erwin. The latter actually enjoyed buying some for Levi and did it every year, at the point that all the ties Levi owned had been a gift from his best friend.

Levi was now standing in a corner, sipping his champagne while enjoying a bit of quietness, when he felt his phone buzzed in his pocket. He took it out and opened the new message he had just received. It was from Eren, wishing him a Merry Christmas, and it came along with a picture of him standing next to a Christmas tree – just a bit taller than him – with a flute in his hand. He was smiling happily and was wearing a red and white Christmas sweater, a Santa hat nested in his hair. Levi smirked at the picture and quickly took one of his own, in which you could see his arm holding his flute and pointing at the Christmas tree, that he sent right away with the same text.

All in all, the party had gone pretty much the same as the previous ones: Levi had ended up being the only one mostly sober; he didn’t count Mike because he had never been able to tell when the man was drunk, but with everything he had sipped throughout the night, chances were that he was. So, while everyone was dead asleep somewhere in the house, Levi had started throwing away trash, putting the rest of the food in boxes and into the fridge, and mostly just cleaning the whole mess before falling asleep in Erwin’s guestroom.

When Levi woke up the following morning, it was only 7:30 am. It had been a short night but he was used to sleep only four to five hours. His nights had begun getting shorter and shorter when he had started going to college, at first because he had had nightmares, and then he had gradually gotten used to sleeping so little that now he automatically woke up after at least four hours. From time to time he was napping before dinner, but with or without it, his nights were the same, and that was when he had good nights. Sometimes he would only sleep for a couple of hours before waking up and having a hard time going back to sleep, but it had been a long time since he had had such bad nights.

He took his time to get ready, knowing that no one would be awake except him, and walked slowly to the bathroom after putting back on his shirt which he had removed before going to bed. Once his face cleaned, his teeth brushed (he knew where Erwin kept his spare ones) and his hair more or less tamed, he went to the kitchen. It was now past eight, so he thought about making himself a cup of tea and some breakfast for his friends, but Erwin had already beaten him to it. His blond friend was making coffee while already drinking some from a mug. He turned around when he heard Levi and immediately gave him a steaming mug.

“Tea.” Erwin clarified when Levi eyed him suspiciously, hesitating to take the mug from his friend’s hands. “I knew you would wake up soon.”

Levi didn’t wait much longer once he got the confirmation he had asked silently and started sipping the hot beverage with a satisfied hum. He never considered himself awake before his first cup of tea, preferably black.

“And Happy Birthday to you!” Erwin gave Levi a genuine smile and put a hand on his shoulder, squeezing it firmly.

“Thanks.”

“Do you like your gift?” Levi raised one eyebrow as a response, confused by the question of his friend. As far as he knew, he hadn’t received any gifts yet, excluding the ones from the Christmas party. Erwin pointed at his mug with an amused smile and put butter in a frying pan he had taken out earlier. Levi eyed his mug, trying to figure out if it was new, but it was the same one he used every time he came to visit. He finally understood when he took another mouthful of his drink: he was talking about the tea.

“It’s not bad.” The blond hummed at his answer, his back turned to him, making pancakes one after the other.

Levi sat at a stool, drinking his tea, and watched his friend making breakfast. The tea was actually better than ‘not bad’, it was really good, but Levi had never been skilled at complimenting something or someone. Erwin knew, so that wasn’t a problem. It was the advantage of knowing someone for so many years, you could understand the unspoken words behind the spoken ones.

Once the breakfast ready, Erwin eventually gave Levi the box of the tea, and the others came to join them to eat, probably lured by the smell of the pancakes. Hanji gave the raven a big crushing hug, like she did every year for his birthday, and Levi let her, even if it was depriving him of oxygen for a few seconds. He had tried dodging her ‘birthday hug’ one year, but she had run after him and he had still got it in the end, so now he preferred receiving it, get it over with quickly, and move on. It was better than running so early in the morning with tea in his hands.

A bit after 11 am, Levi and Hanji left the house together, the leftovers and their presents in bags, and went to Levi’s apartment. Another tradition they got was to spend the day at the birthday boy’s place while watching movies, eating and drinking. Before, Erwin spent that day with them, but now he was celebrating Christmas either in his or in Mike’s family. Hanji was the only one left to pursue the tradition with. Levi had suggested that they stopped it when Hanji had started dating Moblit almost two years ago, so that she could spend the day with him, but Hanji had adamantly refused, stating that nothing would prevent her from spending this special day with his special friend. He was secretly grateful to her for that.

They started the afternoon easy, comfortably sitting on Levi’s couch while watching TV. Hanji had found a cliché romantic movie and as they were watching it, they were making comments about the predictability of the scenes and were laughing – at least Hanji – when it got too cheesy. At the end of the first movie, the brunette had brought a bottle of wine and the leftovers to the table and had started to fill a glass each. Levi had eyed her suspiciously, it was only 2 pm after all, but had given up eventually.

Three shitty romcoms and one bottle of wine and a half later, Hanji was sitting on the floor in front of the table and watching the credits with utter concentration. On his side, Levi was eyeing the liquid in his glass like it hold the secret of the universe and hadn’t even realized the movie was over. He hadn’t been paying attention to it for a while, the alcohol always making him think about things he tried not to think about normally. It was one of the stages he eventually reached when he started to get tipsy, the next one being talking more than usual, and the following not thinking about anything anymore.

“Do you think they stayed together after the end of the movie?” Hanji suddenly asked with a serious tone. Levi hadn’t been listening to her and just blankly looked at her.

“What?”

“The couple.” She was still looking at the names scrolling on the screen. “They got together, kissed, and it’s the end of the movie.” She removed her glasses and put them in front of her while stretching her arms as far as she could. “But what about after that?” She finally looked at Levi, her glasses now on her head, and waited patiently for him to answer.

“What the – It’s a shitty movie Hanji, it doesn’t matter. There’s no after.” She stayed quiet for a while, her light brown eyes meeting his light grey ones, processing his answer. She then shrugged and went back on the couch to drink the rest of her glass.

“How is Eren doing?” She jumped from one subject to another like it was the natural thing to do, which was normally easy to follow for Levi when he was sober, but he wasn’t, so he had to take a minute to understand what she had asked him.

“Fine, I guess.” Levi checked his phone without thinking and immediately put it back in his pocket when he saw no sign of a new notification.

“What do you mean ‘I guess’? You’re not texting each other anymore?” She emptied the rest of the bottle in both of their glass and sat cross-legged on the couch, facing him.

“We are, but he’s busy.”

“Went back to his family?”

“Yeah.” He didn’t know why the conversation had to deviate in such a way, especially since he had been thinking about Eren only minutes ago. It felt weird to Levi to talk about him with someone else, as if it was forbidden.

“You’re feeling lonely?” Levi gave her an annoyed and puzzled stare, not understanding where this was coming from. “You’ve been checking your phone a lot since earlier, Levi.”

Oh, so that was what it was all about. Had he done it without realizing it? Did it really become a habit he wasn’t even aware of? It’s true that before, his phone would have been on the table or the kitchen bar, away from his reach, because he didn’t really need it. But now it was constantly in his pocket so that he could access it at any time.

“You guys are really close, huh?” His gaze, that he had directed to his glass to think, went back to her grinning face, radiating confusion. He had really no idea where the conversation was heading to anymore, but there was one thing he still understood.

It was time for them to have a serious conversation again.

“Why do you think that?”

“Well, first, you’re texting him all the time, something I’ve never seen you do before.” She got a point, but he wasn’t really hiding that fact either. “And second…” Levi tilted his head on the side, waiting for her to continue. Her face had softened a bit but was still serious. “You told him, didn’t you?”

“Told him what?” Maybe another day he would have taken the time to think about what she was implying, but for now his brain wasn’t very cooperative.

“About them.” She reached for his knee with her hand and squeezed it lightly. “About you.” Levi didn’t reply but he held her gaze, mixed feelings passing through his eyes, and she knew without him answering that she was right.

“How long have you known him?” She may have had a plan to where she wanted the conversation to go with all of her questions, but Levi was having a hard time following. Still, he started counting before answering her.

“Around… Six months, I think.” The first text he had gotten from Eren had been in the middle of June. Time had passed really fast.

“Six months and you’ve already confided in him about them? That’s new.”

“Actually, I told him two months after our first conversation.” She looked at him with eyes like saucers and soon they started to get watery.

“But it took you almost two years to tell me!!” She raised her voice but she didn’t sound angry, just surprised and maybe a little envious too. “I only knew you had an accident because you were injured and had one arm in a sling but that’s all!”

It was true that back then, it had taken a lot of time for Levi to trust Hanji enough to tell her the whole story. The first time he had seen her, in his first year of college, he had only said he had had an accident, since it was pretty obvious that he had been injured. And even when they had become friends later during the year, he still hadn’t felt comfortable enough to tell her everything.

So why had he told Eren such an important part of his life, the most private thing about him, only a few conversations and months later? What had made a difference between Hanji and him?

“We’re the same.” He realized he had said it aloud only when Hanji had stopped her whining and stared at him in confusion. “Eren is like me.”

Yes, that was the only plausible explanation. Eren and him knew the same pain, had went through the same hell, and that was why it had been so easy to tell him. Why he had felt so comfortable telling him when they didn’t know each other that well yet. Why he was texting him so much. Because he understood him. They understood each other.

They were the same.

“Oh, honey, you don’t really have the same personality, you know?”

“Of course I know that, shitty glasses. I meant that we’re similar. We went through the same shit.” Hanji gave him a confused and concerned stare; she didn’t know about Armin. “He reminded me of the person I was 10 years ago. That’s why I texted him back in the first place.”

Hanji had been surprised the first time he had told her how he had started texting Eren, he had been surprised by himself too when he had replied to him that day. He had done it because he knew the pain of not being able to talk to someone and hadn’t wished it on this perfect stranger. He had wanted to give them a chance even before knowing Eren and the story behind his text.

“You mean he… I- I didn’t know…” After a few seconds of silence, her eyes started tearing up really quickly and she was crying buckets before Levi had a chance of reacting. He knew she could be a sad drunk sometimes but that didn’t happen a lot actually. And yet he had had his share of drinking parties with her.

“That’s saaaad!! What ha- what happened to h-him??” She grabbed his shoulders and shook him a bit while her face was becoming wet with tears. Her voice had become hoarse and was trembling because of her outburst of emotions whereas her eyebrows were furrowed more than he thought was humanly possible.

“Calm down for fuck’s sake!” He pushed her arms away to get out of her grip and moved back on the couch to get further away from her. “It’s not my place to tell you this. I already told you too much.” He watched her crying for five more minutes before standing and grabbing the tissue box from a cupboard. She thanked him in a tiny voice when he handed it out to her and blew her nose very loudly, which disgusted Levi. She eventually calmed down after using a dozen of tissues, leaving Levi the time to sip half of his glass.

“Have you sent him your picture?” She suddenly asked in a calmer voice. He eyed her suspiciously, searching for signs of what emotion she was feeling right now. She was changing her moods too fast when drunk.

“No.” She didn’t answer right away, looking at the tissue box in her hands, most definitely thinking of her next question.

“Why don’t you meet him?” Levi would have spat his wine if he had been drinking at that moment – thankfully he hadn’t. Instead, he had settled to look at her dumbfounded, confusion evident in his eyes, and waited for her to notice it. When he didn’t answer, she raised her head and looked him in the eye. “You still feel guilty about not telling him it was you at the café, right?” He only nodded so she kept going. “If you meet him, you can show him your face while he knows it’s you, and you won’t have to send him a picture. I know you hate those. And you’ll stop feeling guilty. It’s a win-win!”

He pondered her words for a few seconds. Maybe that was a good idea. Or maybe it was actually a bad one. He didn’t know which one it was at the moment, his brain not working efficiently yet. But something was still bothering him in her scenario.

“What if he remembers me?” She furrowed her eyebrows and so he felt the need to elaborate. “What if he recognizes me as the guy he’s already met before?”

“How long has it been since then?” He had to think really hard in order to find the answer to her question. It seemed so far away and yet too close.

“Three weeks… I think.”

“It’s fine! Three weeks is a long time, he won’t remember your face!” Levi was feeling skeptical about this but Hanji, on her side, was very optimistic. “He might remember meeting and asking someone, but not the face of that someone. Don’t worry!” He still wasn’t convinced about her idea and she could sense it.

“Levi. You guys live closer to each other than you thought. It might happen again without you being ready for it. Isn’t it better to plan your next meeting with him instead, so you won’t be caught off guard like last time?” Well, she got a point. “Besides, if you want to keep being friends with Eren, at some point you’ll have to either send him a picture or meet him. Or both. So, go directly with the meeting part!” And another point for Hanji.

She was absolutely right about it but he still couldn’t help but feel insecure about the idea of meeting Eren again. He had a bad feeling about it and couldn’t shake it away. In a vain attempt to calm his nerves, he gulped in one go the rest of his wine and laid down on his couch, feeling a little dizzy all of the sudden. His head was full with thoughts that were mostly the results of his anxiety and fears, so he forcibly closed his eyes in order to ward them off.

When Levi opened his eyes again, Hanji was sitting on the floor in front of him, humming a slow version of the birthday song. How long had he closed his eyes? He had no idea, but the dizziness he had felt before was mostly gone now, and that was the most important part.

Now fully awake, he shuffled a bit and tried to sit up on the couch. His movements didn’t go unnoticed by the brunette who turned around to face him, a big smile on her face and candles in her hands.

“Look who’s awake!”

Now that she had turned towards him, he could see what she had been doing: a cake was on the table in front of her with small candles put randomly on top of it. Hanji liked to buy him a strawberry cake with a lot of cream every year, as if she was trying to kill him by exploding his blood sugar level. But he knew it was because every year he would use the cream to take his revenge on her over something she had said or done, putting it on her nose or face, and she secretly enjoyed it.

“We don’t have any more booze! It’s a serious problem!” He raised an eyebrow at her complaint and look at the time: 8 pm.

“I have to work tomorrow so it’s not a problem for me.” He empathized the last word to show her that he didn’t care if it was for her. She pouted a bit but smiled again while she tried to light the candles messily put on the cake.

Levi thought she would burn herself at some point, but she managed to light all of them without damage. Once her quest fulfilled, she started singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to him, ignoring his annoyed glare, and moved a bit on the side to make room for him. He went to sit in front of the cake, waiting with a roll of the eye the end of her song, and blew off the candles all at once – there were only nine of them so it wasn’t really difficult. She clapped her hands and giggled happily while he tried to remove the candles before wax would fall on the cream. He then took the knife lying on the table on his right and proceeded to cut the cake.

When he had finished cutting four small parts, Hanji was sitting cross-legged on his left side, a shit-eating grin on her face, and a gift lying on her legs. She practically shoved it into his hands and he looked at her suspiciously while opening the package carefully. It wasn’t big, but it was a bit large and most of all flat. The package was also strangely bendable and soft. He gave up trying to figure out what it was and instead went on to open it.

It was a T-shirt. A black T-shirt.

He unfolded it in front of him to have a better look and smirked. On it was a red panda sitting on his ass and flipping the bird, a text written in white saying ‘I’m not shy I’m just selectively social’. Levi didn’t know if he would be able to wear it often – outside of his apartment at least – but he was quite pleased. The T-shirt was practically made for him and it made him smile lightly that he had a friend that knew him enough to buy him something that described him so well.

The rest of the evening was quite uneventful after that. They ate the cake – Levi putting cream on Hanji’s nose like he did every year, this time because she had tried to get his shirt off so that he could try his new one – drank the tea Levi had gotten from Erwin, and just chatted about nothing in particular. When it neared midnight, Hanji left and went back home, leaving Levi cleaning the mess they – or rather she – had made during the day. He went to his bed once his living room and kitchen cleaned, his teeth brushed and his face washed.

As Levi laid in bed, he thought about how thankful he was that they had started to drink early in the afternoon and not in the evening. All of the alcohol he had drunk during the day was already out of his system which meant he would be fine the following morning when he would go to work. He normally could hold his alcohol down, but during the last drinking sessions he had had with his chirpy friend he had been drunk way too fast, more than usual.

Was it because he was thinking too much lately? Because he was too preoccupied so his body wasn’t handling the alcohol like it usually would? Or maybe he hadn’t noticed, but he hadn’t drink at his normal pace which resulted in him being more affected by the alcohol even if he wasn’t drinking too much?

As he replayed in his head the events of the afternoon, trying to recall something odd in the way he had drunk his wine, he suddenly remembered something far more important. Something Hanji had told him and that he had silently agreed to.

“Why don’t you meet him?”

He would do it. Somehow. He just had to find a way to bring up the subject. He had to find the strength and the courage to ask him. If there was something Levi didn’t like to be called even if he deserved it sometimes, was a coward. He didn’t like it, but the dread and anxiety over meeting Eren under his real identity was far more acceptable than the guilt he had been carrying around with him since he had seen Eren at the café.

He would do it. He would meet Eren and reveal his face to him.

 

Chapter Text

The following morning, Levi went to work as if nothing had happened the past two days. The only evidence of the holiday season was the many empty offices and cubicles at his company, but other than that, it was a normal work day from morning to evening for the raven. He took advantage of his coworkers being gone to go through his files and order them, throwing away the ones he didn’t need anymore, and preparing the ones he would need the following year.

He only had to work for three days before he could finally rest and relax, but it felt like an eternity. He had never been one to look forward to his vacation, never knowing what to do with his time during his days off, but surprisingly it was the only thing he could think about at the moment.

He was also very much aware of the fact that he was regularly checking his phone, now that Hanji had pointed it out. Every time he unlocked his screen, he tried to make himself believe it was to check the time and not to see if he had any new messages. He hadn’t been much in contact with Eren lately, being busy with work and the brunet enjoying his time with his family.

So when he got home on the evening of the 28th, finally free from his duty as an office worker, a small smile appeared on his face when he saw the notification of a new text.

Eren:
Congratulations on being on vacation! :)

Me:
Thank you pumpkin.

How is it going with your family?

Eren:
It’s nice!
I’m catching up with my mom, though my father is working

Me:
What's his job?

Eren:
He’s a doctor. It’s hard for him to have a lot of days off
But i’m used to it, it’s fine

And i’m hanging out with Mikasa too, she got home for the holidays

Me:
You’re not bored then.

Eren:
Nah, no time for that!

It’s nice, i have less time to think about things when I’m busy

Me:
Something you want to talk about?

Eren:
Not really

I think

Me:
You think or you know?

Eren:
Sorry, it’s fine

Earlier my mom asked me what i wanted to do for new year’s and that got me thinking about Armin…

Me:
You used to celebrate it with him?

Eren:
Yeah, we had this tradition to go to our place to watch the first sunrise of the year

I was wondering if i should do it this year

But i feel like it’ll just be lonely

Me:
Why don’t you go with your other childhood friend?

Eren:
Mikasa?

Me:
You said you two don’t really talk about him, right?

Eren:
Yeah…

Me:
Maybe it will actually be good for the both of you to share things related to him a bit.

Eren:
Yeah, maybe you’re right…

I’ll think about it

Thanks Levi

Me:
Anytime, Eren.

Eren:
Anyway, what are you doing for new year’s? :)

Me:
Nothing much, just spending it with Hanji like usual.

Eren:
Just the two of you?

Me:
Yeah, it used to be the three of us with my other friend, Erwin. But he’s celebrating it with his partner now.

Eren:
Oh, that’s too bad

Me:
It’s fine, I already saw him at Christmas.

 

Levi pondered about telling Eren the truth behind his trip with Hanji, but decided not to in the end. Maybe he would tell him once there, or maybe he won’t tell him at all. He still hadn’t decided. Talking about serious subject like that had never been his forte and never came naturally to him, and he felt like it would turn into a serious conversation if he told him. Besides, he didn’t want to think about his trip just yet.

He only had to busy himself for three days before his evening with Hanji for New Year’s Eve, so he took the opportunity of having a lot of time on his hands and no work to worry about to do some really throughout cleaning. He started early in the morning until late in the evening, cleaning every tiny parts of his apartment, especially the ones he didn’t have time to linger on when doing his weekly cleaning. He also went through his stuff, throwing away what he didn’t need anymore, and sorted out his clothes. He then made a list of what he would need to buy, since he had thrown so many things from cleaning supplies to food.

The following day, he went shopping in the morning to buy what he had wrote on his list as well as food and drinks for his little party with Hanji on the 31st evening. He wasn’t planning on drinking too much this time around considering they had to get up early to leave for their trip and he was the one driving. But he knew his friend would want to drink as much as she could since it was the end of the year and it was her way to celebrate.

On his way back from grocery shopping, he stopped at his favorite café and ordered some tea to take out. It had been a while since he had gone there, since his meeting with Eren to be honest, and he had missed it. Knowing that Eren wasn’t in town and couldn’t come coincidentally at the same time as him helped appease his nerves and paranoid thoughts.

The rest of his free time until the end of the year celebration was spent by either working out or by reading books. When he was working, he didn’t have enough time to exercise except from basic training since he was too tired most of the time, so it was a good opportunity to do more difficult training in order to stay fit. As for books, he had always enjoyed reading while drinking tea early in the evening.

Concerning Eren, he was apparently busy during the day, so he could only text him in the evening, right before going to sleep. The brunet was still wondering as to what to do on New Year’s Eve and asked Levi about a lot of things in order to make up his mind. Levi didn’t think he was that much of a help, but Eren thanked him every time he came to a conclusion in his head, so maybe he was helping him in some way. On his side, he still hadn’t told him about his trip. The thought was always at the back of his mind while they were talking, but he never seemed to reach a conclusion and left the matter unresolved.

Eventually it was time, and around 6 pm on the 31st, Hanji came ringing at his door, a huge smile on her face and a lot of DVDs piled up in her hands. Levi stepped aside to let her come in and watched her kneel in his living room to put the DVDs’ cases on the table. He went to sit on the edge of his couch, arms crossed, listening to her rambling on about her day. She had apparently just returned from the train station where she had seen Moblit off to visit his family back in his hometown.

“You can still go and join him you know.” Hanji looked up at him from her position on the floor, a surprised and clueless expression on her face.

“Why would I do that?” She was genuinely not understanding where he was going at, and her brows were furrowed in a way that were supposed to made him feel as if he had said the most stupid thing ever.

“I don’t know, maybe because he’s your boyfriend?” Levi answered with a voice painted with sarcasm, shrugging. It was as if she wasn’t even considering the possibility, like it wasn't an option, while on Levi’s side it should have been a more obvious choice. He wouldn’t blame her if she chose to celebrate the New Year with him instead. On the contrary, he would feel guilty if she didn’t just to keep him company. “You don’t have to force yourself, I’m fine.”

“I see him all the time, we live together. But I can’t say the same thing about you. We hardly see each other anymore, being both extra busy. Not as much as we used to.” A hint of sadness passed through her eyes but it was gone in a second, replaced by fondness and warmth. “Besides I’m not forcing myself. I love hanging out with you, short stack!” She punched him lightly on his shin, a soft smile on her lips.

He looked at her with a neutral expression, eyes half closed and his arms still crossed in front of his chest. She really looked sincere and that made him feel a bit better about the situation, easing the guilt, but now he was also feeling a bit embarrassed. How she could blur things like that easily would always remain a mystery to him.

“I can’t say the same about you.” She burst out laughing at his answer, as if it was the biggest joke she had ever heard, and put a hand on his leg to keep her from falling to the ground. Her fit of laughter didn’t last long and she used her fingers to remove small tears from her eyes. He had felt that she was tensed before, but now she seemed fully relaxed.

“Oh, Levi, you’re gonna make me blush! I’ve always known that you were feeling the same!” He clicked his tongue, feeling annoyed, which made her giggle some more.

“Tch. You’re a weirdo.”

“Yes, but a weirdo that knows you too well and loves you.” Levi scoffed at her words, uncomfortable at her outburst of feelings towards him. “Come on now, where is the booze?” Maybe she had sensed his uneasiness, and therefore changed the subject, but anyhow he was grateful for that.

Their New Year’s Eve wasn’t something extraordinary or conventional in any way. Hanji started drinking right from the beginning, Levi joining her a bit since it was still early in the evening, and they first started by cooking simple food. Once everything set, they went in front of the TV to eat and started watching horror movies that the brunette had brought over. It was silly, badly done movies that made her cry more because of laughing too much than because of being scared, and they both made comments about the absurdity of some situations.

They only realized it was midnight when they heard other people cheering in the distance, from a neighboring apartment. They looked at each other, puzzled, and once they had checked the time on their phone, Hanji started shouting “Happy New Year!” and threw herself at Levi to hug him. Of course, he tried to get away from her, but it was a lost cause and he knew it, especially since she was without a doubt very drunk.

They didn’t linger for too long after that since they had to get up early in the morning, and anyway Hanji had fallen asleep on the floor. Levi took the opportunity of being by himself to check his phone and reply to Eren’s text, wishing him a “Happy New Year”. He then started to clean everything, not wanting to do it in the morning, before eventually waking Hanji up so that she would go on the couch. There was no way he was carrying her.

Once he had succeeded in convincing her to go on the couch and she was asleep again, he looked at her chest rise and fall at the rhythm of her breathing. What would he have done without her? Spend New Year’s Eve on his own, like the loner he had been this past few years? Would he have actually felt lonely if she had taken on his offer to join Moblit this year around? He may look annoyed most of the time when he was with her, because she actually annoyed him alright, but he still cared a lot about her. He both loved and hated her for being the way she was and a clingy friend. She was both a blessing and a curse, always bringing turmoil into the quietness of his life. Sometimes he was dreading it and sometimes he was welcoming it.

What had he ever done to deserve a friend like her, who after all this year, still stood beside him?

Seeing no point in standing in the middle of his apartment trying to figure out things he would never find an answer to on his own, he made his way back to his bed and tried to get some sleep. When he woke up early in the morning, he took advantage of the fact that Hanji was still sleeping to prepare a small suitcase for their trip and to go through his morning routine. He eventually woke her up for breakfast and listened to her complaining about how little she had slept. She was the complete opposite of him and needed a lot of hours of sleep.

Once they were both ready, they made their way to Hanji’s car, parked in front of Levi’s building, and put all of their things in the backseat. They both entered the car, Levi on the driver side and Hanji on the passenger one.

Levi wasn’t very comfortable going into a car and only accepted it when he was the one driving. He felt more at ease if he was the one in control, not trusting anyone else but him when it came to it, even his closest friend – and definitely not Hanji. He didn’t own a car, he could live his life alright with just using public transportation, but sometimes like in this case, it was much more useful to use one. It would take them six hours of driving to get to their destination: Levi’s hometown.

Only ten minutes after they had left Levi’s apartment, Hanji was already dead asleep, the side of her face against the window. It didn’t make a difference to Levi, he actually preferred driving in silence. No talking, no radio, just the sound of the engine and the wind. He could then easily concentrate on the road and the other cars, and be ready for any situation that may occur.

 

Levi had been driving for more than five hours now, having only stopped once to eat something light for lunch, and the landscape around them had drastically changed. They were heading north, so the temperature had cooled down, nearing zero, snow had made his appearance on the field boarding the road, and the trees were mostly frozen from the cold. It was a familiar sight that always brought him back to the numerous winter he had spent at the orphanage with Farlan and Isabel, curled up under blankets to keep themselves warm.

Hanji eventually woke up when the city of their destination became visible: Stohess. It was a very rich and dense city, known for its luxury shops, hotels and companies which made it one of the first destination for tourists, especially healthy ones. But the place Levi had grown up in wasn’t inside the city itself and was very far from the rich center. The orphanage was located in one of the suburbs, which counted as one of the poorest of the region. He had spent his childhood surrounded by poverty, knowing that only a few kilometers away people could afford anything they wished for when he had to deprive himself of everything just to be able to go to school while hoping for a better future.

It was always hard for him to come back because he hated being remembered of how hard it had been for him to live back in those days, how hard he had had to work to make his way out. He hated the orphanage, the district. He hated Stohess.

But at the same time, whenever he came back, he was reminded of all the good times he had spent with Farlan and Isabel, his best friends, his family. All the times they had ran off from the orphanage to go to the park, the nights spent looking at the stars perched in a tree, the other nights spent huddle together in one bed to keep each other warm or to comfort Isabel when she had had a nightmare. The times spent studying together, working lame ass job to get a bit of money, or spent helping Maria, the owner of the orphanage, because they were the oldest kids.

Her house was actually their first destination. She had retired and handed the orphanage to one of her acquaintance years ago, but she still cared deeply for Levi, and also for Isabel and Farlan. Every time Levi went to Stohess at the beginning of the year, she offered him shelter and flowers to put on their graves, and took the opportunity to see how he was doing. He had refused her hospitality in the beginning, being reminded too much of his time in the orphanage when he looked at her, but now he found it quite comforting. She was the guardian of his past and the only person other than him who remembered them.

“We’re there.” Levi said to Hanji, making sure she was awake, while looking without blinking at the familiar house in front of him. She only nodded, not saying a word, and put a comforting hand on his shoulder before opening the door. He did the same after letting go of a heavy sigh.

Once he opened the door and stepped out of the car, he was assaulted by the cold and dry air of the outside. The temperature was below zero and there was a strong wind, biting at his skin and making his body shiver despite the many layers of clothes he was wearing.

He had always hated winter, but more particularly, he had always hated winter in Stohess. The temperature was always on the minus side, the wind was strong and dry, biting at his exposed flesh, freezing his nose and ears, turning his lips dry and leaving them chapped. He may have spent countless winter here, but that didn’t mean he was used to the cold or immune to it, far from that. He had actually been more than happy to move to Trost because winter there was more bearable for him. First, there was no wind, which helped a lot. Second, the thermometer rarely reached zero and was more than often above three degrees. Over there, he had never felt like a walking icicle when he was outside, which was how he was feeling now.

As his nose and ears were turning redder and redder by the seconds, he asked himself like he did every time why the hell he had decided to come at this time of the year. And like every year, he reminded himself that it was easier for him to make the trip at this period, especially if he wanted to come with Hanji. She had always come along with him ever since she had learned about Farlan and Isabel. She may not exactly understand how he was feeling, but she still wanted to come with him as a moral support, she had told him once.

They quickly made their way to the door once their luggage out of the car and ringed the bell to announce their arrival. A few minutes later, they were greeted by an old lady, shorter than Levi with her back bent from old age, her face lightened by a fond smile as she laid eyes upon them, accentuating all the wrinkles on her face.

“Oh my, Levi! Hanji! You came this year again.” She moved her hand forward and Levi quickly took it in his own, welcoming her warmth and trying his best to smile at her. “It’s cold out there, come in! Come in!”

She made her way back into the house and they both followed her in silence, leaving their coats, shoes and bags in the hallway. When they found her again, she was boiling water and taking out three mugs and a box of black tea. Levi quickly joined her and helped her making tea, like she had taught him to.

It was because of her that he was drinking tea almost every day now. It was one of the rare things they had had back in the time, and even if it had been cheap tea, it still had been the most delicious thing Levi had drunk then. When he went back from school, she would always welcome him with a steamy cup of tea, and before bed he would always drink an infusion to help him sleep better. It hadn’t been as bad as it was now, but he had had trouble sleeping once in a while.

As they drank their tea in the living room, she asked them a lot of questions in order to find out how they were doing and what they had done in the past year. As usual, Hanji was the one doing most of the talking, Levi only nodding and saying a few words here and there. He was more focused on sipping his tea, drenched in the nostalgic scent and taste of the familiar blend. He studied her face and noted that she looked older than the last time he had seen her, which was normal, but more than older she seemed drained, weak. She was nearing her eighties and Levi knew life would only be difficult for her from here on, and the thought gave him a punch in his gut.

Levi had never known his parents. He had lost them when he was very little, so he had no memories of them and didn’t know what had happened to them. The only person he remembered was Maria, as she had taken care of him when he had first come to the orphanage. He had been raised by her, and therefore she was the closest thing that he had to a mother. Thinking about her aging more than she already had was both worrying and sad. He owed her more than his life.

Once they finished drinking their tea and their little talk, she handed them the flowers she had bought for the graves, carefully wrapped in plastic to protect them from the cold, as well as cleaning supplies. Levi and Hanji then made their way again to the car, waving at her. The ride to the cemetery was dead silent apart from the sound of the engine. It was still quiet when they made their way across the many graves, trying to find the two that were of interest to them. They were situated in the back in a corner, next to each other, almost forgotten except for the ones who knew where to look.

Hanji dropped down and kneeled in front of them in order to place the flowers she held in her arms. For Farlan, it was a bouquet of white chrysanthemums, and for Isabel, one of pink carnations. Despite being a tomboy, she had always loved the color pink even if she had tried to hide it. But her favorite flowers had always been of that color. As for Farlan, white was a color that suited him best in Levi’s opinion, because it was pure, bright, and dazzling.

Levi started to clean the graves, like he did every year. He knew that Maria actually came when the days were warmer to take care of them, but still he liked to at least do that. It calmed him, his thoughts always a mess when he went to the cemetery, and he felt like he was doing something for them, in a way. Once he had finished, Hanji took the cleaning supplies in one hand, put her other on his shoulder and gave him a small tender smile before turning around and leaving him alone with his thoughts. He eyed the two stones with their names engraved in gold and let his mind be overflowed by intense longing and affection.

He would always miss them. No matter how much time had passed, no matter the people in his life, he would always miss them with the same force. It would always be the same pain. But with the years, the pain that was new and foreign in the beginning gradually became familiar and expected. By experiencing it so many times for so long, he had become accustomed to it at the extent that he could barely feel it sometimes, but it would always be there. No matter how numb he had become in regard to this pain, it was still inside of him. He could always feel his presence, sometimes welcomed it like it was an old friend. One that you knew too well and didn’t know how to get rid of, didn’t want to get rid of, because it had been here for so many years that being without it would just leave you empty.

And when he was here, standing alone in front of the only remembrance of his two best friends, he welcomed it with shaky open arms and let the pain of their loss overwhelmed him, even if just for a few minutes. He didn’t cry, hadn’t cried in years when thinking of them, even when it hurt more than it should. Instead, he relaxed his face and closed his eyes, trying to remember their faces, and let out a heavy breath.

He then turned around, never looking back as he made his way out of the cemetery and joined Hanji near the car. She gave him a small smile, and with words unspoken, both went into the car, sighing in relief when the harsh wind stopped aggressing their faces. Levi then put the car in reverse and left the cemetery’s parking to reach his next destination.

It was like a ritual, one they knew by heart because they performed it every year, and therefore they didn’t need to talk. Hanji didn’t need to ask Levi where they were going when he didn’t take the same route they had taken on their way there, because she knew. Levi didn’t need to ask her if it was okay if they went there because he knew she didn’t mind, never have, and most certainly would never.

So, when he pulled over in front of the familiar park, all covered in snow and ice, they didn’t need words to know that they would go their separate ways and find each other at a latter time. Levi needed his time alone and Hanji understood that, respected that, and she allowed him to get it by walking in the opposite direction. He silently watched her go away before hiding half of his face in his big dark blue scarf, his hands tucked in his coat to keep them warm even if he was wearing gloves, and started walking towards his goal.

He only stopped once in front of an old oak tree by the side of the main walking path and looked at it for a few minutes before moving close enough to be able to touch it. He leaned his forehead on the trunk and closed his eyes as other distant memories made their way back to the front of his mind. After a few minutes, he opened them again and removed one of his gloves. He brushed his hand through the frozen trunk and stopped once he started feeling something rougher. He stared at the engraving below his palm that showed three letters - L, F and I - and let his fingers traced them in a slow motion.

In this moment, he didn’t care that his fingers were turning red, didn’t mind the fact that he was starting to not feel his hand as it started shaking. But when seconds turned into minutes, and those minutes started to account to ten, he eventually put his glove back on and moved away from the familiar tree. Once he was on the walking path again, he turned over, looked at the tree once again, and after a moment of hesitation he grabbed his phone in his pocket and took a picture of it. He made a mental note to send it to Eren if he ever decided to finally tell him about his trip and, ignoring the notification of a new text from the said-person, finally made his way back to the car, his heart feeling both hollow and overflowing.

It was only latter at night, after they had had dinner and went to their respective bed, that Levi finally allowed himself to check his phone and the text he had gotten from Eren. There was a picture of him and a black-haired girl – he recognized her as Mikasa as he had already seen her in previous photos – sitting on a bench, the sun rising over the city that was displayed behind them and filling the not yet light blue sky with hint of orange, red and pink. They were both smiling, Eren’s smile seeming more relaxed than the one of his friend, their heads looking up at the camera, and Levi took notice of the extended arm of the brunet which had allowed to capture their faces, the city and the sun in one single shot.

Eren:
Got to see the first sunrise of the year! :D
We slept through most of the day after that, so i’m only sending it now though

Me:
Nice view.

And I can see that you went with her in the end.

Eren:
Yeah, we talked a bit about it and it seemed like a nice idea

Thanks again! :)

Me:
I didn’t do much, but I’m glad you decided to do it.

Eren:
That’s not true! What you said helped me a lot!

What are you up to on your side? Did you already leave for your trip with Hanji?

Me:
Yeah, we’re already there.

We left early this morning.

Eren:
Must have been hard waking up early

Me:
Not so much, we didn’t stay up late like a certain person.

Eren:
It was totally worth it, I have no regrets!

Me:
Then it’s fine, it’s better than having some.

Eren:
Something you want to share?

Me:
What do you mean?

Eren:
Nah, it’s nothing

Or maybe it’s not…?

Me:
Spill it pumpkin.

Eren:
Well, you’ve been kind of mysterious about your trip with Hanji
You left early today and are going back tomorrow if i remember correctly, right?
And you start working again the day after?

Me:
What are you getting at?

Eren:
I’m just wondering what this trip is about

Not that you owe me an explanation or anything!

I’m just curious? In a worried kind of way?

Me:
Why are you even using question marks for this?

Eren:
Just not sure how to bring the subject and not make it sound like i’m prying too much or something

 

Levi propped his chin on his hands while deep in thoughts. He could sense that Eren was just trying to look after him and wasn’t asking just out of pure curiosity, and also that it was apparently really bugging him. To be honest, he didn’t even know why he had been hesitating until now to talk about it with him. Eren was one of the few people he felt comfortable talking about this kind of personal topic, especially when it came to Farlan and Isabel, since it was what had connected them in the first place. He was also one of the few people – albeit the only one – that could really understand what he was feeling as of now.

His hesitation finally dissipated and melted like freshly fallen snow. He went through his pictures and selected the one he had taken earlier at the park, the one with the oak tree. He then typed something to go with the attached file before hitting the send button.

Me:
I went back to my hometown to visit them.

Eren:
Oh! Your hometown… You okay?

Is that the tree you told me about?

Me:
Exhausted, but I’m fine.

Yeah, didn’t think you would remember as I only mentioned it once.

Eren:
Come on, don’t underestimate me, I have a good memory!

And it was something important to you, and it helped me going back to the hill

Me:
Right.

Eren:
Anyway, that’s a lot of snow! I rarely see some where I’m living!

Me:
Same, but in my hometown it’s a daily thing during winter.

Eren:
Sounds nice! I like snow :)

Me:
You wouldn’t like it if you had to deal with it every day, especially once it’s frozen because of the low temperatures.

I thought I was going to lose my hands when I was at the cemetery.

Eren:
You went to their graves?

Me:
Yeah, just to put some flowers and clean them.

I only go when I do the trip after New Year’s though, too far away from where I live.

Eren:
It’s that far?

Me:
6 hours by car.

Eren:
Holy shit! When are you leaving tomorrow?

Me:
Around 8 or 9 I think, will depend on Hanji.

Eren:
That’s early! You’d better sleep!

Me:
It’s not really, but yeah, I guess you’re right.

Eren:
Drive safely tomorrow!

Good night sunshine :)

Me:
I always do.

Good night pumpkin.

 

Levi made sure that he had set his alarm for the morning – not that he would really need it since he didn’t sleep much – and put his phone on the night stand next to him.

In the end he had told Eren. It hadn’t been that difficult, not the way he had thought it would be. It had actually come in the conversation naturally. Or at least he thought it had. Eren had to back him up into a corner before he finally gave in if he really looked back at the conversation, but maybe that had been just what he needed to open himself up. Levi had never been someone to share personal information, being a very private person. It never came naturally to him and he always felt uncomfortable starting the topic. So maybe it wasn’t that bad that Eren was a bit curious and pushy sometimes.

No, he couldn’t really say that he minded. It was actually endearing and made his life easier, especially when he really wanted to share and didn’t know how. However, in other situations such as the I-want-to-see-your-face problem, him being pushy just made his life harder.

It was strange how he could find one aspect of the personality of someone both pleasant and plainly annoying. He didn’t need someone to tell him how contradictory and weird it sounded, he had noticed it by himself.

But that was how Eren was. Neither black, neither white. More like a light greyish personality that could maybe one day lighten the black puddle Levi had been bathing in for the last decade.

 

Chapter Text

Levi and Hanji drove back to Trost on the following morning, happy to come back to warmer temperatures and to not have to shake uncontrollably because of the cold anymore. At least Levi’s gift had been useful, but if he had to choose between letting the scarf take the dust in his closet or having to warp his face in it to prevent his skin from turning into ice, he would choose the former without hesitation. He was pretty sure his best friend would make the same choice if presented, knowing that she would most certainly have a running nose for the upcoming days, as she had spent the entire trip back sneezing and blowing her nose. His hometown was definitely not the best place to visit at this time of the year.

Going back to work after driving for twelve hours in two days with only an evening of rest turned out to be not as difficult as someone would think, and Levi went back to a steady working pace in no time. On the contrary, most of his coworkers seemed really tired from their holidays and weren’t as efficient as they could be, which earned them a few harsh comments about their sluggishness from him.

Eren went back to his apartment on campus the weekend before the beginning of his new semester and started complaining about his flatmate the minute he had set foot in it. Apparently, the guy was annoyingly showing off the gifts he had received for Christmas and asking a lot of questions about his best friend, Mikasa. Then, when realization had struck him, he had spent the rest of his ‘free’ hours complaining about the fact that he didn’t want to go back to class yet, even after two whole weeks of vacation. Levi had no idea how the kid would be able to survive in the future with limited days of vacation per year if he was complaining now.

January went by smoothly after that. Eren had stopped whining after his first day, and they went back to normal conversations on a daily basis. They also started sending each other pictures of their day again, and Levi knew Eren was avoiding the subject he really wanted to bring back up. So it wasn’t a surprise to him when, late January, Eren started to ask for pictures of him again. He was that predictable, which meant Levi had already had time to anticipate the situation and already knew how to reply. But because Eren had been a little shit almost every day about it, and as a small revenge, he had kept Eren waiting a few days before finally acting on the decision he had made a month ago.

Eren:
Come on, Levii!! :(

Me:
Fine. You win.

Eren:
You’re gonna send me a picture?? :D

Me:
No.

Eren:
How is this me winning then? :(

Me:
Let’s meet.

Eren:
Wait, what?

Meet?

As in face to face meeting??

Me:
Yes.

Eren:
Seriously??

Me:
Yes, brat. When do I ever joke about things like that?

Eren:
Really?? Awesome!!! :DD

But wait… I don’t even know where you live :(

Me:
Trost.

Eren:
What, seriously???

Me:
You’re repeating yourself.

Yes, seriously. What is it?

Eren:
I live right next to Trost!!

How is that even possible??

Me:
I don’t know. Small world, I guess?

Where do you live?

Eren:
Rose university campus :)

Me:
Indeed, it’s pretty close.

Eren:
Wow, i can’t believe this!

Are we really gonna meet??

Me:
Yes pumpkin, now calm down a bit.

Eren:
Sorry… I just got a little overexcited

Me:
No shit.

Eren:
When do you want to meet? And where? :)

Why not meet at the survey corps cafe?
I still need to try their cinnamon latte!

Me:
Not a bad idea. The one near the business center?

And I have a few projects to finish in the upcoming weeks so not before two weeks at least.

Eren:
Yeah, it’s the only one in Trost, i checked last time when i went there :)

Okay! I have a few tests and reports due mid-February too, so what do you say about the 23rd?

Me:
It’s a Saturday, right?

Good thinking, at least you won’t be able to blame me if you fail your tests.

Eren:
Eh! I got good grades for my midterms!

Me:
Good for you.

Keep on being serious and you might manage to pass your degree.

Eren:
Might? That’s a lot of faith you’re putting in me

Me:
Just being realistic.

Eren:
Gee, thanks

Then I better go sleeping if I don’t want to increase my chances of failure

Me:
Yeah, sleep while you still can.

Eren:
Whoa, you’re really a killjoy today!
Hard time at work?

Me:
The usual.

Eren:
Well, go to sleep too!

Don’t let the excitement for our upcoming date prevent you from sleeping though ;)

Me:
I think that’s my line.

And I didn’t know it was a date.

Eren:
Obviously I meant it as a friendly date, like two people meeting, who happen to be friends

That’s all

Me:
Sure.

Good night pumpkin.

Eren:
Good night sunshine :)

 

A date, huh? Whatever it was called, at least they were going to meet soon and Levi wouldn’t have to spend his time thinking about how he could broach the subject. Now he would only spend his time thinking about their meeting, which wasn’t better actually, but at least on the 23rd he would be fixed. Then he would stop wondering about how a meeting with Eren would go and what would happen. He just had to wait three weeks before being able to put an end to his speculations.

But three weeks was a long time and Levi was having a hard time sleeping. It wasn’t from excitement like Eren had joked about, but more from anguish and dread. He was fearing their meeting, coming up with so many scenarios in his head, good and bad, that he was both ready for anything and apprehending everything. Eren was talking about their ‘date’ almost every day, as if he was scared Levi would change his mind, and that only made him more scared of his decision.

What had he been thinking? It was a terrible idea. A really stupid and terrible idea. Why did he decide to listen to Hanji? He hardly did, and when he did, it had always ended up in a disaster. What if he wasn’t able to talk normally with Eren and afterwards he didn’t want to talk with him again? What if Eren found him not really interesting and realized he had just lost his time befriending him?

So many questions were arising inside his head, flooding and numbing his mind. It was at the extent that sleep had decided to abandon him and he just spent his nights looking at the dark ceiling above him, unable to close his eyes and drift into unconsciousness. It had only been a week since their agreement and the lack of sleep had started to take a tool on his daily mood. He was getting angry and frustrated over nothing, was sighing and yawning most of the time, and had a hard time keeping his eyes focused. But still he couldn’t sleep, and when he did, the frontier between a conscious state and an unconscious one was so thin that he didn’t feel like he had slept at all when he woke up.

He was slowly losing his mind, and the 23rd wasn’t coming fast enough. Hanji had apparently heard about his foul mood from Erwin and had been harassing him to tell her what was wrong with him. Ultimately, he told her about his meeting with Eren, which put her in a gleeful mood, telling him over and over again that it was going to be okay, that he had nothing to worry about, in a vain attempt to reassure him. But if saying this was the way to go to calm his nerves, he wouldn’t have reached this state of sleep deprivation and anxiety.

That was how his first week had passed: not enough sleep, too much thoughts.

The second one was a tad better. Levi had started to be buried in his projects’ deadlines which had succeeded in keeping his mind off the dreadful date. He was able to sleep a bit more, too tired to think of anything, and his mood got a bit better. Eren was also buried in his work, busy between exams and reports to fill in. He couldn’t stop complaining about how he wouldn’t be able to do everything that had been assigned to him, taking the last minute to do everything like per usual, which kind of amused Levi and helped him thinking about something else.

By the third week, and a few days before the 23rd, Levi was eventually at peace with himself. No matter the outcome, he just had to wait and see. Only time would tell. It was the type of thoughts which perfectly reflected the kind of mindset he was in at the moment, and not even the excited texts from Eren about their meeting could change it. He had already thought of the worst, so now all he could do was wait for the fateful day while keeping himself busy with his work to distract his hyperactive mind.

It had worked more than he had anticipated, and by the time he could have a break and take a deep breath, it was Saturday, the D-day. They had agreed to meet in the morning, for breakfast. Well, in Levi’s opinion, breakfast was already over by 10 am, but Eren was a late riser so he hadn’t commented on it. Levi had been a bit surprised, he had thought they would meet sometime during the afternoon or for dinner, but he suspected Eren had suggested the morning so they could have more time during the day to be with each other and talk, and that was fine by him. Besides, the sooner they would meet, the least Levi would have time to worry himself sick about the outcome of the day.

Levi entered the Survey Corps café, his hands a bit sweaty from the stress, his shoulders tensed, and his eyes scanning every face present in the shop. He had come way too early, unable to keep calm in his apartment and thought a warm cup of tea would help appease his nerves. He would take a second one when Eren would come if needed, he didn’t mind, their teas were that good anyway.

His unsteady steps and his furrowed brows gave away his uneasiness as he made his way to the counter, but if the barista had noticed his discomfort, she didn’t say anything while she welcomed him with a friendly smile. He came enough to be recognized as a regular customer and to know the name of the employees without looking at their badge, and he tried to relax his face as he stared at the short ginger-haired girl in front of him. She was one of his favorite baristas and he knew she made good tea, at least the way he liked it, and that thought relieved him a bit.

She nodded at him while tapping on her screen as he placed his order, and she gave him a big smile before turning to the machines to prepare it. He absent-mindedly drummed his fingers on the counter while waiting for his drink, his eyes traveling from the clock to the door.

“Here you go, Mister Ackerman!”

His attention turned to the barista once again, holding out a steaming cup to him with a professional smile. He took it in his slender fingers, trying and surely failing to return her smile. His face had started to tense again and he was pretty sure it came out more as a creepy and weird rictus than a friendly smile, but hers didn’t falter even when she saw it. On the contrary, it only grew wider when he replied to her, something he rarely did, considering he tried to keep social interactions at the minimum once outside of his office.

“Thank you, Nifa.”

Nodding to her when she wished him a good day after he had paid, he turned around without giving her a second look and tried to find a table. There were some people already sitting at the back of the store, enjoying their beverage and talking to each other, but Levi’s eyes just passed over them, concentrating on his task. His gaze stopped at a table for two which had a direct view on both the entrance and the counter, and he made his way towards it, sitting on the chair while keeping his focus on the door, waiting for a pair of emerald eyes and a dazzling smile to come into view.

He knew the brunet wouldn’t come before at least thirty minutes, if he was on time, but he couldn’t control his eyes. He was looking at his phone, waiting for a text since he hadn’t got one since yesterday evening, then he was looking at the clock on the wall on his left, and finally he would look again at the door before starting all over again. His tea was long forgotten in his left hand, starting to cool by the minutes without having drunk even one sip of it. His right leg was bouncing nervously under the table, revealing his growing anxiety, and his mouth was closed in a thin line, only opening from time to time to release sighs he wasn’t even aware of letting go.

Levi almost spilled his cup when he heard the short buzz of a notification coming from his phone, and without wasting any seconds he unlocked it and looked at the text he had received, his heart beating fast in his chest. A small grunt of annoyance left his mouth when he noticed it was only from Hanji, and he finally let his body relax.

Shitty glasses:
Don’t be grumpy and enjoy your date with Eren!!! :DD ;))

 

As much as he was annoyed by her text, it still succeeded in relaxing him a bit, and he finally took a mouthful of his drink, enjoying the bitterness of his black tea. His nerves were further calmed down once he felt the hot liquid going down his throat, warming his stomach and eventually his whole body. There was really no need for him to be so on edge, he repeated himself a dozen times, and he quietly continued drinking his tea in order to relax his body further more. He still had a good fifteen minutes in front of him before meeting with Eren, and he wanted to be composed when it would happen.

He was deep in thought while looking at the two-winged logo of the shop printed on his cup when he heard the door opening, a familiar figure getting past the threshold. His grip tightened on both his drink and phone while he looked at the man standing in the entrance, a hand passing through his brown locks and revealing his forehead and two unruly eyebrows. He was wearing a green hoodie with a small rose design on the right part of his chest – most likely the logo of his university, a dark red scarf tucked inside his clothes and hiding the shirt he was wearing underneath. His legs were encased in a tight pair of blue skinny jeans, also in a dark tone, and Levi had to stopped himself before staring too much at his muscular thighs.

Levi hadn’t been expecting him before at least ten minutes. He hadn’t thought Eren would come before the appointed time. But with the way the brunet was playing with his hair, shifting his weight from one foot to the other and taking a deep breath before making his way to the counter, he could sense that he was also nervous. Taking a deep breath of his own, Levi tried to calm his heartbeat and directed his attention to his phone, a new text message incoming, this time without a doubt from Eren.

Eren:
I just arrived at the cafe!
Are you already there? :)

 

Wiping his sweaty palms on his pants, Levi took his phone in his hands once again, taking his time to reply in order to collect himself. He wasn’t paying attention to his surroundings anymore, looking intently at the three letters he had typed, his thumb ready to press the send button, when a cheerful voice reached his ears, most likely meant for him.

“Hey! You’re the guy from before!”

Shit. Shit.

Levi raised his head and looked at Eren, confusion plastered all over his face, but not for the reasons the brunet assumed when he added:

“Sorry, you don’t remember me I guess.”

For sure Levi remembered him, the problem was that Eren remembered him. It was all he had wished wouldn’t happen. It was the worst-case scenario he had tried not to think about, and he had thought about a lot of different ways this meeting could go. Eren not wanting to talk with him afterwards because he was socially awkward. Eren founding him scary instead of, as he had said, cute. Them just looking at each other without saying anything because of awkwardness. Hell, he had even allowed himself to think that everything would go just fine and that he was worrying over nothing.

So, no, Eren remembering him as the stranger who had taken his picture hadn’t been on his list. And now he didn’t know what to do with himself nor did he know how to react. Should he just say something along the lines of “Sorry brat, you must have confused me with someone else, it’s actually me, Levi”? As if it would work. Eren was a lot of things, oblivious being one of them, but stupid definitely wasn’t. It was either coming out clean or continue with the lie. With the former he had to admit and explain to Eren why he didn’t tell him anything last time, and with the latter he had to lie. Again.

But his mouth was faster than his brain and didn’t care about his inner turmoil, because before he could come to a decision, he could already hear himself talk, making the decision for himself.

“You’re the pumpkin spiced latte guy.” Continuing with the lie it was then. Shit.

Eren beamed at his response and offered him a genuine, albeit nervous smile.

“Yeah! Thanks for the suggestion by the way, their cinnamon latte is mind-blowing!” He took a sip and closed his eyes with a small pleased hum. Levi couldn’t tear his eyes away from him, internally battling with himself, his right hand still clenching his phone with his unsent message.

“Sorry if I’m bothering you, I’m actually waiting for a friend and it seems like he isn’t here yet.” He checked his phone at that, making sure he hadn’t missed a text and looked again at the raven, a shy smile on his lips. “Do you mind if I sit here while waiting for him?” As Levi shrugged, Eren sat down in front of him, slightly turned towards the door to see who came in, and his phone on the table to check it regularly.

They were sitting at the same table, they were talking, but it wasn’t how it was supposed to happen. Eren still didn’t know, and all of the sudden Levi was transported two months back when he had met the brunet for the first time, feeling as powerless as he had felt back then. Deprived of all courage and filled with angst. Feeling like a coward.

“I don’t even know how he looks like actually, we’ve never met before.” Eren fidgeted in his seat, his eyes set on the door, or his phone, hardly sparing a glance towards Levi. “I’m kind of nervous.” He was playing with his bottom lip, sinking his teeth in it before releasing it, and starting again. He then finally looked straight at the raven. “It’s strange, isn’t it?” He was smiling again but Levi could see the agitation and impatience in his eyes, and he wondered what was visible in his. Fear? Uneasiness? Shame?

“How are you going to find him then?”

“He saw pictures of me, so he’ll recognize me.” Eren shrugged, frowning at his phone and eating his lips once again. It was now past ten. Past their meeting time. If Levi could see himself in a mirror, he would definitely see shame in his eyes, he eventually decided. Shame, and also a bit of guilt.

He hurriedly put his phone on silent mode and back in his pocket when he saw Eren typing a text, and resumed to drink his tea, which was too cold to be drinkable now. But he wasn’t tasting anything that went past his taste bud, wasn’t even feeling the pain as he crawled his nails into his right leg, around his phone tucked in his front pocket. All he could register was the constant thoughts that were passing through his mind in an infinite loop.

What are you doing? What are you doing??

Because really, what the hell was he doing? Eren was there in front of him and, once again, he was unable to say anything except lies. Or at least he wasn’t being honest with him. And everything felt like a huge déjà-vu, bringing to the surface the guilt he had felt months away, and he was starting to feel sick. Sick with his powerlessness, with his cowardice. Sick with himself.

As Eren was typing another message, Levi brusquely stood up, two green eyes looking at him with surprise.

“Sorry, I have to go.” Eren gave him another small smile, locking his phone and turning his way, while Levi was trying his damn best not to run away too quickly and be at the very least polite.

“Oh! Yeah, sure! Sorry for taking your time!”

Levi wanted to retort that it wasn’t a problem but the words died in his mouth and he grumbled a small “Good luck” instead, still absorbed in his role of a friendly stranger, already heading towards the exit with long strides. The last thing he heard and saw while finally leaving the café was Eren thanking him, waving at him and giving one of his big, all-teeth-out smiles.

He tried not to think too much about what had just happened, about what he had done, again, as he was heading towards his apartment. He didn’t need anyone to tell him how much he had screwed up because he knew. He didn’t need anyone to tell him that the best thing he should be doing right now was going back in the coffee shop and tell Eren the truth. Even beg for his forgiveness if he had to. But his body wasn’t following his mind, and his mind wasn’t following what his body was doing. Before even realizing it, he was in his apartment, sitting on his couch, his phone in his hand, and he had to try to calm himself and take several long and deep breaths before unlocking it and looking at the several text messages from Eren.

Eren:
I already ordered :)

I’m trying the cinnamon latte and damn it’s good!

You think you’re going to be there soon?

Still waiting for you here, Levi

Hey, don’t tell me you overslept or something?

You didn’t get into a car accident or anything right?
You live near the cafe right?

Seriously Levi, just tell me if you’re okay because i’m not kidding with any of this shit, and you better than anyone should know this

 

As much as he just wanted to wallow in self-pity right now, he knew he couldn’t leave Eren without an answer. Without telling him he wouldn’t come. Without telling him he was okay, even if it was a lie. Again.

Me:
Sorry, I got called out this morning for an emergency at work. I thought I was going to be able to finish this shit before 10 but it’s worse than I imagined and I’m still not done. Sorry I didn’t see what time it was.

Sorry for making you worry but I can’t come right now, I have to deal with this.

Rain check?

 

He didn’t even look at the answer he got, too disgusted with himself and by how easily the lies came to him.

Levi had always considered himself as someone honest. He didn’t mince his words, always spoke his mind even if it could hurt. The only thing he was aware of not being honest about was about his own feelings, because he actually had no idea what he was feeling himself. And maybe he used sarcasms a lot too, but that was a totally different situation.

But this, he had never done. In this moment, he was feeling like the biggest liar that have ever walked the earth and it made him so sick that he didn’t think he could look at himself in a mirror without gagging. He was so disgusted by himself that if it was possible, he would punch himself in the face for being such an idiot.

“It’s fine!”, she had said. “He won’t remember!”, she had said.

Of course the kid remembered, he had said he had a good memory. Levi should have seen this coming from miles away. But no, he had chosen to ignore all the warning bells and had went along with her crazy idea. He only reaped what he sowed. Everything that was happening now was only him facing the consequences of his actions. His cowardly actions. And the more he lied to Eren, the worse it would be the day he would discover the truth.

Eren didn’t deserve that. He didn’t deserve someone lying about his identity like Levi had done twice. He didn’t deserve to be stoop up and abandoned by his date. He deserved so much better than to wait for a coward and a liar like Levi. He deserved people to be honest and earnest with him.

And Levi hated himself for not being that person.

 

Chapter Text

Levi woke up to the sound of his doorbell ringing incessantly and loud banging on his door. He was still in a haze and had no idea what was going on, but the noise became too annoying for him to ignore and he eventually sat up. His head was killing him, pounding and begging him to lie down for a bit longer, not really appreciating the sudden movement. As he started massaging his temple to decrease the throbbing pain that had taken residence in his skull, he realized he had been sleeping on his couch, fully dressed.

“What the hell…?”

Since the racket being made at his doorstep didn’t seem to end soon, he reluctantly got up and made his way towards his hallway, ready to give the person behind this agitation a piece of his mind. He had to steady himself after a few steps, his legs a bit heavy and shaky, but he eventually reached his destination and opened the door angrily, his eyebrows down in a frown both because of irritation and the pain he was feeling.

“What?!”

His face softened a bit when he recognized his blond best friend, towering over him like usual, his own thick eyebrows furrowed in what seemed like annoyance. But then Levi remembered that even if he was his friend, he was the one who had woken him up by practically harassing him, and his face mirrored the annoyance of his counterpart.

“What the fuck, Erwin? What are you doing here?” The blond squinted at him, frowning even more to the point that his eyebrows were practically glued together, and for a second Levi thought he had seen disgust flashing through his eyes.

“Really, Levi? That should be my question. What are you doing?” As Levi just stared at him dumbfounded, not really understanding where this was coming from or why his friend was angry at him, he kept his mouth shut and waited for him to continue. “Hanji has been trying to reach you but you never answered. I tried to reach you too and you didn’t answer. And that’s how you welcome me?”

Levi’s annoyance faded into anger and he looked at him with piercing silver eyes. What was this all about? They knew he wasn’t always on his phone and didn’t answer most of the time when they called. And he was an adult for fuck’s sake, so why was he feeling like he was being lectured like a teenager? They had never pulled something like this on him before, worrying if he didn’t answer one or two calls, coming bursting at his front door and ringing until he answered. They knew he liked having his privacy. What was going on all of the sudden? Especially for Erwin, his very calm and collected friend, to do something like this, to look at him with such a disappointed and harsh glare.

“Can’t I rest for a day without having you or Hanji harassing me? I need a fucking break from time to time.”

“A day?” Erwin’s reply came instantly, his face now painted with bewilderment. “Levi.” His tone was firm, as if he wanted his next words to have more impact on him. “It’s been four days. Today is Wednesday.”

Wednesday. That couldn’t be true, right? He only remembered coming back from the coffee shop, answering Eren, and then… Nothing. There was a huge blank in his memories, his head hurting too much to try to remember anything. Had it really been four days? If that was true, then what had he done all this time?

“I went to see you at your office on Monday but apparently you had called in sick in the morning. For the entire week.” Erwin narrowed his eyes and gave Levi a once-over, one hand on the frame of the door so that the raven wouldn’t be able to close the door on him. “I came by after work and you never answered. Same thing for yesterday.” He took one step into the apartment, forcing Levi to back down to make room for him. “So, I’m asking you one more time.” His voice was very low and he was speaking very slowly, as if to make sure Levi would understand his every word, but Levi was too distracted by his headache to direct all of his attention towards him. “What have you been doing, Levi?”

That was actually what he was trying to figure out, what he was trying to remember, but he was failing miserably. Eventually Erwin’s patience ran out and he pushed Levi aside in order to go further into the apartment.

“Hey–!” Levi immediately ran after him, his head in his hands. He hadn’t taken a look around him when he had woken up, too focused on stopping the commotion outside his doorway. So, the sight that greeted him when he stopped next to the blond was as shocking to him as to his friend. There were numerous bottles of alcohol scattered around the room. Some were on his coffee table, others on the floor and also on the kitchen bar. Some were empty, others half full. There were also clothes tossed on the backrest of his couch, crumpled.

“What is this Levi? Your place is a mess.” His tone was accusatory, angry, disappointed. But when he turned to glare at him, his face was very calm. Erwin was the type of person to be collected and impassive the more his anger grew, which made him quite intimidating, and Levi had managed to make him very angry. But for now, Levi was too preoccupied by the state of his apartment to be worried about his friend’s emotions.

Bits of memories were coming back to him, pieces by pieces. He had started by drinking the bottles he kept stored away in his bedroom – to prevent Hanji to drink them when she came – a few hours after sending the messages to Eren. Then he had went to buy some more on Monday, right after calling his office to let them know he was ‘sick’.

He was suddenly dragged out of his thoughts when two hands grabbed him by the collar, pulling him closer to the other man and forcing him to look him in the eye.

“Are you even listening to me? Your eyes are red and you reek of alcohol.” He could feel his minty breath on his face as he talked, his hands still firmly grabbing his shirt. Levi tried to get away from his grip, pushing and grabbing his wrists, but he had no strength left. His body felt heavy, his heart was racing, his breathing erratic, and he had a lump in his throat which made it hard to swallow.

“I thought we were over this.” Suddenly the grip around his collar disappeared and Levi stumble backwards until his back hit a wall, his eyes shut because of the sudden movement. When he opened them again, Erwin was still looking at him, but this time he could see sorrow flashing through his blue eyes. “I never thought I would see you like this again.”

His next words pierced him more than everything he had said until now, echoing in his mind with memories of other times he had heard them.

“You’re a mess, Levi.”

The last time he had heard those words had been after one of too many hangovers. At the time, he had taken the habit of going to random college parties to get his hands on free booze in order to numb his mind and stop thinking about unpleasant things. For example, how empty his apartment was and how lonely he felt every time he was in there. It had been his last hangover from binge drinking.

Until today, apparently.

If he really had been drinking these past four days, he could only imagine what he looked like right now. That would explain the look of disgust Erwin had given him earlier. That would also explain why he felt like crap. Had he only been sleeping? Because he didn’t feel like it, and he couldn’t remember the last time he had. He didn’t even recall receiving calls and texts. He didn’t even know if he had contacted Eren.

“What happened?” He sounded genuinely concerned now, though his eyes were still trying to make him feel guilty about relapsing. But Levi already felt guilty enough. Guilty and stupid. And it had been to forget about his stupidity that he had started drinking on Saturday. But then he had somehow continued, and hadn’t stopped, going as far as calling in sick for work. He was even stupider than he had originally thought.

“We'll talk about this later. For now, go take a shower. I’ll clean your mess while you clean yourself and get rid of that stench.”

Levi didn’t make himself pry and went directly to the bathroom without sparing one look to his friend. He felt gross, dirty, and needed to get out of his clothes right this instant. His hair felt greasy in his hands and he cringed thinking that he might have not taken a shower since Saturday. He could also feel stubble on his chin and jaw, and he had to repress the need to scratch at it to make it go away. The sooner he would be in the shower and shave, the better he would feel. It had been a while since he had felt that uncomfortable in his own skin.

He only allowed himself to relax when he felt the hot spray of water falling on his body, washing away his bad thoughts and rising to the surface some old memories. Memories he hadn’t thought about in a long time, memories he tried not to think about because it was a part of his life he wasn’t proud of. It was a time where he had been at his lowest, had made the worst decisions of his life, but had also found people who to this day still stood by his side no matter what.

Memories of the time he had been a university student.

 

________

 

Levi had gone to his classes right from the start of his first semester at university, despite the fact that he wasn’t fully healed and still hadn’t recovered from his accident, because he didn’t want to lose his scholarship. He had talked to the administration of his department and they had ensured him that he could take a week or two off without losing his grant so that he could rest, but he had assured them he could go to his classes. As a result, he had been categorized as the guy who got into an accident, and either people came to him to ask him questions about it, or people just ignored him while pointing their fingers at him.

The memory had still been fresh in his mind, haunting his dreams, and thus he had started rejecting people and had used the ruckus made around him to isolate himself. He was better off alone than surrounded by curious, hypocrite people. But then he had met Hanji. They had only shared one class – their major being completely different: economics. He had actually had no idea why she was in this course since she was in the science department, but apparently she had taken it to gain extra credits. He hadn’t tried to look into it any further anyway, it wasn’t his business.

But even if that was what he had told himself, she hadn’t thought the same way. For some obscure reasons, she had taken a liking to him and always sat next to him, chatting until the class started, talking again after it had ended. Since he never answered her and utterly ignored her, he had thought she would grow tired of it and leave him alone, but it had never happened. Sometimes she would praise him for his listening skills and in those moments, he wondered if she was joking or just completely oblivious. But at some point, it had become part of his routine.

Maybe he was her charity case and she had thought she could cure him or something, and that was why she tried to give him some advice. “Don’t frown too much, you’re going to get a lot of wrinkles!” and “Maybe you should try to smile more and glare less, you’ll be really popular!” had been one of them. Another one had been to try to socialize more, inciting him to go to parties in order to do so. And it was with that advice that everything had started.

When Levi had set foot into his first student party, he hadn’t quite known what to do. He hadn’t felt like talking to anyone, even if that was the reason Hanji had encouraged him to go. In order not to stand out too much and be stared at, he had gone to pour himself something to drink. He hadn’t really tried drinking alcohol before, it was too expensive and it wasn’t as if he could have found some in an orphanage, so it had been his first time. First, it had burned his mouth and throat, but he had shrugged it off and kept drinking. Then, he had started getting light headed, his overactive mind shutting down slowly and turning into nothingness. He hadn’t disliked the feeling, and on the contrary had wanted more of it, realizing it was helping him think less.

The following morning, he had woken up with a slight headache, but he had slept. What was more, he hadn’t had any nightmares. A throbbing head was a treat compared to a night spent wide awake, waiting for sleep to come for him, and bringing him to a place filled with darkness and nightmares. A migraine was more bearable than his usual insomnia.

And thus, he had discovered the magical effects of alcohol and its power to make him forget. During the week he was either in class, studying or working part-time, but coming Saturday night he would go to wherever a party was being thrown. He would drink until he couldn’t think straight, until he knew he wouldn’t remember what bothered him, and then would hook up with someone to fill his loneliness. He had stopped counting the times he had woken up in somebody’s arms or bed, only vague memories of what had happened the previous night. It didn’t matter to him. At least he had dreamless nights, company, and wasn’t even spending one cent on anything.

Of course, Hanji hadn’t thought it was a good idea, even though she had been the one originally coaxing him to ‘socialize’. But she had no power over his actions, and thus hadn’t said anything more. She was still forcing herself on him, acting as if they were friends, and was always there alongside him whether he wanted it or not. At some point, they had started studying economics together, and Hanji had introduced him to their lecturer who was in reality her childhood friend. He had then joined their study sessions, explaining again some points they hadn’t understood during his class. That had been how he had met Erwin.

By the end of his first year, Levi had looked almost like a ghost. He was even paler than usual, had huge purple bags under his more than often red eyes, and looked like he would faint any minute. He had considerably lost weight during the year, and his short stature had amplified his thin figure. He wasn’t eating nor sleeping much, studying hard for his finals while working extra time to pay for his daily life. The scholarship was helping him with the school fees but not much with his rent or daily expenses.

Erwin had tried to talk to him, apparently at Hanji’s request who had been getting more worried throughout the year. But Levi had shrugged him off: they were nothing to each other and he didn’t need to burden him with his life.

After the finals were finally over, a huge party had been organized during the weekend at someone’s house, and of course Levi had gone there. It meant free food and free alcohol. But with the state he had been in, overexerted because of his finals, without having eaten decent food in a while, the alcohol he had drank had done more damage than he had been anticipated, and soon everything had become a blur.

The next thing he had known, he had woken up on someone’s couch in a different house. He had started to panic, not remembering anything of the party and how he had gotten there. He was used to wake up in someone else’s place, but even if everything was vague, he still always remembered the moment he had left the party. But not this time.

“You’re a mess, Levi.” The voice had been familiar, which had relieved him for a second, but then he had met the gaze of his host and his body had tensed again. Erwin had been standing in front of him, looking down at him with his pale blue eyes, a disapproving look on his face.

He had explained that he had gotten a phone call from a very panicked Hanji, explaining that she had seen the raven at a party, but she was worried because he had looked like he would faint any minute and she hadn’t known what to do. When Erwin had arrived at the party, Levi had already blacked out, his head resting on the shoulder of an agitated Hanji, so he had brought him back to his place while unconscious and with the help of the brunette.

Erwin had tried once again to ask him what was wrong, had even dragged him to the hospital to make sure he was okay. He had tried to offer his help in order to pull Levi out of the spiral of dejection he had thrown himself into, but Levi had been too proud and stubborn to accept. It had taken him another year of pushing Erwin and Hanji away and them pushing back before finally accepting their help.

It had happened during his second year. Levi’s lifestyle had gotten out of control and he had hit rock-bottom, collapsing during one of his classes because of exhaustion. Erwin had had enough of Levi’s nonsense and had then forced him to move into his apartment. Like this, he would be able to make sure Levi was eating enough, could keep an eye on him, and the raven wouldn’t have to come back to an empty apartment everyday.

Erwin wasn’t even working at the university anymore, but being close friends with Hanji, he had been in contact with her and had been updated on Levi’s condition. During the year he had spent at the university with Levi, he had started to care for him. Levi was intelligent, had good instincts and good thinking when it came to business and marketing. He had come to enjoy talking to Levi during their study sessions and hadn’t wanted him to ruin his life like he had started to do. He knew Levi could do so much better. He had so much potential but was ruining it by not taking enough care of himself.

From that moment and onwards, Erwin and Hanji had done everything they could to put Levi back on his feet, and Levi had finally allowed them to piece him back together, small pieces by small pieces. It hadn’t been easy, the road he had had to take in order to reach his recovery had been long and torturous, but Hanji had been there every step of the way. She would brush off his insults, even smile when he told her to fuck off and leave him alone, always putting up with his moods and never complaining.

Levi didn’t even know why she had gone to such great length for him. He had only been a jerk to her, as well as to Erwin, but still they had stood by his side when everyone had giving up on him. Hanji had once told him that without his help she would have never passed her economics course, and that even though he was a grumpy smurf, he was a very caring person even if he didn’t see it, and that was the only reason she needed to stay besides him. And she also liked his sense of humor.

So, after two long years spend in self-loathing and self-depreciation, ruining his physical health while ignoring his mental one, Levi had eventually come out of his depression stronger and had started to work harder than anyone else. He had managed to save up enough money to live comfortably, got good grades during the last of his degree and obtained his diploma with honors. He had also made the two best friends he could have wished for in the middle of a storm. One was always next to him, pushing him forward and helping him challenging himself to increase his confidence. The other was silently watching over him, ready to give him a good beating if needed alongside good advice, and always there to catch him if he fell.

They were his new family, the most two important persons in his life, and he would have continued to crawl into the hole he had dug without them. But despite all of that, here he was, relapsing, turning to drinking once again in order to drown his shame and sorrow, hiding in another bubble of self-hatred, becoming a coward once more. Pulling them through another one of his breakdowns was unfair to them and only made his guilt heavier.

He really didn’t deserve them.

 

________

 

After washing his hair twice and his body red because of scratching the dirt out of his skin, Levi stepped out of the shower, a towel wrapped around his shaking figure. He slowly put clean clothes, relishing in the scent of his floral detergent. Then, avoiding to look directly at his reflection while facing the mirror, he brushed his teeth and carefully shaved his stubble, heaving a sigh once his face was as smooth as he was used to.

When he came back to the living room, feeling a tad better now that he was clean and his jaw free of his four-day beard, Erwin had already cleaned everything, no bottles in sight anymore. He was leaning against the kitchen bar, his arms crossed in front of his chest, and his face relaxed a bit when he saw the clean state of the raven. Levi passed a hand in his damp hair, not really knowing what he should do or say now.

“When is the last time you ate something? You seem thinner. And your fridge is empty.” Levi paused at his inquiry, pondering the question in his head. He actually had no idea, but he could feel his stomach rumble at the prospect of food. He didn’t know if feeling pretty hungry was a good or a bad sign. But at least he had some appetite, and in the end, he decided it was an indication that he wasn’t as in bad shape as he had thought.

“I’m going to call Hanji and ask her to grab some food on her way.” He pulled out his phone from his pocket and then looked at Levi, no emotions apparent in his eyes – or at least Levi couldn’t decipher them. “Listen, Levi. I don’t care if you don’t want to tell me what’s wrong, I know you don’t talk easily about your problems.” Erwin stared at him a few seconds to be sure the raven was listening to him, then let go of a heavy sigh. “But you should still talk to someone, so talk to her. She’s worried.” He took another phone in his hands, which Levi immediately recognized as his own, and handed it out to him. “You have a lot of missed calls and texts from her. And also texts from someone called Eren.”

Levi shuddered at the mention of the brunet’s name, feeling a twinge of guilt, and he eventually took the phone from his friend’s hands very carefully, as if the device could bite him at any moment. Erwin then stepped aside after dialing Hanji’s number, and Levi looked with a blank expression at all the notifications. Thirty or so missed calls plus a dozen of messages from Hanji, and as he had said, eight unread messages from Eren. He opened the conversation, slightly closing his eyes so he wouldn’t be able to read the texts right away, still trying to prepare himself for the inevitable.

When he finally looked and scrolled through the messages, he realized there were some he had supposedly read but couldn’t even remember, and among them a text he had written but had obviously forgotten. The messages went as far as Saturday, right after the texts he had sent to apologize, the only ones he remembered typing, and stopped on Tuesday.

[Saturday, February 23]

Eren:
(10:33) Seriously? I can wait a bit you know, i don’t mind

(10:36) Or we can meet in the afternoon if it’s more convenient for you :)

(10:42) And one sorry is enough you know, coming from you it’s kind of weird

(11:15) You okay though? Work is that bad? :/

(12:32) Ok, i guess you’re really busy, i’ll just go back home for today…

[Sunday, February 24]

Eren:
(14:21) You better make it up to me because i’m actually kind of mad you didn’t tell me anything about working and let me think you were lying somewhere in your blood unable to text back

(14:30) Even if it was because of your work and couldn’t help it, you could have at least let me know before

[Monday, February 25]

Eren:
(8:11) I was half joking when i said i was mad but if you keep on ignoring me i might really be…

Me:
(9:34) Sorry, work is a bitch, too busy, talk to you later

Eren:
(9:40) I get that you’re busy but it’s not the first time you are and you’ve never been like this before

(9:41) You don’t even sound like yourself

(9:48) Well i mean text like your usual self, since obviously i can’t hear you…

(20:07) Are you ok??

[Tuesday, February 26]

Eren:
(12:15) I hoped i was imagining this but why does it feel like you’re avoiding me?

(12:17) I’m the one whose mad, not you, so why don’t you talk to me?

(16:34) Fine, if you want to be like this, i can do it too

(19:56) Once you feel like talking to me again text me, i might not reply though

 

Eren was mad at him, and he had every right to, he had been a huge asshole. Levi was mad at himself too anyway. He had screwed things up big time and didn’t know if he would be able to repair the damages he had caused. Lying was one thing, locking himself into a bubble of misery and ignoring everyone around him was another. And if he had thought lying would be the reason why their friendship would suffer or end, now it would be because he hadn’t been strong enough to deal with his actions and had returned to his old bad habits.

Erwin came back in front of him, letting him know that Hanji was on her way and would indeed bring some food for them. They waited for her in silence, Levi sitting on the couch with his head in his hands, waiting for the medicine he had taken a few minutes ago to work his magic, while Erwin had taken place once again against the breakfast bar, looking at him from the open kitchen. He moved from his position only when he heard the doorbell, and with a small “I’ll let you two alone”, he opened the door to Hanji before leaving the apartment.

The room was still silent even though Hanji was supposed to be here, and Levi had to look up to be sure she hadn’t gone back after seeing him. She was standing a few steps away from him, a pained expression on her face, looking scared to approach him as if he was made of glass. When she saw him looking at her, she forced a smile and closed the distance between them, putting different plastic bags on the coffee table.

“I didn’t know what you’ll be in the mood for so I took both burger and sushi.” She opened the bags a little to let Levi see their contents and gave him another awkward smile. “Which one do you want?”

Levi frowned at the thought of all the grease contained in the burger and the fries and instantly replied, without a second thought. “Sushi.”

They started to eat in silence, Levi feeling grateful to finally fill his stomach with something eligible, and Hanji making a mess of both her face and hands with all the grease and salt of the fries. Levi didn’t comment on it, but couldn’t help but noticed she hadn’t said anything more since she had come. He could sense she wanted to ask him something, could feel her fidgeting beside him, but she was probably too scared to start the conversation.

“I’m not gonna break so whatever you wanna know, ask.” She stopped mid-mouthful, looking at him through her thick glasses, and eventually put down her burger before wiping her hands with a paper napkin.

“Right, uh…” She cleared her throat a few times, drank a few sips from her soda before turning towards him, her brows slightly furrowed. “So… Did your date with Eren went, uh… Wrong?”

“How did you guess?” He knew it wasn’t fair to her to be sarcastic right now, but he was starting to feel uncomfortable seeing her tiptoeing around him and not being her usual self.

“Well, uh… You know…” She moved her hands to point at his apartment, at him, at her, trying to make him guess what she wanted to say. “And also… Eren…” She stopped when she saw Levi’s eyes narrowing at the mention of his name. “Eren texted me on Monday, saying that you weren’t answering because you were… too busy with your work.” She cleared her throat once again, not mentioning that she had already knew it was a lie at the time. “He was wondering if you weren’t pushing yourself too hard.”

Levi recalled the texts Eren had sent him, heaved a long sigh, and looked at the brunette who was looking everywhere but at him. She was fidgeting even more than before, playing with her glasses in a nervous manner, and then something occurred to Levi. He had already seen her acting like this. It had been when she had learned he had drunk too much at the party she had suggested him to go to. She was feeling guilty.

“Hanji.” She jumped at the mention of her name, finally risking to look him in the eye. “We’ve been through this. You making a suggestion doesn’t make you responsible if the result is bad.” She made a face, surprised he had guessed what was on her mind. “It’s my own shitty decisions. Not yours. Stop feeling guilty.” He turned away from her, resuming to eat the rest of his food, giving her time to process what he had said. When he judged she was less tensed, he resumed their conversation.

“So, what did you say?” She looked at him puzzled, not entirely following, then a light passed through her eyes and her mouth opened slightly in understanding.

“Oh! Uh… Well, I told him that I would check up on you but I didn’t know anything more.” Levi hummed at her response, feeling a tad grateful she hadn’t said anything. He hadn’t really checked, but he was pretty sure she had tried to contact him on Sunday and already knew that he had taken days off when she had answered Eren.

He paused his eating, narrowing his eyes in concentration, but eventually gave up his internal battle. Erwin was right, he needed to talk to somebody, and Hanji already knew practically everything that was going on with Eren. At some point she had become his personal adviser about the matter.

“I fucked up more than last time, Han.” She looked at him dumbfounded at both his statement and the use of her old nickname he rarely used nowadays. Levi put the heels of his palms over his eyes in order not to see her expression and for her not to see his. “He’s mad at me. I would need a fucking miracle to make everything right again.”

He then explained everything that had happened on Saturday, still hiding behind his hands. She stayed silent during the whole story, only humming from time to time to let him know she was listening. When he had finished telling her everything and the silence kept on stretching, he eventually removed his hands and looked at her. She appeared really deep in thought.

“When was the last time you texted him?” She still seemed to think about something, so he didn’t try to know why she was asking him this.

“Monday. I don’t even remember doing it.” She didn’t say anything, still absorbed in whatever was happening inside her brain. “He told me that if I texted him he might not answer. He’s pissed. And he has the right to.” Levi took a deep breath before exhaling slowly. “I’m an asshole.”

“Hm…” That was all he got as an answer. Didn’t she had something to say about that? It wasn’t as if he had been expecting her to fervently deny his statement, but still, he hadn’t expected her to be this silent about it. He was feeling kind of hurt.

But then, suddenly, some mischievous light shone through her eyes and a large smile appeared on her face. He knew that smile and it never occurred something good. Before he had the chance of doing anything, she put her phone out of her pocket, typed something on her screen, and then put the phone against her ear, her smile growing bigger when she heard the sound of the dialing.

“Hanji, what are you–”

“Hey Eren! It’s Hanji! How’re you doing?” What the hell was she trying to do? Levi looked at her with utter disbelief on his face, not believing she was actually doing this.

“Hm? Me? I’m feeling great, thanks for asking! Are you busy?” Levi tried to take the phone away from her or to tell her to stop whatever she was trying to achieve, but she pushed him away, giving him one of her let-me-take-care-of-this kind of look. So he just sat there, powerless, listening to her side of the conversation, only vaguely hearing another voice coming from the mobile.

“Oh, great then! I just wanted to tell you that I went to see Levi, and the poor thing overworked himself and isn’t feeling well. He’s a bit better now, but you should have seen him yesterday, he was practically dying in his bed, I almost didn’t recognize him! It wasn’t pleasant to look at! What, now? I just went back from his place, he’s still a bit sick but definitely feeling better. No– No, I’m not with him anymore. Anyway, send him a little text if you have time, I’m sure he’ll be glad to hear from you! That might cheer him up! I gotta go now. Thank you, you too Eren. Bye!”

Levi was still trying to process everything he had just heard when she turned to him, a triumphant look on her face, her phone still in her hand.

“What. The. Fuck. Hanji!!” He was utterly pissed she had made the decision of calling him without even consulting him, spouting lies after lies like it was the most natural thing to do. Like lying hadn’t been what had put him in this position in the first place.

“Easy grumpy pants! There, look at your phone now.” He directed his piercing glare from her face to his phone when he saw it lightening up from a notification. “Isn’t that a text from Eren?” He gasped when he saw that she was right and he had indeed received a message from the brunet. “You’re welcome by the way!”

He ignored her shit-eating grin and focused on the device in his hand instead, a lump forming in his throat because of apprehension. She gave him an encouraging slap on his back which he chose to ignore, all of his attention directed on the four letters written on his phone. He clicked on the notification with shaking hands, holding his breath while he waited for the whole message to charge on his screen.

Eren:
Hey! Hanji told me you were sick. Is that why you haven’t texted me lately?
You should have told me!!! >:(

Me:
Yeah, I haven’t been feeling well for the last few days.
Sorry for the lack of texts.

I still need to rest a bit, but I’ll be fine.

Eren:
Tell me when you’re feeling better!

Me:
I will.

 

Levi let go of the breath he had been holding and gave a small grateful smile to Hanji, his eyes still glued to the exchange displayed in front of him.

She had given him a chance, now all he needed to do was to not screw everything up again.

 

Chapter Text

Hanji stayed with Levi the whole evening and night that day. She barely looked away from him, as if he would break the second she would avert her eyes, and he could hardly blame her. She had seen him at his worst and, even though he had tried to get the thought out of her mind, she still felt guilty about the situation. They didn’t talk about what had happened and especially didn’t talk about Eren. Instead, Hanji recounted some adventures of her cat and things that had happened to her at work. Levi was half listening to her, half focused on the way her face changed from one expression to another while she talked. Levi had always found expressive people fascinating since he wasn’t one to show his feelings easily to others.

Erwin came back the following morning, bags of groceries in his hands that he stored in Levi’s fridge and cupboards after being invited in. Hanji was getting ready before leaving for work, which left them alone together. Levi didn’t quite know how to face his friend, still a bit ashamed after his actions, but Erwin was only looking at him with relief as he took in Levi’s much healthier and cleaner state. Nevertheless, he took Levi’s wallet and keys with him before leaving with Hanji, in order to make sure the raven wouldn’t do anything stupid like buy more alcohol for the day. Levi couldn’t really be angry at him, he had been the one patching him up back then, but still he was feeling like a grounded teenager and didn’t like the feeling. The only instructions Erwin left before closing the door were: “Eat, rest, and drink water.”

The rest of his week off was quite dull and endless. Hanji would eat dinner with him and then sleep on his couch, while Erwin would check on him in the evening, giving him back his keys, and taking them back again in the morning. Levi was left alone during the day, receiving texts from Hanji at lunch and before she came back, and that was it. He had rest like Erwin had told him to, but at some point, he had rest enough and didn’t know what to do with himself. He had picked up some books he had been meaning to read, hoping time would past much faster, but he was hardly registering the words he was reading and thus was left with his boredom once more.

On Friday, the frustration of not doing anything useful had him calling his office, with the hope of being able to catch up on his work before the beginning of the following week. He got in contact with Petra, a young woman working in his team and the one he considered the most efficient, enough to appoint her as his second and let her be in charge in his absence if needed. She asked how he was doing with a hint of concern in her voice but he assured her he was fine and she didn’t pry any further. She updated him on the situation of the office and their projects, going in as much in details as she could at his demand. After a bit of hesitation, she agreed to prepare documents for him so he could reduce the backlog before going back to work on Monday.

When Erwin came back in the evening, he had all the files he had asked Petra for, and Levi couldn’t help but sigh with relief at the prospect of finally having something to busy himself with. Hanji pouted when he started working right off the bat, saying he could still use his free time to relax, but Levi had had enough of that. Besides, working was doing a better job at keeping his mind off of his concerns than anything else he had tried until now. And he also felt terribly guilty for ditching his work for so many days, leaving his team alone without notice. They weren’t used to him being away for so long, since Levi rarely took days off and hardly got sick, and he could sense it with all the work he had to do, and also because of all the sticky notes they had left intended for him.

The following day, Levi was entirely focused on his work and barely acknowledged his two friends, still keeping him under close observation. Hanji was either glued to the TV or on the phone with Moblit, and Erwin was either helping him sorting his files, working on his own work, or cooking something for the three of them. Levi only got out of his bedroom when he needed to take a break, and every time he did, Hanji would jump on him while Erwin looked at them amused. It actually reminded him a lot of their study sessions back in their freshman year, and it wasn’t unpleasant.

The whole weekend went by this way, alternating between working alone in his room and breaks with his friends in the living room. The constant baby-sitting despite his attempt of saying he was fine had gotten on his nerves at some point, but he was also grateful to not be left alone and to have friends who were looking after him, even if they didn’t interact much. It was quite contradictory, his mood passing from annoyed to fond more often than not, but he endured it knowing it would end soon. He couldn’t wait to finally go back to work on Monday.  

Nobody said anything when he came back into his office except for the genuinely concerned questions about his health, wanting to know if he had time to recover fully, which he all dismissed with variations of “I’m fine” throughout the day. It hadn’t been quite right, hadn’t been quite wrong either, but Levi was only there to do his job and all he was concerned about was that they did theirs. His boss, the head of the marketing department, didn’t really say anything more than what everyone else had said, and joked a bit about the fact that the team he managed had been a bit lost without him since he hadn’t accustomed them to his absence. But for him, as long as the work was done and delivered on time, he hadn’t really mind. His leniency had a lot to do with the fact that he had known Levi for a few years now and put a lot of trust in him, justified by all the good results he had accumulated since his first day in the company. He had just been worried about his health and was glad – not as much as his coworkers who were more than relieved to see him – he was back and healthy.

Levi silently thanked his decision of calling Petra on Friday and having some work done during the weekend, and went back to bossing his team around in order to catch up for the lost time. He was also very grateful that, in his madness, he had had the genius idea to call his workplace on Monday or else he would have been in a lot of trouble, even with the trust of his teammates and boss on his side. The most brilliant idea would have actually been to stop drinking, man up and face his responsibilities, but what was done was done. Now he could only try to limit the damages. The raven shivered a bit thinking - and stopping immediately - about what would have happened if Erwin hadn’t come to his apartment on Wednesday.

 

Levi had started texting Eren again once he had rested and cleared his mind enough – which had been after contacting Petra on Friday – but since then their conversations always ended fast or felt kind of forced. There was a palpable tension every time they texted, and the thought of Eren still being mad at him made Levi sick. The brunet hardly sent him pictures like he used to, stopped conversations without any proper goodbyes, which was completely unprecedented. He wasn’t even calling him by his nickname, so Levi couldn’t find it in himself to call him by his. They didn’t talk about their failed meeting, nor did they talk about the possibility of meeting another time, and Levi knew he had to do something to make things better. Quickly. He just still hadn’t figured out how.

But then one day, Eren dropped in the conversation that his birthday was coming, the same way he would have talked about the weather, and Levi knew it was his chance to make it up to him. Arranging another meeting was out of the question, Levi wasn’t ready to go through that again and besides, telling Eren he had lied to him wasn’t exactly present material. Sending him a picture of himself wasn’t any different, since his face was part of the problem. But then Levi got an idea to make Eren happy without exposing his lie before he was ready to truly own up to it.

He would call Eren on his birthday.

Granted, Eren had also heard his voice, but from the information he recalled, Eren was more of a visual person than an auditory one, and voices were often deformed with phones. It was still nerve-wrecking for Levi, since they would be talking directly without time to think, but it was better than doing nothing. And it was also a much smaller step than the gigantic one he had tried to take by seeing Eren in person. If he didn’t want to be consumed by his ever-growing anxiety or be crushed by his insecurities in the near future, he needed to take things slow and not push himself too hard, or another disaster would occur. It was also the best – albeit only – idea he had to ease the tension between them and, hopefully, reverse their friendship to the way it was before.

It was eventually the 30th of March, Eren’s birthday, and Levi was looking nervously at his phone, waiting for Eren to reply to the text he had sent earlier. He had spent the previous night trying to build up enough courage not to go back on his decision this time, and all he needed was to know that Eren was available. When he would have the confirmation he needed, he would call him. There was no way he was chickening out now, his decision had been made. He would do this.

He jumped when he heard the sound of a notification and, without letting himself the time to think because he knew he had the tendency to overthink, he pressed the call button and put his phone to his ear. The sound of the number being dialed and the rings as he waited for Eren to pick up was making him even more nervous and his teeth were painfully clenched together.

Finally, after three rings, Eren picked up and he could hear the surprise in his voice as he started talking. “Hello?” Levi’s heart stopped for a second, and he tried to swallow the lump in his throat and chase away his nervousness. “Levi?” Hearing his name being said directly by Eren felt pleasantly strange, but he quickly washed out the thought. He needed to say something, and fast.

“Hey pumpkin.” His voice sounded quite steady in his ears and he sighed internally for being composed despite his agitation.

“Oh my go– You called me!” Eren sounded utterly surprised but also delighted, and Levi felt some kind of warmth forming in his stomach to the thought he had actually make the right decision, for once. “Why did you call me?”

“Happy birthday Eren.” He couldn’t help but smile as he voiced the words in a soft tone, even if – and especially because – the brunet couldn’t see him. He immediately heard a soft giggle and his heart stopped for the second time.

“Thanks!” Levi could still hear him laugh on the other side of the phone and his heartbeat quickened. “Whoa! Uh… Thank you, Levi.” There was a small silence but Levi didn’t know how to break it. He hadn’t really planned further than wishing him his birthday. “Sorry, uh… It’s kind of… Kind of weird hearing your voice.”

“My voice is weird?” He tried not to panic thinking Eren was actually recognizing it.

“No! That’s not what I’m saying!” His answer came so quickly and his voice sounded so alarmed that Levi had to refrain a chuckle, a bit relieved. “It’s just, um… I didn’t think you would call me, you know? So it’s kind of weird hearing your voice. But weird in a good way! Like I can’t believe I’m talking with you right now.” Eren was rambling on but Levi only found it more amusing.

“Calm down brat, it’s just a phone call.” He was saying this both for Eren and himself. He needed to calm his heartbeat before his heart would explode.

“Yeah, you’re right, but it’s the first time I’m hearing your voice. Sorry, I’m getting excited on my own.” Levi bask once again in the feeling of having made the right decision and let himself chuckle and be heard this time.

“I guess I was right to do it then?”

“Yes!” Eren’s enthusiasm was much more endearing than he had thought until recently and Levi had to fight another smile. “Uh, sorry… Yeah, thanks for calling. Is it, um…” It was kind of weird hearing Eren hesitating so much when he always felt confident in his texts, but Levi couldn’t say that he minded. “Is it, like, my birthday present?”

“If you want to, yeah.” Levi paused a fraction of second before adding: “And my apology.”

“Cool! But wait…” Levi could almost hear the engines running inside Eren’s brain. “Apology? For what?”

“Well, if you’ve forgotten then it means I’m already forgiven.”

“No no no, wait… An apology for what?” There was no way Levi would reply to that. He would have to figure it out on his own. “For… Our meeting? For the fact you didn’t show up? And didn’t text me back after?”

“Guess you haven’t forgotten then.”

“I haven’t.” The reply was immediate and Levi couldn’t help but cringe at the firm tone he had employed, like he was blaming him all over again. “Well, yeah, for a second I forgot but… I’m still mad at you.” At least he was clear on where he stood. But his voice had been less accusatory than the first time as he had said that.

“Yeah, I’m an asshole, I know.”

“No, you’re not!” He heard him clear his throat rather loudly, maybe embarrassed by his eagerness. “Well, okay, yeah. Maybe, kinda… I’m still mad you didn’t show up. But I’m not mad-mad, you know what I mean?” No, now he was lost.

“Not really.”

“Like, I’m mad, I’ve been anticipating our meeting, I was nervous and excited to finally meet you, to finally be able to put a face on your name, and you didn’t come. So I’m mad. But you had to work so it’s not entirely your fault…” Levi cringed again, because it had been a hundred percent his fault. “So more than that I’m… Sad? Yeah, I’m mad-sad.” Eren wasn’t exactly making any sense but somehow Levi kind of got it. “But now I’m happy to hear your voice, so I guess I’m not that mad anymore.” It really had been the best idea Levi had had in months.

“That was a long monologue.”

“Sorry, I’m not making any sense, am I?” Eren laughed nervously.

“Nah, it’s fine. I get it. I’m mad at myself too, hence the apology.”

“Well, apologies accepted!” Levi finally let go of all the stress he had accumulated at the sound of those two words and sink down further in his couch, a lot less tensed than at the beginning of their conversation. “If you do it again after that.”

“You mean if I call you again?”

“Yeah! I'd like that.” The manipulative little shit. “It’s nice talking to you directly. Feels more real. Even if I have a feeling I’m rambling on a lot and making a fool out of myself, since I don’t really have a filter when I start talking, and also less time to think compared to when we’re texting… But still. It’s nice.” The last part had been said slower and in a softer tone that gave Levi goosebumps.

“That’s because you’re a brat. And yeah, you’re right.”

“I’m right? About?” His tone was emanating smugness and Levi wanted to slap the back of his head to remove the shit-eating grin he was sure Eren had on his face.

“Come on, you know what I mean.”

“Nah, like you said, I’m a brat. I don’t know. You’ll have to spell it out for me.” Damn him and his manipulation skills. It was so much easier to ignore him when he was only reading words. But his voice was really hard to ignore.

“Tch. Fine.” Well, what did Levi have to lose anyway? It was just a few words to say. It was his birthday after all, he could indulge him with a few things. “It’s nice.”

“What is?” Now that was taking the joke too far.

“Are you fucking serious right now Eren?”

“I’m always serious.” He was really a manipulative little shit, Levi concluded.

“Ugh, I hate you…” Which was completely far from the truth. “It’s nice talking to you.” He said it through gritted teeth as if it pained him to say the words, so for his piece of mind he added one more extra. “Brat.” It made the brunet laugh, which wasn’t that bad.

“You call me brat more often when you talk.”

“That’s because you deserve it more. I only call you like that when you act like one.”

“Oh, come on! I’m not that bad! Besides, I’m not calling you an old man every time you act like one.”

“That’s because I don’t. But you do act like a brat.”

“Okay, name one thing I said that was brat material.” It sounded like a challenge that Levi was more than happy to accept.

“You asking me to clarify what I meant when you actually fully knew what I was talking about. That was you being a brat.”

“Fair enough. But it was totally worth it. And maybe I should start calling you a brat too, then?”

“The fuck would you do that?”

“Because you act like one too sometimes.” When did he have even acted like a brat? It was the first time someone told him that. The brunet was definitely full of confidence now.

“I sure as hell don’t.”

“Oh yes! It happens sometimes!” Levi decided to catalog the tone he was using as his smug voice.

“When?”

“When you don’t want to send me your picture.” And there they were again, talking about Levi’s picture. The raven really couldn’t say he had missed the topic.

“I’m hanging up now.”

“No no no!! I was joking! Sorry!!” He hadn’t really planed on hanging up but Eren’s reaction had been totally worth it. He didn’t seem that much confident all of a sudden.

“You sure have balls, Eren.”

“Ha-ha, yeah… I might have been overconfident for a moment.”

“Don’t do that again. And never call me brat.” He made it sound like an order and as if he was not pleased, when he actually didn’t care much. It was just too much fun teasing Eren.

“Yes sir!”

“That’s better.” There was a small silence during which Levi closed his eyes a bit, focused on Eren’s breathing.

“Anyway, um… I was wondering…”

“Hm?”

“When is your birthday? You know mine, so…”

“Why does it matter?”

“Come on, Levi! Please?” Levi could already imagine Eren’s reaction once he would find out Levi hadn’t told him back in December. But even though, Eren had already him wrapped around his finger. It was a fight he knew he wouldn’t win, and besides, he had no actual reason not to tell him.

He heaved a deep sigh, ready for the outburst to come. “Fine… It’s in December.”

“Wait, what? December? And you didn’t tell me??” And there it was. Eren was too predictable sometimes.

“Calm the fuck down. What’s the big deal anyway?”

“It’s your birthday! I mean, like, it’s YOUR day! It’s important!”

“It just means I’m getting older, I don’t see what’s great in that.”

“Yeah, but it’s also the day you were born! It’s a special day!”

Not that much special, Levi thought, but didn’t say it out loud. “Whatever…”

“Now I’m mad at you again.”

“Are you really serious now?”

“Yeah. You should’ve told me.” Levi could understand Eren being mad at him because he had stood him up but this, it was just plainly ridiculous.

“Eren… It’s just a day.”

“I’ll forgive you if you tell me the exact date.” Eren was definitely more manipulative and childish on the phone, but Levi couldn’t really be mad at him for this. He still heaved another sigh.

“You’re more annoying on the phone.”

“Please?” His tone was both pleading and playful, but Levi dismissed it. He had already decided to tell him anyway.

“Fine… 25th.”

“Huh?”

“You got what you wanted, don’t ‘huh’ me.”

“Your birthday is on the 25th of December?” Oh great, now he would have the same reactions he had had all his life when he had said his birthday date.

“Yeah, like Christmas and shit, I know. Bid deal.”

“Wow, that must suck!” Okay, that wasn’t what he had been expecting.

“Huh?”

“Well, everyone is busy with Christmas, right? So it must be hard to throw a party, and also for the presents too…”

“I don’t really celebrate it, so it’s fine.”

“You didn’t do anything for it?” He sounded genially surprised, as if the mere concept of not celebrating one’s birthday was an infamy.

“Just chilling with Hanji.”

“That’s all?”

“And I saw my other friends at the Christmas party thing I told you about.”

“Well, next year will be different because now I know when your birthday is. So I’ll do something!” He sounded so proud of himself and so sincere that it ignited a spark of hope inside of Levi’s heart. Did that mean Eren pictured them still talking to each other a year from now? It was kind of comforting and brought a genuine smile on his lips.

“Something, huh?”

“Yeah! Like, uh… Calling you, or sending pictures, or… Um…” His enthusiasm was definitely endearing and Levi instinctively put a hand in front of his mouth in order to hide from the world how that made him feel happy. “Maybe by then we would have met so throw you a party with Hanji or something.” Well, that didn’t sound bad at all. “I don’t know, I have time to think about it.”

“Don’t, I already have enough to deal with when Hanji’s around. I don’t want to have to deal with two of you.”

“I’m like Hanji?”

“Sometimes. You’re both nosy. And bratty.” And just for the sake of it he added: “And annoying.”

“That’s a lot of not so nice adjectives! But I’m not annoying.”

“What makes you think that?”

“You still haven’t hung up.” Well, whose becoming confident once again.

“I can still do that.”

“No no no!!! That was another joke!!” Levi might have found a new hobby by now: teasing Eren. It was definitely entertaining and the way his voice would become higher pitched at the threat was also very funny.

“You know at some point I’ll have to hang up, right?”

“Yeah, I know. But… We still have time, right?” So Eren didn’t want to hang up just yet. That made two of them.

“When is your party?” Levi remembered that Eren had mentioned his friends throwing a party and him looking forward to it since there would be people he hadn’t seen in a while.

“Um… Later?”

“That’s very precise.”

“Like, in the evening, so it’s okay.”

“Fine.”

“Fine?”

“Keep talking or I’ll hang up.”

They talked for at least three hours before Eren had to hang up to get ready if he didn’t want to be late to his own party. Levi hadn’t realized how long they had been on the phone until Eren had eventually started to apologize because he had to go. They had talked about things that didn’t seem really important, but it had felt so natural and Levi had felt so comfortable talking with him. It had felt like one of their conversations by texts, except he could hear Eren’s voice, Eren’s laughter, Eren’s breathing. And it had given Levi more confidence concerning their relationship.

Everything wasn’t lost. Of course, he still had to tell Eren the truth. He knew he couldn’t continue without explaining everything at some point but, for now, it was enough. He would think about this matter another time.

He would take things slowly and one step at a time.

 

Chapter Text

Eren checked his phone for the umpteenth time and let out a sigh when he saw no sign of a missed notification. He had been waiting for what felt like hours to hear back from Levi who was supposed to call him.

Since Levi had called him for his birthday, they had talked on the phone every weekend. They only used texts during the week because they were both too busy and tired. Besides, after they had hung up after midnight one Tuesday night, they had realized their conversations tended to be hours long. They had therefore both agreed to call each other only on Saturdays and Sundays.

Even if they talked for hours, they weren’t really discussing anything remotely important. They often started their conversations by telling each other about their week, switching then from one subject to another easily. Time was just passing by so fast while they were talking, Eren lost in the maze created by their conversations, leaving him more than often confused about how they had started talking about that or this topic sometimes. But he never dwelled on it for too long. He really enjoyed being able to talk with Levi, no matter the subject, and the fact they never reached the point where they had nothing to say always made him feel warm and fuzzy inside.

When had he started developing those kinds of feelings for Levi, he had no idea. They had just grown with each passing weeks and months of texting, without him really realizing it. Before he had been aware of them, he had noticed he was always waiting eagerly for Levi’s texts, smiling when he read them, and that every time something happened, he wanted to share it with him. It had been quite innocent at first, but then he had started to want more.

                 

Levi was just this name on his phone and words piled up in a conversation, but that was it. And with how close they had started to be, talking about subjects he didn’t talk about even with his closest friends, Eren wanted to see the face of the man who had brought back a smile on his face and a glimmer of hope in his life. But while being the straightforward person that he was, Eren didn’t know how to broach the subject.

“Send him a picture of you, he might do the same, right?”

Jean, surprisingly, was the one to offer him a solution. He had been at some gathering with his friends and had started to talk about his faceless new friend at some point, sharing his concerns with them. Being his flatmate, Jean had already heard of him even if he hadn’t had more details before that night. He confessed he was starting to be fed up with Eren’s constant lamentations and if he didn’t plan on doing something soon, he would be the one taking the matter in his own hands, even if he had to send a stupid picture of Eren to forward things.

Taking Jean’s threat seriously, and ignoring Mikasa's repeated concerns about how dangerous talking with a complete stranger was – like he was a 6-year-old kid, Eren started to think really hard about it. Then, one night, after a few bottles of beer to give him more courage and several messed up selfies, Eren eventually sent a picture of himself to Levi. His mind had been quite clouded by the alcohol, but all in all, it went well. Levi complimented him, after a few minutes of pleading, and it helped boosting his confidence. However, Levi didn’t send a picture of himself in return. Well, he did, but Eren still had no idea how Levi looked like. He just received broad shoulders and toned forearms as an answer. But Eren wasn’t someone known for giving up, and thus he didn’t.

Eren racked his brain in an attempt to find out why Levi didn’t want to send a picture of himself. Maybe he found himself ugly. Maybe he had a burn or a scar on his face. Whatever it was, Eren was pretty sure he wouldn’t care either way. He had already fallen hard, and all he wanted was a face to put on the name of the person who could make him smile with a single buzz of his phone. At some point, Eren even thought about the possibility of Levi not being photogenic and having a complex because of the – he hoped – flawless pictures he had sent of himself. Hence why Eren started sending silly pictures, probably making a fool of himself, in the hope of coaxing Levi to lose whatever complex he had about his appearance. But of course, it didn’t work. Eren still only received photos of his surroundings, and at best, of him but without his face.

Eren then became quite paranoiac, much thanks to Mikasa always warning him to be careful. Maybe Levi wasn’t the person he claimed to be and that was the reason why he didn’t want to show his face. Maybe everything he had said until now was only a strategy to get closer to him in order to- to what? Get pictures of him? Swindle him? Play with him? Eren was really overthinking everything at this point, and every time he tried his hardest to chase away those thoughts. He had pictures of Levi which were coherent with one another and couldn’t be some he had found on the internet. He also had the number of Hanji, Levi’s best friend, who was exactly how he had described her. Either they were two in this setup or Eren was definitely paranoiac.

However, with those thoughts, Eren started to question his feelings. How weird was it to crush on someone you had never met before? To feel so close to someone and be so far away from them at the same time? For all he knew, Levi could live miles away from him. And thus, Eren came to the conclusion he needed to stop feeling that way about him and start seeing real people. People he could actually see, meet, and talk to face to face. It would actually be better for his mental health than having an unrequited crush on someone he had never met.

But how one could meet new people? Eren had always been a very social and open person, ready to befriend anyone who started talking to him or start talking to people he thought he could get along with, yet he felt like it had been years since he had socialized with strangers. Since Armin’s accident to be exact. And thus, he never passed the stage of staring at people, trying to figure out if he should try to talk to them, gauging the way they were interacting with others to see if he could start a conversation easily. But every time he looked at a man, he couldn’t help but think of Levi and wonder if he had a long or round nose, dark or light eyes, if he looked like the man who was sitting over there or the other one on the opposite side of the room. By the time he would realize what he was doing, his mind was already filled with thoughts of his texting friend and the brunet couldn’t help but groan at his uncooperative mind.

Even that one time when he actually met someone and tried to talk to the person, it had been because he had been thinking of Levi. He went to his favorite café – which Levi couldn’t stop praising for their beverage – in order to check the man’s statements, and also maybe to feel a bit closer to him – but it was a secret. While he tried to take a good enough selfie to send to his friend, his eyes landed on a man, sitting alone at a table, looking at his phone.

He had sharp cheekbones and a well-defined jawline, a thin nose and a pointed chin. His hair was as dark as charcoal and looked really thin and silky, resting on his temple and a bit on his forehead. But what captured Eren’s attention the most were his eyes. While the rest of his face looked expressionless, even a bit rough, his lips closed in a thin line, his eyes seemed to hold a hundred of different emotions he couldn’t pinpoint. From where he was standing, he could only assess that they were light and that they were shining, the screen of his phone reflected in them.

Before he had time to really think things through – it wasn’t his style anyway, he always headed into a situation first and thought about it after – he made his way to the stranger and cleared his throat, eager to catch his attention and start a conversation with him. He had nothing to lose. At worst, the guy wouldn’t answer him and it would be it. But if it went well, he could get to know someone new, get to talk with someone he could see with his own two eyes, and it would be a hundred times healthier than being attached to someone he couldn’t even see.

The man looked up at him, surprise in his eyes but his face still closed, and Eren improvised. He figured asking him to take a picture would be as a good start as any, and also a good pretext to start a conversation. Considering it had been a while since Eren had done something like this, he was pretty sure he was a nervous mess even if he was trying to look confident and friendly. Nevertheless, the stranger seemed quite uncomfortable talking to him, so eventually he backed down and stopped intruding in his personal space.

Eren didn’t think he had read him wrong and the guy had actually been interested in him, if the way he had looked at him – scanning his body, his face and his eyes – was a good indication. So maybe the reason why he had seemed uncomfortable was because he was shy and a bit awkward socially. But even if Eren had only talked to him for a few minutes and hadn’t asked for his name nor his number, it had made him feel better. He was still able to talk to strangers if he wanted to. But as he talked with Levi on his phone afterwards, telling him what had happened, he just didn’t know if he really wanted to.

He begun to feel kind of torn after this meeting. Why had he tried to talk – even flirt if he allowed himself to use the word – with a stranger while he had Levi? Granted, they were just friends, and Eren had actually no idea if he could be interested in him or not, so it wasn’t as if he had betrayed him. But the brunet had felt like he had tried to betray his own feelings. Even if it sounded pathetic or stupid, Eren felt like a cheater.

Thankfully, he was soon on vacation, and going back home allowed him to think more clearly about his feelings. He didn’t talk to Levi a lot during December, and that fact added to his introspection spurred him on to his new – old – quest.

Getting a picture of Levi.

Maybe he was annoying, maybe he was insisting too much, but maybe if he kept asking Levi would eventually give up and oblige. However, he might have underestimated how stubborn his friend could actually be, because it never happened. Perhaps Levi had no interest in getting closer to him and that was why he refused. Eren was just this annoying brat Levi found funny to tease and talk to, and that was all. But then, Levi had confessed pretty personal things to him, things you didn’t tell someone you were just passing time with. So maybe Eren was just overthinking everything again.

And maybe he had gotten it all wrong, because one day, all of the sudden, Levi suggested for them to meet in person. It came as a huge surprise to Eren. He was shocked and had a hard time believing he had actually offered. It was so much far ahead of everything he had hoped for, but he couldn’t complain, and he didn’t. He was actually completely thrilled at the fact he would be able to not just see Levi’s face, but see it with his own eyes, hear his voice and talk to him while looking into his eyes. Be physically with him. It would make everything so much more real and Eren couldn’t wait.

The day of their date – friendly date as Eren reminded himself, not that he would mind if it was a real one – arrived and the brunet hadn’t felt this nervous in a long time. Would he be able to talk normally to Levi, without making a fool of himself? Would Levi find him more annoying once they would be face to face? And then another crucial question emerged. How should he dress? Something casual but not too casual should do it. They were meeting as friends after all, so something too classy would give the wrong message, and something not enough neat would show his messy side.

In the end, he opted for clothes he was comfortable in and had already worn in some of the pictures he had sent to Levi, as well as his lucky pants: dark skinny jeans that hugged his legs perfectly like they had been made just for him. They always gave him a boost of confidence, and that was all he needed to appease his nerves.

Once he had succeeded in taming his hair at the best of his capabilities, meaning they were still a bit messy but in a controlled way, he made his way to the bus stop in order not to be late. He would actually be early, but it was a thirty minutes route to the café and there were less buses on Saturday. Besides, being early wasn’t so bad. He could calm down a bit before meeting Levi, considering he wouldn’t be early too.

Eren had relaxed a bit during his bus trip, but the second he passed the threshold of the coffee shop, he became nervous all over again. He tried not to look too much tense and made a beeline to the counter to order his long-awaited morning dose of caffeine. He tried his best not to look around too much before getting his order, and sent a message to Levi to let him know he had arrived. Was he already here too? The thought eventually made him look at the faces present around him, and his eyes widened when they landed on a familiar one. Was it the guy he had approached last time he had been there? The more Eren glanced at him and the more it became clear that he had recognized him right.

Seeing someone he knew, even if he had only seen and talked to the guy once, kind of appeased him and made him less nervous. Would it be wrong for him to go and talk to him? He was waiting for Levi after all, it would be kind of awkward if Eren was talking to someone else when he came to meet him. But at the same time, he couldn’t imagine waiting alone at a table with all his piled-up nervousness. He could just go and talk a bit while waiting for Levi to answer his text. Just a few minutes wouldn’t hurt.

But as he approached the dark-haired stranger for the second time and saw a look of utter surprise and his eyes sending alarm signals his way, Eren suddenly came to the conclusion it had actually been a terrible idea and that the guy didn’t remember him. They had only talked once months ago, of course the guy didn’t remember, that was actually pretty normal. Eren just had a too good memory of faces for his own good. But then it had been his turn to be surprised when the guy none only remembered him but also remembered what he had drunk that day. People’s memory all worked in their own ways, he guessed, and didn’t complain. Him remembering meant he could have some company while he waited, and that was all he needed.

The guy seemed extremely uncomfortable though, even more than the first time, and Eren tried not to look too much at him to give him his space. He was too preoccupied by Levi not answering him anyway, so he didn’t dwell on it too much. But maybe he had overstepped his boundaries and the guy hadn’t known how to turn him down? Maybe he had actually no idea how to say no to people and Eren had backed him up in a corner with his demand. The fact that he shared personal details about his upcoming meeting didn’t help much, because in a matter of minutes, he stood up abruptly and said his farewell before storming out of the café. Well, not really in a hurried way, but it had felt like he wanted to get away as soon as he could without it being too flagrant. However, Eren was a good observer and had noticed it. Next time he should really refrain from annoying the poor guy.

It was way after their meeting time, and Eren still hadn’t heard anything from Levi. Not even a single text telling him he had left his apartment and was on his way, or one saying he would be late. Nothing since the evening before, and Eren’s impatience quickly turned into worry. Was Levi okay? It was definitely weird that he hadn’t heard anything from him. He had said he lived in the area and would walk to the shop, so there was no way he was caught up in traffic. Did something happen to him on his way here? Eren didn’t want to think of the worst, but without any news in the last thirty minutes he had started to go crazy and imagined a bunch of horrible and pessimistic scenarios.

Until finally he got the answer he had been waiting for. Well, he had been waiting for an answer, but the answer itself wasn’t what he had been expecting. Levi had had to go to his office to work and still hadn’t finished what he had been doing.

The first emotion that went through Eren was relief. Levi was safe, he hadn’t been caught into a car accident or anything that had hurt him and kept him from coming, which was good news. Then, Eren felt upset, because from what he had told him it seemed like Levi had been working since early in the morning, way before their meeting, and Eren couldn’t help but be pissed that Levi didn’t think about letting him know that he might be late. It could have prevented him to be worried sick and come up with all those different and horrible scenarios in his mind, and he could have waited in his own apartment for Levi to finish instead of waiting alone like an idiot in the coffee shop.

Soon he started to feel down too, because how bad was his luck that Levi had to be called for an emergency on the exact same day they had agreed to finally meet? But the brunet knew how hard Levi worked, how many responsibilities were on his shoulders, and so he felt guilty because of his selfishness for wanting Levi to leave everything behind and come see him. He wanted to see Levi so badly, but not at the expense of his job. So in the end, he decided that all he could do was wait for him a bit, in the hope of seeing him at a later time, once he would have finished his work. He would wait as long as he had to, if it meant he could meet Levi.

But eventually, after a few hours of waiting and a couple of lattes later, Eren admitted defeat. Levi hadn’t answered his texts after letting him know he was busy, and so the guilt and the dejection he had felt had soon been replaced by confusion and annoyance.

Levi might be working, he had come to terms with that, but why was he not answering him at all? Did Levi feel no remorse in standing him up like this? Didn’t he feel as bad as Eren that the opportunity to meet had gone to waste? Didn’t he feel guilty for the fact Eren had been waiting for him? Couldn’t he at least try to make it up to him? Just a small text couldn’t hurt, but Eren didn’t got one that day. All he got was Jean snickering and laughing at him when he got home much earlier than he had anticipated, pointing out what a bad date he should be if his meeting had been that short. Eren had twice the reason to feel angry that night.

Eren didn’t got an answer the next day when he tried texting Levi again. He had thought that he would have at least texted him when he would have gotten home on Saturday evening, but nothing. Moreover, it was Sunday. Surely he wasn’t working, right? Eren felt even madder because he thought Levi cared about him enough to at least text him back in this situation. He really didn’t want to think about it, but in that moment he felt as if his friends were right when they had said Levi was just playing with him.

He cast the thought aside and just ended up reading for the umpteenth time the only texts he had gotten from him on Saturday. His texts had been kind of weird, he had apologized way more than usual. That meant he at least felt kind of sorry for what had happened, right? But the fact he wasn’t answering still lingered in the air and Eren couldn’t help but be worried.

What was actually going on? Did Levi get tired of him and didn’t want to talk to him anymore? But that was way too all of the sudden. Did Levi actually come to the café, saw him talking to someone else and got mad at him? No, that didn’t make any sense either.

His mind couldn’t help but see the word sorry written in Levi’s texts flashing over and over before his eyes. Did he actually apologize because it had been his fault? Did Levi lie to him? Eren stopped immediately his reflection and scratched his head furiously as if it would make the thoughts go away. He didn’t want to doubt Levi, but the circumstances weren’t really playing in his favor. Still, Eren wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt.

He tried again on Monday, because Eren wasn’t one to give up easily, and he was also fueled by his annoyance and frustration of being ignored. And then, finally, he had gotten a reply. But the answer was really short, not really structured, and not correctly punctuated. It didn’t look like a text Levi would write. Even when he was really tired, Levi’s texts were always well typed, as if he was writing for an essay, with full stops at the end of every sentences. So more than being glad to finally have an answer, Eren had grown concerned.

Had Levi really been the one to answer him? If yes, then what had happened for him to write such an indifferent text, as if replying to Eren was a chore? Maybe that was it, and Levi was fed up with him. Maybe he was actually trying to cut ties with him, and Eren wasn’t getting the signal he was sending his way.

Then his mind wandered back to the possibility of Levi playing with him. It was one of his most unpleasant scenarios, but Eren couldn’t help but think about the likelihood. After all, it was really hard to trust someone when all you had were words on a phone. Words could be faked. And Eren had more than often had a hard time analyzing how Levi was feeling, because he was hiding his feelings too damn well. And reading someone over messages was hard and too unpredictable.

On Tuesday, Eren eventually backed off. Without any words from Levi since his suspicious text on Monday, Eren had finally settled on being mad at him. He was still a bit worried though, worried that this would be the end of their friendship and that he wouldn’t be able to talk to Levi ever again, because he definitely didn’t want that. He wanted to get to know Levi better, wanted to see him, meet him, talk to him. Have the opportunity to confess his feelings to him too, if he was getting ahead of himself. Everything ending this way wasn’t a part of his plan. Losing him wasn’t an option he wanted to consider. But Eren was tired to keep on trying on getting any kind of answer and coming up empty handed. He wasn’t exactly giving up per se, but he needed a break.

The next day after coming up with this decision, Eren got an unexpected call from Hanji. They had only talked a bit by text, mostly Hanji trying to know more about him and his relationship with Levi, but nothing too personal that would have made them friends. They were more acquaintances, besides Eren always felt like he was invading Levi’s privacy when he talked to her. So, her calling him was definitely unexpected and odd. And once they had hung up, Eren was a bit lost for various reasons.

First, why hadn’t she just texted him instead of telling him everything on the phone? But that wasn’t the most important thing that had clouded his mind. Levi was sick. This whole time, when Eren had tried to get a reply out of him, thought his text on Monday had been weird, it had just been because Levi hadn’t been feeling well.

“I’m sure he’ll be glad to hear from you!”

Could he believe then that he had been worried for nothing and that he would still be able to talk to him? Without really thinking further, he sent a text to Levi, and relief washed over him when he got an answer in the following minutes. The texts were written like usual, and Levi only needed to rest.

This wasn’t the end.

Nonetheless, Eren couldn’t help but feel like Levi had tried to push him away. He could have texted him and say he was sick and wouldn’t answer, preventing Eren from unnecessary worrying and decreasing the chances of him being angry. Didn’t he care if Eren was mad at him? Was a small heads-up in this kind of situation too much to ask? Was Eren too demanding? Was it selfish of him to want Levi to inform him of those details when he had been dead sick? After all, it wasn’t as if they were together or Levi owed him an explanation. They were just friends, texting friends. But Eren had thought they were closer than that. Or maybe it was just wishful thinking because he wanted more from their relationship. Maybe he was the only one who thought of the other as special and should stop pestering him as if they were dating.

Maybe he should back away a bit and give Levi some space.

It wasn’t what he really wanted, but at the moment his feelings were a total mess and he was at a loss as to what to do. He wanted to be closer to him, but every time he tried, it felt like it had the opposite effect. Levi wasn’t exactly pushing him away, but he wasn’t allowing him in either. Eren wasn’t really giving up on advancing their relationship forward, but for now he was tired of trying. He had been forcing Levi to open up to him, almost harassing him for his picture, but now he was done with it. He would let Levi set the pace. If he wanted to get closer, he would have to do something about it, like when he had proposed to meet – even if that had resulted in a disaster, but Eren wouldn’t force it.

Their conversations therefore turned awkward. There was a tension, that much was clear, but Eren wasn’t sure from which side it came from. Maybe both. He couldn’t ask Levi about trying to meet him again, the whole subject seemed taboo, and besides, he had agreed not to ask for anything more. But being restricted in that way was part of the reason everything seemed awkward. Eren was restraining himself from talking about certain things, and that made him uncomfortable. Sending pictures made him uncomfortable too now. And another reason for the tension was that Eren was still upset about their failed meeting, or more exactly about the lack of communication that had ensued. And it felt to him like Levi didn’t really care about any of it.

Eren dropped small – maybe not very subtle – hints about his upcoming birthday, but as Levi never seemed to react, he didn’t push the topic further. So, on the D-day, when his phone lightened with four familiar letters and a picture of broad and toned forearms, his ringtone filling his ears, he completely froze. It was a really nice surprise, and he couldn’t shake the smile that appeared on his face during that moment.

Levi called him. He was able to hear Levi’s voice, talk to him, hear him pronounce his name, calling him by his nickname too. His voice was particularly deep and low, and a few times he had been able to hear a small laugh, or more like a low chuckle, and damn did Eren want to make him laugh for real. It seemed like a hard challenge, but he wouldn’t back down from it and would keep trying.

After the phone call, Eren started to wonder once again how Levi looked like. For the moment, he knew that Levi was quite muscular, had seen it a few times on the pictures he had received. He also knew that Levi had black hair, information he had gotten from a picture Hanji had sent him once, but it hadn’t been enough to clearly see his hairstyle. He then wondered what color his eyes would be. He had already tried to guess from the color of his ties, but they ranged from blue to red, which wasn’t helpful in any way. Eren was really trying to get hints from anywhere he could.

He really wanted to see the face that went with the deep and low voice, broad shoulders and toned forearms, but for now he felt satisfied enough with what he had gotten. Levi had called him, he had taken the next step in their friendship, and Eren couldn’t be more delighted. Hearing his voice had changed so many things for him. Mainly, it had dissipated the main concerns he had about Levi and had made everything more real. But because of that he had truly started to feel greedier.

Eren had really fallen hard for Levi and had crossed the point of no return.

                 

The sound of his ringtone put an end to Eren’s thinking and he hurried to pick up his phone. The familiar name on his phone put a smile on his face, and without further ado, he answered the call. His lips stretched into a bigger smile once he heard the low-pitched voice he had come to be accustomed to greeting him and saying his name.

Like usual, they began talking about their day and their week, and as the conversation stretched, an idea Eren had had for a few days now resurfaced and his attention was divided between his thoughts and their conversation.

“Oi, Eren!” He jumped slightly at the use of his name combined with what he could only identify as annoyance in Levi’s voice.

“Huh? What?” He really hadn’t been listening for the past minutes, too engrossed with the thoughts of ‘Should I ask or should I not?’.

“You sound distracted. I can hang up if you have other things to do.”

“No no no! I don’t! I was just, uh… Thinking…” Eren rubbed his forehead with his thumb and index in order to clear his mind, hoping Levi wasn’t thinking he was bored with their conversation.

“Well, don’t hurt yourself.” Levi sneered. Eren would have been offended if it had been anybody else, but it was Levi, and he was kind of used to it by now. “Something you wanna share?” Detecting no anger in his voice, Eren judged safe to assume that he wasn’t really mad at his inattentiveness. On the contrary, he actually seemed a bit curious.

Should he just give it a go and ask? It wouldn’t be weird, right? Eren was pretty sure Levi wouldn’t answer if he didn’t want to, so there was no actual reason to be scared to do it. Anyway, by now, Levi should be used to Eren asking him random questions out of nowhere, so that really shouldn’t be a problem. The older man actually seemed to indulge his cadet more on the phone than by text. But the issue was: how to come up with the question without it being weird?

“Um… Yeah, uh… But… Don’t you… Don’t you have other things to do on your side?” The line went silent for a few seconds and Eren started to think it wasn’t really the best way to go with this.

“Tired of me already?”

“No!!! That’s not what I meant!!” Well, it was definitely not going in the direction he wanted this to go.

“What do you mean, then?” He heard him sigh and he tried to refrain the urge to facepalm himself in frustration. It would be so much easier if Levi could just read his mind. No, wait, it was actually a very bad idea.

“What I meant was, um… Don’t you have, like, someone else you have to be with? Since it’s the weekend and all…” It might not be the smoothest way to ask him if he was seeing someone, but if in the end he got the information he wanted, it didn’t really matter.

“Like who?”

“I don’t know, your… Your girlfriend or something?” Eren hold his breath, waiting for the inevitable answer, but didn’t have to hold it for too long because the reply came almost instantly.

“I don’t have a girlfriend.”

“Oh.” Eren tried not to sound too happy about his answer and to sigh of relief not too loudly. But he was still a bit nervous, because it wasn’t exactly what he had wanted to know, just a tiny part of it.

“Never have, never will.” Wait. Did Levi just imply what he thought he did?

“Oh… Oh! D-Does that mean you’re… Uh…” It wasn’t a hard word to pronounce but somehow it was stuck at the back of his throat.

“Yeah.” He didn’t have to say it in the end, and now he actually had the answer he had wanted. Levi was gay. Levi was interested in men. Levi could be interested in him. And just that tiny bit of information, even if it didn’t entail that he actually was, gave Eren a lot of hope and a boost of confidence. “Is that a problem?”

“What? No! No, I don’t mind! I… Um…”

“Hm?” Eren took that as his cue to come out to Levi without sounding like he was trying to convey a message or trying to give him a hint as to what he was feeling towards him.

“I’m actually pan, so that’s not… A problem.”

“Good then.”

“So… No boyfriend either?” Now that he had come this far, Eren didn’t think it would be bad to continue with the questioning and get all the information he could get.

“You’d know if I had one.”

“I would?” Would Levi actually share this with him? To this point, they had never really talked about relationships, being past or present. His surprise was legitimate.

“I wouldn’t have told you how much I’m bored during the weekend if I had someone I could spend it with. And I wouldn’t spend my afternoon talking on the phone with you either.”

“Oh. Yeah. That makes sense.”

It was actually pretty easy to guess now that he was thinking about it. Levi often complained about not knowing what to do with his free time, besides what he already did every day. And that Hanji always either tried to coax him out of his apartment or crashed on his couch to keep him company because she thought he was lonely. None of this would be accurate if Levi was seeing someone.

“You?”

“Me? W–What about me?”

“You have someone or you’re just as a loner as I am?”

“Oh!” Eren tried to contain his joy at thinking that Levi was actually interested in knowing if he was single or not. “Uh, yeah. I mean, I don’t. No! I mean I, uh…” Eren took a few seconds to take a big breath in order to be less agitated and manage to give him a proper answer. “I’m single.”

“Hm…”

It almost sounded like a hum of content, and Eren pushed away the thought that Levi was actually happy at the answer he had gotten. It wasn’t really the time to think that he actually had a chance and that he was also interested. He would take his time to think about it once he would be alone with his thoughts and not on the phone with the object of them.

They talked a bit more after that, changing the subject and not mentioning it like it had never happened. The moment they hung up, Eren threw his head in his hands, his brain running at full speed because of the information he had just gotten.

Levi was gay and single. Which meant Eren’s chances were pretty high, or at least it wasn’t impossible. It wasn’t as if they had started talking to each other in the prospect of getting together, they had become friends because of they’re circumstances. Well, it wasn’t as if anyone could predict that kind of outcome, nor that it was a rule not to date the friend you made through texting – as if it was a recurrent situation. But maybe Levi would never be interested in a 21-year-old ‘brat’. Then, when had Eren ever given up in front of a challenge? It wasn’t in his nature, and on the contrary a good challenge always fired him up. He was too far gone to give up now anyway.

 

Even after a month, his imagination was still running wild because of their conversation. They had never picked up the subject about relationships again, which Eren was kind of grateful for since it would become awkward quite fast if Levi asked him if he had anyone in mind. However, that didn’t help leading their own relationship anywhere. It wasn’t that bad, they had time. Eren wasn’t in a hurry, and they had been both busy in the last few weeks. But now that he had more free time on his hands, therefore more time to think, Eren was back to wondering what he could possibly do.

A few days after that thought came up in his mind though, he received messages from Levi that got him stop everything he had been doing and thinking. His mind was completely blank and he might have stopped breathing for a second or two too.

Levi:
Hey pumpkin. You’re free on Saturday?

Me:
Good morning sunshine! ;)

Yeah, i am. What’s up?

Levi:
There’s something I need to tell you but I can’t on the phone.

Can we meet somewhere? I promise this time I’ll show up.

Me:
Yeah, sure. Is it something serious?

Should i be scared or something?

Levi:
Depends on you. But yeah, kind of, I guess.

10a.m at Rose café?

Me:
You’re making me nervous now

Isn’t that close to my uni? Why not at survey corps?

Levi:
They have more private booth, and this time it’s my turn to come near your place.

Me:
Oh, okay

Levi:
You’re on then?

Me:
Yeah, sure. I’ll be there

Levi:
Good. Talk to you later.

 

It took Eren a few minutes before collecting himself, and even then, he was still pretty shaken up.

Levi asked to meet him. Levi wanted to tell him something. Something he couldn’t or didn’t want to say on the phone. Something he needed to tell to his face.

What did Levi possibly want to say that could be this serious?

 

Chapter Text

As April came to a close, and after another long phone conversation spent with Eren, Levi was lost in his thoughts. Every time they hang up, the lingering feelings of contentment and warmth always made him feel light headed and almost wistful.

He really enjoyed his conversations with Eren. He felt like they were becoming even closer now and sharing even more than they had before. Hearing Eren’s voice and laughter was something he was looking forward to every weekend and which always left him satisfied at the end of the day. Before, he dreaded the end of the week, having nothing to do with his free time. Now, he longed for them, eager for Saturday to come by.

But as a feeling of closeness grew inside of him, a feeling of uneasiness grew equally. The closest he felt to Eren, the more torn he felt about what he had done. The weight of his lies was heavier by each passing day, and every day he told himself he had to do something about it.

He wanted to see the smile on his face at the same time he would hear him laugh. He wanted to look into those deep green eyes, touch his sun-kissed skin, and most of all, he wanted to be honest with Eren. He wanted to tell him everything, even the deepest parts of his feelings, the ones he didn’t totally understand but wanted to.

But at the same time, the idea of opening up to Eren was frightening him. It was something he had never really done before, being this vulnerable in front of somebody else without even an ounce of control. It was scaring him, but the pain he was experiencing was even more unbearable than the fear of laying himself bare in front of someone.

It was as if there were two different persons inside of him. On one side, there was this strong and proud man who couldn’t believe how weak he had been until now, how he had succeeded in putting himself in such a predicament, and believed he had to fix it as quickly as possible because that wasn’t who he really was. On the other side, there was this weak and frightened man who was fearing of losing the person he had come to care for because of his own stupidity, who was afraid of opening up to someone else and be rejected.

He had never been in this kind of situation before. Not the fact that he had a texting friend, no. The fact that he cared so deeply for someone other than his friends. And even with his friends, he didn’t care for them to that level. He didn’t crave to hear their voice, to see their face, like he did with Eren. It was all new to him and that was why he was so scared.

He had already decided to tell Eren everything, come clean to his dupery and put the future of their relationship in his hands. The only thing that kept him wondering was when and how to do it. He kept on thinking he needed more time to ready himself for it, but deep inside he also knew it was because he was persuaded it would mean the end, and he wanted to keep talking to Eren a bit longer. He only felt disgust at that selfish thought.

However, there were still a shred of hope in his heart telling him everything would turn out okay, and in that hopeful state of mind, one wish emerged. He wanted to be with Eren for Armin’s second death anniversary. He wanted to be there for him, to comfort him and support him in his grief. The idea kept germinating in his mind and growing like weed he had no control over, but in the end, it was what gave him strength and courage to move forward.

He would wait for Eren to be done with his final exams in May, let him rest a bit after two exhausting weeks of studying and barely sleeping, but he wouldn’t wait too much so there would be a bit of time between their meeting and the anniversary. Just in case Eren needed time to think things through – which he wouldn’t blame him for.

That left him with at least two weeks to think about everything and how he would bring up the subject, what he should say. There wasn’t exactly a manual about how-to-come-clean-after-lying-about-your-identity, so Levi was a bit overwhelmed and outside of his comfort zone. So, in his confused mind, he called for the only person who knew the situation he was in and knew him enough to help him, and maybe bring him a bit of comfort. Or a good kick in the ass to keep him from doubting everything and especially himself. He didn’t really know which one he needed the most.

 

“You’re going to tell everything to Eren!?”

The moment Levi mentioned his decision to Hanji, she completely exploded, standing up from her position on the couch and jumping to take him into her arms. Not really in the mood for her overexcited antics – like any other day for that matter, he pushed her away while telling her to calm down. She let him go but still continued bouncing on her feet with excitement, moving her hands and arms in every direction as if she was seizing.

“Oh Levi, I’m so proud of you!!” He could tell she was doing her very best not to throw herself on him one more time.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever…” He answered in an almost bored tone. No matter how much he was used to her hysteria, it didn’t mean he liked to witness it.

“I’ve wanted to do something about it for sooo long, it was almost killing me! But with what happened last time I thought it would be a bad idea to force your hand. I really wasn’t excepting you to drown your sorrows like that!”

“I fucked up, I know that. Can we move on?” He winced at the mention of his drinking spree, but knew she didn’t mean any harm by talking about it. It was actually better than tiptoeing around the subject or trying to act as if it had never happened.

“No, but this is super important Levi!! What happened for you to take this decision!?” She eventually sat down again next to him, and looked right into his eyes with curiosity and sincerity reflecting into her light brown orbs.

“I realized I just can’t keep lying to him.” It was starting to eat him alive. “The longer I wait, the shittier it’d be once he discovers the truth.” And he also really wanted to see him.

“Hmm…” She didn’t really sound convinced by his explanation. “And?”

“And what?” Why did she have to be so observant sometimes?

“Come on, I’m pretty sure there’s something else! What are you hiding from me?”

He tried his best to remain completely neutral and impassive, which wasn’t really difficult since it was like a second nature for him.

“We started calling each other.”

“What!? You called him!?” Levi had to cover his ears in order not to turn deaf with the volume and intensity of her high-pitched voice. “Oh, that’s so wonderful! You can hear his pretty little voice now!! And then you realized you wanted to see his face too??”

“Calm the fuck down, shitty glasses! For fuck’s sake…” It really didn’t have any effect on her, but at least he had tried.

“Oh, but it’s so wonderful Levi! I’m so happy for you!!” She took his hands with hers and starting shaking them at the same rhythm she was bouncing on her seat. He immediately pulled away, one more time, his face becoming somber.

“Yeah, don’t be. Once I tell him the truth it’ll be over anyway.”

“Oh, don’t you start thinking like that now!” Her cheery attitude immediately turned reproachful.

“I’m just being realistic.” Levi shrugged before crossing his arms in front of his chest. “I’m not just telling him that the guy to whom he asked to take his picture was actually me, and that I was too shocked to tell him at that moment. I’m going to tell him I was actually there the day we were supposed to meet, right in front of him, lying to his face, wishing him good luck when I knew he would wait for nothing, and then fucking ran away from the damn shop. How do you think he’ll react to that?”

Hanji had started to grimace while listening to him, probably realizing where he was trying to go with his statement, but the moment he stopped, a new flame of determination shone in her eyes.

“Well, yeah, okay, he might be a little angry, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to talk to him afterwards.”

“He’s gonna fucking hate me, Hanji.” He said it through gritted teeth, feeling the anger rising inside his chest.

“No, he won’t! Once he sees how sorry you are, he won’t!”

“That’s not how it works.” Sometimes she was just too optimistic.

“Okay, so tell me one thing. Is Eren the kind of person to run away from trouble?”

“What do you mean? And how would I know that?”

“Well, you’re the one talking to him. Does he strike you as that kind of guy?”

“It only means shit, Hanji. I thought I wasn’t that kind of guy, but look where I am now.”

“No offense honey, but you actually kind of are.” It took him a minute before realizing that yes, she had just said and implied what he thought she did.

“…The fuck?”

He had been quite uncomfortable in the beginning to tackle this kind of conversation with her, since it was about his insecurities and fears and he didn’t really like to admit or talk about them, but now he was feeling quite offended.

“I said no offense!” She raised her hands in front of her in a peace offering. “But yeah, you are.”

“If you’re so damn smart, enlighten me then.” He wasn’t looking at her but at the wall in front of him, his brows furrowed more than usual.

“Okay, but remember you asked for it.”

“Yeah, yeah…”

“So, you know I like to analyze people.” She started, but he immediately cut her.

“And you’ve been analyzing me?” He tried to sound outraged, but really, he was way past that already.

“Oh, stop being offended, it’s nothing personal! I do this with everyone.” She dismissed him with her hand and then cleared her throat. “Anyway. I’ve done this since day one, Levi, so I think I can say that I know you pretty well. And you actually have history with running away from situations and people.”

She stopped talking for a moment, perhaps trying to assess if she could go on.

“I’m still listening…”

“Good. So, remember in university?” How could he forget. “You going to parties, hooking up with people with no strings attached, forgetting all about them the next day, that was you running away. You were running away from your feelings, from your grief, and from your pain. Oh! And your exes?”

“What about them?” He heaved a big and long sigh, not really sure if he wanted to hear more.

“They all asked you out, but you were the one breaking up with them, right?”

“Yeah…” He wasn’t really looking forward to what she had to say about that. The last time he had dated someone was at least two years ago, and it wasn’t a pleasant memory.

“Well, another clue here! You broke up with them before they would break up with you. And I’m pretty sure you said yes when you actually didn’t really care about them much.”

“And so…?”

“So, you’re afraid to commit yourself with someone. And you’re afraid of them abandoning you, so you push them away first.” Like he said, he knew he wouldn’t like where this was going. “You didn’t say anything to Eren because you were afraid of having a more meaningful relationship with him, and now you’re scared because you’re afraid he might leave you behind.”

“I’m not scared.” She was still ten years too early if she wanted him to admit that.

“Oh, come on Levi! There’s no need to feel ashamed right now, that’s not the point! Anyway, you don’t run away from your responsibilities, you’ve shown that at university by still going to classes and having good grades.” She stopped for a moment, looking thoughtful. “You just kind of made an exception last time? I’m still kind of surprised it happened.”

“Don’t remind me again.”

“But you’re always running away from your feelings, and the people who have feelings for you. So that you won’t be hurt if they abandon you one day. You leave before being left. It’s your way of protecting yourself.”

There was a long and heavy silence while they both looked at each other, Hanji with a serious face and a small smile on her lips, Levi with his brows still furrowed and annoyance written all over his face.

“You’re done?”

“Oh, don’t be shy now, I’m trying to help you! Like I said earlier, I’m really proud of you! You’re ready to do something that scares you, without any control over anything, just to be with Eren!”

“Now I’m a control freak?” Well, it was definitely a tell-me-all-about-my-fucking-imperfections kind of day.

“Kinda, yeah. That’s not new. I’m pretty sure your coworkers would agree with me.” She gave him a sly smile and a knowing look.

“Are you done insulting me?”

“I’m not! I never said it was wrong, just that it doesn’t really help you to commit yourself in a relationship.” She placed a hand on his shoulder, supposedly in a comforting way, but Levi could only take it in a conceited way. “Do you want to be in a relationship with Eren?”

“Yes.” His reply was instant, without even time for him to think or even blink, and it surprised the both of them.

“Well then, it’s decided! You’re going to tell him, and then you’ll be able to start wooing him!” She was back to her cheery self and looked once again excited.

“Wooing him?” Levi raised an eyebrow in a have-you-seen-me kind of way, which he knew she would understand.

“Okay, maybe not in that way. But at least once the truth is out, you’ll be able to see him whenever you want! Isn’t that wonderful? Think of that moment as the same as when you had dislocated your shoulder.”

“What are you even–” She didn’t let him finish and started talking again right away.

“At that moment, it hurt pretty bad, yeah? And it hurt also like hell to put it back in place, right? But afterwards you were feeling a lot better and were able to heal. That’s exactly the same!”

He was pretty sure there was only Hanji to make such comparison but he only shrugged at her comment. She wasn’t entirely wrong. It really hurt right now, he was turning into a huge ball of anguish thinking about it all the time, and he already knew without having tried yet that telling everything to Eren would hurt too. But for the last part he wasn’t entirely sure.

Would he feel better afterwards? He would stop feeling guilty about it once he would have said the truth, that specific feeling would be gone. But if Eren decided he didn’t want to talk to him ever again and rejected him, he would feel guilty once again, for similar and yet different reasons. He would also be heartbroken: losing him was the last thing he wanted.

Even if it turned out okay somehow, if Eren forgave him or at least didn’t shut him out entirely, he knew he would still feel bad about it. He would still keep on thinking about the fact he had lied to him, hurt him, acted in a way he didn’t even understand and wasn’t like his usual self, and it terrified him. What if it happened again? What if in a future situation Levi would come to lie to Eren again, and unintentionally hurt him once more? Would Eren ever trust him at all after that too?

Levi had broken their relationship and tried to conceal it with tape. Eren wasn’t aware of it yet, didn’t quite see the difference, but once Levi would tell him the truth it would be the only think he would see. The small cracks and cuts. The broken parts. And no matter how much he would try to fix it, it would still remain broken somehow. It would always remain different.

“Okay, you need to stop that right now.” Hanji’s voice snapped Levi out of his thoughts and he looked at her, utterly confused.

“Huh?”

“I know exactly what you’re thinking right now, it’s written all over your face and it’s reflecting in your eyes. Stop it.”

Levi was still a bit confused. He didn’t know what kind of expression he had at the moment and wasn’t sure if it was really that obvious, but Hanji had known him for a long time now, so he wouldn’t be surprised if she could notice even the smallest change in his features.

“I know you’re thinking that even if Eren keeps talking to you after you told him, he’s going to stop someday because of what you’ve done. And that is not okay. So, stop it.”

“What are–”

“Yes, Levi, I realize a lot of things could go wrong. I’m not that oblivious. But what do you really know? You can’t predict the outcome. It’s impossible. It’s not a game with only one solution. There are multiple possibilities, hundreds of them! You can’t know what’s going to happen in advance no matter how much you want to. Besides, you’re always focusing only on the bad outcomes and it’s not helping you in any way! It’s only hurting you more, it’s completely unhealthy! So, stop. Thinking. About. It.”

Levi didn’t really know what to say to her, because he knew she was right. He had the tendency to overthink everything and to try to predict what would happen so he would know how to react accordingly. He wasn’t a very spontaneous person, especially when it involved people he didn’t know well. And no matter how much he thought he knew Eren, speaking to someone over the phone and face to face was two different things entirely.

“No matter how much you try to deny it, I know you’re scared. But in order to really know what will happen, you have to do it. You have to take that one final step, and then all your worries might actually disappear. You won’t know unless you try! People can surprise you. You can surprise yourself too, and I mean it in a good way. So just stop overthinking, take that step, and jump! And if for whatever reason Eren is not there to catch you, I’ll be. Erwin will be there too.”

While Levi had been busy staring into the void, listening to her attentively, she took him by the shoulders and look at him right in the eye through her thick lenses.

“You’ve already decided to do it, so pull your shit together! Stop thinking and just do it! I’ve never seen you smitten with someone before, like, ever. Eren seems like a great guy, I’m pretty sure he’ll be good for you! And I’m not saying you should confess or anything, but even as a friend he’ll be good for you.”

Her eyes grew a bit fiercer as well as her grip on his shoulders, and he couldn’t look away from her face, as if she had cast a spell on him to immobilize his entire body.

“Don’t you dare run away again, Levi. You know you’re better than this. I know you can do it. You just have to know it too. Just fucking believe in yourself for once!” Her eyes softened a bit and then she smiled to him, in a way that made him want to believe everything she had said. “And if you can’t, believe in Eren.” 

                                

 

Levi had been staring at his phone for the whole morning now, doing his work on autopilot. Eren had finished his exams last week, and it was now Wednesday. He had had two long weeks to think about what he would say to him by text, where he would invite him and when. He had talked a lot with Hanji in order to plan it after their heartfelt conversation.

He didn’t like to admit it, because he was really stubborn, but a lot of things she had said were true and he knew she was right. He was already quite the pessimist, and his fears had made everything worse. But he was okay now. Or more like resigned? Yes, he would tell everything to Eren, even if his hands were shaking at the thought and he just wanted to run the furthest away as possible. It wasn’t easy for him, but he would suck it up and go on with his plan.

They had talked a lot to come up with one, first by trying to find a good localization for their meeting. Levi didn’t want to go back to the Survey Corps, he felt like the place was cursed or would at least make him feel uncomfortable because of his previous failures.

Hanji had then suggested this coffee shop she had been to a few times, when she had to give lectures at the university. It was close to the campus, and the best thing about it was that it was easy to have private space in a public one. The booths were separated from each other by high wooden panels, making it only possible to see what was going on if you were standing right in front of the table. That meant it could be possible for him to not be seen by Eren until he was in front of him, and it meant they could talk all they wanted without prying eyes if the conversation got heated.

It was perfect and Levi couldn’t have wished for anything better. There was no way he would let Eren talk to him like he was some kind of stranger he had met before anymore. Even if he knew Eren would recognize him – he was aware of that now – at least this time he would recognize him after knowing it was him.

Heaving a big sigh, he snatched his phone from the side of his desk and opened his conversation with Eren. He cut directly to the chase, asking if he was available on Saturday and praying he was, because he was pretty sure he would need Sunday to recover from whatever shock he would get from their conversation.

The next sigh he let out was one of both relief and apprehension, knowing it would definitely happen on Saturday, but knowing he had managed to make Eren nervous about it even before he got to say anything. There would be two of them overthinking about it until Saturday came now, even if he had tried to stop doing it since his conversation with Hanji. He was still scared, still dreading for the worst, but he was also determined to do it.

Everything would play in that moment. Either Eren would forgive him or Eren would be mad and stop talking to him. It was a huge bet, but Hanji was right, he had to take the risk. Eren deserved the truth. If there was the slightest chance Eren would forgive him and accept him with all his flaws and insecurities, he would take it.

He was done hiding and running away.

                                

 

Shitty glasses:
Don’t run away Leviii!!!

And if you need me, I’m waiting at your apartment 8)

Me:
Don’t you dare make a mess.

Shitty glasses:
Promise!! 8D

Me:
You better keep it or I’m gonna kick your ass so hard you won’t be able to shit for weeks.

Shitty glasses:
I’ll keep that in mind grumpy pants ;)

 

Levi looked up from his phone and to the empty bench across from him at the table he was sitting at. He had come pretty early to be sure he would be there before Eren and had been fidgeting for the last twenty minutes, drinking nervously the tea he had ordered when he had entered the shop. When he had been served, he had asked the waiter to not come to his table unless he asked for him, to be sure Eren and him won’t be interrupted unwillingly. Hanji had been the one to suggest that to him.

He took a long breath and exhaled very slowly. She had been very cooperative and had helped him a lot with the whole situation. There were a lot of things he wouldn’t have thought of if it hadn’t been for her, and maybe he would have been even more stressed if she hadn’t yelled at him a few times. He knew she was waiting at his apartment to make sure what had happened last time wouldn’t happen again, and he was grateful for that. He didn’t quite trust himself might this day turned out to be the same as a few months ago.

But it was different this time.

Their meeting in February had been like jumping from an airplane without a parachute. He hadn’t been prepared enough, had forgotten a lot of things along the way, and the fall had made a lot of damage he could have avoided. But this time, Levi was prepared. He had a parachute, a safety net, everything he needed to smoothly break his fall might he had to land not where he had planned to. Hanji was supporting him and was ready to mend his broken heart if needed. He was pretty sure Erwin would be cheering him up too, even if they didn’t share personal things that much.

It was completely different than last time. Levi knew he would fall and was ready for it. He only hoped Eren would be there to catch him and not precipitate his fall.

Eren:
Hey sunshine!

I just left my apartment, should be there in 10 :)

Me:
Hey pumpkin.

I’m already there, so text me once you’re inside. I’ll tell you where I’m sitting.

Eren:
Got it!

Can’t wait to finally see you ;)

 

His hands had started shaking a bit while he had been texting and he forced his body to relax, closing his eyes and taking deep breaths. He still had ten minutes. Ten long minutes to wait until he could let everything out. Until he would finally tell Eren the truth and see his reaction.

He winced at the thought, and stopped himself to think further along that path. As he closed his conversation with Eren, his best friend’s nickname caught his attention and he mentally slapped his cheeks to give himself a bit of a boost. He could do this. He wasn’t alone and wouldn’t be even if this went wrong. He had people to support him.

Me:
Thanks Han.

Shitty glasses:
No prob, hot stuff ;)

And good luck!!!

 

A small smirk appeared on his lips and he put his phone down on the table. He ran his hands up his face and through his hair, still trying to calm himself down even if he knew it wouldn’t do much. Talking with Hanji had eased his mind a bit, and he took those ten minutes as an opportunity to stop thinking about anything, close his eyes, and just breath. He would start panicking again once his phone will buzz with a new text from Eren.

Which happened earlier than he had expected, but his perception of time was a bit altered by his stress. He took another deep breath before looking at his phone and to what he hoped wouldn’t be the last texts he would get from Eren.

Eren:
I can see the coffee shop!

Where are you?

Me:
Left side, second booth.

Eren:
Can i have some clues as to what you look like so that i won’t go talk to a stranger? ;)

Me:
Black hair, undercut, dark blue button-up.

I’m facing away from the door.

Should be enough?

Eren:
Yep, see you in a sec! :D

 

Levi was pretty sure his whole body was shaking by now, it had started the moment he had heard the door open, and had gotten worse with the last message. He could now hear footsteps getting closer to him, slow and steady, but it was soon replaced by the loud thumping of his heart. He managed to stop his body from shaking too much but was useless in his attempt to slow his heartbeat. It also took every ounce of self-control he had in his body not to turn around. Eren couldn’t see his face yet.

“Hey!”

Eren’s voice seemed so far away yet he knew it came from right beside him. It had been a bit low and hesitant, and with the intake of breath he had heard right before, he could tell Eren was nervous too. Levi couldn’t help sinking his teeth in his bottom lip as he turned carefully his head to the right and up to look directly at Eren.

His cheeks were a bit red, maybe from running or from his nerves, he didn’t know. His hair was a bit longer than he remembered and some strands were tucked behind his ears to clear his face, but some were still on his temple and the top of his cheeks. His lips were slightly open and his breathing a bit fast – maybe he had run after all. And then there were his eyes.

When he looked at them first, they were shining slightly, nervousness and curiosity mixing together. But the moment they laid on him and took him in, the eagerness transformed into incomprehension and confusion. His brows were knitted together and his mouth was opening and closing, similar to a fish, as he tried to say something.

Levi could only look, powerless, at the changes of his expression as he knew Eren had recognized him, his throat becoming too tight for him to articulate anything, leaving him as speechless as the brunet standing right in front of him. The pressure of his teeth on his lip became stronger but he wasn’t aware of the pain, he could only feel his heart stop from uneasiness and his blood turn cold in every part of his body.

“Le… Levi?”

The strangled voice of Eren made a shiver run along his spine and he had to dig his nails in his tights in order not to let it show, his eyes still focused on the emerald ones which were looking him up and down, as if they were searching for a clue that would hint at something else than the reality. Swallowing was painful but he tried nonetheless in order to lessen the lump in his throat and force his voice to be less insecure than he was feeling right now.

“Hey pumpkin.”

Eren’s eyes widen at his words, probably because of the use of his nickname but also at the sound of the voice he now knew after countless of phone calls. So many emotions were passing on his face, some he could recognize such as surprise, confusion, hurt and then disbelief. At that expression, Eren took his phone out and tapped on his screen for a few seconds before looking intently at the phone on the table, and Levi had to close his eyes when he saw the hurt back on his face when the device lightened up with the brunet’s name and face on it.

The use of his nickname should have been enough for him to understand the situation entirely but maybe somewhere inside of him he had still hoped it was a complete misunderstanding. Levi’s phone buzzing because of Eren’s call couldn’t be one though, and that was when everything clicked inside of his head.

“No way…”

Levi quickly silenced his phone and put it back in his pocket, not looking at Eren and at the look of betrayal he was sure was there. He had known Eren would be surprised, he had known Eren would be hurt, was also expecting anger, but it didn’t mean looking at it was easy. It was tearing him apart to know he was the reason behind the hurt in Eren’s eyes, instead of the smile he was used to see on the pictures he had received until now.

His gaze was still directed towards where his phone used to be when he heard a loud thump and then saw Eren sitting across from him, his head hung low in his hands, hiding his expression from Levi entirely. His elbows were on the table to support his head fully, and some strands of dark brown hair were dancing around his head as he shook it in bewilderment.

“You’re… You’re that guy…” His voice was very low, as if he was talking to himself, but Levi could still hear him. “Why… I don’t…”

The brunet’s confusion was as clear as it could be and Levi couldn’t tear his eyes away from him as he assumed he was trying to piece everything back together in his head. Levi knew he should say something, that was the reason why they were here in the first place, but as it was pretty clear his secret wasn’t one anymore, he didn’t know what else to add.

“Why didn’t you say anything back then?”

He was still hiding behind his hands, and Levi had to suppress the need to pull them away. He both wanted to look at him in the eye and didn’t want to see the hurt on his face more than he already had.

“I was… I panicked. And I was going to tell you but then you left.” His voice didn’t sound like his own. It was too hoarse and he was pretty sure the broken edge of it were proof enough to how fucking scared he was right now.

“And you didn’t even think of going after me?”

“I just… I–”

“I even talked to you about that guy – about you – afterwards in texts, you could have told me then too and… God, you let me call you cute without saying anything!” Eren started scratching his head furiously as if to make the memory go away and let out a low grunt.

“I know I should have–”

“And that day you were actually there! You were right there in front of me and yet… You left. You fucking left me there!” The heels of his palms were now on his eyes as he kept on gripping his hair.

“I didn’t think you would remember me. I didn’t know what to do.” Levi wasn’t even sure Eren was listening to him at this point. It looked like he was going back in time to find the missing pieces of the puzzle.

“You said you had work! I waited for you for hours! You didn’t even text me back! I thought I was selfish because I wanted you to come, I felt bad about it because you were working, and then you were sick and… You weren’t even sick, were you? Hanji fucking lied for you?”

“I wasn’t really sick per se, but I wasn’t in good shape either. It’s… complicated.” He shivered at the memory, not really sure admitting he had been dead drunk for fours days straight would help the situation in any way.

“It isn’t! You just say something, you don’t lie about it! It’s fucking easy!”

Eren eventually looked up to stare at Levi, and the raven hold his breath at the desperate look he got from him. He wanted to make the pain go away but knew it was not possible right now, not when Eren was so upset because of him. The blame Eren was putting on his shoulders wasn’t different than the one he had already put on himself before, and yet it felt much heavier and more painful.

“I don’t even understand why you never sent me a picture. I thought… I thought you had a scar or a burn, or something that made you feel insecure. I don’t get it!” The hurt in his emerald eyes was starting to get fiercer, as confusion started to turn to anger, and Levi had to look away and down at his hands, scratching them nervously with his nails.

“I know, Eren, I just–”

“I can’t… I-I just fucking can’t.”

At what sounded like his final words, Eren stood up from the table and went up the aisle, away from Levi. He had looked up when he had heard him move, but his whole body froze when he realized what was happening.

Eren was leaving.

Eren was leaving and Levi hadn’t even apologized for what he had done. He hadn’t apologized for lying and hurting him. Not even one single ‘sorry’, the only word he had been meaning to say today. Eren was leaving and he haven’t even tried hard enough to atone for his actions. Eren was leaving and here he was, still sitting at his now empty table, looking in the direction he had vanished.

He wasn’t running away this time, but he wasn’t acting as well. He didn’t know if it was worse or not, but it wasn’t any better either. He had thought he would be able to do this, be able to change and fix everything, but it only felt like he had made everything worse.

Why was it that Levi felt so close to Eren on a spiritual level, as if despite all their differences they were still very much alike, and yet he spent his time running away from him physically? As if he was afraid being too close to him would break something, something invisible he wasn’t even sure was there, and yet he could feel it. Maybe it was just his insecurities and fears. Maybe breaking it wouldn’t make things worse, on the contrary. Or maybe it was only the chains he had created around his heart, the restrictions he had put on himself in order not to be hurt too badly. Except this time, it wouldn’t be enough to protect him and would only hurt him more.

Maybe he needed to break them, for good.

His thoughts were so confused that his mind became completely blank, and he had to hold his head a moment to try to regain his breath. He couldn’t get his body to move despite the alert signals his brain was trying to send, telling him exactly what he should be doing right now.

He needed to – no, had to – go after Eren. He had to apologize, tell him how sorry he was, how wrong he had been. He had to move right now and catch him or else it would definitely be the end. He had to break those chains even if it meant being vulnerable.

As he had made his mind and started pivoting his body to get out of his booth, a paper cup was violently slammed right beside his hands, and he found himself looking up at a now very angry brunet. His eyes were holding a fierce flame of rage, his brows dangerously drawn together, and his jaw clenched and tense. There was no doubt how much Eren was mad right now, but it didn’t matter to Levi.

He had come back.

“You know what, you’re a fucking asshole!” His grip on the paper cup tightened and he crushed it, but still nothing spilled from it, showing it was already empty. “You should have told me the first time it was you!”

Levi was still in shock, first because Eren had left, now because he had come back. He was aware of how much his body was shaking, how anxious he was feeling, how tight his throat had become, how his eyes had started to sting, but he didn’t care. Eren was here.

“I know, I’m sorry.” His voice was even more hoarse and strained than earlier, but he forced the words out like his life was depending on it. He needed Eren to understand how much he regretted it.

“And don’t even tell me it’s my fault for remembering your face that time, I can’t help it!” Eren’s voice was louder and rougher than when he had asked him questions, the intensity of it much higher than the raven.

“No, it’s all my fault… I’m sorry.”

“You should win an award for being such a fucking liar and asshole!” His hands were both clenched into fists and the paper cup was completely bent in half under the pressure.

“I’m so sorry, Eren.”

“And just stop saying you’re sorry!”

Levi flinched at the harsh and annoyed tone, immediately looking away from the fulminating brunet. He wasn’t used to being yelled at, he was generally the one screaming at people. He started biting his lips in uneasiness, swallowing down another apology. He felt like anything he would say right now could make everything worse. As if he was building a house of cards with the possibility of making everything crumble every time he tried to put another card on top of the others.

He knew he still had to say something nonetheless. He would say anything if it meant Eren would stay here with him and not go away, if it meant Eren would forgive him. He was ready to do anything. Even if it meant putting his pride aside and becoming this weak and pathetic man he had come to know better these last few months and had tried to get rid of years before.

“I know I’m a huge asshole and that everything is my fault. I didn’t mean for this to happen, Eren, and I’m really sorry it did. I’d understand if you hate me.”

“You see? That’s the problem! I want to hate you!” Levi looked at him surprised, his mouth agape. “I am so mad at you!” Eren suddenly punched his right bicep, enough to make him feel it, but not enough for it to really hurt. “You lied to me! You left me at that coffee place alone! Never replied afterwards! Made me think I had done something wrong and that you didn’t want to talk to me anymore!”

Each time he would finish a sentence, he would punctuate it with a small punch to Levi’s right arm, rendering him speechless under his fury. His arm was becoming numb under the assault, and he assumed his skin was starting to get red. He might have a few bruises tomorrow too, but it really didn’t matter. He was ready to take all of Eren’s wrath upon him. He deserved it.

“My friends even put this idea in my head that you were playing me, and with what happened I started to believe them! What am I supposed to believe now, uh?” Levi knew he could lose Eren’s faith in him, but hearing it hurt more than he had imagined. “You’re an asshole! I am so… pissed at you!”

Levi directed his gaze towards the side of the bench he was sitting on, too ashamed to look directly into the brunet’s eyes.

“Yeah… I know…”

“No, you don’t! Because I don’t even know myself!” Eren’s voice broke at the last words and that had Levi looking up at him once more, utterly confused.

“What?”

“I am so mad. You lied to me. You hurt me! I should be just mad! But I…” Eren wasn’t looking at him anymore, had stopped punching his arm too. He only looked to the side, apparently lost in thought. “I’m also so sad. And I want to hate you. You’re an asshole. But I just can’t!” Eren closed his eyes and sat down next to him, a hand passing through his hair in frustration. “There are just things that don’t add up in my head. I just… I want to hate you. It would be easier. So much easier.”

By now Levi was completely frozen in place, his brain going into overdrive and failing to process everything that were being said to him. He could only look at the side of Eren’s face as he talked, listen to the way his voice slowed down and lost in intensity. His eyes were starting to hurt him, probably a bit dry by how little he had blinked in the past minutes because of the shock, and he was forced to blink several times to try to lessen the tingling.

“But why…” Eren looked at him once more, but this time his face only reflected conflict and pain. “Why are you looking at me like that? It’s killing me!”

“L-Like what?”

“Like you want me to yell and punch you! Like you expect me to hate you and leave! And like…”

Eren was completely facing him now, his body turned to the side, his eyes locked on his own, looking intensely at his grey orbs as though he could find the answers he was searching for if he stared at them long enough. It made Levi feel as if he was probing his soul, trying to rip it from the depth of his mind and pull it out in the open for him to see.

“Like you want to fucking cry.”

Before Levi had the time to react to his statement or say anything, he felt himself being surrounded by warmth and strong arms, and his neck being stretched upwards as his face was directed towards the brunet’s shoulder. His arms were hanging limply at his sides and he could feel the burn in his eyes becoming more present and uncomfortable.

Eren was hugging him. One of his arms was around Levi’s shoulders, caging him against his chest, and the other was carefully holding his nape, protecting it from the sudden movement, fingers going up over his undercut before brushing a few strands of his black hair. His face was facing down towards the raven’s neck, and Levi could feel his breath ghosting over his skin, making him shiver.

By now, Levi was shaking so much that he felt like he was standing out in the cold and harsh winter of Stohess with only a shirt on, yet he could feel his face, his eyes, his shoulders and his chest becoming warmer. Everywhere Eren was touching him felt hot, still he couldn’t stop the tremors of his body.

“You’re an asshole. I can’t believe you did this to me.” Eren’s voice was weak and chocked, and that’s when Levi realize he wasn’t the only one shaking. “If you had sent me a picture back then none of this would have happened. I would have known it was you. We would have met way earlier.” His grip around the raven’s shoulders tightened and Levi found himself grasping Eren’s hoodie on his back. “I wouldn’t be mad at you. You wouldn’t be in this state either. Neither of us would be hurt.”

After that, Eren kept calling him an ‘asshole’ at least a dozen times, and all Levi could do was repeating that one little word which had been on his mind for months and that he was finally able to say. He hoped if he said it enough Eren would stay with him and forgive his cowardice.

Everything around him had disappeared and all he could see was darkness as he pressed his face into the crook of Eren’s neck. All he could hear was Eren’s hushed voice and the sound of his harsh breathing as he desperately tried to keep an ounce of control over his own body. All he could smell was the fragrance of Eren’s cologne and the aroma of coffee. All he could feel was his body shaking and Eren’s as well, along with the grip around his body which only grew stronger every time he apologized, grounding him to reality.

It was one of the most frightening moments of his life since the accident. Waiting to see if Eren would accept him for who he was, with his imperfections and insecurities. All of his emotions were completely out in the open, his soul bare for him to see. It was the most vulnerable he had ever felt and it made him feel scared out of his mind. One word from Eren could either put him down lower in that hole he had dug for himself, or pull him out of it in the split of a second.

 “You’ll have to make it up to me if you want me to forgive you.”

With his face close to Eren’s neck, Levi could sense the vibration of his throat as he spoke, as well as his heartbeat which was matching his own. His mouth was too dry and his throat too constricted for him to reply verbally, so all he could do was nod as his grip on Eren’s clothes tightened.

“I won’t let you get away with this, Levi. You’re stuck with me, whether you want it or not.”

It was even better than any scenario he had conjured in his mind and everything he had forced himself not to hope for after what he had done. Eren was ready to forgive him. Eren wasn’t going to reject and abandon him. Eren was willing to give him another chance.

And oh, was he ready to do anything the brunet would ask of him if it would make things right again. Everything he would have to endure from now on to gain his forgiveness was nothing compared to what he had been feeling until now and to what he was feeling right now. And if all it took was for him to stay by Eren’s side, it wasn’t so bad at all.

 

Chapter Text

 

Eren believed in second chances.

People could make mistakes, let their emotions get the best of them, but the most important thing of all was for them to recognize they had done something wrong. As long as they realized what harm they have caused and were trying to make up for it, he firmly believed people deserved to be forgiven.

Eren was not perfect, nobody was, hence why he had committed mistakes and hurt people in the past. He wasn’t really proud of it, but he had tried to clean the mess he had created and apologized to the person he had wronged, and they had given him a chance to do better and not commit the same mistake again in return. With some people he was the closest to, his family for example, he had been given so many chances to redeem himself when he had been prompted to get carried away by his anger when he was younger, that sometimes he wondered how they could have been this patient with him.

People had chosen to believe in him and gave him second chances countless of time, and he had always tried to do the same with others when he deemed it right to offer them one.

That day, when he had seen Levi apologizing, shaking in fear of not being forgiven for his wrong doings and his beautiful grey eyes blurry with unshed tears, he had been reminded again of what it could feel like to be seeking forgiveness for your mistakes.

He had therefore decided to give him another chance.

The guilt and remorse he had seen on his face and in his eyes had haunted him for days after their meeting. Levi had looked like a pray ambushed by a predator and waiting for his fateful demise. Eren had seen the resignation painted on his features, as if he had been anticipating for him to yell or reject him, as if he was ready and waiting to be hurt, when he already was hurting deep inside.

He could still feel Levi’s fingers shakily gripping the rear of his hoodie, his breath caressing his neck at every exhale and the smoothness of his hair between his fingers. He could still remember how his heart had shattered at his broken voice and how he had wanted to never let him go. Yet, he could also remember how betrayed and helpless he had first felt when he had realized Levi had lied to him, and how angry he had then become once everything had sunk in.

It had been way too much information to process all at once, realizing the perfect stranger he had taken an interest in was in reality the faceless friend he had fallen for, and he had seriously considered going home that time he had left Levi alone at the table. However, as he had been waiting for his morning dose of caffeine – which he couldn’t conceive not getting after all of this – he had had time to think a bit more. He had realized he didn’t want to go home with all those questions in his head. He wanted answers, and answers he would get, so he went back to where he had come from, only to find a more forlorn Levi he had expected to see.

As Eren was lying down on his bed, he could still feel the scorching feeling of anger when he thought about the lies Levi had fed him, but it would then be extinguished by his fear of losing the people close to him. Eren wanted their relationship to work, wanted to get close to Levi, to know him better, but it didn’t mean he could completely destroy the uneasiness he would sometimes feel. One thing that didn’t help that feeling to go away was a lack of understanding.

Why didn’t Levi tell him who he was the first time they met, or even in text messages afterwards? Why hadn’t Levi told him the truth back in the coffee shop, when they had been supposed to meet? Why had he waited many months before telling him the truth? And most of all, what had happened during those few days of miscommunication? It was something that was still plaguing his mind and he couldn’t wrap his head around it.

Eren knew everyone couldn’t be as open about their feelings as he could sometimes be, so he could understand Levi’s struggles a little. Or at least, he could acknowledge them. He knew people tended to be more critical with their own selves sometimes, so even if he found Levi worth looking at, he could get that the man had a few insecurities about his appearance, explaining why he had never shared a photo.

It took him a lot of thinking time to get to those conclusions, and also a lot of conversations with Levi to clear some things up, but even if the raven had been pretty open to answer Eren’s questions after their meeting, he still refused to talk about those mysterious days.

Eren had insisted a few times, thinking Levi would eventually cave in since he seemed very keen on getting Eren’s forgiveness, but this subject was the only exception. The brunet eventually gave up asking, even if he was still very much curious and confused about it. Levi seemed so persistent in not saying anything about it that he could only let it go. Maybe one day Levi would tell him the truth, once he would be ready. For now, Eren was content with the honest replies he had gotten from the man.

It had started with questions by text messages. Eren would send one every time he would think about something he needed confirmation on to enlighten him and help him organize his thoughts, and Levi would reply instantly. However, he soon realized he couldn’t decipher the raven’s sentiment behind his texts, so he started calling him instead to get his answers. Hearing his voice and the tone he would use eased him a little, but it soon became not enough too, and so they started seeing each other at the Rose café or at the Survey Corps. There, Eren could see Levi’s expression as well as hear the intonation of his voice, and it really helped.

Eren needed to see the person he was talking to, because someone’s body was sometimes more honest than that person’s words. Seeing every movement, expression and mannerism helped him understanding Levi more and more. It was really hard in the beginning, the man didn’t seem like he was moving a lot or had many expressions, but as the time he spent in his company increased, he started to discern some of his body language. A lot of it was based on the movement of his eyes, eyebrows, and sometimes fingers. He still didn’t know which movement corresponded to what, but now he would at least notice them. It helped a lot during their conversations to ease his negative feelings, even if things were still a bit awkward between them. It also contributed to let him realize he had made the right choice in forgiving Levi.

It wasn’t what his best friend Mikasa thought of the situation though.

She was completely outraged about what Levi had done to Eren and had repeatedly told him he would be better without such a dishonest person in his life. Eren tried to make her understand how much Levi regretted what he had done and how honest of a person he really was besides that particular slip-up, but she just wouldn’t listen. He understood she was just trying to watch out for him, that she wanted to protect him from further heartache, but he was old enough to own up to his decisions.

The more he was trying to defend Levi against his best friend however, the easier he found it to ease the discomfort he had been feeling ever since that day in the coffee shop. Levi had made a mistake, it had resulted with the both of them being hurt, and Eren might always think back to it with sorrow and confusion, but now it was time to move on. Staying stuck on one event was toxic for someone’s mind and sanity, Eren would know about that, but if he had found the strength to move past his heartbreak for his late best friend, he would definitely have some to move past this fight with Levi. He had learned how to do that from the very same man too, surely they would both be okay.

There was something Mikasa had told him when they had been arguing which had been stuck in his mind all evening though.

“Are you trying to fix him?” She had said, after Eren had tried to explain to her Levi had as much on his plate as him, and that she shouldn’t be so quick to judge.

Was Eren trying to? Of course not, because it would mean Levi was broken, which he was not. He was only lost for the moment, lost in a dark place without light to guide him. Eren wanted to be the lighthouse which would bring him back to more sunny places, the same way Levi had done for him when they had become friends.

There was a reason Eren liked calling Levi ‘sunshine’, and it wasn’t only as a joke to his personality. Levi had been his sun, the light which had shone on him while he had been lost in the darkest place he had ever been in, and had warmed his skin and heart. It had been a small light, a shy one even, like the sun slowly peeking out from behind the clouds, but it had been enough to lead him to a safer place. Afterwards, the sun had been shining so bright that sometimes he had been blinded by it, but it had also prompted him to get closer to it to feel its warmth spread throughout his entire being. Although now, his sun had lost its shine and had started to hide behind dark, black clouds.

All Eren wanted to do was to make the sun shine again. Not for himself, he didn’t need it as much as he did before, he was actually producing his own light now. If he wanted to do that, it was first and foremost for Levi. He wanted him to be happy and out in the light again.

Eren wanted to become Levi’s sun.
 


 

“What are you doing next Wednesday?”

Eren looked up from his plastic cup, which he had been looking at distractedly, to the dark-haired man sitting in front of him. It was a Sunday afternoon sometime around mid-June, and Levi and him were sitting in the Survey Corps drinking and chatting, when they were able to break the silence and fight the awkwardness which had been surrounding them for some time now at least.

They had had a lot of coffee shop’s meetings recently, first for Eren to ask Levi questions, now for them to get used to each other’s presence and just talk face to face. It had been extremely awkward at first. It had been visible Levi was uncomfortable because of what had happened, and Eren on his side had been a bit tongue tied when he had run out of questions to clear his mind of the confusion the incident had created in his head.

It might be pretty apparent to anyone who would look at them that they were still uneasy in each other’s presence, but they were trying to fight it the best they could. Or at least, Eren was. He knew that even if he had forgiven Levi and they had agreed to keep seeing each other, what had happened would still hang over their heads like a toxic smoke for a while. Situations like theirs demanded time, time for one to learn how to trust the other again, and time for the other to forgive himself in turn. Eren desperately wanted their relationship to get back to how it used to be, or at least to go back to the level of comfort they used to feel before, but it wasn’t as easy as wishing for it.

They were more comfortable speaking to each other when they were on the phone, but once they were face to face, looking at each other’s eyes, it would become more difficult all of the sudden, and most often than not, they would only drink in silence. They were both starting to get used to the other’s body language though, and this was very much helping them to understand the other and ease the tension between them.

Behind all the negative and uncomfortable emotions Eren would sometimes feel during their meeting, there was also a part of warm and fuzzy feelings too developing inside his chest. It was just so different, being able to look into Levi’s grey eyes, seeing his small but firm hands holding his cup to his lips, hearing his deep voice without the feeling of distance he had when they were on the phone. It was almost as if he was falling all over again for the same person and a different one at the same time. It wasn’t a displeasing situation though.

From time to time, Eren would feel nervous vibes from Levi, probably the man himself wasn’t even aware of them, but it would actually calm the brunet down. On his side, after he had been able to fight most of the awkwardness and bitterness he had been feeling, he had turned into a complete ball of nerves, laughing to nothing in particular or playing way too much with his cup. It was still nice though, and he enjoyed the times they would spend together no matter the circumstances. It finally felt real. He didn’t have this strange feeling of chasing after a shadow anymore, and that alone was enough to make him smile.

 “I don’t know, why?” Eren shrugged in response, a bit startled by the sudden question.

Levi looked at him like he was stupid though, his eyebrow furrowed and his lips turned down in a disapproving scowl. He could almost hear “Really, brat?” coming out of his mouth or the “Figure it out yourself” he was probably trying to convey with his expression.

What was it about next Wednesday, Eren carefully thought, knowing he wouldn’t get an answer, or at least not without making the gears in his brain work a little. What day would it actually be? It might have something to do with the date. If he was counting right, Wednesday would be the-

Realization struck him all of the sudden, and by the way Levi’s features softened a little, he knew Eren had understood by himself. The brunet felt guilt build up in his stomach and restlessness overwhelm him all of the sudden.

Armin. Armin’s anniversary. It wasn’t like he had forgotten, he just avoided thinking too much about it in general. At least until the very end.

“I- I guess with Jean and Mikasa we’re going back to Shiganshina… You know, to visit his grave and… His parents as well… We haven’t talked about it yet though…”

“Hmm…” Levi hummed in response, letting him organize his thoughts. “How are you guys going?”

“I guess Jean will drive?” It came out more as a question than an answer, which earned him a quirked eyebrow. “I mean, he’s the only one with a license and a car, so… And it’s a pain going there by train.”

“Isn’t it better if none of you are driving?”

“Huh?” Eren looked at Levi - who was sipping his drink while looking to the side - confusion all over his face. “How would we go then?”

“I can drive you there.” He said it like it was the most logical solution, and it confused Eren even more.

“What? But… It’s a Wednesday and… You’re working and-”

“I’m not.” Levi cut off his rambling. “I took a day off.”

“Huh? Why?”

Eren looked back at him dumbfounded, not understanding what was going on inside the raven’s head. Levi gave him a pointed look, showing no sign of giving an explanation, playing with the rim of his cup. It was a quirk he had noticed the older man had when he was nervous about something. Eren wondered why he was, until he finally understood by himself.

“Oh! You…” Levi looked at him silently, waiting for him to continue. “For that reason? But…”

“I don’t mean to intrude.” His reply confirmed his doubts, and Eren smiled softly at his thoughtfulness. “I’m a stranger after all.”

“Not at all!!” Levi turned his face to look at Eren, tilting his head in confusion, and the brunet cleared his throat rather loudly in embarrassment. “I mean, you won't be intruding or anything. I’d actually like it if you were there…”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. You get how I feel about all of this, you understand me. So… I’d appreciate the company.” A bit unsettled by the insistent gaze directed at him, Eren sipped at his drink, trying not to fidget too much in his seat.

“And they don’t? They were his friends too, right?”

“Yeah but…” Eren swallowed down, trying to find the right words to express how he felt. “It’s hard to explain, but they don’t really get how I feel… Like, they always look at me like I’m going to break any second, or they treat me with so much care and sometimes it’s a bit annoying, you know?” Levi just kept looking at him without moving or saying anything, and Eren took that as his cue to keep going. “I don’t know how to express it well, but sometimes I kind of feel guilty if I don’t feel bad enough when I’m with them? Like, I should be more sad? And I am! Sad. I just… don’t show it the way they expect me to, I guess… It’s like I can’t be myself…” He rubbed his neck nervously, pretty sure he wasn’t making any sense. “Sorry, what I’m saying is a mess.”

“I get it. Not everybody reacts the same way in fucked up situations.”

“Yeah! And it’s like they expect me to react in a way that’s different than mine so I feel like I’m wrong somehow? As if I didn’t care enough about Armin? But I do! I just…”

“Moved on.”

“I didn’t forget about him or anything! And it still hurts thinking about him and what happened! But-”

“Moving on is not bad, Eren. Nor means you've forgotten about him. It’s only natural. You don’t have to explain yourself.”

It was a bit unsettling how Levi fully understood him, but also deliberating. He didn’t have to hide his true feelings or pretend. No matter how jumbled his words would be, he would still get it. It did weird things to his heart, despite the heavy topic, and a wave of calmness passed through his entire body. He didn’t have to be on the defensive with Levi, and it finally felt like they were able to talk without any discomfort present in between them.

“Thanks… You really get it.” He offered him a grateful smile, stopping his nervous action of gripping his cup. “The truth is, I don’t really want to go to Shiganshina.” He confessed, and he could sense he had Levi’s undivided attention, provided he didn’t already have it. “I hate going to the cemetery, and his parents always show us pictures of him when we come, it’s disturbing and depressing. We don’t have the same way of remembering him…”

“Why are you going then? Because of them?” Levi could really read him like an open book.

“Yeah… They need me to go. I guess their way of coping is by coddling me? Since I had it harder than them after the accident? I don’t know… But…” Eren bit his lips, not really sure if he should say it.

“Hmm?” One look at Levi’s honest and caring eyes, and Eren knew he could tell him everything.

“I'll feel better about going if you're there.” He could see something shift in his grey eyes, and Eren cracked a small shy smile.

“Sure, I’m free anyway.” Levi shrugged it off like it wasn’t a big deal, like he hadn't been the one bringing the subject and suggesting to drive them there. Eren wasn’t duped by his nonchalant reply however. It made him snicker quietly, because he could tell it was so like him to reply this way.

“I’ll have to ask Jean and Mikasa about it, but they won’t say no. They can’t refuse me anything on that day.”

“You manipulative little shit.” There was no bite behind his words, on the contrary he seemed amused, and Eren couldn’t hold his laughter this time.

“Hey! It’s not my fault! They just want to do anything that’ll make me feel better.”

“And me going with you will?” Levi asked, the right corner of his lips slightly angled upwards. It was almost imperceptible, but Eren was able to see it, and he smiled back at him.

“Yeah, it definitely will.”


 

Eren talked to Jean about Levi’s offer to drive them right after getting back to their apartment. It was the easiest part, and it was better to get it out of his way before taking care of the more troublesome one: speak to Mikasa. Jean didn’t seem bothered by it at all, if any, he teased Eren about the fact he would finally meet his texting friend he had heard so much about, and some other provoking words which the brunet tried to ignore.

When the moment came to talk to Mikasa, Eren was expecting the worst and a sermon coming from her, but he got none. She only looked at him with such mixed feelings it was difficult for Eren to understand how she was really feeling about this turn of event. He could sense she wanted to turn down Levi’s offer, she opened her mouth a few times before closing it without saying anything. He would have respected her wish if she had refused. However, she only asked him one thing:

“Would it make you happy?”

Eren didn’t have to think twice at his answer and immediately replied “Yes”. Mikasa looked torn at the way he had firmly answered, without an ounce of hesitation, but eventually her face turned resigned.  She ended up agreeing, putting an accent on the fact she was only accepting it for his sake, and that she wouldn’t put any effort to talk to Levi if she didn’t feel like it. He was very grateful but at the same time a bit guilty to impose something like that on her. Was he being too selfish?

He didn’t have time to dwell on it too much as Wednesday arrived quickly. The three of them were waiting in Jean and Eren’s apartment for Levi to come and get them, a heavy silence surrounding them. The realization of which day it was and to where they were going were dawning on them, plus the fact Mikasa seemed pretty closed off and was sitting on her side, very far away from the both of them. Eren had tried to talk to her a bit but she had waved him off, assuring she was fine. It sure was going to be a very long day.

Eren jumped a little when he sensed his phone buzz in his pocket. He was on edge because of everything going on at once, between introducing Levi to his closest friend and going to his hometown to mourn his late best friend.

He shakily retrieved his phone to find a text from Levi letting him know he was down their apartment. The brunet let out a long sigh of both relief and dread, and informed his two friends they should get going. As they were making their way downstairs and to the entryway, Eren felt his stomach seize and painfully constrict, making him feel very uneasy. He hoped everything would go alright.

The moment he saw Levi standing next to a blue metallic car, waiting for them, the sickening feeling in his stomach increased and he had to take a deep breath to calm his nerves. He hadn’t thought much about it, but now it was all he could do while looking at the dark-haired man nonchalantly standing on the sidewalk, his arms crossed in front of his chest.

Levi was going to drive them to and around Shiganshina for the day. He had taken a day off for that very reason, and Eren couldn’t help but feel guilty all over again. Levi had been the one suggesting it so it should mean he wasn’t really bothered by it, but it didn’t help ease Eren’s concern. He was conflicted between the comfort of having him by his side during this very awful day, the thought of having someone who understood him by his side, and between the uncertainty of why Levi was actually going through all of this for him.

Was he still trying to redeem himself? Was he still trying to gain Eren’s forgiveness even if he had already earned it? Eren wanted to believe Levi was only there in order to support him in a situation which was very familiar to him, to give him support and comfort with his presence, but he was scared it was only wishful thinking.

Levi looked up and saw them, and Eren had to stop his train of thoughts before the raven could see it on his face. He tried to soften his features and gave a small wave to the man. He was able to breath a bit better when he saw him waving back and making his way towards them to meet them halfway.

“Levi! Hey! Thank you for driving us today.” Eren greeted him, a smile he hoped was looking genuine on his lips. “This is Jean and Mikasa, my friends I told you about.”

Jean was the first to say a quick “Hello” whereas Mikasa only looked to the side, making it obvious she wasn’t going to make any effort to speak to their driver of the day. Eren cringed internally, hoping Levi wasn’t offended by it, but the man only replied a curt “Hello” of his own before motioning them to get inside the car.

The drive was particularly silent, with Levi not liking to talk while he was driving and not putting any music on either, to Jean’s great dismay, and also with Mikasa looking far into the distance, ignoring every attempt of Jean to make her talk.

Eren couldn’t help but look at Levi’s profile while he was driving, at his focused eyes fixated on the road and turning from time to time to check the car’s mirrors. It was helping him greatly in distracting himself from the true motive of their trip, which he was desperately trying to avoid, until he saw the entry sign of Shiganshina and couldn’t put it away any longer.

He gave Levi directions once they were inside the city, first to go to a flower shop, and then to go to the cemetery, their first destination of the day. Once they were parked in front of it, Eren winced internally, already hating being there even before putting one foot inside the eerie place. He let Jean and Mikasa go there first, flowers in hand, the two of them surprisingly understanding and leaving him inside the car with Levi without any protest.

“You don’t have to go there if you don’t want to.” Levi softly said after a few minutes of quiet.

“I know, I just… I’ll go, I just need a minute.”

Eren closed his eyes, feeling Levi’s gaze directed at him. He had been able to calm down about the whole ‘Levi driving them’ situation during their trip, and was now only filled with sorrow and nostalgia at the thought of the friend he had lost. Levi’s presence was working his magic though. By just being there by his side, Eren could feel his resolve strengthening, and he was all very grateful to the man sitting next to him.

He could remember their first conversations and how Levi had listened to him, advising him to never feel ashamed of what he was feeling, and he wasn’t. He didn’t want to go in front of Armin’s tombstone, but he will. Not for his friends, even if it was part of the reason, but for himself. Because he knew he would only feel regret if he didn’t go there today and he didn’t want to feel some anymore. His thoughts were already filled with regrets every time he looked back at the day of the accident, he didn’t need to add more to his plate. It was also Levi who had taught him to choose what he would regret the least, and he had tried to live by this motto ever since then.

“I’ll just… I’ll just go, now.” Eren softly said, opening his eyes to finally look at Levi.

“If you’re sure.”

Eren gave him a grateful smile before turning towards the door and exiting the car. He peeked inside before closing the door, looking at Levi who hadn’t moved since he had stopped the car.

“What about you?”

“I’ll stay here.” Levi shrugged while relaxing a bit more in his seat.

“But-”

“No buts, Eren. Go be with your friends. Don’t worry about me today, worry about yourself. About them. I’ll find ways to distract myself.”

Eren bit his lip, conflicted, but eventually closed the door to enter the cemetery and join his friends. Levi was right. He already had a lot to worry about, but he just couldn’t help himself. It was in his nature to care about the people close to him, even if this personality trait was a double edge sword sometimes. From what he had been able to notice though, Levi was the same, so he let it go and focused only on himself and his friends for the moment, like the man had asked him to.

They didn’t exchange a lot of words once Eren joined Jean and Mikasa in front of Armin’s grave. Eren only hold Mikasa in his arms, feeling the warmth of her body appease his mind, her small head on his shoulder. Jean mentioned a few memories he had of Armin, putting his pride aside for the moment and making fun of himself, which was a rare occasion, and they all laughed softly as they remembered, their eyes glassy. No one shed any tears though. They already had in the past and knew Armin would have preferred for them to smile.

They stayed as long as they needed and then eventually went back to the car, where Levi was patiently waiting for them. No words were exchanged once they were all back in their respectful seat, aside from Eren giving Levi directions to their blond friend’s house, to meet his parents.

Once Levi had parked the car in front of the two stories house, the three friends went to knock on the wooden door, yet in silence. A few minutes later, they were greeted with warm smiles and welcoming hugs before being ushered inside. Eren gave one last look at Levi, who was silently reading a book inside the car, before disappearing inside the house.

Armin’s parents were looking very pleased to see the three of them, already bombarding them with questions to know how they were doing while serving each of them a piece of cake Armin’s mother had made especially for the occasion. They all talked for more than an hour, exchanging news and memories, but Eren couldn’t concentrate on anything that was being said. He especially got lost in his mind when they started talking about Armin, every fiber of his being screaming at him to get out.

He had nothing against Armin’s parents, he loved them very much, but there was just something that would always make him uncomfortable when he was in their presence ever since the accident. He couldn’t explain it very well, it was just a feeling in his gut added to a buzzing sound in his ears.

The Armin he remembered was just different from the one they remembered. His memories of him were different from theirs. And as he listened and listened to them, until he could only hear white noise around him, he eventually stood up, excusing himself for a while. He first made his way towards the bathroom to freshen himself up, when he caught a glimpse of a blue car through the window. His legs then guided him automatically outside until he found himself standing in front of Levi, who had gotten out of the car to sit on the hood.

“Hey.” Levi looked up at him, a bit surprised by his sudden presence.

“What are you doing here?”

“I just needed some fresh air.” Eren shrugged. He then pointed to the spot next to the man, a small smile on his lips. “Mind if I join you?”

Levi also shrugged and Eren sat next to him, putting his hands inside his front pockets and looking up at the changing evening sky. They sat together in comfortable silence for a few minutes, both looking in different directions until Eren could feel Levi shift from his position.

“You okay?” Eren asked him, looking at him stretch before siting back in the same position as before.

“What did I tell you? Don’t worry about me.”

“I’m not allowed to do that? Even now?” Eren almost pouted, earning a raised eyebrow from the raven.

“No, because today is not about me.” It only made Eren snort in response. “What?”

“Maybe I’m just tired of it being about me. Or about him. Maybe I’m just tired and need a distraction.” Eren shrugged while looking into the distance.

He was looking at the houses and fences of the neighborhood he had been familiar with while growing up. Going to Armin’s house had been an everyday occurrence then, either to spend time to his place or to pick him up so they would go to his house. There were a lot of things which had changed since then, but some others had remained the same.

Nostalgia was punching him in the gut, knocking his breath away, and he knew Levi was surveying his expression. He could feel his gaze on him, but even so, he didn’t turn in his direction, pretending like he hadn’t noticed. It was both exhilarating and daunting to have Levi’s attention, but Eren didn’t mind the confusing emotions it made him feel. It was better than the other ones he had been experiencing back in the house.

“Eren.” Levi called him, waiting patiently for Eren to look back at him before continuing. “You don’t have to force yourself. I won’t judge you.”

“Judge me on what? And I’m not.”

“Are you sure, pumpkin?”

Hearing his nickname leaving Levi’s lips made his breath hitch and it was all it took for everything he had kept bottle up inside of him to rush out all of the sudden. A few tears fell from his eyes while he looked surprised at the dark-haired man sitting next to him, his grey eyes reflecting such softness it made his heart swell. The next second, he could feel himself being gently held, his head resting on a strong shoulder, as broken sobs were escaping his mouth one after the other.

Eren had no idea how long he spent crying all his pain away in Levi’s arms. He could only remember the sensation of the man’s hands softly caressing his hair and drawing circles on his back to bring him comfort and appease him. It had been a while since he had cried, especially as strongly, but somehow it made him feel a little better. It was as if he was able to let go of all of his sorrows and worries through the tears leaving his eyes, and now he was feeling like a huge weight had been lifted from his chest.

He had never been as grateful of Levi’s presence as in this instant, when the man never once said anything as he was crying his eyes out, only being there for him silently. Like he had said, he wouldn’t judge him, and that knowledge had helped Eren lower his barriers and not care about how vulnerable he must look in that moment. He only felt safe, his head resting on his shoulder, sitting awkwardly on the hood of his car. As if nothing else existed around them anymore.

When his cries died out however, Eren had no idea what to do or say anymore. He was pretty sure his face was a mess, a mixture of tears and snort, and he could only hope he hadn’t got Levi’s clothes too dirty. He had no idea how he could face the man now too, since he had nothing to wipe his face with other than his clothes.

“Here.”

Eren perked up at the sound of Levi’s voice, feeling something being thrust in his hands. He identified it as tissues and wondered why Levi had some on himself. Had he been expecting him to cry at some point and had been carrying it on him for that purpose? How embarrassing.

“T-Thanks…” His voice sounded hoarse from his crying and he cringed internally.

Eren quickly turned away from Levi, trying his best not to look at the raven and to hide his face in the process, in order to clean his face the best he could. He blew his nose a few times, using more tissues than he had thought he would need, before tucking them inside his pockets. He then wiped his hands on his pants, not sure of what to do now that Levi had witnessed such an embarrassing side of him.

“Feeling better now?”

“I- Yeah. Um… Thanks for… You know… That…” The level of awkwardness he was feeling in this moment was surpassing anything he had ever felt before.

“Eren.”

Levi’s soft but firm voice made Eren jerked a little, not knowing what to do with himself. He was trying his hardest not to look at the man sitting next to him, but it wasn’t what the said man had in mind as he put a hand on the brunet’s cheek to turn his head towards him. The moment their eyes met, Eren couldn’t help but feel his cheeks flush under his scrutinizing gaze, feeling very much embarrassed by his actions.

“Your eyes are all red now.” Levi murmured, running his thumb under Eren’s right eye.

Eren felt himself pinned in place as Levi looked at him with such an amount of care and fondness he could feel his heart doing somersault in his chest and melt at the same time. There wasn’t any noise around them expect for the distant roar of cars and a dog barking somewhere in the neighborhood. The wind was faintly blowing, making both of their hair move with the soft evening breeze.

He couldn’t look away from Levi’s grey eyes. There was so little distance between the two of them that he was actually able to detect some blue spots in his irises, around his pupils. The raven was looking back at him without looking away either, until at some point he saw him looked down for a moment, and Eren couldn’t help but do the same. Only when he did, the only thing he saw were Levi’s lips and his heart skipped a beat.

When had their faces ended up so close to each other? He couldn’t remember moving it forward, but it seemed as if the distance between them was shortening every second of them staring in each other’s eyes, Levi’s hand still gently holding Eren’s cheek. At some point, Eren could feel Levi’s hot breath on his lips, and he couldn’t help but close his eyes, overwhelmed by the feelings erupting like fireworks inside his chest and stomach. He leaned in a bit closer, anticipating what would happen once the distance between them would be close to zero.

“Eren?”

The brunet jumped back at the sound of his name being called by a familiar and feminine voice, his whole face beat red. Levi had moved away from him too, both of his hands alongside his body now. As Eren turned away in the direction of the voice, he could see Mikasa on the porch of the house, looking around until her eyes fell on him. He gave her a small wave, his face contorted in what he assumed was looking like a very mortified smile.

What exactly had been on the verge of happening just now?