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Silent Professionals

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Levi was beautiful when he fought.

I’d never seen anything like it. I’d been fighting all my life - scrapping, more like - and I’d never seen anyone move like him. It was almost like watching a dance, his movements were fluid, precise, calculated, and he whirled around so fast your eyes had to stop focusing on him just to see the trail of his movement.

He was short, but fast. When he got in the ring with a man more than twice his size, and proceeded to fell him within five minutes, to say I was impressed was an understatement.

There were others that stepped in the ring after him, pairs of guys that were sparring for fun and for practice. But I couldn’t drag my eyes away as he tilted his head back, drinking from his water bottle, the sweat clinging to his skin and making it shine. His hair was damp, and slick, and shone like obsidian. I watched the play of his muscles as he picked up the towel and ran it over his face.

“Jaeger!” Erwin called out in a booming voice.

I started, and looked up at our instructor, who was standing impatiently in the ring with his arms crossed. He was built like a tank, tall, broad, and bulky with muscle. I didn’t want to piss him off, because fighter or not, I wasn’t ready to take him on.

“Get up here, it’s your turn.”

I hopped up and ducked through the ropes, bouncing on my feet, rolling my ankles and snapping my neck. Finally I cracked my knuckles before sliding into my boxing gloves. We didn’t wear head gear when sparring, only when fighting for real.

It was my first time sparring in this club, and so I didn’t know the name of my opponent, just that he had a long face that made him look like a horse. And two-toned hair - was it bleached? He looked a little ridiculous to me, but his body was fit, and he was clearly ready to go.

We faced each other off, circling, testing each other with a few jabs, crosses, and knees. Whenever I got close to him he backed away, ducking, avoiding, always on the run.
It started to tick me off, so I said, “What are you, scared?”

Horse-face’s eyes went dark, but he said, “Hey man, it’s just a drill. Back the fuck off.”

Now I was getting pissed. “How are you supposed to get better if you don’t take it seriously?”

“Are you for real?” He came at me, but it was almost forced, half-assed.

I threw a good punch at him and clocked him in the jaw. “If you’re not going to fight me then get the fuck out so I can spar with someone else.”

Horse-face threw his hands in the air and stalked out of the ring, and Erwin didn’t say anything but just stood there with his arms crossed and sighed. “Annie,” he called out after a moment.

A blonde girl with a hawkish look to her climbed into the ring, and the first thing I thought to myself was, why is he pairing me with a girl? Someone so much smaller than me? I was thinking this club was a joke, and that coming here was a mistake.

Then she lashed out at me, swept my legs out from under me, and got in a good gut shot that left me wheezing on the floor.

I just lay there for a moment, stupefied.

Then I got up, shook it off, and started to get serious.

Annie and I got really into it, but she was good. Everything I threw at her, she blocked or dodged, and kept coming right back at me. I pushed her, she pushed me, I kicked her, she kicked me. Then somehow she got the better of me yet again. When I kicked her, she caught my leg against her side, and delivered a sickening punch to my inner thigh that left my leg spasming and made me buckle.

As I was falling backwards, she caught my head between her hands, and kneed me in the face. Then she tossed me back like a used rag doll. My head thudded against the ground, and I saw stars.

The pain was incredible. My whole face felt like it was on fire, and there were tears streaming down my face. I tongued my lips and felt blood on the inside where I must have bitten into them. And there was blood streaming down my face, all down the front of my tank top, all everywhere.

I was jerked roughly to my feet, held up by none other than Levi himself. He manhandled me like I didn’t tower over him, and he spat in my face, “Don’t you dare bleed on the ring. Even bleach won’t get the stains out.”

I couldn’t even understand him, I thought to myself. Bleach? I must be hearing things. I could barely see.

My leg was prodded roughly, but I heard Erwin’s voice as though from far away. “Nothing broken. Except the nose, of course. Someone get him in the back and get him cleaned up.”

I couldn’t say for sure what happened next. Everything was a blur, but I was moving, and I fought the dizziness that made me feel like I wanted to puke. Shit, I thought to myself. I had finally had a chance to meet my idol, the top superstar of the MMA ring, and what kind of impression had I made on him? Oh yeah, that’s right. He told me not to bleed on the ring.

Could I get a rewind?

——

I sat on a bench in the corner of the gym, my head tilted back, as my best friend settled herself in front of me with an ice pack and a wet towel, and proceeded to start wiping the blood of my face.

“Oh, Eren,” she sighed at me. “Why you keep throwing yourself back in there, I’ll never understand.”

I didn’t have the patience to try to explain yet again to Mikasa how I needed to do this, how it was my dream. We had watched Levi fight once, the three of us, her, me, and our friend Armin, back when we were just kids and Levi was in the amateur league. They’d held some sort of outdoor tournament for charity, and we’d all gone to help the cause - it was for orphans, I remember, because Mikasa and I were orphans, too, and Armin was just there for us. We’d all been there, but of the three of us, it was only really me whose life changed that day.

I had seen Levi in the ring, and I had thought to myself, if I could be like him one day, I’d feel free. I wanted to fight back against all the bullies, all the bigger kids, and protect those who needed protection. When I watched Levi I felt at peace, because something about the way he moved just spoke of someone who was at ease in their skin, and I wanted that. I hated that part of myself that was weak, and awkward, and I wanted to stamp it out.

I still wanted to stamp it out. I’d been training in all sorts of martial arts, from Karate, to Aikido, even Tai Chi. But when I was old enough, I joined the local MMA club and started to do Muay Thai. I was one of the better ones in my age category, but now that I was legally an adult, I was in a different class.

Mikasa prodded a cut on my eyebrow, eliciting a hiss from my lips. “Tear it wide open, why don’t you,” I muttered.

“Stop being a baby,” she countered instead, and then she went for the gold and started wiping the blood from my nose, mouth, chin. The towel went red, but I had been tipping my head back for a while now, and the blood had stopped flowing.

I had already felt a little nauseous from the knock to the head, but tilting my head back had made me swallow some blood, and that really didn’t help. I felt myself swaying, and I thought, fuck, I’m going to puke.

“Mikasa,” I breathed, my voice barely above a whisper.

Her eyes focused in on me, and she peered down at me. “What’s wrong,” she said, instantly intent, no longer playing around.

“I need to get to the bathroom. Right now.”

Mikasa shouldered me up, and I swung an arm over her. She was stronger than she looked, and she could carry me fully if I wanted her to, but I couldn’t bear the shame of it. So she half-dragged, half-carried me out of the gym, and down the hall of the big factory building, to the bathrooms that no one ever used.

They weren’t gross, in the sense that since no one ever used them, so they didn’t stink or anything. But there was a definite layer of dust on top of everything, and who knew the last time the toilets had a flush. The bathrooms smelled faintly of gip rock plaster and paint.

I barely made it to the toilet before collapsing on my knees and vomiting into the porcelain bowl. I felt Mikasa’s hand on my back, rubbing circles there, though she didn’t say a word.

It was over pretty quick really. I hadn’t eaten much that day, but I dry heaved a bit when my stomach was empty, since my skull was splitting and the convulsions didn’t seem to want to stop.

When I finally rested my cheek on the seat, listening to the flushing toilet, I felt Mikasa’s hand in my hair. She prodded the back of my head, and found a swelling where my head had knocked against the ground.

“You might have a concussion,” she said quietly.

“I’m fine,” I countered.

She didn’t say anything, but I could feel her watching me. She didn’t give a shit about going back to that class, even though all I wanted to do was make it back fast enough that they all didn’t think I was a pussy for getting knocked around by a girl two heads shorter than me.

When I thought I was ready, I got to my feet. I was quite proud of myself for only swaying a little bit.

I went to the sink, and could see already the blood collecting behind my eye sockets. Great, now I’d have black eyes to show for this little stunt. I turned my head from one side to another, looking at my nose. Had it always been curved like that?

I heard the door push open behind me, and I turned my eyes to watch in the mirror as Levi stalked into the room. He looked around, making a grunt of disgust, then eyed me up and down.

“I think he has a concussion,” Mikasa told him, but Levi stoutly ignored her. She frowned.

Instead, he walked up to me, and peered up into my face. He then reached up, putting his hands on my cheeks, and looked into my eyes. I looked down at him, and from this close up, I was mesmerized by how delicate he looked, from his stature to his small mouth, and his wide, wide eyes. I was caught in his eyes, trying to figure out what colour they were - would you call that silver? Or a dull blue?

Then in a quick motion, he put his hands on either side of my nose, and yanked and pushed all at the same time.

It’s like the pain of getting the nose broken, all over again. I smacked his hands away, and put a hand on my nose, but when I touched it I screamed. “Fuck!”

Levi slapped my hands away from my face, and he snapped out, “Don’t fucking touch it.”

“You’re one to talk!” I complained.

“I just fixed it, so don’t fucking touch it, or I’ll have to fix it again.” He glared up at me. “If you can stop getting your panties in a twist and follow me back, I’ll tape it so it won’t float around, and then maybe you’ll still have a straight nose after all this.”

I sighed, but followed him out, rolling my eyes back at Mikasa. She just shrugged.

I was walking on my own, though, and the dizziness had passed for the most part, so I figured I didn’t have a hell of a lot to complain about. I just wished I’d get eaten up in a big hole and given a redo of the whole day, because getting my nose broken by a girl, then getting said nose set by my hero were so not on my list of to-dos.

When we got back to the club, I saw that the place was pretty much cleared out. The class had finished, and there were just a few die-hards who were doing weights and using the machines. Erwin was talking on the phone, taking down someone’s information onto a notepad, but other than that, I didn’t recognize anyone.

Levi led me back to his locker. He was one of the few with his own locker, I saw, but it made sense since he was the top fighter in the place. He pulled a first aid kit off the top shelf and then pointed at the ring. “Sit,” he barked out.

I perched on the edge of the ring, and Levi insinuated himself between my legs, looking down into my eyes. From this position, I could reach out and put my hands on his hips, and kiss him. I wanted to kiss him, I realized with a jolt.

I slid my eyes to look at Mikasa, like she could somehow see it on my face, but she was just watching me like always.

Levi cupped my neck in one hand, using his thumb to tilt my chin back just where he wanted it. Fuck, I thought. I could smell him, and it was driving me crazy. He was all sweat and musk and yet there was a layer of soap and clean fresh air, and the whole combination just made me want to put my arms around him.

I clenched my hands into fists to stop them from wandering, and planted them firmly on the ring behind me.

Levi accurately measured out two lengths of tape, snipping the ends off with a small pair of sewing scissors. He then carefully positioned my nose again, making me wince, and expertly taped it up.

“You’ve done this before, haven’t you?” I asked him. I winced again when I realized my voice sounded like gravel. Must have been all the screaming I did earlier. Or the puking.

Levi just raised an eyebrow and stepped away from me, putting his things away. “I had some medical training when I joined the army.”

“You’re in the army?” I asked.

Levi turned to glare at me. “Is there an echo in here? Yeah, I’m in the army. Special forces.”

I goggled at him. I knew I was doing it, but I couldn’t stop myself. In Canada, you didn’t often meet people who were in the army. It wasn’t the most popular career choice. “So you’ve, like, gone abroad? Fought in wars?”

Levi rolled his eyes and put his kit back in his locker. I thought at first he wasn’t going to answer my question, but I heard him say, “I’m special forces. We go on short-term tactical missions mostly. But I did two tours in Afghanistan.”

I turned to look at Mikasa, who was now eyeing him with open interest, though she didn’t interrupt our conversation. I knew she’d spoken before of joining up, and I had often wondered why she hadn’t. She’d followed me into University instead, and joined this club at the same time as me, as well. But she was always better than me, better at fighting, better at learning, and it drove me nuts sometimes. I had to admit I sometimes wanted to tell her to stop following me around like a lost puppy, but I knew that was one of those things that, once said, couldn’t be unsaid. I’d wisely kept my mouth shut.

But now, I turned to her and said, “Now you have someone who can tell you what it’s like.”

Levi was taking off his shirt, I realized, as I watched the play of muscles in his suddenly exposed back. My mouth went dry. He had a bag out, and he was folding the shirt carefully into the bag, wiping his chest down with his towel. “I’m not playing fucking twenty questions with a couple of brats,” Levi grumbled without looking at us.

“Mikasa’s always wanted to join the army. And our friend Armin, he wants to see the world, and he said he’d join up if we did, ‘cause it was one way to see the world. None of us grew up with a lot of money, so it’s not like we were trust fund babies that could tap into those funds to go backpacking around Europe or anything.” I knew I was rambling, and Mikasa was shooting me a glare that clearly said, when are you going to shut up? but I just couldn’t stop talking.

Levi turned around to face me, and my mouth went dry again when I caught sight of his perfect, chiseled body. He was carved from stone, and yet his skin looked soft, I wanted to touch it, to touch him. I closed my eyes tight and turned my head away.

“Sure, it’s one way to see the world,” he was saying. “See it drenched in blood. Damn, and now I’ve got the whole life story. Do me a favour, kid, and keep your life history to yourself. I don’t care about your dreams and aspirations, and I don’t give a shit that your mommy and daddy didn’t give you enough pin money.” Levi was dragging a fresh shirt on over his torso, and I stifled the disappointment that he thought so little of me. I could feel my lips thinning out, but I didn’t say anything, because I didn’t blame him for his assumptions. I was just a stupid kid, with some kind of hero-worship going on, and why should he give a damn about me?

Mikasa wasn’t so understanding, though. She moved so fast I barely saw her, and shoved her forearm up under his chin, pinning him to his locker. She glared down at him, baring her teeth in a snarl. “Don’t you talk about his parents. They were good people, and they did what they could for us when we were young.”

Levi didn’t struggle, or try to wiggle out of her grasp. He just raised an eyebrow. “Were?”

I could see his neck compress when Mikasa pushed her arm harder. “It’s not their fault that they’re not around to help us anymore. Eren’s done the best he could, he’s protected us since we were kids, he’s worked his ass off to get this far. How dare you presume to-”

I cut her off when I put a hand on her arm, tugging her gently. “Mikasa,” I said, looking into her eyes. I couldn’t bear to look at Levi, I didn’t want to see that sarcastic look on his face anymore, and I was burning up with shame. He didn’t want to hear my life story, and she wasn’t helping. “It’s okay. He doesn’t know me, doesn’t know us. And he doesn’t want to. Let’s just go, okay?”

She looked into my eyes for a long moment, and I could tell there was still some fight left in her, but as always when I asked her to do something, she always came through.

Mikasa huffed, then spun on her heel, grabbing her bag and jerking it over her shoulder. I followed after her, doing my best not to look back at Levi.

When I brushed out the door, I couldn’t help it. I glanced behind me and I caught a last glimpse of Levi. He was standing there, motionless, right where we’d left him. He was watching us - watching me. And even though I didn’t know him, and couldn’t say for sure, I would swear that there was an apologetic tilt to his head.

Did I mention that I wanted a rewind?

Chapter Text

I’m an asshole.

I mean, people tell me that all the time. But most of the time, I just feel misunderstood. Just because I don’t smile much doesn’t mean I’m thinking mean things. And okay, so I’m a little crass, and when I make jokes no one knows that I’m kidding. But generally, I’m not mean-spirited.

But today, yeah, I’m an asshole.

It’s not like I meant to hurt the kid. How was I supposed to know his parents were dead? At the time, I just wanted him to shut the fuck up, because I felt myself getting lured in by the tone of voice, that soft husky voice that felt like it wrapped itself around me like a blanket. I felt myself getting curious about him, wanting to know more, and I had to nip that in the bud because I couldn’t allow myself to get close to anyone. Not anymore.

So I was a little harsh. I pushed a little.

I’ll never forget the look on his face, his face fucking fell, and he closed his eyes tight. The expression lasted only a moment, and then he shoved it away like he’d been doing that with his emotions forever.

Then that little minx Mikasa had me pinned against the wall, but I was just looking at him, looking at him square his shoulders and shrug it off. Then the way that he came over, and gently, so gently took Mikasa’s arm. His self-control was nothing short of astounding.

I wanted a rewind.


——


After they left, I took out a good ten rounds on the punching bag. I couldn’t get rid of the frustration, and I kept seeing those gorgeous fucking cat eyes and the look in them when I stomped all over his hero-worship. I couldn’t wipe away that moment of self-loathing I’d seen in him.

So I punched and kicked and tore away at the bag. Then I threw my gloves aside and went after the bag in only my hand wraps, until I’d split open all my knuckles. The pain felt good, my own little piece of redemption.

Erwin came to watch me after a while, propping his shoulder up against the wall. I eyed him out of the corner of my eye, then studiously ignored him.

“What’s got your feathers ruffled?” he finally asked me. His titan eyebrows went straight up, and I wondered if they’d flap right off his curious face.

“Nothing,” I lied.

His laugh was genuine, if brief. “Does nothing have a first name with an E and a last with a J?”

I started up punching the bag again, feeling the sweat drip down my back satisfactorily. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“I saw you taping up his nose. Why’d you bother?”

I shrugged. “Why not? Someone had to do it. I had my kit in my locker.”

Erwin’s mouth twisted into a sour smile. “Wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that doing so would give you a chance to stare into his big green eyes?”

“Oh would you just shut the fuck up,” I said, exasperated. “I don’t even know him.”

“But you want to,” Erwin insisted. “And knowing you, that bothers you.”

I finally stopped punching the bag, hugging it to stop its swinging, and turned to look at Erwin fully. “You know the deal, big boy. I’m not getting close to anyone again. Not when I have no idea when I’m next going to be shipped overseas. I’m not going to come home in a body bag and break some poor kid’s heart.”

Erwin came to stand so close to me that I had to crane my head up to look at him, damn him. He brushed his knuckles against my cheek, and I jerked my head away. “We’ve lost a lot of friends over the years, it’s true. And you and Gabriel had something special. But he wouldn’t want you to be alone forever, Levi. At some point you’ve got to move on.”

I swore a blue streak, reverting to my native French. Then I poked Erwin in the chest and spoke in English again. “I don’t give a fuck what Gabriel would have wanted. It’s about what I want.”

Erwin’s eyes challenged me. “You want Eren Jaeger.”

I shook my head vehemently. “I want to be left alone.”

Erwin just walked away, and he was laughing at me, damn him. “Levi one of these days you’re going to crack. And then you’re going to fuck. And then you’ll be a nice guy again. Actually, you’re right, you should stay away from Jaeger. He’ll only break your perfect record in the ring.”

“Je m’en câlice!” I swore, delivering one final kick to the bag.


——


I had a condo downtown, in one of these high rise buildings that gives a great view of the river at night. It’s my sanctuary, the place I retreat to in these rare moments of peace in my life. I keep it immaculate, tidying up every day, so that the white marbled countertops in the kitchen shine and the wooden floors gleam. Mostly everything in my place is black and white. White walls, black mouldings, black furniture. Wooden floors, wooden table. Black marble fireplace with a flat screen TV.

Black and white tuxedo cat named Titan, currently lounging across the back of the black leather sofa, staring at me balefully when I walk in the place. I get a pet sitter when I’m out of town, but having him here is comforting to me, since he’s the one I talk to when I come home. He’s a maine coon, otherwise known as biggest fucking housecat you’ll ever see.

I put my gym bag down by the door, removing my shoes and shuffling over to scratch between his ears. His purr was loud and obnoxious, just how I liked it, and I could feel myself smiling faintly.

Sometimes I thought if it wasn’t for this damned cat I would have offed myself long ago. Taking care of him pleases me.

Even though I have to clean up all everywhere he goes. First thing I do when I get home is toss my laundry in the hamper, then I change the litter, vacuum any cat hair off the couch, and sweep the floor. The whole thing takes only five minutes, but I feel much better for having done it.

Thing I like about cats is they keep themselves clean. Dogs don’t do that, but cats spend hours a day grooming themselves. Titan is always soft and clean and somehow he always smells good, too, the little fucker.

I had some leftover fish and vegetables I’d cooked the night before, so I reheated everything then plopped down on the sofa. And stared.

I couldn’t even bring myself to eat, I was so lost in thought about the green-eyed kid from the gym. I found myself playing over the whole weird night all over again.

From the moment Eren had walked in the club, my eyes had been caught on his form like driftwood in a storm drain. He just looked so young, so fresh, so clean. I could feel the energy in the way he held himself, and see the light in his eyes, and I was just captivated. I couldn’t stop looking at him, and every time I forced my eyes away, they’d be back on him within five minutes.

So I got up there in the ring and picked a fight with Reiner, the biggest guy in our group apart from Erwin himself. Reiner was big, and he was good, but I knew all his weak points and I wasn’t above taking advantage of them. When I had him on the ground beneath me, out of breath and calling his surrender, I felt the deep satisfaction within me that comes from winning a fight.

It didn’t help that I couldn’t stop feeling the kid’s eyes on me, either. He was watching me with that look that people get when they see me fight for the first time. Like there’s something to admire in me.

There’s nothing to fucking admire. I’m just a machine, that’s all. A good-for-nothing machine.

I picked at the vegetables, but couldn’t bring myself to eat the fish, so I passed a piece of it up to Titan who had been doing a good job of staring me down anyway. He ate it like a king being served by a peasant, like it was his due. Then he started licking the back of his paw and swiping it over his face smugly.

When Eren had faced off with Jean, I could feel Eren’s frustration rolling off him in waves. Jean was a jerk, and lord knows why he even kept coming back when all he did was dick around. But he was a distant cousin to Erwin somehow, and that got him preferential treatment so he wasn’t tossed out on his ass like I would have done.

Annie, though, she was a machine. Like me. I knew why Erwin put her in there with Eren - it was a test.

It was a test that Eren failed miserably. Annie chewed him up and tossed him out like yesterday’s stale bread.

When I saw her go so far as to break his beautiful nose, I saw red. I was up in the ring in less than two seconds, pointing my finger in her face and telling her to back the fuck off while I jerked Eren to his feet. He was like a rag doll, and his eyes wouldn’t even focus. I was so fucking mad at her, but I needed someone to take care of Eren. Luckily Mikasa stepped up to the plate, so I could focus on the task of giving Annie a proper dressing down in front of the whole crew.

If Jean was the laziest fucker in there, then Annie was the meanest. She’s broken his nose for spite, because Eren’s weakness somehow offended her. Well, it was his first fucking day, what did she expect?

Erwin managed to calm me down enough that I didn’t clock her in front of everyone, but I couldn’t stop myself from stalking off and finding where the little brat had gone to. I was surprised to see him and Mikasa had left the gym entirely, but when I wandered through the corridors, I found them in some bathroom that fuck knows how long it’d been there unused.

The place was covered in dust. I almost sneezed, but caught myself, because that would be too undignified. I just snorted in disgust instead. At least the place was only dusty and smelled of plaster, like they’d never quite finished the job and abandoned it half finished maybe ten years ago. At least it didn’t stink of human excrement and bodily fluids. It could have been worse.

But when I saw Eren’s face, I was so fucking mad all over again. His whole beautiful fucking face was purple, and his nose was a swollen mess. If Annie had fucked up his face permanently, I would tear her a new one. Too bad her nose had been broken twice already, it was already bent like a beak.

I was so pissed by the whole thing that I pushed Eren away, hard. And I could tell I’d made an enemy of Mikasa already.


——


I went in to the barracks the next day to help run the new recruits through drills. That was my primary function when I was in town, training new squirts and planning any tactical missions I’d be a part of.

Normally the whole training thing was kind of indifferent for me. I didn’t hate it, didn’t love it. But today, every fresh new face I saw just reminded me of Eren, and then I kept replaying his sad broken face in my mind, and I wanted to make everyone who looked like him pay. I must have made them do a hundred extra laps, and wouldn’t let any of those squirts leave until they’d done 500 sit-ups.

Their grumbles and annoyance was like a balm to my bad mood. The more pissed the recruits got, the better I felt.

I felt fucking amazing by the end of the day.

It was a couple of days before I made it back to the MMA gym. A couple of days filled with nothing but irritation. By the time I walked in the door of the gym, I was ready for a workout.

The first thing I was greeted with, though, was Eren’s fucking face.

He was standing all the way on the other side of the gym, so he wasn’t looking at me, but I was rooted to the spot. I didn’t expect to see him here. I didn’t expect to see him ever again. I thought for sure that he’d just take off with his tail between his legs and never come back.

But no, there he was, standing with Mikasa, who was looking nonplussed as usual. And then there was another, a small blonde boy who looked about 12 years old. I rifled through my memories of our conversation, that blonde head of hair triggering something, and put two and two together that this must have been Armin. The boy was laughing at something that Eren said, and then Eren was laughing too, and he turned around so that I could see his face straight-on.

He had two black eyes, though luckily the swelling had gone right down, the discolouration made them look purple. Somehow the black eyes only made the striking green of his irises stand out like fucking beacons, and when he met my eyes across the room, I couldn’t look away. It took me a minute to remember to fucking breathe.

When he broke our stare, I could move again, and I knelt down to unlace my converse and slide out of the black and white shoes. I was wearing black skinny jeans and a white v-neck t-shirt, so I stopped by my locker to switch to a white tank top and slide out of my jeans and into a pair of black track pants instead. There were no changing rooms in the gym directly, and no one here was a prude, so it wasn’t like it was the first time I had changed in the corner and wouldn’t be my last. But when I turned around, I found his eyes on me again.

I wanted to say something to him, to apologize or something for being an asshole. But I didn’t do apologies. I didn’t even know what to say. Sorry? Sounded too trite.

Erwin was starting up the class, anyway. He gathered us all around to warm up, and by the time we were done with all the skipping, weight lifting, and shadow boxing, I was sweating all right.

We always broke into pairs for the drills. Normally I got paired with someone close to my size and skill level, like Annie or Petra. But Petra wasn’t here tonight, and Erwin probably realized that if I was paired with Annie tonight I’d fuck her little face up, so he pulled an unexpected move and paired me with the new kid.

Armin had this expression on his face that was just so nice. He tied his hair back in a half ponytail to get it out of his face, which just made him look more like a girl. And those eyes were like big saucers in his face.

“What are you doing here?” I asked him, instead of introducing myself.

Armin blinked at me. “Umm… learning to fight?”

I rolled my shoulders, and watched him under half-lidded eyes. “Somehow it doesn’t seem like your cup of tea,” I said, giving him a look.

Armin flushed bright red. “I can do this. If you can do this, then so can I. I’m taller than you, anyway.”

I rushed at him, getting all up in his face, just to scare him a little. Then I breathed in my most threatening voice, “It’s not about size, Armin. It’s about attitude. And skill.”

I was surprised when the little pipsqueak didn’t shake in his boots. He did look a little scared at first, but then he squared his shoulders, and said, “If you know my name, then you must know Eren and Mikasa. And I won’t be left behind by them, not now, not ever. I’m not weak.”

I cocked my head to the side, puzzled by him. “Not everyone can be strong. Nothing wrong with that.”

“Will everyone stop gabbing and get to work!” Erwin shouted from right behind me.

I grumbled in irritation but got to it. I showed Armin how to do the drill, and corrected him on his form. I gave him some pointers on how to best punch, and the difference between a jab and a hook. He soaked it all up like a damned sponge, and by the end of the drills I felt like he could write a goddamned book about it.

Next came the sparring part. When I faced off with Armin, I just told him to attack me, and then I corrected him on his form, and showed him how I could slip, block, or dodge his punches. I didn’t bother to hit him back, because knowing my luck I’d accidentally clock him in the face when he didn’t slip fast enough, and last thing I needed was that Mikasa having yet another reason to hate me.

It seemed like before I knew it, the class was over. We were cooling down, doing sit-ups and planks, and then everyone was packing up and getting ready to go. Armin thanked me for my tutelage, and then he jogged to catch up with Eren and Mikasa, and I realized that I hadn’t said a single word to Eren the whole time. Somehow that struck me as tragic.

I debated calling out to him for a good five minutes. I wanted to, but I shouldn’t get close to anyone. But I’d fucked up and I really should apologize. But Mikasa would tear my arm off. But he deserved an apology.

Fuck it.

Just as the trio were about to go out the door, I sauntered over to them and said, “Hey.”

Mikasa looked up, but Eren didn’t so much as glance at me, he just pushed towards the door.

“Hey, Eren,” I specified.

Eren’s head shot up and he looked at me, surprised. His mouth opened in a little “O”. Then he looked around, and pointed at himself, raising an eyebrow.

I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, you. Can I have a sec?”

Mikasa was giving me the death glare, which I tried to fend off by turning my back on her and walking away. Eren followed me, and I led him far enough away from the other two that our conversation wouldn’t be overheard.

“Did you want to say something to me?” Eren asked when I stopped and didn’t say anything.

I had managed to prop my shoulder up against the wall, looking nonchalant, but my guts were a bundle of fucking nerves. I still didn’t know what I actually wanted to say. I licked my lips.

Eren’s eyes flicked down to track the movement of my tongue on my mouth, and I bit back a smile. I couldn’t even let myself think about how intriguing that was.

I cleared my throat, and looked away from him. “Do you resent me, for what I said before?”

When he didn’t say anything for a while, I turned to look at him, and saw him chewing thoughtfully on his lip. Finally, he said, “No.”

I wanted to laugh at him, but I knew he’d take it the wrong way. So I said, “You should. I was an asshole.”

He snorted, and ran a hand through his hair. “Yeah, okay, you kinda were.”

I sighed through my nose. “I’m not very good at this,” I said awkwardly.

He looked up at me, and I felt trapped in those gorgeous fucking eyes. “At what?”

I forced myself not to look away, and said, “Apologizing.”

He raised an eyebrow, and I realized I’d caught him by surprise again. “Oh?”

I crossed my arms over my chest. “I’m sorry. I was a dick, and it was uncalled for. I was just pissed off, but I shouldn’t have taken it out on you.”

“Why were you pissed off?” he asked, curious.

I raised my eyebrows and looked at him. “I was pissed off because Annie nearly ruined your perfect face.”

His eyebrows shot up. “My wha-?”

I reached up a hand, but stopped myself from touching him. “Does it hurt?”

“What?” he asked, confused.

I dropped my hand. “Your nose.”

He shook his head slowly. “It’s fine. I’ve had worse.”

I doubted that. Then, I kicked myself, because I was doing it again. I was making assumptions, and it wasn’t fair of me. Most of the time I didn’t give a shit about fair, but Eren made me want to. Give a shit, that is.

Without even realizing I was going to say it, the words flew out of my mouth. “I’d like to make it up to you.”

I didn’t think his eyebrows could climb any higher. It was like they were going to fly off his face. “What?”

I rolled my eyes. “Am I speaking in English? Tu prefères français?”

“Huh?”

I pinched the bridge of my nose between my thumb and forefinger. I knew the kid wasn’t a rocket scientist, but it seemed like I blew his mind somewhere there. “I’m offering you a chance to ask your 20 questions. If you want, that is. Maybe coffee or something.” I mumbled the last bit.

Eren’s eyebrows drew together. “Are you asking me on a date?” he asked, incredulous.

I held up my hands. “No! Absolutely not!”

Now he looked crestfallen again. Shit!

“I mean, I’d like to, but I can’t, for a million reasons. But if you want to ask your 20 questions, I’ll let you. But if you don’t want to, then never mind, just forget I said anything.” I shut my mouth, because I was about to cross that line into babbling, and I did not babble. Ever.

Eren put his hand on my arm, stopping me as I was about to turn away. “Yes. Absolutely.”

Those sincere green eyes were staring at me again, though they were still full of confusion, and I was totally confused myself. But fuck it.

“Okay. Give me your phone.”

“Huh?” There was the confused look again.

“Give me your fucking phone,” I growled, holding out my hand.

Eren dug around in his bag, and produced said phone nervously, unlocking it and handing it over.

I tried not to laugh when I saw the picture on the home screen of the phone. It was a picture of me, from some fight I’d fought in like a million years ago. I was younger, and wirier, and I had this guy down on the floor, my foot planted under his chin.

I began to regret my offer already. He was deep into the hero-worship. This was a fucking mistake. I began to hand the phone back, my gaze stony.

“What?” he asked. Then he took the phone, looked at the home screen, and went fucking red as a birthday balloon. “Oh shit!” he said. “Wait! It’s not what you think it is!”

I just looked at him, crossing my arms, my eyes half-lidded.

“This isn’t you! I mean, it is you, but I didn’t know who you were back then! This is just a picture I took when I was a kid, and it’s what inspired me to get into all this. I just keep it there to remind me, that’s all.”

“To remind you of what?” I asked in a deadly quiet voice.

He grabbed my arm again. “To remind me that the underdog can win. That the bully isn’t always the strongest one in the room. To remind me that if I’m strong enough, I can protect the people I love. I swear to God, that’s all this is. It’s not about you. Not like you think.”

I chewed on his words, but I still wasn’t sure. I was still thinking this was all a mistake.

“Wait!” he said eagerly. “Give me your phone. I’ll plug my number in there, and if you don’t want to, you never have to use it. But if you do, then I’ll cash in on your offer. Deal?”

I couldn’t resist the eagerness in his eyes. He stirred something in the pit of my stomach. Something I wasn’t sure if I loved, or hated.

Finally I pulled my phone out of my bag, unlocked it, and handed it over to him.

Eren stood staring at my home screen for a long time, without entering anything in. Then he went red in the face.

“What?” I demanded, looking over his shoulder, but he was too tall, and he was turning around, blocking my view.

“That is soooo cuuuute,” he said, holding the phone up in the air.

Titan. Shit, I’d forgot. Titan was dominating my home screen, staring balefully at the screen. I’d snapped the picture one night to look at in lonely moments. Damn him.

“You’re a cat person? I never would have guessed.”

I reached out to snatch the phone, but he held it up above my reach. “Give it back,” I demanded. “I’ve changed my mind.”

“No!” he said, holding the phone up and laughing. I jumped up, but he was too tall. He was laughing, and his smile was so brilliant it almost knocked me back. He was looking up at the phone, and typing furiously, trying to finish inputting his info before I could climb up his body and forcefully take the phone back.

I gave up trying with a huff. If I really wanted to, I could have swept his legs out from under him, and wrestled the phone out of his grip, but just thinking about rolling around with him on the ground got me a little hard, so I turned away and tried to think of anything else.

“There!” he said triumphantly, handing the phone back to me. “Now the ball’s in your court, Levi.”

I turned around, shoving the phone in my pocket, and caught a glimpse of the startled faces of everyone watching our exchange. Mikasa, Armin, Erwin, and half a dozen others had all seen me jumping up in the air trying to grab my phone back from Eren. It was utterly embarrassing, and I flushed with shame.

To make matters even worse, Eren threw his arm over my shoulders, then put his mouth next to my ear, and said, “Call me?” hopefully.

I elbowed him in the ribs and walked away, wanting to fan my face because fuck it felt like it was on fire.

Who knew I had sensitive ears?

Chapter Text

I tried not to be disappointed that Levi never called me.

The first day was bad. I sat by my phone, glancing at it every five minutes. Nothing.

The second day, I began to doubt myself.

By the end of the first week, I thought I must have totally misread the situation. I mean, it was entirely possible that Levi wasn’t gay, that I’d come on too strong, or maybe even that he thought I was really suffering from hero-worship. No matter what the reasons, he obviously wanted nothing to do with me.

At the end of the second week, I thought it was bizarre that I hadn’t even seen him at the MMA gym. I mean, he couldn’t possibly hate me so much that he wouldn’t even want to run into me.

I threw myself into my schoolwork, and into my social work. At school, I was studying physical therapy and psychology. I had always been into sports, and I wanted to help people, so I figured I could combine everything in a way that would make sense.

Outside of school, I was a volunteer in the local youth centre, which had close affiliations with the orphanage I grew up in. There were all kinds of people that you saw come through there. Some were kids that were living on the streets. Some were into drugs and alcohol. Some kids were living in abusive homes and just needed a place to come to get away from it all, where they felt safe.

Connie was one of the latter. Connie grew up in a family with an abusive father. He’d spent most of his life protecting his little sister, and he’d sometimes show up at the youth centre with a black eye or a broken finger. He came to have some peace, but he begged us not to call social services. He was terrified that he and his sister would be separated, and he wouldn’t be able to protect her then. I couldn’t deny the possibility, and I knew what it was like to grow up in the system, so I made myself a safe haven for him.

I was in the gym playing basketball with the kids one afternoon when Connie came in to join the game. He had noticeable bruises on his knuckles, and on his neck, but he had a smile on his face as usual.

He joined in the game and we all must have played together for an hour at least, before calling it quits. Afterwards Connie and I collapsed on the bench next to each other, and I handed him my water bottle to let him take a hit from it.

I glanced at him sideways, and eyed the bruises. “So, how are things?” I asked casually.

Connie shrugged, grimacing. “You know. Nothing much changes. It could be worse, though.”

That’s what he always said. It could be worse. I’d never known anyone to look on the positive side so much as him.

“How’s school?” I asked. He was just in his first year of college, and the transition hadn’t been easy. I’d set him up with Armin as a tutor to get him through the end of high school.

Connie grinned. “Great. I’ve been doing all right in class, thanks to Armin. Thank you soooo much Eren, I would have never made it in without Armin’s help. You changed my life, man.”

I leaned back on my hands, taking a deep breath. “Don’t sweat it. So, grades are all right?”

“Yeah, and I met a girl,” he said excitedly.

I eyed him askance. “Oh?”

Connie’s head bobbed up and down. “Her name’s Sasha. She’s kind of a food fanatic, but she’s all right.”

I snorted at this description. “So, you asked her out yet?”

Connie screwed up his face. “I can’t figure out how to do it.”

“I’ll give you a hint,” I said with a smile. “Say something like, ‘Hey, Sasha, want to grab a coffee sometime?’”

Connie gave me a dark look. “Seriously? That’s all you’ve got? Totally unimaginative.”

I was about to tell him that someone had asked me out recently with those words, then I remembered that Levi had never actually called me after that, so I shut my mouth. “Well, what have you got to lose?” I said instead.

He shrugged. “Friendship, I guess.”

I nodded. “Well, you’ve got a choice to make. I’ll tell you one thing, once you two get into the friendship vibe, it’s very hard to break out of it. So, you either want to be friends, or you want her to be your girlfriend. Which one is it?”

“Girlfriend,” he admitted.

I clapped him on the shoulder. “There you go. Now take the plunge!”

I stood up and stretched, my shoulders creaking. My right shoulder had taken a bit of a beating at MMA recently, and I could feel it stretching out in ways that weren’t normal. I knew from my training which muscles to stretch out and strengthen, though, so I vowed to get on that as soon as I got home.

“See you later, Connie,” I called as I wandered out.


——


I went to the MMA gym that night to get some exercise, meeting up with Armin and Mikasa there. We’d all really improved over the past few weeks, and even Armin was putting on some muscle. I’d trimmed down and could feel myself losing my ‘baby fat’, as Mikasa called it. We’d taken to going 3 times a week or more, and more often than not we’d go for a coffee afterwards to catch up.

That night, I got paired off with Mikasa herself, and the two of us pushed each other hard. Mikasa got under my guard more than once, as she was faster and more nimble than I was. But I was brawnier than her, and I could grapple better. I was also getting better as I went along. It made for an excellent match.

I was surprised yet again to see neither Erwin nor Levi at the gym that night. This crazy high energy girl named Hanji had taken over the class in their absence, and she was almost military in her drills and the execution of them. She took notes of our progress, and even presented us with our averages from one week to the next, which I actually found fun. We could challenge our scores, and compete against each other, to get even better.

For example, I could do more pushups than Armin and Mikasa, but Mikasa had us all beat hands down on sit-ups. And lunges. She had legs of steel, I swear to God.

Armin was just really calculating, which I suppose is not surprising. When Armin was in the ring with you, he’d sort out all your weaknesses, and he’d duck under them and hit you in your tender spots. Even though I don’t think he’d last long against any of us in a real fight, I could totally see him defending himself in a chance encounter with some amateur bully.

After class that night, I sidled up to Hanji, determined to figure out where the hell Levi was. Since over 3 weeks had passed since I’d seen him, my self-absorbed sadness had moved into outright worry.

Hanji saw me approaching and she was jotting down some notes on her clipboard. She exclaimed, “Eren! How are you doing?”

I forced a smile, even though I was still somewhat taken aback by her volume and enthusiasm level. Plus, I felt like some kind of interesting specimen for examination when she was around. “Good, I guess. You?”

She finished jotting down her notes with a flourish, and then set her clipboard aside. “Good! I am so excited to see your progress. You three have really been putting in the extra effort, and it shows!”

“Thanks,” I mumbled. I then scratched the back of my head, not sure how to go about this. “Look, I know it’s probably none of my business, but I wonder if I can ask a question.”

Hanji peered at me, curious. She had honed in on me like a laser beam, and I felt like she could see right through me. “Oh? You can always ask, dear. I can’t guarantee I’ll answer, though.”

I shuffled my feet, then stuck my hands in my pockets. “I was wondering if you know where Levi is.”

She looked at me for a long moment, appraising. Then she sighed and shook her head.

“See, I’m just really worried. I know I hardly know him and all, but he said he’d call me, and he never did, and he hasn’t shown up here since then. I’m just terrified that something’s happened to him.” I bit my lip and cursed myself, trying to stop myself from rambling, but my mouth had a mind of its own.

“I’m sorry, Eren, but I don’t know where he is.”

I cursed, and looked up at the ceiling. I then sighed heavily. “You just don’t want to tell me, right? You think I’m some kid who doesn’t know him. But I promise you, he’d want me to know, if something happened to him.”

Hanji put a hand on my shoulder, forcing me to look at her. “You don’t understand,” she said slowly. “I don’t know where he is. No one does.” She looked around, and seeing no one standing near to us, she lowered her voice to a very uncharacteristic whisper. “He was sent on a classified mission - even I don’t know where to. He went with Erwin. But they were supposed to be back last week. They missed their last check-in, and no one knows where they are. They’re MIA, Eren.”

I felt like the floor was dropping out from underneath me. My head was spinning as I tried to process that. The only thing grounding me was Hanji’s hand on my shoulder.

“Levi told me about you, before he left. Erwin was prepping me to take over this class, and Levi asked me to take care of his cat. He mentioned that he’d promised some kid to go to coffee, but he said that he didn’t want to tell you where he was going. He said you’d worry unnecessarily. He said you’d be better off if you thought he just didn’t like you, or some bullshit like that.”

I shook my head, biting my lip to keep my emotions in. I barely knew him, after all, so I had no right to be so concerned. But I felt like my heart was dropping like a stone in my chest.

“Eren, I think you do have a right to know, since you obviously cared enough to ask me. It’s been weeks, and you haven’t forgotten about him. So you care.”

I nodded, unable to look at her. “Yeah.”

She squeezed my shoulder one last time, and then let go. “I promise I’ll tell you if I hear anything, okay?”

I felt like a ghost as I walked out of there.


——


Armin, Mikasa, and I were all out on the terrace, enjoying the balmy summer evening as we shared a pizza. Armin and Mikasa had been talking about school for a while, but I just couldn’t get into the conversation. My head was turning circles around what I’d found out tonight.

I was trying to process what little I knew. Levi had told me he was in special forces. I knew that Erwin must work with him, since Hanji had said they’d gone together. Hanji was obviously friends with both of them, maybe even worked with them as well, that much was unclear. Levi lived alone, had one cat, and asked Hanji to take care of the cat. That showed a high level of trust between them.

Hanji knew that Erwin and Levi were missing. She’d never have lied or exaggerated about something like that. And for whatever reason, she must have seen it in my eyes, maybe - she’d decided that I had a right to know.

I felt ill. The worst part of it was that there was nothing that I could do. I didn’t even know where he was.

“Earth to Eren,” Mikasa said, tapping me on the head.

I swatted her hand away. “What?” I demanded crankily.

“Armin’s been talking to you, jerk off.”

I swung my eyes over to Armin’s innocent gaze. “Sorry, man. What were you saying?”

Armin shook his head, eyes crinkling as he smiled. “I was just wondering what’s going on in your head. You’ve been glaring at your glass for the past half hour.”

I twirled said class around in circles. I thought of how to answer, but there wasn’t much I could say. “What do you know about special forces?” I asked him instead.

Armin raised an eyebrow. “Well, I know it’s a branch of the military. They go on short term tactical missions, I believe.”

“What the fuck does that even mean?” I growled.

Mikasa rolled her eyes. “Normally those freaks go to foreign countries to deal with situations that the public aren’t supposed to know about. Like, if someone gets taken hostage. We’re not supposed to negotiate with terrorists, so special forces will go in with a small tactical team and try to bust the hostage out.”

“Aren’t they also counter-terrorism specialists?” Armin asked her.

Mikasa nodded. “International mainly. They call them Silent Professionals,” she said with a smirk.

This made her and Armin snigger together. It just made me feel more ill. Levi was in some foreign country, doing some kind of counter-terrorism bullshit. Putting his life on the line, while I was sitting here with my friends eating a pizza and laughing at their nickname.

“Stop laughing,” I said quietly, unable to stop myself.

Armin turned to look at me, eyes wide. “Huh? You okay, Eren?”

I shook my head and stood up, pushing my chair back so hard it fell over. “I’m sorry guys, I gotta go.” I threw a ten on the table for the pizza. “I’ll see you later.”

“Wait!” Mikasa called out, taking my arm. “I’ll give you a ride.”

I shook my head, pulling my arm out from her grasp. “Don’t bother,” I said harshly. “I know the way home.”

I know I left them sitting their puzzled, staring at each other, but I couldn’t make myself give a shit.

Chapter Text

Riding on a plane next to Erwin was not fun.

Erwin is tall enough that the front of his knees always graze the back of the chairs in front of him, at least in cattle class, which was all the military would afford to send us on. I didn’t have that particular problem - for me, I hated flying for one reason and one reason alone.

Planes are cesspits for germs.

I get around it somewhat by wearing a surgical mask and white gloves whenever I’m on a plane. You might laugh at picturing it, but trust me, when you’ve got to travel over 24 hours on 4 different planes, you want to arrive as refreshed as possible, and that means not catching every sickness from every germ-infested infant on the plane.

I even have this trick of dabbing a little mint and aloe on the inside of the surgical mask, which generally manages to mask the unpleasant body odours of some of the more unhygienic passengers.

But Erwin - yeah, he just can’t stop fucking moving. I know he’s just trying to get comfortable, but he keeps jamming his legs this way and that, then sticking his feet out in the aisle, and cursing when they get run over by the cart.

I’m pleasantly wedged into the window seat, where I try to be as unobtrusive as possible, and listen to soothing music to get me through the plane ride.

Erwin wasn’t much more jovial on the layovers between plane rides. We’d park ourselves in whatever bar / restaurant we could find, and he’d ply himself full of so much beer I’d wonder how his bladder didn’t burst. He’s a goddamned camel, I swear.

We were parked in one such bar in Germany when I finally couldn’t take the lack of conversation anymore. Believe it or not, I am the kind of guy who feels the need to fill empty silences with idle talk. Unfortunately most of the time all I can think about is crude jokes, but it’s better than sitting around twiddling your thumbs.

“Hey, so, how many times do you have to piss per hour?” I asked him idly.

Erwin looked up at me, his big bushy eyebrows drawn together. “Huh?”

I gestured at his beer. “That’s like, number four or five I think. And those are litre glasses. How can you even put that much away?”

Erwin looked back at the beer and barked a laugh. “I have a high tolerance.”

I couldn’t help but snort at that. “I wasn’t worried about your alcohol tolerance. More about the size of your bladder. Are you like the only human being with a gallon-sized bladder? Jesus.”

“Now that you mention it…” he gave me a wry look, and excused himself.

I twiddled with my spoon while he was gone, checking the time. We still had a half hour to kill before our next flight started boarding. They should really rename it bored-ing. I hate travel.

When Erwin got back, I wasted no time getting straight to the point. “So what’s the deal, Erwin? I didn’t exactly get all the mission details back there.”

Colonel Pixis had called me and Erwin into his office to let us know that we had less than 24 hours to be on a plane, but he gave all the mission details to Erwin as usual, so he needed to fill me in on the particulars.

Erwin watched the passersby in the airport as he murmured low under his breath. “It’s our usual sort of mission. Protection detail. Canadian diplomats. Unstable area. We’re there to get them out, of course.”

I started tossing my spoon in the air and catching it again, and vaguely entertained the idea of picking up my fork and knife as well and really starting to juggle the cutlery. But I refrained. Barely. “Names?”

“The primary mark is called Reiss. He also has a daughter who’s visiting him, and he’s particularly concerned about her safety.”

I couldn’t stop a roll of my eyes. I could never understand these diplomats, that thought they were untouchable, and brought their families to visit in the middle of war-torn regions. I couldn’t understand if they were just stupid, or fearless. Either way, half the time the family members ended up getting kidnapped or worse - killed.

“So what’s the tactical plan?” I asked him, setting aside my cutlery in favour of running my mind through the mission details.

“We are meeting Reiss’ bodyguards at the airport. They are going to accompany us to the diplomatic estate, where we will reconvene with Reiss and his daughter Historia. Quick grab and exit. Get them over the border, mission accomplished. All told should not take more than 3 days, max.”

I nodded, mentally running through the possible scenarios. I decided to take our next layover to pore over the plans for the airport, just in case of emergencies.

I ghosted my hand over my phone, in my pocket. I had toyed with the idea of texting the boy wonder no less than 10 times. I couldn’t get the kid out of my head, and had to admit I felt guilty for skipping out on my promise to have coffee with him.

This mission had been like a wake-up call for me. I didn’t have the luxury of having normal relationships. People who weren’t military just wouldn’t understand. No one could possibly tolerate the way that I had to pick up everything at a moment’s notice and get on a plane, destination unknown, knowing that I was walking into a firefight at best, a hostage situation at worst.

I frowned, running through the possibilities. I could take Eren for coffee, when I was back in town. We could even go out a little. Then I’d be gone half the time, unable to tell him where to. He’d grow resentful, and next thing you know, we’d grow apart. Thing is, I didn’t think I could take that.

Then there was the other possibility. We could go out. We could get close. Then I could go away on a mission, and never come back. He’d never forgive himself for not being there. I knew what that felt like, always wondering if there would have been something that I could have done to change it.

No matter all the different scenarios I ran through in my head, it always ended in heartache, on one side, the other, or both. People like me, career criminals turned into career military men, we don’t get normal.

It’s not like I could quit my job, either. It was all I had. I was my job.

I was the best the military had to offer. Without that, I didn’t know how to define myself.

Something hard kicked me in the shin, making me yelp. “Ow! What the fuck!”

Erwin glared at me. “Could you be more of a space cadet? Our plane is boarding.”

I rolled my eyes.

Once we were seated more-or-less comfortably on the airplane, Erwin turned to me, and gave me a once-over. “What’s going on with you?” he murmured.

I looked at him from the corner of my eye. “What are you talking about?”

He shook his head, his eyes boring into mine. “You’ve got something on your mind. Spill.”

I sighed, then tilted my head back and closed my eyes. “Fuck off.”

He kicked me in the shin again. I fucking hate being kicked in the shin. I’m small, and I don’t have much fat there, and I just bruise really easily on my shins. I rubbed my shin, trying to dispel the coming bruise. Then I glared up at Erwin, who was staring at me with his arms crossed.

“That was an order, Levi. I need to know what’s bugging you, in case it will affect us when we’re out there.”

His tone was uncompromising, that big asshole.

I rolled my eyes away, and crossed my arms. “I just… I don’t know. I just wonder what my… personal life… would be like. If I weren’t… who I am.”

Erwin patiently waited through my stuttered explanation. When I didn’t continue, he prompted me, “Are you talking about the boy with the green eyes?”

I shrugged. “He’s the one that’s made me think of it, but it’s not just about him. I mean, you could say the same thing about yourself, Erwin. We’re not young anymore. We’ve been doing this five times over what most career military guys do. This kind of high stress mission, this isn’t meant to be a lifetime occupation, is it?”

I couldn’t meet his eyes, so I stared out the window instead, watching as the airplane took off, and the clouds quickly whizzed by.

“Are you asking for time off?” he asked.

I turned to look at him, shocked. “Could I do that?” The thought had honestly never occurred to me.

He nodded. “Sure. You must have years worth of leave saved up. You could even take a couple of months, if you need to think about things. Recharge.”

When I examined Erwin’s earnest blue eyes, he didn’t seem to be judging me. If anything, he seemed understanding. It wasn’t something I had anticipated. “You’ve never taken time off though, have you?” I pointed out.

Erwin shrugged. “I should, though. But for me I live for this. When I’m in town for more than a few weeks in a row, I get this itch. I need to be making a difference. I honestly believe that what we do, that it counts. That we’re making a difference. But I can understand how sometimes you might feel as though we’re climbing an insurmountable hill.”

I frowned. “Big words.”

“I mean you might feel like we’re not getting anywhere. But the way I see it, each life that we save is a difference, a life that may not have been saved without us. To me, that’s enough. Then I work for the larger miracles one life at a time.”

I rubbed my hands together. Sometimes Erwin surprised me, with the depth of his reflections. He wasn’t just a good leader because he knew how to give the right orders - he was a great leader because he believed. And when he talked like that, he made me feel guilty for not believing as strongly as he did.

I turned my head back to look at the clouds again. From this high up, I really felt how small I was. I was just one person on this Earth. And the place where I could make a difference was right here, by Erwin’s side.

That meant more to me than my selfish yearning to be with Eren.


——


This place is like hell on earth. It’s also incredibly beautiful. From what I’ve seen of the countryside here over the past few weeks, the terrain varies from incredibly sandy and desert-like, with stunning hues of golds, reds, and sunsets that you wouldn’t believe, to pockets of mountains surrounded by water.

The buildings here look like nothing I could have ever imagined before. It’s like someone took a child’s sand castle, twigs and all, and blew it up to life-size and set a bunch of people to live in it.

I can now officially say I’ve been to Timbuktu. Not that it was particularly on my list of top ten must-see destinations, nonetheless it’s certainly left its mark on me.

I didn’t start my journey in Timbuktu, though. We started in Bamako, Mali. This is a typical sort of mission for us. Unstable political situation which results in the need to send special forces to guard our diplomatic assets. In other words, glorified bodyguard duty.

This job was important to me because of all our friends. I was protecting their backs, just like they were protecting mine. We were a unit - not just Erwin and I, but Mike, Nanaba, and Gunther. We were the ones on the ground, the ones they sent when they needed someone they could trust. Then there was our support team, without whom we’d be dead meat on the ground - Hanji, Petra, Auruo. They were our backup back at home base, but we were the foot soldiers, the Silent Professionals, the ones that didn’t get names if we died in the field. We were the best of the best. To me, that in and of itself was a responsibility.

Lately, though, things have gotten increasingly fucked up. Missions that were routine were botched, targets that we were protecting ended up getting killed, our safe houses exposed, locations for meets disclosed. We knew we had a mole, we just didn’t know who it was.

This mission was a goatfuck from the get-go.

It seemed like a simple enough task. It was a two-man job, for Erwin and I. Arrive in Bamako, meet up with Canadian Diplomats, and shadow them, acting as a protective detail. Get them out of the country as soon as possible.

Erwin and I were just walking through security with our bags (we kept it light, carry-on only, as you never knew when you had to run with your shit, and roller bags and running don’t go along so well, take my word for it). We spotted our ride, a driver standing there in plain clothes, holding up a sign with a Canadian flag on it. Erwin through me a look and headed straight for the guy.

Two seconds later, the guy’s brains were blown out all over the floor of the airport.

It was a sniper, we never got a good look at who had done it, but the driver was dead instantly. Everyone around us panicked, pushing here and there, trying to get out.

“Fucking shit,” I swore, dragging Erwin behind a column to let the stampeding masses thin out. “Shooter made us,” I pointed out grimly.

Erwin nodded, sticking his head out into the fray. “He must have been waiting for us to arrive, so that he could snap a picture of our faces. We’ve been compromised.”

I picked up my phone, and turned it on, waiting patiently for it to boot up. We only turned our phones on in emergencies, preferring to keep them off so we couldn’t be tracked. The point was moot, now.

I dialled Petra, knowing she was the one with the most level head. She answered on the second ring.

“What is it?” she asked in a clipped tone.

That’s why I liked her. When it came to business, she got straight to the fucking point. I didn’t have to spend 30 seconds letting her drone on like I would have with Hanji.

“We’ve been compromised,” I told her quickly. “Our contact has been shot, and we’ve been made.”

I could her her fingers tapping on computer keys. “All right, I’ll work on setting up a new safe house, we have to assume the last one has fallen through. And I’ll have Gunther and Mike on the next flight out. Get to somewhere safe and sit tight.”

“Cheers,” I said, clicking the phone off.

Erwin grabbed my shoulder. “Time to go,” he said grimly.


——


We knew the shooter was still out there, even though airport security must have been on his ass, we had to be cautious. We stuck to the crowds, and made our way outside. Bullets rained around us as we dodged between cars, until Erwin scared a guy with a Jeep into giving the vehicle over to him.

It was hot. Really fucking hot. I wiped the sweat from my brow after I slammed the door behind me, skidding into the seat. I pulled my handkerchief out of my pocket and tried to get my temperature and racing heart rate under control.

“We need guns,” I grumbled.

Erwin slid on his sunglasses. “Check the back.”

“Huh? This is a civilian car.”

Erwin opened the window and perched his elbow out the side. “Check the back,” he said with a smirk.

I grumbled and climbed back between the seats, and rummaged around in the trunk of the Jeep. There were no guns, but there were about 5 machetes back there. “What the fuck!” I pulled out two machetes, and hefted them in my hands.

“Welcome to Africa,” Erwin said, grinning.


——


Erwin drove us into central Bamako. This place was so different, and I was glad it wasn’t me behind the wheel, trying to dodge the people, animals, motorcycles, and small trucks. When I thought about back home, and how much we complained about Montreal drivers who ran red lights all the time, and j-walkers, and crazy cyclists, it was nothing compared to this.

The poverty was also something else. There were flimsy tents on street corners selling food, and vendors walking between the cars selling trinkets for pennies.

Even though French was the official language, we heard people speaking a smattering of different languages. Sometimes with a word or two of French thrown in, but I felt submerged in something that I didn’t understand.

“Where are we going, fearless leader?” I asked Erwin wryly.

“We need to make contact with your liaison. You think he’s still reachable, right?”

I nodded. “Yannick is like a snake, always slithers his way underground when there is trouble. Just get me to the market, I’ll sniff him out.”

When we arrived, I reached out and put my hand on Erwin’s arm. “You might want to let me go in alone,” I said, looking him up and down. “You stand out too much.”

Erwin snorted. “And you don’t?”

I rolled my eyes. “At least I can pass for French. Give me 15 minutes, and if I’m not back by then, come on after.”

The market in Bamako is something else. Full of stalls, selling local handicrafts, spices, clothes, shoes, and it was absolutely full of thieves.

I had gotten not more than 20 metres from the car when the first pickpocket was reaching for my wallet. I caught his thin wrist, gave him the glare of death, and told him, “Va te faire chier,” making him scamper off.

I had been here before, but it had been a number of years. Yannick was a French expat living in Bamako, who had his dirty little fingers into all kinds of bad business. He owed me a few favours, though, from the last time I’d been here. I’d saved his scrawny little life, and I wouldn’t let him forget it.

Yannick could usually be found drinking in the back of the stalls at this time of day, so I pushed my way back there, ignoring the protests from the merchants. I called out, “Yannick, t’es ici, putain?”

I heard a telltale scrambling, and so I sprinted after him, dodging through tents and overturning crates of scarves. It didn’t take long for me to catch up with him, and I grabbed his wrist and flung him around, spinning him until his back hit a curtain wall and he tumbled down on his ass.

I put my foot on his chest, and smiled down at him. He was thin as ever, his dark brown hair streaked with grime, his skin tanned so much his blue eyes stood out starkly against his skin.

“Yannick, mon ami, pourquoi tu cours?”

“Oh, my friend!” Yannick exclaimed, throwing his arms wide and switching to English. “I didn’t know it was you, forgive me. I thought it was one of my… acquaintances, coming to collect on a debt.”

I didn’t buy it for a second, but I played the game. I took my foot off his chest, and pulled him up, then wiping my hands on my handkerchief to try to clear the grime from his grubby hands away.

“You owe me a debt, remember?” I told him.

Yannick nodded, looking at me out of the corner of his eye. “Have you come to collect?”

I shrugged noncommittally. “Perhaps. Care to discuss it over lunch?”

He looked at me hopefully.

“I’m buying,” I specified.

Yannick made to put his arm around me, but I dodged out from under it before he could contaminate me with his filth. “I would be delighted.”

Yannick and I made it back to the Jeep without further incident, and before Erwin could even come after me, so I called that a win. I could use a few wins, after the way this shitty day had gone.

Yannick ate his meal like a man starved. It totally turned off my appetite. I just drank a bottle of water and watched Erwin question him, instead. We found out about the rebel group that had taken over, and was threatening everyone who was associated with the previous government. Yannick promised to help us get ahold of some guns. He had some theories about who the guys were behind the shooting of our driver, but no firm answers.

Halfway through questioning him, my phone buzzed, and it was Petra relaying to me the new address of our safe house. We had a place to go. That was something, at least.

“Your diplomats, they are no longer here. But I know where they went,” Yannick said, changing the talk away from the rebels.

“You do?” I said, surprised, my eyebrows rising.

Yannick smiled, taking another bite of his meal. “That Reiss of yours, he’s not too secretive about his second house. He keeps a house that looks like a small palace, from what I hear.”

“Where is that?” Erwin asked, his tone like a hawk with its prey in its sights.

“Timbuktu.”

I rolled my eyes, groaning. “Jesus fucking Christ.”


——


Thus, how we ended up in Timbuktu. Erwin ditched the Jeep and bought some old hacked-together diesel engine Mercedes, which I was amazed still ran like a charm even though it had to be over 30 years old. We avoided all the major highways, instead we pushed our way through local roads, dodging cows, chickens, and other livestock that shared the road. I took the time to admire the landscape, ironically hoping that I’d never see this place again. The sand, ugh. Man, sand is just not clean. And it gets everywhere. I feel like it’s impossible to ever truly be clean in the desert.

Timbuktu was full of these old, impressive mosques - they were the buildings that reminded me of huge sand castles towering into the sky. The angular shapes of them were interesting, and one could only help but feel as though they would blow over with a strong wind. Or that some giant hand could just reach out and squash them down back into the sand.

The good thing was, we made it to Reiss and Historia. Erwin and I managed to secure their location, and we were able to spirit them away to someplace they wouldn’t think to look for us. Not quite a safe house, but not a hotel bought with a company credit card either. Should be safe enough, if we were careful enough.

We thought we were careful, I swear. We took shifts, always someone on watch. We thought we’d have the chance to raise the alarm and get the hell out of there if anyone was approaching - but our impromptu warning bells didn’t go off early enough.

I have to admit, I sacrificed myself so that they could get away. It was protocol, a protocol that we’d established years ago, for just these sorts of occasions. If they caught us up, we were to split up and scatter, making it difficult for them to trace any one path that we had taken. On this mission, it was just Erwin and I, but we did our best to scatter the trail.

Thing is, although Erwin got away, hopefully with Historia safe and sound and over the border, I did not. I got caught.

Chapter Text

I was sitting with Armin and Mikasa and Second Cup, my hand dangling around my cup of coffee, though I couldn’t bear to bring it to my lips. I kept thinking about how I was supposed to come here with Levi. Instead, he was god-knows-where. He could be trapped, or worse.

“Eren, what is up with you?” Mikasa asked sharply, cutting through my daze.

“I…”

Armin put his hand on my arm. “You’ve been out of it all week. What’s going on?”

I ran my hands through my hair, and slumped back in my chair. “I can’t just sit around and do nothing. It’s driving me crazy.”

Armin and Mikasa exchanged a glance. “What are you talking about?”

I huffed out a breath. “Levi. He’s gone MIA.”

“Huh?” Armin said, struck dumb for once.

I shook my head and clenched my fists. “I don’t know any of the details. I don’t know where he was. All I know is that he was supposed to be back already, and he’s not back. And Hanji said they don’t know where he is.”

“Is that all you know?” Mikasa asked, turning serious.

“I know that he was with Erwin, wherever he was.”

“Eren,” Armin said excitedly.

“What?” I asked him, dropping my head on the table.

“You didn’t go to kickboxing last night, did you? Erwin’s back.”

I shot up out of my seat like my butt was on fire. “You’re kidding. And Levi?”

Armin shrugged and shook his head. “I don’t know. He wasn’t there.”

“I’ve gotta go,” I said, and sprinted out of there.


——


I went straight to the MMA gym, hoping by some miracle that Erwin would be there early. It was his gym, after all, chances were…

Thank the Gods, there he was. He was at the bag, punching away, looking like he was trying to tear the bag in half. I had never seen him like that, barely in control of himself. He was covered in a sheen of sweat, and his muscles bulging made him look even bigger than he normally was. He looked like a viking lost in the ages.

I walked up to him and slid into his line of vision, behind the bag, not wanting to startle him. “Erwin,” I called out.

Erwin stopped, grabbing the bag to stop it from swinging. “What’s up, kid.”

I put my hand on the bag. “You have to tell me what happened to Levi. Please.”

Erwin looked me up and down, then zoned in on my face. “Oh, I remember you. Green eyes.”

“The name’s Eren,” I reminded him.

Erwin stepped back and stretched, popping his shoulders. “You asked Levi to go for coffee.”

My eyes widened. “He told you that?”

Erwin flashed a charming smile. “Yeah he did, kid. But as far as I know, he decided not to go. You still hanging around?”

That one hit me in the gut. Part of me didn’t want to believe it, that he didn’t want to go. The other part thought, fuck it, I don’t care if he wants me or not. If he’s in trouble, I’m going after him.

“Tell me where he is,” I begged him.

Erwin started taking off his hand wraps, walking back to the front. I only just noticed the place was empty other than us. “It wouldn’t make a difference even if I did. He’s in a place where none of us can get to him, now.”

My chest went cold. “Where.”

Erwin tossed his hand wraps behind the counter, then leaned his elbows on it, looking at me. There was an expression in his eyes I couldn’t place. Something deep, and sad. “I guess it makes no difference if a squirt like you knows. We were in Africa. He got caught by the local militia, and thrown in prison.” Erwin breathed out a sigh.

“So why are you here?” I demanded. “Why didn’t you go after him?”

“I couldn’t,” he snapped. “I had a mission, and I had to fulfill my mission. By the time I did that, I was back here, and I don’t have permission to go back out there.”

“What the fuck are you talking about? Who’s permission?”

Erwin started wiping down his neck with a towel. “Look, kid, I don’t expect you to understand, but we’re in the military. No matter what our fucking feelings are, we have to follow orders. My orders are not to go after him. Right now he’s denying that he has anything to do with our government, and that denial is the only thing that’s keeping him safe. If we were to send agents out after him, then they’d know he was one of ours, and they’d kill him. Comprends?”

I felt a fury building in me, like the beginnings of a nightmare that hadn’t even begun. “So you’re not going to do anything?”

Erwin fixed me with a bland stare. “No. I’m not.”

I threw a punch at the wall, letting out my fury, my fist punching straight through the plaster.

Then I rounded back on him, and got a fistful of his shirt. “Tell me. Where. He. Is.”

Erwin shook his head, amused. “For what good it’ll do you, we were in Mali. Now who the fuck knows.”

I let him go, and shoved him away. He barely budged, the neanderthal.

I wanted to tell him what I thought of him. I wanted to tell him he was a betrayer. A coward.

But my fury blinded me so I couldn’t get any words out.

I said the only words that filled my mind.

“I’ll kill them all.”


——


Armin, Mikasa, and I all met together and strategized. When they realized I wasn’t going to let this go, Armin made it his mission to find as much detail as he could. He poured through news reports, piecing together a trail of what must have happened.

“He said Mali, right?”

I nodded. “Yeah.”

“Well, it looks to me like there was a rebellion there, which made the situation politically unstable. That’s when there was a diplomatic incident, some ambassadors were attacked. That must be when they sent our boys in.”

“What happened next?” Mikasa asked.

“Well, it says here that the Canadian diplomats had a second house in Timbuktu. And it was there that they were attacked again, but the diplomats got away with the aide of what we can only presume was Erwin. That’s where the trail ends.”

“So they must have been separated there,” Mikasa said.

Armin nodded. “I think so too.”

I bounced my leg, impatient. “But if he was apprehended there, where would they have taken him?”

“Let’s see… I’ll pull up a list of all the official prisons I can find there. That wouldn’t count unofficial prisons, or safe houses, where they might be keeping him. But if it’s official, there is a major prison in Timbuktu itself. In fact, they’re listing here that a lot of people have recently been jailed here, following the overthrow.”

I stared at the map, trying to see it as a place Levi could actually be. It was so far away from anywhere I’d ever been.

But I didn’t hesitate. “Let’s go.”

Armin shook his head. “It’s not so simple, Eren. Without government connections, we’ll need to apply for visas like anyone else. That’ll take time, and money.”

When he pulled up the figures on how much it would cost, I whistled. “Shit. That’ll eat into my savings.”

“Still want to go?” Mikasa asked me.

I nodded. “Hell, yes. I’m not leaving him there. If we go, then together I’m sure we can find a way to get him out.” I looked around at them. “But I need you guys. Armin, I need you to come up with the plan, the strategy. And Mikasa, I need your strength. I can’t do this without you.”

“It’s okay, Eren,” Mikasa said, putting her arm around me. “We’re here for you. We’ll be with you, as long as you need us.”

I laughed and pushed her off. “All right, all right, let’s do this.”

By the end of the night, we had our visa applications filled out, and our hotel reservations made. Inoculations scheduled for the next day. By the end of the next week, if all went well, we’d be on a plane on our way to Africa.

Chapter Text

I hate prison. I’ve been behind bars many times in my 33 years. My first stint was even before adulthood, when I served time in juvie. Actually I was in juvie no less than 3 times. I probably would have ended up a career criminal if not for Erwin, who dragged my sorry ass out of there and into military school. I was a junior cadet by the age of 15, and from there on out it was a military life for me.

But that’s a story for another time. Prison. Ah, yes, this dull fucking cell that keeps making my mind turn in circles.

They were keeping me here for a few reasons. First, I came into this country under false pretences, and they fucking hate that shit. Second, they knew that I was in the know for some information regarding the whereabouts of Ambassador Reiss, and were determined to get it out of me. And last, they thought that they could use me to ransom back to Canada and maybe even get something out of it, whether it was money or a prisoner exchange.

Little did they know, Canada had to disavow knowledge of my activities. As far as they were officially concerned, I could die here in this cell.

It’s what I signed up for, it’s not like I didn’t know this was possible. But it’s one thing to know it on paper, and another thing to be sitting in a cell day in and day out, and know that no one is coming for you. At least, no one on a sanctioned mission.

I couldn’t even count the days properly, since there was no window letting in daylight, and I really couldn’t tell the passing of one day into another. Sometimes, they came to feed me. Sometimes, they dragged me off to an interrogation cell and beat the crap out of me. Or drowned me. Electrocution was a new one, and I was pretty sure that was against the UN’s Geneva Convention - but tell them that, I’m sure they’ll laugh in your face. Just like the US did with their treatment of prisoners in Gitmo. Or Abu Graib for that matter. Or anyone anywhere in the world who thought no one was looking. No peeking, no peeking, let’s just torture until they find us out!

I’m one of these people who just irritates the fuck out of a torturer. When it comes to physical pain, I’m really, really good at ignoring the pains in my body, and letting my mind drift somewhere else. I’ll feel the injuries later, sure, and there are certain types of pain that you can’t compartmentalize like that, but for the whole, I’m about as satisfying as beating a dead horse.

Then when it comes to mental torture, this is one of the things I’m known for back home. They train cadets off watching me, because I’ll fuck around with the torturer until they’re so turned around they don’t know which way is up. I’ll speak in French for days on end and insist I don’t speak any English. Then I’ll switch into English and swear I don’t speak a word of French. I’ll tell them I’m not Canadian, I’ll pretend to be from France, then from England. I’ll have entire back stories made up about family going back 5 generations in countries I’ve never set foot in. I’ll describe to exacting detail the cafe on the corner that I’ve never visited, and I’ll make you believe you’ve even been there yourself.

In short, I’m one annoying little fuck.

I’ve even had some torturers in the past that have chucked me back out on the street out of sheer exasperation, when they know they won’t ever get anything out of me, and they know the government couldn’t give a damn. But this time, no, this time I’ve been here a long time, I can feel it. And they don’t seem to be letting up on me at all.

My mind keeps circling back to the idea of there being a mole, someone compromising us from the inside out. Who could be working against us, and why? Why would they even care? And what could possibly connect all our recent missions, from Mali, to Zimbabwe, to Syria? They were all different missions, different dictators, different diplomats. The only thing connecting them all, that I could see, was us.

Maybe their goal in keeping me here wasn’t even about Mali itself at all. Maybe what they really wanted out of me was intel on my team. Maybe that’s why they kept going back and trying to figure out where I came from.


——


The worst part of being kept in jail for unspecified periods of time is the uncleanliness of it all. We don’t even get showers more than a couple of times a week. We’re sleeping on filthy cots, sharing common restrooms that clearly haven’t been sanitized in years, and working out in the same practice yard, that doubles as a gang meeting place.

It’s a miracle anyone survives any length of time at all, in jail. We could die from disease, we could die from killing each other, we could die from eating this goddamned gross food. But somehow, we clung on.

I didn’t even have any jail buddies, as they kept me in isolation almost all the time. The only time I saw other inmates was during our hour of exercise, but even then they all avoided me. I couldn’t really give a fuck, so I didn’t discourage them from keeping their distance.

I was kind of disgusted with myself, because I hadn’t been able to come up with a suitable plan to break out of this joint. I hadn’t even been able to get a fix on the guard rotation, as they seemed to be keeping it pretty randomized. There were no weaknesses in the fences, and my room was underground, so it was hard for me to see what was going on outside my small space in the world.

I knew Erwin wouldn’t come for me. He’d try, of course. He’d return to Canada and he’d press my case to Colonel Pixis, but there would have to be a pretty damn good reason to expend valuable human resources on the retrieval of a single unit. I may be special forces’ strongest soldier, but if I was captured, I was as good as dead to them, anyway.

No, I couldn’t rely on Erwin. I couldn’t rely on myself.

Was I doomed to stay here forever?

Or somewhere, dare I kindle a spark of hope inside me that someone would care enough to plead my case to the government, and pressure them for my retrieval?

Maybe I should just get used to being dirty, and eating prison food for the rest of my life.


——


There was this guy, who was built like a fucking mountain, who looked like he pretty much ran the place. He’d go up and down the cells, rapping his machete on the bars, just to rattle us. I didn’t know his real name, so I called him Big Fuck in my head.

Then he had this little shrimpy guy who was always tagging along behind him like a chihuahua. I called him Shrimpy.

So Big Fuck and Shrimpy liked to check up on us, and push our buttons. Me, in particular. I think Big Fuck took it as a personal affront that he couldn’t break me. So he liked to keep trying.

One of these days, which by now were just blending one into the other, Big Fuck and Shrimpy came to drag me off to the Fun Place, as I liked to call the torture room in my head. You might wonder why I called it the Fun Place - cause I sure as shit wasn’t having any fun there - but Big Fuck was. This was Big Fuck’s goddamned play room, and we all knew it.

Today, Big Fuck decided he wanted to try to drown me. Of all of them, this is my least favourite torture technique. Wonder why? Cause it’s hard to go inside yourself and ignore. Pain, you can take yourself away to another place, almost float on top of it. But choking? Not so much. Choking is one of those things that intrinsically has you feeling desperate, and you have to push past the desperation to try to stay sane.

Big Fuck always spoke to me in French, but I’ll translate it here for those of you who don’t speak it. Today, he grabbed me by the hair, and dragged me in to the room and shoved me down on my knees.

I looked down at myself in disgust. I was still wearing the same clothes I’d worn in here - a pair of beige pants, a white shirt, and a pair of boots. Only now, everything was brown, black, and red, encrusted with dried mud and bits of blood.

I would, quite literally, kill someone to clean my clothes.

So I wasn’t as pissed as I’d normally be to get my knees dirty, because, hell, they were dirty right through already.

“So, where you claim to come from today, hmm?”

“Your mother’s cunt,” I said, spitting towards Shrimpy, who ducked away.

This made Big Fuck laugh, long and hard, before he punched me square in the face. “Think you’re funny, little man?”

I looked up at him. “I don’t think anything about this is funny. Like I’ve told you before, whoever you think I am, you’ve got the wrong man.”

“Ah ah ah,” Big Fuck said, waving his finger in my face. I was fascinated by how his skin could be so dark that it shone like obsidian, but the underside of his finger was so light. One of nature’s mysteries. “I don’t think so,” he said with a toothy grin.

“Well then why don’t you tell me what it is that you want to hear, so that I can squeal like a girl and get this over with?” I demanded.

“Tell me where is Reiss.”

I rolled my eyes. “I. Don’t. Know.”

He brought over this bucket of water, which I swear to shit wasn’t clean, god knows what kind of bacteria were floating around in it, and now I really started to fight. No fucking way was my face going in there.

He jammed his hand down on the back of my head, and even though I struggled, he more than doubled my weight. Without a weapon I was pretty useless.

I choked, and coughed, and panicked. I’ll admit it, this was the first time I really fucking panicked in the month? or however long I’d been there. I struggled and that just shoved the water further down my throat, and I didn’t want to swallow it, God, no.

Finally he let me up, and I retched, and retched. I vomited up all the water I’d inhaled, then lay there on my side, and begged him, “Please, please don’t do that again.”

He tapped my cheek with the rusted blade of his machete. “Then tell me where Reiss is.”

“Don’t you know? He’s long gone by now. It’s too late.”

Even though I was telling the truth, Big Fuck either didn’t believe me or didn’t care. He dunked me, again and again, until I had thrown up so many times I didn’t think I’d ever swallow properly again in my life.

I hate prison.


——


After that, I sort of lost my confidence. I got dysentery, and soiled myself in spite of my best efforts not to. I lost all my pride. I even ended up losing my clothes, because I decided it was better to huddle there nude in the thin blanket I had than to wrap my limbs in the soiled clothes.

I lost myself. I retreated into my mind - it was the only way I could function. I couldn’t bear to be out there in my body, in this place.

Even Big Fuck decided to leave me alone. Small mercies.

When I heard a commotion in the cells outside, I couldn’t even stir myself enough to respond. I just figured it was the usual - prisoner freak out, wailing relative, or some such.

Then I heard whispers. “Levi? Levi!”

Oh fuck, I thought, now I’m really going crazy. I’m hearing people whispering in my fucking mind.

I’ve lost it.

But I could swear, I recognize that voice……

Chapter Text

Armin is my hero. After all the times I saved his butt (or tried to) when he was being bullied when we were growing up, I knew he was a good friend to me. I knew that he had my back. But I just didn’t realize quite how devoted he was to me, and not only that, but how smart.

Armin’s brain just works in a different way than mine. When I have a problem, it’s like I get it in my sight, and I want to charge forward bullheadedly battering away at it until it goes away. That’s how I deal with issues.

Armin, on the other hand, looks at things from every angle. He realizes that when you look at it head-on, and when you look at it from the side, a problem looks very different. Then, he starts to strategize. And it’s like all the pieces just slot together, into one perfect hole.

You can tell when Armin has the right plan in mind. He gets a light that goes on in his eyes, and his lip trembles, and he hesitates to tell you because he’s still worried he’s not right. He doesn’t want to take the responsibility of it being his plan - but trust me, I’d put my life behind his plans any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

Mikasa, on the other hand, is my strength. She’s always there with me, supporting me. Even though sometimes she clings a little too close, suffocates me with her devotion, I would never be able to do this without her.

We made it to Mali. Mikasa managed to sweet-talk someone into lending her a car for a week, and then off we were on our way to Timbuktu, a place one hears about only in fairy tales.

I know that they’re probably watching us - after all, we stick out like sore thumbs. So, Armin insists that we go sightseeing. He talks loudly about how it’s always been his dream to see this place, and he’s so excited. Mikasa wears her head scarf without complaint, doing her best not to upset the local culture.

We go to visit the famous mosque, that reminds me of a sandcastle. We go to the market, and Mikasa purchases a few scarves to look more like a tourist, and to give back a little to the local economy. This place is so poor, it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

And it’s blistering hot. Well into the 40s, sweat runs through our clothes, and the worst of it is that we have to keep fully covered or the sun will crisp our skin even through the sunscreen.

What a place for Levi to end up, I think to myself.

Finally I’m chomping at the bit, and we retire to our hotel for the late afternoon. We can’t move officially until after nightfall, when we plan to go into the prison.

Before going, however, Armin lays out his computer on the ground, and flips through pictures. “I’ve gathered all the data I could from the internet,” he points out. “I know the layout of the fort. We’ll be able to scale the walls. I even know where the prison cells are most likely located. What I don’t know, and what will be our achilles heel most likely, is when the guards will be patrolling, and how many guards they’ll have.”

“I’ve procured weapons for us,” Mikasa announces, unrolling a package she’s been carrying around in a cloth for days that I hadn’t bothered to look at.

“What are those?” I asked, but then I gasped when she unwrapped them and there lying were six gleaming machetes.

Mikasa smiled. “Gifts from the friend who lent us the car,” she said with a smile.

I clapped Mikasa on the back. “Good work!”

I also had acquired some small knives, which I added to the pile. Along with some pepper spray that I’d managed to sneak in through customs.

Armin adds a large roll of duct tape to the pile.

“Duct tape?” I ask doubtfully.

Mikasa shakes her head. “Don’t question it.”

“Not a bad haul,” Armin said with a smile.

After dark, we dress in black clothes, and cover our faces and hair with black scarves, looking like thieves in the night. Then we take off on foot. Armin has planned our hotel carefully, it is no more than a 15-minute walk from the military fort and prison. Timbuktu is a small place, after all.

The walls of the military fort are made of sandstone bricks, and several times taller than a person. But Armin has come prepared. We have mountain climbing gear, and he even managed to acquire a harpoon gun back in Bamako. So scaling the wall is an effort of less than 2 minutes, as he shoots the harpoon up, then we hoist ourselves up in the gear, and then carefully look around before lowering on the other side.

We run on silent feet to the nearest shadowy corner, and wait. There are groups of guards huddled about, smoking cigarettes, eating fruit, and talking amongst themselves. They don’t seem particularly worried about guarding the place.

Armin motions for us to follow him, and he leads us down through a set of corridors. On the far side is a set of buildings, which he points to and nods, letting us know that’s most likely where Levi is.

By the entrance to that building, there are two guards standing laughing with each other, holding machine guns.

We circle around the building, but the back side is similarly guarded with two guards.

I swear internally, but Armin motions us to a dark corner and whispers to us.

“I have an idea,” he says.

I nod for him to go on.

He pulls a bottle out of a pocket on his cargo pants, and at my raised eyebrows, he says, “Chloroform. We don’t want them shooting at us, since that will alert all the guards, and then we’ll lose our only chance at this. This needs to be perfect, and you two are the fastest, so it’ll have to be you.”

Armin soaks his handkerchief in the chloroform, and hands it to me, then takes Mikasa’s and does the same.

“You’ll have to sneak up behind them on either side, and pounce at the same time. It’ll need to be perfect.”

I nod and clap him on the shoulder, then gesture to Mikasa. She nods her ready.

Mikasa and I set off in opposite directions, circling around and sticking to the shadows. When we’re in position, I signal her. 1, 2, 3, go!

We sprint at the guards, and land on their backs, covering their mouth and nose with the chloroform. My guard is a feisty bugger and tries to buck me off a few times before he slumps beneath me. By the time I’m done, Mikasa is standing there twirling her hankie as though saying, “What took you so long?”

Armin and I drag my guard out to the back, relieve him of his machine gun, and tie him up using the duct tape. Mikasa follows, carrying her guard all by herself. Show off.

I move to pick up the gun to take it with me, but Mikasa stops me. “Do you know how to use that thing?” she hisses.

I look down, then shake my head. “I’ve seen it done in movies?” I say blandly.

Armin glares at me. “Leave the gun. You’re more likely to shoot yourself in the foot than any of them.”

Pouting, I put the gun away. I do see their point.

Once we get inside, we run into two more guards blocking the way to the cells, and Mikasa and I manage to dispatch them with a similar strategy, except that we can’t circle around so we have to head-on charge them from as close as we can get. We make it, but not before one of them shouts. After we have them down, we all stand there for at least a minute, practically pissing in our boots because we’re worried someone’s going to come after us now.

Finally Armin shrugs. “All clear?”

We drag these guys out into an unused storeroom and close them in, tying them up as well. I salute Armin for his foresight in bringing the duct tape, and he giggles silently.

Finally we’re in the cells. There are so many of them, and the figures that are huddled in the corner of each cell are indistinguishable. Will I even recognize Levi if I find him?

I decide I have to risk it, so I start calling out his name, in a harsh whisper. “Levi? Levi! Levi!” I stop at each cell, and wait to see each person’s face, and each person that turns out not to be him is another part of my heart that hardens.

I can’t have come all this way for nothing. He needs to be here. He has to.

Finally, I reach a cell where the inhabitant stirs at his name. I don’t recognize Levi himself, but rather the clothes that have been neatly folded in the corner. No one would fold their clothes like that in jail but him.

“Levi,” I call out again.

He peeks out from under this thin blanket, and I see one delicate shoulder, and his hollow eyes. He’s lost weight - a lot of weight. He looks like a child.

“It’s him,” I call out to Armin.

“Let me,” Mikasa says, then unrolls a lock picking kit from inside her jacket. I goggle at her, and she rolls her eyes and says, “I’ve been practicing. I won’t let you down, Eren.”

Mikasa gets to work on the lock, but it’s old and big and stubborn, and seems to be taking ages. I’m scanning my eyes up and down the hall, when I hear Armin say, “I don’t think this is going to work.”

My mind goes on overdrive. There has to be a guard in here with a set of keys. One of the guards that we’d knocked out already? I didn’t remember seeing keys on them.

I sneak around the corner, and I see a guard patrolling down the hallway. He is one big fuck, and trailing behind him is a tiny little guy, shorter even than Levi. The big guy, though, on him I can hear the jangling of the keys. He’s the one I need.

“Mikasa,” I hiss.

What?” She couldn’t be more annoyed.

“Come here.”

When she arrives next to me, I point around the corner. “You take the little one, I’ll take the big one.”

“Why not let me take the big one?”

“Because the shrimp looks like I screamer,” I hissed, “He needs to be taken down fast, and you’re faster than me. Can you do it, or not?”

Mikasa tosses her hair. “Of course.”

“Fine. On three. One, two, three!”

Mikasa is fast, I’ll give her that. She is out across that hallway in no time, then suddenly flying feet first through the air, catching the little guy in the throat with her boot. I have enough time to watch her clamp her mouth over the little guy’s mouth and fish out the chloroform rag before I’m on the big guy.

So far we’d managed to go without killing anyone. I was kind of proud of that, in a way. But it wasn’t a prerequisite for me. I was ready to do whatever it took to get Levi out of here.

I let go of my rage, and crashed into the big guy. I rained fists on his face, on his chest, in his gut, but the big guy just laughed at me.

“Oh ho, you must be a friend of the little guy, hmm?” he said in French.

I stopped with my hand poised for another punch. “What did you do to him?” I stopped to ask.

I shouldn’t have asked. He said, “What didn’t I do to him? I broke him, mon cher. He’ll never be the same, I promise you that.”

I saw red. I had never been so angry in all my life. It’s like my strength doubled in the course of seconds. Whatever I was imagining in my head, I was sure the reality of it was worse. I pulled my fist back and I didn’t punch his face - I punched through his face.

The sickening feeling of bone crunching beneath my hand, followed by meat hitting the wall, disconnected from my action. I didn’t realize that I’d just caved his whole face in. I didn’t feel my fist punching through soft tissue and ultimately, brain. I just punched him, and pulled back, and the dead meat that had been his body slumped to the ground.

Mikasa was staring at me, horror written on her face. My hand was dripping with blood and gore, and still clenched into a fist. She was looking down at it, then her eyes slowly made their way up to my face. She shook her head, like she could rewind past the last two minutes of her life.

“Mikasa, get the keys,” I said quietly.

She stared at me for another thirty seconds, then finally nodded, and knelt with shaking hands to unclip the keys from the guy’s belt. Halfway through the action, I saw her trembling stop, as she composed herself. She was all efficiency after that, disappearing back around the corner.

I paused to wipe my hand off on the dead guy’s shirt, because I couldn’t help but think Levi would cringe away from my filth.


——


As it turns out, I didn’t have to worry about him cringing away from me because of me. What happened was he cringed away because of him.

“I’m dirty,” Levi whispered hoarsely. “I can’t put those clothes back on.”

I crouched down in front of him, reaching for his hand. “It’s okay, Levi. We’ll get you new clothes. Right now, we just need to get you out of here. Understand?”

Levi nodded slowly, and I saw him start to come back into himself.

“Armin,” I said quietly, “Go get the pants off the shrimp that’s passed out in the hallway. They should fit Levi, and that’ll be enough to get us back to the hotel.”

Armin nodded and scampered off, returning a minute later with the beige cargo pants.

I coaxed Levi into the pants, though he shuddered in horror to put his legs into them. I knew he wanted clean clothes, but fuck Levi, now wasn’t the time.

When we got Levi up, I had to hold his arm, he was so weak. He looked sick, I thought. I saw red again, wondering what these guys had done to him.

When we were moving too slowly, I convinced Levi to climb up on my back, and I piggybacked him out of there. We were hightailing it back the way we came, when I heard shouts from behind us.

An alarm bell started clanging. Levi was a dead weight against my back, it felt like he’d passed out. There was no way I’d get up the wall fast enough with him, and I didn’t want to give the position of our gear away by heading straight for it.

“Mikasa!” I called out.

She jogged back to me. “What??”

“Take Levi. Get him out of here, please.”

Mikasa looked torn. “I’m not leaving here without you.”

I nodded. “I know, you’re not. But we need to split up, or they’ll find us in no time.”

Armin nodded. “He’s right. If we go three different ways, we scatter them, then meet up back here when we’ve lost them. That’s the best way.”

“You’re stronger than me, Mikasa. Take him, please.”

Mikasa still looked worried, but she took Levi on her back, nonetheless.

I unhooked the machetes from where they were hanging at my waist, and armed myself.

Then we all split up.

I actually had my own plan, that I hadn’t confided in them. My plan was to effectively block the hole. They were all coming out of the prison building, so they’d all be coming out this same door. All I had to do was stand right there, and take out as many of them as I could.

I let go of my mind, and I just let my body take over. I gave in to all the years of martial arts training, and I pretended like the machetes in my hands were katanas, and I whirled and cut and hacked. I killed. I didn’t regret it for even a second, as I chopped an arm off one, a head off another, stabbed a third in the heart, and kept going and going.

My arms were burning, my head was full of static, but I had become a raging monster. I was yelling, now, daring them to come near me. There were bullets raining in around me, but miraculously none of them touched me, and dead bodies littered the ground around.

Kill them all, I thought fiercely. Kill them all. KILL THEM ALL.

Chapter Text

I must have passed out after they found me. I thought it was a dream at first, that I’d heard Eren’s voice, seen his face. Those eyes, those beautiful green eyes, there was no mistaking them. Was it a dream, or was it real?

When I woke up, I was on the back of a girl, who was running full tilt with her hands gripped around my legs as I piggybacked her. There were pursuers behind us, I thought, but then the pursuers were drawn off by calls of help from other comrades. Finally we were alone, and she stopped running, breathing hard from exertion.

“I am awake,” I told her. I tested my strength, trying to make a fist, and it seemed my strength had returned, for now at least. “You can put me down.”

Next thing I knew I was set none too gingerly on my feet. I was unshod, and clad only in a of pair of pants that weren’t my own. I knew I must look awful, my face all banged up, my body wasted away from dystentery and malnutrition.

“We’ve got to find Eren,” she said, and I couldn’t agree with her more.

We jogged back to the place where we’d split up, and I don’t think I could have ever been prepared for what I would see next.

Eren was okay, he was standing there all right, but there were about 15 dead bodies laid out in a circle around him. He was holding two machetes in his hands, and the blades were dripping blood, blood that was all over his hands, his clothes, everywhere.

He was breathing hard, and then he tilted his head skyward, and roared.

“Oh, fuck,” I breathed. “He’s a berserker.”

Mikasa turned to look at me, and she’d gone white. “There’s a name for what he is?” she said, surprised.

I shook my head, then nodded. “Now is not the time,” I told myself. “We need to get him out of here.”

That jolted Mikasa into action. She ran up to him and grabbed him, tugging on his arm to get him to follow her. He looked at her with eyes that didn’t even recognize her, and I knew that had to hurt. Then he looked at me, and something about seeing me woke him up, because I could see a piece of him come alive.

“Levi,” he whispered, and took a step towards me.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone coming up behind Eren. I jolted into action, flying through the air, and knocking him off his feet. I had no weapon, so I used my feet, lodging one behind his neck, one in front of his neck, then I tugged the guy’s foot up to hold his body taught. I choked the life out of him, waiting until he stopped jerking, then waiting a little more for good measure. Then I stood, dusted myself off, and found Eren and Mikasa both staring at me.

“Let’s go.”


——


Armin was waiting by the wall where the climbing gear was still hitched.

“Thank god,” he breathed when we got close to him. He looked me up at down, then said, “Glad you’re awake.”

I snorted. “Sorry for the power nap. I should be fine for a bit.”

I didn’t have my own climbing gear, so I had to climb on Mikasa’s back again for her to hoist us up and over the wall. Once on the other side, they stashed everything away, and began walking.

“Where we headed?” I asked, looking aside at Eren. I couldn’t stop looking at him, because he was like fresh clean air to me.

Armin answered. “Back to the hotel, to pick up our car, and then off.”

“I need a change of clothes, I’m too conspicuous like this. And I’d like a shower, but I’m not sure there’s time.”

Armin looked at his watch. “You’re the expert, you think we should risk it? We could stop somewhere along the way to bathe. You can borrow my clothes.”

I sighed. “You’re probably right. We can drive down to the river, and I can clean down there. Just grab some shampoo and soap, I’m dying to be clean.”

“Not a problem,” Eren said, speaking for the first time since his trance. His voice was husky - must have been all that yelling.

I’d heard of berserkers, but never seen one. People who went mad in the heat of battle, who forgot themselves, gave themselves over to the blade. They were the most ruthless, and while they were in that state, they didn’t even feel pain.

Speaking of which - was Eren limping? Was he injured?

“Stop,” I said urgently.

They all stopped walking, and I went straight up to Eren, and looked him in the face. He looked back at me, impassive. I knelt down next to him, and ran my hands gently across his thigh.

Yep. There it was. Bullet hole.

I felt across the back of his leg, and thankfully, the bullet had gone right through. At least it wasn’t lodged in there.

“Ah, is this the right time for that sort of thing?” Mikasa asked in a strange voice.

“I just wanted to see how badly he was injured,” I snapped. “Armin, give me your belt.”

Eren looked down at me like I was crazy. “What are you on about?”

I wrapped Armin’s belt around Eren’s thigh, and tied it tight as I could. “You’ve been shot, shitstick.”

Eren went red in the face, which made me laugh a little inside.

I stood back up, then looped an arm up around his shoulders. “Don’t feel bad, it happens to the best of us.”

Armin looked back at us as he started walking again. “You’ve been shot?” he asked me.

I screwed up my face, dropping my arm from around Eren. “More than once, unfortunately. Don’t worry, a wound like this won’t kill Eren. But we’ve got to get to our safe house, so that I can call for an evacuation.”

“Oh, so we don’t just, take a plane back out of here?” Eren asked.

I slapped my hand to my forehead. “Who let you brats come all the way out here, anyway? Of course they won’t just let you waltz back out of here, Eren, you’ve killed like 15 guys. You’re a mass murderer.”

He made an ‘O’ with his face, and then looked down, and I could see the guilt start in.

I bumped his hip with mine. “Don’t worry about it, if it’s comforting, they’re all mass murderers too. And so am I.”

This made Eren smile a little, though it didn’t reach his eyes.

I wanted to grab his hand, I wanted to hug him for coming after me, I wanted to fall into his arms, and forget about this crazy life I lived. But I held back. I held it all back, because right in this moment, all I had to do was keep these kids safe. They came out here for me, into dangers unknown, and it was only blind luck that they hadn’t been killed already.

We made it back to the car, and Armin went up on his own to get the rest of their stuff, and then we were on the road. They were driving a beat up old Mercedes, not dissimilar to the one Erwin and I had ridden in on. Those things were like locusts in the desert, fucking all over the place.

Mikasa drove, and Armin rode shotgun to navigate. I directed them to the river, but told them to drive us a ways down so we were out of the immediate vicinity.

Eren was sitting next to me, but he might as well have been on the moon. He had gone deep inside his head again, and wasn’t talking to any of us.

Didn’t bug me right now, though, because it gave me a chance to study his profile. He was pretty perfect, I thought to myself, with his tan skin, his straight nose, and his wide, gorgeous eyes. His hair was a bit wild, but that was kind of charming, too.

He reeked of blood, though. I’d make him bathe with me when we got to the stream, because no way was he riding all the way to Bamako like that.


——


When we got to the river, I walked out of the car and stripped my pants off immediately, walking nude to the water without worrying a thing about modesty. I’d shed the modesty a long time ago, as a cadet in the military. I had found no use for modesty since.

The water may not have been the cleanest water, but it was cleaner than me. I started to scrub at my arms, legs, and dunked my hair.

“Eren!” I called. “Get in here, you stink! And bring the shampoo!”

I didn’t bother to look and see if he was coming or not. It took him forever, but finally, I heard him splashing into the water next to me. “It’s warm,” he said in surprise.

I rolled my eyes. “No shit, Sherlock, it’s like 45 degrees outside during the day. Of course it’s warm.”

It was cool at night, though, so when we stepped out of the water for sure we’d feel cold. At the moment, though, I didn’t give a shit. “Shampoo?” I asked, finally turning to look at him, and holding my hand out.

I tried not to be overly interested when I eyed him, but I couldn’t help it. Eren was tall and fit and young and he had come all this way for me and I couldn’t stop thinking about that. I hadn’t known anyone before who had cared about me so much - even though the kid barely knew me. He wanted to. That much was obvious.

So why was he now shrinking away? He was holding the shampoo bottle out with his hand, but his body was curling away, like I was diseased.

I looked down at myself, and though, oh, yeah. I do look diseased. He probably doesn’t find me attractive anymore. I took the shampoo and squirted some into my hair, and started working it up into a lather. I rubbed the shampoo all over my body, my face, my neck, my arms, armpits, chest, legs, between my legs, toes, everywhere. When I was done, I did it all over again. I rinsed, and I felt the layers of grime start to go away, and I did it a third time.

“Levi?” Eren finally asked. He’d clearly shampooed at least once, because he was shining and clean and pure and oh god the water droplets were clinging to his skin deliciously.

I cleared my throat. “Yeah?”

He took the shampoo from me. “I think you’re clean. I mean, you’ve been at it for a while there, and you’ve gone over the same places more than once… you look clean. You smell great. I think it’s okay.”

I dunked my hair one last time, then came back up again, and put my arms around myself. “Yeah, it’s okay, kid. It’s good enough for now. I don’t think I’ll feel clean again for a while, anyway, no matter how much I wash.” I grimaced.

Eren finally moved closer to me. Just close enough to touch my chin with his index finger, and tilt my head up. “Does it hurt?” he asked in a small voice.

He must have been referring to my ravaged face. “Nah. Nothing that won’t heal. I’m sure I look like the walking dead right now, and I totally understand if you don’t want to be near me, but don’t worry on my account.”

His eyebrows scrunched up. “Why wouldn’t I want to be near you?” he asked, dumbfounded.

I raised an eyebrow. “You’ve hardly said two words to me since you’ve found me. And you won’t come close to me. So… it’s okay. I get it.”

Eren shook his head, then I saw unshed tears in his eyes. “No, you don’t understand. I want to be near you so much it hurts. But I’m dirty, you see. I’m a monster. I killed all those people, and I couldn’t turn it off.”

I wrapped my hand around his forearm, just enough to get his attention. “You are not a monster, Eren. You’re a human being. I know exactly who you are. You’re the one who came after me. You’ll never know how much that means to me.”

Eren wiped his eyes and sucked his emotions in, then he wrapped his arms around me and just hugged me, and god, it’s exactly what I needed. He held me tight, tucking his head on top of mine. When I pressed my face into his neck, he smelled like shampoo and clean but underneath that, like Eren, and what scared me the most, was suddenly he had become home to me.

I wrapped my arms around his waist, and squeezed him back. We held each other there for a long time, it seemed like. But he needed it, and I needed it, and it was like it recharged the light in our souls.

Finally, we had to break apart, since Mikasa was shouting, “Get a room!”

Eren pushed me away, laughing. “Yeah, yeah.”

We pulled on clean clothes, me donning a spare set of Armin’s clothes, and Eren wearing a fresh pair of cargo pants and a t-shirt. I couldn’t stop looking at him, and thinking about him. Eren was now at the forefront of every thought that went through my brain.

When we were huddled back in the backseat of the car, on our way to Bamako, I felt myself falling asleep from weariness. Eren had fallen asleep too, and had his head propped up against the door.

Fuck it, I thought. I tilted my body so my back was pressed up against his side, and I leaned back against him. Fuck everyone. If I wanted to think of Eren as my home, no one was going to stop me.

Chapter Text

I must have dozed off. I was so overly tired after what happened in Timbuktu. I felt like I could have slept for days, I was so groggy. I tried to pull through it, though, now was not the time to feel relaxed.

As I pushed through my daze, I noticed my left side was really warm, and something was tickling the side of my face. I smelled green apple shampoo, and it made me smile. I looked down to find Levi propped up against me, his arms crossed over his chest, fast asleep.

I remembered with a blush how he’d taken off his clothes and stepped into the river. He’d washed himself so many times, like he couldn’t get the dirt off. But he was clean, he smelled nice, he was perfect.

I wanted to put my arm around him, but was worried that by moving I’d wake him up, so I didn’t. I looked outside instead. The sun was rising, dawn of a new day.

When I looked in the front of the car, Mikasa was driving, her elbow propped against the window, looking unconcerned. Armin was asleep with his head against the door.

Mikasa made eye contact with me in the rearview mirror, and I saw her look down to where Levi was, then back up at my eyes. I couldn’t help blushing and smiling. I was so relieved to have him back.

“We’re not far now,” Mikasa said quietly. “Another 30 minutes until we reach the city. Should we wake them?”

I shook my head. “Let’s let them sleep a few minutes longer.”

I let my eyes roam over the passing scenery, and my mind wander. I hadn’t thought past this point, that was clear. How would we make it back home? How would we manage to leave the country?

All of a sudden I got cracked in the head and elbowed in the side as Levi thrashed up out of whatever he was dreaming. He sucked air in noisily, and tensed up in his seat, then looked around wildly. I shrank back, not because I was afraid of him, but because I didn’t want him to see me as a threat.

When Levi’s eyes ran over me, he looked confused, at first. He fixated on my eyes.

“Eren?” he said tentatively, in a small voice.

That uncertainty in his voice undid me. I wanted to pull him into my arms, but I knew he wouldn’t have it. “I’m here,” I said instead, holding out my hand.

Levi snorted, and turned his head away. But then, a moment later, his hand snaked out over the seat and clasped mine firmly.

When Levi had observed the surroundings outside for a few minutes, he came to full attention. “We’re nearing the city,” he said aloud.

“Yes,” Mikasa confirmed.

Levi leaned his head back against the seat. “Wake up the kid in the front, we should talk about what we’re going to do next.”

Mikasa reached a hand out and laid it on Armin’s shoulder, shaking gently, and he snorted and woke up, rubbing his eyes. “‘Kasa?”

“Wake up, sleepyhead,” Mikasa said.

“Mpfh,” Armin grumbled.

“You awake?” Levi asked without looking at him.

I heard Armin yawn. “Yeah, I’m good. Mikasa you all right?”

“I’ll be fine,” she insisted. “I’ve pulled all-nighters before.”

I snuck a glance at Levi out of the corner of my eye, and drank in the rim light that danced around his features from the rising sun. He looked almost delicate, with his small nose and pert mouth, his pointy chin. His face was dotted with bruises, and one of his eyes swollen nearly shut. He had no facial hair that I could see, even though I had a small growth dotting around my chin that I could feel. Maybe he was one of these guys that couldn’t grow a beard?

“All right, kids, time to talk,” he said, turning to face us. I didn’t point out that he was still holding my hand, cause I really didn’t want him to let go. He didn’t seem to have noticed.

“What’s the plan?” Mikasa asked.

“Do you shits still have your passports?” Levi asked, looking around at us.

“Of course we do,” Armin said.

“Good. If for any reason we get separated, or shit goes to hell, then you get your asses to the Embassy and tell them someone’s after you. They’ll give you an escort and get you back home.” Levi’s voice was so commanding, so sure of himself. I wondered how many times he’d been in similar situations.

“Why don’t we just do that, then?” Armin asked curiously.

Levi snorted out a laugh. “I don’t have my passport,” he said quietly, turning his head away. “I have no way to prove who I am, and if I showed up there, there’s no guarantee that they would help me. I’ll need to arrange an evacuation through my team.”

“Your team who left you here to rot?” I demanded, anger blossoming in my chest.

“Eren,” Levi said warningly.

“No!” I shouted. “Those guys left you here! I went to Erwin for help and he told me he couldn’t help you.”

Levi turned to look at me, his face expressionless. “He wasn’t lying, Eren. He couldn’t help me. The government would have never allowed it. As far as they are concerned, I don’t exist. As soon as I joined special forces, I became a ghost. Understand?”

I shook my head, biting on my lips to keep from yelling at him. I knew it was unproductive, and we didn’t have time for this.

“So what do you propose?” Armin asked, turning in the seat to look at Levi.

“I’ll need to get to the city centre, to buy a cell phone. You guys have some cash?”

Armin nodded. “But why don’t you just use one of our cell phones?”

Levi’s eyes widened. “Please tell me you don’t have your cell phones on.”

Armin and Mikasa exchanged glances. “I didn’t turn mine back on after we landed, did you?” Armin asked. Mikasa shook her head. “You, Eren?”

I shook my head, looking down at my hands.

Levi breathed a sigh of relief. “Good. If we’re in luck, then they didn’t get your faces on any security cameras last night. They might not know who you are. But they’ll surely be going through the records of anyone who entered the country, so even if they didn’t see your faces, they might guess at who you are. So keep those cell phones off, we wouldn’t want them tracking us.

“We’ll stop to buy a cell phone and meet up with an old friend of mine, and then I’ll call in for an evacuation. If all goes well, they’ll give us a safe house to hole up in and we’ll be out of here within 48 hours.”

“And if all doesn’t go well?” Mikasa asked.

“Then we split up, and you head for the embassy. I’ll hole up on my own and get out.”

“No,” I said vehemently. “I’m not splitting up from you.”

Levi squeezed my hand. “Eren, it’s not like I want that either, but it might happen. If it does, I’ll want you safe. Trust me that I don’t want to be responsible for you dying out here, or worse.”

“What’s worse than dying?” Armin asked from the front, his eyes wide.

Levi looked away, and muttered under his breath. “Doesn’t matter,” he said louder. “You guys have to promise, if anything happens, split up and meet back up at the Embassy. When I buy this phone, I’ll give you guys the number, and you can dial in from there. Then we’ll all know we’re safe, and that’s it. Okay?”

He got nods from Mikasa and Armin, but I just turned my head away and silently fumed. No matter what they said, I wasn’t taking my eyes off Levi. I would stand and fight anyone who threatened him. They could throw an army at me, and I’d take them down, to protect him. I don’t know why I felt this way, but I did. I wanted to protect Mikasa and Armin too, and it’s not like I thought Levi was helpless or anything, but when I thought of anyone hurting him I just wanted to rip them to shreds with my bare hands.

Levi was running his thumb across my hand, trying to get my attention, I think. When I finally turned to look at him, his eyes widened at whatever he saw in my eyes. Finally, he asked, “Are you ready for this?”

I felt like my whole body was lighting up with energy. I could feel it pulsing behind my eyes. I looked at him, and said as quietly as I could, “I’ll kill anyone who comes near you.”

Levi’s eyes widened impossibly more, then he flicked his eyes away, and smirked a little. It was the first time I’d seen something like a smile on his lips, and it made me want to take a picture. “Not bad,” he murmured.


——


Levi directed Mikasa where to go to get to the market. I insisted on going with him, and he wanted me to stay behind, but when he saw I wouldn’t take no for an answer, he finally said, “Do what you like. Just don’t get in my way.”

I followed Levi as he walked into the electronics store to buy a phone. He paid with it with cash, our cash.

Levi brushed his bangs out of his face before dialling, and that was what made me realize his hair had grown longer. He was probably itching to cut it, but he just pushed that discomfort aside like he seemed to do with all things he couldn’t change for the moment.

Levi led us to a quiet nook to make the call.

“Hey,” he said when someone picked up the line.

“Leeeeeeeeviiiii!” I could hear someone literally screeching on the other end of the line. Levi held the phone out away from his face with a grimace.

“Hanji. Hanji! HANJI. Stop.”

“But I am just so happy. I thought I’d never hear from you again! How’d you break loose?”

Levi looked at me, his eyes twinkling. “Some brats came to break me out.”

“Ehhh?”

I was laughing internally that I could hear this entire conversation because she was so loud. Levi could have probably turned down the volume but didn’t seem to know how on these old phones.

“Hanji listen. I need a safe house and an exit. I don’t have my passport. I need a new identity. Also, I’ve got three brats with me.”

“Who’s with you?” She asked. She sounded like she was typing on the other end.

“Eren, Mikasa, and Armin.”

There was a long pause. “No way. No WAY. I don’t believe it.”

Levi snorted and rolled his eyes. “Hanji seriously, now is not the time. Can you get us a safe place?”

“Duuuuhh. Give me thirty minutes tops.”

“Good. Text me the info when you have it.”

Levi hung up the phone, then shoved it into the pocket of his pants. He ran a hand through his hair, then looked up at me. “That was Hanji,” he explained.

“I gathered,” I said dryly.

Levi started walking out. “Did you meet her at the gym? She’s one of the techs back home. She’s actually quite useful, but she’s a handful.” He pushed out through the crowds, and made his way down to the old marketplace.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

Levi threw me something that was not quite a smile. “We’re going to flush out a rat.”

When we got to the right general vicinity, Levi pulled me aside and spoke lowly. “I’m going to approach from this side. I want you to circle around to the other side of those stalls. He’ll probably come running that way. Can you stop him and hang onto him for me?”

I tried not to be distracted by Levi standing so close. “Yes, I can!”

“Good. Go now.”

I walked around past the spices, past the scarves, to the end of the row of stalls. I pretended to look at some pottery, to keep myself looking busy. Less than five minutes later, sure enough, someone came rabbiting out from behind the stalls.

I purposefully walked into him, but made it look like an accident. He crashed into me, and we went tumbling over a crate of fabrics.

“Whoa!” I said. I stood up, then reached out a hand to pull the guy up. He tried to push me away, babbling away in French, telling me he didn’t need any help.

“It’s okay,” I said also in French. Although my French wasn’t as good as Levi’s, one couldn’t grow up in Montreal and not speak it fluently. “Let me help you. Oh, look at you, you’re covered in dust!”

I held onto the back of his shirt firmly, as I started dusting off his arm, and his shirt. He was struggling to get away, but I held on, seemingly oblivious.

Levi was suddenly there, standing behind me, a hand on his hip. “Yannick, Yannick, why are you running from me this time? It can’t be that you’re surprised to see me.”

Yannick spluttered, and babbled nonsensically.

Levi leaned closer, cocking his head. “Oh? You are surprised to see me? Why would that be? After all, you knew I was in the country.”

“I- I- I- I- heard you were in jail,” he blubbered.

Levi leaned back, hand on his chin. “Moi?” He then laughed. “You must have gotten me mistaken with someone else. After all, no one knew where I was going. No one knew, except you. Did you tell someone, mon cher?”

Yannick shook his head frightfully. “I swear it, no! I told no one!”

Levi wagged his finger back and forth. “Ah ah ah! Don’t you know your nose will grow even longer if you tell lies?”

Yannick looked truly frightened. He just shook his head.

Levi looked to me, and gestured with his head. “Let’s bring him with us.”

I threw an arm over Yannick’s shoulders, which was easy since I was taller than him, and manhandled him back to the car. Armin and Mikasa looked surprised that we had a guest, but said nothing as we slid into the backseat, with Yannick between us.

Levi was hastily scribbling his number onto three pieces of paper, and handed one to each of us. “Keep that with you in case we get separated.”

Then he directed Mikasa again, and we started to head back out of town. He directed her to an area that looked abandoned, with some old shanty houses that were falling over. When we got there, he pulled Yannick out of the car, manhandled him to the back of the shanty houses, and threw him on the ground. He then reared up and kicked him, hard, in the chest, sending him rolling several feet away.

Levi then pulled the guy up by the shirtfront, and punched him in the face. He punched him in the chest, and kicked him in the side. By the time he was done, Yannick was on his side, sobbing, while Mikasa, Armin, and I stood to the side, shell-shocked. We never expected that kind of raw brutality.

Levi yanked on Yannick’s hair, pulling his head up. “If you don’t want me to kill you right here, you will tell me what I want to know. Who did you tell about where I was going?”

Tears were streaming down the guy’s face, and he was holding his hands up, as though to defend himself. “I didn’t get the guy’s name. He threatened me, all right?”

Levi wound up and punched him again, a slick right hook on the side of his head that left Yannick spinning, and spitting blood out on the ground. “Wrong answer. Don’t lie to me, I can tell when you’re lying you stinking sack of cow dung.”

“He was in his forties,” Yannick said in a low voice. “Weaselly face. Dark hair, shaved on the bottom. Goatee. I am sure he was one of yours.”

Levi glared down at him. “What do you mean, one of ours?”

“I thought he was Canadian Special Forces. I thought by sending him after you, I was helping you. I didn’t know.”

Levi stood back, fished the phone out of his pocket, and dialled. I was too far back to hear whoever was on the other end, but I heard Levi said, “We were sold out. Dawk, I think, from the description. Think we finally got him? Yeah. Address? Okay good, we’ll make our way there.”

Just as Levi was wrapping up the phone call, I heard a rumbling coming closer from a distance. “What is that noise?” I asked Armin.

He looked at me, and shrugged. “No idea. You know, Eren, I kind of think that we should all just go to the Embassy. Surely they’d even help Levi out? It would be safer, don’t you think?”

I looked at Mikasa. She nodded. “I’ll follow you whatever you want to do, Eren.”

I chewed on my lip. Part of me was wondering what the heck we were doing out here, in an unknown country. We were way out of our league. I just wanted us to get home.

“Let’s talk with-”

But before I could finish my sentence, we found out what the buzzing was.

Armoured cars, at least six of them, all with rebels dangling off the back and over the side. There had to be forty of them, all there, just for us.

Levi whipped around and pulled Yannick up by his shirtfront. “They tracked you? You little shit. Fuck you.”

He belted towards us, yelling, “In the car! Now!”

We scrambled into the car, Mikasa once again jumping behind the wheel. We peeled off, and Levi jumped in along the way. He was swearing a blue streak, and yelling into the phone. “Tell me that you have someone in the area. Erwin, they’re going to goddamned dust these kids!”

Armin was scrambling through his bag, and next thing I knew, he was flinging something out the window behind us. I looked back, and I saw a handful of caltrops littering the road.

“Where the hell did you get those?” I asked him.

“I made them!” He grabbed another handful and chucked them out the window. “They’re made of PVC so they wouldn’t get caught in the security scans. They’re sharp buggers, but not as strong as conventional caltrops. We’ll see if they do any good,” he said with a meek shrug.

I looked back behind us, and next thing I saw, one of the cars ran over the caltrops and spun out, knocking into a second car that sent the two of them rolling. We were all whooping and pumping our fists in the air.

Unfortunately, though, there were still four more cars pursuing us. Mikasa was doing her best to dodge and weave her way, but we were now out driving on sand, the road was nowhere to be seen. There was not much cover, and god knows what direction we were even going in.

“I wish I’d lifted one of the guns off those security guards,” Levi muttered.

Now the first car was gaining on us, and the rebels hanging off the side started shooting.

“Get down!” Levi called, flinging his arm over my back to force me down.

Armin tossed more of his homemade caltrops out the window between fire, and the first car dodged them, but the car behind didn’t see them and a third car went spinning out.

“Gas it, Mikasa. Try to get as much distance between us as you can. And head for the city, we are like sitting ducks out here. We need cover to manoeuvre properly.”

Mikasa nodded at Levi’s words, and looked around. “Any clue which direction the city is in?”

Levi lifted a hand and pointed, and Mikasa swerved the car.

I couldn’t understand what Levi did next. He peered up over the top of the backseat, and pulled out the first aid kit that was hidden there. “Anyone got a knife?” he asked.

Armin handed one back, and Levi took it and started digging around in the hole the first aid kit came out of. He started swearing, but finally, his arm punched through. He whooped in triumph, and stuck his hand in there, but his arm was too short.

“Eren,” Levi said, eyeing me. “Can you do me a favour?”

“Uh, yeah?” I was amazed how Levi’s tone of voice was still totally unconcerned.

“Reach your arm in here, and see if you can grab those machetes from yesterday.”

I stuck my arm in the hole that led into the trunk, and had to feel my way around. “Isn’t there a better way to get into the trunk? Like fold the seats down or something?”

Levi shook his head impatiently. “These old Mercedes don’t do that. You’re lucky I know the first aid trick. Feel anything?”

My fingers touched something sharp, and I yelped as I cut my finger. “Yep. Think I found them.”

I pulled one machete out at a time, painfully slow, as Mikasa weaved and jerked the car around to avoid the rain of bullets. After a while, the sound of gunshots faded away. Levi poked his head up, then announced, “They’re out of bullets on their machine guns. Now is the time.”

Levi turned to face the front of the car, and leaned his elbows on the front seats. He looked at Mikasa and Armin, who looked back at him, frightened. “Remember what I said? Head for the Embassy. You know where it is?”

Armin nodded jerkily.

Levi nodded back. “Good. Good luck. You’ll be safer this way, I promise.”

Then he took two machetes in his hand, opened his door, and jumped out of the moving car.

Chapter Text

This is it, I thought. I’ll probably die here. I don’t know what’ll take me - a bullet, being run over by one of those cars, stabbed, beaten, re-captured. But me against that many? I was good, but not that good.

I didn’t care, though. I felt free, actually. If I could buy enough time for Eren to get away, then I’d be happy to die. Living for him gave me wings, for the first time in a long time. I had a purpose.

I rolled when I hit the ground. It hurt, and winded me, so I lost a couple of seconds catching my breath when I got to my feet.

I stood up, clutching one machete in each hand, and stared down the three armoured cars barrelling towards me.

I calculated my route. If I could disable them, that would be enough. All I had to do was disable them, and Eren would get away.

Then I started running towards them.

I didn’t just run, I sprinted. I played chicken with a fucking armoured car.

And it made me laugh. The laughter bubbled up from within me. I held my arms out to the side, poised, then at the last moment, I dropped and rolled, holding the swords out above my head, clipping the tire.

The first car went spinning, but the impact jarred my wrists painfully. I swore, but rolled and came back up to my feet again in a smooth movement. I whirled, and then as the second car got close, I jumped up and clung onto the top of the driver’s side door. Luckily these cars were roofless, so I had a good grip, but I had to struggle for half a second to yank the door open. I stabbed the driver, but at the same moment, three of his men were grabbing at me, and I got thrown into the back of the truck.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the third car swerve to come and intercept. I smiled. Mission accomplished.

Now if I could just find a way to stay alive.

When I managed to struggle to my feet in the back, I started spinning, whirling with the swords out like fan blades. I gripped one sword forehand, the other backhand. When they tried to reach for me, they got cut. No one could get close enough. They were shouting, but I managed to injure all of them in the back with me.

I then jumped off the back of the car. I needed space to move around, I was too boxed in up there. I took off running, heading for the third vehicle, but some of them hand handguns out now, and I felt bullets rain the ground around me.

I dodged and weaved, making a difficult target to hit, then when I reached the third car, I slid underneath it. I scraped the sword up the underbelly of the car, and pierced the gas tank. I rolled out of the way, but not before getting drenched in the foul-smelling liquid.

“Fucking stinking shitty fucking day,” I growled, as I popped up the other side of the car. I stabbed someone else, then swore again when I felt a bullet tear through the meat of my shoulder.

When I took a split second to get my bearings, I saw there were about six men in this car that were seconds away from shooting me in the face. Then, the car over, the ones that were injured but not mortally were starting to drop to the ground and head over. Then, to make matters worse, all the guys from car number 1 were now sprinting in our direction after abandoning their vehicle.

That still left 10 guys between me and breathing for another day.

I sighed. Oh well. I wouldn’t go out without a fight.

Just as I was about to launch myself back into the fray, I saw a trail of dust getting kicked up, heading our way. I ducked back behind the car, and looked at it, confused. Then, as it got closer, I saw to my horror that it was Eren.

Eren looked like the fucking devil incarnate.

He was sprinting faster than a fucking Olympic athlete, kicking up a dust trail like a motorcycle, and he had that face on him, that inhuman berserker face that said that he’d definitely lost his cool.

That stupid dumb fuck. He came for me, again. He ruined my goddamned plans, every time.

Well, the least I could do was back him the fuck up.

I gained a few seconds by rolling back under the car and over to the other side, which put me right up where Eren was bound to arrive. When I popped up, machetes in hand, I took out the guys closest to me, whirling with a vengeance. My arm was now buzzing with the pain, but I grit my teeth and pushed through it.

Eren was roaring, and he had launched himself into the group approaching from car 1. He was using his bare fists, but each punch that connected crunched through bone, it was so powerful. I kept Eren to my back, and kept taking out anyone who came close enough. There were still bullets being fired from some guns, so I figured out who had a fucking gun and went for that guy. I got grazed again twice for the effort, once on my side, and once on my fucking face.

I tried not to think about that. I just rammed my machete through the guy’s gut, then whirled and took off his head.

There were three guys left in this car. I could handle three.

I took a punch to the leg that took me down for a moment, but I retorted by slamming my hand up, and I caught the guy in the chest. The two guys behind me caught me at the same time, though, each one grasping one of my arms.

I wiggled and twisted and tried to get out of their grasp, but they had me strong.

The two guys were yelling at each other, in the local language that I didn’t understand. They were arguing about what to do with me, I think. Whether to try to take me, or kill me. Looking at the number of dead bodies around, I think the smarter choice would have been to kill me.

Apparently they came to the same decision. One of them punched me in the gut, making me wheeze. At least, it felt like a punch to the gut, but when I looked down, I saw a knife protruding from me.

Next thing I knew, Eren was there, roaring his fury and punching through anyone left standing. I could see him, he looking like an avenging angel to me, beautiful and pure in his anger. He was so strong and so fast, it was unreal.

I looked down at my belly, as I fell to my knees. Eren was by my side, and he looked like he was about to pull out the knife, so I shoved him away.

“Don’t touch it!” I yelled. “Car, where’s the car?”

Eren looked around, his face blank. “I don’t know. They wouldn’t stop, so I jumped. I couldn’t leave you here.”

As we spoke, the car came tearing back over. Armin jumped out and ran over to us, horror struck when he saw me. Mikasa was not far behind.

“What do we do, Levi?” Armin asked, his face white.

I put my arm over Eren’s shoulders, and motioned for Mikasa to get under my other arm. “Get me to the car. We’re going to the safe house. I’ll make it, don’t worry.”

My vision was going splotchy, and I felt like my limbs weight a thousand metric tons, but they managed to drag me to the car. I slumped into the backseat, and mourned that my blood would stain the car forever. Plus I still smelled like gas. We’d never be able to use the car again.

Mikasa got behind the wheel and started driving. She drove like the ground was on fire.

I stuttered out the directions to the safe house that Erwin had told me about. I gave them instructions, how they were to ditch the car a ten-minute walk away from it, and walk from there, so as not to give the address away. They’d have to drop me off first, and I’d do my best to patch myself up.

We stopped at a drugstore, and I gave Eren instructions on what to buy for me. I would need a needle and thread, scissors, gauze, tape, rubbing alcohol, antibiotics, rubber gloves, and a mirror. It seemed like Eren took forever, even though it was probably not more than five minutes before he was sliding back into the seat, supplies in hand.

I kept my hand glued to my wound, keeping the knife from moving around too much, and putting as much pressure around the wound as I could. I didn’t think anything inside was torn. I prayed nothing inside was torn. It would be hard enough stitching myself up without having to stitch up anything inside.

Eren put his arm around my shoulders, just holding me, whispering nothings in my ear, like that would help. It helped him, anyway, so I didn’t tell him to stop.

“We’re here,” Mikasa announced.

I must have dozed off, because I jerked at her announcement. My door opened, and I couldn’t help but let out a moan when Mikasa got me to my feet, her arm around me. Eren slid out behind me, shopping bag in hand, and held me on my other side.

“I’ll go ditch the car,” Armin announced once we were out.

They got me up to the front door, which was conveniently unlocked. Inside, there was a couple of couches, then a kitchen and dining room.

I scrunched up my face. At least the dining room was tiled.

“Put me on the kitchen table,” I told them.

They got me up there with a minimal of fuss. Small mercies.

“Eren,” I called out.

His head appeared in front of me, his green eyes looking tired and afraid, big as saucers.

“I need you to get a bucket, and fill it with boiled water. Also see if you can find some cloths and towels, and boil those as well. Can you do that?”

He nodded and disappeared. I breathed a sigh of relief. “Mikasa?”

She nodded down at me, tying her hair back in a ponytail. “What can I do to help?”

“Get all the supplies laid out on the table next to me. I’ll need you to hand me things when I ask you, okay?”

“Ready when you are.”

“You’ll have to cut my shirt off,” I instructed her.

Mikasa made quick moments of the job, cutting the thin fabric away.

“Now give me the antibiotics. Twice the recommended dosage. And make Eren take the same.”

She handed me the pills and a glass of water, and I gulped them down messily.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I could do this. I had the best medical training in the room, I had to do this. The kids would freak if I died on them. “Put the rubber gloves on my hands.”

Mikasa struggled a little to get the gloves on my hands. It was a bit awkward. She also put a pair on her own hands.

Once she had them on, I had her pick up the mirror. “I’ll need you to angle it so that I can see my wound from this angle. Actually, see if you can get a pillow under my head, that’ll help.”

Mikasa came back with a couple of pillows, and wedged them under my head. Then we practiced with her holding up the mirror, until I could see everything as well as possible. “Good, just like that. Keep it there,” I encouraged her.

I looked over to the kitchen, but Eren was still boiling the towels. I closed my eyes and waited another minute, then said, “Have those been boiling yet, Eren?”

“Yeah I think it’s long enough,” he said shakily. He wrung out the towels and cloths, and brought them over. Then he poured the boiling water into a bucket.

I reached out for a cloth, and held it up against the side of my abdomen. Then I pulled the knife out.

It slid out easily, but I could now feel the blood gushing. “Aw, shit. Eren, help me. Put pressure on it, we need to stop the bleeding.”

Eren’s hands pushed firmly against my abdomen.

“Put your full weight on it. Don’t worry you won’t hurt me.”

The pressure increased, and I rested for a minute, closing my eyes. I must have dozed for a moment, because when I came to, Eren had let up, and he was wiping at my wound with one of the boiled towels. “I think the bleeding has stopped, mostly.”

“Mikasa, get that mirror up again.”

When she had the mirror in place, I took a deep breath, and I pulled the wound apart. I did a visual inspection inside, but from what I could see, nothing inside was torn. I slumped back, and started breathing fast, trying to push through the pain.

“Wipe it again, Eren.”

He wiped the wound clean carefully. His face was closed off, but I could see determination in the set of his eyebrows.

“Now pour the rubbing alcohol all around the wound. Try your best to sterilize it.”

I could feel the liquid spilling down over my side, pooling on the table. It spilled into the wound as well, and I hissed as all my nerve endings lit up. “Fucking shit. Oh hell. Don’t stop, make sure it’s thorough.”

When he was finally done, I was breathing fast again, trying to get through it. It took a minute, but when I got myself back under control again, I motioned for Mikasa to get the mirror up again.

“Someone thread that needle.”

Armin was back, and clearly he had the finest control, because he was the one that threaded the needle and handed it to me. “Are you sure you want to do this yourself?”

“Have you ever stitched a person up before?” I asked him.

He shook his head. “No, but I’ve stitched up a turkey for thanksgiving.”

I couldn’t help snorting at that. “Thanks but no thanks, kid.”

Using the mirror as a guide, I pulled the flesh together, and inserted the needle.

The toughest thing was, since I had no anesthesia, I had to push right through the discomfort. But it was harder than I thought to ignore the pain and at the same time maintain the level of control I needed to be able to guide the needle. My hand started shaking. I could blame it on the loss of blood, or the pain, but whatever the cause, I couldn’t do it. I closed a couple of ragged stitches before Armin took the needle from my hand and continued the task.

Despite his inexperience, Armin was neat and efficient. I was able to handle the pain by controlling my breathing.

When he tied off the last stitch, I looked down at the wound, and found it patched up rather well, considering.

I breathed out a sigh. “Now someone can tape some gauze on top of it.”

Armin took the task, finishing up by washing the wound with more alcohol first, then taping it up to keep it clean.

Then the three stood around the table, looking down at me. They wanted to know what to do next.

I made to push to a sitting position, but Eren’s hand on my shoulder kept me down. “Don’t you think you should rest for a minute?”

I lay back, and closed my eyes. “Yeah, I should. But do me a favour - get me my phone, first. Hit redial.”

Eren pressed the phone to my head. After a few rings, Petra picked up.

“Hey, Petra,” I said weakly.

I could almost hear her smiling on the other end. “Levi! It’s so nice to hear your voice. I heard what’s been going on there. What’s your situation?”

“We made it to the safe house. But we have some medical concerns. I’ve been stabbed, though we’ve treated me as well as possible. And Eren took a gunshot through the leg, though he seems nearly unaffected by it.”

“Gunther and Mike are on the way. They should be there in a couple of hours. They hopped a flight when you first called in.”

“Good.”

“Do you need anything else in the meantime?”

I closed my eyes, and sighed. “Do you have a way out for me?”

“Don’t worry about it. We are working on something, and should have a plan within the next day or two. Can you hold out that long?”

I breathed deep. “Yeah, I think so.”

“Okay. Hang in there. Call if you need anything.”

“See you soon,” I said, and it sounded like a promise. Something that I never thought I’d do, was see her again.

When I nodded that I was done, they took the phone away.

“Am I more or less clean?” I asked.

Eren’s face appeared. “We got all the blood off. You still smell of gas, though. But you’re not so bad.”

Relief poured through me. “Then I’d really rather sleep on the couch, or in a bed. Can you carry me somewhere? And get me out of these stinking clothes?”

Without answering, I was swept up in Eren’s arms. He carried me like I weighed nothing at all. He walked me down the hall and into the bedroom, and laid me down on a bed that felt like heaven. The first bed I’d slept in for the past month. I nearly wept at the feel of it. He carefully peeled off my pants, and I lay there, in my underwear, world-weary. Eren pulled the sheet to cover me.

I closed my eyes, and I felt the bed dip as Eren stood back up.

I reached out and flopped my hand against Eren’s leg. “Just… stay with me, will you? Until I fall asleep.”

Eren sat back down, then he lay down beside me. I cracked an eye open to see him next to me. This wasn’t the way I’d pictured getting him into bed, but now that he was here, I didn’t want him out of my sight.

“You should tell the others, that two guys are coming. Gunther and Mike. So don’t be scared when they show up.”

“Okay,” he murmured. I felt his fingers trailing along my arm, drawing patterns there. The gesture was comforting.

“It’ll take a couple of days to get us out,” I said around a yawn.

“Levi,” he said warningly.

“I promise I’ll keep you safe. Even if I can’t, the others will.” My voice was quiet, groggy.

“Levi,” he said again. “It’s okay. Everything’s okay. We’re safe. I’m here. You can let go, now. You can sleep. I’ll watch over things.”

I let my eyes close, and I felt the weariness creep up on me. Eren’s hand closed over my arm, and I felt his face close to my shoulder. He was here. Eren had come for me.

I let go.

Chapter Text

I slept a little, myself. I didn’t mean to, but every time I lost control, I felt like I weighed a ton of bricks afterward.

I woke up after about an hour - just enough of a power nap to get me re-energized. When I turned my head, I saw Levi asleep on the pillow next to me, and my heart thudded painfully in my chest.

Something about him just looked so raw. He looked so young, but in sleep, he didn’t look innocent - just still, like a calm lake before the wind blows it up into a fury. He was never quite 100% relaxed. Always, a part of him seemed ready to jump into motion.

I had an idea not to touch him in his sleep. I’d heard of military men, who when startled, will attack before finding out who they’re attacking. To be safe, I’d have to either wait for him to wake up, or speak to him to wake him. But touching him wasn’t a good idea - no matter how much I wanted to fun my fingers down his cheek. Although he looked doll-like, he was a raptor.

I stood and stretched, pulling my body this way and that. My thigh was burning, but it didn’t feel so bad. I pulled down my pants to make a visual inspection, and the bullet wound was relatively small. It wasn’t red or enflamed, at least not yet. It hadn’t even bled much.

I thanked whatever gods were looking out for me, got myself back together, and went back out to the living room.

I found Armin lying on the couch, dozing. Mikasa had clearly taken one of the other bedrooms. After driving all night long, I hoped she was fast asleep.

I, however, was fucking starving. I don’t know how no one had mentioned it before, but none of us had eaten since before attempting to break Levi out of jail. We’d eaten a paltry meal in the evening, then been awake all night long, and fallen asleep after 8 am. Breakfast had just not happened.

I’m not like a crazy big eater or anything, but when I skip meals, my body makes me know about it. I don’t sleep well on an empty stomach.

So I went rummaging around through the kitchen.

Whoever had stocked this place up for us had left some fruit, and there were some vegetables in the fridge. I also found some rice on the counter. I didn’t trust the meat that was in there, but I figured I could cook up a nice stir fry, and keep the veggies on the heat long enough to kill any bacteria that might be in the water.

I set the pot to boil the rice on the stove, then went about cutting the veggies. I hummed to myself a little to keep occupied, and then got everything cooking nicely.

I was a cook out of necessity, rather than one out of sheer joy. When Mikasa and I had moved out on our own, she was a horrible cook, so naturally the cooking fell to me. She did most of the cleaning up, so it worked out okay.

Half an hour later, I had a good lunch of stir fry and rice ready to go. I dished myself up a bowl and had at it, moaning in relief as the food hit my growling stomach. “Thank God.”

Not long thereafter, there was a knocking on the door, then without waiting for a response, two tall guys bustled in. One was really tall, brawny, brown-haired, with scary mean-looking eyes. The other was also tall, but with floppy, dark blonde hair that was falling into his eyes, and a ridiculously large nose.

The guy with the big nose came straight into the kitchen, leaned up behind me, and sniffed me.

“Hey!” I said, pushing him away.

“Hmmmm,” was all he said.

The mean-looking one dished himself a bowl of lunch, and said, “Ignore him. He does that to everyone. Where’s Levi?”

I pointed to the back. “First door. He’s fast asleep, this whole thing has taken quite a toll on him.”

“He’s injured, right?”

I nodded.

Meanie gestured with his chin to Big Nose, and Big Nose waved and went in the back to check on him, presumably.

“So, are you Gunther, or Mike?” I asked him.

“Gunther.”

I finished my food, and rummaged around in the fridge for something to drink. I found some bottled water that I prayed was safe. “How long have you been with the military?”

“Long enough,” he grunted.

He seemed determined not to talk with me. I just decided to ignore him.

Mike soon joined us in the kitchen, and sat at the table with us. I tried to ignore the fact that Levi had been laid out bleeding on this table not long ago. I’d cleaned it off as best I could.

Mike leaned his nose down and smelled the table. Then nodded to himself.

“So how old are you kids? Like 15?” Gunther said suddenly.

“No!” I stared at him. “We’re 22. Well, I’m 22, Armin’s 21, Mikasa’s 23.”

“Armin’s the one on the couch?” Gunther continued questioning me.

I didn’t think he’d noticed. “Yeah.”

“Where’s this Mikasa?”

I jerked my head toward the hallway. “Sleeping in another bedroom. She drove us all night long to get here.”

Gunther was looking me up and down, and he didn’t look impressed. Finally, he said, “I have a hard time believing you squirts broke Levi out of there all on your own.”

I bit my lip and looked away, thinking of Levi’s injury. And my own, which I had decidedly ignored. “Not without incident, unfortunately.”

Gunther turned to look at Mike. “Levi okay?”

Mike just smiled enigmatically.

“So… what now?” I asked after a while.

Gunther shrugged. “Now, we wait. Hopefully soon, we get evac instructions. Mike and I will be the only ones to leave the house from now on. You can’t be risked to be seen. We will gather supplies, have a rotation to watch out for trouble. You little kids can just sit back and relax.”

I frowned at being called a kid, but forced myself to ignore it. “Great,” I said instead.


——


Since I’d now eaten, I was becoming sleepy again. So I went back to where Levi was resting.

Levi was pale, with a thin sheen of sweat on his face. When I touched him, he was warm. Was he developing a fever? Even if he was, was there anything we could do about it?

I went to get a cloth from the bathroom, and drenched it in cold water. Then I wrung it out, and brought it back to Levi’s bedside. I lay down next to him, and used it to wipe down his neck, his chest. I ran it over his arms, then I went back and rinsed it out again, and repeated the procedure.

When I touched Levi’s head again, his temperature had gone down somewhat. Maybe it was just the heat in the house making him so warm. I folded the cloth and laid it on his forehead.

Then I stretched out next to him, lying on my side with my head pillowed on my arm. I watched him for a while, then I let myself close my eyes.


——


When I next woke up, it was from the bed dipping down on the other side. I peeked open my eye, and saw Levi gingerly sitting up.

“Need help?” I asked groggily.

Levi waved my help away. “I just have to take a piss.”

I could hear the sound of it - did he not even close the door to the bathroom? When he didn’t come back for a while, I stood up and went to find him.

Levi was standing in front of the mirror, turning his arm around and getting a look. There was a graze wound from a bullet, and it was a little pink. “I wish we could get some antibiotic cream for this. The one on my face, too.” He looked up in the mirror and prodded the wound on his face. “Wouldn’t it be funny if the wound in my stomach was fine, but I got an infection in one of these other cuts and got septic from it?”

I smiled wryly, propping up against the door. “Funny is one word for it.”

Levi patted me on the arm as he brushed past me.

I followed him as he went into the living room. He raised an arm to wave at Gunther, Mike, Armin, and Mikasa, who were playing cards at the dining table. “Will one of you assholes run to the pharmacy and get some antiseptic cream?”

Mike came over, and took a look at Levi’s arm. “Hmm. Good idea.”

He went to grab his wallet, and was out the door in a flash.

“Want to join us?” Armin asked.

Levi shook his head. “I need to take a shower. I stink.”

“You sure that’s a good idea?” Gunther asked.

Levi nodded, rubbing his arm under the wound. “I need to get clean. I’ll just get one of you guys to redo the dressing afterwards. Where are the antibiotics?”

Mikasa hopped up and got them. Levi took twice the dosage again. Then he turned to me. “You, too.”

“Why me?” I asked, confused.

Levi looked at me with a furrowed brow, like I was stupid. “Because you got shot, shitface.”

I had totally forgotten. My leg hardly hurt at all. I looked down, surprised. “Oh, right.”

Levi tossed me the pill bottle, and I caught it mid-air. I took the pills, like he said.

“Eren, come with me, I’ll take a look at it.”

I followed Levi back into the bedroom. Why was I nervous, all of a sudden? Because I knew he was going to ask me to—

“Take off your pants, Eren,” he said slowly, like he was talking to an idiot.

—Yeah, that.

I took off my pants, dropping them to the floor. Levi stared at them where they lay on the ground pointedly, so I picked them up and folded them. “Satisfied?”

Levi snorted. He then came to kneel in front of me, examining my thigh. “I can see where the bullet went in,” he said, and looked around the back, “and where it came out. Strange, though.”

“What?” I asked. I was looking at the top of his head, and I had to visibly stop myself from running my hand through his hair.

He touched my leg, his fingers grazing lightly close to the wound. He pulled at it, gently, but it didn’t really hurt at all. “Huh,” he said, dumbfounded. “It’s like you have a week’s worth of healing, all in a matter of a day.”

“Really? I mean, I’ve always been a quick healer, but I didn’t realize it was anything special.”

Levi stood up, wincing. “What I wouldn’t give for that ability.” He clutched at his side. “Ugh.”

I couldn’t help it, I reached out and ran my hand through his hair, gripping his neck. I rubbed the back of his neck, making him moan a little and bite his lip. “Sure you don’t want some help?”

Levi let me rub his neck for a little while, his head sinking forward. “Umm.”

I dug my thumbs into the pressure points on his trapezoids, and he fell forward, his forehead propping against my shoulder. Then I ran my thumbs up his neck, and scraped my fingers along the back of his head.

“Eren?” he murmured.

“Yeah,” I said as I ran my hands down his shoulders.

“I want it,” he said breathlessly. “But not like this. Not here. And I still smell like gas. I just want to get clean. Okay?”

I tilted his head back with my thumbs and looked in his eyes. His pupils were dilated, and his breathing slow. He could probably fall asleep again. I wanted to kiss him, but I knew he didn’t want me to.

I slowly stepped back, letting my arms drop. I gave him a small smile. “Okay.”

He nodded to himself, then turned slowly and walked away.


——


I tried not to get bored over the next day while we waited. We played cards, we read books, we told ghost stories, we cooked, we slept, but all in all, we did absolutely nothing. Levi was asleep most of the time, or lying down at least. The rest of us were just slowly going stir-crazy.

There was one point when Mike was out at the store, and Gunther was taking a nap, when Mikasa, Armin, and I had a few moments to ourselves, sitting around on the couches together. I was tucked in the middle, Armin at my side, Mikasa facing us on the chair next to us.

“So. Was it worth it?” Mikasa asked, her eyes unreadable.

“Coming out here, you mean?” I asked. She nodded.

I looked from her, to Armin next to me, who wouldn’t meet my eyes, then down to my hands that were clasped in my lap. I wasn’t sure if they were angry with me, or just shell-shocked from the whole experience. Armin looked badly shaken. Mikasa was just… Mikasa. She was unreadable. She would follow me to hell and back again if I asked her to.

“I know I put you in danger. You’re my best friends. I’ve been unfair, I know that. But… no. I don’t regret it.”

I looked up at her, my eyes somewhere between guilty and defiant. She just stared back at me.

Armin stirred next to me, tucking his hands under his legs. “You really care for him, don’t you?”

I looked away, embarrassed. “Yeah, I do.”

When I felt them looking at me, I know they needed more of an explanation. Mikasa had her eyebrow raised, like she didn’t quite believe me.

I sighed. “I know you guys think I don’t even know him. And you’re not wrong. In the beginning, he was just a hero of mine, someone I’d seen from afar once and admired. But when I met him, I realized that he was a person just like you and me. He fought at the same club. Drank the same water. Sweat, bled, got angry.”

I shook my head and bit my lip. “I just feel like they used him. They sent him out here, and then they left him to die when his usefulness ran out. You don’t just do that to a person, a human being. Even his best friends… they put their duty first, before their friendship. I didn’t want him to die like that, alone. I wanted him to know that I cared. That I’d come for him.

“I wish I didn’t have to involve you guys, but I couldn’t do it on my own. Together, we’re strong.”

Mikasa reached out her hand and gripped mine. “I’ll always be there for you, Eren. You were there for me when I needed you. I just want you to really think about what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it. Don’t blindly walk into something you don’t really want.”

My mind was buzzing. Were my feelings so clear on my face? I wasn’t really ready to tell her yet. But was she telling me she already knew?

As if reading my mind, Armin said, “You have feelings for him, don’t you?”

I drew in a sharp breath. But even though I may have been ready to put this conversation off, now that it was here, I wouldn’t lie. I wasn’t a liar. “I feel as though it would be so easy for me to fall in love with him,” I confessed in a whisper.

“Is that wise?” Mikasa asked quietly.

I shrugged, taking a deep breath.

“Wise or not, he can’t stop it,” Armin said with finality.

I leaned my head back against the back of the couch and groaned.


——


Levi managed to come and sit down on the couch with us that night. Mike brought back some nice vegetables and potatoes and I cooked again, Armin helping me with the chopping. Levi raised an eyebrow when he saw me cooking, as though surprised I could do it. I blushed a little, hoping he liked my food. I tried to prepare myself for his scorn if the food didn’t taste good.

“He’s actually decent in the kitchen,” Gunther commented while playing around with his phone.

“Hmm,” Mike agreed, sniffing the scents coming from the kitchen.

Mikasa just sat there, tossing a knife in her hand, over and over again.

I made eggplant parmesan, with rice and grilled herb potatoes. I dished everything out on plates and we ate informally around the coffee table.

I watched Levi carefully to see his reaction. He put the bite in his mouth, savoured it. Closed his eyes. Then looked up at me. When he saw me watching him, his eyes crinkled, just a touch, then he looked to the side. “Not bad.”

I flushed with warmth. My efforts had been worth it. I dug into my own food with gusto.

After we ate, we all sat around looking at each other. It seemed we had run out of stuff to talk about.

Gunter clasped his hands behind his head and groaned. “God, I just want to get home so I can fuck my wife.”

Mike laughed aloud at this pronouncement. I eyed Levi, but he had the same bland expression on his face as always.

“What kind of evacuation plan were they working on when you spoke to them last?” he asked.

“Air. Though they were having some trouble getting the private plane on the ground, due to the political situation. So I gather that Erwin had to negotiate some with the local militia,” Gunther explained.

“If you couldn’t get a plane to land here, then how did you two arrive?” Armin asked, curious.

Gunther grinned. “We drove. We caught a plane to Senegal and drove from there.”

Levi nodded, unsurprised. “Did you bring my new papers?”

Gunther closed his eyes, as though bored. “‘Course. Everything’s in order, they’re in my bag.”

“Did they have any intel on these kids?”

Mike shook his head.

Gunther’s phone rang, shrilly, making me jump. Levi caught the action, and I saw his eyes twinkle a little when he looked at me.

Finally,” Gunther exclaimed as he picked up the phone. “What’s the plan,” he said without even saying hello.

I could only hear one side of the conversation, but from the “Yes, okay, got it, we’ll be there”, I guessed they had a plan for us.

Gunther hung up the phone, then grinned a dazzling grin at all of us. “Well guys, looks like I’m going to get laid within the next 24 - 48 hours.”

Mike threw his pillow at Gunther, hitting him in the face.

Chapter Text

I went through my normal routine on the plane, putting on my face mask, dabbing a little mint and aloe on the inside. I had made Mike pick up the supplies for me, shuddering at the prospect of flying without a mask on. I also had him pick up hand sanitizer. Didn’t matter if we were on our private jet or not. I wasn’t taking any chances.

The jet picked us up in a little-used airstrip on the outskirts of the city. There was an official there to stamp our passports. The guys had done a bang-up job of faking a stamp for me on the way in, so there was not much to be suspicious about. What I was really worried about was whether the three brats would have had their identities flagged. Luckily, they weren’t.

The best part of being on the plane was sitting next to Eren. His friends were sitting across from us, and Mike and Gunther across the aisle. To my delight, Nanaba was captaining the plane. When he saw me, he came bounding up, and swept me up into a hug that lifted my feet off the ground. I wouldn’t permit that from just anyone, mind you. But with Nanaba, I guess it was okay.

When he put me back down, I dusted myself off, and cuffed him hard on the arm. He winced, acting all wounded.

Because of his theatrics, I ended up the last one on the plane. Choices were, sit next to Eren, or sit in the row behind, and make myself look like an asshole.

I thought of the crestfallen look he got on his face when I was an asshole.

Fuck it. I frowned, but squeezed in between Eren and the window. Then I put on my mask, and ignored the strange stares from the kids.

I could feel Eren’s heat, even through the hand rest between us. He was like a little oven, and I was always cold, so it was really nice. I shifted towards him a little, wanting more of it, but not wanting to make it obvious.

Eren shifted towards me a little too, though he didn’t look at me. His elbow slid against mine, just touching it. That one point of contact made my face heat up - but with the mask on, luckily, no one could tell.

The kids chatted about this and that, but I ignored them, opting for looking out the window instead. I saw what this place looked like from above - desert that went on and on, beyond what the eye could see. I let thoughts flit about to the French explorers who first came to this place on foot, and claimed it as their own. How easy it was for us now, being able to just parachute in and out whenever we wanted.

I would be perfectly happy if I never had to see another fucking desert. I ached for the beauty of Canada, with its trees, and its lakes, and mountains. As soon as I got back, I vowed to myself that I’d take a week or two and go to the cottage. I needed a way to try and forget the sound of my own screams.

I squeezed my eyes shut, shuddering. Even though I tried not to think about it - and I was an expert on not thinking about things - still sometimes I got this kind of sensory overload. It’s like my body remembered what it was like to be beaten. The shadow-pain would run through my body, as I relived one of those moments, and then all of a sudden it would be over and I’d be back in the present.

Most of the time I was able to let this kind of thing happen without it being apparent to anyone around me. I brushed it off - ‘someone walked over my grave’, as we say.

I was just so fucking tired. I didn’t sleep properly. Half my sleep was full of dreams, dreams of the desert, of the old sandcastle-prison. Dreams of the Big Fuck and Shrimpie, beating me, torturing me. These were only the recent ones. They triggered older dreams, dreams of other missions when shit had gone wrong, dreams of my times in jail, dreams even of my adolescent stint in juvie, dreams of my father beating me senseless.

Sometimes I just felt like there was nothing but shit for me to remember.

Even the happy things, they hurt to remember, too. There had been a guy, once. Someone I’d let myself love. He was in the forces, like me. He’d been killed in Afghanistan. One moment, he was alive and smiling in my arms. The next, he was dead meat, half on this side of the road, half on the other. Car bomb. Those dreams were some of my worst.

I must have fallen asleep, because when I dreamed of him, I jerked upright. I heard a distinct “Oof”, and felt the impact of my head hitting something solid. When I looked around blearily, Eren was next to me rubbing his chin.

Everyone else appeared to be sleeping. I turned to Eren and whispered in his ear, “Did I hit you?”

Eren shook his head. “You had your head on my shoulder. I put my head on yours. When you jerked up, your head hit my chin. Not your fault,” he murmured.

I swore internally. Great, now I was even hurting the kid in my sleep. I was bad news for him. Why didn’t he just stay away from me? I was like a grumpy old man compared to him, and he, well, he was a ray of sunlight peeking through the trees in the forest.

Eren reached out and tugged my hand into his, giving it a squeeze. “It’s okay,” he whispered vehemently.

I shook my head, pressing my mouth into a line. “It’s not okay, Eren. It’s never okay for me to hurt you, whether by accident or not.”

Eren laced our fingers together, and I let him, for the moment. “Don’t worry. I’ll get you back for it. Next time you’re in the ring, I’ll hit you in the face so hard you’ll have a bruise for a week.”

Somehow, that made me want to laugh. That made everything okay. Eren wasn’t a pushover, and he wouldn’t take my shit. I didn’t laugh, but I did snort. I turned my head to look back out the window. But I did give his hand a quick squeeze, before I tugged my hand back and crossed my arms over my chest.

Eren pouted, and leaned over and put his head on my shoulder. I let him. I even let him fall asleep there, and yes, I let him drool on my shirt.

Don’t tell Erwin.


——


We stopped in Germany to refuel the plane. Normally, if one of us were wounded, we would have all stopped there together. But because the kids were with us, I got off the plane alone, and told them to continue without me.

Eren raised a fuss, of course. I ended up pulling him aside, asking the others to give us a minute. I pulled him behind the other side of the plane, where we were more or less hidden, and the sound of planes taking off and landing hid the sound of our voices.

Eren looked at me with big eyes, like he was drowning. God, I didn’t know what to do with that look.

I looked away, since I couldn’t stand to see him look like that. “Eren you don’t have to worry. I’m just stopping here to see the doctor. This is a good place to recuperate, there’s a military hospital, and I can get the treatment I’ll need.”

“What about me?” he said. “I was shot.”

I felt a corner of my mouth turn up in a wry smile. “Yeah, but you’re walking just fine now, aren’t you? Do you really want to spend a week in a hospital if you don’t need to?”

When he didn’t answer, I turned back at him to find him looking at the ground. “I don’t fancy spending a whole week in a hospital, no. But I would like to spend a week with you.”

God, who said shit like that? I punched him in the arm. “Don’t go getting any ideas in that pretty little head of yours.”

Eren rolled his eyes, but he was smiling. “There’s nothing I can say that will allow me to stay here, is there?”

“Nope.”

Eren sighed, shoulders slumping in defeat. “How long will you be here?”

I shrugged. “A few days, a week at most. They’ll have to reopen the wound to check if there’s internal damage. Then stitch it up again. But the bad part will be that they’ll have to pump me full of strong antibiotics, since there are signs of infection. So it all depends on how I react to all that.”

“Will you call me?” he asked in a small voice.

I gave in and looked at his face. His heart was in his eyes again, and it made me feel a pain in my chest. “No phone, remember? They took mine.”

Eren got out a pen from his pocket, and then he took my hand, and wrote his phone number on the inside of my forearm. “Then get one. Please.”

I rolled my eyes. “Fine, whatever. Stop fucking looking at me like that.”

“Like what?”

I waved my hand in his general direction. That.”

Eren made a little noise, but before I could figure out what it meant, he’d swept me up into a powerful hug, his arms tight around me. It hurt a little where it pulled at my stomach, but I didn’t have the heart to tell him, I just wrapped my arms back around him and propped my head on his chest.

We stood like that for a while before I cleared my throat and pushed him away. “Okay, brat. Time to go.” The plane had finished refuelling, as the gas truck was now driving away.

Eren gave me one last look, then he rejoined the others on the other side of the plane, and they walked back up into it. I watched him disappear inside, and the hatch close, and then I walked into the airport. I met an escort on the other side, who collected me in a trolley to go meet up with the military personnel who would bring me to the hospital.

Through the window I could see the plane take off. I waved a little, though I knew he couldn’t see me.


——


Hospitals in Germany are superbly clean. The staff is always efficient. Wait times are minimal.

I’d been in this hospital before. This is where they brought me when I was wounded in Afghanistan. I had taken a bullet through the thigh, near enough the same injury to Eren’s, although I hadn’t walked on it for weeks after it had happened.

The staff was all new. It had been a few years.

They set me up in a private room, and I was left there to rest while they took care of the more urgent injuries before seeing to mine.

I hate that about hospitals. They leave you to ‘rest’, but whenever they want you to rest, you’re not tired. Then when you are actually resting, they keep interrupting you to take your vitals and shit like that. Drove me fucking nuts.

This time was no different. I lay there for ages, with nothing to think about. I flipped through the channels, but my German was rusty at best, so nothing caught my interest on the TV. I had no access to Internet in my room, no phone, no computer, no tablet. It reminded me of being in jail - nothing to fucking do but think.

Every time I thought about Eren, I’d force myself to stop and think about something else. I’d run through the things I needed to do when I got home. Then think about Eren. I wondered how Titan was doing, whether Hanji had overfed him as usual and he’d be plump and flirtatious when I got home. Then I’d think about Eren. I wondered whether my plants had died, or soldiered through my absence. Then I’d think about Eren again, and that look in his eyes, and swear to myself.

Finally the doctor came.

“So, you were stabbed? With what?”

I looked up at him. He was tall, smart-looking, with glasses perched on his nose. “A knife?” I said sarcastically.

The doctor just wrote on the chart. I thought this doctor looked about 20 years old. God, I hoped not. “And what treatment did you have thereafter?”

I sighed. “I did a visual inspection of the wound. With a mirror. When I thought there was no internal bleeding, I had a friend help to stitch me up. I took some over-the-counter antibiotics, but nothing strong enough obviously.”

After finishing writing on the chart, the doctor finally looked me in the eyes. “How do you feel?”

“…Like shit?” I said sarcastically.

The doctor frowned at my crudeness. “I’ll need to arrange for an operating room to remove the stitches, and do a more thorough investigation. We’ll put you under a local anesthesia, how does that sound?”

I smirked. “A lot fucking better than the first time around, when I had no drugs to help with the pain.”

This doctor I swear to God, nothing would make him crack a smile. He just kept frowning at me, but he said, “Very good,” and disappeared without further ado.

I waited another couple of hours before the OR was prepped for me, which all-in-all, wasn’t so bad.

They got me on a table, and draped one of those green sheets over me, and cut a hole in it around where they were cutting me open. Everything was so sterile, so clean, this was so different from my little self-operation on the dining room table.

The operation took only half an hour. They opened my stitches, then opened the wound, and cleaned out the inside. When they were done cleaning it, they closed with a small suture a perforation that I did have on the inside. Then they closed everything back up again. Quick, neat, efficient. It pleased me to have the wound tended to properly.

Then I was back in my room again, pumped full of drugs, and antibiotics, with nothing to do but wait.

I wanted to get that cell phone, but I was in too much discomfort standing right now, so I waited a couple of days. Then I ventured out of the hospital, just to the building next door, and bought a disposable phone.

I shuffled back to the hospital, this time holding onto my side as it hurt like fuck. They had explained to me, though I knew it anyway, that my muscles had been cut through, and it would be weeks before I’d be lifting anything.

I crawled back up into my bed, but not before trying my best to shower. It was awkward and uncomfortable, but I felt the better for having tried.

Finally back in bed, I pulled out the phone, and typed in Eren’s number. It had faded a bit from my forearm, but not so much that I couldn’t still read it.

Then I played with the phone. I tossed it up and down, then tossed it from hand to hand. I turned it on, turned it off again. I dialled his number half a dozen times, and cancelled before letting it go through.

I agonized over whether continuing to lead Eren on was the right thing to do. I was so much older than him. I was jaded. I was broken. He was none of those things. I didn’t want to contaminate him.

Finally, though, what convinced me was the look in his eyes before he’d left. He’d looked as though he’d die if he didn’t see me again. He looked as though I was cutting off his limb by asking him to leave. I could recognize desperation when I saw it. Plus, he’d come all that way, to a foreign continent, to a dismal place, into a dangerous situation, all for me. The least I could do was call him, for fuck’s sake.

Angry with myself, I finally dialled the number and hit send.

Eren picked up on the fourth ring, when I was just about to hang up. He sounded breathless, and said, “Hello?”

The sound of his voice punched me in the gut. I didn’t realize how much I’d missed it, even though we hadn’t been apart for long. Somehow, it seemed as though we’d been apart forever.

“Uh… hi,” I said haltingly.

“Levi! Thank God, I thought you were never going to call.” He sounded so happy, it hit me in the gut again. I wished I could see the look on his face.

“Yeah, well, I’ve been busy,” I said drily.

“How did it go?”

I touched my belly and flinched. It still felt raw. “Good. They reopened it, cleaned it out, blah blah blah. I’m on the heavy antibiotics for at least another couple of days, then I can go onto pills and come home.”

“Yeah?” He sounded so hopeful. “Will I be able to see you?”

I bit my lip. “…Do you want to see me?”

“Hell yes!” he said right away.

I sighed. “Eren, why do you even care? I mean, I’m so much older than you, and there have to be people around your own age…”

“Shut up.”

I blinked. “What?”

Eren literally growled. “I said shut up. I don’t want to hear you say anything negative about yourself. That’s such bullshit. You have no idea how I feel about you. So don’t cheapen it by trying to deflect me.”

“How do you feel about me?” I asked, then followed quickly with, “You know what, don’t answer that. I don’t want to know.”

“You sure about that?” he said, out of breath.

I cursed and flopped back bonelessly on the bed. “Yeah. I’m not ready for this, Eren. I mean, I like you. I think you’re… well, you’re not bad. But that doesn’t mean I’m ready to change my life for you.”

“Did I ask you to?” he said, angry.

“Look, this is what happens when I talk to people on the phone. It all comes out wrong and then you’ll fucking hate me. If we’re going to have this conversation, we should have it face-to-face.”

Eren snorted. Then said, “Agreed.”

“What are you doing, anyway? You’re all out of breath.”

Eren laughed. “I’m playing basketball at the youth centre. I volunteer here sometimes, try to mentor youth at risk. There’s a few kids here on a downwards spiral. I know what that feels like, so I try to help in any way I can.”

I blinked. My eyes felt scratchy. “That’s… amazing, Eren.”

“Yeah well, after my mom was killed, and my dad ran away, Mikasa and I had to fend for ourselves. But there was a lot of support from the youth centre, so we did all right in the end.”

Eren had never told me his story before. I think he forgot that, in that moment, because he just said it as though rehashing events I knew already. I felt my chest tighten, as I thought of Eren and Mikasa alone, trying to feed themselves, clothe themselves, go to school.

“How old were you? When she died?”

Eren sat down and let a breath out. “Eleven.” Eren paused, like he was hiding something. Then he just skipped it and moved on. “Mikasa and I stayed in an orphanage until we were fifteen. Then we got in early at the youth centre, we used to go there all the time after school.”

I felt a piece of my cold heart break off for that kid. Even though we were thousands of kilometres apart, I felt like Eren and I were only now just starting to get to know each other.

“I was an orphan, too,” I found myself saying. “But I never went through the system. My dad… well, he was a mean fucker. He used to take off all the time, and leave me on my own. My mother was long gone, I never knew her. Finally I ended up in a gang.”

“A proper gang?” Eren sounded surprised.

I blew out a breath. “Well, more like a group of like-minded kids, all getting ourselves in trouble. We lived in this place we carved out for ourselves in the underground. We ruled like kings down there. We did these murals in spray paint all over the place, we stole food regularly. We were squeegee kids for a while, making money by wiping the grime off cars. But it was never enough. I landed up in juvie when I was 14 for stealing.”

“Mmmm. I’m glad I never got into trouble like that.”

“Yeah well, I’m like a magnet for trouble.”

Eren laughed at that, and the sound of it made me feel lighter than air. “I can see that. So, how’d you end up in the military?”

I snorted again. “Erwin recruited me. He caught me stealing again, and gave me two options. Either he’d call the cops, or I’d come train to be a junior cadet. In the end, option number two seemed the more appealing.”

“And? Are you happy with your choice?”

I pinched the bridge of my nose. “Jesus, Eren. Way to ask a fucking philosophical question.” After thinking about it for a moment, I said what had always been my motto. “I don’t go back and do what-ifs. I don’t question my choices. Thing is, once you make a choice, and there’s an outcome, you can never know what the outcome of other choices may have been. They could have been better or worse, but you’re only living one life, so you might as well own it.”

“Like, own your choices?”

I nodded though he couldn’t see me. “No regrets.”

He made a noise of disbelief. “You’re telling me you have no regrets?”

I thought about it. About my lover, who’d been killed in front of me. But what other choice would I have made? Not to love him? Who could know whether it would have been better or worse? He might still be dead, but instead he’d have died a virgin, and would that have been better? Finally, I said, “No regrets, kid. No apologies either.”

Eren laughed. “You apologized to me once.”

“Yeah, well, don’t count on it again.” I nearly hung up to him without saying goodbye, but at the last second, I held back, and said, “See you soon, kid.”

I didn’t wait for his answer.

Chapter Text

Hanji was the one who spilled the beans to me about what flight Levi was on. She confessed to me that she’d told Erwin that she’d pick Levi up, but then called me and asked if I wanted to do it instead. She said something about forgetting to water the plants.

Hell yes, I said.

So here I was, standing in the airport, waiting while a sea of passengers unloaded and walked past me. I kept hopping up to see better, eager to get a first look at him after the week since we’d been separated.

I almost mistook Levi for a kid when he came out. He looked so short, so small, next to all the other people walking out. He was dressed in jeans and a black v-neck shirt, carrying nothing with him but a small vanity bag. No doubt he had hand sanitizer, a toothbrush and toothpaste, soap, and shampoo with him. Oh and his face mask too, probably. The thought made me smile.

I waved at him, and he stopped short, still on the other side of the security door. I couldn’t exactly run up and grab onto him, much though I wanted to.

The look on his face was grave, I thought. Was he mad? His eyes were unreadable. Oh crap, I hope he wasn’t mad.

When he finally came to my side, he approached me slowly. When I made to hug him, he held me back with a hand planted in my chest. I stopped immediately.

“Hey,” he said, looking down.

“Hey,” I said back, worried. “Was your flight okay?”

He nodded, looking around. “Where’s Hanji? I was told she was going to pick me up.”

I wrung my hands together. “Um, she sent me instead. Is that okay?”

Levi started walking towards the exit. “Sure. Did you drive or do we cab it?”

“I drove,” I said, hurrying to catch up with him.

Levi was silent the rest of the way to the car. Once we were in the parking structure, I led him to my car, and then I unlocked it. But Levi was standing a few paces away, looking at my car with a strange look on his face.

“What is that,” he said finally.

I looked down at my car. “It’s a 76 Pinto. Candy apple red. Fully restored.” I inspected it. I thought it looked clean, I’d certainly given it the Levi Special in preparation for taking him for a ride. I’d vacuumed it, washed the windows inside and out, hand washed the outside, scrubbed the interior. I’d even hung up a vanilla-scented air freshener from the rearview mirror, the thing smelled great. “What’s wrong with it?”

Levi crossed his arms over his chest. “Is that thing even safe?”

I stood back up to my full height, exasperated. “Of course it is. I mean, it doesn’t have airbags or crash zones or anything like that. But it’s got seat belts.”

Levi scrunched up his nose. “Did you get that thing secondhand? I wonder how many asses have sat on those seats.”

I literally threw my hands up in the air. “Jesus do you need the whole history of the world before you’ll put your tush on any seat?” At Levi’s stubborn silence, I said, “Fine. I bought it at a junkyard for 500 bucks. Back then its seats were ripped to smithereens, it had no paint on, a pathetically old set of tires, and was a pile of junk. But the engine was sound, so I called that a win.

“I then spent the next five years fixing it up with whatever spare money I had. I replaced the seats. I painted it. I replaced the panels on the interior. Installed a new sound system. Replaced the belts. New tires. New brakes. New suspension. Good enough for you?”

Levi’s expression had gotten more and more mild as I went on, until his arms uncrossed and he tried to open his door. But of course it was still locked. I cursed and slid in my seat, and then reached out my arm to unlock his door from the inside.

When Levi finally sat down, tucking his vanity bag in his lap, he looked around the interior of the car like a dog on the scent. He even wiped his finger underneath the dashboard, but when it came out free of dust and grime, he finally grunted in the affirmative. “Not bad.”

I let out an exasperated sigh and clicked on my seatbelt, then started the car. The car buzzed to life, with its typical muscle-car sound that was like music to my ears. Even if I had a million dollars tomorrow, I wouldn’t trade in my old pinto for anything.

Levi leaned back in his seat, tipping his head back. After I pulled out onto the highway, I said, “So where is your place anyway? Hanji didn’t tell me.”

“It’s on Notre Dame, sort of between downtown and Old Montreal. Just head for downtown and I’ll direct you from there.”

Levi closed his eyes a bit, so I had a chance to look at his profile. Then he startled, and from then on spent the whole time looking out the window. It was like he was re-memorizing the route, he was scrutinizing everything so carefully.

I wanted to reach out and touch him, to reassure myself that he was really here, but he just seemed so far away. I wanted to know what he was thinking, but it felt like it would be intruding.

Finally, to make conversation, I asked him, “How is your stomach?”

He sighed. “Well, I don’t heal as fast as you do, brat. But it’s much better than last week. I still can’t move around too much without it hurting, though, cause everything pulls those damned core muscles.”

“Yeah,” I said grimly. “This much I know from my physiotherapy courses. Core strength is key. You look like you might have gained a little weight back though. You seem a lot healthier.”

Levi rubbed his hands on his jeans. “I guess so. I haven’t had much of an appetite, but anything beats the shit they were feeding me in Mali.”

He finally turned to look at me, and it was like I could feel his eyes on my face, it was magnetic. It was like his gaze got hooked there, and when he turned away, it felt like he had to force himself. “Turn here,” he said.

From then on out, it was him directing me to his place. We finally pulled up in front of a high building.

“Sorry there’s no guest parking around here,” he said when we arrived. He clutched his vanity bag, as though indecisive about something.

“Oh,” I said, trying not to sound too crestfallen. He wanted me to go, didn’t he? After all this time, I’d been so excited to see him. He must have done some thinking in Germany and realized we were better off as friends, I guess. Or no, maybe he didn’t even want to be friends? My stomach dropped out from under me. God, I hoped not. “Well, I’m glad you’re all right,” I squeaked out in a tiny voice.

Levi had his eyes shut tight, then he let out a sigh to end all sighs. “There’s a lot just around the corner, if you can’t find parking. It’s not too expensive, only 10 bucks for the day. Do you want to come up?”

I went from zero to a hundred in two seconds flat. “Yes!”

Levi snorted, and then directed me to the lot. When it was time to pay the attendant, he shifted uncomfortably, and said, “I’d pay but I don’t have my things yet… I’ll need to get new cards, to take out money. I have a stash upstairs, I can pay you back.”

I dished out the ten dollars, laughing. “Levi, chill. It’s okay, I can afford ten bucks. It’s worth it if I can spend some time with you.”

Levi paused for a second, chewing on that, then he spun on his heel. I had to jog again to catch up with him.

Luckily Levi’s doorman recognized him, and no awkward explanations were needed for why he was missing his fob to get in the door. He said to him, “Jerry, this is Eren. Eren, meet Jerry.”

I gave him a little wave, but Levi tugged my sleeve to pull me along after him. When we got to the elevator, he pushed one of the higher floors. When we arrived at his door, I saw that he actually had a keypad instead of a lock with a key. He punched in a set of numbers, and the lock slid open.

“Handy,” I whistled.

Levi shrugged. “It’s not standard issue. I had it installed after I lost my keys the tenth time. Now I can come and go as I please, without needing to worry about having keys on me. Take off your shoes.”

Levi had stepped out of his own shoes, and lined them up neatly on a mat near the wall. I took mine off and placed them just as neatly next to his.

Levi called out, “Hello?”

I wondered who he was talking to, but next thing I knew a bloody jungle cat came bounding around the corner. Okay, maybe not a jungle cat, but he was the biggest freaking house cat I’d ever seen. He was almost bigger than Levi when he stretched out, rolling on the floor so that Levi could scratch his belly. His belly was splattered with white, as were the tips of his paws, but the rest of him was all black.

Levi was murmuring nothings to the cat, and rubbing his belly, scratching behind his ears. When Titan butted up against him, Levi growled out, “I’m not allowed to pick you up for another five weeks. Can you believe that? But you’ll have to put up with it, Titan.”

The whole scene was so domestic, it was pretty much the anti-thesis of what I associated with Levi, and it made me kind of melt inside. Levi might be harsh, he might be stone-faced, but inside there was something tender in him, and it came out in moments like this, behind closed doors.

Levi finally stood back up, and when he wobbled a little I grabbed his elbow, just to steady him. He muttered thanks, and moved into the place.

He started by inspecting the place from top to bottom. He led me to the kitchen, and tsk’ed at the food scattered around the cat bowl. I found the dustpan and cleared it up for him. He checked out the flawless black marble bathroom, and opened Titan’s litter box and found there were some little presents left there for him, which he promptly fished out, dumped in the toilet, and washed away. He then went to the bedroom, and I helped him pull the black sheets off a bed that looked way too big for him. I piled the sheets into the washer, and got that going. Then lastly, we went out to the living room. Levi muttered something about the whole place needing a vacuuming, and I actually managed to convince him to sit down and take a load off and let me do it.

He stopped me only twice, telling me to put the different ends on so that I could get into those little nooks and crannies that were hard to reach. Without him asking me to, I got out the all-purpose cleaner and wiped down the counters in the kitchen and the bathroom, then quickly wiped the tables down with the wood cleaner. It took only five minutes, and Levi’s eyes tracked mine the whole time, but after I washed my hands and plopped down next to him on the couch, I could see he was infinitely more relaxed.

Levi was watching me, his gaze intense. I looked right back at him, deciding to try waiting it out to see if he’d give away his thoughts.

“That was really nice of you,” he said finally.

I shrugged and leaned back, getting comfortable. “It’s nothing. It’s probably not a good idea for you to be bending over doing a lot of vacuuming right now, and I don’t mind.”

He pursed his lips. “I guess I won’t vacuum every day. Once every 3 or 4 days should be okay.”

“You normally vacuum every day?” I goggled at him.

Levi gave me a bland stare. “Why, how often do you do it?”

“Like… once a week?”

Levi snorted and crossed his arms over his chest, as though I had revealed myself to be some kind of pig or something. I could tell right away that he was a neat freak, but this was like to the nth degree. I was starting to psychoanalyze him, thinking about what it was that motivated the cleanliness. Whether it was some form of OCD brought on as a coping mechanism for the brutality of his job. But then all of a sudden my flow of thoughts was cut off when Levi scooted closer to me and tipped his thigh out so that our knees knocked together. That one point of contact burned like fire inside me.

“I wanted to explain something,” he started hesitantly, then stopped.

“Go on,” I urged him.

“In the airport… It’s not that I wasn’t excited to see you. That I’m not excited to see you,” he corrected, slanting his gaze over to look at me, then away. “It’s just that I’m not a fan of PDA.”

“Public displays of affection?” I clarified, to be sure. When he nodded, I asked, “What constitutes PDA for you?”

“You know, the usual. Kissing, holding hands. Hugging. Touching of any kind, really.”

Hugging?” That was the first time I’d heard of someone who didn’t like to hug in public. “Really?”

Levi nodded, looking down at his hands. “I know I’m weird, but I have my reasons. I don’t want anyone to know what I feel for anyone else. My feelings are my own, they’re private. Besides, in my job, anyone who is close to me is a liability. You could be targeted if someone thinks I like you.”

Pushing past all of Levi’s awkwardness, and his halting explanation, my mind zeroed in on the last bit like a hound going in for the kill. “You… like me?”

Levi flushed. His cheeks actually went a little pink, it was the first time I’d seen it, and I wanted to touch them to see if they were warm but I held back. He finally growled, “Isn’t that obvious?”

I grinned. I knew I must look ridiculous, my mouth was wide enough to split my face, but I couldn’t help it. I felt like I was puffed full of hot air. “Well, we’re not in public now, are we?” I said in a low voice. I scooted just a little closer, so our thighs were pressed together along the whole length of our legs.

Levi held me back with a hand on my chest. “Down, boy. I might have said I liked you, but I haven’t decided what to do about it yet. It’s still a terrible idea,” he said with a grimace.

“What? Why?” I thought if I could strike down all his complaints, then just maybe he might let me kiss him. I wanted to kiss him. Oh, god, did I want to kiss him.

“Well, I’m way older than you.”

I scoffed. “Well let’s get that straight right now. I don’t care.”

Levi rolled his eyes. “You might not care right now, but…”

“Nope. Not going to happen. Not an objection. Next?”

Levi punched his own leg. “My job.”

I laughed at that. “I just followed you all the way to Mali and back again, and you still think your job will bother me?”

“I’ll be gone a lot. And I’ll be going into dangerous situations. It won’t be easy.”

I reached my arm out and stretched it along the back of the couch, playing with the nape of his neck. He shivered under my touch. “Let’s take it as we go. You don’t know what’s going to happen on that front, your job description could change, or mine could. But I’m here for you if you need me. I’d go to the ends of the world and back, if you need me.”

Levi closed his eyes at that, and let out a small smile, just crinkling up the edges of his mouth. “Yeah, you would,” he agreed.

“Other objections?” I asked while I started digging my fingers deeper into his neck, giving him a bit of a massage.

“Umm…. Uh, your friends… Your friends don’t like me,” he said, biting his lip as I found a tender spot.

“They do. They will, when they get to know you.”

Levi’s head fell forward, giving me more room. I reached out to him with both hands, and he turned his back to me, which to me was giving me permission. I worked his neck, and his traps, and I dug my fingers into the backs of his shoulder blades, but his shirt got in the way.

He groaned and said, “Why are you so good that this?”

I laughed and kissed the back of his neck, which made him go stiff. “Physiotherapist, remember?” I tugged at his shirt. “Can this come off?”

Levi tugged the hem down, holding it in place. “Probably not such a good idea, Eren. I’m not…”

I shushed him. “I know you’re not fit for sex right now. Trust me, Levi, I know what a gut injury does to you. Just let me pamper you a little bit. I’ll massage your back for you, get all the tension out. Then you’ll sleep like a baby, I promise.”

Levi didn’t look at me. “Yeah? I haven’t slept like a baby in… oh, I don’t know how long.”

I nuzzled the back of his neck. “Trust me. I’ll stay with you, if you want. While you sleep. No bad intentions, I promise.”

He sighed. “I need a shower,” he said in a small voice.

I sighed too, and dropped my head on his back. “No, you don’t. You had one before you left Germany, didn’t you?”

“That was 12 hours and a plane ride ago,” Levi mumbled. “Don’t wanna get in bed without a shower.”

I tried to hold back my frustration. I just squeezed his arm. “Okay. I’ll get the sheets in the dryer while you take a shower. Do you need help?”

Levi shook his head. He stood, a little wobbly maybe, but he was on his feet. He looked back at me, and gave me a deep look, then ghosted his fingers on my arm and walked out.

I got up and put the sheets in the dryer, and fumbled around in the kitchen to get myself a glass of water. Then I went back to the couch and flopped down. At least I had taken a shower, only an hour before going to pick Levi up.

I spent the half hour browsing funny cat pictures on Tumblr. Then, when the dryer beeped to notify me the sheets were ready, I took them out and re-dressed the bed, trying carefully to get it just the way I’d seen it when I’d arrived. After the bed was made, I realized it must have been forty minutes Levi had been in the shower.

I knocked on the door of the shower, not wanting to disturb his privacy, but worried for him. “You okay in there, Levi? Just want to make sure you didn’t fall asleep or anything.”

The water turned off. “I’m all right,” he called out. I heard a cabinet door opening, and some shuffling around, then Levi opened the door and emerged in nothing but a black towel slung low on his hips.

Levi still had water droplets clinging to his hair, and running down his neck. His skin was pale, and when I looked down, I saw his flat, pink rosebud nipples, the same colour as his lips. I wanted to reach out and touch them, lick them into my mouth, but I surged back instead, out of his way. It only gave me a better view of his taut muscles, his toned stomach and arms. He had scars here and there, but they were hardly noticeable, just divots of shinier white skin.

Levi brushed past me, stopped when he saw the bed made, then continued. He opened his drawer and pulled out a pair of boxer briefs, and with his back to me dropped the towel and slipped the briefs on. I had forgotten about Levi’s total utter lack of modesty. However I wasn’t going to knock it, as it gave me the ability to admire the curve of his ass, and the play of his leg muscles as he stepped into his underwear. I gulped, and felt myself harden with just the idea of being able to touch him.

I turned around quickly, berating myself internally for looking. Even if Levi was interested - which was still unclear - he was injured, right now. I was only allowed to touch him platonically. That’s right, platonically. Dick, go down!!

While I was still arguing with myself, Levi brushed past me again, and said, “Since I can’t lie on my stomach, maybe couch is a better idea. I can prop myself up against the arm of the couch.”

“Sh…sure,” I mumbled, following him back into the living room.

Levi sat down on the couch, and beckoned me to sit behind him. I hoped he didn’t notice my erection as I sat down. His back was to me, and his skin was like alabaster, smooth and soft over hard, unyielding muscles.

I tried to put on my professional hat as I ran my hands up his back. I let my fingers dig into his neck, like I had before. I rubbed the sides of his neck, then ran my thumbs down the back. I dug my thumbs into the meat of his traps, and he let out a little sound at that.

The sound went straight to my traitorous, juvenile dick. I looked down at it as though staring at it would force it to go back down again, but it’s like it was laughing up at me.

I ran my hands around to the front of Levi’s neck, and splayed my hands on his collarbones. He held a lot of tension in the front of his neck, so I worked that for a while, and Levi started to list forward, propping against the arm of the couch.

I then let my hands drift to his arms. I squeezed his deltoids, kneading the tops of his shoulders. I found a pressure point in the front of his shoulders, and worked it gently until he let out another sound. Then I squeezed his arms, down his triceps, his forearms, until I ran my hands over his hands, my front pressing into his back as I did so.

That momentary contact was electrifying, so I jerked back and took a deep breath. Levi turned his head to glance back at me, his eyes heavy-lidded. He looked me up and down, and I’m sure he knew what I was thinking about when he raised an eyebrow at me.

“Sorry,” I muttered. I adjusted myself, like that would help, and then I ran my hands down his back again, this time all the way down to his lower back, finding out the knots along the way. I worked out as many as I could find, taking my time, and sure enough, Levi’s body went lax. Like I had promised him, he would be so loose tonight he was bound to sleep like a baby.

I just wanted one little touch, I told myself. Just one, to take home with me. I hooked my arms under his shoulders, and pulled him back so he was resting on my completely. He tilted his eyes lazily up at me, and I looked down at him, my eyes blazing. I was careful to avoid pulling his front, but I did ghost my hand up his stomach, to palm his pectoral in my hand, and squeezed. His eyes drifted shut as his head lolled on my shoulder, and he leaned in to press his lips against my neck.

At that small touch of his lips, my cock flared to life harder than ever, and I knew it was jabbing Levi in the backside but he didn’t seem to care. I let my fingers drift over his nipple, and when they brushed over it, it perked up and tightened. I gently pinched it between my fingers, and Levi let out a soft groan.

“Is this part of your normal professional massage?” Levi asked, half-asleep.

I rolled the nub between my fingers, and inhaled the fresh apple scent of his hair. I then couldn’t help rolling my hips, just a little. “No,” I murmured.

Levi sat up slowly, clutching his side with his hand. Then he turned to look at me, and his pupils were blown, his hair mussed. His lips were red where he’d bitten them. “Eren,” he said warningly.

“Yeah?” I breathed out.

“Fuck it,” he growled, and snapped forward.

I wasn’t expecting it when Levi reached out a hand, and twisted it painfully into my hair, tilting my head back and exposing my throat. He leaned in and kissed me there, his mouth nibbling, and he inhaled the scent on my skin. Then he took my head in both his hands, crawled fully into my lap, sliding his legs on either side of my hips. He looked down at me, and I drowned in his gaze as he closed the distance between us.

Levi brought our lips together roughly, his breath harsh against mine. He sunk onto me, his body falling into me, as our mouths melded as though they were meant to fit together.

I clutched his hips in my hands, to hold him steady, as he nipped at my lips, and sucked my bottom lip into his mouth. When I was about dying of frustration, he finally opened up, and touched his tongue to mine.

Oh, God, yes. However much I’d dreamed of kissing Levi, doing it was so much better. His tongue slanted against mine, teasingly, then he’d pull back and kiss my lips. Then his tongue would be back again, and each time our tongues rubbed together, it was like liquid velvet in my mouth. He played this game, chasing me, then pulling back, then he’d chase me again. I moaned, but he caught the sound, and I could feel him smiling against my mouth.

Finally he pulled back, and then he slumped against me fully, his arms around my neck, his legs around my hips. He kissed the shell of my ear and said, “I’m tired, Eren.”

I ignored my throbbing erection, and shot to my feet, with him still in my arms. I carried him like that, back into his bedroom. He was heavier than he looked, but I managed. When I made it to the bed, I put him down slowly, carefully, not wanting to tear his stitches.

When he was safely tucked into the bed, I stood next to him uncertainly. I brushed the hair back from his face, but his eyes were closed already. He looked peaceful.

I turned to go, but before I’d taken my first step, Levi grabbed me around my wrist. His grip was so powerful, I knew it would be impossible to shake it.

“Stay,” Levi murmured.

I mumbled my acquiescence, and he let me go long enough for me to shrug out of my jeans and shirt, folding them neatly on the floor. I crawled into the bed next to him. I wanted to wrap my body around his, but I knew it wouldn’t be comfortable for him to lie on his side just now. So I just lay next to him.

Levi scooted closer to me, so that the length of my body was pressed up against his. He found my arm, and draped it over his chest, and tucked his head in close to mine, sharing my pillow. “Thank you, Eren,” he whispered.

He was asleep before I could say “You’re welcome.”

Chapter Text

I woke slowly, everything sort of hazily seeping in from the edges. I never woke like that - I was usually asleep one second, and awake the next. Something about just feeling utterly comfortable, and completely safe, probably had something to do with it.

I also woke feeling uncomfortably warm. This in and of itself was unheard of for me - I was always cold, part of the reason I always liked to have a scarf or cravat around my neck. But when I woke, my whole body was hot, and I wondered for a moment if I was feverish.

Something was tickling me on the side of my face. And something else along my back. I wanted to sneeze, but I settled for slowly opening my eyes, blinking to the dim light filtering in through the curtains.

The first thing I saw was Eren’s face, sleeping next to me. He looked young with his eyes closed. That tan colour of his skin, like dark honey, was so welcoming and made me want to touch him, to taste him to see if he tasted as sweet as he looked.

Aha, there was the source of the warmth. Eren’s body was pressed up against mine, and he was like a heater. It was his hair brushing against the side of my face, tickling me.

If he was tickling my face, what was tickling my back?

I slowly turned my head around, and almost burst out laughing when I saw Titan pressed up against my back. He had stretched himself out to his full length, which was longer than the whole of my torso, and his fur was pressed up against my bare skin.

The moment would have been quite sweet, being stuck between those two, if I didn’t have to piss.

The only way I could figure of getting out of the bed without waking anyone up was to slowly shimmy down to the foot of the bed and crawl off from there. So that’s what I did, though it made a dull pain flare up my side.

Once I had relieved myself in the bathroom, I padded over to the kitchen, scratching my belly and yawning as I did. When I saw the clock, I stopped dead in my tracks.

Not. Possible.

There was no way in the 7 hells that I had slept for 11 hours straight. I couldn’t remember ever having done that in my whole fucking life!

Just to check if I was crazy, or if the clock was broken, I pushed the button on Eren’s phone that was lying on the counter. The lock screen, that showed that same old picture of me fighting from a million years ago, flared to life and read the same time. 9:15 am. And I was sure we’d gone to bed before 10pm the night before.

“Get real,” I muttered aloud.

Titan must have realized I’d gotten up, because he lazily walked into the kitchen, stretching and yawning. He then purposely sat in front of his food bowl and gave me the stink eye. Rolling my eyes at him, I dished out some dry food.

For me, I opened the fridge and dug around, and found that Hanji had set me up with some supplies. There was oatmeal, and fruit, and I still had some maple syrup left. I got the oatmeal going on the stove, and then I dug some frozen fruit from the freezer and blended up a couple of fruit smoothies with soy milk.

The sound of the blender must have gotten Eren up, because he wandered in next, clad in only his boxers and rubbing at his eyes like a five year-old. I couldn’t blame him for his state of undress, because I was still only in my boxer-briefs.

Eren walked up behind me, then propped his chin on my shoulder, and groaned. I think he meant to say hello.

I was stirring the oatmeal, but I took the chance to jab my elbow back into his ribs, and he stifled a yelp and jumped away from me. I smirked.

Eren stretched, pulling his arms above his head, and his whole body got into it. I let myself ogle him a little while he did it, because damn, he looked flexible and tan and toned and gorgeous. I was so screwed.

I dished the oatmeal up into a couple of bowls, and dribbled some maple syrup over it, and topped if off with some fresh fruit - raspberries and blueberries. Then I poured our smoothies and brought the whole deal to the table.

I sat down at the head of the table, where I always do. Eren propped himself next to me, and pulled his foot up onto the chair, resting his head on his knee. His eyes were half-closed, but he started to dish some food in his mouth. It was… adorable.

“Did you sleep okay?” I asked him.

“Mmmph.” He took a few more bites, then cracked an eye open. “’S really good,” he commented, pointing at the oatmeal with his spoon.

I nodded, halfway through my bowl, myself. I was really picky about breakfast food. “Sorry oatmeal is all I’ve got. I don’t eat a lot of meat products, so I don’t like traditional breakfast food. I hate bacon, sausage, eggs. Anything fried doesn’t sit well with me,” I said, screwing up my nose.

“‘Don’ like bacon?” he mumbled.

I shook my head. “Nope. I don’t really like sweets, either. This maple syrup is as sweet as it gets for me. I don’t like muffins, or danishes, or cinnamon rolls.”

“Doughnuts?” he asked around a mouthful of berries.

“Blech,” I said, sticking out my tongue.

Eren shook his head at me, smiling. “Something’s wrong with you.”

I took a long sip of my smoothie, long enough to almost give me a brain freeze. I closed my eyes, savouring the flavour. I had been subjected to eating all kinds of shit that I never would normally while I was abroad, just to stay alive. I was definitely going on a cleanse, as of right fucking now. “I like to keep the inside of my body clean, just like the rest of my life.”

Eren reached out a hand and ran his fingers down the side of my face, a fond look in his eyes, and it stopped me cold. He turned back to his food like he’d done nothing at all, but the gesture was one that you’d give to a boyfriend, a mate, not just a casual fling.

What did Eren want from me? I wondered. And did I even care? Who was I kidding, maybe I’d give the kid anything he wanted, if he only looked at me with those soulful eyes and asked.

Yeah, I was definitely screwed.

Eren had just finished drinking his smoothie when he glanced over to the kitchen, and saw the clock. Then he literally levitated right out of his seat, flying into the air. “Is that the time? Holy crap, I’m late!”

I sat back and unrolled my newspaper, trying to catch up on recent events. I had lost too much time, felt out of touch with the world. But I had a hard time concentrating on it, because I was too amused by watching Eren flit this way and that, jogging out, then realizing he’d forgotten something (his shirt), then jogging back out, then shovelling the last two bites of oatmeal in his mouth.

“Do you have a spare toothbrush?” he asked. “I don’t have time to stop at home.”

“Under the sink in the master bathroom,” I told him.

I watched with an amused glint in my eyes as he dashed out again. I heard him brushing furiously, then spitting and rinsing, then he was dashing back out again.

Eren then rushed out the door.

I breathed a sigh, half happy to have some peace and quiet, but yet already melancholy about not being able to look on his face.

Then, the door slammed back open, and Eren called out, “Levi?” all out of breath.

“Yeeeah?” I said, drawing out the word, with an upraised brow.

“Can I see you later?” he asked me, his eyes pleading.

I covered my face with the newspaper. “Whatever.”

I heard the door slam shut again, but could swear I heard a ‘whoop’ on the other side of the door.


——


I had just taken a shower and started cleaning the bathroom when I heard a knock on the door. I sighed, and tugged on a pair of old jeans and a white v-neck t-shirt. I tucked the cleaning supplies away and sauntered over to the front door, tugging it open.

I wasn’t surprised to see Erwin on the other side of the door. If anything, I was surprised it had taken him so long to ambush me.

He didn’t hug me, or kiss me, or anything dramatic like that. No, my relationship with Erwin wasn’t close like that. We were close as comrades, but that was all. He clapped me on the shoulder.

“I’m glad you got out,” he said, looking me up and down to judge my health.

I stepped back, gesturing for him to come in. “I’ll put on some tea.”

Erwin sat down in one of the barstools by the kitchen counter, propping his elbows on the counter and clasping his hands together. “How are you feeling?”

I shrugged, messing about with the teapot. I looked over my collection, trying to gauge the mood. I went with a potent green tea, refreshing but strong. “It will be a while before I’m able to train again. Five more weeks before I can lift anything. Then probably another couple of weeks, give or take, before I can start training.”

“Hmmm.” Erwin gave me the once-over. “Are you eating properly?”

I leaned my back against the counter and crossed my arms. “Of course, now that I’m back. I can eat what I want, and not eat that shit that I had to eat to survive.”

Erwin nodded, looking down at his empty cup and fiddling with it.

The kettle went off, so I poured the water into the teapot and put the lid on for it to brew. I waited Erwin out, since I could tell he wanted to say something.

Finally Erwin looked up. “I don’t think it was Dawk who sold you out.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Description sure sounded like him.”

Erwin cut the air with a short slashing gesture. “I’m not saying he wasn’t there. It’s just… strange. The pieces don’t tie together. I think we need to look closer to home.”

I cocked my head to the side, and poured the tea. “Someone in our own unit?”

Erwin nodded, sipping his tea thoughtfully. “Perhaps.”

Sitting on those barstools wasn’t comfortable for me with my stomach how it was right now, so I gestured for Erwin to follow me into the living room and plopped down on the comfy chair, setting the teapot on the mat on the table.

Once I was settled in, I tilted my head back and looked at him. He wasn’t finished yet.

“I’ve been thinking of quitting the military,” he announced suddenly.

I nearly spit out my tea, I was so surprised. I set down my tea and coughed gently. “Come again?”

Erwin made a fist. “I just don’t think it’s possible to really do good the way we’ve been hacking away at it. This bureaucracy, it ties our hands more than helps us.” He slammed his fist down on the arm of the chair. “Levi, I don’t feel good about how I was ordered not to help get you out. That you had to be rescued by a bunch of green kids…”

I snorted and picked back up my tea, taking another sip. “They did all right.”

Erwin shook his head, his jaw tense. “It’s not right. There’s got to be a better way. I know that there are private organizations, private security firms that are set up and run black ops missions. Contracted to by the government to take on jobs that are too risky.”

I tapped my fingers on the couch, thinking. “Are you suggesting that you want to set up a shadow company to run black ops missions?”

Erwin nodded. “Think about it. We’d be able to still do our work, but without having our hands tied by orders from higher-ups who don’t understand the situation on the ground.”

The idea of it was appealing to me. More than just appealing, to be honest - it was liberating. But we had to be cautious about this. “Have you told anyone about this yet?”

Erwin shook his head, his eyes boring into mine. “I wanted to get your thoughts first. The idea came to me while you were… gone. When I heard what Eren had done, then it seemed to me like a sign, that maybe the time had come to change the way we do things.”

I refilled my tea. “If I were you, I wouldn’t quit my job just yet.”

“What do you mean?”

An idea had come to me, one that was stunning in its possibilities. “What if you stayed in the military. Acted as our liaison, as it were. And at the same time, you could head up this shadow organization. I could run the day-to-day, be the one seemingly in charge. But you’d be the one pulling the strings from backstage.”

Erwin laughed, a big barrel laugh. This is why I wanted you. Your brain thinks like this, it’s a natural progression for you. That idea is so ballsy, it’s perfect.”

I let the idea fill me, until I was brimming with its energy.

“Who would you need?” Erwin asked, thoughtful.

I let myself think about each member of our team. “Hanji, for sure. Mike and Nanaba. Gunther isn’t suited, with his young child, it wouldn’t be right.” I tapped my fingers on the arm of the chair again. “Maybe Eld. Moblit.”

Erwin nodded. “I’m sure I could get you Hanji, Mike, and Nanaba. Eld and Moblit could go either way.” He pursed his lips. “What about the kids?”

I gave him a hard stare. “You have got to be joking.”

Erwin sighed and put his cup down, then clasped his hands between his knees. “Levi I didn’t tell you this, but… Eren is being called in, for an informal tribunal.”

That didn’t make any sense. “What for?”

“For what happened in Mali.”

I shook my head. “They can’t charge someone with something that happened overseas.”

“True. But they can have a guy follow him, and charge him with whatever trumped-up charges they want, if they think he’s a danger to society.”

I stood up, then winced and held onto my side as the pain burned through me. I felt the need to walk around, so I started pacing. “That’s such bullshit,” I said vehemently.

“Bullshit or not, they’re going to do it.”

“…So what’s your plan?”

“It’ll take some acting on your part, Levi.”

I turned to face him, my fists clenched. “Spit it out, will you?”

Erwin looked at me gravely. “You’ll have to convince them you don’t care about him. But that you’ll take him under your wing, and watch over him. And that if he causes any trouble, you’ll take him in or take him out. And you’ll have to make them believe it.”

“But that would only work if he becomes my subordinate.”

“Exactly.”

I swore, at length. Thing is, I might like Eren, but because of that, I didn’t want this life for him. I thought about him, about the laughter in his eyes, about his moods and how they went from ecstatic to heartbroken to fiercely angry all in a matter of seconds. He should be out there, playing sports, and having kids, and having fun. There was very little fun in Levi’s life.

“It’ll have to be his choice,” I said, teeth clenched.

Erwin shook his head sadly. “He threw that choice away when he killed 15 people, Levi. The choice is, to live under your thumb, or to go to jail for the rest of his life. His life would be over, before it’s even begun.”

I reeled up and slapped the wall, venting my frustration and ignoring the pain that lit up my side. “God fucking damn it all to hell.”

“If we’re going to sell this one, Eren has to believe you don’t care for him,” Erwin said after a while.

“Get out,” I said harshly. I didn’t want to look at his scheming face for another minute.

“Levi…”

I sighed and closed my eyes. “I’ll take care of it, Erwin. Just get the fuck out.”

Erwin dropped his cup into the sink. “The tribunal’s in two days, Levi. Try to look strong enough by then. You’ll have to look like you can overpower him if you need to.”

I glared at Erwin. “Get. Out.”

Erwin shrugged, and raised his hands placatingly. “I’ll call you with the details,” he said as he drifted out the door.

I slammed my hand against the wall again. “Fuck!”


——


I waited until I had calmed down enough, and then I walked down to the closest mobile phone store and got a replacement for the phone I’d lost in Mali. It took me about an hour to get the whole thing set up, and hooked into all my old accounts, and activated.

I stopped at a health food store on the way back home and picked up some supplies. I needed to bulk up as much as I could over the next couple of days, so I picked some fattening foods, and foods that would help me to retain water.

When I got back to my place, I tried to do some weights, but that was a stupid fucking idea as I could feel it pulling at my side even when doing something as simple as a bicep curl. So I tossed the weights aside in frustration and spent some time walking around trying to recall every swear word I knew.

I then pulled out the new phone, which had loaded in all my old contacts, so I still had Eren’s number in there. I opened the text messaging app, and hovered over the keyboard. Finally, I settled on:

It’s Levi. I’ve had second thoughts. Don’t bother coming over later. Last night was a mistake.

I agonized over it, but finally hit send.

Half an hour later, I had a message back. What the fuck, Levi?

When I didn’t respond to that, he wrote this: You’re such an asshole.

I know, I thought, breathing a sigh of relief. If he hated me, that would make the next two days easier to bear.

An hour later, he texted me again, the persistent little shit. I’m coming over.

I threw my hands up in the air, exasperated. If you do, I’m telling the doorman not to let you up. Stay the fuck away.

Just in case, I called down to the doorman and told him he wasn’t to let up any visitors for me. No exceptions.

A couple of hours later, he started texting me madly.

Levi, tell this guy to let me up.

What happened? This isn’t normal.

Are you seriously going to make me wait down here?

…You’re not letting me come up, are you? Well you know what, you can go fuck yourself. It’s no wonder you’re not close to anyone. The second anyone even lets on a hint of caring for you, you push them away. You’re a real head case, Levi.

That one hurt. It actually fucking hurt me, I felt it in my chest. Partly because it was true. But partly because that wasn’t what I wanted this time. This time, I wanted him in my arms, I wanted to kiss him so badly, but I couldn’t. I had to push him away.

I had to.

Chapter Text

“What did you do?” Mikasa asked me.

“Nothing, I swear!” I defended myself. Armin was on one side of me, Mikasa on her normal perch on the chair across from the couch. I’d asked for some moral support, but instead I just feel attacked. “Why did I have to do something?”

Mikasa just stared at me.

“Oh, right,” I continued. “Because I’m Eren the fuck-up, it’s always my fault. Well, I didn’t do anything! I picked him up from the airport. I helped him clean his place. I left in the morning and went to my anatomy class. Then I get a message from him telling me to fuck off.”

“You stayed the night,” Armin pointed out.

“Because he asked me to! It’s not like I begged him to stay over or anything. He probably just wanted company after spending a month alone in a cell.”

“Well, there’s not much you can do about it,” Mikasa said in a reasonable voice. “If he doesn’t want to see you, then he doesn’t want to see you. Fini.”

I leaned my head back against the sofa and groaned. “So that’s it?”

“What else can you do?” Armin asked.

I shook my head. “I dunno. Fuck!” I shot my my feet. “I’m going to fucking sleep.”


——


The next day was another long day of classes. At this stage in my program, I was in the qualifying year where we were going over the basics of anatomy, before I could qualify for the master’s degree. I had an undergrad in sociology, and science wasn’t my main forte, but anatomy made sense to me.

Still, having to memorize all the names of the muscles, and the bones, and understanding all about circulatory systems, muscles and joints, how things connected together… sometimes it all ended up as one big jumble in my mind. I had to seriously focus when I was in class.

Focusing when half my mind was still on Levi was very, very difficult. I tried to put him out of my mind, to save those thoughts for later, but inevitably every time there was a pause in the lecture my mind went straight to him.

I thought the day would never end. Not only was this unbearable, but I had catching up to do from the week off in Mali.

Armin would help me study later. Even though he was studying political science and history, his mind was like a steel trap. It didn’t matter if it was history or anatomy, he always helped and always gave me tricks for being able to remember things.

Before going home, though, I decided to go the the MMA gym to work out some stress. Taking out a few rounds on the punching bag was just what I needed, I thought.

When I arrived at the gym, it was still early, so there weren’t many people there. Just a couple of guys I didn’t recognize.

I put on my hand wraps, and then got a jumping rope and skipped for five minutes to warm up. When my body was warm, I grabbed some weights and did some shadow boxing with those. I felt a nice burn in my arms.

Now completely warm, I set the timer on my phone for three minute rounds, then set it off. I got my boxing gloves on and started punching the bag.

I had a nice flow going, mixing it up with jabs, hooks, crosses, and uppercuts. I even threw in a few knees and kicks for good measure. Then the alarm beeped, and I stopped, jogging a bit in place for my 30-second rest.

I did a few rounds like this. Then, I got so into it, that I sort of forgot all about rounds, and rest periods, and beeping, and I just let go. I forgot about everything, I just saw red, and I punched harder and harder, kicked faster, and put as much power as I could muster up into the job. I punched and kicked and jabbed at the bag until I literally punched the stuffing out of the side of the bag.

“Hey, hey!” Jean called out, catching the bag and waving his arms in front of my face. “Hold up a second!”

I didn’t even recognize him at first, he was just someone that was between me and my goal. So I took a swing at him.

Jean dodged out of the way. I was quicker, though. I got around him and came at him from the other side, and threw a powerful uppercut at him.

My arm was caught in a firm grip before the blow connected. Next thing you know, Erwin was there, standing next to me like a man carved out of granite.

The red static I was seeing through slowly started to dissipate. I stood there, panting. I looked up at him, but he was just watching me, waiting.

I finally tugged my arm away, and pulled off my gloves and threw them aside.

“What the fuck was that?” Jean asked, getting up in my face. “I was just trying to stop you from destroying the equipment, jackass.”

“Not now, Jean, please,” I muttered, starting to undo my hand wraps. I was surprised when I found I’d split my knuckles open, even through the gloves.

“Jean, give us a minute,” Erwin said quietly.

Jean stomped off, steam practically coming out of his ears. I winced. I was glad Erwin had stopped me. I had visions replaying in my head of that guy I had punched in Mali, when my fist had crunched right through his skull as though it was made of papier-mâché. Imagine if I’d hit Jean like that? I could have killed him.

The idea stopped me cold.

“I haven’t seen you here since you got back,” Erwin commented, standing next to me with his arms crossed over his chest.

“Yeah well, I’ve been busy,” I said grumpily.

“I heard Levi made it back all right,” he commented idly.

I threw my hand wraps into my bag violently. “Don’t talk to me about that asshole. He can go fuck himself for all I care,” I said, throwing my bag over my shoulder.

I heard Erwin snort as I stomped out of the gym. And I could have sworn I heard him say, “Interesting.”


——


The next day I didn’t even have a chance to get out the door for class. As I was pulling on my jeans, there was a hard rapping on the door downstairs.

I swore and pulled on my shirt, a t-shirt with a lace tied up around the throat, though I always left the lace untied. It was one of my favourites.

Mikasa was already down at the door, having yanked it open. She was staring at whoever was standing there with an unwelcome look on her face.

“Who is it?” I asked as I came over.

She stepped out from in front of the door, and I could see two military men standing there in full uniform. I didn’t recognize them, but one of them hand long hair that was tied back, which I thought didn’t look very military. The other was one of these people that you really couldn’t tell if they were female or male, with short, sandy blonde hair. Something about them sparked some kind of recognition in me, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember from where.

“Will you come with us, sir,” the tall guy said.

“Where are you taking him?” Mikasa demanded.

They didn’t answer, just stared at her stonily.

Mikasa stepped in front of me. “You’re not taking him anywhere until you tell me where you are going. This is Canada, not some country where the military can just cart you off and throw you in a gulag.”

“Sir, will you please come with us,” the guy repeated again.

I could see no one was going to back down here, and it was going to be a bloodbath if I didn’t do something about it.

Just to make things more interesting, Armin showed up at that moment, walking up behind the military guys. He looked them up and down, then peered around them and looked at us, waving. “Hello. What’s going on?”

“These two military guys are trying to take Eren away.”

“Oh?” he said, surprised. “Where to?”

“They won’t say,” Mikasa said shortly.

“Hmmm… Well, why don’t we just all go?” he said reasonably.

I rolled my eyes and groaned. “It’s okay guys, they’re not arresting me or anything.” Then I looked at them sharply. “Are you?”

“That’s not for me to say, sir.”

Armin weaselled his way around to our side. “Well, if you are arresting him, then you will definitely have to take us along. After all, as his legal counsel, I will need to be present. And Mikasa, as his girlfriend, has a right to be there as well.”

I turned to goggle at Armin, but he just smiled and surreptitiously elbowed me in the ribs.

“And if you’re not arresting him,” Armin continued, “Then there’s no harm in having us along for this little… chat, is there?”

The androgynous one walked away for a minute, and made a phone call. When he came back, he made an “okay” motion.

We all piled into the big black SUV at the curb. Armin was stuck in the middle, with Mikasa and I on either side.

Armin kept up a stream of useless chatter on the way there, more than anything else I think it was to convince the guys I wasn’t worried. Whereas here I was, kind of sweating bullets a little. I was sure this had something to do with my little escapade to Mali. I wasn’t sure quite what the military planned to do about it, though.

They escorted us to a room that was laid out like a courtroom. There was a witness stand, and a high seat for a judge. Then there were areas where others could sit or stand to observe the proceedings.

When we filed in, the place was full already. There were faces lined up on either side, maybe 20 all told. When I scanned the room, I saw Erwin on one side, standing to his full height with his arms crossed over his chest. Next to him was Levi, who was not even bothering to look my way. He was looking out the window, like there was something else more fucking interesting out there.

I was angry just at seeing him there. Where had he been these past days? Why did he push me away at a time when I so obviously needed him? And why the fuck did I even care? Why couldn’t I stop myself from caring?

I glared at him all the way to the centre of the room, where I was led. They handcuffed me, then stood me in the middle of the room.

A man in full military uniform, decorated with medals upon medals, came in and sat at the judge’s desk. The room fell silent, without him having to even say anything.

Mikasa and Armin stood off to the opposite side from Erwin and Levi, looking at me with worried faces. I forced myself not to see them.

“Well, everyone, thanks for coming. This is just an informal hearing. We’re here today to assess whether one Eren Jaeger is a danger to society. Can you confirm your name is Eren Jaeger?” the judge asked me.

“Yes, sir,” I said in a powerful voice. No matter what, I would not appear weak in front of these people. I stood tall, unashamed.

“Dawk, would you like to present your evidence?” the judge asked.

A weaselly-looking guy with dark hair and a goatee came forward, and flipped on a large TV screen. He had a clicker in his hand that he used to flip through the pictures. “Eren Jaeger did enter Mali through Bamako last week. He then proceeded to the fort at Timbuktu, where he broke into the facility. While there, he incapacitated six individuals, and killed 15. These shots were taken by the security feed.”

The shots up on the screen were very low resolution, but it was me all right. You couldn’t make out my face, but you could see me move. I was moving too fast for the screen to catch the details of my body, but you could see me whirling, and body parts flying. There was blood splattered all around me in a circle. People approached me, running towards me, and I killed them like nothing. Then, when they were all gone, I reared back and roared.

I didn’t remember it like that. In fact, I hardly remembered it at all. Whenever I got angry like that, I just sort of tuned out, like watching static on TV. I couldn’t properly see, it was almost like the anger was the thing controlling me.

There was no question about it, though. For sure I was a danger.

“Eren Jaeger, can you confirm this was you?”

“Don’t answer that question!” Armin shouted at me.

I looked at Armin, and saw his fierce face shaking his head at me. I looked back at the judge, and shrugged. “I will neither confirm nor deny.”

“Levi was there,” Dawn said fiercely. “Jaeger came to the facility to get him out. So he can confirm his identity.”

“Levi, step forward,” the judge called.

Levi walked forward, still not looking at me.

“Can you confirm the man in the pictures is, indeed, Eren Jaeger?”

“Yes, sir,” Levi said.

I saw red. Traitor. Betrayal. I felt it in my gut, and this feeling of anger spread throughout my body. I couldn’t watch him stand there and throw me under the bus like this.

“I was defending my life!” I shouted. “And his! How can that be wrong, sir?”

“Eren…” Armin said, sadly, putting his hand over his face.

“I won’t let anyone hurt him!” I shouted fiercely.

The next thing I knew, I was being punched in the face. I went flying backwards by the force of the punch, and I could swear one of my teeth went flying. Then I was being kicked in the stomach, over and over again. Finally my hair was clutched in his hand, and my face turned upwards.

“He’s nothing more than a dog,” Levi said contemptuously. “But he is loyal. I know how to train a dog, sir. And how to control one.”

I could hear Mikasa in the background, struggling, and Armin holding her back, saying “No, Mikasa!” fiercely.

I couldn’t believe it, it was Levi who had hit me, kicked me, who was now twisting my hair painfully in his hand. I felt tears welling up in my eyes, though I blinked them back. I refused to let them fall. I let the anger fill me up instead.

“Sir, he belongs in prison,” Dawk was saying.

“He’ll be of no use to us in prison, sir,” Erwin countermanded. “If nothing else, his fighting skill is admirable. He could be a powerful weapon in our hands. And he heals at an incredible rate. Our doctors can confirm that he has a gunshot wound in his leg. After only one week, he has nearly completely healed. We should study him, sir, not lock him up.”

“He’s dangerous. He can turn on any of us in a moment. He’s an animal!”

“Enough!” the judge called out, raising his hands to silence them. The silence fell immediately. “This problem is too dangerous to keep in military hands. If he can be traced back to us, then our government will be politically responsible for his actions.”

Erwin raised a hand. “Sir, I have a proposal.”

The judge nodded. “I will hear it.”

“Sir, why not let Levi found his own private security firm. He can keep a watchful eye on Eren, and contract out directly to the government on those missions where his expertise is needed. He can protect our countrymen, sir, but be far enough removed from government for plausible deniability.”

The judge looked us over, and for good measure, Levi yanked my head back painfully. “I can keep him under control, sir. There is no love lost between us, trust me. And if he loses control, I will take him out, by whatever means necessary.”

Levi’s voice was cold as ice. I couldn’t see his face, but I knew what his eyes would look like, that baleful stare. It hurt, not the hand on my head, or the missing tooth, or the pain in my side from him kicking me. It hurt to think of how gentle his voice had sounded in my ears only a few days ago, and how cold and harsh he was now.

“We all know Levi’s ability,” Erwin finished with.

The judge nodded, stippling his hands together. “I cannot force you to do this, Levi. This is, after all, only an informal hearing. However, if you do choose to keep this dog on your leash, then I will order Dawk and his men to mind their distance. Is that understood?”

“Yes, sir!” Erwin, Levi, and Dawk called out together.

Levi then yanked me to my feet, and pushed me forcefully out ahead of him. I stumbled, but he pulled me back up again. He shoved me forward until we ended up in an unused out-of-the way room. Then he unshackled me, as the others piled in the room behind us.

I let my rage loose, rearing back then with all my rage, I punched him in the face.

Chapter Text

I barely managed to catch his fist in my hand before it connected with my face, and I was pushed several feet back by the force of his punch. He was so strong, stronger than anyone I’d ever seen. I remembered what it was like to watch Eren punch through a man’s skull, and I thought, damn, if I was a few seconds later, that could be me. And I was slower than usual, due to my injury. I was lucky I managed to catch it in time.

I didn’t want Eren to be angry with me. Eren was my saviour, and my home. He was passion and anger and lust and sadness all wrapped up in one stunning emerald-eyed package. He reminded me of what I felt like on the inside, even though I’d kept my feeling buried so long they felt numb most of the time.

“Eren, stop!” Armin cried out. The small, weak boy pried Eren’s hand away from mine, and looked into Eren’s eyes. Something about that calmed Eren right down, and it infuriated me a little to see how close they were.

Then Mikasa was there, and she did manage to land a punch on me. She hit me in the gut, and fuck, I think that one ripped my stitches. I doubled over, gasping, and clutched at my side.

“Stop, Mikasa! Will you guys just stop! Don’t you see what they did in there?”

Mikasa was standing over me, her chest heaving as she breathed. “What, Armin, you mean apart from beating the shit out of our Eren, and stomping all over his heart?”

Fuck, Mikasa, I don’t give a shit about Levi!” Eren yelled. “My heart has not been stomped on, since it’s got no fucking place in this discussion.”

Armin got between me and them, and held his arms out. “If you hotheads will cool down for a second and look at this logically, you’d realize what happened in there. Levi and Erwin just saved your life, Eren.”

Erwin, the smug motherfucker, was just standing there with his hip propped up against the desk, watching this unfold. I stood up, and perched against the wall, but didn’t say anything. Let the little shits figure it out on their own.

“If he hadn’t done that, if Levi hadn’t taken custody of you, then you would have ended up in prison or worse, Eren. They had all the proof they needed to incarcerate you. Nevermind that you confessed.”

Eren hung his head, his body deflating. Then he stumbled over to the couch, and dropped down into it, holding his head in his hands.

Hanji entered the room then, smiling at everyone. “Well, that was a resounding success!” she exclaimed.

The three kids just looked at her like she’d grown a second set of eyes.

Hanji came over to me, and then peered down at my side. She moved my hand from where I was covering my wound, and confirmed that no blood had seeped through my shirt. I could feel it trickling on the inside of the bandage, though. “Later?” she murmured to me.

I nodded sharply.

“So, Eren,” Hanji called out. “I think you lost a tooth out there. Mind if I take a look?”

Eren shook his head, so Hanji knelt down in front of him, and when he opened his mouth, she did a visual inspection.

“Yep, you lost a molar,” she confirmed. “No biggie, we’ll put a replacement in there, good as new,” she said, clapping him on the shoulder.

Eren looked up at her, shell-shocked. He then looked over at Armin, who shrugged and nodded. Why did he keep looking at Armin? Why wouldn’t he look at me?

“Will someone please explain what the hell is going on,” Eren asked.

“Sorry, Eren,” Erwin said, “I’ve been careless here. I would have notified you of the situation earlier, but it was necessary for your reactions to be… genuine. When Levi was captured, we suspected there was a mole on the inside of the military, feeding information about our actions and compromising our agents. Levi has been thinking of leaving the military for a while, and your situation has given us the perfect cover for our plan.”

“So you’re going to set up a private security agency, and basically keep doing the same thing you were doing before, except now you don’t have to report to anyone,” Armin said, his eyes calculating.

Erwin zeroed in on him, his eyes assessing. “Yes.”

“But, on the other hand, you don’t get to benefit from the government’s protection, either,” Armin pointed out.

“What good did that government protection do for Levi when he was jailed in Mali?” Eren spat.

“Precisely,” Erwin countered.

Comprehension dawned on Mikasa’s face. “If Eren’s joining your group, then so am I,” she stated.

I furrowed my brow, and shook my head. “This isn’t some kid’s game. This is real life, and it’s dangerous,” I said lowly.

“I’m joining too,” Armin declared.

“This is-”

“Good,” Erwin said, interrupting me. I stared at him, shocked. He shook his head and continued, “You’ll need Armin’s strategy. He’d got a good mind, you can see that from Mali alone, Levi. And Mikasa is the strongest and fastest we’ve seen in the MMA, apart from you, naturally. They’ll be good recruits for you.”

I sighed, frowning. “Can we discuss this elsewhere?”

Erwin shook his head. “Your team is not big enough. This will be a good start. Then you can bring others on board as you see fit.”

Erwin wasn’t going to fucking budge. When he made a decision, he was used to being listened to. And in our relationship, he held the reins. We both knew he had a much better sense of strategy than I did. I was a good soldier, that’s all.

I wouldn’t do any of this, or accept any of it, without Eren’s permission, though. Fuck Erwin if he thought Eren had no choice. I’d protect Eren with my life, and I’d lie for him, if that’s what he wanted.

I went to go and sit down next to Eren on the couch, putting my arm up behind him. I slanted my gaze over him, the first time I’d really let myself look at him all morning. He looked dejected, beaten down. Not the same boy that had come to pick me up from the airport, that’s for sure.

“Do you resent me for what I did?” I asked him, trying to keep it nonchalant, though my heart was pounding in my chest like a runaway train.

Eren paused for a long time, turning that thought over in his head. I knew part of him did, part of him would always hate me for laying a hand on him in violence. Surely this would tear us apart.

“No,” he said finally, though it sounded like a lie.

That little lie bit through me, so I turned my head away.

Eren had his hands clasped between his knees, and was looking at the ground. “I don’t regret anything that I did, Levi. I wouldn’t change it. I wanted to protect you, and if this is the price that I pay for it, then so be it.”

I wanted to ask him about us, about what this meant for us, but I wouldn’t, not with all these people around. I wouldn’t even close the distance between my arm and his back, and hug him, because to me, hugging itself was private. I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

I felt the gulf between us widening, as the seconds ticked by.

“So what next?” Armin asked when the silence became too thick.

“Levi and I will work on setting up the company,” Erwin explained. “You three should continue your lives as though nothing has changed. We’ll work around your class schedule, as much as possible. We’ll contact you when things are set up, so that we can discuss the next steps.”

“So we’re free to go?” Eren asked.

Erwin nodded, and Eren shot to his feet like his ass was on fire. The three kids left in a hurry, Hanji escorting them out of the building.

That left Erwin and me sitting there, eyeing each other across the room.

“That could have gone worse,” Erwin said.

I tipped my head back on the sofa. “He hates me now,” I said, then grimaced because it sounded like I was whining. “Not that it matters.”

Erwin laughed. “He doesn’t hate you, Levi. That kid is so in love with you, you just don’t see it.”

I cracked an eye open to look at him. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Erwin shook his head, still smiling. “The whole time you were sitting next to him on the couch, he was all tense, like he just wanted to scoot over but was holding himself back.”

“He was tense because he was pissed off,” I countered.

“You’re blind, Levi,” he teased me.

“Oh, fuck off.”


——


It took Erwin and me some time to get the whole company thing together. Neither of us knew anything about running a business, getting incorporated, all that bullshit. So Eren enlisted the help of Nifa, who was a friend of a friend, with a background in accounting, who was looking for work.

Nifa became the de-facto secretary, accountant, business manager, all of the above. She was the one who would ultimately set up and run the business.

She and I went out together to find a place that we could call the location of our business. I looked at getting an office space in the same factory building the MMA gym was in, but I shuddered at the thought of spending a whole day in that building without redoing the bathrooms, and didn’t have enough upfront capital for that.

So we ended up finding a place in Griffintown. It was close enough to my condo for me to walk it, which was a perk. But it was also a big old factory building, right up on the Lachine Canal. In the summer, we’d be able to train by running up and down the canal. In winter, there was a gym in the same building as us, or we could drive over to Erwin’s MMA gym.

The space itself was a big, loft-style space, with very high ceilings. The whole building was made of brick, like all the old factory buildings in Montreal. When the space was empty, it could have been used for anything. There were some garment factories, and shoe outlets, and tech companies, and all kinds of different things in the same building as us. But the best part of this building was, totally refurbished, brand-spanking-new bathrooms. With showers. Private for our use, within our unit.

Nifa spun around, whooping in glee, when she saw it.

“Captain, it’s perfect!”

I glared at her. “Don’t call me that. No ranks, ever. I’m not in the military anymore, got it?”

She nodded. “Yes, Levi.”

“Good.” I looked around, and inspected it from top to bottom. I ran my fingers along the walls, and checked the corners. “It’ll do,” I pronounced finally.

We signed the lease, and Nifa produced a bunch of other papers for me to sign. Erwin came up with the money - I don’t know where from, but he just said that we had some ‘financial backers’ for our enterprise. Sometimes I really didn’t trust Erwin, but sometimes I knew better than to ask.

It had been over a week since I’d seen Eren, that day at the tribunal. A week, and not a single phone call, or text.

I didn’t know if he wanted me to call or text him first. But every time I picked up the phone, I thought of that look on his face at the tribunal, and I put the phone away. He didn’t want to hear from me. He felt betrayed by me. He wanted nothing more than for me to fuck off, that much was clear.

It was too bad for him, too bad for both of us, that we would be stuck working together. Because whether we liked it or not, if we didn’t do what we said we would, sure enough Dawk would be right up our asses, and trust me I didn’t want Dawk anywhere near my ass.

So I gave Eren his space. I left the ball in his court. I waited, and waited, but he never reached out to me.

Sooner or later, I knew, I’d have to call him in. I’d have to call them all in, when we got this business set up. What face would he look at me with, then? Hope? Contempt? Or worse, would he be blank?

I didn’t think I wanted to know.

Chapter Text

Two weeks had passed since the tribunal. Two weeks in which I had thrown myself fully into my studies. Armin and Mikasa were both shocked by my sudden book-worm-ness, but they supported me nonetheless.

I didn’t just catch up on my studies, I read ahead. I read all the textbooks for all the classes I had. Anatomy, biology, psychology, I read them all. Then I read them again. I marked them with post-its, I had all the answers to all the questions. I could have written the final exams and passed them with flying colours, if they weren’t six weeks away.

When I wasn’t studying, I was at the gym. I deliberately avoided going there at peak hours, to reduce my risk of running into Erwin or Hanji. But I did go, pushing myself with weights, with bag work, with anything I could do to forget Levi’s fucking cold eyes.

He hadn’t called me or texted me once. Then again, neither had I. And the more time that passed, the more that I was okay with that.

At the end of the second week, I even thought to myself, I can see him again, and not want to either punch him or kiss him. I can see him and maybe act like a normal human being.

In the end, it wasn’t even Levi who put the call out. It was Hanji. She sent a mass text to everyone, including Mikasa and Armin, asking us all to congregate on Saturday, and with an address.

Armin was the one who came and found me, where I was sitting on my bed, holding the phone in my lap. He sat next to me, not saying anything for a while, just a comforting presence.

Finally, he asked, “Are you really okay with all this?”

I shrugged. “I have to be, don’t I? I don’t exactly have a choice.”

“You haven’t heard anything from him?”

I shook my head. “Obviously he’s been too busy to reach out to me.”

Armin sighed. He then flopped back on my bed, crossing his arms under his head. “I don’t get it, Eren. How can you two be like this?”

“Like what?” I asked defensively.

“Like… you’re so close one second, fumbling towards each other. Then the next, you’re leagues apart. You’re like one of those Newton’s Cradles.”

“What the hell is a Newton’s Cradle?”

Armin made a gesture of his fists bumping together. He kept one fist stationary in the centre, then bumped the other fist into it. Then the other fist would fly off, while the second one stayed stationary in the centre. And so on. “Those toys with the four balls that crash into each other. As soon as you set it off, by crashing one ball into it, it just keeps on going forever. Pulled back into the centre, then sent ricocheting back off again.”

I flopped down next to him. “That’s deep, Armin.” I wasn’t sure he’d sense my sarcasm.

Armin laughed.

“The real question is, are you sure you want to do this with me?” I asked him.

Armin bumped his shoulder into mine. “I won’t let you and Mikasa go rushing into danger without backing you up. I’ll always have your back.”

I turned on my side to face him. I looked into his eyes, and to me he always looked so innocent. Our world was too dirty, too bloody, for him. “You don’t have anything to prove, Armin. You’ll still be my best friend, my confidant, whether you do this or not.”

Armin sobered his expression. “I know that, Eren. But believe it or not, I’m not just doing it for you. I’m doing it for me. So that I can really have confidence in myself. I do believe that I can make a difference. When we combine our skills together, we are really strong. So let me do my part.”

I smiled at him. “Promise you won’t try to do my part?”

Armin laughed. “Promise!”

I hugged him, squeezing him tight. God, if only I could protect him. I hoped I didn’t live to regret this. After all, if I did, it would all be my fault.

Mikasa came in, and saw us hugging, and promptly dropped onto the bed behind me, tucking her head on my shoulder. “What are we hugging about?” she asked.

“Just gathering our strength for what’s to come,” I said with a smile.

Mikasa put her arm around me. “Then you’ll definitely need me. After all, I’m the strongest.”

We all laughed at that.


——


Saturday rolled around faster that I thought it would. I dressed in my normal outfit, jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt with a lace at the throat. This one was a different colour - I’d had to throw out the one I’d worn at the tribunal since I couldn’t get the blood out of it.

Mikasa had her red scarf on, with a pair of white jeans and a black shirt, and a short jacket. She looked dressed to kill.

Armin on the other hand looked like he was half his age, in his brown long shorts, blue t-shirt to match his eyes, and sneakers. I almost told him to change, but it didn’t matter if he wore jeans and a button-down shirt, or shorts and a t-shirt, he’d still look 12 years old no matter what he did. Armin was Armin.

I drove us in the Pinto. We all lived in Verdun - Mikasa and I in a duplex only a few doors away from where Armin lived with his grandfather - so it made sense for us to go together. The address we had was in Griffintown, about a ten minute drive.

The building was one of those old factory buildings, right on the canal. All tall and made of brick, when you first went in it, there were a few different entrances to go in, and naturally we ended up going in the wrong one at first. We must have wandered around inside the building for half an hour before finally finding the suite from the text message.

The glass doors to our suite were locked, but there was an intercom, so Armin pressed that.

After a minute, Levi’s voice piped out, “Took you fucking long enough.”

Just the sound of his voice had me frozen in my tracks. Mikasa had to shove me to go into the glass doors before they shut again.

When we first walked in, there was a long hallway that led past a small gym with a set of bathrooms in it. Then, when you got into the main area, it opened up into a huge loft-style space. The ceilings were at least 20 feet high. Across the other side of the room, there was a gigantic poster with a graphic image on it, of one wing crossed over another. One of the wings was white, the other black.

Then beneath it, it read, Survey Recon.

On the other wall to the right, there were eight gigantic screens attached to the wall. All of them were black at the moment.

There were several desks set up in the space. Plus there was a raised platform, on top of which there was an office, that was closed in with glass walls. You could see a black desk inside there.

On the wall to the left, there was a stage with a screen behind it, and a projector mounted. Then there were chairs set out, for maybe 20 people. Plus there was a white board, and a large notepad with markers for writing.

Everyone was huddled around the area with the screen. I spotted Hanji, Erwin, and the two military guys who had come to pick me up to take me to the tribunal. Then I also noticed Mike was there - I hadn’t seen him since he’d escorted us back from Mali, and he gave me a wave.

Then, standing there off to the side with his arms crossed over his chest, was Jean. What the hell was he doing here? And talking to some friendly-looking guy with freckles on his nose.

Then I saw even Annie and Reiner were there from the MMA gym, standing with a really tall, thin guy I hadn’t met yet.

This was quite a group they’d gotten together, I thought.

But where was Levi?

Just when I was wondering, the door to the office slid open and Levi walked out, coming down the stairs. He was wearing a pair of tight black jeans, and a white t-shirt with a black jacket on top. Black loafers on his feet. He looked… perfect.

I fucking hated how perfect he looked. I hated how I wanted to go up and hug him, and kiss him. I hated what his pants did to his ass. So I turned away.

Erwin hopped up onto the stage with the screen, and waved for everyone’s attention. “Look guys, we don’t have a mic set up here, and the sound travels a lot in this room since there’s nothing to absorb it. So if you can hold off on the chit-chat until after the briefing, that would be great.”

Levi walked up to Erwin and handed him a flash drive, which he plugged into a computer I hadn’t noticed before. He pulled up a slideshow and projected it onto the screen.

“Like you all are already aware, Levi has now left the military to set up this operation. You can see the logo there,” he said, pointing to the wall, and to the screen that was now flashing the emblem of the crossed wings. “The new name is Survey Recon. You’ve all been invited to join the team, although your commitments will not be final until you sign the contract.”

Erwin motioned to someone who came forth. She looked small, and a little shy. “This is Nifa. She is taking care of the business side of things. She will handle the contracts, the accounting. You have any HR concerns, you talk to her. You need a meeting with Levi, you talk to her.”

Erwin then motioned to Hanji. “You all know Hanji. She has also left the military, to work at Survey Recon full-time. She is Levi’s main support structure here at home base. As you know she’s a fully-qualified medical doctor, so if you get hurt in the field and don’t want to go to the hospital, she’s at your disposal. She will give you a 24-hour emergency number. But careful, if you call, she will come.”

Everyone laughed at that, everyone but me. I couldn’t seem to dredge up any humour in me these days.

“The experienced members of the team are as follows - please wave, guys - Mike, Nanaba, Moblit, and Eld. If any of you rookies do decide to join us, you’ll be paired up with an experienced member as a buddy. You’ll be expected to report your progress to your superior on a daily basis when you’re working an active case. Your buddy is your main point of contact, though they will also be on the road going on missions, and if you can’t reach them then you can always reach Nifa and Hanji on the 24-hour emergency numbers. So far so good?”

There was a chorus of, “Yes, sir!”

I didn’t join in.

Erwin flicked to the next slide, which showed a map of the building. “Since you all made it here,” he said, eyeing us three, “eventually, then you did find this place. However for future reference, this is the door number that you want to go in to access this suite in a timely manner. This is the main base of operations when you’re in town. You’re welcome to stop in at any time. You’ll all be given a passcode for entry into the door. You’ll be expected to show up here when summoned, to be briefed on any active mission in which you’re going to take part. You’ll also be expected to report back here after completion of the mission to submit to a post-mortem.”

Erwin droned on, going over rules and regulations, and flipping through slides of what was expected of us. Blah blah, you’re not to deviate from assigned missions when on the road, blah blah, not to misuse company funds, blah blah.

I tuned him out, and instead focused my eyes on Levi, who was standing by Erwin’s side. Why wasn’t Levi the one telling us all this stuff? Wasn’t Levi ultimately the one running the show here?

He looked tired, I thought. The bags under his eyes were even deeper than normal, and he’d hardly gained back any of the weight he’d lost in Mali. He did seem to be steady on his feet, but the longer he stood there, the more pale his colour got. How long was Erwin going to drone on for, anyway?

Maybe sensing my eyes on him, Levi turned his face to look at me, and our eyes met for the first time that night. He held my eyes for a long time, but his gaze was unreadable. He had his emotions packed away tight, and for all I knew, he could have been looking at a rock, instead of looking at a guy he’d kissed a few weeks ago.

I bit my lip, trying to contain my disappointment, but the gesture ended up catching Levi’s attention. His gaze flickered down to my mouth, then like it was pulled down, his gaze dropped the whole length of my body, before ending up back on my face again. Levi’s eyebrow twitched.

“So now that all the formality is done with, I’ll turn it over to you, Levi.”

He jabbed Levi in the side, breaking Levi’s eye contact with me. Levi took it in stride, yanking the clicker out of Erwin’s hand and clicking to the next slide. It read out four words.

Don’t piss me off.

I stifled a laugh, and passed it off as a cough, clearing my throat.

Levi stood at his full height, and let the weight of his heavy gaze fall on all people present. “Don’t be assholes,” he announced. “Don’t fuck around on the job, don’t compromise your team, don’t be a dirty slob, and for fuck’s sake, don’t piss me off. If you break any of Erwin’s rules, and end up pissing me off, then we’ll have words. If we have words 3 times,” he said, holding up three fingers, “Then you’re off the team. That’s all. Now fuck off.”

Jean raised a hand in the air.

Levi rolled his eyes. “Did I say something about there being a fucking question-and-answer period? What is this, the third grade?”

Jean’s hand slowly creeped back down again.

Levi canted a hand on his hip. “Fine, Kirschtein, what the fuck do you want to know. Tell the class.”

“I just wanted to know, sir, what the next steps are.”

Levi waved and Nifa. “Nifa?”

Nifa stepped forward, clearing her throat. “When you leave today, I’ll hand you all a copy of the contract. You should take it home with you and review all the clauses, to be sure you want to move ahead. Then, by next week, sign and hand the contract back in. Levi and I will be arranging the first assignments and handing them out by the end of next week. When you’ve been assigned a mission, you’ll be summoned in for a briefing.”

The freckled guy next to Jean put his hand up.

Levi flicked his eyes to him, giving him the stink eye. When his hand didn’t go down, Levi said, “What, Marco?”

“Is there no… training, to get us up and going?”

Levi shook his head. “This isn’t a fucking spy school. Your missions will be assigned to you based on your qualifications and level of experience. Plus, your buddy will help you out with anything extra you need to know.

“For physical training, you can work out with us here during office hours at any time you want to, or you can go to Erwin’s MMA gym for some extra class time to brush up on your fighting skills. Clear?”

Marco nodded.

“Now will you fuck off?” Levi said, exasperated.

When people started milling about, I saw Erwin talking to Levi. He was probably schooling him on how to be a better public speaker, or how to motivate his employees. The large sign that said Don’t piss me off was still glowing behind Levi’s head, though.

Armin was in line to pick up the contracts from Nifa, so Mikasa and I waited off to the side. When Armin was heading back, we started to go out together. Then I heard Levi call out, “Eren. Hold up a sec.”

I waved Mikasa and Armin off. “Can I meet you by the car?”

Mikasa gave me the look. Armin said, “You sure?”

I nodded and shooed them off.

The rest of the room cleared out. Even Erwin left the room, after saying goodbye to Levi and the other experienced guys. Levi managed to clear the whole room in under ten minutes with his glare of death along with going up to people and saying, “I wasn’t kidding about fucking off. Get the fuck out.”

Who would voluntarily want to work for this guy? I thought to myself.

When Levi and I were alone, Levi walked over to one of the desks and sat on it, letting out a held-in breath. He was really pale now, and he took out a handkerchief and covered his face with it.

I wanted to ask him if he was okay, but on the other hand, I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction.

Levi put the handkerchief away and looked at me, the guarded expression finally leaving his face. He looked at me for a long moment, almost like he was soaking me in. Then he said, “You okay, Eren?”

“Yeah, sure,” I said blandly. “Never better.”

Levi clasped the desk tightly with his hands, and hung his head. He sighed. “I knew this was a bad idea. This will never work.”

I frowned. “What are you talking about?”

Levi looked up at me from under his bangs. “You can barely look me in the eye anymore, Eren. I’m not sure if it’s because you hate me, you’ve lost respect for me, or you’re just pissed off in general, but how are we going to work closely together when you can’t even look me in the eye?”

I looked in his eyes, forcing myself to meet his stare. The blank look from earlier was gone, so was the ice-cold look from the tribunal. Now he just looked… weary.

“I can be professional,” I said finally.

Levi cocked his head to the side, the corner of his mouth warping up in an imitation of a smile. “Professional. Right.” He snorted. “Since when have I ever done professional, hmm?”

I put my hands on my hips, frustrated. “What do you want from me, Levi?”

Levi shot to his feet, unconsciously grabbing his side at the sudden movement. He looked up into my face, standing close to me, his eyes searching me. “I want some fucking honesty, kid.”

I pushed his chest, shoving him away. “Okay, you want honesty? I’m pissed,” I admitted. I walked close to him, and shoved him away again. “You kissed me, then you pushed me away, then you kept me in the dark and betrayed me and lied to me and fuck you.”

Levi grinned, his eyes dark. “Good. This is getting somewhere.”

I kept pushing him back, further and further. “I’m so fucking angry that you could betray me like that, after all the loyalty I showed you. After I travelled halfway across the world for you, risked not only my life but the lives of my friends. Then you trap me into this fucking thing,” I said, waving my arm back at the banner behind me, “that I can’t get out of. And Armin and Mikasa won’t leave it alone, they insist on following me in when I know I’m going to end up getting one of them killed. And I can’t fucking protect everyone all the time!”

Levi nodded, looking up at me, his eyes swirling with hidden emotions. Yes,” he hissed.

I had backed him all the way to the wall, so I shoved him into that, pinning him there against the brick. “And I’m fucking tired of your games, you’re always jerking me around. Why didn’t you call? Or text? Why didn’t you talk to me? Why do you always treat me like a fucking kid? I’m an adult, and I expect you to consult with me when it’s something that concerns me, or any of my friends for that matter.”

Levi nodded.

“Why, Levi? Why didn’t you call? Answer me, for fuck’s sake.”

Levi shuddered, as though me shoving him and pushing him around was actually what he wanted. “Because I was afraid,” he admitted.

I shook him. “Afraid of what?”

He sighed. “Afraid of nothing. Of seeing blankness in your eyes. Of you wanting to carry on as though nothing had happened. Of you not acknowledging me.”

I shoved a hand under his chin, tilting his head back and forcing him to look at me. “And this is better, me being angry at you?”

“Yes,” Levi said honestly, his eyes locking with mine. “You’re not holding back. I want to see your passion, even if it leads to you hating me.”

“You think I’m not holding back?” I said with a snarl.

I unleashed the tempest inside of me. I picked Levi up and shoved him further up the wall, pinned him there with my body. I invaded his space, his air, my mouth hovering a breath away from his. Then I crashed our mouths together.

There wasn’t anything about this kiss that was in any way similar to our first. Our first kiss had been full of love, and longing.

This kiss was a kiss of frustration, desperation, and full of anger. Our mouths clashed, my tongue invaded his, and I plundered his mouth. When he moaned and twisted his hands in my hair, I pushed deeper into his mouth, claiming him. I pulled back long enough to say, “Fuck you Levi,” before I crushed our mouths together again, and again.

I gripped Levi’s neck in my hand, and tilted his head aside to give me access to his throat, and then I bit him none too gently. I marked him, my teeth sinking deep, them I pulled back and sucked up the skin into my mouth. Levi was shuddering and wilting in my hands.

“Yes, Eren, this is what you’re made for,” Levi was whispering. “For passion, and lust. Don’t try to be professional, to control yourself. You’re made to rip the world to shreds in your hands.”

His words just lit me up more, so I grabbed his hips and slid him further up the wall, and shoved our groins together, rutting into him. Levi moaned and threw his head back, bearing his neck again for me to assault it. I licked along his pulse point, thinking how easy it would be for me to rip him to shreds, if that’s what I really wanted.

The thought stopped me cold. What was I doing? I wasn’t a monster, who wanted to hurt people. Even though Levi wanted it, he most likely wanted it out of some misplaced feelings of guilt. He wanted an easy out, for me to beat him like he’d beaten me, then we’d be even and could start fresh.

Well fuck that.

I backed away, guiding his hips down gently until his feet found the floor. I held onto him when he swayed, until he got his footing back again. He looked up at me, dazed. “Eren?”

I shook my head, and backed away. I held out my hands. “Not like this, Levi.” I put my face in my hands, and growled my frustration. “I don’t want to hate you. And I don’t want to touch you in hate.”

“Eren, it’s okay,” he started, but I cut him off.

“It’s not okay, Levi. You told me that once, remember? When you hit me accidentally, when you were having a nightmare. You said it was never okay for you to hurt me. Well, I’m calling you on that, now. It wasn’t okay for you to hurt me, but it’s not okay for me to hurt you, either.”

Levi was staring at me, his eyes slowly sneaking off to the side.

“One hurt doesn’t undo another, does it, Levi? It just makes it hurt twice as bad.”

Levi hugged himself, his hands running up and down his arms like he was cold. Then he slowly stood up straight, and looked me in the eye. “I’m sorry, Eren. I’m sorry for what happened at the tribunal. I’m sorry for pushing you away. I’m sorry for not calling. I’m sorry for being an asshole. I’m sorry for being so fucked up. And you’re right, we’re not okay. This isn’t okay, and it never will be, will it?”

I backed away again, even though each step felt like a slap to my gut. “I don’t know, Levi. You wanted honesty? Here’s as honest as I can be: I want us to be okay. I want to respect you, to like you. But right now, I don’t trust you. And I can’t really like someone I can’t trust.”

Levi doubled over and clutched his side like I’d actually physically punched him. He turned away, turning his face into the wall. “Okay, Eren. Thank you. I appreciate the honesty.”

“Maybe we can build up the trust again,” I started.

But before I could keep going, he held up a hand. His hand was wavering a bit, shaky. “Please, Eren. Just… not now. I can’t take any more. Please, just leave.”

He looked so small, huddled there against the wall. Now I was starting to regret my brutal honesty. Maybe I should have just lied to him, held him, fucked him, if that would have made him feel better. But I didn’t want to fuck him, because to me that felt like fucking him over.

I wanted to love him.

“I’ll see you soon, Levi,” I promised.

Levi just nodded, turning and starting to walk away, back to his office.

It felt like a goodbye.

Chapter Text

I really am despicable sometimes. I wanted to get a reaction out of Eren, and damn, I sure got it.

I'll never forget what it felt like when he told me he didn't trust me. It felt like a punch in the fucking gut, and I had to get away from him, so he wouldn't see me that like. I hated feeling weak, I hated it when anyone saw me as weak. The last thing I wanted was to lose his respect. I might have lost his trust, but I still had his respect. For now.

I spent a few days getting my shit together, getting Survey Recon set up, and getting myself to a point where I could think without wanting to hit someone. By the time Thursday rolled around, though, it had been days and I'd hardly slept a wink. I was starting to feel like an insomniac, and Nifa must have noticed it as well, because she told me to go home.

When Hanji called me later, there wasn't a thing I could do to stop her from coming to my condo. I was laying there on the couch, staring at the ceiling, with Titan on my lap, when she let herself in.

"Leviii! Where aaaaare youuuu?"

I wondered briefly if not answering her would make her go away.

It didn't.

Hanji sat down on the coffee table in front of me, which she knew pissed me off. I growled at her. "What do you want?"

"How is our little green-eyed monster?" she asked brightly. "Ready to jump straight in to risking life and limb by your side?"

I stroked Titan's fur idly. "Not quite."

She looked me over, going quiet for a minute. Finally, she said, "You haven't been sleeping, have you?"

I hate lying, so I opted not to say anything.

Hanji laughed. "Wellll, it's a good thing I come armed with drugs then!"

I shook my head, looking back at the ceiling. "I don't want them."

"Levi, you're looking exhausted. Don't you think it's a good idea? Just once?"

"Hanji Christ, you know what fucking happens when I take drugs. Weird shit. Knowing me, one pill and I won't wake up for a whole day." It had always been that way with me. Most of the time, I simply avoided taking drugs of any kind.

"Why don't I just leave them on the counter. If you want to risk it, then you can take half a pill, okay?"

I closed my eyes. "Whatever. Is that why you came over here?"

Hanji was bustling around in the kitchen. "I came over to pry into what's going on with Eren. But if you're going to be a little bitch about it, then I'll just cook you something to eat instead. You don't even look like you've eaten."

That's because I hadn't. In a while. Nowadays, my stomach had gotten so used to eating so little, that it was hard for me to eat. Plus, I didn't feel super motivated. I wasn't depressed - I don't get depressed - I was just in a funk.

"I brought over some assignments from Erwin, things he needs help with. He said you don't have to accept all the cases, pick and choose whichever ones you think will be a good starting ground."

"Did you look at the cases?" I asked her, not wanting to bother picking up the files myself right at that moment.

"Yep. There's a little bit of surveillance work in Paris. There's a case down in New York, some special assistance needed for a diplomatic event. Then there's one in Brazil, that one's potentially more dangerous just because of the region."

Titan hopped off me, and I sucked in a breath, since suddenly I felt like I could breathe deeper. Jesus he was a gigantic cat. "What's your feeling, for the teams?"

"Well, you're obviously going to stick with Eren, so if you're buddying up new people with experienced people, then you might want to put Jean with Eld, Armin with Nanaba, Mikasa with Mike, things like that, right?"

I stood and stretched, then walked into the kitchen, where I saw her slicing vegetables. She had a salad made already, and she pushed the bowl in front of me.

I started to eat slowly, knowing it would please her. "Maybe it's better if Eren's buddied up with someone else."

Hanji put down the knife, and rested her hands on the counter. "Okay, that's it. Spill it. What's going on. This kid came all the way across the world to save your irritating little ass, and now you're avoiding each other? What gives?"

I slid my eyes to the side, munching on a lettuce leaf. I took the chewing time to think about what to say, but it didn't matter what I said anyway, sooner or later Hanji would weasel it out of me.

"The tribunal kind of ruined things. First, Erwin told me his stupid fucking plan, and that for it to work, I had to make Eren hate me. Which, as you know, isn't hard. Then, I had to kick the shit out of him, which was hard, very hard. Not just for me, but for him, apparently."

Hanji gave me a look. "What, he's pissed about that? He knows it was all for the sake of appearances, right?"

Hanji had cut up strawberries in this salad. Who the fuck put strawberries in a salad? But when I ate one, it tasted pleasantly tangy with the light vinaigrette.

"It doesn't really matter why I did it, I suppose. He realized that I can be a heartless shit when I want to. That I can turn my emotions off. Most people don't handle that shit as well as you do."

Hanji now started throwing the veggies in a pan, and grilling them. I could see the oven on, and wondered what was in there. She made damned good scalloped potatoes. I started hoping that was what was in there. My mouth watered, and I started to feel hungry for the first time in days.

"Maybe he doesn't know how you feel," she said idly.

"I told him how I feel," I said quietly. I had really gone out on a limb, telling the kid that I liked him. It wasn't easy for me to admit when I wanted to be with someone, and even though Eren and I still kind of barely knew each other, I thought he would have known that about me. It hurt that somehow he didn't seem to be as intuitive about that.

"Maybe you need to extend the olive branch. Do something to try to make it up to him. Why was he pissed? I mean, what did he say, exactly?"

I tapped my fingers on the counter, casting my mind back. "He was mad at me for pushing him away. For not calling him, or texting him. Then obviously for deceiving him."

"So call him."

I goggled at her. "Hanji, he's fucking mad at me right now. I fail to see how that's going to help."

Hanji uncorked a bottle of wine, to my astonishment. She hadn't even asked if I wanted to drink, the bitch. I pointed at the wine bottle, and thew my hands up in the air.

"Relax, Levi," she said, and poured me a glass. She poured one for herself, too. "I fail to see how you sitting on your ass and doing nothing is going to salvage the situation."

She had a point, there. What did I have to lose? But I couldn't seem to bring myself to dial the number. "What if I text him?"

Hanji laughed, stirring the vegetables once again. "Better than nothing. Still kind of a cop out, but at least it's something."

I picked up my phone, and caressed the keys a few times. I typed in a few different things, and stopped and started a few times. But finally, I settled on, I'm sorry about earlier.

Then I held my breath and waited. And sipped my wine.

It was only thirty seconds later when I heard back from him. He wrote, That's okay. I'm sorry, too. I overreacted and was a little harsh.

I snorted at that. Overreacted, yes. But harsh? No, he was just speaking truths. No, you were just being honest. I appreciate honesty. And I do want to earn your trust back again.

When I didn't hear anything back for over a minute, I typed in, What are you doing?

He wrote, Studying.

Do you want to come over? Hanji's cooking some dinner. We could just... have a nice meal together. If you want.

Five minutes passed. I was too worked up to try and write him anything else, so I just took another sip of my wine.

"So, seems like he's at least responding to your texts?" Hanji said, looking at me smugly.

I glared at her. "Oh, get off your high horse, four eyes."

Hanji laughed at me.

My phone beeped, and Eren had written back. I'll be there in 15.

I tried to stop my heart from beating so fast in my chest, but couldn't. Instead, I excused myself and went around tidying up a bit, making sure the place was fully clean. I wiped down the tables, and cleaned the bathroom. I even had a chance to vacuum the couch down quickly.

Then I put everything away, and just as I was going back into the kitchen, Hanji was letting him in. Eren was standing there in a hoodie, his hands stuck in his jeans. His hair was all messy, and his eyes looked guarded, and he was biting his lip and shifting from one foot to another, but shit, he was here.

I didn't even remember what I was wearing. Did I look okay? Fuck, I had changed into a pair of old jeans earlier, with the knees ripped out. And I wasn't even wearing socks or shoes. Just a white v-neck t-shirt. But it would look fucking weird if I went back in my room and changed.

I walked over and perched on the stool by the counter, trying to look nonchalant. "Hey, Eren."

Eren came in a few steps, and gave me a little half-wave. "Hey."

Hanji poured Eren a glass of wine, and the two of them chatted while she finished up cooking. She gave him a bowl of salad which he promptly ate when he found out we'd eaten ours already. I tuned out their conversation, because I really couldn't concentrate. Instead, I was just looking at him, at the way his eyes slowly morphed from guarded into carefree. I saw his shoulders get less tense, as he stood and leaned his hands on the counter. The corners of his mouth turned up in a smile, and my heart surged in my chest.

I nearly fell off my stool when he caught me staring at him, I jerked my head away so fast. I coughed.

"Levi, are you even listening?" Hanji said.

"Uh, what?"

Hanji laughed. She finished what she was doing, and thank heavens, pulled some scalloped potatoes out of the oven. The smell was so delicious, I wanted to climb through her to get to them.

"Eren was telling us about how much schoolwork he has, with his anatomy classes. How it's been hard for him to figure out how he's going to balance working with us, and his classes."

I stood up and jerked over to the cabinet, pulling out some mats to set the table. I put the dishes, silverware, and coasters for the glasses. Everything was arranged precisely, to my liking. "Usually they have special dispensation for military personnel. We are able to get the same arrangements, due to our work for the military. It shouldn't be a problem, although you might want to consider taking a slightly lighter course load next term."

Hanji nodded, and dished out the veggies and potatoes on the plates, whooping in triumph. When we all sat down, Hanji said, "Plus the military usually pays for your schooling. We'll do the same thing, right, Levi?"

I nearly choked on my potatoes. I glared at her. When she smiled merrily at me, I grunted out, "Of course," even though I had absolutely no idea whether we could do that or not. Nifa was arranging all the business side of things with Erwin, and I didn't even know how much capital we had to work with.

I would pay for it my fucking self, if that would make Eren smile.

He did smile, a little sheepishly, and ran his hand along the back of his head. "Well, that would help. But it's not necessary..."

I was at the head of the table, and Eren was to my left, so it was easy to knock my knee into his under the table. "It's not a problem," I said without looking him in the eyes. When I did look up a few seconds later, he was flushed. Damn.

"So Hanji, what do you do exactly?" Eren asked in between bites.

"I take care of the team. I'm kind of the head of operations, plus I'm a surgeon, so I'm there for any medical needs you may have. If you have any problems, any questions, don't hesitate. Did Levi give you my number yet?"

When Eren shook his head, she insisted he give her his phone, and she punched it in.

God, I wanted Eren. I wanted him to be happy, to be always smiling. He looked so good like that, when his eyes lit up. I wished sometimes that I was like that - but I had been hiding my emotions so long I didn't think my face worked that way anymore.

"Eren," I said after a while, "I want to give you first choice for your first mission. Normally we just hand out assignments, but after everything that's happened, I think you deserve a choice. So, if you had to choose between Paris, Brazil, and New York, where do you most want to go?"

Eren looked at me, his eyes dancing with excitement. Then he bit his lip and cocked his head to the side as he thought. I wanted to reach out and touch that lip, but I refrained.

"Well, I've always wanted to go to Paris. New York is nice but I've been there a bunch of times. Brazil sounds exciting. Ummm...." He screwed up his face in a delightful way.

I snuck my foot on top of his under the table. I couldn't help it, I just wanted to touch him, just a little. He was in his socks, but I rubbed my foot on top of his. "Your choice," I said.

Eren looked at Hanji, then back at me, his face going red. "Paris," he said with a hitch.

The city of lovers. Oh, mon dieu, that would be either a joy or torture. Would he let me go with him? He hadn't shoved my foot away, so maybe he didn't hate me too much, yet.

"Levi and I were talking about who should be partnered with whom, earlier," Hanji said, pushing her plate away as she finished her meal. "The thing that makes the most sense is if Levi is paired with you. But he thinks you won't want to do that."

"Hanji," I growled menacingly.

"What?" she said innocently, turning to me. "I just don't think you should reassign him so quickly without giving him a choice."

Eren looked a little put on the spot, he had this furrow on his brow.

I stood up, and cleared our plates away. I just didn't want to look at him. "Don't worry, Eren," I said quietly. "I won't force you to do anything you don't want to do. I know that I'm supposed to watch over you, but that doesn't necessarily mean we have to be partners."

"Who else would I be partnered up with?" he asked haltingly.

It made my stomach drop a little, so I turned the water on, rinsing the dishes, and let Hanji run through the possibilities. She listed pretty much all the seasoned veterans, and spoke about each of their qualities. He had met most of them already, even though he didn't know them well.

I started to feel really tired. It was almost a woozy feeling, and it came on gradually. Like my arms and legs were getting heavier.

"What the fuck?" I whispered to myself.

Hanji looked up at me, and as soon as she made eye contact with me, I realized what she'd done. She'd drugged me. I don't know whether it was the wine, or if she'd slipped something in my food, but sure as shit she'd done it.

"Are you feeling tired, Levi?" she asked.

Drugs and me don't always work predictably. Throw in the fact that I'd also drunk a couple of glasses of wine, and it was a recipe for disaster. It hit me so suddenly that I slipped, and hit my head on the corner of the counter on the way down.

"I tol' you..." I murmured from the ground. "No' a goo' i'ea." I couldn't seem to get my consonants out right.

Eren was there, his green eyes swimming in front of my vision. I heard Hanji saying something like that it wasn't supposed to work that fast, or some shit, but my head was spinning. I think she was telling Eren why she did it, that I hadn't slept or eaten properly in days. Whatever her reasons, I fucking hated her in that moment. Talk about a breach of trust, this was a serious breach of trust.

I tried to complain to her, to tell her I wasn't fucking kidding, and as my doctor she should know better. But the words wouldn't come.

Eren's arms were around me, and in those last few moments before everything went dark, at least that I could be happy of.

Chapter Text

Levi literally passed out in my arms. I mean, he didn't happily fall asleep, he was angry like a hissing cat, and then he was knocked out.

I turned to Hanji and gave her what I hoped was a good impression of Levi's glare of death. "What. The. Fuck."

Hanji beamed, shrugging. "I drugged him."

"Why?"

"Eren, he hasn't slept in days. Maybe a week. He's so torn up about whatever's going on between you two that he's barely even eating. And he just got back from a really fucking bad holiday in Mali, so he really needs sleep, and he really needs to eat. That's all."

She looked so smug, standing there. I picked Levi up in my arms, then got all up in her face. "And you don't care that he didn't want to be drugged?"

Hanji shook her head. "It's for his own good."

I was so pissed. She took his choices away. I hated that more than you can understand. "You've got a warped idea of friendship."

Hanji didn't seem to care. She backed away, laughing. She went to go pick up her bag, and put her shoes on by the door. "So they tell me. Well, Eren, take good care of him, will you?"

I looked down at Levi, and he didn't look peaceful in his sleep, he just looked gone, like he'd been turned off.

"Oh, and Eren?" Hanji said, standing by the door. "Do me a favour and give Levi a break. He's been through a lot, and you're being a bit of a spoiled brat," she said with a smile.

I saw red. "Excuse me?"

Hanji just smiled and waved. "See ya."

When she was gone, it was just me and Levi in the house, and him falling asleep on me again. Only this time, not because he was relaxed, or because we were flirting with each other and having happy good times. No, this time was just because of some fucked up shit.

I thought about just dropping him in his bed and leaving. But then I thought about what Hanji had said. Not the part about me being a spoiled brat, because fuck her, but the part about what Levi had been through. That part was so true. He'd just come back from hell on Earth, and here he was, unable to sleep through the night because he was worried about shit with me.

That was unacceptable. I might not trust the guy fully right now, but he was someone I admired, and for him to get himself in such a state because of me - well, that just didn't sit well with me.

So instead of leaving, I tucked Levi gently into the bed. I took off his jeans, which, by the way, were the fucking sexiest thing he could have put on. The whole night I'd seen his kneecaps poking through his jeans, and I'd just wanted to reach out and touch them.

Now, I just tugged them off, folded them because I knew he'd appreciate that, then tucked him in. He was just wearing his boxer briefs and a t-shirt, so I figured he was comfortable enough like that.

I went to take a shower, less because I wanted one, more because I knew Levi would appreciate that too. If I took a shower first, I'd be totally fresh and clean, and smell nice. When I climbed into the bed 20 minutes later, I wore just my boxers, because I get hot when I sleep and fuck it.

I lay down next to Levi, but I wasn't really super tired. So I curled onto my side and looked at him, and thought. I thought about everything that had happened to me, what I'd been through going to Mali. Then what had happened after getting back. Then, I thought about what Mali must have been like for Levi, waiting for a month in a cell, believing no one would come for him. Then I thought about how that was probably only the surface of what Levi had been through in his life.

Levi didn't act like a guy who had just gotten out of jail for the first time. I'd seen kids out of juvie for the first time, when I helped out at social services. Kids like that were either really puffed up, trying to impress everyone with how tough they were, or they were scared shitless and wouldn't so much as litter for fear of getting caught red-handed again.

No, Levi wasn't like that. He was cool as a cucumber, his eyes were the same as before, if anything, the only tell he had was how tense he was. His shoulders, and his neck, he was held tighter than I remembered him being before. Before, he'd been like a coiled spring, ready for action. Now, he was just... stiff? Aw, fuck, whatever.

Levi was on his side, facing away from me, so I ran my hands over his back and neck. Even though he was drugged asleep, it didn't mean I couldn't still do some good. I loosened up his neck, and his shoulders.

By the time I was done, I was yawning myself. I got up to go to the bathroom one last time, then I snuggled in behind Levi.

I did the thing I hadn't done the last time I'd slept over, the thing I'd wanted so badly to do. I moulded myself to Levi's back, and curled around him. I put my arm around him, and inhaled the clean fresh scent of Levi from the back of his neck.

We fit together so perfectly. No matter what else could be said about us, damn, we did fit together.

I closed my eyes and enjoyed the peace of the moment, having him close.

——

In the morning, I was the first one to wake up. When I stirred, Levi had turned in his sleep, and was curled up on my chest. His head was pillowed on me, and his hand was splayed across my stomach.

I caught my breath, trying not to get excited, but when I felt Levi's leg thrown over mine, it was too perfect. I slung my arm over his back, and pulled him close, tugging him to me.

You know what? In the morning, everything seemed different. Everything I'd been complaining about the night before, all this betrayal - it didn't matter. Levi had done it because he'd thought it was what was best for me.

If I told him that I understood, but that I didn't want him to do it again, would he listen?

I ran my hand in circles on Levi's lower back, and he shifted closer, his leg dragging over mine. Levi's head tucked into my neck, and I could feel his breath on my skin.

Then, all at once, Levi was awake. He was looking up at me, peering at me with his cat eyes.

"Eren?" he mumbled.

I ran my hand down his back. "Yeah."

Levi licked his lips, and I followed the motion with my eyes. "I thought you'd leave."

"Yeah well, maybe I don't want to leave," I said against my better judgement.

Levi's eyes widened at this. He propped his chin on my chest, and I thought god, he looked so cute. I just wanted to-

-but then Levi suddenly went a bit green. He pushed himself off me, and garbled out some kind of excuse as he hobbled off the bed and dashed for the bathroom.

What the hell?

Then I heard it. Levi was vomiting. It went on for a while, and sounded really bad. He was still at it by the time I tugged on my jeans and followed him in there. I rubbed his back, and he hung his head over the lip of the toilet, and peered at me.

"Is it the drugs?" I asked.

Levi nodded. Then I watched him dry heave a bit, then finally, god, finally it stopped.

I went to the kitchen to get Levi a glass of water, and by the time I came back, he'd flushed the toilet and was now furiously brushing his teeth.

"I'll kill that fucking bitch four-eyes," Levi growled when he finally put down his toothbrush. He drank down the water gratefully, though his eyes scrunched up when he did so.

Levi walked back into the bedroom, then threw himself on the bed, and curled up in a ball.

I stood there watching him for a minute, unsure of what to do. "Do you want me to go?" I asked.

Levi groaned. "Yes. No. I don't know."

I took that as permission, so I crawled back into bed with him. I knew how it was when you were feeling sick though, sometimes touch made it worse, so I just sat close to him.

After a while, he uncurled from the ball, and collapsed onto his back, sighing. "I think it's passed."

I watched him, but he seemed to be calm, now. His eyes were closed.

I scooted closer to him, so my body was lined up to his, and I ran my hands through his hair. "I'm sorry," I said.

Levi shook his head minutely. "You're not the one who drugged me. Nothing to apologize for."

I ran my hand down his cheek, ran my fingertips down his nose, brushed his mouth with my thumb. "That's not what I'm sorry for."

Levi opened his eyes a crack, and looked at me, guarded and calculating. After a minute he said, "Nothing to apologize for there either."

I smiled at him. I couldn't help it. Levi was a lot of things, but no one ever quite realized how self-sacrificing he was, did they? He kept putting himself out there, and every time he was kicked, he just got back up again. It was so admirable it made my chest fill up with warmth.

"I call bullshit," I said with a smile.

The corner of Levi's mouth tilted up, just a bit. But for Levi, that amount of expression was like a face-cracking grin on someone else. It made my mouth go dry.

I scooted even closer, so our heads were level. I reached out my hand, and ran it through his hair again, testing to see if he'd pull away. When he didn't, I ran it down his neck, rubbing my thumb lightly over his throat. Then I grasped the back of his neck, and pulled him towards me.

I kissed him, just a gentle press of my lips to his. I wanted him to know that for now at least, it was okay.

Levi made a noise almost like a whine, and pressed closer. His hand reached up to grab my arm, and he opened his mouth and kissed me tenderly. It was sweet, the way his eyes closed, and his mouth moved, tentative but flirtatious somehow at the same time.

I grasped his hip, and pulled him closer, until his leg was thrown over mine again. I ran my hand down his thigh, marvelling in the feeling of hard muscle under soft skin.

Levi kissed me deeper, his tongue searching my mouth, as though looking for acceptance. I gave it to him, kissing him until it was hard to tell which breath was his, which was mine. I cupped his face in my hands, my thumbs running over his cheeks, and Levi sunk into me like I was the sweetest thing he'd ever tasted. It gave me a heady feeling, knowing that I did this to him.

After a while Levi pulled back, and pushed our foreheads together. "I don't want to fuck this up, Eren," he breathed. "I always fuck it up."

I hugged him, just holding him close. I didn't want to fuck this up, either. In spite of everything we'd been through together, and how we were just starting to know each other, somehow we fit. We fit more than just physically - which was pretty damned perfect - we also seemed to fit in terms of temperament. He'd put up with my temper with patience and understanding, and even when I was being a spoiled brat, as Hanji pointed out, he just waited patiently for me to get over it. Even when it was killing him inside.

"You won't fuck it up," I told him, and squeezed him to me. "I won't let you fuck it up. But you have to not let me fuck it up, either. I always fuck things up, too."

Levi snorted, and I felt it against my neck. "Great pair we make," he said sarcastically.

I just laid my head on top of his, and closed my eyes. "Yeah, we do," I said honestly.

Chapter Text

Eren was here. I had asked him to come, and he had come right away. I had been a jerk to him, but he'd given me a second chance. That meant more to me than he could ever know.

Then, Hanji the four-eyed bitch had to drug me. If she hadn't drugged me, then maybe the two of us would have made up properly last night. Instead, I was lying here in bed, Eren so close to me, but I was all shaky from the aftershocks of the drugs. I'd brushed my teeth thoroughly, but it's like I had a visceral memory of the feeling of throwing up, and it took a while for that to go away.

When I took drugs, it often left me feeling weak, disoriented, dizzy. Sometimes I could feel like I wanted to vomit, sometimes I would vomit, and sometimes it took a day or more for the feeling to go away.

I've been shot before (in the arm) and not taken any drugs. How dare she drug me simply for the sake of a few nights of missed sleep?

Eren kissed me, though. And I kissed him back. And it was sweet.

No matter how much I'd fucked up so far, Eren had at least forgiven me enough to want to be around me. I wondered how I'd gotten so attached to him so fast - I'd never even heard of his name a few months ago - but now that I'd decided I wanted him, it seemed like it would be a terrible waste if we couldn't somehow work it out.

I was lying against him, drawing circles on his stomach with my fingers, his arm tucked around me, when my phone rang.

Both of us groaned, and I flopped down to the end of the bed, and reached over into the pocket of my folded jeans (did Eren fold them?) to retrieve the ringing phone. I tried to swipe the screen three times, by my vision was all wonky. Finally on the fourth I got it to work.

"Hello?" I asked groggily.

"Jesus Levi, what's wrong with you?" Erwin asked.

I flopped back on the bed, and found Eren, and tucked myself in against him. "Hanji drugged me last night."

"She did what?"

I swallowed, but my mouth was dry. That happened sometimes when I took drugs. "She thought I needed shleep - sah-leep - fucking shit. She thought I needed sleep badly enough to druggle me."

Eren was laughing silently behind me, I could feel his whole chest vibrating with it. I elbowed him in the stomach, and he wheezed.

"How long had it been since you'd last slept?"

"Maybe three days."

Erwin hummed in agreement. "Not the longest you've ever gone, but still not good. What's been keeping you up?"

I shrugged. "Things."

Eren had started to run his fingers up and down my arm, distracting me. I barely heard Erwin ask, "Work things? Or personal things?"

"Both," I said shortly.

"Mostly to do with a certain green-eyed someone?" Erwin asked shrewdly.

I snorted. "Maybe."

"Haven't managed to make up yet?"

"Dunno."

"He's there, isn't he?"

I nodded though he couldn't see it. "Yep."

"You going to come into the office later? I wanted to run some ideas by you."

"Erwin I don't think I can. I am seriously fucked up right now. Can we do it tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow's Saturday, Levi. I've got that thing over the weekend."

I sighed, and rubbed my eyes. "Okay, I'll come in. Just give me a while, I'll need to get myself together. I can walk over there."

"Be there in two hours."

"Whatever," I said and hung up. I'd be there when I'd be there, and he'd suck on it.

I put the phone aside and covered my face with my hands. I was feeling really, really sick. Like there were ants crawling on my skin.

Eren put his arms around me slowly, hugging me. "I have to go to class," he murmured in my ear. "Will you be all right?"

I laughed and lowered my hands. I rolled over on top of him, and tucked my head into the crook of his neck. Eren put his arms around me, and just hugged me like that for a while. "I'll be fine," I finally said. "I need to go to work somehow, anyway."

Eren didn't say anything, and when I looked up, I saw him frowning. I poked his mouth, forcing the edge upwards in a parody of a smile. Eren quirked his eyebrow and laughed down at me. "I just don't like thinking about you on your own like this. Can't people with medicine allergies just randomly go into cardiac arrest when sleeping?"

I shrugged. "It's possible I guess. But obviously it's never happened to me before."

Eren's hands were playing up and down my back, rubbing and unconsciously finding knots. When his hands snuck down to my butt, I swatted them away before he could get carried away. Eren laughed at me.

"Will you let me come over later? I can grab a bag with my stuff in it, and maybe come back and stay over tonight? We could work things out, since we didn't really have a chance to last night."

I rolled off him, needing some space to think. I wanted him to think, too. "You don't have to do anything you don't want to, Eren. I'll be fine. If you're worried I'll get Petra or someone to stop by."

Eren grabbed me around the wrist. "I want to."

God, he was going to kill me. Every time I tried to stop myself from taking what I so desperately wanted from him, he tossed me a bone. I didn't know what to do with it.

"Okay," I said finally.

Eren snaked his arm around me from behind, then kissed my jaw. "Thank you," he murmured.

I sat there, staring at the wall, while he got up and got dressed. Soon enough, he was standing there in his jeans and hoodie, looking young and fresh and alive. He smiled at me, in a way that made my stomach drop. "See you later?" he asked, as though I'd changed my mind in the last five minutes.

I nodded. "Later."

——

I managed to dress, make myself look presentable, and walk to Survey Recon. Nifa was there already, and so was Hanji, to my surprise. The walk had made me freshly sick, though, so I waved them off while I went to the bathroom to splash my face with water. The nausea did pass after fifteen minutes or so.

I sipped on a ginger ale to calm my stomach, and went back out to the main room. I flipped Hanji the finger as soon as I saw her.

"Feeling rested?" she asked pleasantly.

"Fuck no. I'm feeling like someone who spent half the morning puking my guts up in a toilet."

Hanji actually winced. It was rare, for her to look abashed. "I'll have to adjust the dosage next time."

I walked up to her and picked her up by her shirtfront, gathering the strength to be really pissed. I couldn't hold a grudge against her, but I could slam her up against the wall. I glared at her with all the seriousness I could muster.

"You will not drug me again, not even if you think it's in my best interest. I will fucking decide what goes in my own body. If you breach my trust again like that, you and I are done. And I'm not fucking kidding." I stared her down, making eye contact with her long enough to make sure the message was received and read.

Hanji finally nodded. "I understand."

I put her down, then shook out my hand, which was now shaking. "Fuck," I swore, just because it helped me to feel better.

Erwin strolled in then, carrying some files under his arms. "Good afternoon ladies and gent. I have more information on those cases I passed along earlier."

He either didn't notice the tension in the room, or ignored it completely. He proceeded to lay the case files out, and went through some of the pertinent details of each one. The mission in France was a recon mission. Brazil would be a bit trickier, that one was an intercept mission, to intercept a package being delivered from one asset to another. New York was easy, simply tailing an ambassador at an important event.

We debated the best possible teams to go on each mission. We discussed pairings, and who would work best together. Erwin also told me that he had his eye on a batch of new recruits, fresh out of cadet school that would make great applicants.

"Maybe it's best if we make sure the noobs that we have on the team already are up to snuff before we start throwing others in the mix," I growled.

"On the other hand, if we train all the new recruits at the same time, it'll move things along faster," Hanji argued.

"In case you hadn't noticed, I've already got my hands full. Why don't you at least give us a month to see how the pairings will work up?" I was getting irritated, and I know it was bleeding into my voice.

"Well then, why don't you let me train this new batch in some support capacity before simply tossing them straight into the field?" she countered.

"And what's wrong with a little baptism by fire? You know it's the only way to actually learn anything. You can teach them as many classes as you want in a classroom, but the best way to learn to do this is by following a mentor," I argued.

Finally Erwin got tired of our bickering and held up his hands to ward us off. "Enough, enough. Let's do a compromise, shall we? Levi, you've got three missions on the table. Two of them are appropriate for new recruits. Choose one, and take the newbies with you. Evaluate their professionalism and competency in the field.

"Hanji," he continued, "while he's doing that you can interview the candidates I have to get a first look at whether they're suitable. If you think they're good candidates, then Levi can approve of them in a month's time when they're back and done decompressing from this first mission. Deal?"

Erwin looked back and forth between us, but Hanji and I were just glaring at each other. Finally, I grit my teeth, and ground out, "Deal."

——

I was fucking exhausted by the time I got back home. Nevermind that it was a Friday night, and that Eren was coming over, I was out of it. I had barely made it to the end of that meeting.

Erwin had dropped me home, even though it wasn't far. I was a bit wobbly on my feet by that point. Hanji hardly looked apologetic, that sadistic freak.

When I trudged into the door, I couldn't even pick Titan up, so I had to content myself with petting him on the ground. I did my rounds, tidying up and emptying the litter box. Then I collapsed on my bed. I couldn't even bother getting something to eat.

I remember vaguely texting Eren, and telling him not to bother to come. That I wouldn't be feeling well enough for social interaction. But somehow he came anyway.

I ended up letting him in, and he arrived with an overnight bag. He then tucked me into bed, and maybe somewhere along the line he got some food into me, not sure. Only thing I remember clearly is the tender look on his face when he tucked the blankets in around me.

I don't even remember asking him to stay. But he did stay. He even crawled in next to me, and wrapped his arms around me, and for the first time in forever I felt safe.

I almost wept with relief.

Instead, I just put my arm over his, where it lay snug around my waist. And I closed my eyes and slept.

I hadn't slept so well since the last time Eren had stayed with me, the night I got back from Mali. In fact, I couldn't remember a night I'd slept so well.

I wanted Eren to stay. Not just for one night, or a weekend. I wanted him to stay forever.

Chapter Text

I got up and scrounged something for us to eat, since Levi was still feeling shaky after his experience the day before. He did rouse himself long enough to blend us a couple of smoothies, though. I just made some oatmeal with fruit, since that was his normal breakfast, and would be the best for his stomach.

When we were at the table eating breakfast, I took the time to study him. He still looked tired, but the bags under his eyes were maybe a bit less pronounced. He was sitting there with his foot cocked over his knee, and his arm slung over the back of the chair, looking like a predator taking a break from his day job.

We didn't talk much over breakfast, but it was nice. He read the paper, and I flipped through a magazine I had in my bag about physiotherapy. We drank our smoothies, then Levi made us a pot of tea, and it was something very aromatic with lots of berries in it. He showed me his tea collection, and I kid you not the guy had at least 30 different kinds of tea. Most of the ones he drank were decaffeinated.

When I asked why, he said with a slow blink, "Body doesn't do well with drugs. Or caffeine. Or certain foods. I have to keep my system very clean to stay in optimal shape."

Not like me, who was on the run so much I was stuffing my face with fast food half the time. Although at least I had fast food standards. Some people didn't even have that!

"How's your stomach wound healing?" I asked him as I was clearing the dishes away.

Levi went to go lie down on the couch. "It's not bad," he called out.

"Not bad like, good? Or not bad like, need a few more weeks before vigorous exercise?"

"Why you so interested in when I can do vigorous exercise?" he said sarcastically.

I felt my face go beet red. Damn. Now I had all kinds of images in my mind. Levi lightly covered in a sheen of sweat. Levi panting. Thrusting. Oh yeah, I was in trouble.

Levi poked his head around the corner, to catch the look on my face no doubt. Then he snorted, and that little corner of his mouth turned up again. Oh he knew what I was thinking, all right.

"Probably still another week. But seriously Eren, I thought you weren't interested. I mean, after everything..." He sucked on his lips. "I thought you needed time, you know, for me to gain your trust again."

I thought about that kiss the day before, and how perfect it was. That was what I wanted, not the angry desperation from after the Survey Recon meeting. But was I still interested? Hell yeah, at least, my dick seemed to think so.

"I'm interested," I said vaguely, giving him a look.

He harrumphed and collapsed back onto the couch. "Kid, I'm probably not going to be much fun today. I am feeling pretty shitty right now."

"It's Saturday," I pointed out. "I don't have to go to class. But I do have to get some studying done."

"So go study," Levi said tiredly. "I'm just going to rest. I don't think I can sleep again so soon, but I'll veg here and read a book."

"I have my books in my car," I said thoughtfully. "If you don't mind, I could get them and come back up. We could hang out."

There was a pause while Levi obviously thought about that one. "...Hang out? Jesus you make me sound like a high school student."

And he made himself sound like an old geezer. "Well? Yes or no, gramps?"

"Whatever."

I grinned, and went to tuck into my shoes. "Back in a mo."

——

When I was out in the car, I called Armin. He was happy to hear things were going well between Levi and I, and said he'd pass the message along that I wouldn't be home for a bit.

I then spent all afternoon studying on Levi's kitchen table, while he lay there reading on the couch. After a while he got up and picked up some folders, and started sorting through the information inside. He made tea for us, the joined me at the table, spreading the papers out and taking a look.

"What are you looking at?" I asked him when I wanted a pause from circulatory systems.

"Open cases they need help with. This is the one from Paris."

I stood behind him, looking at the photographs, papers, and even saw some documents that had been redacted with black ink.

"This one should be pretty straightforward. We have a mark - a person of potential interest, usually because of terrorist activity, that sort of thing - that we basically need to tail to get information from."

I noticed that Levi had also written out everyone's name on a notecard, and he was arranging the notecards, pairing them up. He had Mikasa paired with Nanaba. Armin with Mike. And I was with Eld.

"You working on the partnerships?" I asked, noting the obvious.

Levi nodded, pushing back in his seat. "Armin is a real strategist, so he would have been perfect to pair with Erwin. But seeing as Erwin isn't with this operation in any official capacity, I figured Mike is a quiet guy but very good at his job. One of the best fighters that we have, so Armin will be safe with him."

I pointed to Nanaba's name card with a raised eyebrow.

"Nanaba is our best all-rounder. Should complement Mikasa's skills well, I think. Plus, he's female so it makes it a little less awkward with room arrangements if we need to pair up in rooms."

I squinted, then blinked. "Did you just say he's female?"

Levi waggled his hand back and forth. "Gender queer. You know, female on the bottom, but acts like a man. Well, most of the time, there is the rare occasion that you'll get him to act like a girl for a day."

Somehow that made me giggle. I then pointed to Eld, feeling a bit sour about him being paired with me.

"Eld is a good guy. He's dependable. He's got an even temperament, so he'll be a good balance for your passion."

But he's not you, I thought to myself. In fact, Levi's name was nowhere on the table at the moment.

I reached out and caressed the cards, thinking about what I really wanted. Then I got out a notecard, and I wrote Levi's name on it, and I replaced Eld's name with his.

Levi looked at me, his gaze unwavering, but questioning. When I didn't say anything, Levi sighed and turned to the table. He tapped his name card several times. "What do you want from me, kid?"

I licked my lips, not sure how truthful to answer. But before I could think the better of it, I said, "Everything."

Levi snorted, and closed his eyes like he wanted to laugh. He shook his head, then, and said, "Eren, you'll have to be willing to separate the personal from the professional."

"I can do that," I answered straightaway.

"No, you can't," he said softly. I realized then that he was thinking back to what had happened at the tribunal. For him, it hadn't been personal. It had been a part of the job, required for the mission of keeping me safe. I had made it personal.

I wanted to reach out and touch him, but I knew that if this was going to work, I had to convince him right here that I was serious. "Levi, I promise you, I'm willing to try. I understand now what you were doing, it's just that sometimes my emotions run away with me. I want you to respect me, enough to tell me the truth. That hurt worse than anything else.

"But I don't want that to be the end of us. And I can't bear the thought of not being there for you, and having your back, professionally. I promise you I'll work harder than you can imagine. I'll turn myself into a machine if that's what you want."

Levi looked up at me, then he sighed and patted his lap. I looked at him for a minute, not sure if this was what he meant, but when he gave me the look, I sat down on his lap, straddling him.

Levi's eyes were examining my face, and then his hands came up and brushed my hair back. "I don't want you to be a machine, Eren. I want you just the way you are, full of passion, and energy, and joie-de-vivre. But I can't be a good partner to you if you don't trust me."

I bit my lip, and fiddled with the hem of his shirt. "Do you trust me?" I countered.

"Yes."

Levi said the word without hesitation, without doubt, and with utter sincerity. He looked up into my eyes, and I saw in that moment that he would have walked into fire for me. And if I was true to myself, I'd already done that for him. And if I asked myself if I was willing to do it again, the answer was hell yes.

I cradled his head in my hands, and turned him up for a kiss. I just lightly kissed him, not much more than a movement of our lips together. We lingered, lips touching, just tasting each other's essence. "Please be my partner," I murmured against his mouth.

Levi looked at me, well aware that the double entendre was intentional. He closed his eyes and smirked. "Fuck, you have no idea what you do to me."

I grinned down at him, feeling impending triumph. "Oh?"

I kissed him again, only this time, I went in deeper, chasing Levi's tongue. He tasted like peppermint tea, and felt like soft velvet. I moaned into his mouth, loving the taste of him, and at the sound, Levi's hands caught my hips and tightened around them.

"Eren," Levi groaned before reaching up for another kiss, his hands clenching on my sides. My hands were wandering under his shirt, skirting across his abs, and up to run over his pecs. My thumb found his nipple, at the same time as I sucked on his tongue, and I felt the nipple stiffen into a peak under me.

Levi's hands rocked my hips forward, and fuck, there we were rubbing against each other, and Levi was hard. So was I, but knowing that I did this to him, it undid me.

“Are you sure about this?” Levi mumbled, but his hands didn’t stop their exploration of my hips. His hands slid into the back pockets of my jeans, and he cupped my butt in a way that made my body sing.

I tugged on Levi's shirt, and he grumbled but let me get it off him, so I could run my hands up his bare skin. When I bent my neck to suck under his ear, his head tipped away, giving me access, and he was biting his lip adorably. I licked the shell of his ear, and he jerked under me, and I chuckled. Found one of his weak spots.

"Eren," Levi said more urgently, slapping my hip. I jerked to a stop and looked at him. "Let's switch positions," he said, his eyes skirting away. I realized that he was embarrassed at our height difference.

I smiled, and clambered off his lap. Levi stood gingerly, and I took the opportunity to look at the healing wound on his side. It was pink, still raw, but was definitely on the mend.

Levi slapped my hand away, and jerked my shirt unceremoniously over my head. When my skin was exposed, he ran his hands up my torso, and I shivered under his touch. While we were standing, Levi was at the perfect height to step forward and - yes - take my nipple in his mouth.

I threw my head back at the sensation of that wet tongue lapping at me, then nudging the small nub. He then bit it between his teeth, nipping just the right side of pain, which shot straight to my traitorous cock. "Oh, Levi," I moaned, my hands running up his back.

Levi kissed a trail over to my other nipple, which he gave similar treatment. He licked, he prodded, he nipped, he sucked, and hell, I was undone by it. My cock felt rock hard in my pants.

Levi then pulled my head down for another searing kiss, and my arms went around him, and I pulled him up into my kiss, my hands on his lower back. Levi's arms were around my neck, and I was overwhelmed by him, by his kiss, by his scent, his taste.

He finally pulled away long enough to push me down into the chair. "Stay," he ordered, pointing at the chair.

I watched him as he jogged out of the room, and wondered what he was so eager for. It could only be good. We'd never gotten this far before, and I was excited by it, but also a little apprehensive that he'd stop halfway through. God, I wanted him to touch me so badly.

Levi jogged back in, with a tube of lube in his hand. When I saw it, I flushed, wondering what exactly he had planned for us.

He waggled his finger. "I'm not healed enough for that yet, but there's something just as good. As long as you help me a little, this will be great, I promise."

Anything Levi said was great was good enough for me. I smiled at him and beckoned him over.

Levi surprised me by dropping down to his knees in front of me. He looked up at me, and just palmed me a little through my pants, making me squirm. Then undid the zipper and slowly slid it down. When he patted me on the hip, and I obligingly lifted my hips enough to help him slide down my pants and underwear.

Suddenly I was sitting there naked on the chair, but I was too aroused to be ashamed by it. Levi was just standing there, between my spread thighs, looking down at me. He stepped away long enough to give me the once-over, then he cocked that little sideways smile and said, "Not bad."

I was glad there was something about my ridiculously long limbs, and too-soft skin, that he seemed to like. I wasn't hairy all over like most guys - I was just touched with hair here and there, but overall my skin was smooth. My muscles had become more pronounced since I'd started doing kickboxing, and my cock wasn't small by any stretch, so I knew I had nothing really to be ashamed of.

But the way Levi looked at me set me on fire. He looked at me like he'd never seen anything so sexy. He bit his bottom lip, almost involuntarily. Then he slowly looked up at me, and undid his pants, and slid them down. He folded his pants and mine over the back of another chair, then came to stand in front of me.

He wasn't small, either. Especially not for his height. Levi was a lucky boy, and it made my mouth water to see him fully nude for the first time. He was powerful, his body sculpted by muscles, but his bones were still fine, his wrists and ankles thin, almost to the point of being graceful. And he had a collarbone that I could spend hours tracing with my tongue.

Levi ran his hands up my thighs, and leaned in for a quick kiss. His hand found my erection, and pumped it slowly, and my breath caught in my throat. His hand was calloused, but still soft. It felt so good to have his hand on me, and my breath caught somewhere in my throat. His fingers wandered down to my scrotum, playing with my testicles, weighing them and pulling them, making me squirm.

Then Levi pressed my knees together, and climbed fully onto my lap. This way around we fit so perfectly, because when he sat, our faces were completely level. We could kiss like this for hours, languidly, whereas I may have gotten a sore neck doing it the other way around.

Levi's hands were on my stomach, then slid up to my chest, his thumbs circling my nipples. Then he was kissing me, his mouth trailing down to my throat, and he leaned down and bit me, and sucked the injured flesh into his mouth. Why was that so good? I moaned and begged him to do it again, and he did, until my neck was savaged and quivering. He even bit a love mark onto my pectoral, close to my nipple, and when I asked him to, he sucked my nipple into his mouth again, and it was perfect.

I let my hands wander to trace his cock, learning the shape of it, the surprisingly long length, the girth. I stroked him, and Levi stilled, his breath weighing in heavily on my neck.

Then Levi straightened up. He arched his back, and slid forward, and oh god yes, he rubbed our erections together. He pressed our dicks up against each other, and the feeling of his hot hard length against mine made me moan.

I was suddenly self-conscious of the sounds I was making, and I bit my lip to stop, but Levi thumbed my lip out of my mouth. "I like the sounds you make," he reassured me. "When I fuck you, I want you to scream my name."

The whispered words went straight to my dick, and I moaned again.

Levi found my hands, and he placed them on his hips. "I'm still a little weak, so I won't be able to move like normal. So just use your hands when you want to move me, I won't mind," he said seriously, his eyes boring into mine.

I tested it, my hands rocking his hips forward, until not just our dicks but even our balls were rubbing together, and I threw my head back in an oh.

Then Levi was reaching out for the lube, and next thing I knew, he'd squeezed some onto our dicks, and he took them both in his hands. I say hands, because Levi's one hand alone was not big enough to wrap fully around both our dicks, so he needed both hands. The idea of it made me flush, that his small hands couldn't take us.

Levi didn't just jerk us off, though. He almost massaged us together, his hands going up and down, but then smoothing over the tips, then swirling down in a pattern down the length. He was flushed beet red as he did it, looking down at us.

I looked down at us too, and the way his hands moved like magic. Up, down, swirling around, then rubbing over the tips. It felt amazing, like a trail of tingling fire burned in his wake. Then he held them both and pressed the heads together, in an obscene kiss, and then rubbed the full lengths along each other again.

The variety was excruciating, and slow. I felt myself slowly getting hotter and hotter, then when I couldn't stand the slow pace anymore, I started to rock Levi's hips for him, grinding him into me.

"Good, Eren," Levi praised me. "You're so good."

I kept up the motion, my hands catching Levi’s ass, and pushing us together rhythmically. I watched Levi’s face, his eyes were nearly closed and focused on our dicks, his mouth parted. His breathing was erratic, and he was flushed all over. Damn it was sexy.

I groaned and licked his neck, then pulled back so I could watch the flush on his face. "Look at me, Levi," I commanded him.

Levi looked up, his eyes half-hooded as always, though now the pupils were dilated, and he was unfocused in his desire. "Eren, fuck us into my hands," he said huskily.

"God, yes," I agreed. I jerked my hips up, and pulled his hips forward at the same time, and Levi kept his hands in exactly the right place, and exactly the right pressure. I ground up into him, and our movements became sporadic, jerky.

"Levi, I'm close," I warned, in case he wanted to stop.

God, I hope he didn't want to stop.

"Me too," he said breathily. "Eren, let's come together. Eren, harder. Ah, yes, right there - Eren! Now!"

Levi's hips were convulsing, his legs clenching around mine, and my hips were driving up and shit I couldn't even see I was coming so hard. I felt myself jerk not once, twice, but at least four times, maybe five. It was blinding.

I'd never come so hard in my life. I felt like some part of me had been waiting for him, waiting to meet him, and now I had found a release that had been building up inside of me for as long as I could remember.

Levi had come a lot, too, and he was trembling like a leaf, all his strength sapped. I clenched his buttocks in my hands, keeping him in place, while we caught our breath.

Then I pulled back, and looked at us, and laughed.

There was come on our stomachs, on our chests, and even on our faces. I saw a spot of come on Levi's cheek, and he swiped a finger into a spot on my chin, and wiped it on my chest with a grimace.

"Jesus," Levi whispered shakily.

I leaned my forehead against his. "Yeah."

Levi's lips were tracing my temple, then he found my cheek, the corner of my mouth, and finally my lips. We kissed languorously, both half-drunk in a post-coital haze.

Levi's hands worked their way into my hair, and he tilted my head back, so he could look at my face. I can only imagine what I looked like, tousled and flushed and sated and happy.

"Eren, fuck, you have the most beautiful eyes," he said, then started as though he didn't realize he'd said it aloud.

I laughed, pleased at the compliment. "I love your eyes, too," I said. "Even though they're always glaring, or bored, when you look at me like that, it makes me come undone."

Levi leaned our foreheads together, and nuzzled his nose against mine in a surprisingly tender gesture. "Jesus, Eren. Why does this feel so good?"

I looked back at his eyes again. "You feel this too?" This connection, this string that pulled us together. It felt less like rushed sex, and more like making love with a lover you've known in another life. This was what I had craved.

Levi bit his lip, and I thought he'd lie, then he finally said, "Yeah. I feel this too."

I sagged in relief, and hugged him to me, then he squirmed and slithered out of my lap, and then pointed down at the cum now smeared all over his torso. I laughed at his gleaming chest and abs, and it would have been even more funny if it hadn't been fucking sexy too, knowing that it was me, and him, together proof of our attraction for each other.

I stood and reached out a hand and grabbed his wrist. "Come on, Levi. Let's go take a shower."

Chapter Text

I am such an asshole. I slept with a guy over 10 years younger than me. Well, fooled around, depending on your definition. He should probably be out there with some guy or girl his own age. Instead, he's here with me, a grumpy little shit of a man.

I wish I could smile like him. God, if you could have seen the look on his face after he came. His whole body jerked, and it went on and on, and he looked like maybe he hadn't even jacked off since he met me. But when he came, and he looked into my eyes, it was like fuck, we were so connected. I couldn't help wanting to kiss him, because he just looked so happy, so relieved.

He looked like a guy that had been waiting his whole life for a moment of connection like that.

I don't know if Eren is a virgin - maybe that would explain it. But he seems so confident with his body. I can't bear to ask him because frankly I don't want to think of him fucking anyone but me.

When he stood up and grabbed my wrist, and said, "Come on, Levi. Let's go take a shower," I knew he was the man after my heart. I looked down at his sticky chest, and knowing that we were about to clean up let me enjoy the moment of trailing my finger teasingly through the mess.

I reached down and tangled my fingers through his. "Okay," I agreed.

I led Eren to the master bathroom, that I don't think he'd ever used before. The one thing that I had to have when looking for a place was a great bathroom. I needed a shower and a bath. I have one of those European-style bathtubs, with its own shower head for rinsing things off. And a tub big enough for both Eren and me to laze about in.

But we were too dirty for that shit, so I opted for the shower instead. I had a rainfall shower, which in my opinion is just really freaking nice. The water drips down from above, all over you, giving full coverage. You can even turn on sprinklers from the side, but I don't use those as often. Usually I prefer quick, military style showers. Only on occasion would I linger and pamper myself.

I turned the water on, and while the water was warming up, I turned back to Eren. He was looking about in wonder, at all the marble tile and clean sparkling counters. His hand was still held in mine, loosely, so I swung our hands together to get his attention.

"Hmm?" he mumbled, smiling down at me.

I said nothing, just tilted my head enough to bump it into his shoulder. Like he knew what I wanted without me having to say anything, Eren's arm went around me. He hugged me to him, careful not to brush our icky chests together, a gesture I appreciated. He ran his hands up and down my back, and I leaned my head against his shoulder.

"You okay?" he asked.

"Yeah," I mumbled, even though I didn't really feel okay. I felt like I was falling. I wasn't used to the feeling.

In the past, I'd only ever fucked and ran. Mostly girls, too. Then there was Gabriel, who I let myself love, but we had hardly had a chance to be together before he was killed. My heart had never recovered from that, even though it was now many, many years ago. I wasn't sure that I was ready to fall again.

Ready or not, though, god, I wanted Eren. And for whatever reason, he seemed to want me.

When I stuck my arm under the water this time, it was warm. I tugged Eren in after me. It was a tighter fit with him in there with me, but it was still doable.

Eren got to the soap before me, and he squeezed some out, worked it into a lather in his hands, then proceeded to wash me with it. He had a glint in his eyes, so I let him do it. He soaped up my chest, my arms, my stomach. He leaned down and washed my legs, even my feet, swiping his fingers between my toes, making me catch my breath. I'll never touch another person's toes - not unless they are literally straight out of the shower - but I do have a weak spot there.

Eren's fingers swirled around my ankles, and it felt so good, I felt my cock twitch back to life again unexpectedly. I caught my breath, and shoved my fist in my mouth. And it was only the beginning, because sure enough Eren repeated the same treatment on the other side.

Then he rose back to his feet again, his hands finally on my hardening cock, soaping it up into a lather. His hands were so nimble, he felt so good on me, so much better than my own hand and so much better than anyone I'd ever let touch me before. His hands swiped back to clean my scrotum, and my head hit the wall of the shower with a thunk that I hardly felt. He kissed my neck, his hands now running up and down my back, then clenching my butt. Eren's fingers are so long, that he can squeeze my butt in his hands, and the tips of his fingers brush against that part of me that makes me tremble.

I pushed him away, laughing. Then I got some soap, and did the same to him. I ran my hands over his pecs, his abdomen. He may not have been as cut as me, but he was well toned, and his stomach was flat. He was perfect in my eyes, with his honey-coloured skin, and his long limbs. He had very little body hair, but I was okay with that. Neither did I. I washed his arms, his legs. I washed his feet, too, but more cursorily than he had mine.

I slid my hands up the back of his legs, and kissed his cock once. It was half-erect, and it was long, and thicker than I would have expected. I washed his balls, and then I mouthed them, kissing them briefly.

I don't suck cock. As a general rule, I just don't like doing it. Not only is my mouth small, and my gag reflex thoroughly intact, but people are never really clean enough for me to get off on that. But I don't mind kissing, and mouthing cock and balls, as long as they are really clean. And when I inhaled Eren's scent, I found it pleasing to me.

Eren made a noise, and his hand ended up in my hair. I snaked back up his body, got up on my toes to give him a brief kiss on the mouth, then nudged him to turn around.

Eren turned, his hands braced against the wall. His whole back was on display for me, and damn I love backs. I ran my hand down his spine, soap trailing as I washed every inch of his back. I massaged his shoulders, making Eren drop his head down, and breathe out, "Feels good, Levi."

I moulded my body to his back, pressing my hard cock against the back of his legs. Since I was shorter than him, it actually was surprisingly easy for me to fuck him standing up. All I'd need to do was spread his legs...

I trailed a finger down the crack of his ass, and circled around his asshole. Eren jerked, and I felt his hole tremble as he let out a low moan. I pressed my thumb in, just the tip, and just a little. I wanted to feel him tremble.

But no. I wasn't healed enough for that, and it was too soon, anyway. Instead I just hugged him from behind, my hands finding his cock and pumping, while I thrust my cock between the back of his thighs.

I felt myself groan at how good it felt to have him spread out before me. I let my forehead drop to rest between his shoulder blades, and groaned out, "Eren, god, you're so fucking beautiful."

"Levi, faster," Eren groaned.

I took him firmly in hand, my hand still slicked with enough soap to make the passage pretty easy, and I started to jerk him off. At the same time, I fucked him between his legs, and Eren closed his legs to make it tight and damn that was just exactly what I wanted him to do. I knew that had to feel good for him, since my cock was rubbing up against his balls from underneath.

I had a bit of a hard time focusing on jerking him at the same time as pumping my hips into him, but Eren's hand joined mine, and he helped me jerk him off. Eren's other hand wrapped around my hip from behind, and he urged me to move faster. I wanted to, but my side was starting to burn unpleasantly.

I pulled back, and took a deep breath, and started to swear a blue streak.

"Levi?" Eren asked, his hand reaching out for me.

"It's my side," I grumbled. "I can't keep up the motion."

Eren turned around, and without hesitation, he picked me up. I wasn't used to that, and I flailed a little, but when Eren urged my legs around his waist, it made our cocks grind together and yeah, I was good with that.

Eren shoved my back into the wall, and humped me into it, rubbing our cocks together deliciously. It was a mimic of the way he'd held me the other day, but gone was the anger, and now he was full of passion and... love? He then looked down at me, his eyes dark, and caught my lips up into a kiss. "Is this okay?" he asked when we paused for a breath.

I just wrapped my arms around him, digging them into his buttocks. "Only if you fuck me harder," I breathed out.

Eren smiled, but it was a little strained, not from effort, but from holding back. When I gave him permission, he drove his hips up into mine, and humped us together. We both moaned, and I hung onto his neck, while he held my hip up to get the right level of friction.

He had to be freaking strong to hold me up like that, without pause, without his arms shaking. He didn't waver once, just slammed our cocks together, harder and faster, until we were both on the edge.

I must have dragged my nails down his back, because I found gouges there later. Neither of us noticed, as he brutally thrust against me. We just chased each other, until Eren caught my mouth in a savage kiss, and that was it for me. I strained against him, any sounds I made caught in his mouth, and a few thrusts later, Eren was joining me, his come hot against my stomach.

Eren held me there a few moments after we came, just holding me tenderly, his face smiling again. I didn't have the energy to smile, but I ran my hand into his hair, caressing him fondly.

Eventually Eren let me back down again, and we washed each other all over again. This time, Eren squirted some shampoo into my hair, and massaged my head into a nice lather, scraping his fingernails pleasantly against my scalp. I wanted to wash his hair too, but he was too tall. I was up on my toes, and he was bending his head down, but in the end we both laughed and he just washed his own hair.

It gave me a chance to admire what his chest looked like when his arms were above his head, and seeing my attention on him, Eren made a show of it. I ran a hand up his chest, then slapped it playfully.

Eren just caught me up in his arms and hugged me again, holding me tight. I'll never admit it to anyone else, but I fucking love it when he hugs me. It feels so good, when he squeezes me, and I just feel safe and maybe even a little loved. Just a little.

By the time we finally made it out of the shower, the water was running cold.

——

I was fucking starving after the marathon shower sex. And I really didn't feel like cooking, and besides, had no shit in the house, so we would have had to go to the store. So I padded over to the drawer in the kitchen where I kept all the take-out pamphlets, and tossed them on the counter. Eren and I stood there naked, and he was laughing as I was explaining to him what dishes I normally got at which restaurants.

"You're so picky," he said, jabbing me with his elbow.

I swatted his ass. "I only order from restaurants whose kitchens I have personally toured to ensure myself of their hygiene. And yes, I'm picky. I know what I like, and I go for it," I said with a glint in my eye.

"Oh, do you?" He looked so impishly self-satisfied, that I indulged him when he pulled me in for a kiss.

"Food," I said, pulling apart from him. "Food, Eren. Hungry."

He trailed a hand up my back. "So what do you want?"

I laid out the pamphlets. "You're the guest. You pick."

Eren shook his head, smiling. "I'll be happy no matter what we eat. I'm not picky. So just choose whatever you want."

Sometimes he was too sweet, it made me ache a little inside. Partly because I was flattered, and partly because I knew I didn't deserve this. To forestall any further arguing, I simply picked Thai and ordered my favourite dishes. I normally eat mostly vegetarian, but I threw in a chicken with crispy spinach and peanut sauce at Eren's request.

When the food arrived, Eren didn't even comment once on my fastidiousness in the way I dished out the dishes, then put the leftover food away as soon as we had our plates. He didn't make me feel weird for wanting to eat at the table. He just made it all okay. He made me seem almost... normal.

Eren and I curled up on the sofa to watch a movie. I sat on the end, my back and neck propped up on the arm, and Eren stretched out in front of me, his back leaning against me, his head on my chest. I wrapped my arm around him, and it was just... sweet. God, you'd think after all I'd been through in life, I wouldn't be phased by sweet, but I'd had so few moments like this, it was a moment I wanted to stretch out in time.

Eren fell asleep halfway through, and when the movie was over, I didn't have the heart to move him just yet. I let my hand trail over his arm, playing with the fine hairs there. I canted my head in against his and inhaled his scent, which to me was like a balm to the soul.

I felt like I could sleep, with Eren around. I felt like I'd lost so many nights to sleeplessness, I was always dreaming of war and fighting and yet when he was here, for a few moments at least, I just felt at peace.

Eventually I did have to move him, but he was surprisingly light for his height - after all, he was quite lanky - so I was able to hoist him up and carry him to the bed. It pulled my side, and I worried about tearing my recently-healed wound open again, but it was worth it when I laid him down in the bed and his head lolled on the pillow. He curled up on his side, his hand outstretched, and mumbled, "Levi," softly but distinctly.

The brat was even thinking about me in his sleep. It froze me, and I stood there looking down at him. For two people who had known each other but a short time, it seemed like we'd lived lifetimes together. Like we were part of an endless cycle, bound to always find each other. Fuck, I was getting sentimental about it. But no matter how cheesy it sounded, it was how I fucking felt and I couldn't turn it off.

I'd do anything to protect him, I thought, as I stared down at him.

I tugged off his pants, and his shirt, then folded them aside. I went to brush my teeth and get ready for bed, then I slipped into bed next to him.

Eren curled over into me like he'd been waiting for me. His arm pulled me in against his body, my back to his chest, and when I was surrounded by his warmth I remarked for not the first time how I only truly felt warm when he was around. Eren's nose tickling the back of my neck didn't even bother me, or irritate me at all. I just felt... good.

I fell asleep, and dreamed of nothing but his arms around me.

——

I was rudely awaken in the morning by my phone going off. I groaned, determined to ignore it, but the bloody thing kept going off over and over again.

"What. The. Fuck," I grumbled to myself.

I reached for it, but it was out of arm's length, and Eren's arms had tightened around me, holding me to him. I was loathe to wake him up, since he seemed to still be sleeping.

I looked back over my shoulder, and Eren's eyes were definitely closed, but in his sleep he canted his hips against mine, and I felt him stiffen against the back of my legs. His leg shoved between mine, and he tilted his hips, rutting into me shallowly.

Oh, hell. Damn and blast.

I wanted to sink back into him, but didn't think that would solve the issue of how the phone was fucking ringing again.

Someone was determined to get me out of bed.

I tried to shimmy out from under Eren's arm, but he shifted and groaned, and palmed my stomach in a way that had my heart skipping a beat. "Levi?" he mumbled against the back of my neck, his lips kissing me while his hand stroked my stomach.

Fuck it. I stretched, arching back, and kissed his cheek. He turned his head, and pecked my lips, just a surface kiss thank god since he was sure to have morning breath. I nuzzled his nose with mine, and reached my arm up to run my fingers up his neck, and damn his hand was circling lower until it brushed against my dick which sure enough perked up immediately at the attention.

"Eren," I groaned, but I pushed up into his hand anyway.

He started to run his fingers up and down, but when his thumb brushed the tip I jerked, and bit my lip. Why was I so sensitive?

Eren's hips had started moving again, and he was now thrusting against my butt, which made me gasp. He was definitely fully erect, and fuck, I thought, for the first time in my life I was actually wondering what it would feel like to let someone inside me. I'd never done that - always opting to be on the giving end, rather than the receiving - but something about Eren just made me want to open myself up like I'd never done before.

I don't know if it was because I knew he'd take care of me. If I trusted him. Sometimes I felt like Eren was the first person in a long time to actually see me, I mean see beneath my exterior, and my crass jokes, and just see me.

He also smelled really good to me. Even though it was first thing in the morning, Eren didn't develop that overnight awful smell like some guys did. He just smelled... musky, but in a good way, like vanilla and spice.

I reached out to the side table, and grabbed the small tube of lube that I hid there. I wasn't ready for him to fuck me, yet - not only was he too asleep for that, but I'd never taken it up the ass and I had my doubts about whether he'd ever given it up the ass. But there was nothing wrong with him fucking me between the legs, and the more I thought about it, the more I wanted that like, now.

I got my underwear off, then I tugged his down, for which he murmured his thanks.

I slicked up my hands, then reached behind me and found his dick. I also swiped some of the lube between my legs, reaching down to touch myself a little in the process. But it wasn't my hands I wanted, it was his passion.

I tossed the lube back onto the side table, then I reached behind and guided his cock between my legs. I know he was still half-asleep, but when I grabbed his hip and pulled, his body responded, and he started to move. I felt the moment when he fully woke up, because he stiffened for a second, then swore. Then, he started to pepper the back of my neck with kisses.

"Levi, damn, I'm sorry. I can't..."

I know he wanted to say that he couldn't stop. But it's not like I wanted him to. "It's okay," I shushed him, and I tugged on his hip harder.

Eren's cock started to ram up between my legs, and bless him, it rubbed up against my balls in a way that was driving me insane. I moaned, and begged him, "Faster, Eren."

The stimulation picked up, and I felt waves of pleasure starting to build up in me. Thankfully, Eren's hand wound its way around my waist, and he palmed my stomach again before going for the gold and taking up my dick.

Eren's fingers were long and deft and shit he knew what to do. He jerked me fast, then took a break and slowed down in time with his thrusts, then he brought us to a fast pace again. The whole time, his other arm was around me, holding me close, and he was whispering sweet nothings in my ear while he bit and sucked at my neck.

He seemed to know instinctively all the places to touch me that would drive me wild. My hip, grazing his fingers over my hipbones. My knee, as he reached down my leg to stroke it. My neck, when he bit into it.

"Ah, shit Levi, I can't hold back anymore," he ground out.

Had he been holding back? I thought. Then, sure enough, he grabbed my hips with his hand and started to pound and jerk, hard and fast, and he groaned as he managed to focus enough to get his hand on me to do the same. I helped him, my hand closing over his, as I arched my back and gave into the sensation.

"Fuck, Levi, we're going to make a mess," Eren ground out.

A man after my own heart. "I don't care," I grumbled, and grabbed his hip to urge him faster.

Then Eren got really rough with me, murmuring apologies as he rutted into my hips. His motions became jerky, shallow and fast, but yes it felt so good and it's just what I wanted.

I was surprised that I came first, my body arching taut and my dick jerking, spurting fluid on his hand and my stomach. I nearly saw stars, and Eren was still moving behind me, thrusting harder until - ah, damn, his fluid was spurting between my legs. I felt it on the inside of my thighs, and on my balls, and even though it should have been unpleasant it was Eren so it was okay.

I turned my head around, grabbing for his neck as I pulled him into a kiss. I didn't even care what he tasted like, I just wanted that connection to him. I wanted it to last as long as it could.

Eren was laughing when we pulled apart, his hands shaking where they held my hips. "God Levi, I'm sorry."

I kissed the corner of his mouth. "Do I look angry to you?"

Eren shook his head, and nuzzled the side of his face. "Why aren't you?"

I snorted. "I may or may not have started it, not totally sure on that front." I grabbed for his hand, and laced our fingers together, just holding his hand for a minute. "I needed that," I sighed.

Eren kept kissing me, his lips feather light on my neck. "I wanted that," he agreed. His leg was wrapping around mine. "Sleep well?"

I sighed, clutching his hand harder. "Better than I can remember. God, Eren. I don't understand it."

He murmured his agreement. "Do you need to understand it?"

I shook my head. "I dunno. I need to get out of bed, though, someone's been trying to call me for an hour. And we need to put these sheets in the wash."

Eren kissed my neck one last time. "I'll get the sheets and wash up. You get the phone."

Bless his soul. I did exactly that, frowning at my cum-splattered body in the mirror as I pulled up the last 5 missed calls from Erwin. I dialled the number.

"Where the hell have you been?" he said shortly as a greeting.

I ran the water, and got a washcloth to wash the worst of it off my stomach. "Busy. What's up?"

Erwin sounded annoyed. "What could you possibly be busy with on a Sunday morning?"

“Fucking,” I ground out shortly.

Erwin laughed long and hard at that one. “No, seriously, why not call me back? It’s not like you.”

I rolled my eyes and bent down to run the washcloth between my legs. “Erwin I had a dick between my legs that wasn’t my own. Trust me, as soon as we finished painting the sheets with our come, I called you back. What’s up?”

“You are serious. Jesus, Levi. Way to announce it.”

“You asked,” I complained mildly. “So why are you fucking calling me on a Sunday morning?”

Erwin went quiet for a moment on the other end. “It better not be Eren Jaeger you’re fucking. That could be a problem, considering our situation.”

I turned and watched Eren out of the corner of my eye. He had finished stripping the bed and was now carrying the armful of sheets to the washer. I didn’t give a fuck what Erwin or anyone else thought, if Eren wanted to stay, he could stay. As long as he goddamned wanted.

“Nah,” I lied. “Just a random pickup. He’s leaving now.”

“Hmmm. Eren’s still pissed at you?”

“Of course,” I ground out.

“Good. So listen, I thought today would be a good day to get everyone together, to go over the final team arrangements, and partner everyone up. The teams will need to leave by the end of the week, so we’ll need to get them up to speed with weapons training as well. Have you found a facility for that yet?”

I examined my fingernails, and found them acceptably clean. “I’ve been looking into nearby shooting ranges, we won’t be able to have one in our building unless we do some major reno to soundproof it.”

“I think I can swing the cash for the reno. Get a contractor in to get started on the work. In the meantime, you can bring the newbies to the military shooting range, I’ll get special passes arranged.”

That was helpful. “Thanks,” I said honestly.

“So, if I ask Hanji to gather everyone here late afternoon, will you be able to make it in an hour or so early to go over the missions and team assignments with me?”

I propped my hip up against the sink, glaring at the floor. “Erwin, I want to make one thing clear. I intend to run Survey Recon how I see fit. I don’t mind informing you of what’s going on, and who’s partnered with whom, but ultimately the decisions need to be mine. I won’t be able to work with the team effectively if I need to come running to you every time I need to swap someone’s partners.”

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Eren had dragged on his jeans from the day before, and was heading to the kitchen. Tea and oatmeal, I hoped. He knew me well enough now to anticipate that, probably. The thought warmed me.

Erwin was silent for a good thirty seconds after I laid that one out. Then, he finally said smoothly, “Of course, Levi. I wouldn’t presume.”

The unspoken statement was that if he had objections, I was damn well going to hear them. But it didn’t mean I had to obey them, and that difference was important to me.

“What time did you have in mind?”

“3pm for everyone else, 2pm for us if you don’t mind.”

I checked the clock. It was still early, not even 10 am yet. “Not a problem,” I agreed.

When I hung up the phone, I jumped into the shower real quick for a 3-minute military scrub. I felt better for having done it. When I dressed and rejoined Eren in the kitchen, I saw that he must have done the same, in the guest bathroom, since his hair was wet.

How was he always able to anticipate my desires? He always knew what I wanted before I even had to ask.

When we sat down to eat our breakfast, I canted my leg out so that it was hooked casually on top of his. Eren turned to smile at me, and I felt my heart flutter at it.

“I need to talk to you about something,” I said hesitantly.

Eren gazed across at me. “Shoot.”

“Remember how I said the thing that I was uncomfortable with PDA?”

Eren nodded, continuing to eat his oatmeal slowly.

I looked away. I couldn’t bear to look at his eyes and ask him what I was about to ask. “It’s not just that… We need to keep our relationship a secret, Eren.”

When I glanced at him, I saw that Eren had bit his lip. “Armin and Mikasa already know how I feel about you,” he said shyly.

“Do they know for sure that we hooked up?”

Eren shook his head. “Last time I talked to Armin was when I went to get my books yesterday. Before… everything happened.”

Before we’d fucked. Multiple times.

“Good. Can you please not tell them? And needless to say, anyone else on Survey Recon.”

Eren’s expression was pained, and a little glum. “May I ask why?”

I sighed, and tilted my head onto my steepled hands. “Erwin doesn’t approve. Thinks our… relations would unduly complicate an already fucking complicated situation.”

Eren’s eyes flicked up to mine. “So you’re not ashamed of me?”

Is that what he thought? When I saw how shiny his eyes were, I reached out and grabbed his hand, and squeezed it. “God no. Eren, I would like nothing better than to shout to the sky that you’re mine. I’d like to go to movies with you, and hang out in public, and enjoy your company. But I can’t. I’m sorry.”

Eren blinked and turned away, but he laced our hands together. “Okay.”

“Eren… I shouldn’t be telling you this, not so soon, but… to me, you’re like home. I knew it when you came for me in Mali. And no matter what else happens between us, I want you to remember that. When I think of home, I think of you.”

He bit his lip, but didn’t say anything. It drove me crazy, so I scooted our chairs closer together, and caught his neck in my hand. I pulled his head to tip against mine, and pressed a kiss to his temple.

“For you, does it need to be public for it to be real?” I asked quietly.

Eren sighed. “I’d like for my best friends to know. They know everything about me. But… no, not public. I just hate hiding. I’m not good at subtle deceptions like that, I’m going to fuck it up.”

I squeezed his hand, and nuzzled the side of his face. “You won’t fuck it up. But even if you do, Eren, we’ll deal with it then. Okay?”

He nodded, his hand reaching out to grip my thigh. “I’ll do my best,” he promised.

“Fuck,” I sighed, and kissed his neck. “God knows what I did in another life to deserve you.”

Eren looked over at me and smiled. “Ditto.”

Chapter Text

When I walked in the door of my apartment that afternoon, it felt a little weird. I hadn’t been back there since Friday, and it was now Sunday, for one. For another, it felt like my whole world had changed 360 degrees.

I was pumped full of energy, and felt like I could take on the world. I hadn’t only made up with Levi, I’d made out with him. Then… god, I sometimes would just get overwhelmed with sensory memory of what it felt like to be touched by him.

Levi was quite a bit older than me, so it was guaranteed that he had more experience than me. But even so, I had very little experience of my own. I’d received a couple of hand jobs in my life, from some girls who had come onto me, but that was about it. I had just sort of done that out of curiosity, rather than interest. Levi was the first person, and definitely the first guy, that I was totally into. And Jesus, was I interested. All he had to do was look at me and I got hard.

I had it bad.

And… I had to hide that. How the heck was I going to do that? Armin had told me since we were kids that I couldn’t hide a thing on my face. He’d take one look at me and know. And Mikasa… she’d be able to tell right away. And she’d be pissed at him, that was for sure.

But that’s what Levi wanted, so… I guess I had to try.

I tossed my bag down then flopped down onto the couch and groaned, covering my face with my arms.

“Eren, is that you?” Mikasa called out.

I groaned in response.

“We’re in the kitchen making lunch. You want some?”

“Sure,” I called back. I hauled my lazy ass up out of the bed, and sauntered into the kitchen, scratching an itchy spot on my belly under my shirt.

I stopped dead when I walked into the kitchen. When she’d said we, I just assumed she meant that Armin was over. He was, but they weren’t alone. Jean fucking Kirschtein was sitting at the dining room table, looking comfy as you please.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” I grumbled, annoyed.

Armin looked up, his eyes wide. “Eren, jeez. Take it easy.”

I felt the irritation flare up inside me, and fed the flames. “Take it easy? What’s this jerk off doing in my kitchen?”

Armin shot to his feet, hands on his hips. “You haven’t even been around all weekend, how do you get to complain about it? Anyway Mikasa invited us over for a movie last night and everyone ended up falling asleep in the living room. Not that it’s any of your business.”

I clenched my teeth, and dug around in the fridge for the orange juice. I sloshed it into a cup and slammed the fridge door closed. “Since when are you guys buddies?”

“Since you started spending all your time chasing after Levi! For what good it’ll do you. That guy is a closed book, Eren.”

Part of me was surprised to see Armin all worked up, even though it did happen from time to time. I gulped down my juice, using it as an excuse to not think about how Levi sounded when he came.

“Would everyone stop talking about me as though I’m not right here? Christ.”

I rounded on Jean, and pointed my finger in his face. “You’re a lazy asshole, Jean. And what were you even doing at Survey Recon, eh? You planning on joining up?”

Jean shot a look to Mikasa, to my confusion. Why was he looking at her?

“Yeah, actually,” he said. “I am.”

I clenched my hands into fists. He was a liability, as far as I was concerned.

“You haven’t been to kickboxing in a while, Eren,” Armin pointed out. “Jean is actually really good when he puts his mind to it. And he’s been making an effort. So why don’t you cut him some slack?”

I looked around at the three of them, and it was three against one, so I knew I was fighting a losing battle. They weren’t going to toss him out on his ass, no matter how much I complained.

“Look, Eren. I wanted to say I’m sorry for the way I acted when we first met. You’re right that I wasn’t taking things seriously. I was just looking for an easy way out, an easy life.”

I stared at him, my mouth hanging open. He actually looked sincere. That horse face of his was sternly focused on me. “Are you apologizing?

Jean nodded, his mouth pressed into a line. “Yeah, I am. After what you guys did, going after Levi… Well, you changed my mind, all right? I don’t just want to do the easy thing anymore. I want to do what’s right.”

I stood there staring at him, and he at me. Then, slowly, he put out his hand to shake. A peace offering.

I wanted to slap his hand away, but I knew with the others watching that it would just look like I was acting childish. So I took his hand, and I shook it firmly. “I’ll give you the chance to prove it,” I said, trying to keep the sullen tone out of my voice.

“Thanks, that’s all I ask.”

When we sat down to eat, I was at the head, Mikasa on my left, Armin on my right, and Jean next to Mikasa. He kept sneaking glances at her, and it was just so obvious, I couldn’t believe it. Jean had a crush on Mikasa?

Armin caught my eyes, and shook his head minutely, imploring me to leave it be. I sighed and tucked into my food. It wasn’t like I had a right to complain - being that I was keeping an even bigger secret from the rest of them.

It didn’t make a damn bit of difference that I knew how angry they’d be when they found out. Hurt, actually. It didn’t matter because I was selfish, and I would do anything to protect what I had with Levi, even if it wasn’t perfect. I wouldn’t give it up.

So I shut my mouth, and ate my lunch in silence.

——

Jean was still over that afternoon when we got the message to meet at Survey Recon. So we all piled into his Jeep for a ride over there, me tucked in the back with Armin, and Mikasa up front with Jean. If I didn’t know better, I’d almost say she was encouraging him. She certainly wasn’t discouraging him, which for her, was a freaking miracle.

When we arrived, Jean spotted his best friend Marco, and jogged up to him, clasping hands with him and thumping him on the back. Marco was smiling and laughing at him, and the easy friendship between them was genuine. Marco seemed like a good guy, and if he could put up with Jean, then maybe he wasn’t so bad, after all.

Erwin and Levi were standing over by the screens, talking to each other in hushed voices. Levi was dressed in tight black jeans and a white v-neck t-shirt again. I wondered how much of his wardrobe was made up of black and white, but didn’t curse it, because damn he looked good in that. He had his arms crossed over his chest, which made the muscles in his forearms stand out. I ached to touch him, but I had to turn away instead, and pretend I hadn’t spent the night before wrapped up in his arms.

Erwin looked like a machine, in his jeans and t-shirt. He towered over Levi in a way that was almost comical.

When I looked around the room, it was a similar grouping to last time. A mix of older, seasoned soldiers, and new recruits like us. I stood around casually, chatting with Armin and Mikasa and resolutely ignoring anyone else.

Levi finally got everyone’s attention, and set up the information on the screens.

“Thanks for getting your asses out here promptly. If I haven’t received your signed contracts already, then please give them into Nifa before I kick your ass. Or if you’re not interested in staying with us, then get the fuck out.”

He looked around at everyone, but when nobody moved to leave, he grumbled. “Good. I take it to mean all you guys are in for the long haul.” He typed something into the computer, and up on the screens flashed all our names, grouped into groups of two or three.

“Listen up, cause I’m only going to say this once. These pairings are temporary. We normally pair people up in 2s, but because there are so many freaking noobs here, we’ll have some pairings of 3.

“Nanaba, you’ll be in charge of Mikasa and Armin. Erd, you get Jean and Marco. Mike, Annie and Reiner. Lastly, Moblit gets Betholdt. Anyone got a problem with that, then suck it up.”

Levi looked around the room at all of us, taking us in one by one. When nobody objected, he was about to move on, but then of course Jean’s hand went up. Levi pinched the bridge of his nose between two fingers.

“What, Kirschtein?”

“Just wondering why Eren doesn’t have a partner.”

Levi sighed and canted a hand on his hip. “Eren is under probation, so he’s under my direct supervision. He’ll be partnered with me, indefinitely.”

“Probation?” Jean asked, surprised. There was muttering as the others started talking amidst themselves. All of the senior officers knew, they’d been at the tribunal after all. But apart from my direct friends, the others had no idea. “What for?”

“He killed a bunch of people in Africa when he came to bust me out of jail. So until we can prove that he’s not a danger to anyone, I keep him under a tight leash. Not that it’s any of your fucking business. Eren has to report in to me frequently and it wouldn’t make sense for him to be partnered with anyone else. Moving on…”

I could feel everyone’s eyes on me after that, and I tried not to squirm in my shoes. There was something about the way that Levi said things that was too harsh, too much to the point. He didn’t mince his words, that’s for sure. I wasn’t embarrassed, but I was a little ashamed, because I didn’t even remember the faces of the guys I’d killed. To me, they were nothing but an obstacle between me and Levi’s freedom. An obstacle to be cut down.

Armin caught my hand up in his, and gave it a squeeze. Mikasa pressed in close, her shoulder propped against mine. I took strength from their presence.

Levi’s eyes grazed over me, and I saw him look me up and down briefly, taking in how close they were to me, and then he moved on.

“Team Mike and Team Moblit, you’ll be heading to New York on bodyguard detail for a Canadian Diplomat. Here are the mission details in brief, but the full details will be laid out for you by Hanji.” I watched Levi as he spoke, standing up there with his back straight. He looked so confident, so present, so natural in his skin. I always felt a little awkward, and I admired him for not being that way.

“Team Nanaba, Team Erd, you’ll be joining Eren and I in Paris. There is one mark that we need to do 24-hour surveillance on, who is a Canadian expat suspected of possible terrorist activity. Here are the details in brief, but I’ll fill you guys in on the rest over the next day…”

By the time he finished going over the details, I had to admit, my eyes were glossing over a little. I was not good at long lectures, even though I could tell he’d tried to keep it brief.

At the end of the meeting, Levi concluded by saying, “The New York mission will leave by this Tuesday evening. Paris departs Wednesday night. That should give each of you sufficient time to organize your affairs. New York is expected to take 3-4 days, whereas Paris may take as long as a week.”

“What about those of us who need to miss class?” Marco asked with a raised hand.

Levi looked irritated at the question. “Well, let us know if you need a fucking note. Anything else?”

When no one said anything, Levi waved his hand. “Then that’s it. New York team, check with Hanji for details. Paris, you’ll be with me. But fuck off for now, since I don’t have any more information for you at this time.”

Then he turned away, and he and Erwin headed up to Levi’s office.

I didn’t even have a chance to say hello, or goodbye. Levi was true to his word. But for one glance stolen in an hour-long lecture, you would never have known that we’d fucked last night, and again this morning. If I couldn’t still feel the ghost of his hands on my skin, even I might have forgotten.

——

Jean gave us a ride back to our place that night, and Marco came along, so that we could all talk about things. Marco was just one of these guys that everyone loved. He was quick to smile, quick to laugh, always looking on the positive side of things.

“We’re going to Paris!” he called out, and did a little dance.

Jean laughed, and got up and did a dance with him. “Paris, Paris!”

“Oh kill me now,” I groaned, sinking down into the couch. Was this what it was going to be like the whole time?

Armin sank down on one side of me, and Mikasa on the other. Armin was laughing at Jean.

“So, what do you want to do if we have time for sightseeing?” Marco asked Armin.

“Oh, I want to see the Louvre. Definitely! So much history, and art. That would be an amazing experience!” Armin’s eyes lit up, it was terribly cute, and I threw my arm over him to give him a half-hug.

“And you, Mikasa?” Marco asked, going around the room.

“The Luxembourg Gardens, I guess. I’ve heard they’re really nice.”

I put my arm around Mikasa, too. I loved being right in the middle, and I was grinning.

“I want to see the Eiffel Tower,” I pronounced.

“Oh yeah!” Armin agreed. “That would be awesome.”

“What about you, Marco?” Jean asked.

Marco struck a thinking pose. “That’s a hard one. Maybe… I know! I want to see a show in the Moulin Rouge!” Then unbelievably he started dancing, and singing, “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi? Ce soir?”

I couldn’t help it, I burst out laughing. He was so funny.

“Okay, okay,” I said, waving my hands. “Jean, you’re the last one. What would you want to see?”

Jean crossed his arms over his chest and took a serious air. “Paris catacombs,” he said in an eerie voice.

Armin shrieked. “Eww, no! They’ve got like thousands of skulls down there!”

Marco threw an arm over Jean’s shoulder. “Jean’s always been the best at telling ghost stories. If he went there, that would fuel him for a decade, I swear!”

“You’re so going to have to tell us some ghost stories while we’re away,” Armin threatened, getting that evil glint in his eye.

While Jean and Armin were starting to argue about it, I felt something buzz in my pocket. I pulled out my phone, and I saw Titan’s furry face lighting up the screen. At the top it said, Incoming call from Grumpy Cat.

“Are you getting a phone call from a cat?” Mikasa asked, looking over my shoulder.

I laughed and stood up, brushing her off. “Sure, Mikasa. Hello?”

Levi’s silky voice spoke to me from the other end. “Hey, Eren. You all right?”

I walked back into my room, taking my bag with me so I could unpack my overnight bag. “Yeah sure, you?”

Levi sighed and flopped down. “Yeah, good. I just hoped today wasn’t too hard for you.”

I closed my bedroom door for some privacy. “You mean, not being able to talk to you?”

“Yeah. I hope you know it’s not what I want…”

I started pulling my clothes out of the overnight bag and tossing them in the hamper, just to have something to do. “Why do you care what Erwin thinks anyway?”

“It’s complicated,” he said after a moment.

God I hated that phrase. What a cop-out. “If you don’t want to tell me then just say that. Don’t say it’s complicated unless you’re willing to offer up an explanation.”

I could almost picture Levi rubbing between his eyes to relieve the tension. “It’s not that I don’t want to tell you, it’s just… We’ve known each other a long, long time. And there’s a delicate balance between us. Erwin likes to know that he holds all the power. I like to let him keep that illusion, it’s just simpler that way.”

“Simpler for whom?”

“For me,” he admitted. “But also, for us. He is the only one who is arranging the relationship for Survey Recon with the military, and he is the one who has secured the financial backing for this enterprise. If he decides to cut and run, then he’ll have no problem getting off scot-free, while the rest of us will be out of a job. I didn’t think it was worth the risk.”

I hummed at that. Not worth the risk, not for me. The stakes were too big.

“It’s for you as well that I’m doing it this way, Eren,” he said after my silence drew out too long. “If they decide I’m not a ruthless enough guardian for you, then they’ll transfer you to someone else. Is that what you want?”

I shook my head, then when I realized he couldn’t see it, I said softly, “No.”

“What do you want, Eren?”

Levi’s voice was rubbing against me like velvet in the dark. I flopped down on my bed. “You,” I said, my voice husky.

Levi sucked in a breath at that.

“You’re all I’ve ever wanted, since I first laid eyes on you,” I whispered.

“Fuck,” Levi groaned. “You’ll be the death of me, kid.”

I laughed at that. “I hope not.”

I heard a shuffling as Levi was moving around. After a while, he said, “What are you wearing?”

I laughed again. “Seriously? You want to do that?”

There was a pause on the other end. Was Levi sheepish about it?

I heard the sound of laughter coming from the other room, and music. There was enough loud noise from the other room that no one would hear me, if I wanted to…

“Yeah,” Levi said, his voice low. “I do. Do you?”

“Ugh,” I groaned. Just the sound of his voice made me hard, how could I not? I rubbed a hand on my dick through my jeans, and it stiffened right up in my hand. “I’m wearing a corset and garters,” I said with a smile.

Levi laughed. He actually, literally laughed. It was the first time I’d ever heard it, and if I hadn’t been hard already, that would have done it. As it was, my dick was suddenly hard enough to cut a hole through my jeans, so I hissed and pulled the zipper down.

“Did you just get your cock out?” he asked me.

I palmed it in my hand, my flesh familiar to me. “Yeah,” I admitted. “What about you, what are you wearing?”

“My black jeans,” he said, and I heard his zipper going down. “No underwear. Shirt’s off.”

At hearing he wasn’t wearing any underwear, my dick got impossibly harder, and I started stroking it. “Were you not wearing underwear the whole time we were in that meeting today?”

Levi shifted, and I heard his hand start to move, slick movements. “No, I wasn’t wearing underwear at all today,” he admitted.

“Shit,” I swore, and pumped my hand faster. “Hang on.” I put him on speakerphone, and placed the phone next to my head, so I could use both hands on me. “Better,” I groaned out, and used my second hand to play with my balls.

“What are you doing, Eren?” Levi’s silky voice asked me.

“Uhh… I just put the phone on speakerphone. So I could… um… ah, touch myself better.”

Levi’s breathing got heavier. “Is your hand on your dick?”

“One hand on my dick, the other on my balls,” I ground out, and gave them a tug. “You?”

“I’ve got my dick in my hand, and I’m stroking it. I’m thinking of you, that it’s you with your hand on my dick.”

“And you’re the one playing with my balls,” I whined, moaning. “You’re cupping them, ah, touching them, stroking them.”

“Do you like that, brat? Do you like it when I put my mouth on your balls?”

My hips jerked, and I started pumping harder into my fist. “Yeah, god yes, I love it when you do that.”

“Eren, spread your legs for me,” Levi commanded. I did it immediately, unable to disobey that voice of his. “I want you to suck on your finger. Are you doing it?”

I sucked it noisily, so he could hear it. “Mmm. It’s all wet.”

“Good. Now, take it and play with your hole. Run your finger around the edge of it, are you doing it?”

My hole was quivering, as I imagined him doing this to me. “Yesss,” I hissed.

“Keep pumping your cock. Your hand’s moving faster now, isn’t it? And that finger, it’s teasing your hole, teasing it until you can’t wait to put that finger inside. Now, Eren. Just the tip. Slip it in.”

My hole clenched around my finger, and it felt a little strange, but somehow intensely erotic when I imagined it was Levi’s finger. My cock was leaking now, and I groaned out, “Levi, I’m so wet. My dick’s leaking, it’s trailing on my stomach.”

“Good, Eren,” Levi practically purred. “Mine’s leaking too, thinking of you. I’m so hard. I’m hard for you.”

Jesus. “Levi, fuck.”

“That’s right, Eren. Fuck your hole with that finger, and at the same time, work your cock.” Levi’s voice was strained, and he was panting. “We’re going to make a mess, Eren.”

I lost the ability to speak, as I curled my finger deeper into me, and my hand flew across my dick. I couldn’t reach a good angle with my finger, but that didn’t matter, the only thing that mattered was hearing Levi’s voice on the other end.

“Eren, are you close?”

“Yeah, Levi. I’m really close. Shit. Are you?”

Levi sucked in a breath and released it noisily. “I want to hear you come,” he groaned out.

In that moment, I really didn’t give a fuck who could hear me in the other room. My hips canted up, and I moaned, long and loud, saying, “Fuck yeah, Levi, ugh, I’m coming.”

“So good, Eren, God. Ohh… Fuck, I’m coming too.”

“Feels so good, Levi.”

I actually forgot for a moment that he wasn’t there with me, because it felt so real, it felt so good the pleasure wrapped me up in warmth and I just wanted to sink into it.

When I finally seeped back into awareness, Levi was murmuring in my ear, “You okay, Eren? Too much?”

I laughed when I saw the amount of come that was pooled on my stomach. “Damn, Levi,” I said shakily. “I’m covered in come.”

Levi groaned and I pictured him biting his lip. “All that for me?”

“Yeah, just for you.” It sounded cheesy, but I couldn’t help it. “Fuck I wish you were here.”

Levi bit down on another groan. “I’m sorry, Eren. I’m sorry it has to be like this.”

My come was rapidly cooling on my skin, and now that the haze had worn off, I was starting to feel dirty. I swiped a tissue and dabbed at the mess on my stomach. “Levi when will I get to see you again?”

“Not ’til Paris, Eren. I’ll see you on the flight, on Wednesday night.”

I sucked in on my disappointment. That was days away. Lifetimes. “Okay,” I said finally.

“Eren, fuck, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I’m not there.”

I finished cleaning my stomach off, then curled myself up on my side. “What would you do if you were here?” I mumbled.

“I’d hold you,” he said right away. “I’d sneak in under your arm, and wrap my body around yours. And I’d hold you, feeling your heartbeat against mine until you fall asleep.”

I was feeling sleepy. When I glanced at the clock, I saw it was past 10pm. How had it gotten so late?

“Would you stay with me?” I mumbled tiredly.

“As long as you want me,” he agreed. “I’ll stay with you forever, Eren. I’m right here. I’ll always be here.”

I fell asleep listening to his voice, whispering in my ear. I fell asleep with a smile on my face.

Chapter Text

My days were taken up with the plans for the trip. Nifa, Hanji, Erwin, and I all knocked out the details with precision, bringing in Nanaba and Erd for discussions and briefings.

All in all, it should be a rather straightforward affair. We had one guys to watch, 24-hour surveillance, and 3 teams going. We would rotate in and out on 8-hour shifts. If the guy left the house, we’d tail him out. We’d look for an opportunity to sneak Nanaba in there to comb the place, since he was the most discreet at that kind of thing.

If all went well, the job would be done in and out of three days.

I was supposed to try to arrange weapons training for the noobs, but the timing was too quick to make it work. You didn’t need it on a surveillance job anyway, not unless you royally fuck up, and I wasn’t about to let that happen.

Hanji took care of sending the flight details to everyone, and coordinating the travel. We were paired up in rooms - Nanaba and Mikasa, Armin and Erd, and Jean and Marco. Then, needless to say, me and Eren.

Sharing a room together would either be the sweetest torture or a relieved respite. It all depended on how well we got along, and how far our room was from the others’ listening ears. Although maybe there was something I could do about that second one…

I was the last one to arrive at the airport. I always showed up at the last second, because I had a preferred traveller’s pass that enabled me to get in and out of security at the front of the line. That plus carrying my bag on the plane meant I could show up 15 minutes before boarding and never have an issue.

When I strolled up to the gate, a to-go cup of tea in my hand, I found everyone sitting together chatting away. Eren was between Armin and Mikasa as usual, and he was laughing heartily at some story that Marco was telling. The sound of his laughter was like a balm to the soul. Erd and Nanaba were off to the side, conversing quietly together, so I joined them instead of the brats.

“Yo,” I greeted them.

Erd shot me a smile. “Nice to see you made it.”

“I always make it,” I said, nonplussed. I shot my eyes over to the counter, and saw the flight attendants scurrying around getting things ready. “Luckily the plane is on time. I would have been so pissed to have to wait.”

“Got your mask with you?” Nanaba asked, flitting a smile.

I rolled my eyes. “Of course. Never travel without it.”

Just then I heard my name called out, and I whistled with appreciation. Looked like I got the upgrade I’d applied for. I sauntered up to the counter. When they handed me my new boarding pass with a smile, I saw I was in row 4. Brilliant, at least I wouldn’t have to spend the flight listening to the brats yap on and on.

“That upgrade is wasted on you,” Erd complained when I rejoined him.

“Why is that?” I asked with a raised eyebrow.

He pointed at my legs. “You’re already short enough that you’re comfortable in coach. I always have my knees pressed up against the seat in front of me. Never mind if the jerk in front decides to put their seat back.”

I turned to look at the brats, ignoring him. “You’re not getting my seat,” I grumbled as I let my eyes roam over Eren for a moment.

He was looking fit, his hair shining, teeth gleaming white. He was wearing a pair of jeans and a hoodie as usual, and a pair of converse that looked like they had a custom design printed on them. I wondered idly where he’d gotten them.

Eren looked up at me, and his eyes widened. I could see him resist waving at me, but he did blink at me, slowly enough to make it an obvious greeting.

I turned my face away, and busied myself with double-checking my toiletries.

It was always an overnight flight, flying from Montreal to Europe. At least this time we didn’t have to switch planes, it was direct. Since I knew I was in first class, I got on the plane first, giving myself the extra time to get myself seated. I put my mask on straightaway, dabbing some mint and aloe on the inside for a pleasant odour.

Then I washed my hands with some hand sanitizer. I wiped down the armrests of the seat, and the window, for good measure. I put on a pair of white gloves. And I wrapped a scarf around my throat, because damn the overnight flights always seemed to get really cold.

I had just finished bundling myself up in the blanket when the kids filed in past me. Half of them didn’t recognize me, I was so bundled up. But Eren knew who I was. He smiled at me, and trailed his hand surreptitiously along my arm as he filed past.

My arm felt warm for an hour afterwards.

——

Seven hours later, but only two hours of semi-sleep later, we landed in Paris.

Normally when I stayed in Paris for extended periods, of a week or more, we rented an apartment. That was much more comfortable for me, since I could clean it myself, and make sure everything was to my liking. But this time, we were here only a few days, a week at the most. And it was hard to fit that many people into an apartment. So, hotel it was.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Europe, but hotels there are tiny. If you get a single room, they really mean single, with a small bed that someone the size of Erd would easily have his legs dangling off the end of. If you got a twin, it was two of those tiny beds. Generally, I would usually prefer opting for a double or queen bed and sharing it, rather than getting a twin room.

When we all checked into our rooms, we originally had twin rooms booked. I divvied up the keys, and we all filed up onto the same floor. The rooms were all located near each other, as I suppose is normal when you book rooms together.

When I opened the door to our room, it was actually okay. It was a twin room, with the beds pushed together. The shower was tiny, even for a guy like me. But, well, it was serviceable.

But I raised a big fuss, anyway. I found fingerprints on the glasses, and dirt on the bed linens. I said the place smelled bad, like moth balls. I complained loudly about how unacceptable the room was, then called reception from the phone in the room and complained to them at length.

Luckily I was able to modify my french into a more Parisian dialect, because I’d had experience in the past when people had refused to acknowledge understanding of a foreign french accent. But I switched to Parisian, and went on and on. I threatened to move our whole group out of there if they didn’t have a new room for me.

The lady at the front desk was so rattled by it that she offered to upgrade me to the best room in the place. It was one of only two queen rooms they had in the whole place. I told her she had better send someone up to make sure it was extra clean before we would move our things in there. She asked me to come back down to reception and she’d have it sorted in no time.

Eren was quite bewildered the whole time. He was following my french, since his french was quite decent, but he was flapping his arms about like he couldn’t see what the big deal was.

When I hung up the phone, I winked at him, and sidled up next to him. I stood close, our chests brushing together. “Trust me?” I asked, looking up at him.

Eren’s face flushed. He nodded, and I saw his hand twitch like he wanted to touch me, but thought the better of it.

I leaned up and gave him a quick peck on the lips, which startled him more than anything.

When we breezed back down again, the lady at reception was all aflutter. I gave her my haughtiest stare, and crossed my arms over my chest. There were times when it was better to catch flies with honey than with vinegar, but in my experience, that’s simply not the case in France. One has to appear morally superior to everyone else to get one’s way.

We were led up to a room on the top floor, and the bellboy actually stayed to ascertain that the room was to our liking. I made a big show of it, breezing in and examining the glasses, sniffing the bedsheets, and opening up the closets and bathroom. This bathroom was only slightly larger than the last, but oh well one can’t have everything.

“It’ll do,” I finally said, pushing a tip in his hand and shooing him away.

When we were alone, Eren sat down on the bed, leaning back on his arms, and looked up at me. Then he slowly smiled, realization dawning. “You did this just to get us a bigger bed?”

I looked down my nose at him, giving him that same haughty stare. “Of course not. I did this to get us a room farther away from the others.”

Eren cocked his head to the side, smiling up at me. “Oh?”

I stepped closer to him. “You wouldn’t want them to overhear us… fighting, would you?”

Eren grabbed onto my hips when I was close enough to settle between his legs. “Oh, no,” he agreed. “You can be very loud when you’re… angry with me.”

I fisted my hand in his hair, pulling his head back forcefully. Eren looked up at me, but there was something in the moment that harked back to the tribunal, and how I’d roughed him up then, and I saw a flash of it in his eyes. It was there one moment, gone the next - but it was there long enough to make me feel soft with him, instead of aggressive.

“Are you tired from the flight?” I asked, smoothing my hands through his hair.

“Mmm,” he agreed. “I hardly slept at all. It was rough back there. How about you?”

I shrugged. “I don’t sleep a lot to begin with. Most nights, I only sleep 3 hours, maybe 4. I got 2 on the plane, so it should be enough, anyway.”

Eren’s eyebrows dragged together. “Oh? That’s strange. I’m sure that you’ve slept longer, the times I’ve slept over.”

I weaved both hands into his hair, massaging his scalp a little. I don’t know why, since it wasn’t a lot like me, but I felt like pampering him a little. “I sleep better when you’re around,” I admitted.

Eren’s eyebrows now shot up, surprised. Then, his eyes softened, and he bit his lip. I rubbed my thumb across his mouth, to dislodge his lip from his teeth, and he sucked my thumb into his mouth instead.

I pushed him down on his back, and fell forward onto him, kissing him lightly, teasingly. I tried to pour into my actions how much I’d missed him these past few days, since to me actions often are worth more than words.

Eren put his arms around me, and I sunk down into his embrace, letting him hug me. It felt good, just to lie there, relaxing for a minute. I tilted my face into his neck, so I could inhale his scent, the faint lingering cologne mixed with his own unique scent. It drove me wild, but I was too tired to do anything about it, and so was he.

Eren’s hands were rubbing circles on my back when he yawned and asked, “What do we need to do now?”

I ran my hand up his chest, settling it over his heart, so that I could feel his heartbeat more closely. I closed my eyes. “We get to rest for a few hours. Then, in the afternoon, we meet up and go over the shifts. We’ll go together to recon his location, and stake out the best spots to watch him from.”

Eren mumbled blearily, “Rest now, though?”

“Yeah, Eren,” I agreed. “Rest now for awhile.”

Eren scooted up the bed, and tossed off his shoes, slipping out of his pants and shirt tossing them aside. I watched him, then I picked up his discarded clothes and folded them, taking mine off and folding them on top of his. “Sorry,” he mumbled from where he was cocooned in the bed.

“It’s all right,” I reassured him. I went to the bathroom to take a quick piss, and when I came back out again, he was already asleep, his hand curled up by his head on the pillow.

When I crawled into the bed next to him, though, he reached for me. He pulled me into his arms, my back to his chest, and wrapped himself around me like he belonged there.

Which I wouldn’t argue with, not for a second.

——

My alarm jolted me awake four hours later. I started, surprised I’d slept all the way until my alarm.

When I reached out for the phone to turn the alarm off, Eren hugged me to him like I was his teddy bear. He nuzzled the back of my neck and ran his hands along my stomach.

I elbowed him in the ribs, growling out, “Wake up for fuck’s sake. You’d sleep through a bloody bomb going off.”

Eren mumbled and sat up wearily. “Huh?” He rubbed his eyes. “Levi?”

I put my hand on my forehead in exasperation. Eren was going to be the death of me. I was sloppy around him, sleeping deeper than normal, letting my guard down. It would be so easy for someone to sneak up on me when I was this way.

But I couldn’t stop myself. I reached out my arm, and trapped Eren’s head, rubbing my knuckles painfully on his scalp to wake him up. “Time to get up, brat. We’ve got to get dressed and meet the others.”

“Okay, okay, jeez, that hurts,” he whined, slapping at my arm.

I let him go, and pushed to my feet, stretching. When I checked the clock, I saw I had lost a few minutes. “We’ve got 15 minutes to get ready. I’ll take a five minute shower, then you take one, should leave us just enough time to get dressed. Okay?”

Eren’s face was pointed in my direction, but his eyes were closed. “Okay,” he mumbled.

I stepped out of my underwear, and ran the shower. I didn’t have enough time to wait for it to get all the way warm, so I stepped under the stream halfway through. I scrubbed at my hair, my armpits, between my legs, up and down my torso. My vigorous scrubbing accomplished quite a lot in my five minutes, and I felt squeaky clean.

When I walked back out, Eren had flopped back over on the bed.

“No no no, no you don’t you little asshole, get up.”

When Eren merely mumbled, I yanked him to his feet by his arm, and tossed him into the still-running shower. He yelped, and I laughed internally at his struggle to push through his sleepiness and wake up. His underwear was still on, so I yanked it off and scrubbed at his hair.

“Fuck off will you,” he grumbled. “I’m up. I’ll finish up, you brush your teeth.”

True to his word, he was indeed awake enough to finish getting showered, so I went to brush my teeth. When I was finishing my teeth, he was finishing in the shower, and as he stepped out I handed him a towel automatically.

“Thanks,” he mumbled, scraping the towel over his stomach, rubbing his legs down. I took a moment to ogle him while he patted his hair dry - but only a moment, mind you, before I was digging through my bag for a fresh pair of underwear.

Eren looked me over as I stepped into my underwear, and a new pair of black jeans. This time, I slipped on a black shirt to go with it, and slid into a pair of black and white converse.

“Is black like a dress code thing for spying?” he asked.

I tried not to gawk at how cute he looked, with his hair all askew. “Uh, no,” I mumbled. “That’s just me.”

He yawned again, pulling on a pair of boxers. “So I’m fine in my usual stuff?”

I rolled my eyes at him. “Would have been good to ask me that question before getting on a plane and flying thousands of miles. But no, you’re good. We just want you to look natural, and unassuming, and innocent. You’re good at that.”

Eren laughed at me, shining his white teeth. “You think I look innocent?” When I glared at him, he sniggered. “You obviously haven’t been inside my head lately.”

I stood up, hands on my hips, glaring at him. “Why, thinking about fucking?”

Eren shrugged into his shirt, and I admired the play of his abs as his body moved like a slinky. “As a matter of fact, yes.”

“Go brush your teeth,” I ordered him.

Eren mumbled to himself something about me being a mood killer, but went and did it anyway. He also shaved, even though he had no whiskers to speak of. He dabbed on some aftershave, deodorant, and a dab of cologne, and looked fit enough to make me want to undress him all over again.

I put my deodorant and cologne on too, not to be out-scented by that young devil.

Lastly I strapped on my old wristwatch, great for keeping the time. Young guys today don’t seem to know what a wristwatch is, always using their phones to check the time. But you can never be too careful. When you jump into bodies of water with all your clothes on, the phones tend to die, but the old watches just keep on ticking.

You might wonder why I’ve been jumping into bodies of water with all my clothes on. But I’m telling you, it happens. It’s happened to me twice. Oh wait, no, there was that other time - make that three times. But that story is for another time.

I hustled Eren out the door, and we met up with the others in the lobby. I bumped fists with Nanaba and Erd. “Everything work out okay in your rooms?”

“Sure,” Erd said with a smile. “Seems like that wasn’t the case for yours?”

“Oh, fuck off,” I grumbled. “Hotels are cesspits of germs. We’re lucky we found one acceptable room in this dump.”

I checked to make sure I had my wallet in my back pocket. Then I pulled out some scraps of paper that I had kept hidden inside it. I handed one out to each of the noobs.

“If, for any reason, you get separated from your team lead, then you can always head back here. But if you feel as though something fucked up just happened, and you’re not sure what to do, then you call home to mommy Hanji or Petra. They’ll answer this number 24 hours a day. Memorize it, then burn the paper, don’t just toss it in a freaking trash can.”

The younglings all nodded at me, and took the proffered scraps of paper. Eren frowned at it for a while.

“Can’t memorize a 10 digit number, Jaeger?” Jean teased him.

“Shut up, horse face,” Eren retorted, getting up in his face.

“Don’t worry, we’ll just tattoo it to your ass so you won’t forget,” Jean continued on, unabated.

Eren looked like he was about to spit he was so mad. He pulled his arm back to launch a punch, but I grabbed the arm, and gave them both a distinctly cold look. “If you two shitstains are done arguing about your collective lack of brain cells, can we get a move on?”

Eren grit his teeth, but shoved the piece of paper in his pocket.

As we started to walk out the door, I said behind me, “It’s okay if you want to hang onto the paper for a day or two to memorize it. But if you are in a compromising situation, and some enemy or police officer or whatever catches you, then eat it.”

Eat it?” Marco squeaked.

I didn’t even dignify him with a glance. “Yes, turd. Eat it. Trust me, paper digests well enough. If it didn’t kill the 5 billion crumb-grabbing toddlers on the planet that ate their books, then it won’t kill you.”

“And don’t save the number in your phone,” Nanaba clarified.

Jean looked around guiltily. “Oh. Right.”

I put my hand to my forehead. “Maybe we do need to put you guys through classes after all. We’ll start with Common Sense 101. How to wipe your ass and not leave a shit trail behind you.”

Erd snickered, and covered his face with his hand.

I let the group over to a nearby café, one of my favourites that in my opinion had the best Mille Feuille in the city. I don’t eat a lot of sweets in general, but I make an exception when I’m in Paris.

When we all sat down, I got coffees for everyone all around. Espressos, to be clear. Then we all tucked in with some sandwiches. Croque Monsieur, or Croque Madame for most of us. Eren frowned at my sandwich when it arrived, saying there was something wrong with a sandwich with meat and melted cheese, and a semi-liquid fried egg daintily placed on top.

As a retort, I simply cut off a corner of my Croque Madame and traded him a corner of his Croque Monsieur. When he tried the Madame, his eyes lit up. It made me want to smile, but I kept it in.

“Get it now, asswipe?”

Eren looked sheepish. “Yeah.”

Mikasa gave me the glare of death over the table. I was treating Eren extra mean in front of others, since I didn’t want them to suspect anything improper of our relationship, but Mikasa was obviously taking it to heart. To me it was almost a game. How much could I make her hate me? How much of an asshole could I be?

But then again, I couldn’t bear to see a hurt look on Eren’s face. So I had to stop short of actually having him take me seriously.

“All right, to business. We’re going to head out to the location where this jerk that we’re tailing lives. It’s an apartment in the arabic part of town, by Avenue Émile Zola. It’s close enough to walk to, and we’ll be doing all our surveillance on foot as it actually looks way less suspicious than loitering in a car in Paris.

“But I’ve also managed to rent out the apartment across the way from his, so we’ll have a view directly into his place. Nanaba will be looking for an opportunity to sneak in when he’s not there, so he can gather information from his files and his computer. Mike will set up some surveillance cameras in the surrounding areas.

“We’re looking for a few things. First, we want to put full surveillance on him for 48 hours straight, to get a good record of how often he comes and goes. When he does leave the apartment, the team lead will follow him as long as makes sense, while the noobs stay put and keep note of anyone entering or leaving the apartment in his absence. Makes sense?”

As usual, it was Jean Fucking Kirschtein’s hand that went up. “Why do only the team leads follow the guy? Wouldn’t it make more sense for us to go too? One of us, at least. You only need one person to count how many people come and go out of an apartment.”

I locked eyes with Nanaba and Erd, then shrugged. “It’s up to your team leads. Personally, I think you’re pretty fucking green to be going out tailing someone. But on the other hand, sometimes you need to be in a situation where you can play at being a couple to go unnoticed. That way you can have a conversation, hold hands, be all lovey-dovey-tourist or whatever the fuck. But like I said follow your lead.”

“When do we start?” Marco asked.

I waved the waiter over and ordered a couple of Mille Feuilles for the table to share. While he was filling the order, I said, “We’ll head over there to get the surveillance apartment set up directly after this. Then Eren and I will take first shift tonight, team Erd will take the shift in the morning, and team Nanaba will take the afternoon tomorrow. Then we’ll swap the teams up to give everyone a different time of day, so Erd will take the night shift, Nanaba the morning, then Eren and I the afternoon. And so on.”

When the Mille Feuilles arrived, I cut each of them into 4 pieces. I dished one out on a side plate for Eren, and handed it to him. Then one for me. The rest of the turds could fend for themselves.

Jean was looking pretty confused about the whole schedule thing. “I’m not sure I understand where to be when,” he admitted.

I snorted. “It’s okay, shit for brains. Like I said, stick to your buddy. All you have to do is follow Erd around like a lost puppy and you’ll be fine.”

Jean flushed at that, but didn’t say anything in retort.

Sometimes there were advantages to being the one in charge.

——

It took a few hours to get everything set up in the surveillance apartment. Eren, Mikasa, Marco, and I went for groceries to keep the place stocked up with food, water, and juice. I bought a bunch of cleaning supplies, then when we got back to the place I put the newbies in charge of cleaning with me.

Meanwhile, Erd went up and down the street placing some hidden cameras. He took Armin with him to show him how it was done, and how they hooked back up to the computer.

Nanaba went up and down each floor in the mark’s building, memorizing the floor layouts from the emergency evacuation plans and snapping pictures. He also set up some microphones outside the mark’s apartment, and a micro camera in the light across the hall.

As we were cleaning, I could hear Mikasa whispering to Eren, though I pretended not to.

“He doesn’t have to be such a jerk to you all the time,” she hissed.

“It’s okay, Mikasa,” he soothed her. “I don’t mind.”

“That doesn’t make it right,” she argued. “What happened to your temper? Around him you’re different.”

Eren sighed, and propped himself up against the mop he was wielding. “Mikasa, seriously, I need you to back off. When I think he’s serious, then I’ll fight back. But if he’s just jerking me around, it’s not worth my time and energy. Or yours.”

She put her hands on her hips and gave him a glare. “I’m just looking out for you, you know.”

“Yeah, well, maybe I don’t want you to. I don’t need your protection, Mikasa. I’m not a kid anymore.”

I snorted, and wanted to laugh at them, but I managed to keep it in. I worked on scrubbing the counter extra carefully.

“Well if you’re not a kid anymore, then why don’t you grow up,” she said quietly, then stalked off.

When she was gone, I exchanged a glance with Eren, then I turned around to the others and said, “What do you shits think you’re doing? We’ve only got 30 minutes to get this place cleaned so get back to work. If you think you’ve cleaned enough, then do it twice.”

I took myself off to go work on the bathroom.

——

When evening rolled around, everything was set up. The others headed out, going back to the hotel to get some proper sleep. Hopefully I’d worn them out enough with hard work that they wouldn’t feel the jet lag that much, and would just fall asleep.

That left Eren and me alone.

I set us up in some uncomfortable chairs, by a table in front of the computer and the extra screens. I keyed up some information so we had the camera view from across the hall from the mark’s apartment, as well as a camera looking out our apartment window across the way to see his living room.

“So what do we do now?” Eren asked, kicking his feet up onto the table.

I shoved his legs off the table. “No way are you putting your feet on an eating surface. Are you crazy? Fucking hell.”

Eren groaned, and sprawled in his chair. “I’m so uncomfortable. Can’t we pull up some of those comfier armchairs?”

“The point is not to fall asleep, Eren. We might miss something. If you’re really tired, though, we can take shifts. You can nap for a couple of hours then I’ll wake you up.”

Eren shook his head stubbornly. “I can stay up if you can.”

I kept my eyes on the screens. “If you say so.”

We lapsed into silence for a little while, then Eren started humming to himself. He was rather tone deaf, and so what was endearing in the first 30 seconds quickly became really freaking annoying. I just wanted to correct his pitch, so I shut him up by asking him questions.

“So tell me more about yourself.”

“Huh?” he asked, startled. “Why?”

I shrugged. “To pass the time.”

Eren laughed. “When you first met me, I thought you distinctly told me you didn’t give a shit about my personal history.”

I gave him a look. “I didn’t. But I do now.”

Eren waved an imaginary flag in the air. “Yay for me. Well, what do you want to know, hotshot?”

“I dunno. Tell me about your parents.”

Eren got a funny look on his face, kind of sour, kind of sad. “Well, my mother was… great.” He scratched his head. “She was really passionate, and kind of a hard ass, but I knew she loved me, you know? And when we took Mikasa in, she treated her just like a daughter. She was really awesome.”

“Why do I feel like there’s a ‘but’ in there,” I commented.

Eren’s face went slack. “It’s nothing. It’s just… the last words that we said to each other were in anger. I told her that I wanted to go into the army, and she got really angry with me. It was something me and Mikasa used to talk about, but Mum didn’t approve. She thought we’d just get ourselves killed, and that it would be a waste.” He laughed, more of a snort than a laugh, really. “Ironic that even though I followed her advice and did something else, I still ended up kind of in the army.”

“Hmm…” I picked up a pen, and tossed it in the air, keeping my eyes on the screens. “Life does that sometimes. Goes in circles.”

There was some movement for a while, the guy was in his living room. Looked like he was just sitting in front of the boob tube, eating his dinner. Nothing to write home about. I took a note of it anyway.

“You mentioned before that your dad took off,” I commented.

Eren’s head shot up. “You remember that?”

I gave him a look. “First rule of being a spy. Work on your memory. You never know what little factoids could come in useful.” I turned back to the screen. “As far as I remember, your mother died 10 years ago. And you went into a foster home for a while with Mikasa. Ergo, your dad must have taken off. He’d not dead, is he?”

Eren took in a deep breath. Finally he let it out again. “As far as I know, no. To be honest I don’t know what happened to him. If he is dead, they never found a body.”

Eren sounded mechanical when he talked. Like the only way he could talk about it was by distancing himself from his emotions. Since I did that all the time, every day, I knew what it felt like. It felt safe to do that, but after a while it weighed you down.

“That must have been hard,” I said after a while.

Eren’s face shot to me, and he examined my face. “I kind of didn’t think you cared,” he said slowly.

I turned to face him, and raised an eyebrow. “You think I’d sleep with someone I didn’t care about? And I don’t mean sex, I mean sleep? No military man in his right mind closes his eyes in front of someone he doesn’t care about, Eren.”

His mouth made an “o” shape, though no sound came out. Then he started fiddling with the hem of his shirt. “It was hard,” he said after a minute. “But Mikasa and I were always together, so that made it okay. And we were friends with Armin since we were kids. So if we ever needed a place to go, we would go hang out with Armin and his grandpa.”

“You’re close,” I added unnecessarily.

“They’re my family. The only family I have left.”

That statement would have been pitiful, if I hadn’t been so sympathetic. I hadn’t had any family in so long, I kind of didn’t know what that even felt like. I had comrades. I had superiors. I had my bizarre relationship with Erwin. But none of that felt like family. I found myself being jealous of a kid over 11 years younger than me.

I hummed. “It must be nice to have people close to you like that.”

Eren’s eyes traced my profile, but I didn’t look at him. “You don’t have anyone like that?”

I shook my head slowly. “I never let myself get close to anyone.” I turned to look at him, met his gaze for a few seconds, then turned my head away again. I shrugged. “You’re closer to me now than anyone has been in a long time.”

When I glanced at Eren out of the corner of my eye, he was blushing. It was so cute. Typical Eren, I could talk about sex with him and not get a single blush, but talk about my feelings (or skirt around them) and he goes red as a tomato.

Maybe, like me, Eren cared more about the feelings than the sex. Even though the sex was great. Fuck, I’d certainly never had better. And we hadn’t even gotten to the really good stuff yet. But I thought that it probably felt so good because I cared.

I shook my head, trying to clear the cobwebs. I had no right to care so much for Eren, when I hardly knew him.

“I used to have friends that were close to me like family,” I finally continued.

“Oh? What happened?”

I blew out a breath of air, and slung my arm over the back of the chair. “They died,” I said shortly. I’m sure Eren knew from the tone of my voice that I didn’t really want to talk about that.

Conversation stopper if there ever was one.



Chapter Text

I don’t ever really know what to say to someone when they mention that someone in their family died.

You might think that because my mum’s dead, that I understand what it feels like, therefore I know exactly what to say. But to be honest, it’s the opposite. I know that no matter what you say, it’s always going to sound trite, and it’ll never help. I always found it infuriating when people used to tell me “I’m sorry”. You’re sorry my mum’s dead? Well, not as sorry as I am!

But I finally had some sympathy for what it felt like to be on the other end, when Levi basically told me he had no family left. I wanted to comfort him somehow - and the only words I could think of were “I’m sorry”.

So I didn’t say anything.

Levi and I lapsed into silence for a while, and I tried not to get bored as fuck. If you’re ever done anything that counts as “surveillance”, then you’ll know what I mean. Time stretches out, into such long increments that the only thing you can do is sing to yourself to try to measure out the time in measures. I knew my off-key singing was driving Levi mad, but I couldn’t help it.

“He just moved into the kitchen,” Levi pointed out, marking it on the computer.

I craned my head back, stretching my neck. “Probably getting some dinner.”

Levi hummed his agreement.

“So what exactly are you looking for?” I asked the ceiling.

“We are just determining a baseline now. We want to know everything, when he eats, sleeps, and shits. Who he talks to. How often he leaves the house.”

I tried counting dust particles on the ceiling to occupy myself. “How long have we been at it so far?”

“…2 hours,” he said shortly.

“…And how long is our shift?”

Levi turned to glare at me. “8 hours. I hope this isn’t going to be like some freaking car ride with a bunch of kids. Are we there yet, are we there yet? Jesus.”

I turned to look at him. “Well how do you usually keep yourself entertained when you’re doing surveillance?”

Levi turned back at the screen. “I just watch and wait. I listen.”

“You don’t get bored?”

He shook his head without looking at me. “It’s like when I’m being tortured. I don’t feel the pain. I just… go somewhere else.”

My stomach dropped when he tossed out the word ‘torture’ so casually. I swallowed around a lump in my throat. I got this big protective feeling that soared up inside of me, and I clenched my fists thinking about what I’d do if I ever got my hands on the ones who had hurt him. Then I remembered, oh yeah, I’d punched my fist right through his skull.

It was too bad you could only kill someone once.

“What do you mean you go somewhere else?”

He shrugged. “I’m just in the zone. I’m focusing on other things, but still aware of the task at hand.”

I reached out my hand, thinking I was going to distract myself by touching him, but before I could even get that far he barked out, “Don’t even think about it. I’m not fucking around on the job. Off the job, we do what we want. But here, we focus and we do the best job we can. Understand?”

I quashed my disappointment. “Yeah, okay.”

Six incredibly boring hours later, we had reported that he’d gone to sleep, and then slept the whole night through. Absolutely nothing of interest had happened, and we’d had to sit there all night long doing fuck all.

We did talk, from time to time. I learned things about him, and he learned things about me. But by the time Erd, Jean, and Marco showed up in the morning, I was about ready to claw my eyes out.

When Erd walked in, I was leaning my chair back on two legs, and playing yahtzee on my phone. They startled me so my chair flopped down with a clang, which prompted Levi to give me the glare of death and Jean to burst out laughing, pointing his finger at me.

“You’re such a klutz,” he accused me.

“Yeah well at least I don’t have a face like a horse,” I muttered.

I got to my feet, and stretched here and there. Marco and Jean strolled over to me while Erd went to talk with Levi.

“So, how was it?” Marco asked me brightly.

“Boring as shit,” I declared, popping my knuckles. “Be prepared for 8 hours of unending tedium.”

“At least the guy won’t be asleep during our shift,” Jean commented. “We’ll see more action than you did.”

Anything would be more action than I saw last night. Did you guys sleep okay last night?” I asked with a yawn.

Jean and Marco exchanged a glance and shrugged. “Jean kept me up half the night with ghost stories,” Marco said, rolling his eyes.

“If you kids are done chit chatting over there, Eren it’s time for us to go,” Levi said, walking over with his arms crossed.

“Thank God,” I grumbled, hauling ass out of there like the place was on fire.

——

Levi got us a quick bite on the way back, consisting of croissants (pain au chocolat for me, regular for him) and juice. He refused me the coffee, saying that we had to catch some shut-eye now while we could.

I couldn’t argue with that, since I was now yawning big time, unable to keep my eyes open.

I barely managed to comply with Levi’s request to take a quick shower before crawling into bed.

He let me sleep for maybe six hours before waking me up. Even though I would have slept the whole day through, Levi didn’t want me getting on a totally weird schedule. But I couldn’t argue with the way he woke me up, because it consisted mainly of him biting my neck and rubbing my belly.

I squirmed awake, batting at him and grunting. In retaliation, Levi bit strongly into my shoulder, making me groan and the feeling went straight to my cock.

Levi curled his arm around me to rub my belly, but he never quite touched what I wanted to, so I yanked his hand down and put it on my dick. Gold mine.

“You’re such a little shit,” he whispered in my ear.

I awoke fully, and found that Levi was curled around my back, his head nestled into the back of my neck, his arm around me, and yeah, he was stroking me now. I arched my back, wanting to feel more of him against me, and he accommodated me by shifting down so that his hips could slide against mine, putting his head between my shoulder blades.

“Levi?” I mumbled.

Levi’s grip tightened on me, and he kept stroking. “What.”

I reached out blindly behind me, until I found his hip, and I pulled his hip forward. There it was, now I could feel his dick up against my ass. But I wanted to see it, to touch it.

I flipped over in his arms, so we were facing each other. Levi looked at me, surprised. I just smiled at him, and threw my leg over his, pulling him closer. I looked in his eyes, then I looked down and slid my hand over his dick. I tested the size of him, wrapping my hand around and judging how wide around he was. His dick was long, but not too thick. Just right. It was also flushed pink, rosy like his nipples, and the colour was so sweet I wanted to lick it.

Levi had taken me back in his hand, jerking it up and down. From this position, though, I could look in his hooded eyes as I jerked him while he did me.

I nuzzled my head against his, and my hips started moving along with our movements. I knew Levi wouldn’t want me to kiss him without brushing my teeth, but I wanted to.

“I want to suck your cock,” I admitted in his ear.

Levi’s hand stopped moving, and he jerked back. I pulled back to look at his face, and he was all flushed and biting his lip. It was… cute.

I ran my hand up his body to his neck, tugging on it so he would face me. “What?”

Levi shook his head. “I’m not clean. But even if I were… Eren, I don’t do that.”

I brushed his hair back from his forehead. “You don’t let people suck your cock?”

Levi squirmed. “I don’t mind if you want to… But I don’t like doing that. I don’t like sucking cock.” He frowned. “I just..”

I swiped my thumb across his mouth, shutting him up. “It’s okay Levi, I understand. I don’t want to make you do anything you don’t like to do. But that doesn’t change the fact that I want to suck yours.”

Levi just surged forward, and hid his face against my neck, stopping the conversation there. He rubbed his knee between my legs, making me moan and jerk against him. Then he shoved me on my back, hiked my legs up roughly, and rubbed his cock against mine.

Levi looked so beautiful, surging up above me like that. His face was slack, his mouth open, his skin covered in a thin sheen of sweat. The muscles in his arm and abdomen rippled when he moved, jerking against me. Then his eyes locked with mine, and I was lost in the lust within them.

“Has anyone ever fucked you before, Eren?” he gasped out.

I found myself shaking my head. “I’ve had hand jobs before you, though. But nothing like this.”

When Levi touched me, it felt like my whole body was thrumming with energy. I responded to every slight touch of his. His hand on my knee had me bending my leg, arching my back. Then his hand dipped down, rubbing over my entrance, making me shiver and moan.

“Would you let me fuck you?” he asked, his head cocked to the side.

“Hell yes,” I said with a grin.

Levi smirked, his thumb brushing over my entrance, over and over, just teasing. “Not bad,” he said.

Levi,” I groaned.

Just before we got to the good stuff, his phone started to go off. “Keep quiet,” Levi barked out the order, as he yanked the phone into his hand. He didn’t even stop rubbing my dick, his hand working miracles on it, so I bit my lip to keep from making any noise.

“What,” Levi barked out. He sat back on his hips, looking down at me as his hand kept jerking me. I couldn’t stop my hips from moving, so I started to pump my hips into his hand. He didn’t seem to mind.

“How many?” Levi was saying. He didn’t even sound anything out of the ordinary as he jerked me faster and faster. “How long have they been there?”

I lost track of what Levi was saying when I felt myself getting closer to that edge. I put my hand on Levi’s wrist, trying to warn him, but he just looked down at me with that half-smirk that was so fucking cute and kept right on going. It’s like he wanted me to come.

Fuck it. I jerked up into his hand, pumping my hips up, and oh yes, there it was, fuck I was coming, and jesus I was groaning, I couldn’t help it.

“Oh, nothing, Eren’s just taking a shit,” Levi said with a smirk. “Must have been a big one.”

Levi looked down at me, and I wondered what I must have looked like, all splayed out on the bed, come dripping on my stomach, flushed and slack. I probably looked like a mess.

Payback time.

I got up on my knees, and pushed Levi back against the pillows, and took his cock in my hand. Levi just raised an eyebrow at me and kept on talking, something about a meeting. I really didn’t give a fuck.

Levi let his legs splay out, his cock on display for me, and it was long and perfect. I slid down on my stomach between his legs, and looked up at him. I wasn’t waiting for his permission, but I did look him in the eyes when I licked a long stroke up his cock.

Levi showed no outward signs of liking it, other than flushing. It was adorable how his cheeks went all red. I stroked his dick, then kissed the top of it while looking up at him, then popped the head in my mouth and sucked.

Uhh….,” he groaned, then coughed, “Sure, yeah, we can be there. But isn’t Nanaba’s team? Um… coming? There?”

I grinned around Levi’s dick as his sentences got less and less coherent. I licked all around the head, then tongued the slit, and saw Levi’s head tip back and felt his hips jerk. Oh yeah, he liked that. He might not like sucking cock, but he sure as shit liked his being sucked.

I weighed his balls in my hand, stroking them and pulling them a little, as I popped his dick back in my mouth and bobbed up and down. I felt Levi’s free hand drift down into my hair, as he directed my movements, his hips jerking a little.

“Well if you’re sure you need us then we’ll… come, as soon as we can,” Levi said, choking down a snort.

I sucked one of my fingers into my mouth, getting it nice and wet, then used it to play with his asshole a little as I went to town on his cock. I tried to think about what I’d want him to do to me, and yeah, I’d want him to push a finger in, work it in and out slowly while he sucked me.

I twisted my finger inside him, and thank fuck I have long fingers, because I knew it when I hit that spot inside him because he jerked and moaned and the hand holding the phone dropped down to the bed when his back arched.

With a shaking hand, he raised the phone back up to his face. “Okay, fuck, we’ll be there.” Levi hung up the phone and quite literally tossed it off the bed, where it landed safely on the carpeted floor. Then he grabbed my head with both hands, and ground out, “You are such a little shit.”

I grinned and then I went down as low as I could go on his cock, my hand holding the base so I didn’t bottom out. Last thing I wanted was to choke on him and gross him out, but still I got him pretty deep.

Levi’s hips jerked, and I got a hand out to grab his hip, encouraging him to thrust. He did, but it didn’t take long, a few flat out fucks and he was starting to come.

Levi pulled out, not wanting to spurt inside my mouth I guess, but he ended up coming pretty much all over my face. It made me giggle, and I flopped my head down on his quivering thigh, laughing and clutching at my belly.

Levi smacked my shoulder playfully. “You didn’t have to do that,” he said after a minute, handing me a tissue from the bedside table so I could clean my face.

When I looked up at him, his eyes had gone all soft, in an expression that was so unusual on his face that I didn’t quite know what it was. I smiled up at him, still curled up on his legs. “I know. I wanted to.”

Levi screwed up his nose. “I’ll never understand why. I’ve never wanted to suck a dick. So messy, plus how the fuck do you not choke?”

I stroked his hip. “I dunno, I guess I try to know my limits. That’s the first time I’ve ever sucked a cock before, so I guess I did okay. But I wanted to. I wanted to know how you taste, and to me, you taste great. I love the feel of you on my tongue. And I love how you lost control, just a bit,” I said with a grin.

Levi’s eyebrow shot up. “That was your first time sucking cock? And you wanted to try on me? Jesus, why?”

I slithered up Levi’s body, tucking myself in against him, just holding him for a minute. I knew the moment wouldn’t last. “I don’t know, Levi. I stopped wondering ages ago why I want anything with you. But I do. I want you more than I’ve ever wanting anything in my life.”

I loved the way Levi put his arm around me, and held me close. I tucked my head into his neck and inhaled his unique scent, and hell, if I could bottle up his scent and keep it with me always I would.

Thankfully, Levi didn’t spout any of the shit about him being too old for me, or half the stuff that I’m sure was running through his mind. Instead, he just let the moment drag out, until finally he slapped me on the hip and said, “We’ve got to go. They need us to check something out.”

——

Half an hour later we were both showered and dressed and on our way out. Levi called Nanaba to ask him if they’d arrived at the apartment yet to change shifts, and they had, but they were all there now.

When we arrived, it was a full house. They were all watching the monitors, and Erd was listening in on the conversation. The apartment we were monitoring was now filled with people, there were at least six or seven of them, standing around the table strategizing.

They were discussing timetables, locations, drop-off points, and other obscure things that could mean just about anything. We watched them for a while, and when it looked like the meeting was coming to a close, Levi called our group together.

“Nanaba, since it’s your shift, you, Mikasa and Armin stay here. Erd, Jean, and Marco, you go out in one group. Eren and I will go out in another. We’ll hang out in the park across the street, you guys loiter a block down in the other direction. When those guys split up, tail them as far as you can, and try to get pictures of all their faces. We’ll run them through the system to identify them. If they get in a car, get the plates. That’s it.”

Without further ado, we split up, Levi and I heading to the park as promised. We hung out there for awhile, me sitting on the table of a park bench, Levi standing between my legs, conversing with me.

“We’ll look more harmless if we play it up as a couple,” Levi said with a smirk, his hand on my leg.

“I thought you wanted this to be a secret?” I said, pointing a finger from him to me and back again.

Levi nodded. “It’s still a secret, we’re just going to play act a little as a cover. Trust me, none of our guys who see it will think it’s anything more than that.”

I hooked my fingers into his where his hand lay on my leg. “Okay then, what do you want me to do?”

Levi shrugged, and pushed himself in closer. “Pretend I’m telling you something really funny, and laugh.”

It’s hard to laugh on command, and make it genuine. But I just remembered the look on Levi’s face when he came all over mine earlier, and that made me laugh again. Levi caught my eyes, and there was that soft look in his again, that look that I felt myself chasing after.

Levi’s hand was on my chest, then he was grabbing a fistful of my shirt, and yanking me towards him. He kissed me, his mouth insistent on mine, prying mine open.

I was a little shocked at first, considering his whole speech on PDA and how much he hated it, but when he swiped his tongue across my lips, I opened my mouth and welcomed him in. Then I got a little lost in him, my hands cupping his face as I let myself drown in his taste. God, he was perfect.

When Levi pushed away from me, we were both breathing hard. He gave me a long look, then trailed his eyes to the side, and said, “Good. They passed us without taking notice of us. Now we can tail them.”

Levi swung our linked hands together, and walked close to me, his arm brushing against mine. He had his phone out, and he was pretending to show me some texts as he snapped pictures of the guys walking in front of us. There were three of them, and he got all their faces. He was such a pro.

They did eventually get into a car, and he got the plates as well, and then put his phone away and kept us walking, like nothing at all had happened. When the guys passed us by in the car they didn’t even look at us, it’s like we were invisible to them.

When they were gone, Levi stopped and (reluctantly?) released my hand. He looked up at me, and then said, “Good job,” and looked away again. I thought he might say something else, but then he just started walking.

I let myself bask in the praise of having done something well, although there was that awkward moment afterwards. I shoved that moment away, and instead bumped my shoulder into his and whistled nonchalantly.

Levi sent the images in to Nanaba to be processed. Job done, he turned to me and asked, “What would you like to do this evening?”

I was caught totally off guard. “What?”

Levi looked at his watch. “We’ve got hours before we should head back to the hotel. We have another shift off. What would you like to do?”

I thought back to all the things I’d talked about with Mikasa and Armin earlier, and of course, the first thing I could think of was, “I’d like to see the Eiffel Tower with you.”

Levi snorted. “Of course you do. Okay, brat. Let’s go.”

“Yeah?” I blurted, allowing myself to get excited.

Levi glared at me. “Don’t get overly excited. It’s not like I’m going to let you take a picture of us kissing in front of it or anything. But yeah, we can go up it. It’s got a nice view, although there’s always a line to take the elevator up.”

I skipped down the street. “Goin’ to the tower, the tower, the tower,” I sang.

Levi rolled his eyes at me, but that little half-smirk was back again.

Score.

——

It did take ages to wait in line for the elevator, but it was so worth it when we got up to the top.

The view from the top was amazing. You could see out over all of Paris, and at this late afternoon time, the sun was just shy of setting, so it was cascading over the water of the Seine in a way that was strikingly beautiful. I spent ages, just standing there looking out over the view. Levi didn’t criticize me, or rush me, he just wandered around, and after a while he settled in next to me.

It was a moment of peace in the chaos of our lives.

“Levi,” I said hesitatingly.

“What.”

I looked askance at him, examining his profile. I don’t know why I was so drawn to him, but to me he was just perfect. “I’m glad I met you,” I said suddenly.

Levi raised an eyebrow and looked at me. “Oh? Even after all the shit I put you through?”

I nodded, smiling. “Yep.”

“Even after all the shit I will put you through?”

I smiled wider. “Yep.”

Then I just let myself grin, and I looked over at him, and our eyes locked. I saw his eyes soften again, and I wondered what he was thinking.

Then Levi just ran his hand through my hair, gripped the base of my neck, and kissed me.

That liar. He said he wouldn’t kiss me on the Eiffel Tower and he did!

I snapped a selfie with my phone.

“You little shit!” he cried out, and tried to yank the phone from my hand.

I held it up above me, out of his reach, laughing. “Hey, you’re the one who kissed me! It’s not my fault!”

“Yeah well you were looking too cute to let the moment pass. But I told you not to take a picture! Jesus, Eren, what if somebody found it?”

I laughed and the moment was reminiscent of one back when we had first met, and I was typing my phone number into his phone. All of a sudden all those moments coalesced, everything that had happened from that moment to now, and it was all worth it. It would always be worth it, even if we never had another moment like this, because this moment was the definition of perfection.

I put my arm around him, and hugged him to me, one-armed, my phone still held aloft. “Let me keep it,” I murmured in his ear.

Levi’s hands fisted in my shirt, but he didn’t move away. “Your phone better be fucking password protected. And you don’t get to show that to anyone, ever. And I’m not fucking kidding, brat.”

He was going to let me keep it. I whooped out in joy, and shoved the phone in my pocket. “I promise. Now come on, Levi, let’s walk down to the bottom.”

Levi somehow let me keep my hand in his as I dragged him down to the stairs. No way was I waiting on another elevator for hours to get back down again.

There were hardly any people that opted to take the stairs down. But to my astonishment, along the way there were tons of these pictures of how the Eiffel Tower was constructed. There were pictures of these guys, hanging out eating their lunch on top of a half-built tower with no safety gear. They had no harnesses, no nets, nothing. Just guts.

Levi slung his arm around my hip, and we walked hip to hip from one picture to another. There was no one around, so I suppose a little PDA was okay. I wasn’t going to complain about it.

“We have a bit more time,” Levi said when we got to the bottom. “The Louvre is open late tonight. Want to take a first look over there?”

“Sure,” I agreed.

“It’s the kind of place you can spend days in,” he remarked. “But if you’ve got a couple of hours you can still see some nice stuff. I like the paintings, myself.”

“Any favourites?”

Levi smirked. “A few. I’ll show you.”

He brought me to the French paintings section, and even just getting in to that area, I was amazed by how many paintings we passed along the way. Some people were just walking through so fast, trying to see all the paintings at once. I thought its was hardly doing it justice.

Levi brought me to one and stopped, then turned to smirk at me. I had to laugh. Indeed, it was funny, since there were two naked ladies standing there, and one lady was pinching the nipple of the other. It was so bizarre it made me cackle.

Levi got that soft look in his eyes again when I laughed. I wanted to sling my arm around him, but I didn’t.

He led me along to another section. “These paintings were all done by a woman, Elisabeth-Louise Vigée. It’s to rare in museums like this to see paintings by women, you know. Most of the paintings are done by men. But see how nice these are, they have a soft touch, and the people in her paintings have real life and personality.”

I watched Levi speak about the paintings with awe. He had really thought about it, really spent time looking at them, studying them. It was a side to him that I hadn’t expected.

“I like this one,” I said about one entitled Madame Molé-Reymond. “She looks so happy.”

“She does, doesn’t she,” Levi said thoughtfully.

We stopped at a few others that Levi liked, including Death of Marat, Biard’s Magdalena Bay, and Girodet’s Endymion. Then he stopped for a while at one by Hippolyte Flandrin, called Young Man Sitting By the Sea.

“I don’t know why I like this one so much,” Levi said, head tilted, hand on his chin. “I know it’s just supposed to be a figure study, but there’s something about he way the boy is curled up around himself, and naked, that makes him look vulnerable, and sad. He kind of looks the way I think most of us feel a lot of the time. Alone. Naked. Vulnerable.”

“You feel that way?” I said, shocked.

Levi looked at me askance. “Yeah, even I feel that way sometimes.”

PDA be damned. I snuck my hand into his, and curled my fingers around his, squeezing his hand. “You don’t have to ever feel alone, Levi,” I murmured.

He snorted, but squeezed my hand before letting it go. “Sure, kid. Let’s see where things stand in a year’s time, shall we?”

I put myself in his way, blocking him. “A year, ten years, it doesn’t matter. Whether we’re together or not, friends or not, I’ll always be there for you if you need me. Okay?”

I could tell Levi wanted to brush me off, but he just got that soft look in his eyes again. “Okay. Come on, you should at least see the Mona Lisa if we came here. Even though she’s dour and not much to look at.”

Indeed, when Levi pulled me into the crowded room, and jostled me to the front, the painting was small, encased behind glass, and hard to see. Although I could see the strange expression on her face, overall the painting just seemed dark and dreary to me.

When we walked back through the Italian section, I commented, “So many religious paintings. It’s like they had a contest on who could paint the baby jesus the best.”

Levi snorted. “Yeah, well, it’s not surprising since the church was the one commissioning a lot of the paintings in that era. You might like the northern school paintings better, the German and Dutch and so on. They’re more dark, more realistic.”

Before we could get there, though, we stumbled across one that had me stopping dead to look at it. It took my breath away. There was a girl, floating on the water. She was dead, with her hands bound, and a stylistic halo above her head. Her clothes were drifting in the water, and in the background you could see some figures in the dark.

It was called Young Martyr.

“Delaroche is a master,” Levi murmured beside me.

He was, indeed. When looking on the painting, I just felt so sad. I felt the sadness and grief at the young woman who had been killed. Sacrificed, for whatever reason we could not know. The beauty of her, and the tragedy of her life cut short, just struck me. It reminded me of how close I’d come to losing Mikasa, such a long time ago. But I’d saved her, and forced her to fight back for herself. Neither of us had ever looked back, or stopped fighting, since that day.

Levi’s hand crept into mine this time, gripping strongly. I took strength from the gesture. I enjoyed the play of tendons and bones in his hand, and wondered at how such a small hand could be so strong.

“We should go,” Levi said quietly.

Sure enough, not a few minutes later, the museum staff announced that the museum was closed. It was a mass exodus of people, and we got caught up in the crowd all trying to leave at the same time. I told myself that was the only reason that Levi kept ahold of my hand the whole time.


Chapter Text


One by one, I was breaking all my self-made rules for this kid.

First, no holding hands in public. Now I’d held his hand three, four times? And I kept finding excuses to do it again. Jesus, if someone caught us we were fucked.

Second, no kissing in public. What’s one kiss, I thought, on the Eiffel Tower? Then the little shit had to snap a goddamned picture. If anyone found it we were really fucked.

Which rules would I break next?

Thing is, I found myself living moment to moment trying to find ways to make Eren laugh or smile. Because somehow, when he did, and his expressive green eyes lit up, it made something squeeze in a painfully good way in my chest. I knew that meeting me had been the catalyst for Eren’s life to change to one filled with danger, and violence. Did that give me the right to try to offset that with fun and love? Could I, somehow, make him happy?

It seemed to absurd to be possible. How could someone like him, who was full of sunlight and joy, be happy being around someone as dour as me? I don’t know, but when he turned to me on the Eiffel Tower and told me that he was happy to have met me, in spite of everything, I knew he spoke the truth.

If I wasn’t careful, I’d fall for him. I couldn’t let myself break that rule. Then we’d be royally fucked.

——

“Let’s go for fondue,” I found myself saying as I disentangled my hand from his, when we were clear of the crowd. “There’s a good place I know, close to the water. It’s kind of touristy but good. Then we can go back to the hotel and get a proper night of sleep before our shift tomorrow.”

Eren nodded, flashing a half-smile, but it quickly disappeared. He was obviously thinking hard about something. It didn’t happen often, but when Eren turned introspective, you could practically hear the gears grinding from a mile away.

Whatever it was, I let him think it out.

When we arrived at the restaurant, I saw that Étienne was still working there, and he greeted me with a smile. He was a waiter that was the son of the owner, and he’d been there as long as I could remember, though he wasn’t any older than me. He was tall and dark and handsome, with twinkling brown eyes and dimples.

“Levi, enchanté. Ici pour le travail?”

“Comme toujours,” I agreed. “Mais aujourd’hui j’ai un ami avec moi. Alors table pour deux, svp?”

“Bien sur. Venez.”

Étienne led us to a table outside, tucked in a corner where we could people watch the crowd go by. It was my usual table, I’d sat there every time I’d come to Paris in the past 10 years.

He passed out the menus, then asked, “Un litre de vin pour vous?”

“Oui merci.” Étienne always had good house wine on the go, so I knew I could trust him to bring something nice.

As he was going to go away, he put his hand on my shoulder and leaned down to whisper in my ear, “Ton copain est très beau, Levi. Je suis un peux jaloux.”

I snorted and waved him away, and he walked away cackling to himself.

“Did he just call me beautiful?” Eren asked, his eyes wide.

I eyed him under hooded lids. “Did you hear that?”

Eren nodded, his face flushing. “You didn’t correct him when he called me your boyfriend.”

That was because a part of me wanted that to be true. Even though it was foolish. “That’s just Étienne for you. It’s an ongoing joke with us - we usually people watch when I’m here, and pick out the most good-looking people.”

Eren scratched the side of his head, screwing up his face. “I’m really nothing special,” he mumbled, clearly embarrassed.

“Kid,” I said, reaching out and touching his hand just for a moment. “If you weren’t special, do you really think I would be wasting my time with you?”

Eren bit his lip, and shook his head.

“Trust me, you are.” I couldn’t bring myself to be more sappy than that, so I just pulled my hand back, and just in time since Étienne was bringing the wine and pouring it for us.

I ordered a cheese fondue for us, and in the meanwhile, poured the wine and then clinked glasses with Eren.

“Shouldn’t we toast something?” he said before bringing the glass to his lips.

I raised an eyebrow. “How about, to your first trip to Paris?”

We clinked again and he drank. I watched the way his head tilted back and his lips brushed the rim of the glass. Damn, those lips… Just a few hours ago they’d been wrapped around my cock. I never realized I’d find that so sexy… It really wasn’t my thing. But now I couldn’t stop remembering it. And the fact that he really didn’t mind that I didn’t want to do that back to him, that warmed me inside. He didn’t want me to be something that I wasn’t. I couldn’t remember the last time someone had been with me and hadn’t tried to change me.

“So what was your favourite part of today?” I asked the kid.

He chewed on his lip while he thought. Then, he smiled and said, “The Eiffel Tower.”

I rolled my eyes. “Was that because of the view, or the selfie?”

Eren’s smile spread wider, which made something clench inside of me. “Both. But yeah, the view was spectacular.” He propped his chin on his hand, and looked out at the crowd as he toyed with his wine glass. “Don’t you ever just wish that you could fly? I mean, you’re up so high above the ground, looking out - it would be something else to be able to just jump.”

I frowned. “Jesus, you’re not suicidal are you?”

Eren started, sitting up in his seat. “God, no! I meant like if you could fly, like if you had some special gear or something that would let you jump without dying.”

“Like rocket man.”

Eren went beet red. “Or something,” he mumbled.

I took a sip of my wine, savouring the flavour. “I’ve jumped out of planes a few times,” I commented.

Eren’s eyes went wide as saucers. “Really?”

I nodded. “In fact, that’s something we might want to get you guys training on when we’re back in town. It’s always handy to know how to skydive, and work a parachute. You never know when it’ll come in handy.”

“What was it like?”

I pursed my lips. “Like… flying, I guess. While you’re in free fall, you kind of let everything go. It’s just you and gravity. It’s nice. Unless you forgot your chute, in which case it’s nice for a short while then messy.”

I achieved my goal of making Eren laugh with that one. His eyes crinkled as he giggled. “A short drop and a sudden stop.”

I let the corner of my mouth turn up. “Uh huh.”

Étienne brought the fondue, setting up the sticks and giving us the bread to dip into the cheese. Then his dad called him over and he bounced off again without further ado.

I had a hell of a lot of fun watching Eren dip the bread into the cheese, then try to get it into his mouth without dripping the cheese everywhere, dropping the bread, or burning his mouth. It was a disaster, and after a few attempts, he had managed to spill cheese on his chin.

I reached out a hand, and swiped my thumb across his chin, collecting the cheese. Then, without thinking, I brought my thumb to my mouth and sucked on it, eating the cheese.

I saw Eren watching my mouth, and the way I sucked on my thumb. I couldn’t help drawing out the moment just a little, then knocking my knee into his under the table.

“Did you bring condoms and lube?” Eren asked suddenly.

I nearly snorted my wine. I coughed delicately, then dabbed my mouth with my napkin. I glared at him. “Yes, though I wish you’d have saved that question for a more private place.”

“Oh. Sorry.” He went red again, and shut himself up by eating more fondue.

After a few minutes of eating in silence, I couldn’t help it. “Why?” I asked.

“Huh?” He looked utterly confused.

I rolled my eyes. “Why are you wondering if I have supplies?”

Eren shot me a smile. “I just thought you’ve been looking really fit lately, so maybe your stomach has healed enough for you to fuck me properly.” He was smart enough to lower his voice at least.

I went hard just with the suggestion. I shifted, trying to adjust my pants, much help that’d do.

Eren watched me with an impish smile. “So? Will you?”

I held him off for the moment by eating another piece of fondue. The pot was getting empty really quickly though. Plus I was getting full. “What we did earlier didn’t satisfy you?”

When he caught my eyes, Eren actually winked at me. “That was nice too. But now that I’ve sucked you, I really want to feel you in me.”

Jesus, I couldn’t get any more hard. I wanted to groan, but I just managed to hold the sound in. “This isn’t supposed to be a fuckfest, you know. We’re supposed to be working.”

“You almost make it sound like you don’t want to fuck me,” Eren pouted.

Our table was small enough that I could grab Eren’s hand and put it on my cock under the table, just for a second, just so he could feel how hard I was. Eren’s eyes widened, then he grinned wide enough to split his face. I shoved his hand away and looked away, letting my eyes roam over the crowd of people walking by.

“So what’s the problem, then?”

I shrugged. “It’s just… it’s your first time, isn’t it? Are you sure you want to do that with me?” I couldn’t meet his eyes.

My first time had been less than ideal, to say the least. And trust me, I hadn’t let a single person fuck me since then. So it felt like a pretty fucking huge responsibility.

Eren grabbed my hand under the table, and squeezed it. “Levi, I want you so much it hurts,” he admitted in a quiet, throaty voice. “And what could be better than our first time being in Paris?”

I played with his fingers, while I sipped wine with my other hand. “If you’re sure.”

Eren smiled at me in a way that made me melt inside. “I’m sure. Now can we finish our wine and get out of here?”

Étienne grinned at me when we settled the bill. “Bonne soirée, les gars. À bientôt, j’espère.”

——

When we got back to the room, Eren wasted no time in kissing me, pressing me up against the door. I loved the way that he kissed, he took cues from me very well, and had just enough pressure, just enough tongue. He tasted good, like wine and cheese.

I fisted my hands in his hair, and pulled his head down more forcefully, angling his head to let me kiss him deeper. Eren’s hands were grasping at my hips, and yes, he pulled me up and hitched me up against the door so that he could slide our bodies together. I hooked my leg over his hips, and pressed my tongue inside his mouth, while my arm hooked over the back of his neck.

Eren’s arms tightened around me, and he hugged me as he kissed me. I ran my hands through his hair, then looked in his eyes for a moment.

It was a mistake. Looking in his eyes, I drowned in the sea of green. His pupils were dilated, and I could see the lust mixed in with something more tender that had no right to be there. I scratched my nails over his scalp, and ran my nose along the tip of his, wondering what my eyes looked like to him.

Then I let myself kiss him again, tenderly, my whole body sinking into his. I could lose myself in him. Eren’s scent wrapped around me and he enveloped me in his warmth, I could almost feel his joy sinking into my skin. I could feel his smile against my mouth.

“Shower,” I grunted into his ear.

“Before the sex?” he clarified.

I nodded, nuzzling his neck. “Need to prepare you. When did you last take a shit?”

Eren stilled, then laughed. “I suppose it’s a relevant question. A few hours ago, I guess? At the Louvre.”

I bit into the skin at his neck, sucking it gently. “Good, that’s good.” I then worked my way up to his ear, and kissed just below it. Eren’s head fell aside, and he let me kiss and bite his neck, and twirl my tongue around his ear, and blow into it. He shivered.

I splayed my hands on Eren’s stomach, riding his shirt up. His abs were firm and ridged, months of kickboxing toning up his body in a way that made my mouth water. I slid my hands up his sides, sliding up his shirt and tugging it off his head. I slid my hands back down his arms, trailing my fingers down in a pattern. I nuzzled his neck, inhaling his scent in a heady rush.

“Shower,” I reminded him.

Eren groaned. “I don’t want you to stop.”

“I won’t stop, I promise. This is just the beginning.”

Eren put me down, squeezing my ass as he did so. Then he started to take off his pants, walking backwards with an enticing smile on his face. I watched him disappear into the shower, and broke out of my trance when I heard the water running.

I rummaged through my bag, and found my vanity kit. Sure enough, nestled inside there were the three things I wanted. Condoms, lube, and cleaning device. I removed all my clothes, folding them quickly and setting them on top of my suitcase. I grabbed the lube and the cleaner and headed for the bathroom.

The shower was pretty small, so there wasn’t room for two people, but Eren was already all wet and everything, so I told him to turn off the water. He did, then turned to look at me, and fuck he was perfect. Eren was all long limbs and lean abs. When I pulled him down into another kiss, he grabbed my ass and moulded my body to his, and somehow even though he was so much taller it just worked.

I went back to his neck, kissing the other side, and biting it. I swiped my tongue over his pulse, feeling his heart beating rapidly. I let my arm wrap around him, and I trailed my hand down his back, to his ass, which I cupped and then slapped, the sound ringing out between us.

Eren pulled back, shocked. But when I did it again, his eyes went hooded and he flushed.

“Turn around,” I ordered him.

Eren turned, bracing his hands on the wall. I ran my hand down his spine, then parted his cheeks with my hands, to bare his pucker. It was glistening, and I knew that Eren had already soaped it up for me. I ran my thumb over it, and Eren quivered. I squirted some lube onto my finger, then circled it around his hole, playing with it until Eren ground out, “Levi, please.”

“I’m just going to clean you out, okay?” I asked him, filling the cleaner with water from the sink.

Eren turned around to look. I showed him the device, which was basically a thin tube with a bulb on it that filled with water. A gentle stream of water would squirt out the tip when I squeezed on the bulb. When he saw what it was, he nodded. “Okay.”

I inserted the cleaner into him, lubing it up first so that it slid in easily. Eren’s cheeks clenched, but the tube was thin enough that it shouldn’t hurt at all. I squeezed the bulb, cleaning him out. Then I pulled the tube out, and parted Eren’s hole, and watched the water pour back out. I grabbed the shower head and turned it on, rinsing him off. Then I put the cleaner back in the sink and filled the sink with warm water.

I pulled Eren out of the shower, now that he was clean inside and out. I knew it was a pet peeve of mine that was a turn off for some people, but Eren didn’t seem to mind. He just pulled me back to him, kissing me again, his arms sliding over my shoulders. He tossed an impish smile at me. “Am I good to go now?”

I put my arms around his waist, nuzzling his chest. “If you’re ready, then yeah. Let’s move this to the bed.”

Eren picked me up, making me flail a little, then tossed me down on the bed. I landed and bounced, but he was on top of me, his body pressing mine down into the bed as he kissed me. I let him take control for a minute, fitting our bodies together, and I felt how hard he was when his dick lined up to mine.

I let Eren hump into me, his mouth now lining kisses on my neck. I arched my back, and his mouth nuzzled into my collarbone, his mouth seeking out my nipple. I let him play with it, biting my lip when he bit into it, pleasured pain shooting up my spine.

Then I grappled with him, fighting for dominance. It became a game, to see who could end up on top. Even though he may be strong, I was stronger, and faster. I ended up getting him pinned beneath me, his arms above his head. Then I kissed him, driving my cock down into his stomach.

“Ah, fuck Levi,” Eren groaned.

“Oh, I will, Eren,” I promised.

I hiked Eren’s leg up, sliding down between his legs. I rubbed our cocks together for a moment, because damn, I just loved doing that. I loved the way it felt, the way it looked. But that’s not what either of us wanted tonight.

I picked up Eren’s other leg, and I pushed his legs up, splaying them out. I placed his ankles over my shoulders, so he could rest his legs there. Then I reached out for his cock, and gave it a few tugs.

“Levi,” Eren glared at me. “Will you fucking… oh, yeah,” he trailed off when I lubed up a finger and slid it in him. He was so ready, his hole was twitching. But he was tight. Shit, he was tight. I made my finger into a hook, and pulled gently, stretching his hole as my other hand kept the motion up on his cock. I stretched him in all directions, taking my time so that he was ready.

I wanted this to be good for him. I didn’t want him to be in any pain. Not like I’d been, the only time I’d ever done this. The pain had been…

But no. Not now. I’d make this good for him.

I let go of Eren’s dick so that I could use both hands to stretch him. I hooked the index finger of each hand into his hole, then pulled apart gently, until he opened up for me.

Since my fingers are small, my index finger wasn’t long enough to reach his prostate. So I put both my index and middle fingers in, and searched around until I felt the hard nub. Then I rubbed it, massaging it until Eren was twitching and moaning.

I smirked. Eren’s whole body was arched, and he was flushed all the way down to his chest. His cock was leaking onto his stomach. Damn, he was gorgeous.

When I pulled my fingers out, Eren’s hole was stretched, like it was begging for me to be in there.

My cock was leaking too, and shit, I hadn’t even touched it.

“Levi, please,” Eren whimpered. “Please put your cock in me. I want it.”

I rolled the condom on, adding some extra lube to my cock and to his hole, stretching him out with my fingers one last time. Then, I carefully positioned myself. I looked up at his face, looking for any sign of resistance or pain as I pushed in. There was some resistance at first, so I pulled back.

Eren frowned, his brow creasing. “Levi, don’t stop.”

“Then don’t tense up,” I ground out, my fingers going in him again. “Just breathe through it, and think of bearing down when I press into you.”

“It’s okay if you just push through,” he said, propping himself up on his elbows to look down at me.

“I am not going to hurt you, Eren. So just do as I say and relax. Lay back, bear down, and breathe. Okay?”

Eren flopped back down, but this time he did as I said. I pushed in, this time meeting no resistance. But hell, he was still tight. I don’t think I’d ever been in anyone for whom it was their first time, but this was crazy. It was tight and hot and it was Eren and I thought I’d blow my load as soon as I pushed in.

Eren arched his back and scooted down, impaling himself on my cock, and I put a hand on his stomach to stop him. He looked down at me, all flushed and panting. “Don’t stop,” he pleaded.

I pressed harder on his stomach, stopping him from moving. “Just give me a sec, Eren.” I closed my eyes, breathing. God, he felt so good. “You feel so good, I just want it to last. Just give me a sec, okay?”

Eren covered my hand with his own, and I threaded our fingers together. “Okay.”

I touched him with my free hand, pulling on his cock, and cupping his balls. I loved holding him in my hand, he was so responsive. When he liked something, he tensed, and I could feel it in the way he clenched around my cock, and damn that was nice.

When I had myself under control, I slowly pulled out and pushed in, going a little deeper each time, until I was in him all the way. I looked down at him, and he met my eyes, and smiled in a way that gave me butterflies.

I wanted to kiss him. Fuck, this was one time I was damning my height. I adjusted Eren’s legs so they were clamped around my waist instead of on my shoulders, which let me bend over him, but I could only reach his chest, to mouth his nipples. Better than nothing, I could torture him a little like that as I thrust into him.

Eren propped himself up on his hands, bending his body over, and there, now I could kiss him. He threaded a hand in my hair and his mouth was on mine, and I kissed him while I fucked him.

He could only hold the position for a minute, so he had to break the kiss and flop back down. He threw his arms over his head, arching his back. I took his hips in my hands and held him up, then picked up the pace, slamming into him harder. Then Eren arched his back in a way that got me to hit him in that place, and yes, now he was screaming my name.

“Levi, fuck, don’t stop don’t stop, right there, oh yeahhh…”

Eren’s arms were bent, his hands fisting into the sheets above his head. His head was thrown back, so I couldn’t see his face, so I turned my attention down to us. I watched my cock thrusting into him, and god that turned me on even more. I grabbed his cock and jerked it in time with my thrusts.

I pulled on Eren’s knee, bending his leg up so I could kiss the inside of his knee as I fucked him. The angle must have done nice things to him again because he was screaming again, his voice echoing off the walls, and I was very glad our room wasn’t close to anyone else’s from our group.

I wanted to draw things out, to flip him over, to fuck him against the wall, on the floor, into the sink, everywhere. But this first time, I just wanted it to be good, I wanted him to be so lost in pleasure that he forgot his own name.

I twisted my hips each time I thrust into him, adding an extra whirl that made my side ache a little, but was so worth it because Eren began to moan each time I pressed into him. I wrapped my arm around one of his legs, keeping it held up at the right angle, and let my other hand go back to jerking him off.

Eren was so flushed and panting, his skin covered in sweat. “Oh god, oh god Levi, fuck, mmm.”

I let loose any control I had left, and pounded him into the mattress, my thrusts hard and deep. “Come on, baby,” I coaxed him. “Come for me, Eren.”

Eren’s hand flailed, and I let go of his leg so that I could catch his hand and grip it. He squeezed my hand tight as his back arched, and his cock twitched in my hand. “Oh god Levi, don’t stop, I’m going to come.”

I didn’t stop. I kept thrusting into him, though I slowed my thrusts a little. Eren moaned, and he twitched, and then he was coming, his cock pulsing in my hand. He came in thick pulses, his come dropping onto his stomach in glistening trails. He shivered, then he moaned and went boneless.

I was so close, but I didn’t want to hurt him. I pulled out, and yanked off the condom, then I jerked myself off to the sight of him lying there sated. I came so suddenly it almost surprised me, and I straddled him, jerking myself onto his belly, so our come mixed together there.

Eren was looking up at me through lazy eyes, a soft smile on his face. He reached up a hand, and I threaded my hand into his again, as I climbed off him and flopped down next to him.

“Jesus,” I swore.

Eren laughed, shaking. He propped his head up to look down at himself, then laughed again. “Levi, look. I’m a total mess.”

I propped myself up on my side, looking over at him. He was a total mess, our come all pooled together on his flat stomach. I smirked. “Don’t dare roll over and get that on the sheets. I’m not sleeping on a crusty patch.”

Eren laughed and squeezed my hand, his eyes crinkling up. “Why don’t you clean me up, then? I think you fucked all my bones out of me.”

I leaned over and without thinking about the gesture, kissed Eren on the cheek, then got to my feet. It was only when I was coming back with the damp washcloth, and Eren was lying there with a stupid smile on his face, and his hand on his cheek, that I realized what I’d done.

I sucked my lip into my mouth, and focused on cleaning him up instead. I swiped the cloth carefully over his stomach, trying not to spill any of it until he was fully clean. Then I brought the cloth back into the bathroom and rinsed it out, rinsing out the cleaner we’d used earlier as well and putting everything away to dry.

I hopped in the shower for a 3-minute rinse to get the sweat off my skin, and brushed my teeth. When I got back to the bed, Eren was fast asleep already, and I couldn’t bear to wake him. So I just crawled in next to him. The sweat had already dried on his skin anyway, so it wasn’t too gross.

I pulled the blankets over us, set the alarm, then tucked myself in against his side, throwing my leg over his. Eren burrowed in under my arm, and I fell asleep faster than I could have realized, lulled to sleep by the sound of Eren’s heart beating next to mine.

——

I laughed when I woke up to see Eren stumbling on wobbly legs to the bathroom. He let out a groan when he was pissing, and I admired his form, wondering how someone could look so good even just taking a piss.

Thankfully Eren saw to his teeth, brushing them thoroughly, while I lay there and watched him. I got up finally and brushed my own teeth, standing next to him and knocking my side into his as I did. I nearly laughed when I saw our height difference as we stood there next to each other, doing something so domestic as brushing our teeth.

We had some time to kill that morning before taking the afternoon shift, so we packed a picnic lunch of baguette, cheese, and fruit, and went to the Luxembourg gardens. We strolled around for a while, taking in the scenery. Then we found a park bench and ate our lunch. After a while, Eren fell asleep with his head on my lap, and I sat there just enjoying the moment.

I couldn’t remember the last time I’d enjoyed travel so much. Most of the time travel for me meant running from people who were out to get me, or running after people I was out to get. Even when I had an extra day here or there and could see some things, I had never enjoyed that down time. Now it took over a whole new dimension, because I was able to see things through Eren’s eyes. Everything for him was new and amazing. To me, it was all stuff I’d seen before. So I could focus on looking at what I really wanted to - him.

I watched the play of all the emotions on his face. I watched him chase after the ducks. I watched him as he pointed out the flowers he liked. I watched him when his jaw dropped open when he saw the palace. I watched him look up at the canopy of trees above our heads. I watched his awe at the beauty of the Medici fountain. I watched each smile, each expression, and committed it all to memory.

Even if I had no other chance with Eren, I wanted to remember this. God, I wish we didn’t have to go to work. I wished it was just us here. But it wasn’t, and we did have to go to work.

——

When we arrived at the surveillance apartment early, Nanaba, Mikasa, and Armin were still there. They were all standing by a wall that had been bare the day before, but was now covered with printouts, pins, and white-board wall paper and notes written in dry erase.

There were pictures of 5 men and 2 women, with names, birthdates, places of birth, places of residence, and other factoids. Then there was a timeline, and a date circled, which happened to be tomorrow.

“Hey, Eren!” Armin called out, then went and gave Eren a hug. Eren also hugged Mikasa.

I wasn’t jealous, because I knew they had been friends forever. Besides, I knew that Eren was mine if I wanted him.

I walked over to Nanaba, leaving the kids to get reacquainted. I pointed to the date on the wall. “Do we have a problem?”

Nanaba scratched the back of his head. “I would have called you in, but I knew you were about to show up anyway, so I figured it could wait. But yeah, we have a problem. They’re planning a bomb. Or several bombs, actually.”

That wasn’t on our radar. How had our previous intel missed that piece of info? “When?”

“As far as I can tell, the bombs will be planted tomorrow. It was unclear whether they are going to set the bombs off the same day, or hang onto them for later.” Nanaba crossed his arms over his chest, lips pursed.

“Did you get a chance to sneak into his apartment?” I asked.

Nanaba nodded. “Yeah, for what good it did me. I got information on these guys. I also have identified that they are a part of some new religious group, calls itself The Wall. I can’t quite understand what their edict is, though. I gather that they approve of segregation, for cultures to stay separate. From what I can tell the group sprang up just after the Berlin Wall went down, though they are only recently becoming active.”

A totally new group? That was unprecedented.

“How can you be sure about the bombs?”

Nanaba sighed. “Erd overheard a phone conversation, that linked back to the meeting we were surveying yesterday. Then when I snuck in there today is when I found to the details. Problem is, there are too many targets for us to deal with this on our own.”

Nanaba led me over to a map that was spread on the table. “It looks like they want to create a ‘wall’ by bombing across the centre of the city. It has something to do with the metro line, running from Champ de Mars all the way through Montparnasse to Place d’Italie.”

I whistled. “That’s half the city. There’s no way we’ll be able to cover all that territory. We’ll have to notify the local police.”

Nanaba gave me a look. “We don’t have authority to do that. This is just a survey mission, remember?”

I shook my head and crossed my arms over my chest. “We have all the authority we could want. We’re a private organization now, and we operate under our own rules. We can do whatever we think is best, and in this case it means turning over everything we have to the locals.”

Nanaba nodded, his eyes going dark. “What about our mission for the government?”

I gestured at the wall. “Let’s collect all the data that we have, and send it to them. We will have fulfilled our obligation there. Send the kids home. Then you, Erd, and I can stay and interface with the local authorities to get them up to speed.”

“We’re not leaving,” Eren said, moving to stand up behind me.

I turned, fixing a glare on him. “Who gave you the right to have an opinion?” I snapped. “This isn’t a fucking democracy.”

“Don’t talk to him like that,” Mikasa spat, stepping between Eren and me.

I sat down, crossing my ankle over my knee and draping my arm over the back of the chair. “Whatever words I use, it doesn’t make a difference. I’m the head of this operation, sweetheart. And I say you kids are too green to be put in the middle of a live situation like this.”

Armin stepped forward, chin jutted out stubbornly. “We weren’t too green to help bust you out of jail in Mali, though, were we?”

I inspected my nails. “There’s a hell of a difference between some sandcastle jail with no security and a handful of rebels, and an organized terrorist group in the middle of Paris. You shits haven’t even been cleared on weapons training, I’m not putting you in the middle of live fire.”

“But we could help,” Mikasa insisted.

“Oh? Do any of you have bomb diffusing capabilities I’m not aware of? Or negotiating skills? No. And if you stayed here, you would be right in the middle of a situation that we have no control over, you’d just get in the way.”

I could see Eren’s eyes harden when I said that. It twisted like a knife in me, but I had to push the feeling away. This wasn’t about Eren, or us. This was about the job. And they weren’t ready - none of them were.

“Get on the phone with Hanji, Nanaba. Time for the kiddies to go to bed and let the adults play.”

I ignored Eren’s glare eating into the back of my skull. It was for the best. I wouldn’t put him at risk, not before he was ready to defend himself. Not yet. I’d keep him safe a little longer. As long as I could.

Even if it made him hate me.

Chapter Text

I hate him. I really fucking hate him. After all we’ve been through, for him to just dismiss us like a bunch of kids was ridiculous. I’d risked life and limb to rescue him before, I was not about to get on a plane and leave him now.

I stood there, my chin jutted out, my eyes on fire. I clenched my hands into fists so tight I thought my bones would rip right through my skin. I wanted to hit him, the violence raged inside me.

“I am not leaving,” I said again, quietly.

Levi looked at me, his eyes cold. “This is business, Eren.”

I knew exactly what he meant by that. I had to learn to separate the business from the pleasure, to separate our relationship in the bedroom from our relationship in here. Here, I was his subordinate, and I was supposed to do what I was told.

I was so fucking angry it just loosed itself from me without me even realizing what I was doing. I slammed my fist down so hard on the desk that the wood split, cracking open. Levi, who was still reclining nonchalantly in the chair, leapt to his feet, startled.

“You fucking idiot!” he snapped, grabbing my hand.

“Let go of me!” I snarled, and pushed him away. But he was even more powerful than I was, and he twisted my arm behind my back, wrenching my shoulder painfully.

“Everyone out. Now.”

Mikasa was there, her hand on Levi’s arm, her face twisted in anger. “Get your hands off him.”

Armin was now trying to placate Mikasa. “Please Mikasa, Eren’s lost control-”

“I don’t care!” she shouted. “That doesn’t give this short asshole the right to manhandle him!”

I struggled, trying to wrench myself free of Levi’s grip, but he was strong. He wrestled me to the floor, and put his knee into the back of my neck, pushing my head down into the grain of the wood.

“Eren, stop,” he commanded me.

I didn’t even have words anymore, I was so pissed. I just bucked and shoved and screamed my frustration. “You don’t even give me a chance!” I shouted.

Levi put his hand on the back of my head, and it was almost gentle compared to the knee pressing me into the floor. “I want to, kid. I just can’t yet. You need more experience.”

“How am I supposed to get experience if you send me home?” I struggled, renewing my efforts to break free, and the pressure on the back of my neck increased.

“Eren calm down and we can discuss this rationally.”

“You weren’t open to discussing anything,” Mikasa hissed. “All you want to do is power trip and order everyone around.”

I couldn’t see Levi’s face from where I was pinned, but I could see Mikasa’s. She was giving her best death glare, and even the strongest men had withered under that look in the past.

“Nanaba,” Levi said quietly.

“Yes sir?”

“Call Erd. Let’s get everyone here. We’ll discuss it as a group.”

Everyone fell silent, seeing this as a concession on Levi’s part. In the end, he could still decide to send us away, but at least we’d all have a chance to voice opinions on the matter before the decision was made.

I went still. I tried to remind myself to breathe through the haze of red, to calm the fuck down. After a minute, Levi got up off my back when he saw I wasn’t struggling anymore. I watched him dust himself off before I sat up.

Mikasa pulled me up to my feet, giving me a look. “You all right?”

I frowned. “Peachy.”

Armin put his arm around my waist. “You really shouldn’t do that,” he murmured in my ear. “It doesn’t help anything when you lose control. You’ll just prove to them all that they’re right about you.”

I looked in Armin’s eyes, trying to read them. Trying to process through the static. “Right about what?”

Armin looked away. “Don’t let them see you as a monster, Eren.”

Even though Armin was my best friend, and I loved him, at that moment I just wanted to shove him away. The only thing holding me back was I always saw him as fragile. “Levi doesn’t see me as a monster,” I growled.

“He has a funny way of showing it,” Mikasa harrumphed as she crossed her arms under her chest.

I ran both hands through my hair, and found they were shaking. When I looked at them, I saw my right hand was all banged up, the knuckles split and bleeding from where I’d punched the desk. I didn’t even feel any pain.

“Eren, would you come with me please?” Levi asked, actually being really nice for once.

I glared over at him, wanting to snap at him, but he wasn’t giving me a reason to. He was just looking at me, steadily, waiting to see whether I’d come or not.

Levi led me into the kitchen, where he started the tap running. He motioned me over and I stood next to him. He took my wrist, then held my hand under the tap, his fingers dancing lightly over my knuckles, washing them. He took some soap and soaped up our hands, then washed them again carefully.

The whole time he didn’t say anything. He just helped clean me up, his face expressionless. How could he just turn off like that? It was like he was a different person.

“I need you to trust me, Eren,” he finally said after turning off the tap. He turned to face me, propping his hands on the counter behind him and leaning back into it.

I hated him for looking so attractive to me, his body lean and compact, right there in front of me. I wanted to fuck him, to fight with him and rough him up and fuck him until he screamed my name. I wanted him to admit that I was every bit as important as he was.

“You think of me like I’m a child,” I murmured sullenly, not wanting to be overheard by the others.

Levi shook his head, his eyes stoic. “I do not.”

“Then a burden. You just want to get rid of me.”

He stood there looking at me, just looking at me for ages. “I can’t even believe you would think that. I want you near me, kid,” he said, then winced when he tripped over his pet name for me. “I mean, Eren. I don’t call you kid because I actually think of you as a kid.”

“Then how do you think of me?” I pushed.

Levi’s eyes bored into mine. “Do you honestly not know?”

If I had to take a guess, I would have thought Levi found me attractive, sure. He thought I was a good fuck. But beyond that? Nothing much.

He must have seen it in my eyes, because he swore under his breath, and ran his hand through his hair. “I don’t have time for this, Eren.”

That stabbed through me, right through the fucking heart. He didn’t have time for this, for me, for my childishness. He didn’t have time to coddle me. To baby me.

I turned away, needing to get away, so he couldn’t see the look on my face. But before I could escape, he caught me by the wrist, holding me back.

Eren,” he hissed. He looked around, and saw the other three watching us curiously, then let my wrist go. I couldn’t look at his face, or meet his eyes. I could only hear his voice when he said, “We’ll talk about this later.”

“Sure,” I said sarcastically. “Can I go back to the others now?”

When I saw him nod out of the corner of my eye, I practically ran back over to Armin and Mikasa. They both took a look at my hand, Armin admonishing me for doing something so stupid, Mikasa looking around me to glare at Levi. I just wanted to get out of there. I wanted a break.

“You two really don’t get along, do you?” Armin teased me.

“Oh, fuck off,” I muttered.

——

Jean, Marco, and Erd arrived thirty minutes later. In the meantime, Armin and Mikasa were filling me in on the things they’d done on their time off. They’d gone to some of the same places as me - the Luxembourg Gardens, the Louvre. They hadn’t gone to the Eiffel tower though, and were jealous when I told them I’d gotten to do that. But they had gone on a ferry ride on the river that sounded fun.

“Well we rented bicycles and cycled all over the city,” Jean announced when he walked in, overhearing our conversation.

“Did you get to go to the Moulin Rouge?” Armin asked.

Marco flushed. “Yeah, we went on the first night. It was wild!”

I looked over to where Levi, Erd, and Nanaba were conferring together. It was always us vs. them. I was sick of it, so I pushed to my feet and went to go participate in their conversation.

“He should be arriving any minute now,” Levi was saying.

“Good,” Erd said, cracking his neck. “I’m glad you have a local contact.”

Nanaba laughed. “Levi always has a local contact.”

Levi grunted. “I’ve just been doing this a long time.”

A knock on the door announced another guest. Two people entered, one of them being a tall, dark-haired blue-eyed sort of average looking guy. The other was a girl, with brown hair and sparkling hazel eyes, full of life.

They both came over to greet Levi, surprising me a little by kissing him on both his cheeks. It wasn’t so unusual in Montreal for a girl to kiss a guy’s cheeks, or for two girl’s to kiss each other’s cheeks, but for a guy to kiss a guy’s cheeks was slightly more unusual. I wanted to grab the tall bastard by the back of his neck and pull him away from Levi.

We continued the meeting in French, some of us more at ease in the language than others. I understood it perfectly, but didn’t speak it as much, so I was a bit more halting. Armin was perfectly fluent, just like Levi. Mikasa was at about my level. Jean and Marco as well.

“Everyone I want to introduce you to a friend of mine. This is Cyril, an old friend of mine. He works in the police force here now, and this is his partner Dominique.” Levi then went around the room, introducing them to each one of us in turn. When they got to me, I couldn’t help but grip the guy’s hand a little too strong, and glare at him a little too forcefully. He looked me up and down with a raised eyebrow.

“This one is like a barely trained dog,” Cyril commented.

I felt my hackles raising. I would show him a dog, and claw his damned face off.

Levi stepped between us, his back to me. “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t antagonize the new recruits, Cyril. Eren is one of our most promising newcomers.”

Thing is, when you get a compliment like that from Levi, you never know whether he actually means it, or whether he’s just saying it to manipulate the situation in the way he wants. So it didn’t make me feel any better about all the arguing we’d done that day.

“Well I think he’s beautiful,” Dominique gushed, smiling and producing some dimples that were to die for.

That made me smile. Just a little.

“Okay let’s get started. Nanaba, if you don’t mind briefing everyone on the particulars of the situation.” Levi went to sit down, and we all took seats around the dining table.

Nanaba spread the large map on the table, and stood up while he was talking. “So as Levi may have informed you, we are now a part of a new organization called Survey Recon, that is privately contracted. We were asked to come out here to assess a possible terrorist activity that is associated to a Canadian expat.

“The expat’s name is Nick Verona. He has been living in Paris for two years, although he maintains close ties with Canada. However he was flagged when he started associating with known members of terrorist organizations.

“From what we have been able to ascertain, by listening to phone conversations, and gathering intel, he is one of the higher ranking members of a new cult called The Wall. They are a religious political organization, that believes in segregation of the races. By monitoring their communications, we were able to also identify these other co-conspirators.”

Nanaba pointed to the wall, where the pictures of the other people were all pinned up along with their biographies.

“Our intelligence indicates that they are planning a massive attack on Paris, to plant bombs along the metro line and blow them up, creating a large crack across the city and what could be seen as an inverted ‘wall’, blocking access to that region of the city.”

Nanaba pointed out the route along which they were planning to place the bombs, along with the number of them. As best as they could tell, there would be 10 different bombs placed along the different subway stops, perhaps with other smaller bombs in between.

Cyril and Dominique had gone pale at the end of the description. “Do you have any idea on when this is supposed to happen?”

Erd stood. “I overheard them talking about laying down the bombs tomorrow. We’ll need to have a full team of police officers manning all the subway platforms, and intercepting any suspicious packages.”

“You’re sure they plan to plant them underground?” Dominique asked, “Not above?”

“It seems that way,” Nanaba confirmed, “Though of course we can’t say for sure. If they make eyes on your cops, and see them loitering in the subway, then they may abort, or they may have a Plan B in place already, I don’t know.”

Cyril, Dominique, and Levi all exchanged a heavy glance.

“Better for the policemen to go in plainclothes,” Levi said, and Cyril nodded right away.

“My thoughts exactly. But from the target area, it sounds as though we’ll have to mobilize a huge force just to have it covered. We’ll have just about everyone pounding the pavement tomorrow, so we’d better hope no one decides to rob a bank or something, or they’ll get off scot free.”

Levi threw his arm over the back of his chair. “What will you need from us, Cyril?”

Cyril chewed on his lip, thinking. “Remember that time in Afghanistan, when we were going into that town? Where they’d planted the car bombs?”

Levi nodded, and I looked between them, surprised. They must have served over there together.

“You managed to diffuse the bomb that was planted in the car in front of the embassy. Before any of us even knew it was there.”

Levi nodded again, raising an eyebrow. “So? You’d like me on hand with your bomb squad?”

“If it’s not too much trouble. You have way more experience than any of the guys we have on bomb squad here. They’ve mostly worked on models, not on the real thing.”

Levi tapped his finger on the table, something that I noticed he did when thinking. “All right. Nanaba and I will join you on bomb duty, he’s actually even better than I am at that sort of thing.”

“I can be there with your team to fill them in on any details that we got from our investigation,” Erd offered.

“That would be extremely helpful,” Dominique said with a smile. “Can you turn over your documents?”

Levi waved his hand back and forth. “Mostly. There’s a few that are confidential, but those don’t pertain to the case anyway.”

“Great. And what about your new guys? Can we use them too?”

Levi looked at me, his eyes unreadable. Then shifted his gaze away again. “What did you have in mind? They’re very new, and they have no knowledge of this city.”

“We’ll have so many feet on the ground, and so much distance to cover, it never hurts to have extra hands. They can work as runners, passing information back and forth. There’s no reception down in the tunnels so we’ll need people to be going up and down to update the team on the progress.”

Levi tapped his finger on the table again. It went quiet, for a while, as he thought.

“We could do that,” Armin said.

Levi lifted a finger to stop him talking, but Armin ignored him and ploughed along. “We could each be paired with a local cop. We could be that cop’s buddy, and be on the radio to relay whatever information they need.”

Levi’s hand made a fist on the table.

If I didn’t know better, I could swear that Levi was the one not able to separate the personal from the business.

“Fine,” Levi grunted. “We’ll do what we can to help.”

Cyril smiled and clapped his hands, standing. “Good. Then I’ll ask you to drop off your files by the station at your earliest convenience. I’ll get the team together and we’ll be ready to hit the streets in the morning.”


——


Levi called me over later, when the police officers left. The rookies were all getting ready to go back to the hotel - Erd thought that we could use the extra sleep, since we weren’t used to going without yet. When Armin agreed with him, I didn’t contradict him.

“Eren,” Levi beckoned.

I walked over to him, and he walked away, leading me into the bedroom at the back.

“What’s up?” I asked him. I felt awkward around him now, embarrassed at my outburst earlier.

Levi just propped his shoulder up against the wall, and looked at me. “Are you satisfied now? You’ll get to stay, after all.”

I shuffled my feet. “I’m sorry,” I mumbled. “I shouldn’t have disagreed with you in front of everyone like that.”

Levi frowned, his brow creasing. “You’re damned right. If we were actually in the army, you’d be facing a reprimand right now.”

I felt a flash of anger, but I clamped down on it. I went over to the unused bed, and sat down on it, propping my elbows on my knees and rubbing my forehead with my hand. I was a total jerk.

I heard Levi approaching, but I didn’t look up. I felt his fingers card into my hair, his fingers scratching at my scalp. It felt good, and I hummed.

“I don’t make decisions lightly, Eren,” he said softly. “You are inexperienced, and right now I just want to keep you safe.”

I peered up at him. “You can’t keep me safe forever, you know.”

He nodded, his eyes like shards of ice. “I know. But I would like to have the chance to train you before taking you out in the field. I’d like to take you to the weapons range, to teach you to handle a knife, to rock climb, to jump out of airplanes. You know how to fight, Eren, but a fistfight won’t win out over a knife or a gun, and especially not against a bomb.”

And it was a bomb that we were going up against tomorrow.

I twiddled my fingers together. “I get it.”

“Do you?” His voice was harsh.

I bowed my head, looking at the floor. “Yeah. I do.”

Levi ran both his hands into my hair, and tipped my head back so I was looking up at him. “Good. Do your best to stay safe tomorrow, Eren. Then we’ll train you when we get back home, okay?”

I couldn’t have him standing in front of me and not want to touch him, so I put my hands on his hips. I slid the edges of my fingers under his shirt, and touched his skin lightly.

“Should we go back to the hotel now?” I asked, while my fingers traced designs on his sides.

He smirked. You’ll go back to the hotel now. I’ll go to the police station. I need to brief their team.”

“You’re not coming?”

He shook his head. “Not now, no.”

I stood up, which now put my head above his. I looked down into his eyes, and he was looking up at me with an expression I couldn’t read. I wished sometimes that I could read his mind. When I found no answers there, I wrapped my arms around his neck, and hugged him close to me. When he put his arms around me, and propped his head on my shoulder, everything felt right again. It felt even better when Levi nudged his head under my jaw, and pressed his lips to my neck.

Then there was a knock on the door. “Eren?” Armin called out. “Are you guys done talking? We’re leaving now, you coming with us?”

I groaned quietly. “I’ll be out in one minute, Armin.”

“Okay,” he called out agreeably, and when I heard his footsteps fade away, I hugged Levi tighter.

He was the one that dragged my head down, his hands on my neck, and kissed me. His grip was strong on my neck, his thumb pressing into the pulse at my neck. I was the one that licked his mouth, though, and got him to open up to me. Then our tongues brushed each other and god, I wished he was coming back with me.

When he finally pulled back from the kiss, he was breathless, his eyes dilated. He actually stroked my neck again and pulled me back in, for a shorter, but no less satisfying kiss.

“Kid, you’d better stay fucking safe tomorrow,” he ground out, his voice gravelly.

I got my hands around his waist and hiked him up against me, pressing our bodies together. I clashed our mouths together, kissing him harshly. “You too.”

Levi pushed a hand against my chest, and slowly pulled back. He straightened his hair, and breathed, looking at me with eyes that were dazed. He blew out a stiff breath. “Can’t go out like this,” he said with a smirk, gesturing down at himself.

I stepped back, laughing, because I was sporting a hard-on too. “What a pair we make!”

He looked at me with that look in his eyes again, and said, “Yeah. Yeah, we do.”


——


Each of us ended up being paired with a French police officer, and sent to a different station. That made five of us newbies acting as runners, along with Nanaba and Levi joining the bomb squad. The regular police officers that we were buddied with were in charge of patrolling the metro stations, keeping an eye out for suspicious activity. The bomb squad was busy searching all the underground, walking the train lines.

It seemed to me like they should have just shut the whole subway down, but Armin explained that it wouldn’t make sense to do that until we caught the perpetrators red-handed. Otherwise, with the evidence we had against them up until now, there was nothing to charge them with.

When I watched Levi suiting up in his bullet-proof vest, I felt a pang of regret for being a little shit. I knew Levi was still angry with me for forcing his hand.

Before we all split off in separate directions, I took a moment to snag Levi’s wrist. He looked at me with his cold, professional eyes, waiting for me to say something. I couldn’t think of anything to say, so I just muttered, “Be careful.” He nodded at me, then the next thing I knew he was gone.

I wish I could have wrapped him up in a hug, and kissed him goodbye. But we weren’t like that. And we couldn’t ever be.

The police officer I was buddied with was called Gabrielle. She was one of these girls that you could tell was surrounded by guys all the time, and had developed a thick skin because of it. She obviously worked out, and looked like she could hold her own in a match at the kickboxing club. She also seemed to have forgotten how to smile. She could be attractive, with her brown hair and hazel eyes, but without smiling she just ended up looking plain.

When I was introduced to her, she barely acknowledged me, other than to run me through yet again what I was responsible for doing, and instructing me how to use the radios. She threatened me that if I screwed this up she’d personally do something very evil to me, but when it got to the specifics of her threat that’s where my colourful understanding of French failed me.

God help me.

The morning passed without a lot of fanfare. Every hour we checked in on the radios. I had to run down into the metro once every half hour to check in with Gabrielle.

Everything went to shit in the afternoon.

It was Armin’s voice that I heard piping out over the radio first. In his flawless French, he said, “The bomb is not in the metro station, it’s on the cars. Nanaba found a bomb on one of the metro cars, and now they all have to be searched.”

There was acquiescence from everyone on the radios, and I ran down to the metro to fill in Gabrielle. When I told her, she started swearing, and surfaced back up with me so we could all get on the radios to go over the plan.

“All right, the plan has changed,” Cyril announced. “I’m shutting down the metro system. All units, abandon your posts and head down into the train lines. We’ll do a grid search, we’ll have to go through every car of every metro down there. We’re expecting to find 10 bombs. We’ll make use of the PA system in the subways to make announcements. Bring your buddies down with you, and when you locate a bomb, send the buddy to relay via the PA. Clear?”

When everyone checked in and confirmed, we headed down.

All the metro cars en route had been parked near the closest metro station, so at least they were all relatively accessible. Gabrielle and I went into the trains that were parked in this metro station, and combed through them one by one. While I went through the train cars themselves, Gabrielle checked under the cars, on top, and around.

I finally found the package, it had been shoved under one of the seats, concealed under an abandoned newspaper. When I yanked the newspaper off, I found a small duffel bag, and when I opened the bag, there was a bomb inside. I saw a timer counting down, and it looked like it was set to go off in a little over an hour’s time.

“Holy shit,” I said aloud.

I actually trembled in my boots. I had never seen a bomb before. Up until now, this had all been a game to me. A spy game, where I was just following the plot, but not really understanding the end game. Now it was staring me in the face, and it was real.

I stepped out of the train car and called out for Gabrielle. When she saw it, she frowned and said, “Go relay the message. I’ll finish sweeping the train to make sure we didn’t miss a second one.”

I got on the PA to call out that I’d found it. I got an answer in the affirmative, and that Nanaba would be the one to come dismantle this one.

I started hearing others calling out on the PA. Jean’s group had found theirs. Followed shortly by Marco’s. We didn’t hear anything from Mikasa’s group, but some of the other police officers were calling out. How many had responded now - 6? 8?

Nanaba arrived to our car a tense 15 minutes later. He examined the bomb tersely, pulling out a tool kit from his bag. He must have spent another 15 minutes examining the thing, while the clock was ticking precious time away.

“There’s no sense in you staying here while I work,” Nanaba said. “Why don’t you do a last sweep of the tunnels to make sure we didn’t miss anything?”

Gabrielle nodded, and pulled me along with her.

I knew that Nanaba was just sending me away, just in case something happened. I knew what that timer meant - there wasn’t enough time to relocate the bomb, to dismantle it in a safer location. And if all the bombs were set up in the same way, then the situation was true for all the bombs. They’d all have to be dismantled on site.

There were voices piping out over the PA now, sharing information about the types of trigger, the best method of dismantling. There were several groups to call out, “All clear.”

I was relieved when I heard Levi’s voice calling out “All clear.” Did that mean he was out of danger?

Then I heard Erd’s voice. “Group 9, we haven’t had you check in yet. Group 9, status report.”

That was Mikasa’s group. Why wasn’t she checking in?

When another couple of minutes passed, Levi’s voice was heard again. “I’m the closest to Group 9’s position. I’m going to intercept.”

And I was on the other side of the fucking universe, even though I was only one station away. There was no way I could get out there.

Then something really fucking creepy happened. One of the PA systems must have gotten switched to VOX, because all of a sudden we could hear everything. There was screaming, and gunshots. “Get behind me!” a voice called out in French. “There’s no fucking time,” someone else was yelling. “Everyone get out, now!” Levi was ordering. “I’ll get Mikasa.”

Gabrielle and I stopped, and looked at each other. We then both started running towards the next station, through the dark tunnels, our flashlights bobbing as we ran. When we got closer to the station, I could hear fighting.

Then the next thing I knew, we were ambushed. I was assaulted by someone dressed all in black, I could barely see her in the dark, and her face was covered. I could tell it was a girl, because of her build and stature, but not much else. She moved so fucking fast, I’d never seen anything like it.

Gabrielle was gone, she’d been hit on the head, and was laying on the ground. I didn’t have time to worry about her, though, I had to get the girl.

I went after her, throwing myself at her, and we engaged in hand-to-hand combat. Whenever I threw a punch, she dodged and came back at me so fast I couldn’t believe it. It was like she could predict every move I was going to make. I was hit in the shoulder, in the side, but I got so angry I saw red. I didn’t feel the pain, I just shouted and let loose all the rage inside me.

I was a monster. I could feel myself turning into one when I got like this. I can’t remember exactly what I did, all I know is that I let go, and I punched, and I kicked, and I roared out my frustration.

There was one point when I thought I had her. I got her pinned down, and with my superior weight, I thought it was over. I pulled back my hand, intending to punch her through the face just like I had done the prison guard in Mali - but something stopped me. I had a moment of hesitation, because something about the moment reminded me of someone, and it confused me. I had a moment of doubt when I remembered that I wasn’t supposed to kill anyone, not here, and so I pulled my punch.

She took advantage of that, and pulled some crazy move on me where she twisted my arm between my hands, and dislocated my shoulder.

I screamed. Fuck, now I felt that pain. My arm hung loosely from my shoulder, and she took advantage of my distraction to roll me over, and punched me in the injured shoulder. I screamed again.

I could hear her breathing hard, but she didn’t say anything. Normally in this situation, someone would say something, a taunt, or a jeer, or something. She was just eerily quiet, as she punched me in the gut and winded me.

I tried to buck her off me, but she did the impossible and dislocated my other shoulder.

I didn’t let it stop me. I staggered to my feet, yelling, and somehow thought I could still go after her. I don’t know what I was thinking, that I would bite her or something.

I didn’t get that far. She got me with a hook in the temple, and I went down like a sack of potatoes.


——


I was really out of it, but was still kind of semi-conscious, when Mikasa and Levi arrived on the scene. I must have been out of it for only a minute, because Mikasa was obviously chasing after the girl.

“Let her go!” Levi shouted. “We’ve got to get Eren out of here, that bomb is going to go off and there isn’t a fucking thing we can do about it!”

“But we’ve got to make her pay for what she’s done!” Mikasa was yelling.

I heard a commotion, and an impact, and I knew that Mikasa must have gone after her, against Levi’s wishes. I could hear him swearing, and tearing off after her.

“Mikasa, no!” he shouted.

Then I heard Levi make the most sickening whimper ever, right after something that sounded like a solid hit on muscle.

“Levi!” Mikasa cried out.

Then I heard the footfalls of the girl running away.

“Why did you do that?” Mikasa sobbed.

I blinked my eyes open, and struggled onto my knees. My arms were useless at my sides, and I was in so much pain. But I pushed through it, to be able to see Mikasa holding Levi in her arms.

Levi was slumped against the wall, his hand clutching at his knee. “You underestimated her strength,” he gasped. “She would have killed you, or disabled you at the least, if that blow had landed on your head. I had to get you out of the way.”

Mikasa was supporting him, propping him up against her, but he was on his feet at least. “But you don’t even like me.”

I could see Levi give her an incredulous look. “Whatever gave you that idea?”

Mikasa shook her head, and I saw her swipe away tears angrily.

I staggered to my feet. “I think it’s you that doesn’t like Levi, Mikasa,” I coughed. “He likes you just fine.”

Mikasa leapt to my side when she saw me on my feet, and launched herself at me, her arms around my waist. “Eren, you’re okay!”

Just the movement of her jostling me hurt like fuck. “Mikasa, please, you’re hurting me.”

Levi limped over to us. “We don’t have time for this,” he said shortly. “Can you walk?”

I nodded, pushing though the pain.

Levi gave me a manic grin. “Good. Then run!”

He pushed me ahead of him, and I staggered, doing my best to run. It hurt my arms, it hurt everywhere, but I knew we were on borrowed time. That bomb could go off any minute! Mikasa was at my side, straining to run faster, but holding herself back. Levi was right behind me-

-Wasn’t he? I turned my head, but Levi was lagging. He was half-running, half-hopping. When he saw me hesitate, he waved me on, then yelled louder than I’d ever heard him, “RUN!

Then the world lit up in flames.

Chapter Text

There should have been pain. I had been hit by a bomb blast before, and I remember what it felt like, knocking me off my feet, the searing heat, and shards of shrapnel embedding themselves in my back. I must have about 20 scars on my back from the last bomb blast.

But this time, I felt hardly anything. I did get knocked off my feet, but all I felt was a pleasant warmth.

After a minute, when the shaking stopped, and the fireball dissipated, I groaned and tried to move. There was something weighing me down, lying on top of me.

I finally twisted around, and wiggled out. Then, halfway out from underneath him, I realized it was Eren. I frowned, confused. I could have sworn he’d been at least five metres away from me when the bomb went off. But no, here he was, he’d shielded me beneath his body, and taken the brunt of the blast.

He wasn’t moving.

I tried to quell the panic rising in my throat, choking me. I reached out and pressed my fingers against his neck, and thankfully, his pulse was beating strong. There was something wrong with his arms - were they both dislocated? His whole shirt had been seared off his back, and what I could see of his back was red and blistering and yes there was shrapnel embedded all over it.

Holy fuck, the little asshole had shielded me. Jesus Christ, I could kill him!

While he was unconscious, I decided to set his shoulders. A dislocated shoulder is actually fairly simple to fix. I just rolled him onto his back, shoved my foot in his armpit, and rotated his arm back up until it popped back in.

Eren was so out of it that I managed to get the first one done with him only grunting and moaning. The second one, though, woke him up screaming.

“Ow, ow, ow, shit!”

“Feels better now though, doesn’t it?” I asked, watching him as he struggled awake.

Eren looked over at me blearily, rubbing his arm. “Levi?”

I crawled over to him, and took his neck in my hand, then felt a shard of shrapnel in the back of his neck and swore. “Yeah, Eren, it’s me.”

Eren pulled me to him and put his arms around me, squeezing me tight in that way that I had come to love so much. “Oh God I’m so glad. I made it in time.”

I pushed Eren away, swatting his chest. “I told you to run, not to come back for me.”

Eren glared at me, his eyes fierce. “You know what, you can give me orders all you want. But in the end, I’m going to do what I think is best.”

I went cold inside. “Eren, I can’t work this way. I can’t run a unit if I can’t predict what all my men are going to do. You’re like an element of chaos thrown in the middle,” I said, my hands making frustrated circles in the air.

Eren crashed into me, his mouth harsh on mine as he ripped a kiss from my mouth. “I don’t care.”

I groaned, flopping my head onto his shoulder until I felt him wince. “Shit!” I swore. “We need to get out of here. Firemen will be here soon, anyway, there’s nothing more we can do. Where’s Mikasa?”

Eren shot to his feet at that, looking wild again. “Mikasa!” he called out, running down the tunnel in the direction we’d been moving.

I got gingerly to my feet, testing my knee as I heard Eren running around searching for her. I could put weight on my knee no problem, it would hold it. Only thing is, it hurt like shit when I bent it. I just walked carefully, so as not to injure the knee further, and not to endure more pain than necessary.

“Mikasa! You all right?” I heard Eren exclaim in excitement.

Then I heard her voice, a soft moan. “Yeah, I dove under the train car and I think that protected me pretty well.”

From where I stood, I could see her pulling herself out from underneath. I did see someone else, though, lying motionless on the ground not far from me. So I walked over to her, recognizing her only as one of the many police officers I’d spoken with that morning. Her eyes were gazing sightlessly up above, but when I examined her briefly, I saw a blow to her head that had likely been the one to do her in. There wasn’t enough blood from the shrapnel wounds, so they had to have come post mortem.

“Is she dead?” Eren asked, joining me at my side.

I pulled Eren away, yanking on his wrist. “Yeah.”

Eren shook me off, then went over to stand by her, looking down at her for a minute. “I was her buddy,” he said morosely. “I didn’t protect her, and that bitch took her out before I even knew what happened.” He hung his head.

“Eren….” Mikasa said in a sympathetic voice.

“Jaeger we don’t have time for this right now,” I said, making my tone sound grumpy just to get a rise out of him. “We need to move our asses out of here.”

“Why don’t you give him a minute?” Mikasa said angrily.

I glared at her. “Because if I give him a minute, and the ceiling decides to collapse in on us in that minute, I’d feel pretty fucking stupid for letting him stand here and feel sorry for himself.”

Mikasa’s hand twitched, like she wanted to hit me, but when I started moving, she tugged on Eren’s hand until he followed behind.

The stairs were really fucking tough. If I thought my knee hurt walking on flat ground, I had shooting pain zinging all up through my leg every time I tried to pull myself up a stair. I had to do that slow, invalid-like going up the stairs one at a time thing, which pissed the hell out of me. When Mikasa offered to help me, I nearly bit her hand off. And trust me, there’s a shit ton of stairs going out of the metro.

When we were going up the last few stairs, I saw the firemen all geared up and going down. I stopped to fill them in on the situation, letting them know the rough location of the bomb, and that there was the body of a police officer down there.

By the time I got back to the top, one of the firemen was arguing with Eren, insisting that he call the paramedics to help him. I intervened, holding up a hand. “Don’t worry, he’ll go with me. I’ll get him all cleaned up.” Not only was this a relatively easy injury to treat - but I didn’t want any un-needed attention on Eren’s wounds, because he healed so much faster than us. If someone figured that out, Eren could be the new human guinea pig for medical research around the world.

We all reconvened back at the surveillance apartment. Mikasa, Eren, and I were the first to arrive. The others trickled in later, bit by bit, but by that time I had Eren sitting topless on the dining room table and I was removing shards of shrapnel from his back with a pair of tweezers, then prodding at the wounds with hydrogen peroxide.

It was a little bit torture for me to be so close to him, touching him, but not be able to offer words of comfort. But in front of Mikasa or any of the others, I had to treat him just like anyone else.

When Armin came in, and saw me working on Eren, he came rushing over, tears welling in his eyes. “Eren, are you all right?”

Eren took his hand, and gave him a little smile. “I’m just sore all over. My arms hurt, my back hurts.” He gave a wry smile and sighed. “It could have been a lot worse, though.”

Not only could it have been, it should have been. The shirt had been burned right off his back, but what should have been a bubbling peeling 1st degree burn was merely reddened skin. His skin was hot to the touch, but he wasn’t with fever. He wasn’t in pain when I touched him. If it had been me, I would have been permanently scarred and possibly out of commission for a month.

“Levi?” Nanaba put his hand on my arm, drawing my attention.

I looked up at him, blinking to bring my focus back to the present. “Sorry, what?”

Nanaba looked concerned. “Are you all right?”

I shrugged my shoulders nonchalantly. “Fine. Did everyone make it back all right?”

Nanaba pointed over Eren’s shoulder to the living room, where I could see the kids sitting together solemnly. Armin, Jean, Marco, and Mikasa were all facing each other on the couches, and for once they weren’t joking around or planning their next outing. They were just sitting there.

“Where’s Erd?”

Nanaba’s mouth thinned out. “No one’s seen or heard from him. Was he anywhere close to where the bomb went off?”

I cast my mind back, but I didn’t remember seeing him. “He wasn’t even supposed to be down there. Wasn’t he supposed to be the interface with the police? He shouldn’t have been anywhere near the bombs.”

“Yeah, well, I called your friend Cyril and no one’s seen him since this morning.”

I frowned. I was working on pulling out a rather large piece of shrapnel, so I put my hand on Eren’s back and murmured in his ear, warning him to brace for pain. He merely grunted, and I yanked it out in one harsh pull. He sucked a breath in, while I slapped a bandage on the wound and pressed on it to stop the bleeding.

“Some of these will need stitches,” I told Eren.

“Just use butterfly closures,” he said instead. He turned his head to look at me, his big green eyes frank. “You know why.”

I snorted. Yeah, because he might heal too fast for the stitches. “Okay. But if they aren’t knitting after a couple of days then I’ll stitch you up myself,” I grumbled.

Eren smiled, and leaned back just a bit, so that his back brushed more strongly against my hands. It was subtle, but I knew what it was. A gesture of closeness, of friendship.

“Should we go look for Erd?” Nanaba asked, drawing my attention back to him.

I looked around at everyone. Every single person in the room was beat, exhausted, emotionally worn out. They could barely find their nose in the middle of their face, much less find a highly trained agent.

I shook my head. “I’ll put a call in to the police and fire departments. We all need to go back and get some rest. If he isn’t back by tomorrow, then I’ll go to the police station and we’ll take it from there.”

Nanaba nodded, giving me a light smile. “Yes, sir.”

“Take everyone back now, will you?” I asked him. “I’ll finish up here with Eren and we’ll go straight back to the hotel. We’ll touch base in the morning.”

Nanaba smiled and nodded, giving me a little wave. He went over to the couch and got everyone up and moving in less than 10 minutes, coaxing them to come with him. He was a good little shepherd. They all came over to say goodbye to Eren, though, squeezing his hand, or kissing his cheek. Even Jean gave him a pat on the leg. I was surprised how loved he was - though, in the end, I guess I shouldn’t have been. After all, if he could charm me, he could charm anyone. The crazy thing about it was, though, that Eren wasn’t even trying to charm anyone. He was just… sincere. Genuine. And brave. People gravitated towards that.

Then they were all gone, leaving me alone with Eren. Finally.

I was nearly done removing the shrapnel from his back, so I decided to just keep on going. I ran my hands over his back, dislodging any of the small pieces that were still clinging to him. Then I sifted my hands through his hair, dusting away any last shards of glass that fell out. I scratched his head, then leaned my cheek on the back of his shoulder. I heaved in a big breath, as the weight of what had happened crashed into me.

I could have lost him. If Eren was like any other normal human being, he could be seriously hurt or worse. We were lucky - really fucking lucky.

I ran my hand down to his neck, stroking the back of his neck as I tried to breathe. I didn’t want him to see me upset, so I covered it up by rubbing his neck and pressing a kiss to his shoulder.

Eren’s hand reached around for me, finding my leg. “Hey,” he said gently.

I grunted.

Eren pinched me. “Come here,” he said, pulling on my leg.

I sighed, and then came around to his front, standing between his splayed legs. I tried to hide how I felt behind my neutral mask, but Eren saw me do it, and he frowned.

“Would you stop that?” he grumbled, reaching out to press his thumb between my eyebrows.

“Stop what?” I said, feigning ignorance.

Eren caught my hips, and dragged me forward, until his knees caught the outside of my legs. “Stop hiding.” He looked me in the eye, then tilted his face forward to brush his nose against mine. “It’s just us, so it’s okay. You can tell me what’s going on in your mind.”

I frowned, glaring at him. Some things you just don’t want your lover to know. “I am pissed at you,” I grumbled.

Eren smirked, the little asshole. “Yeah, I know.”

“You could have gotten seriously hurt, don’t you get it? Jesus.” I looked away, not wanting him to see my face.

Eren draped his arms over my shoulders, nuzzling the side of my face. “I don’t care.”

I pushed him away, pushing on his chest and shoving him, backing away. “Yeah but I do.” I glared at him, standing a few feet away with my fists clenched, chest heaving with emotion. I closed my eyes. “I care, Eren. I care.” I shook my head. “I don’t want you to get hurt. I have visions of you dying in front of me.” I shoved my fists into my eyes, trying to block out the images.

Eren’s arms were around me, and he was hugging me so tight, his hands gripping my back. “I’m sorry.”

The longer he held me, the more I was able to banish the images from my mind. His scent enveloped me, and it started to sink in that he was here, and he was fine. His arms were strong around me, and his hands were rubbing circles on my back.

Eren kissed the side of my neck, then my face, working his way over. When he first kissed my mouth, I didn’t respond, keeping my mouth closed to show him how angry I was. But then when he teased me with his lips, smiling, I started to relax. I could feel him smirk against my mouth, which irritated me, so I punched his chest. Eren grappled with me, then caught my neck in his hand and crushed his mouth to mine, demanding.

“Fuck you,” I spit, but then his mouth was on mine again and he was plundering my mouth, one hand on my neck, the other on the small of my back, fisting into the back of my shirt and pulling me up into the kiss.

I grabbed both sides of his neck in my hands, and forced his head back, out of reach of me. His mouth was wet, glistening, his lips lush. His eyes were dark, glinting with amusement. He leaned back, stepping out of reach, and held his hands out at his sides.

“Fuck you,” I said again, then stopped fighting it and launched myself into his arms. I hooked my arm around his neck and pulled him down, palming his side as I kissed him, taking control. I practically climbed up his body, our chests brushing together, my groin pressing possessively into his leg.

Then yes, Eren’s hands were on my ass, gripping me and pulling us together. “You little shit,” I said breathlessly, as I shoved my hands up his chest. I toyed with his nipples, making him smile as he dove down for another kiss.

Somewhere along the way, Eren had pulled me up and dumped me on the table, and was now pressing me down into it, the length of his body pressing against mine. I arched up into him, my knees clamping around his sides. Eren’s hand grabbed my leg and hitched it up further, his hand gripping my thigh as he ground down into me.

Just when we were about to lose more clothes, we were stopped by someone coughing discretely off to the side.

The little brat didn’t even get up off of me, he just turned his head to look. When I dropped my head to the side, I saw Erd standing there by the door, his hand still on the knob.

“Am I interrupting something?” he asked, with an eyebrow raised.

I tried to think of anything to say that would explain how we had ended up grinding into each other, kissing on the table. But I couldn’t think of a damned thing. All I could think was how fucking hard my dick was, and how irritated I was at the interruption.

I shoved Eren off me, then got to my feet, brushing my hair back into place. I hoped my jeans were enough to hide my hard dick, but fuck it there was nothing I could do about that.

“What happened to you?” I asked in a short voice.

Erd closed the door behind him, coming fully into the room. “I could ask the same of you,” he teased.

“Oh, can it.”

Erd sighed and went to the fridge, getting himself a beer. “I went with them after the explosion, to help with the cleanup.”

I could hear Eren sighing, and when I looked back I found he’d flopped down on the couch. He totally ignored the wounds on his back, like they didn’t even hurt, and just stretched out.

I went to the kitchen and canted my hip against the counter. “So what was the final tally?”

Erd frowned. “Three dead, seven wounded.”

I nodded. “Could have been worse,” I commented thoughtfully.

“It would have been worse, much worse, if they hadn’t had warning from us,” Erd agreed.

I slid my gaze slowly back to Eren on the couch, but he was either dozing or doing a good job of pretending to, with his eyes closed.

“So are you going to tell me what the fuck is going on between you two?” Erd asked with a smile.

I shrugged. “Not really. And you’re never going to ask again, or tell anyone what you saw.”

Erd looked at me shrewdly. “Or what? I’m out of a job?”

I canted my head to the side, an evil smile on my face. “Maybe.”

He shook his head, his smile gone. “You are such a shit.”

“Yeah well. Takes one to know one.”

Erd looked back at where Eren was lounging. “He’s a tad young for you, isn’t he?”

“Try telling him that,” I snorted.

We stood there awkwardly for a few minutes, then Erd finally said, “I won’t tell anyone. It’s none of our business who you’re fucking, anyway.”

“Good.” I walked over to Eren, and swiped his legs off the couch. “Come on, brat. Get your shit, we’re out of here.”

Eren just stood and stretched, yawning, giving us both a good look at his lean body. Then he scratched his belly, which just made me blush. I felt my cheeks go hot, and tried to ignore it, like they couldn’t see it or something.

“Sure thing,” he said, brushing his hand across my arm as he passed me, picking up his shirt and pulling it on.

“Good night, guys,” Erd called out teasingly.

I gave him the finger as I dragged Eren out.

Chapter Text

I had never seen Levi look so… upset.

I mean, for a moment there, it almost seemed as though he was going to cry. He had pressed his face into the back of my shoulders, and I could have sworn I felt wetness there. How could that be? How could my strong, brave soldier have been brought to that height of emotion by me?

It made me wonder, not for the first time, how Levi actually felt for me.

I asked myself, how did I feel about him?

When I thought about all the moments we’d shared together… From the time I’d seen him fighting in the ring at the MMA gym, to the time I held him naked in my arms in Mali, to the first time we’d succumbed to our passion for each other… To the tender moments we’d shared in Paris, on the Eiffel tower… Each moment I’d spent with Levi, we fell closer and closer to each other, until I felt like every breath I took, he took with me.

I was falling in love with him.

The idea scared me, thrilled me, and made me feel intense guilt. Guilt because… I felt as though I might have been pushing myself, and my feelings, onto him. Levi wasn’t ready. I knew that. It had all happened so fast.

When we walked into the door of our shared hotel room, I knew that Levi was pulling away. He walked into the bathroom, and I heard the shower go on, and it was ages before he came out again. I was weary, exhausted, emotionally drained. I couldn’t wait for him to pull himself together. So I crawled into bed, with every intention of staying awake until he joined me again, but next thing I knew I had fallen asleep.

I woke up some time later, with Levi’s hand stroking itself through my hair, gently. He was so tender sometimes, it made me ache inside. I could smell the clean, damp, fresh-out-of-the-shower Levi and it made me sigh and burrow further into the pillow.

He must have thought I was still asleep, because he started murmuring to me in a low voice.

“I thought you were dead. God, kid. You don’t know what you’re doing to me. If anything happened to you because of me, I’d never forgive myself. You are sunlight, and joy, and all things good in my world. I don’t deserve you.”

Levi sighed, and he got up from the bed, and I heard the rustling of his clothes. He must have been getting dressed, but I was still hazy in sleep, and I felt awkward about rousing myself. He didn’t really want to talk to me.

He did come back to sit next to me on the bed. He didn’t touch me this time, but he did whisper to me, “You don’t want to fall in love with me, kid. All I do is tear things apart. I’m not a good person. I’m a killer. God, I don’t want that for you. I want you to stay clean and fresh and whole. I want you to fall in love with someone who deserves you, and who can give you what you need. I’m just… I’m broken. I’m fucked up. Christ.”

This time, when he got up, he didn’t come back to bed.

——

I woke up the next morning by the telephone ringing shrilly beside me, startling me awake. I flailed and fumbled at the phone, and after dropping it once, I groggily got the handset to my ear.

“Whosit?”

“What the fuck are you doing?” Jean growled in my ear. “You were supposed to be downstairs 10 minutes ago. We’re checking out, we’re headed home.”

“Ohshit. Wha? Levi’s supposed to wake me up.”

I could hear Jean sigh exasperatedly. “Levi’s gone, dumbass. He’s already left town to deal with some shit or another. The rest of us are all headed to the airport, so get your shit together and get downstairs, pronto.”

Then the dick hung up on me.

I stumbled to my feet, and I dragged myself into the shower for a quick rinse, then dressed faster than I could manage, my fingers fumbling my buttons. I felt so fucking tired.

By the time I threw my belongings into my bag, and hightailed it down there, everyone was waiting for me. I handed my room key to Erd, who gave me a sympathetic look, and went to check us all out.

Armin and Mikasa cornered me. “You all right?” Armin asked, concerned.

I shrugged. “I guess. Levi took off?”

Mikasa glared and nodded. “He didn’t even bother to tell you?”

I shook my head numbly.

“What an ass,” she swore, hands on her hips.

I wanted to leap to Levi’s defence, but for once I was just too tired. And for once, Armin didn’t back me up either. His lips just pressed together in a line.

“I kind of thought you two looked like you were maybe starting to get along,” he said sheepishly.

I licked my lips, running my hands through my hair. “I guess not,” I grumbled.

“All right guys,” Nanaba called out, clapping his hands. “Taxis are waiting outside. File in.”

I hung back, shooing Armin and Mikasa along, and went to wait for Erd. When he finished the last of the logistics, and saw me waiting for him, he raised an eyebrow.

“Sorry for asking this,” I said, shoving my hands in my pockets. “But you’re the only one who knows, so… Levi didn’t leave any kind of message or anything for me?” I tried to keep the hope out of my voice.

Erd gave me a sympathetic look, but shook his head. “Sorry, Eren.”

I sighed. So much for that.

Erd put a hand on my shoulder, keeping me back for a moment. “Look – I know it’s none of my business, but Levi is a really complicated guy. He’s been through a lot, and it’s been a long time since he’s let anyone get as close as you. Don’t take it personally if it freaks him out. He’ll come around.”

I didn’t hold out much hope of that, but I dredged up a smile for Erd anyway. “Sure.”

A few hours later, we were all on a plane, a commercial jet this time, cramped in tiny seats with hundreds of other passengers. I was packed in between Armin and Mikasa, and Armin spent the majority of the trip showing me pictures of the places that they’d gone to on their time off. I didn’t have the heart or the right to fish out the one picture I’d taken, on the Eiffel tower. It made my gut ache to think of it.

“So, seriously,” Mikasa asked after a while, and I groaned internally knowing what was coming. “What’s going on with you and the shortie?”

I tilted my head back, closing my eyes. “Absolutely nothing,” I said, and it wasn’t even a lie.

“You have feelings for him though, don’t you?” Armin murmured.

I shrugged, still not looking at either of them. “It wouldn’t matter even if I did. Levi’s a closed book. He’s certainly decided that I’m the last person he’ll open up to.”

“And yet you keep putting yourself out there, time and again, for him,” Mikasa grumbled.

Now I did open my eyes, to turn and glare at her. “Yes, Mikasa. I do. And I’ll tell you one thing, I wouldn’t change a bit of it. It’s my choice to be there for him, and even if he never loves me back, I’ll always be there. I’ll be the one constant in his life, the one he can count on, the one he comes home to when the rest of it gets too thick. And I don’t even care if he returns my feelings or not because mine sure as shit aren’t going to change.”

“Oh, Eren,” Armin sighed. “That’s going to tear you apart.”

Now him too? Jesus fucking Christ. “What would tear me apart is to distance myself from him. If something happened to him, and I knew that I could have done something to prevent it, I’d never forgive myself. He’s given everything of himself, time and again, to serve our country. He’s defended people, saved lives, and risked his own, and he’s never asked for anything in return. And no one even knows what he’s done, except us.”

“Why is it always about him?” Mikasa snapped. “When is it going to be about you?”

“That’s not going to make it any easier for you,” Armin pointed out reasonably.

“Actually, it is. Because it’s not a fucking debate in my mind. I’m here to stay, whether he likes it or not. And everyone, including you guys, is going to have to get used to it.”

Armin just gave me a sympathetic glance, the kind that just lights a fuse inside me and makes me want to pummel someone. But I was stuck on this plane for another two hours, and couldn’t. I just settled for ending the conversation by plugging in my earphones and plugging in the first mindless action flick I could find on my screen, effectively shutting out all communication.

——

It felt weird, going home with Mikasa, back to our place. I put my things away, did my laundry, fell into bed, slept, woke up, and nothing had changed. I still hadn’t heard from Levi.

I went to class. I went to kickboxing. I did my volunteering. I played basketball with Connie and the others. A whole week went by, and I heard shit all.

We showed up at Survey Recon for a debrief, and Hanji grilled us on all the details, extracting everything that we knew – but Levi was nowhere to be found.

I stayed afterwards, telling the others to go home without me, and asked Hanji to have a little time to talk. She took me to her office, below Levi’s, and sat me down in a chair across from her desk, while she propped her hip on the desk and crossed her arms, looking down at me.

“Shoot,” she invited me with a grin.

“How is Titan?” I asked.

Hanji raised her eyebrows, surprised. “He’s good. He doesn't like me as much as he does Levi, but he always eats a lot when Levi’s gone, so he’s put on weight. He seems fine.”

So Levi was still out of town. I frowned.

“How are you?” she asked me.

I shrugged. “Everything has healed up fine. My shoulders aren’t sore anymore, and all my wounds have closed up.”

“Mind if I take a look?”

She was the resident doctor, so I didn’t feel the right to refuse her. I pulled my shirt over my head, and turned my back to her. She ran her hands over my back and whistled. “Not even a scar left to show for it,” she said in awe.

I shrugged my shirt back on. “I don’t scar easily.”

She laughed. “That’s an understatement. Would you be willing to go through some tests?”

I eyed her. “What kind of tests?”

She had a glint in her eye, though I could tell she was damping down a bit on her enthusiasm for my benefit. “Simple stuff. We’ll start with making a small incision in your skin, and seeing how long it takes to heal. Then we can try larger incisions. Abrasions. Even small burns, that sort of thing.”

Great. Lab rat. Just like Levi had warned me. I screwed up my nose.

Hanji got a mischievous twinkle in her eye. “We can make it a trade. Every time you come to me for a session, I’ll tell you whatever you want to know about Levi.”

I hardened my jaw. “What makes you think I give a shit about Levi?”

“Ah ah ah, come on now Eren, can’t fool a clever girl like me. So? Take it or leave it.”

I wanted to think about it, but in the end I decided what the hell. If she did something I wasn’t comfortable with, I’d just tell her to back off. “When do you want to start?”

“How about right now?”

I started, giving her the once-over. She was completely serious. In fact, she was opening her drawers and pulling out her medical kit. Next thing I knew, she’d put a scalpel on the desk between us, shining.

I gulped. Did I really want to do this? “What do you want me to do?”

“Roll up your sleeve. I’ll make a series of small incisions, of varying lengths and depths, in your upper arm where they’re easily hidden by your clothes. You then take follow-up pictures once every 12 hours.”

Oh Christ, I really was going to do this. I rolled up my sleeve, and in under 5 minutes, she’d made the incisions. She wiped the blood away until they stopped bleeding, then taped a small tape measure to my arm and took photographs. All in all it only stung a little, so it wasn’t so bad.

“So, fire away,” she said gleefully.

“Where is Levi?” I asked right away.

“He’s at his country house.”

“How long has he been there?”

Hanji gave me a look. “Since you all got back from Paris. He needed a little R&R. He never took a break since he got back from Mali, and trust me, he’s a little fucked up in the head right now.”

I picked at a loose thread on my jeans, avoiding looking at her. “Does he… talk about me?”

Hanji paused before answering that one. “Sometimes.”

“What does he say?”

She sat down on her desk again, having put all her stuff away. “Not much. Only that you make him confused. That he’s worried he’s losing control. In case you haven’t noticed, our short leader is a bit of a control freak.”

I bit my lip. “You told me once that I was being a spoiled brat. I took you seriously then, and I backed off. I have really tried my best to give Levi what he needs. But I don’t understand what he needs now.”

Hanji drummed her fingers on her desk. “Honey, I don’t think even Levi knows what he needs.”

“What would you do, if you were me?”

Hanji barked out a laugh. “I’m not exactly one for subtlety. If it were me, I’d charge in there and break down all his barriers before he has a chance to build them up again. But if you asked him, or Erwin, they’d tell you to give him his space, let him get himself in control again before you see him again.”

I thought about that one for a while. In the end, the choice had to be up to me.

“What’s the address of his country house?”

——

I guess I, too, have very little self-control, because a couple of hours later, I was speeding down the highway on my way to Magog. It was a small city in the Eastern Townships, close to Sherbrooke, that had a beautiful lake. My classic Pinto didn’t have a GPS, so I had printed out directions old school style and was squinting trying to figure out which little road I’d missed, or which windy one I should have turned at.

When I drove around the lake, I was amazed by the beauty of this place. It was only an hour and a half outside of Montreal, but it was like I’d crossed into another place, one that was timeless in its beauty. The trees were arching above, still gloriously green in the tail end of summer. The cicadas were buzzing in the wind, and the crickets were chirping, and the birds singing. This whole place just felt so… alive.

I finally found the turnoff I was looking for, with the number that I had scribbled on my sheet of paper. There was a winding driveway, and I drove underneath a canopy of birch trees to wind around to the house in the back. The house was a beautiful cottage, two storeys, painted blue and grey. There was a garage, and next to the house was a thriving garden, and a firepit. The driveway was next to the house, and looked out onto the lake down below, which stretched out glistening and clear. In the distance, I could see a couple out canoeing, and a fishing boat anchored in the bay. I could hear laughter in the distance, children swimming or playing around the bend no doubt.

When I got out of the car, I was arrested by the sight of a huge blue heron taking flight overhead, its wings outstretched, regal beak tilted. It flapped its wings and flew across the lake and alighted on the bank, folding its huge wingspan to its back again in a way that should have been impossible but that was another of nature’s miracles.

I didn’t spot Levi right away, and rather than going straight to the house, I decided to walk down to the lake. It was so close, and the water was just beckoning me. I walked down the lawn, and at the bottom there was a little bit of sandy beach. I took off my sandals, and rolled up the bottom of my jeans, and waded in the water to my ankles. It was cold, but not frigid. And I could see little tiny fishies swimming around my feet!

I heard a sound like an elastic band strumming, and looked around for the noise. What the hell animal made a noise like that? I stayed as still as possible, finally figuring out that it was the frog, bigger than my fist, that was perched on the rock yonder.

I splashed about in the water for a while, kind of laughing to myself and wondering how much of an idiot I looked like doing it, but I couldn’t help it, it’d been forever since I’d been to the country. It was amazing. Every little detail.

There was a little dock that led out onto the lake, at the end of which was a bench. I walked out onto the dock, and then sprawled out onto the bench, drinking in the afternoon sunlight, my arms draped over the bench behind me. I felt so relaxed.

I might have sat there for half an hour, or an hour, I’m not sure, but by the time I stretched and got back to my feet, I was feeling in general much more at ease. The country could do that to a person. It reminded you that all of your worries were just splashes in the ocean compared to the ticking clock of life.

I walked back up in the direction of the house, shading my eyes as I peered up at the deck, then I jumped nearly a foot in the air and screeched when I saw Levi standing at the railing, watching me.

“Holy shit!” I swore.

Levi’s face was in shadow, but his tone was wry as he said, “You’re the one who surprised me, showing up here uninvited. Hanji tell you where I was?”

I scratched the back of my head. “Yeah,” I admitted.

He stood there for a moment, just looking at me. Then he turned and walked into the house, calling out behind him, “Want some tea?”

I scrambled up the stairs onto the porch, and followed him into the house, wiping my feet carefully on the mat. “Sure,” I agreed breathlessly.

I watched Levi move about the kitchen, drinking him in like a sight for sore eyes. He looked so casual, his feet bare, his legs poking out of the bottom of some damned sexy cut-off jeans, wearing a tank top that bared the muscles of his shoulders. Damn.

Every move that he made was graceful, no movement wasted. In minutes he had prepared the tea, one of his special blends, and the aroma of peppermint and chamomile wafted up my nose.

Levi pushed my mug across the counter to me, picking up his mug by the top and drinking in his usual manner. He peered at me over the top of his hand.

I took my cup gingerly, as it was still steaming, and blew across the top of it before taking a tentative sip. The liquid was hot, but soothing.

“I’m sorry I was such an asshole in Paris,” Levi said before I even had a chance to say anything.

I goggled at him, shocked. I was expecting that it was I who was going to have to apologize for something. He had so completely thrown me off track I didn’t know what to say.

Levi smiled that wry little smile that he saved just for me, and reached out a finger to tap my jaw shut. “You’re catching flies.”

I closed my mouth, blinking.

After a minute, when I still didn’t say anything, he propped his hip back on the counter and looked at me. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have left like that. But you scared me, deeply. I lost someone, once. Someone that I cared for. And it almost tore me apart. But…”

Levi trailed off, looking down into his mug like it held the answers he was seeking.

“..But?” I urged him to continue.

Levi looked up at me, raising his chin. “But what I felt for him wasn’t even close to what I feel for you. Eren, I can’t lose you. I won’t.”

…Was that a confession?

I furrowed my brow, not wanting to put words in his mouth. “You won’t lose me,” I said, instead of asking the question that I wanted to ask.

Levi clenched his jaw, then took a sip of his tea. “You’re right. I won’t. But that’s because I’m not going to let you out of my fucking sight from now on.”

“Huh?”

I swear to God, this conversation was just throwing me for a loop. I had been expecting to come in here, grovelling for his forgiveness, promising not to do anything stupid in the future. Instead, he was confessing his feelings and… what?

“Move in with me,” Levi mumbled.

I nearly dropped my mug.

That wasn’t what I was expecting him to say. We weren’t even really officially dating.

I guess I was silent for too long, because Levi had turned around again, and was fussing about with the teapot. “I know it’s probably too soon, you probably don’t even like me that way, so, feel free to say no, and it won’t change anything between us. Unless you want it to.”

Holy shit, this was really happening.

I put my cup down on the counter, and walked over to him, ghosting my hand over his back and settling it in the small of his back. I inhaled the fresh smell of his shampoo, as I leaned over him and plucked his mug out of his hand. “Are you asking me to be your boyfriend?”

“I’m asking you to move in with me,” he mumbled.

I ran my hand up his back, in one long stroke, then sifted it through his hair, making him tilt into me like a cat. “As what? Your roommate? Your friend?”

“My lover,” he whispered.

I caressed the side of his neck, and leaned over his back, ghosting my lips over the shell of his ear. “Your lover? But I thought no one was supposed to know?”

Levi fisted his hands on the counter. “I know,” he growled. “Erwin will have my hide… But I don’t give a shit. I want you… no, need you close to me.”

I let my arms slide around him from behind, hugging him around his waist as I burrowed my face into his neck. “You’re willing to put everything on the line for me?”

“Yes,” he hissed.

I squeezed him tight, pouring all my feelings into that hug. Levi sighed into my arms, tilting his head back against my shoulder like he had finally come home.

“I want to move in with you,” I groaned against his ear. “But I don’t want to drive a wedge between you and Erwin.”

“Erwin can go fuck himself,” Levi growled. “I’m the leader of Survey Recon and I’ll run it how I damned well please.”

I laughed, loving this side of him. I squeezed him tighter when his arms came up around mine, and I let my fingers toy with the hem of his pants.

“We’ll find a way,” I promised him. “Even if we have to say we’re just roommates, or even if we have to sneak around, whatever.”

“Does that mean yes?” he asked breathlessly.

“Yes,” I agreed huskily, planting a kiss underneath his ear that made him inhale sharply.

“Oh God I’ve missed this,” Levi groaned, arching back against me.

I couldn’t have agreed with him more. Every time Levi and I were apart, it felt like a rubber band drawn taut, and we were bound to crash into each other again. When we were together, even when it was painful, it was also the most intense relief. I’d never felt this way about anyone, and I hoped that I never did again. I wanted him close to me.

I kissed down the column of his throat, inhaling his scent, then I bit the tender flesh between neck and shoulder, making him moan. I sucked the skin, marking him as mine, everyone else be damned.

Levi palmed my hand onto his stomach, and I pulled us together, pressing on his abdomen to bring his back flush against my front.

Levi finally turned in my arms, his hands braced on my hips as he looked up at me with his soul in his eyes. He was bare to me, and I could see that he was drowning in the need to be with me, because it was the same look that was echoed in my eyes.

I pressed my hands into his cheeks, tilting his head back gently and cradling his neck as I angled him. When I kissed him, he opened up immediately, his tongue brushing up against mine, searching, and I could feel him trembling with need.

“Levi,” I whispered, and kissed him again. He tasted like peppermint and chamomile, and like home. I stroked his cheeks with my thumbs as I kissed him tenderly, our mouths meeting and parting in a slow dance.

When I finally pulled back, our lips lingered together.

“Fuck,” Levi swore finally.

I nuzzled his nose with mine. Then I couldn’t help it, I kissed him again. All I had running through my mind on repeat was him asking me to move in with him. Levi wanted me, he wanted me with him, just as much as I wanted him. I felt the passion that we had for each other simmering under the surface, but in this moment, I also felt the tenderness.

If I didn’t know better, I would have almost called it love.

Chapter Text

Fuck the rules. Fuck Erwin. Fuck the fucking government. Fuck anyone who got in my way.

I was done coming up with excuses. I was done with regrets. I was done with reminiscing and romanticizing a past, and making it seem like it had been all roses and rainbows, ignoring the present. I was done with running away.

When Eren kissed me, it was like coming home. When he held me, I felt safe, which for me was a fucking miracle. When he looked in my eyes, and smiled, there wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do to keep him happy.

I even let myself smile. I mean, really smile. It almost hurt my face, it had been so long since I’d smiled.

Eren then gaped at me, his eyes widening, his mouth opening. While I stood there smiling at him, he reached up a hand, tracing the edge of my mouth like he was trying to see if it was real. He pressed his finger into the dimple that had appeared in one cheek.

“Okay, what have you done with my Levi?” he asked cautiously.

I laughed, and put my arms around his waist. When I moved to put my head on his chest, he stopped me by cupping my face, making me look up into his eyes again. When I started to feel uncomfortable, I let the smile fade, but Eren just leaned down and kissed me again, lazily, like we had all the time in the world. Which I guess we did.

When we pulled apart, we must have stood there for ages, just hugging each other, swaying lightly in each other’s arms.

Then Eren’s stomach grumbled.

Eren groaned, embarrassed, and separated from me to clamp a hand over his gut. “Jeez, I’m sorry. I’m starving, I haven’t eaten anything since breakfast.”

I snorted, and pulled away, then went about sorting through the fridge to see what I had. I milled about in the kitchen, and in under 15 minutes I had a nice spread laid out on the table - smoked salmon, a cheese plate with 5 different cheeses, and some sliced fruit. I also whipped up a quick salad, on which I put mushrooms, pine nuts, blue cheese, and a zingy vinaigrette of my own concoction.

Eren sat down, bewildered at the food. Then he grinned at me, clapped his hands, and dug in.

I love watching Eren eat. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that before, but he always ate with gusto, and when he liked something, he moaned in a way that was just obscene. My salad did that to him, and then so did some of the cheese.

“What cheese is this?” he asked, pointing to one of the cheeses on the board.

“Oka. It’s local actually, from right here in Quebec. Good, isn’t it?”

“Mmmm. Yummy.”

I tucked in myself, though I just had a light plate, since I had eaten my lunch. We only had a few hours to go before dinner, at which point I fully intended to throw some chicken breast on the grill, and stir fry some veggies. Thankfully I’d brought enough veggies for two, since I sure as fuck didn’t feel like driving to the store. No, I just wanted to laze about all afternoon and at least pretend that everything between Eren and me was roses and glory.

“So… Were you like serious about the whole moving in thing?”

I nodded, meeting his eyes.

“Like… really?”

“Yep.”

“Like… for sure?”

I rolled my eyes. “Yes, Eren.”

Eren munched on his food, looking thoughtful. “Okay, not that I want to burst anyone’s bubble here, but I think I might want to point out a few things that could make this a sticky situation.”

I waved him on, urging him to continue.

“1) Erwin won’t be happy.” I waved him on again - I’d already made it clear that I didn’t give a shit. “2) You’re a super neat freak, what if I piss you off if I take off my socks on the couch and forget them and then I lose one of them in the couch cushions and you find it like a week later and think I’m a total nasty pig?”

I only just managed to keep myself from bursting out laughing at that one. I’m even fairly convinced that my mouth only twitched a little. “Well, just… don’t.”

“But what if I do? What if I forget?”

He was looking at me with these big eyes, like it was a genuine worry of his. It gave me butterflies. “Even the fact that you care enough that it worries you, proves to me that you will try. And if you forget, I promise I won’t toss you out on your ass for leaving a sock in the couch cushions, okay?” When Eren nodded, I said, “Anything else?”

He bit his lip. “What if Titan ends up hating me?”

I shook my head. “He doesn’t.” Then I slid my eyes to the side. “Although he might try to hog the bed. But you’ll just have to push him off if he takes up too much room.”

Eren’s eyes widened, like it had just occurred to him that we’d be sharing a bed now on a regular basis. “And what do we tell our friends? What if they call the house, and I’m there, do I just not answer the phone?”

I sighed. “We’ll have to tell some people. Mikasa won’t let you move out unless you tell her where you’re going. Armin will need to know that you’re safe. And Hanji will find out sooner or later, and squeal even though she won’t mean to. If we move in together, I think it’s safe to say people will have to know about it. But that doesn’t mean they have to know we’re fucking.”

Eren cocked his head to the side, munching on a bite of cheese. “How so?”

I shrugged. “We could tell them that we’re just roommates. That we’re doing it to help you save money, and help me keep an eye on you for the job.”

“Mikasa and Armin won’t buy that.”

“Then tell them. I really don’t give a shit.” I pushed my salad around on my plate. “I just don’t think anyone at Survey Recon needs to know.”

Eren looked down at his plate, glaring at it like he had laser beam eyes.

I could read that little shit’s mind from a mile away. “It’s not because I’m not proud of you, Eren. It’s for your own benefit. If people on the team know that you’re fucking the boss, it’ll make things really awkward and difficult for you. Your teammates will assume that you’re getting preferential treatment. People will second-guess everything they say to you, knowing that it could get back to me.”

“But… those things are true. Whether you mean to or not, you will be giving me preferential treatment, won’t you? And it is possible that people could say things around me, and that I could decide to tell you those things.”

I nodded. “Point. But that doesn’t mean they need to know it.”

Eren had cleaned his plate thoroughly, and he sat back, sprawling out and rubbing his belly. “Gawd, I want to live with you so bad. I just don’t want to fuck this up.”

“Then don’t fuck it up,” I said with a wry smile.

Eren rolled his eyes to the ceiling. “Thanks,” he said dryly.

I tapped my finger on the table. “You haven’t mentioned all the good things. You’re just focusing on the tough stuff.”

“Oh?” he said, still contemplating the ceiling.

“1) We’ll get to fuck as often as we want. 2) I’ll sleep way better with you next to me, which will make me less of a cranky asshole. 3) I promise I’ll cook for you as often as I can. 4) I’ll treasure you.”

I stopped myself from saying what I really felt, because it was honestly too soon for me to be feeling it, much less saying it, but he got the idea.

Eren looked at me, and blushed. I didn’t think that his tan skin could blush so thoroughly, but his whole cheeks went red. He licked his lips, then they glistened in a way that made me… yeah.

“You’ll cook for me?” he asked, his voice low.

I nodded.

“And you’ll fuck me every day, and sleep with me, and… treasure me?” His voice trembled a little at the last.

My mouth went dry. “Yeah,” I said huskily. “If you’ll let me.”

Eren covered his face with his hands, arching his back until his elbows were pointed in the air, and he let out a sound of pure frustration. “Shit!”

Oh God. I’d fucked it up already. I’d come on too strong. I knew I should have just shut my fucking piehole.

“Eren…”

Eren just popped to his feet, and I saw him sporting a boner, which just made me snort out a laugh. “I want all of that,” he said, holding me back with a hand up in the air. “But…”

I raised an eyebrow. “…But?”

Eren flushed even deeper, if such a thing were possible. “What if…”

“…?”

Eren just growled and flopped back into his seat. “Nevermind. It doesn’t matter.”

Now both my eyebrows were raised. “It’s all right, kid. Spit it out.”

He shook his head, his lips pressed firmly together. “It’s nothing. It’s fine.”

Now he had piqued my curiosity, but if there was one thing I realized about Eren, it was that when he decided to clam up, nothing would get him to open up again. I shrugged my shoulder instead. “O-kay. Let me know later.” I looked up at him, trying to soften my usually hard glare. “If there’s something you need, and I’m not doing it, or vice versa, then we have to tell each other. That’s the only way this shit works.”

Eren just laughed, running his hands through his hair. “Yeah, well, if there’s one thing we’re both utter crap at, it’s the whole communication thing. But if you’re willing to work on that, then shit, so am I.” He gave me a look, his eyes all big and round. “Like I said, I don’t want to fuck this up. Levi, there’s nothing in the world I want more than you.”

Now it was my turn to blush. I felt it on my cheeks, so I shot to my feet, and busied myself with clearing the dishes away, and washing them in the sink.

When everything was clean again, I cleared my throat, and glanced outside. Sun would set in about 40 minutes, if I could guess it right. “Want to go for a paddle before the sun sets?”

“Sure!”

I didn’t bother putting on sandals, since you have to wade into the water a little bit to get the canoe into deep enough water to clamber in. Eren followed my lead, walking out barefoot. I retrieved the second paddle from the garage, then we dragged the canoe down into the water. I gave Eren a quick refresher on how to hold the paddle, and how to switch sides when I called out ‘hut’ to keep us in time. He was a quick study, so in less than 10 minutes, we were out on the lake, the canoe gliding like a knife through butter.

I sat in the back, so I could steer the boat. Steering a canoe is a combination between pulling with stronger strokes than the person in front, alternating at different times than necessary, and calling out ‘hut’ at the right time to keep the boat on track. Usually the stronger person sat in the back, and the boat would wend its way along in not quite a straight line as you went.

Eren caught on to the switching sides thing quite naturally, and thankfully managed not to drop his paddle. His strokes weren’t really very strong though, which wasn’t surprising since he wasn’t focused on strength or speed, rather he was letting his eyes roam about him, taking in the scenery.

“When was the last time you went canoeing on a lake?” I asked him.

There was a pause before he admitted, “Never. I just can’t believe how tranquil it is.”

I hummed my agreement. “Nice thing about a canoe is the boat is totally silent, so you can get up right close to the wildlife and they don’t scare away. On this lake I’ve seen blue herons up close, turtles, frogs, dragonflies, you name it. There’s even a beaver dam, I can take us around there tomorrow, but it’s too far to go tonight since the sun is setting.”

Eren’s eyes tracked out over the water. “It’s so beautiful. I mean, I’ve seen pictures of sunsets on lakes, but a picture does nothing to describe what it really feels like, to see the sun bouncing off the waves, to feel the breeze on your face, to smell the clean air.”

“Yeah, and we’re also super lucky in Canada. A lot of places in the world, they don’t have this. So much of our land is just like this, barely changed from the way it was hundreds of years ago - just a few more houses, a few more powerboats. You go far enough north and it’s like people hardly live there at all.”

Eren went silent, taking it all in. “I hope it always stays this way.”

I hummed. “I donate to a couple of causes, and one of them is called the Nature Conservancy. They buy up plots of land, and preserve it for the wildlife, preventing people from settling on it or building condos and cities and skyscrapers on it.”

Eren turned his head enough to shoot me a smile. “Gee, Levi, you’re such a softie.”

I snorted a laugh. “Yeah, sure. In another life, maybe.”

When we made it back to the shore, after we pulled the canoe up a safe distance, I got the grill going and checked my phone. I saw some missed calls and texts from Hanji.

Did you get an unexpected visitor? She had texted me.

I tapped in my response. Maybe.

Give him my regards. Glad he found it.

Traitor.

Midget.

Crazy scientist.

And you love meeeeee!

I laughed aloud. In your dreams, Hanji. Anyway, gotta go. I’m firing up the grill.

I didn’t even have a plan, not for the next few days, not for next week. I knew I had to head back to the city sooner or later, but I knew that I wouldn’t take on a new job until I was good and ready, and now that Eren had passed his exams, he had nothing but his extra curricular activities, like his volunteering and shit. So I figured he was mine, at least for a few days.

What better way to see whether we lived well together, than to give it a shot up here? If we drove each other nuts after a few days, we could just call it a failed experiment and move on… right?

To my surprise, though, we moved around like a team. When I was breezing about in the kitchen, Eren naturally helped me chop vegetables. When I was out on the grill, he found my old guitar and started tuning it, then strumming out an easy tune. When we were eating, it was the perfect mix of talk and silence, as we watched the sky grow fully dark outside. When I was cleaning the dishes, he came up and automatically started drying them. All in all, we moved like a pair of synchronized swimmers.

Then, when all the dishes were put away, and we had polished off a bottle of wine, we curled up on the couch together, watching the fire that Eren had set up and lit. We didn’t say much, we just sat there, happy to be together for a few minutes.

After a while, Eren moved close enough to throw his arm over my shoulders. I leaned my head back, relaxing bonelessly, and Eren’s hand started scratching patterns on my deltoid. It was a perfect moment.

I slung my leg up over his, snuggling in closer. Then Eren tilted his head enough to nuzzle the side of my face. Then my hand found his, and clasped it.

Soon, the energy level naturally changed. Eren’s mouth latched on under my jaw, and he started pressing kisses there. I tilted my head to not just let him, but encourage him, and squeezed his hand.

Next thing, Eren leaned over me, and snuck his other hand up under my shirt, tracing his fingers idly over my stomach, meeting my eyes with a devilish glint in his. I glared up at him, daring him to continue. I let him think he was the one in control.

Eren’s hand grew more daring, pushing my shirt up higher, so he could run his fingers over the ridges of my abdomen. He pressed his mouth to my ear, and whispered huskily, “You’re so hot.”

I snorted, because only Eren would find me, a 33 year-old midget, ‘hot’.

But when he kissed me, I knew he at least believed it. Eren kissed me like a man dying of thirst who’s just found water. His hand slid up my side, and his mouth teased mine open, and then our tongues were battling and I forgot how to breathe.

Eren tugged my shirt up, and I let him, raising my arms to enable him to pull it off completely. He eyed me up and down, grinning, then ran his hand up my chest teasingly, his touch feather-light. It gave me goosebumps when he teased me like that, his fingers trailing over my skin, up over my pecs, just grazing the edge of a nipple then ghosting back down over my abs. He brushed a finger over my bellybutton, then trailed his hand back up again, his mouth sucking on my neck as his touch lit me on fire.

God, I was so turned on. Eren was so good, it didn’t matter whether he took his time and languished affection on me, or whether he manhandled me onto a table, every time he touched me it was new and unexpected and just right.

I finally lost all self-control when he started ghosting those fingertips over the zipper of my jeans, teasing my painfully hard erection. I moaned, and tilted my head back, and arched my hips into his hand.

“Want me to touch you?” Eren asked, his voice like sandpaper.

I had to lick my lips before I could answer breathily, “Yeah.”

Eren’s long fingers worked my fly, tugging the zipper down. Then he ghosted his fingers over my boxer briefs, making my hips jerk again. Finally, he slipped his hand under the waistband and ran his fingers over my cock, making me groan. Yes,” I hissed.

Eren chuckled, his breath ghosting against my cheek. He teased me with agonizingly light touches, thumb brushing over the head, fingers playing with my foreskin. I wanted him to touch me more, and he read my mind, since he grasped me fully in his hand.

“I’m going to suck you,” Eren warned, kissing my cheek, my ear. “I’ve been wanting to taste you for over a week.”

I groaned, flipping my forearm over my eyes to hide my embarrassment. I didn’t understand still why Eren wanted to do that, though part of me was curious. Just like a part of me was curious what it would feel like to let Eren fuck me. But just because I was curious did not mean I was ready.

Eren was tugging my shorts off, and I lifted my hips, still hiding behind my arm. I let Eren splay my legs open, and then I felt him nudging his nose against my balls, licking them. I heard him whisper, “Perfect.”

Then he was licking me. All over. The sensations rippled over me in waves, his tongue on the head, on the underside of my cock, between my balls. Why did a tongue feel so sinfully delicious?

I kept myself from grinding my hips, or from voicing what I really wanted, which was for him to stop licking me and just fucking suck me already. But then, god, he did, and it was heaven. It was hot, and slick, and it was Eren, and my cock was in his mouth, pushing up against the roof of his mouth, his tongue caressing me. He was sucking, and the alternating hot and cold as he bobbed on my cock was just… yeah.

I finally let my forearm drop from my eyes, because I just wanted to look at him. I looked down myself, and wondered blearily when I had gotten completely naked, because Eren was still in all his clothes. He looked up at me, and I watched my cock disappear into his mouth, his lips wrapped around me, and I got impossibly harder just from looking at it. I groaned, and reached out a hand to brush his bangs away from his face.

“God, Eren,” I bit out.

He smiled around my cock, and laughed, which sent a jolt of feeling up my cock and made me squirm in a good way. My head tilted over on the back of the couch, and I peered down at him with a lazy half-smile.

He pulled off, and pumped me with his hand, while he asked me, “Feels good?”

I nodded, swallowing thickly before I managed to grind out, “Fuck yeah.”

Eren nuzzled my cock against his cheek, obscenely kissing down the length of it, and kissing each one of my balls, before sliding back up again and sucking me into his mouth again. Then he popped off long enough to look up at me through his lashes and say, “You can move if you want to.”

I wanted to, but I didn’t at the same time. I wanted him to enjoy this too, and I failed to see how someone could enjoy the possibility of choking. So I stayed still mostly, encouraging him with a hand on his cheek, in his hair. I then let myself move, but only micro-movements, small tilts of my hips.

When I decided I’d had enough, I tugged him off, pulling him up my body. I hesitated before kissing him, because shit he’d just had my cock in his mouth, and Eren laughed off my hesitation and nuzzled my cheek with his nose instead.

“It’s okay,” he said.

I yanked at Eren’s shirt, tugging it up over his head and tossing it aside uncharacteristically. Then I flipped Eren underneath me, crushing him beneath my weight, and I ground down into his stomach as I gripped his neck in my hands. “Yeah, it is okay,” I bit out, then I kissed him savagely.

I ravaged his mouth, kissing him hard and deep, while my hands slipped underneath his jeans to grab his ass and squeeze. I pushed my full weight into him, humping him down into the couch, and kissing him until we were both breathless.

God I loved having him here. I loved feeling him in my arms. I loved the way he made me feel sexy, and strong, and fucking invincible.

I loved…

Shit.

I yanked Eren up higher on the couch, my hands parting the globes of his ass so that my finger could brush against that part of him that I fully planned to open up and drive into.

“I’m going to fuck you so hard you won’t be able to walk straight for days,” I promised, glaring down fiercely into his eyes.

Eren arched up, clamping his legs around my hips, scraping his nails down my back. “Fuck yes. Shit, Levi. I want you to fuck me so bad.”

I was so desperate to be inside him that I almost threw all my rules to the wind. I jerked his fly open, and yanked his pants down, and Eren kicked them off so fast they went flying. I didn’t even care if Eren was clean, or if he had prepared himself. Fuck it.

“Do you have a condom?” I asked him.

“Jeans pocket,” he mumbled, licking his lips.

I went back digging around the base of the couch for the jeans, and came up successful. When I dug into the pocket I found a string of 4 condoms all shoved into the pocket of his jeans. I laughed, holding them up. “Came prepared, did we?”

Eren stretched back out and splayed his legs, rubbing his dick with his hand. “Came hopeful.”

I ripped open one of the packets, and digging around in his jeans pocket I found one of those disposable lube packets. I covered two of my fingers with a condom, and coated them in lube. I was still somewhat of a clean freak, since I couldn’t bear the idea of sticking my fingers bare into his ass. With the condom fit over my fingers, though, I was totally comfortable.

I patted Eren’s hip, and he turned over obligingly, reaching for a pillow to put under his stomach to get his ass up in the air. I smirked, but wasted no time in rubbing my fingers over his anus, just teasing it, circling it. Finally pushing in, just a little.

It had been long enough since the first time we’d did this, that his hole had clamped back up again. If I was going to keep him loose for me, I’d have to fuck him more often. I smiled.

I pushed my fingers into him, both all at once, making Eren groan and cant his hips up to meet me. “Shit yeah, Levi Jesus,” he moaned out.

I stretched his hole in all directions, until he opened up for me, then I pumped my fingers into him. I found his prostate, and started massaging it, and Eren’s light moans became increasingly heavy until he was trembling, his ass sucking me in. It didn’t take long before Eren was begging me.

“What do you want, Eren?” I asked breathily.

Eren shook his head, wiggling his ass. “I want your cock, deep inside me. Come on, Levi, stop teasing me and stick it in.”

I slapped his ass, for his impertinence. Eren just wiggled for me again, so I slapped the other cheek.

I discarded the condom from my fingers, and reached for another foil packed to slip on my dick. Then I used up the rest of the lube to coat it thoroughly.

I grabbed Eren under the hips, and yanked upwards, getting his ass nice and high. I ran my hand up his back, looking down over the smooth perfection of his body, and taking a moment to marvel that this was all fucking mine.

Then I pushed inside.

Christ, he was tight. A thin sheen of sweat broke out all over my skin, just from me having to hold back. I pushed in slowly, ignoring Eren’s wiggling ass and slapping it once or twice. Then I was in all the way, pressed up over his back.

“Fuck, Levi,” Eren groaned out, his hands splaying on the couch cushions, grabbing at anything he could.

So I did. I fucked him, slowly at first, looking down at where my cock was gliding into him, feeling so fucking hot. Then, when Eren groaned and pumped his hips back into mine, I started to move faster. I knew I had to be hitting pay dirt, because he let out one long, drawn-out moan that seemed to go on forever.

“Levi, God, fuck me harder. Right there, yeah, shit that’s perfect! Ahh,” he groaned, the muscles in his arms rippling as he braced himself against my onslaught.

“Eren, you’re so hot,” I ground out, as I picked up the pace, driving myself forcefully into him. I gripped his hips tight so I could ram into him as hard as I could, which just made Eren moan louder and start swearing incoherently.

I brought him right to the edge, and when I felt like he was going to orgasm, I pulled out.

Eren collapsed down, and slapped his open hand on the couch, letting out a frustrated growl. “What the fuck, Levi?”

I flipped him over, then rolled us off the edge of the couch, letting my back hit the ground with a jarring thud and Eren collapse on top of me. Then I manhandled him onto his back on the rug, and shoved a pillow under his hips. I pulled his ankles up over my shoulders, then without warning I pushed back inside him, and sighed. Then I looked down at him, and fuck yes, now I could see what I wanted - his face. I wanted to look at his face when he came.

“I didn’t want you to cream all over my couch,” I lied, smiling sweetly.

Eren slapped my arm, grinning. “Fucker.”

“You’d know,” I laughed, then started to move again, fucking him slowly. Eren yanked his ankles off my shoulders, and opted for wrapping his long legs around my hips instead, crossing his ankles behind my ass and then yanking me impossibly deeper.

I braced my arms on either side of him, and let my head drop down. “Fuck, I’m deep,” I ground out, as I picked up the pace and started fucking him in earnest again.

Eren ran his hands up my arms, throwing his head back and arching his back. He got a death grip on my biceps, which I only figured out later on when I had bruises, but fuck if I cared.

When Eren let go of me, and his hand drifted down his stomach, I stopped his hand by gripping his wrist. He looked down at me, confused, and I raised an eyebrow at him in challenge. “Think you can come just from me fucking you? Without you touching yourself?”

Eren laughed merrily, and then splayed himself out, clasping his hands above his head on the rug. “Go to town, lover,” he challenged me.

I yanked Eren’s hips even higher, kneeling underneath him and resting Eren’s thighs on my legs. Then I pushed up into him, in long, even thrusts. I watched when Eren turned from merry, to flushed and gasping, to sweating and squirming. His hips were grinding down into me, and I was punching up into him, my hands on his hips guiding him just where I wanted him.

Eren’s nipples went hard, and I knew he was close. “Shit,” Eren whispered, and closed his eyes tight, throwing his head to the side.

“Look at me, Eren,” I commanded him, while I still fucking him harder and deeper than ever before.

Eren swung his head back up to look at me, those beautiful eyes dark and heavy-lidded in his pleasure. He licked his lips, then his mouth opened, and his neck arched back, and he kept his eyes on me as his legs clamped down like vices around my hips, and his back arched up, and his beautiful cock spurted come all the way up to his chest, then his shoulder, then his stomach, and finally came to a rest on his belly.

Just watching him orgasm would have been enough to put me over the edge, but combine that with the way that his internal muscles clamped around my dick, and I was lost. I pushed into him, sinking into his warmth, and his muscles rippled around me, milking me for every last drop that I had to give. I convulsed inside him, and the whole time our eyes stayed locked, and Eren’s wet mouth parted, and his hand was rubbing up my arms.

I stayed locked inside him after I was done, not wanting the moment to be over, but he sighed and wiggled his hips, and I slid out with a faint moan.

“Holy fucking shit,” I mumbled, taking the condom off and tying it off. I don’t remember putting it in the trash can, but it ended up there in the morning, so that’s where it must have gone.

I grabbed my shirt, and slowly stroked it up Eren’s belly, his chest, and then carefully cleaned his sensitive cock.

“Aren’t you worried about your shirt getting dirty?” Eren asked with a twisted smile.

“It’s laundry day,” I said cheekily, tossing the dirty shirt somewhere that was away.

Then Eren pulled me down into his arms, and I lay down on top of him, and thought not for the first time how we fit so well together. Even just hugging him, or being hugged by him, felt so right to me.

“Was that good for you?” I asked, as I lay my head down on his chest, my hands reaching out for his hands and playing idly with his fingers.

“Amazing,” Eren said breathily. “Just - amazing. Jesus, Levi.”

I laughed, pleased with myself. Then I propped my chin up on his chest and looked down at him, laughing internally at how he was bonelessly sprawled there, his head lax on the carpet.

I traced patterns on his skin, admiring what the firelight did to his tan colouring.

“You’re so perfect, Eren,” I commented sullenly. “Lord knows what you see in an old midget like me.”

Eren laughed happily, his hands going around me to clasp me to him in a hug. “Well, that’s easy. It’s because I…”

There was a moment there when I was afraid of what he was going to say. A moment that I dreaded, because I knew we weren’t ready. The silence stretched out, and I thought, fuck, he’s going to say it.

“It’s because I couldn’t find anyone I liked better,” he joked, his mouth twisting up in an imitation of a smile.

We both knew the lie for what it was, but it didn’t matter, anyway. Some things were better left unsaid.

I shimmied up his body, then I braced my hands on either side of Eren’s face, and kissed him. Eren hugged me to him, our bodies comfortably close, and kissed me languorously, sweetly, his lips lingering against mine. I trailed my fingers into his hair, and looked down into his face, kissing his eyebrow, his cheekbone, his nose, his chin, then his mouth again. I just wanted to draw the moment out, to feel it, because fuck knows what tomorrow would bring.

Eren held me to him, and I collapsed down on top of him, my head braced on his shoulder, my face tilted into his neck, the glow of the fire dancing over our skin. Then I closed my eyes, and prayed for once in my miserable life that this hadn’t all been a dream.

Chapter Text

It was almost scary how quickly my life had changed. Levi had swept through my life like a hurricane, and now I couldn’t see myself without him.

I wanted to live with him, I wanted to always be close to him, but somehow I just felt as though that was a pipe dream. There was so much going up against us.

When Levi fucked me, it felt so much deeper than just the physical. It’s like he reached inside me, and pulled out my heart, and smothered it with his love. I knew that it was more than just the physical for him too, even though both of us weren’t ready to call it what it was, yet.

Levi fell asleep on top of me, and the fire crackled away, casting its wavering light on his skin, highlighting his hair. When he was asleep, he lost that fierce, hard expression on his face, and he looked ten years younger. There were still dark circles under his eyes, but they got lost in the flickering light, and he just looked so small and delicate. If it weren’t for the sharp angles and muscles of his body, and the scars, then you could almost think he was innocent.

But I loved the scars, too. I loved the look he got in his eyes when he looked up at someone and seemed to be seven feet tall, just from the height of his attitude. Oh yeah, I loved that too.

I didn’t even care that his solid weight was pressing down on me, constricting my breathing. I just breathed lightly instead, and ran my hands up and down his back.

I wanted to protect him.

After a while the fire died out. The room grew cool. Levi shivered, burrowing in closer, and I knew I’d have to move us.

I awkwardly sat up, and got my hands under his legs, and lifted him into my arms as I stood, holding him like a four year-old. I hadn’t explored the whole house, but I could guess there was a bedroom upstairs on the second floor. I went around turning out the lights in the kitchen, and left the discarded clothes on the floor, though I kicked them at least into a pile, it was the best I could do. Then I climbed the stairs, while Levi slept away in my arms.

I found two bedrooms upstairs, one that was clearly a guest room, devoid of any personal touch. Then there was Levi’s room, which was all him, with a decent-sized bed with a black and white bedspread, and black and white pictures on the walls depicting nature scenes, trees and leaves and flowers. There was a picture on the set of drawers, that was one of Levi in his army days, with Erwin on one side, and Hanji on the other, grinning. They were dressed in fatigues, and covered in dirt, and Levi just looked stoic as always, standing in the middle. It made me smile.

I carefully pulled the covers aside, and slid Levi in under them. His eyes kept closed, but when I moved aside to go turn on the lights, his hand shot out and caught my wrist.

“Don’t leave me, Eren,” he mumbled in his sleep. “Please.”

I stroked my hand through his hair. “I’m not going anywhere.”

Levi’s grip gradually loosened, allowing me to go turn off the lights. I went to the bathroom and found a spare toothbrush, and made quick work of my teeth before I climbed in under the covers. I hadn’t even fully slipped in yet when Levi rolled over and threw a leg and an arm over me, his hand curling on my chest.

I felt my heart beat like it was going to fly right out of my chest.

I fell asleep with his beating just as strong against mine.

——

I woke up lazily that morning when Levi slipped out of bed. I watched him yawning, and padding over to the bathroom to relieve himself. The guy didn’t even closed the door, just leaned his head back and sighed. I enjoyed the view, admiring the curve of his back and butt.

When he turned, his hooded eyes found me watching him, and I smiled, raising my fingers and waggling them in a little wave.

Levi snorted, a corner of his mouth turning up, like a distant echo of the smile he’d given me last night.

God, that smile had been like a punch to the gut. I’d never seen Levi smile so wide, and it had revealed a dimple I hadn’t even known was there. His teeth were straight and white, and his lips were thin and so kissable. Even now, with his little smirk, it reminded me of that smile, and I knew every time he gave me a half-smile now that I’d know he’d smiled for me, I mean really smiled for me, when he didn’t smile for anybody.

“You look satisfied with yourself,” Levi commented as he propped his hip up against the bathroom doorframe, unashamed of his nudity.

I stretched, squealing as I did so, because stretches always felt so much more satisfying when you let out a noise. I could feel Levi’s eyes on me, and it made me grin, and when I met his eyes he slowly let his eyes drop to my morning wood.

“Need help with that?” he asked.

I slid my hand down my belly, and rubbed it up my dick. “Yeah, I do.”

Levi stalked over to the bed, and crawled over it to me, and I couldn’t help but watch the play of his muscles as he did so. The he crawled right over on top of me, and hauled up on my thigh, exposing me and making me laugh.

His hand was rough when it gripped me, but I didn’t care. I was so turned on already, I just wanted to feel him inside me. Fuck foreplay. He could see that in my eyes, too, when I spread my legs.

“Levi,” I whined.

He snorted out a laugh, but I saw that he was hard now, too, just from looking at me and touching me. His hand was slowly stroking me up and down, and then he scooted down and stroked the whole length of his body against mine. His free hand slid up my chest, and when his hand slid over my nipple, it perked up, and I arched my chest into his hand. His fingers toyed with it, rubbing it, pinching it, and that combined with his hand on my dick was just… god.

“It would be great to be woken up like this every day,” I sighed.

Levi stilled, and when I looked down, he caught my eyes. The look in his eyes was intense, unreadable. He slid up my body, then nuzzled his face into my neck, kissing under my ear. “Yeah?” he said in a sandy voice.

I ran my hands down his back, and gripped his ass, pressing us together and humping up into him. When Levi wrapped his small hand around both our cocks, and pumped them together, I half-sighed, half-groaned. “Yeah,” I agreed.

Levi peppered my neck with kisses, then worked his way down to my collarbone and swirled his tongue over it, dipping into the bend between my collarbones. He kissed his way down my chest, and then caught my other nipple between his teeth, tugging gently in a way that made some kind of sound escape from my throat. Then his tongue flicked over it, and when he sucked on it I hummed in my throat.

I looked down at his head, and stroked my hand through his hair. I didn’t want him to do anything he didn’t want to do, but I did wonder how that tongue would feel on that other part of my body…

Levi looked up, a glint in his eyes as he slid back down my body, trailing wet kisses down my abdomen. He kissed my bellybutton, making me giggle. Then he spread my legs further, his hands stroking my thighs. He nuzzled his nose against my belly, and for a second I wondered…

Then I didn’t have to wonder anymore, because he was kissing my cock. He wasn’t sucking it, but he was kissing it, pressing kisses along the shaft, his lips grazing the head.

“Levi…” I let out in a strangled gasp.

When he looked up there was uncertainty in his eyes, and I was worried that he was pushing his boundaries. But then he licked the tip of my cock, and my concerns for his boundaries flared up enough for me to twist a hand in his hair, stopping him even though god it felt so fucking good.

“You don’t have to,” I breathed out shakily.

Levi’s eyes softened. “I know,” he reassured me.

Then he stroked my dick with his hand, and angled it towards his head, and slowly slid his mouth over the tip.

My thighs were trembling, I was trying so hard to hold myself back, but damn, it was wet and warm and I got to look down and see Levi’s lips stretching. He just sucked on the tip, and swirled his tongue over the head, and licked the slit, but that was enough. More than enough. It was fucking amazing.

Levi cupped my balls in his hand, rolling them gently, as he worshipped the tip of my cock. Then he popped off and licked the length again, kissing the shaft, kissing the tip, and then sucking it in again.

“Levi,” I breathed out, propping myself up on my elbows to look down at him. He was perfect, the length of his body stretched out, the muscles in his legs working as he bent one leg up, so that he could hump himself into the mattress while he sucked me.

Levi popped off my dick, then brushed his bangs back and wiped his mouth. “What?” he ground out.

I smiled and reached out a hand to brush my thumb over his cheek. “I love this. It feels amazing. But… I want you inside me.”

He smirked, and then slid up and reached over to the side table, pulling open the drawer. He retrieved a bottle of lube, then dug around, and swore.

“What?” I asked as I leaned over, stroking my hand down his back.

“I don’t exactly bring people here to fuck them,” he said, digging around in the drawer like it would reveal hidden secrets. “It’s not like I’ve… had a ton of partners, either.”

I stroked my hand down to his ass, and stroked my finger along the crease between his butt and his thigh. “That’s a good thing, isn’t it?”

Levi flopped down, pressing his face into the pillow.

I leaned over him, and peered into the drawer. Apart from the lube, there wasn’t anything else in there, it was empty. Well, a notepad and a pen, much good may those do us for sex.

Then I realized the problem. No condom.

I tucked myself in against his side, my hand still stroking his back. “Levi, you’re not… positive, are you?”

Levi turned his head to crack an eye open at me. “What the fuck do you take me for, Eren? Fuck, if I were I would have told you before we’d fucked. No, I’m not fucking positive. I’ve been tested, after my last… fling.”

I propped my head on my hand, tracing patterns on his skin. “Well, I’ve never been with anyone except you.”

Levi rolled onto his side, palming my neck in a strong grip. “Eren, first of all, you should never let anyone fuck you without a condom, no matter how much you trust the guy.”

The idea of me letting anyone other than Levi fuck me turned my stomach, and made me frown. “Trust me, I’m not letting anyone near my ass but you.”

Levi shook my neck a little, brushing his thumb over my adam’s apple. “Not even me, you little shit. God, what if I was lying?”

I rolled my eyes. “You may be many things, Levi, but you’re not a liar. If you tell me you’re clean, then I know that you’re clean. Besides, this is you we’re talking about. You’d never feel comfortable enough with someone to fuck them without a condom. It would be too dirty, right?”

Then after I’d said it out loud, I realized what the real problem was. It was me.

“Oh,” I said, feeling stupid.

Levi crawled on top of me, bracing his hands on either side of my head, his knees around my waist and his cock digging into my stomach. “Don’t do that, Eren.”

I closed my eyes, because the fact that Levi found me dirty actually made me feel dirty, and I’d never actually felt that way before. “Sorry,” I mumbled.

Levi dropped his head, pressing our foreheads together. “Damn it.”

My erection had flagged, chased away by my embarrassment. I had this really hot guy on top of me, someone I wanted so bad to be inside me, but he couldn’t bare to touch me without that layer of plastic between us. I hadn’t realized that it meant that much to me, but now that I knew that he’d never want to do it that way, it suddenly did matter more than it should.

“Eren,” he said, coaxing me to look at him.

I couldn’t, I couldn’t open my eyes, I was filled with shame.

“Eren, look at me.”

When Levi stroked his fingers over my lips, I cracked my eyes open. He was looking down at me, his eyes thoughtful. “Do you really want me inside you bare? You want me inside you that much?”

I bit my lip, not wanting to answer.

Levi stroked my lip out of my mouth. “It’s okay, just tell me.”

I sighed. “I want you to want to be inside me, Levi.” I closed my eyes. “No barriers. But you think I’m dirty.”

Levi groaned and stroked his hand down my body, palming my thigh. “Kid, you have no idea how much I want to be inside you right now. And you’re not dirty. It’s just… I know it’s natural but some things just don’t come easy for me.”

This was so not helping.

Levi slid down my body again. Then he looked up at me, and looked up at me under hooded eyes.

“Maybe we should just… stop for today?” I said, wringing my hands together.

But then Levi’s mouth was on my half-soft cock, licking it back up to attention, and his nose was nudging my balls, and I didn’t push him away. “Do you really want to stop?” he paused to ask me, after he’d gotten me panting again from his attentions.

I looked down at him and shook my head.

Next thing I knew, Levi had pulled me to my feet, and he was dragging me into the bathroom. He turned on the shower, and got it going nice and hot, and handed me a toothbrush so we could brush our teeth while the water was warming up. When our mouths were clean, Levi literally tossed the toothbrushes into the sink without washing them, and pinned me to the wall, kissing me for the first time today. He climbed up my body, and I picked him up instinctually, so he could kiss me deeper with his arms around my neck.

“Get in the shower,” he growled.

I laughed and obliged him, walking us into the shower stall. Then Levi was kissing me again, his leg wrapped around me, and my arms were secure around him, hugging around his back as the water beat down around us.

“You are so hot,” Levi said in my ear, then slid down my body. He stroked a hand around my back, and gave me a little smile as his hand got lower and lower. He slid his hand between my asscheeks, and started playing his fingers over my hole, tapping, running the tip of his finger around it, the whole time just watching my face.

I threw my arm over his shoulder, and leaned my head back against the tile. “Do you want me to clean myself out?” I asked breathily.

“No, I’ll do it,” he said, then the next thing I knew, his finger was slipping in me. He had soaped it up, and he was rubbing in and around my anus, then washing his hand under the spray, then sticking his finger back in. He stretched me at the same time, although I was already still prepped from the night before, so I hadn’t tightened back up too much.

Levi then washed his hands, thoroughly, just to be sure I guess. Then he took the opportunity to grab the shampoo and clean our hair. I let him do all the work, because I still felt a little lost, like I didn’t know what he wanted. I guess what he seemed to want was to pamper me, because he rubbed the shampoo into my scalp, and I bent my head down enough to give him the chance to work.

Then he rinsed us off one last time, and towelled us off, and like in under 5 minutes I swear to God I was squeaky clean. I was left standing there like… what just happened?

Then Levi grabbed my arm and tugged me back towards the bed. He literally flung me on it, so hard that I bounced, and nearly fell back off the other side of the bed. It made Levi cackle, which was frightening and hilarious since he was still sporting a massive boner. He clambered up on top of me, and kissed me like his life depended on it, his body falling into me and his hands pushing up into my hair.

I clung onto him for dear life, kissing him back as Levi started humping into me, sliding down enough for our cocks to rub together. Having a damp, turned-on Levi grinding down into me did all the right things, and I wanted nothing more than for him to wrap us together in his hand again.

But Levi had different plans.

Levi manhandled my legs, pushing them both up, bending me in half like a pretzel. It left me exposed, and now I was definitely embarrassed, because I realized how difficult it was for Levi, and I thought maybe he didn’t actually want to, and my brain was turning in circles…

…Then Levi licked a line from the base of my balls all the way to my ass. Levi, OCD clean freak, put his tongue on my asshole. There. I said it.

Holy fuck.

His tongue lapped over the bud, then circled around it, and at first it felt a little weird, but then it started to feel good, and when he blew on it and fucking kissed it, it felt great. I just lay there, like holy fucking trinity, my hands clenched into the sheets, my whole body tense and twitching and damn.

Levi even grazed his teeth over it, nipping at it, then licking it again.

My mind was blown.

At some point, he must have fetched the lube, because I felt his fingers piercing into me again, but he hardly had to stretch me at all because my asshole was begging for it, come on home, cowboy!

Then I felt the blunt head of Levi’s cock, nudging into my hole. He gave me no time at all, no time to think, to stop him (not that I wanted to), he just pierced me through in one long stroke until he was sheathed all the way inside me.

“Oh fuck Levi, damn, holy mother of Christ,” I swore in one long loop.

My legs were still wrapped over Levi’s shoulders, so he turned his head to kiss my calf, then started driving into me, only giving me a few strokes to get used to it before he started ramming into me full force.

It was exactly what I wanted.

And Levi had to know, because the sounds that were coming out of me were downright crude, but I couldn’t help it. Every time he pumped into me, and pulled out, he scraped against my prostate in a way that was just unbelievable, and I literally couldn’t even see anymore from the onslaught of pleasure that was wracking my body.

Nevermind that Levi was bare. His cock was inside me, and it was warm, and the way his foreskin dragged behind when his dick pulled out was just so different from the way it had felt when he’d fucked me through a plastic sheath. I felt so close to him, like we were connected by more than just our bodies.

Levi reached out for my hand, and I laced our fingers together. Then he went to town, fucking me so hard I could hear his balls slapping against my ass, and I felt it inside me, in my cock, in my gut, in my chest, fucking everywhere. I didn’t want it to stop, I just wanted to go on like this, stretch this moment out forever.

“Levi you feel so good,” I gasped out, between the other obscene sounds that were coming out of my mouth.

Levi just squeezed my hand. “So do you,” he said in a sandpaper voice. He slowed down his fucking for his free hand to stroke my leg, my stomach. He was just moving inside me, then he pulled out his cock fully, and stuffed it back in me, and god I felt it in that ring of pleasure that had been awakened earlier by Levi’s tongue. Then he did it again, and again.

“Levi, fuck me hard, please,” I begged him, because I didn’t think I could stand it anymore. I was flying apart at the seams.

Next thing I knew, he had pulled out, but he was flipping me over onto my stomach. I got up on all fours, and he pushed inside me again, his hands stroking my back, my butt. From this angle, he could hold down my hips and ram into me hard and fast, and it was exactly what I needed.

“Come for me, Eren,” Levi ground out in a harsh voice.

I clenched my hands in the sheets, and arched my back, and let the onslaught of pleasure wrack through my body. When I came, I painted the sheets beneath us, and Levi groaned, mumbling something about how tight I was. Then he made like he was about to pull out but I threw my hand back to keep us connected.

“I want you to come inside,” I said breathlessly.

Levi let out one groan, then I felt his forehead drop onto my back, and he thrust into me a few more times as he came. I felt it spurting inside me, and it felt warm. It was the most amazing feeling, because I knew I’d done this to him, I’d made him feel this way, so hot that he’d throw all his rules away and come inside me.

Levi’s hand clenched over mine again, and we held hands as he came one last time, then collapsed on my back.

I fell down onto my stomach with a sigh, Levi plastered to my back. We were all sweaty now, and I knew he’d probably want another shower, but in that moment neither of us gave a fuck. Levi just slid partially off me, but threw his leg back over mine, and stroked my back.

While I was swimming around in happiness, I realized something that had only just occurred to me. I grinned down into the sheets, shaking with suppressed laughter.

“You know, Levi,” I said sweetly.

“Hmm?”

I laughed, I couldn’t help it, while I choked out, “I just realized. I think I had another condom in my jeans downstairs.”

Levi laughed too, his whole body shaking. After a few minutes, our laughter stopped, and Levi became subdued, nuzzling his face into my back.

“Eren,” he said in a soft voice.

I was half in the otherworld, enveloped in a post-coital haze of happiness. “Hmm?”

Levi’s hand stroked my back absently as he said, “I’ll do anything you want me to do.”

I smiled into the sheets. “Mmhmm?”

Levi nodded against my back, I could feel it. “In bed, out of bed, I don’t care. If you tell me you want something, really want something, I’ll do my best to make you happy,” he promised.

If I wasn’t already in the land of happy, that would have taken me there. As it was, I felt like I was filled with sunshine, and my chest was about to burst. “I just want to stay here with you,” I murmured.

Levi’s hand dug into my side. I could have sworn I felt wetness where his head lay against my back. I gave him the courtesy of not turning around, so I couldn’t tell you whether it was sweat, or saliva… or tears.

Chapter Text

So I decided I needed a new set of rules.

Rule #1: Make Eren happy.

Rule #2: ….

Well, as soon as I could work out how to do Rule #1, I’d come up with a Rule #2.

Thing is, what I realized is, I don’t really give a shit about anything except what’s between us right now. I mean, I’d been living my life on the edge for so long, that I’d never given myself a chance to feel happy. It’s like I never even knew what happiness was, so I didn’t realize what I was missing. But damn, Eren made me feel things that I’d never felt in my whole fucking life.

Happiness was canoeing on the lake, and watching Eren’s facial expressions every time he discovered a new animal, whether it was a turtle, a frog, or happily pointing out the dragonflies chasing each other in the air. Happiness was cooking for him, with him helping me chop the onions (which I fucking hate to do because they make me cry), and seeing how much he enjoyed eating my food. Happiness was the two of us sitting out on the dock, watching the sun set, with beers in hand. Happiness was all the little things, that seemed so mundane until he experienced them with me.

I felt like these few special days was us in our little bubble, away from it all, just kind of getting to know each other. I learned all the stupid stuff like what comics he liked, and he learned that I could play several instruments and we traded the guitar back and forth, showing each other our favourite songs. I even played the piano for him, and I didn’t do that for anybody - I always just played for myself.

I’d never let anyone so close to me before. Not my former lovers. Not my friends. Not even Erwin, who had known me back in the days when I was little better than a criminal, running a gang of thugs.

I couldn’t stop myself from watching him, peering at him over the top of my teacup, or pretending to read a book when I was really watching him as he played my guitar or pawed through my book collection. I found myself always finding little ways to touch him, brushing past him when I bent over to get a beer out of the fridge, or dragging my hand over his arm when he walked past me.

It was all subtle stuff, because I’m not the kind of guy that will spend all day telling him sweet nothings, or write poems or that shit. But in those moments when I’m happiest, I really hope that he can see it in my eyes.

We spent three days out there on the lake - three days that were like a lifetime. Three days that I’d hold close in the dark moments to come.

——

I caught Eren pushing his sleeve up, and taking a picture of his own arm on the second day. I thought it was weird, but I didn’t ask him about it. When he took the same picture again on the third day, I finally broke down and ask him.

“Are you tracking the progress of a mole or something?”

Eren looked up at me, his eyes wide. Then he smirked. “Nah, just a little experiment for Hanji.”

The fuck? What experiment?” I asked, my suspicions going wild.

Eren shrugged. “She just wanted to track how fast I heal. So she made a small cut on my arm, and asked me to photograph it. No big deal.”

I went cold. I stood up, trying to stop myself from trembling, and went over to look at his arm. He held it out for my inspection, and I could see three faint lines where she must have cut his skin. I ran my fingers over them, but they were like old scars.

“It’s okay,” Eren said, touching my arm. “Nothing permanent.”

I nodded, brushing it off like it was nothing. “Sure.” I walked out onto the porch casually, and leaned my hands on the railing, looking out over the lake. It was soothing to me, watching the gentle lapping of the water on the shore.

Eren followed me out, of course. He slipped his arms around me, hugging me from behind. I sighed because we fit so well together. I fucking loved the way it felt when he held me like this.

“You okay?” he asked me after a while.

I nodded, leaning back so my head tipped onto my shoulder. “Sure.”

He swayed me a bit, back and forth. “What you thinking about?”

“I’m thinking about what to eat for dinner. And how we’re almost out of firewood. I was thinking maybe I’ll go chop some wood, but we also need supplies from the store.” I skirted around what was really on my mind, keeping it to myself.

“Do you want me to go out to the store and get something, while you chop the wood?”

I turned around, looking up at him. “Would you mind? We don’t have a hell of a lot of daylight left, and if I don’t want to chop my own fingers off, then I should probably do that now. But the stores close soon too, so…”

Eren smiled down at me. “I don’t mind. Why don’t you make a list?”

We walked back in the house, Eren’s arm slung casually over my shoulder. I got out the notepad by the phone, and wrote down a few vegetables, and asked him to pick up some fish. I figured I could cook the fish in the oven with some tomatoes, onions, and ginger. Then toss the veggies on the grill. Simple, good food, perfect for the country.

“Do you remember the little shop I took us to the other day, the one that sells the homemade pies?” I asked him over my shoulder.

“Yeah, I think I can find my way back there. It’s just on the main road, right?”

I nodded. “If you can swing by there as well, see if you can get us a pie. They usually have something good going, like a strawberry rhubarb, or blueberry or something.”

Eren stroked his hand on my back, and god I loved that. “I’m surprised, you don’t eat a lot of sweets.”

I turned to smirk at him. “This is the good stuff. This and that mille-feuille in Paris, believe it or not are both at the same level of greatness.”

Eren threw his arms over my shoulders, hugging me from behind and kissing my cheek. “Whatever you want. But I’d better hit the road now if I’m going to make it before they close, right?”

I pinched his side, making him yelp and jump away. “Here’s the list, hot stuff,” I joked, tossing the sheet of paper at him.

Eren cackled and caught it, then grabbed his keys and darted out before I could catch him and pinch him again.

As soon as Eren was gone, I pulled out my phone and dialled Hanji’s number.

“Sooo, how’s your pleasure fest going?” Hanji asked without even saying hello.

“Mind your own fucking business. But tell me, why exactly are you doing experiments on Eren?” I was so pissed, I felt like I was spitting the words out instead of saying them.

“Oh, don’t be like that,” she admonished me. “It’s for his own good as well, so that we know what his limits are, what he can endure. That’s important information when he’s out doing fieldwork, wouldn’t you say?”

“Hanji, you know what could happen if anyone discovers that he has this ability. If they find out they’ll stick him in a basement lab somewhere and we’ll never see him again.”

“So what, we’re supposed to just not study him at all?” she asked, her voice coaxing. “Come on, Levi. This is for the good of humanity, here. Can you imagine what it would do for medical science if we could figure out why?”

“And could you imagine what it would do to him? He’s a human being, Hanji. Not an experiment.”

“That’s unfair,” she said. “I like Eren too, but that doesn’t mean that this isn’t necessary.”

“Unfair? Unfair? What’s unfair is you cutting Eren without even fucking telling me, that’s what’s unfair.” I was getting so worked up that I was literally gesticulating in the empty air. If she was in the room with me, I would have started throttling her.

She laughed. She fucking laughed at me. “Eren is his own person, Levi. He came to me of his own free will.”

“Oh? And you didn’t coerce him at all? For example, by making an exchange? Telling him where I was?”

“Listen, Levi-”

“No, you listen. You stay away from Eren, or I swear to fucking god I will cut you off from Survey Recon, and I’ll blacklist your name so you’ll never work in a government office again. Then I’ll come after you, and find all your files and fucking delete them. Then I’ll torch your lab. By the time I’m done with you, you’ll have to start from scratch.”

There was silence on the other end, while she finally started to absorbed how fucking pissed I was.

I waited it out.

“Levi, I thought we were friends,” she said, pouty. I could picture her face, as she tried to convince me. Thing is, she didn’t realize yet that where Eren was concerned I wasn’t fucking budging. Unless she showed up at my door with a court order, I wasn’t letting her lay a finger on him. And even then…

“Yeah, Hanji. I thought we were friends. But you don’t go around behind your friends’ backs and do shit like this. You just don’t.”

“…I’m sorry.”

I sighed. It sounded like a genuine apology, even though it was late in coming. Thing is, I still didn’t buy it, because I don’t think she even understood why what she did was wrong.

“Stay away from Eren,” I said harshly, then hung up the phone.

I was standing there, my fists clenched, breathing hard like I’d run a fucking marathon. I wanted to toss the phone on the wall and break it, but what good would that do?

So instead, I went outside and chopped wood.

I got so into it that I ended up taking off my shirt, using it as a rag to wash the sweat off my face. I picked back up the axe and kept at it, lost in the mechanical process of each swing. I was able to just let everything else go, and focus on the motions of my body. I tried not to think about how that other world, the one I really lived in, was starting to encroach upon this bubble of peace.

——

When Eren got back, I was still out there, chopping away. I had gone through a huge amount of wood, and it was all piled carefully in a stack next to me, because even in the midst of chopping I still hadn’t lost that OCD part of me. I didn’t even hear Eren returning, that’s how lost I was in the motions.

I’m not sure how long he was standing there, watching me. But I finally realized he was there, when I saw him out of the corner of my eye, standing on the porch with his forearms braced on the railing.

Eren was looking down at me with an intense expression on his face. I couldn’t tell what it was exactly, if it was just lust or something more.

I looked down at myself, and grimaced. I was standing there in nothing but my shoes and my cut-off jean shorts, and I was covered in dirt and sweat. I mopped my face down again with the discarded shirt, then piled the wood into the wheelbarrow to bring it into the garage. From there we could bring what we needed up to the fireplace.

Eren found me down there, with my arms full of wood, and he took an armful of wood as well, helping me bring it in. When I dropped the wood into the container next to the fireplace, I almost knocked into him when I turned around, he was so close. After he dropped his armful into the bin, he stopped me from walking away by hooking his finger into the back of my jean shorts.

“Levi,” he said, his voice thick.

“What?” I asked, turning my head just enough to look at him.

“You don’t have any idea, do you?” he murmured, his head down, almost shy.

I turned around, crossing my arms over my chest, and Eren dropped his hand. “What?” I repeated.

Eren just gestured at my body.

I uncrossed my arms, and looked down at myself. I grimaced again. “I know, I’m totally gross. I’ll go shower.”

Eren stuck his hand out, this time hooking his hand in the front of my shorts before I could move away. “Levi,” he said, his voice almost pained.

What?”

Eren looked up at me, and now I could see full-on how turned on he was. His face was red, and when I looked down - yep. He was happy to see me. “You have no idea how hot you are,” he mumbled.

I wanted to laugh, since I swear to God Eren had to be the only one who was attracted to someone short like me. But when I saw the look on his face, I couldn’t laugh, because he was dead serious.

I cocked my head to the side instead. “Yeah?”

Eren nodded, and bit his lip. Damn, every time he did that it made me want to kiss him. “When you were out there chopping the wood - I could see every muscle in your back and arms, and you look great.” His mumbling got quieter and quieter, but he got the words out.

Did he think I needed to hear them? …Maybe I did.

I ran a hand over my own chest, playing with the pectoral muscle, then running my hand over my abs. I canted my head back, looking up at him under hooded eyes. “Did I make you horny?” I asked, my voice low.

Eren sucked his lower lip into his mouth and nodded.

Fuck.

I was seriously debating between whether I should run upstairs and take a 3 minute shower, or screw it all and just touch him.

Then Eren’s phone started ringing, and we both groaned.

“I’ll ignore it,” Eren said, his hand playing with the waistband of my jean shorts.

I stopped his hand by grabbing onto his wrist. “It might be one of your friends. I’m sure they’re worried about you, you haven’t called them since you ran off here, have you?”

Eren groaned again, then dropped his head down onto my shoulder, nuzzling my neck with his nose and kissing it. But he did dig his phone out of his pocket. When he yanked it out, I saw that it was Armin’s name flashing on the screen.

“Hey, Armin,” Eren said, still leaning on me.

I tried to pull away, thinking I was going to take that shower, but he caught my hip in his hand, and slid his hand slowly up my side, keeping me there. His ran his fingers up and down, even though I was still covered in sweat.

“Yeah, I’m up here with Levi. He’s training me in tracking skills,” he said, which actually wasn’t a lie. I had taken Eren out several times over the past few days, pointing out the deer trails, showing him how to tell when a track was fresh.

“Armin says hello,” Eren told me in my ear. Then the little shit had the audacity to kiss my neck quietly, licking the skin there like he liked the salt taste of my sweat.

I waved my hand.

“Levi says hello too,” Eren told the phone. “Yeah, not sure yet. Probably in the next day or two, I should probably come back to town to check in on things. I have to talk to you guys about something, too. No, nothing bad. Just want to catch up.”

While he chatted to Armin, Eren’s hand was still trailing over my skin, now tracing the muscles in my back.

“Mikasa okay? Yeah, give her my love. Whaaat? Jeez, what’s going on with those two. I mean, I knew that he liked her, but I didn’t think she liked the horse-face back again. That’s just dumb.”

Eren nuzzled my neck some more, then bit down on it, making me twitch, but it actually felt really fucking good when he bit it and sucked it. He managed to do it without making any noise, and so Armin was totally clueless on the other side. I, on the other hand, had a hard time not groaning. I was twitching, and shit now I was hard too.

“Well she’ll do whatever she wants to. Like always.”

Eren’s hand slid up my chest, his thumb brushing over my nipple. He swiped over it a few times, then flicked it with his fingernail. I bit my lip to keep silent.

Screw this. Instead of just standing there, I slid my hands around Eren’s waist, under his shirt. I then slipped my hands down his butt, under his underwear, and squeezed. I loved Eren’s ass, it was so perfect, pert and tight and damn.

“Okay, I’ll call you when we’re on our way back,” Eren said breathlessly, and abruptly hung up the phone.

Eren then threw his arms over my shoulders, and laughed, his whole body shaking as he hugged me.

“I’m sweaty and disgusting,” I pointed out, as he was now draped all over me.

It didn’t stop me from squeezing his ass some more.

“I don’t care,” Eren laughed, but then his laugh dissolved into a groan when I slipped my hand down the front of his pants and grabbed his cock.

“I don’t feel like going upstairs for lube,” I said, my breath short. “Let’s just jack each other off.”

Eren’s hands fumbled with the buttons of my cut-offs. “Yeah, that sounds like a plan.”

Next thing you know, he was kissing me, and our hands were on each other dicks, and it was magic. It didn’t matter how we touched each other, whether we were jacking, or sucking, or fucking, it all felt great to me.

“Levi,” Eren breathed against my mouth, as his hips jerked into my hand.

“Yeah,” I said as I thrust back into his.

“…”

I pumped him faster, and I knew that’s what he wanted, because he shut up and just groaned, really going at it. His hand moved faster on me, too, and I forgot everything except how it felt.

Not too much longer and Eren was trembling, his breath in my ear when he said, “I’m gonna come.”

I caught Eren’s neck with my other hand, arching up into him. “Me too. Close.”

I watched Eren when his head tipped back, and his mouth open, and his cock was pulsing in my hand. Even with all his clothes still on, he was beautiful. The way it transformed his face was fucking beautiful.

That’s was brought me over the edge. Watching him come, and knowing that he came because of me.

——

Afterwards, we stood there and Eren was laughing, his head tucked in against my neck. “If you thought you were dirty before…”

I snorted, wiping my hands on his shirt. “Fucking filthy now. You too.”

Eren wiped his hands on his shirt too, then whipped it off. He then put his arms around me again, and hugged me close to him. He squeezed me tight, and I sighed and relaxed into his embrace.

We held each other like that for a while, until Eren let go and said, “You go shower first. I’ll chop the veggies. If we both go in together, it’ll be another hour before we eat, and I’m starving.”

To punctuate his point, his belly started grumbling aloud, making Eren clutch it and groan in embarrassment.

“Sure. I’ll be back down in 10, then you can go while I cook the fish. Deal?”

Eren gave me a smile that just about made my heart stop. “Deal.”

——

I watched Eren sleep that night. I slept a little too, but not much. Mostly I sat there, my back propped up against the headboard, and watched the even rising and falling of his chest.

I ached to think about the pain I was bound to bring him, just by being with me. If it weren’t for me, Hanji would never have known him, known about his ability, never pushed to investigate it. Sure, it was just a couple of cuts now - but what happened when cuts turned to surgeries or amputations, and what happened when someone found the data? Eren would never be safe.

I dragged my fingers through his hair as he slept.

——

“What’s up?” I growled into the phone. I was sitting on the bench on the dock, watching Eren swim in the lake. I had swum a little bit too, but then the water had felt too cold for me so I had gotten out. Eren was like a freaking furnace, he generated so much body heat he’d probably have no problem swimming the English Channel.

“Hello to you too,” Erwin said in my ear, and I could hear shuffling papers.

“Do you need something?” I asked irritably.

Erwin snorted. “Can’t I just call to catch up?”

I let the silence drag out. Erwin and I did not chat. Ever.

“I’ve got a mission for you,” he said finally.

I sighed and pinched my nose between my forefinger and thumb. “Remember how you said that if I needed some time off, you’d give it to me?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I want some fucking time off. Let one of the others take this one.” I leaned back on the bench, throwing my arm over the back and crossing my ankle over my knee. I skimmed my eyes over Eren, admiring his form as he cut through the water. He was pretty far out, but it looked like he was turning around.

“It’s important. It needs to be you.”

I wanted to bash in Erwin’s face. “Why?”

“Because it’s about the mole. We’ve been able to trace some activity that indicates who it might be. I don’t trust anyone else, Levi.”

His voice was so freaking logical, so calculated, it made me want to throw something. So I tossed a stone in the water angrily. “What’s the mission.”

“Armin managed to intercept a communication and he decoded the mole’s alias. There’s going to be a meeting, and a data exchange. I just want you there at the meeting, on surveillance, to get proof. We need to know who it is.”

“Jesus.” I closed my eyes, and tried to concentrate on how nice the sun felt on my skin, even though my skin was liberally coated in sunscreen. Not Eren’s. He went nut brown immediately, sunscreen or no.

“Levi?” Erwin prompted me.

“Where’s the meet,” I said with a sigh.

“San Francisco. On Friday.”

I was actually so out of it, in my vacation mode, that I didn’t even know what day it was until I flipped my phone over and checked. It was Wednesday. “You got us tickets already?”

“Us? I just need you on this one, Levi. You can solo it.”

I clenched my fist. “I’m not supposed to leave the brat on his own, if you’ll recall. I’m his personal babysitter.”

“Yeah well, I’m sure between us we can keep eyes on him. There’s Armin and Mikasa to watch him, not to mention Hanji, Petra…”

“Don’t let Hanji near him,” I spat.

There was a punctuated silence on the other end. “Why?”

“She’s experimenting on him. Cutting him. It isn’t right, Erwin.”

The silence dragged out. Then I realized it - Erwin already knew.

“You fucking asshole,” I swore. Then I let off a string of Quebecois obscenities. “Tabarnac, câlice, je m’en fous tu crisse de merde!”

“Don’t you think you’re overreacting just a touch?”

I slammed my fist down on the bench, making it shake, as I pounded my two feet flat onto the dock and sat up. Then I stood, and paced back and forth. “No, I don’t think I’m fucking overreacting. I think not only are you guys conspiring behind my back, but you’re doing something incredibly dangerous. If word gets out of what he is, then he’s fucked, Erwin.”

“What is he, exactly?”

I slapped my thigh. “I don’t know. But he’s a human being. He deserves more than to be treated as someone’s special fucking project.”

I heard Erwin sigh, and it just made me want to punch him even more. “Levi, you’ve gotten too close to him. This has become personal.”

“You’re damned right it’s fucking personal!”

“…Are you fucking him?”

I closed my eyes. Then made a fist again.

“Well, that’s answer enough,” he said after my silence. “I warned you about this, Levi. Not only is he your subordinate, but he’s a key player in whatever is going on here. If we’re going to get to the bottom of this… conspiracy, for lack of a better word, then we need to understand what he is. Eren is the key to all of this, I’m sure of it.”

When I looked back to the water, I saw Eren coming close to the shore. He was so fucking beautiful, and he was a kind soul, albeit with a bit of a temper. To me, he was perfect.

“He doesn’t deserve this,” I whispered.

“Yeah well, you didn’t deserve to be thrown in jail, and I didn’t deserve to be shot, and hell all the child soldiers in Africa didn’t deserve to have to kill their own families but we don’t get much of a choice in the matter, do we? We’re given this lot in life and we have to make the best of it.”

I was clenching my teeth so hard I could practically hear them grinding.

“Don’t you want to find out why all this is happening? Levi, we could be saving lives.”

I bit my lip, worrying it between my teeth. Finally, I said, “Don’t you dare lay a finger on him while I’m gone. I’ll do this little job for you, but on one condition and one condition only. Leave Eren alone.”

The silence on the other end was thick.

“I’m not fucking kidding,” I ground out. “If I come back and find out that you touched so much as a hair on his head, I swear to God I’ll cash in everything and take him away to a place you’ll never find him. You know I can.”

Erwin rapped his knuckles on the desk, and I knew I’d won this small fight at least. “Okay. But this conversation is not over.”

“Fuck you,” I swore, then hung up the phone.

I then tossed it into the grass.

Eren laughed at me, walking up the slope. His body was glistening, water droplets clinging to his nut brown skin in a way that made my mouth water.

“What was that phone call about?” he asked cheekily, sliding his wet arms over my shoulders.

I shook my head, frowning as I settled my hands on his hips. “I have to go back.”

Eren’s face fell. I could see he tried to hide it, but he was no good at hiding his emotions, especially disappointment. It wrenched something inside me.

“Okay,” he said with false cheer. “When are we going?”

I tilted my forehead onto his shoulder. “I need to go today. If you want, I can give you the keys and you can stay for the weekend and lock up after yourself.”

Eren shook his head, sliding his hand up into my hair. “This place is nice, Levi, but I wouldn’t want to be here without you.”

“I have to fly to San Francisco tomorrow. I’ll just be gone for a day, I should be back Saturday. I could come back up here, we could still have Sunday…” I knew I was grasping at straws, but I just felt so crummy about this situation.

Eren nuzzled the side of my face. “It’s okay, Levi, I understand. This is what your life is. But one thing - I’m not coming with you?”

I shook my head, hiding my face in his neck. “You can’t. Not on this one. I’m sorry.”

He tightened his arms around me, hugging me. I could tell he wasn’t happy, but he didn’t let it come between us. “Okay,” he finally said.

I pulled out of his embrace, and stepped back to look at him. “Eren, can you do me a favour?”

“Hmm?”

“While I’m gone, can you stay with someone at all times? Mikasa, or Armin, or even Hanji or Erwin or Petra, just… not alone?”

He cocked his head to the side, examining me. “Why? Are you worried something’s going to happen?”

I shrugged. I had a bad feeling about this, but I couldn’t explain it. I got these feelings in my gut sometimes, and I’d learned to trust them. But I did agree with Erwin that we couldn’t let this opportunity pass us by. “Just… do it? For me?”

He smiled a little, but the smile disappeared as quickly as it appeared. “Okay, if it’s what you want.” He ran a hand through his hair and gave me a sheepish look. “I guess that means I’m not quite moving in yet, am I?”

I slid my hand up his chest, and gripped his neck firmly. “Get your boxes packed. As soon as I get back, I expect you to be there.”

I’ll always remember the look he gave me then - it was pure joy, bottled up with sunshine. He nodded, and I thought to myself, fuck. If I lose him… I’ll lose myself.

Chapter Text

God, I’m so in love with him.

There, I said it.

If I hadn’t been in love with him before, then spending time alone with him out in the country would have sealed the deal. I saw what Levi was like, outside of his job, outside of MMA, outside of all the shit that he carried around on his shoulders all the time. I saw what he was like when we were just sitting out there on the bench on the dock, beers in our hands relaxing. I saw what he was like, leading me through the woods in his cut-off jean shorts and oversized t-shirt, pointing out animal tracks and teaching me how to track. I saw what he was like when he was cooking, carefully mixing together the ingredients to his taste, which was really fucking good by the way. And God, I saw what he was like when he was chopping wood shirtless. Priceless.

More than anything, though, I saw how gradually the bags under his eyes started to go away. When he was with me, he slept. He smiled. He even bit by bit started to come out of his shell.

He made me laugh. Levi is fucking funny. We’d be sitting out there on the dock, watching the lake, and he’d say something stupid like, “Did you ever notice that a turtle’s head looks a lot like a dick? It kind of retracts into its foreskin, then its head pokes out when it’s excited.”

That shit was funny. He made me burst out laughing so hard I almost split my side open.

So