The first time Eren sees him, it is April.
It's a beautiful day, not a cloud in sight, and Eren basks in the afternoon warmth. That's before it starts to rain. Without any warning droplets at all, the sky empties itself at once, hammering down around Eren. The fat droplets fall, cold and refreshing against his exposed skin.
It’s completely unexpected, on Eren’s part, at least. However, as he looks around, Eren sees multiple passers by digging through their bags for their umbrellas. He guesses it was most likely forecast this morning, but where's the fun in checking the weather? There's no surprise to be had in that.
Eren isn't put off by the shower at all, it's really quite the opposite. He adores the rain, he always has. There's just something so soothing about a Spring shower, like the one he finds himself caught in. The rain rolls down his forearms in small rivers like they're reaching across a map of unintelligible lines, searching endlessly for the sea. It dampens his unruly hair, flattens it as Eren tucks it behind his ears.
His heart picking up its pace with the excitement of it all, Eren feels it thumping out an elevated rhythm against his chest. With his steps punctuated by a distinct bounce, Eren tucks his sketchbook under his arm and drops his pencil into a pocket, alongside his sharpener and battered eraser - he can get back to drawing once the rain leaves off, no use in ruining the progress he's made so far by wetting the paper.
The rain bounces off the path as he walks, like miniscule hopping creatures, eager to wet the cuffs of Eren's jeans and his flimsy canvas shoes. He can't find it in himself to care at all, though his socks are admittedly soggy, his mind is lost in the lush scenery around him.
The avid runner as she is, Mikasa had become accustomed to cutting through this park at least a few times a week. For weeks, she raved about its tranquility and beauty, encouraging Eren to broaden his horizons during a particularly bad art block. Finding the time and motivation, Eren conceded and took her word.
Now Spring has arrived and the warmer weather has become more frequent, the trees shine like emeralds in the light; the small ponds scattered around are clear, the waters a sparkling liquid crystal; wild flowers grow amongst the grass, youthful daisies and scattered cow's parsley, fluffy dandelions and bluebells. It's all so hopeful, finally the blissful end of the Winter months.
Mikasa had been right, it's peaceful here, like nothing else could exist outside the tall iron gates. Eren feels hidden within this bubble of quiet, surrounded by the falling rain and vibrant greenery. It all feels straight out of an oil painting, every brush stroke lending to the final picture, created with diligent care.
The smell of rain on the earth fills Eren's senses and he breathes it in, greedy for a smell so clear and natural. It's reminiscent of those afternoons where he would help his mother with her gardening, lugging about the watering can for her, clutched awkwardly in his stubby toddler arms.
Feeling his chest buzz pleasantly like bees within a hive, an emotion washes over him, so sweet and honeyed. Eren feels his cheeks swell with a smile - he feels gratitude for this place, for Mikasa’s attentive nature and subsequent suggestions to help him.
Eren could never bring himself to enjoy drawing cityscapes. It’s all too organised; too squared, and much too angular. Nothing nestled away in this park is like that - the plants grow wild and untamed. There's a softness to them, something alive and so beautiful. Eren cannot help the itch growing as he aches to follow those curves with his pencil. He wishes nothing more than to translate what he sees into the pages of his sketchbook.
Unhurried and content, Eren walks the path as the sky falls down around him. He listens intently to the sound of gravel beneath his feet and the pitter-patter of rain into the crystalline ponds, alike to the secretive melody of a windchime.
When he finally stumbles upon another person, Eren's eyebrows arch in pleasant surprise, most others had run at the first sign of rain. This man hadn't felt the need, it seems. He remains sat upon a bench, complete with a small wooden roof, tucked neatly beneath two large weeping willow trees. A perfect little gazebo for a downpour, Eren thinks gleefully.
Grinning triumphantly, Eren makes his way over, his strides now filled with purpose, a solid destination within his sights. He could easily sketch from there and keep his papers dry, hidden away from the rain. The willow trees look so inviting, as if their drooping tendrils are reaching down to Eren, ready to cradle him in the lowest boughs.
Under the shelter are three benches, in an almost square, only one side is missing to make way for an entrance. Eren sits on the bench opposite the stranger, now out of the wet and finally realising how damp he is. A breathy laugh escapes his chest as he tucks his hands under his jumper, feeling his second layer is thankfully dry enough to wipe his hands on. Fingers no longer dripping, Eren pulls out his drawing supplies, getting straight to business.
He pays little attention to his companion, instead setting his sights on a pond just across the way. Within the rippling waters Eren can see flashes of orange and silvery white, no doubt curious fish inspecting the rain as it disrupts the previously still waters. He smiles, curiosity is an admirable quality, even in a fish.
The pages of Eren's sketchbook are filled with mere snippets of scenery, little studies of each thing he’s found captivating. The sleepy scent of lavender is caught up in the lines he's drawn to imitate the herb; next to that, a particularly tame robin, it's cheerful chirp ringing in Eren's head.
The stranger says nothing, and neither does Eren for a good hour. They enjoy one another's presence in comfortable silence, the scratching of pencil to paper and the tapping of his companion's keyboard mingling with the constant rainfall against the roof.
When the typing finally stops, Eren looks towards the other man, observing through the damp strands of his fringe. Surprised, he wonders to himself why Mikasa hasn't mentioned the fact that he ought to cut it, he surely won't do so without her encouragement.
After the hours of peace stretching between them, the sudden sound of the man's messenger bag being unzipped seems much too loud and discordant. Eren feels his lips twitch into a smile as the man's brow furrows disapprovingly, his gaze fixed upon the bag as if it had caused great offence by making such a noise.
Finally, he produces a small silver flask. The stranger's hands are small, and his fingers work with precise movements as Eren watches him remove the cap, then he pours its steaming contents into a matching cup - the metallic kind you might take camping.
The liquid isn't coffee, as Eren expected it be. Instead, it's deep green in colour, coupled with a floral scent that carries on the light breeze. Cup now full and cradled in both hands, the other man takes a tentative sip, his eyes sliding closed. He sighs deeply, contentedly. Eren isn't sure what he's drinking, but it must be good.
When the stranger opens his eyes once more, he finally meets Eren's gaze, the realisation he's being watched dawns on his face and his eyebrows lift into his dark hair. A silent question - what is it?
Eren grins at him in response, not even slightly embarrassed that he was caught staring, "Is it good?"
The stranger nods, a slight incline of the head, his eyebrows returning to their usual place. His voice is deep and clear when he replies, it fills the space between the two and nestles deep into Eren's chest, "Jasmine"
Eren feels a crease form as his eyebrows meet in confusion, and he poses his second question of the afternoon, "Excuse me?"
The other man clarifies, gesturing with his little silver cup, "Tea... It's jasmine tea."
"Oh," Eren's reply sounds stupid as it meets his own ears and he feels his face warm. He’s never really been a tea person, but it seems his companion apparently is. His mind takes him back to the beginning of their conversation and he attempts to save himself, "I'm glad.. You know, that it's good.."
Eren's companion snorts, the sound is short and harsh. And while Eren is aware the amusement is at his own expense, the sound makes him smile regardless.
Crows feet make themselves known at the corners of the stranger's eyes, and Eren watches as he fights a smile before taking another long sip of his tea. Once he disappears behind the screen of his laptop, Eren finds himself able to look away, back to the task at hand.
Putting pencil to paper, Eren continues drawing, this time studying the shape of fallen willow leaves on the bench beside him. They look so delicate, the long leaves twisting just slightly this way and then away again. They're almost asking to be drawn…
Eren and his companion fall back into the lull of silence, both focused on their previous objectives. Tap-tap-tap, scratch-scratch-scratch.
Eventually, the rain eases off and Eren looks at his phone for the first time since he left the house that morning. Unlocking his phone, three faces grin up at him from the screen and he smiles to himself - Armin, Mikasa and himself ought to take another trip to the beach soon, they look practically elated in said picture. Eyes flicking to the clock displayed, Eren's suspicions are confirmed - it's getting towards late afternoon and he promised Mikasa he would cook dinner this evening.
Deciding that he should be walking back home, Eren packs away quietly, so as to not disturb the stranger, folding up his pad and pocketing his pencil and phone.
As Eren stands to leave, the other man looks to him despite his efforts to cause little distraction. The stranger's eyes leave the screen before him and he very quickly gives Eren a once over, his gaze roaming from his tatty shoes to the slightly grown out mess of his hair, curling around at his ears.
A smirk forms on Eren's lips, the knowledge he’s being checked out leaving him with confidence bubbling about in his chest, alike to the feeling of rising and rising on a rollercoaster, ever upwards.
Sending the man a playful two finger salute, Eren finally takes his leave. The stranger arches a single eyebrow, his mouth twitching with that almost smile again, before returning the salute gesture - albeit a little awkwardly. A grin spreading outwards on Eren's face, he walks away with a distinct bounce in his step, infinitely happier than he had woken up that morning.
On the next day Eren finds himself free of work, he can't wait to head back to the park. He's tired of the city already, and it's only been a week - it's all too much, he feels drained, completely emotionally exhausted. His mind had wondered time and time again, thinking of only the park - having experienced the calm and solitude of the park, Eren now finds himself wanting to head back as soon as he gets the chance.
Eren has always been someone who feels so deeply, over uses every ounce of energy he has to spare. He ends up feeling like a candle, burnt down as far as it will go, nothing else remaining for the flame to eat up. But the quiet recharges him, the tranquility is a band aid he patches himself up with. Drawing too, it uses his hands and mind but gently, it's not a strenuous task, but one of healing. So, with his sketchbook in hand and pencil tucked away for later use, Eren practically jogs to his destination.
Due to the sunny weather, he passes a few people, but they're still few and far between. The park remains mostly quiet, like a secret pressed tightly between frugal lips. The stresses of Eren's week melt away, almost as if he can feel it dripping down his back, leaving his shoulders lighter and unburdened. While the city suffocates him, this place encourages him to breathe.
He sits in the grass, running the waxy blades between his fingers and savours the glossy feeling against his skin. Sketching daisies and daffodils, Eren finds himself in his element. With Spring, Eren has been gifted peace in his otherwise turbulent heart. As the flowers pushed themselves out of the soil, it seems Eren's happiness has been renewed with their hopeful vibrance.
He moves through the park gradually, finding new things to study and recreate with his pencil as he goes. Basking in the sunlight, Eren wonders how he ever survived without its glow caressing his long neglected skin.
Eren covers a full page of his sketchpad with small doodles by the time he reaches the weeping willow trees, their lazy limbs fall gracefully in the sunlight, and they create an inviting shaded area where the gazebo awaits Eren.
Yet, Eren's stomach drops, as if that rollercoaster he was riding the week before finally fell with him strapped into the seat, unable to dodge the uncomfortable jump in his guts.
As Eren looks to the benches, he realises how they sit empty, the only sign of life is a goldfinch that flits about and pecks at the decking. Nobody sits underneath the gazebo’s little roof, giving it an almost melancholic and uninviting feel.
Settling down on the bench, Eren is uncertain why the loneliness sits so uncomfortably in his chest, like a rock sinking deep in the lake of his lungs. The shade feels unpleasant and cold, goosebumps raising on his bare arms. The Sun beckons to him, lighting everything outside with the prettiest shimmer. Eren only sits for twenty minutes or so, before he moves on again. The gazebo doesn't seem as appealing as it had been the week before.
Eren tries to keep his visits to the park as regular as he can, feeling the positive effects his excursions are having on his overall mood and stress levels. But with work and other such engagements, it's another two weeks later, at the beginning of May that he next visits.
The rain falls heavy once again, the droplets hold lingering warmth as they kiss his skin. A reminder of the Sun that had been so fat and bright only an hour ago, like a peach hanging enticingly from the lowest branch of a tree. The rain is torrential, so much so that Eren quickens his pace, eager for some kind of shelter. Hastily stuffing his sketchpad up his shirt, Eren hopes that the layer of fabric will at least protect it for a few minutes.
Shelter is the only thing on his mind, and Eren finds himself drawn to those lush willow trees again. As if he's being pulled by an invisible rope, tugging again and again at his waist, Eren finds himself making his way over with purposeful strides.
The willow trees act almost like a beacon, reassuring as Eren quickens his pace. He arrives at the gazebo, only to find one of the benches occupied by the dark haired stranger once more.
Eren tries to keep the stupid grin off his face, but it pulls at his mouth against his will as he perches himself on the bench opposite.
Hearing him approach, the other man looks up. Recognition registers on his face before he sighs deeply, as if Eren brings him great sorrow, "No umbrella... Again."
Eren rolls his eyes good naturedly, brushes his sopping hair back off his forehead and speaks around his ever growing smile, "You sound just like my sister."
"Your sister seems like a smart person - you'll get sick, running about in the rain," he replies with a voice filled with disapproval, but tucked away in those words is concern. Eren can tell by the way the other man's eyebrows furrow, and the way the corners of his mouth dip slightly. It reminds Eren of the way his Mother always looks to him, her eyes unfalteringly kind and sympathetic.
"I have a good immune system, don't worry," Eren urges, his voice taking on a self assured tone to alleviate this stranger’s worries and correct the anxious line of his mouth.
His cheeks are warm despite the cooling rain still dampening his skin, yet as a breeze blows by, Eren must admit his head is cold. He hadn't thought much of it, but now he's beginning to regret allowing himself to get so soaked - especially with his hair being much longer than usual.
The stranger gives Eren a long look, perhaps catches the cold shiver that creeps up Eren's spine and shakes his form just so. Yet, Eren remains headstrong, a little rain never hurt him - he doesn't need an umbrella. The stranger lifts one doubtful eyebrow, clearly disbelieving Eren's cause.
Turning away, the stranger reaches into his messenger bag. Eren watches as he roots about, and finally he produces the trusty silver flask once again.
Assuming the conversation is over, Eren fishes about in his pocket for his pencil and removes his sketchbook from its safe place under his cotton t-shirt. It remained dry, despite the thin fabric, and Eren breathes a wispy sigh of relief as he opens up the sketchbook and rifles through to find his newest page.
Eren is about to put his pencil to the page before him, when the stranger clears his throat, asking Eren for his attention once more. Looking up from his sketchbook, Eren finds a small silver cup, held before him between two pale hands. Fragrant plumes of floral steam reach upwards from the metallic brim and meet Eren's nose, enticing to say the least.
"Drink," the other man instructs, his rich voice leaving no room for rebuttal. With his words, he nudges the cup further into Eren's space, urging him to take the offered beverage.
Taking the cup in hand, Eren relishes the feeling of warm metal against his palms. He eyes the dark liquid, unsure of its name or classification. It smells almost like citrus, mingling with that unmistakable floral scent as it rises in hazy clouds. The other man's face is neutral, watching Eren expectantly.
"It's one of my favourites - Earl Grey,” he clarifies, nodding gently to the cup. The man clears his throat, somewhat awkwardly. “If you get sick, you'll be spreading germs all over the city."
A gentle laugh escapes Eren's throat after the germs comment, it seems very likely that he was grasping for an excuse to play off his genuine kindness, it's something he's used to identifying after being close to Jean for so long.
Earl Grey… Eren can't say that he's ever heard of it before, but there's always a first time for everything. Breathing in the fragrant steam, Eren takes a tentative sip; the flavour spilling across his tongue and warming his chest from the inside out. It's good, if a little different to his usual tastes. It's just right, really, for this day with rain that seems like it may never stop, alongside the goose pimples decorating his skin.
"It's good!” Eren comments with enthusiasm, though he makes a point to wrinkle his nose up in a display of distaste as he continues, “Though, it's quite bitter.”
"You're welcome,” he mentions, and adding in a shrug he addresses Eren's criticism, “Some add sugar, even milk. Though personally, I’m not a fan of sweet things..."
Eren nods, wonders if he would find the beverage a little more pleasant with a pinch of sweetness to soothe the bitter kick - most likely. Cradling the cup close to himself, Eren takes another tentative taste before replying, "Each to their own, it’s still enjoyable."
Finishing the tea goes slowly, small though the silver cup is. Eren savours all that is held in the little cup he nurtures, sipping every now and again between his sketches. It feels special, the offering given so generously that Eren makes sure it's not wasted on him.
If Eren was at risk of getting ill from the exposure to rain before, there's no chance of it now, surely. The hot liquid keeps him sated, pleasantly warm throughout his body and no longer shivering due to the sudden temperature drop.
After his last mouthful, Eren allows himself a minute of reflection, relishing in the moment. He slumps back in his seat and closes his eyes, breathing in the fresh air he will have to inevitably leave. Eren listens to his companion’s typing; he hears the song of birds emerging after the downpour, calling out to all that will lend their ears; Eren takes in the rhythmic dripping from above, as remaining raindrops fall from the trees, despite the shower having already ended.
Reluctantly, Eren begins to make progress in leaving, folding up his sketchbook with sluggish movements. He checks the time on his phone - and similarly to his first visit to the park, without realising, it's already time to be heading home.
Turning back to the stranger, Eren hands over the empty cup silently. A subtle smile curls at the corners of his lips as he receives the cup, and he nods in a satisfied manner, as if to let Eren know he did well by drinking it all.
“Thanks, again,” Eren says, his voice almost hushed, like maybe this tranquil bubble will burst if he speaks too loudly. “Really, it was nice.”
“More than welcome,” the stranger replies at the same level as Eren's own voice. The quiet suits him, still and steady, like a tree so deeply rooted after years of anchoring itself down.
Making his way to the opening of the shelter, Eren holds a hand out to catch up the stray droplets as they fall from the willow's languid branches. However, the rain isn't falling any longer, he won't get wet on the way home.
The Sun has made a reappearance and Eren squints his eyes against the afternoon light streaming into the gazebo. He turns back to his stranger, the rays lighting him from behind, illuminating the dark strands of hair on the other man's head almost like a golden halo.
“See you around?” Eren says, meaning for it to sound like a statement, but his words take on a lilt at the end, forming a question.
The man nods his head once, a confirmation. And then he speaks, “Take care of yourself.”
Eren grins at the comment, wondering if it's a slight dig in reference to carrying an umbrella, or perhaps a blanket statement. Maybe, it could be both. He appreciates it either way, feels gratitude towards this man he doesn't really know and his awkward but generous nature.
“I'll try my best,” Eren comments, noting how this conversation feels very similar to his usual spiel with Mikasa - it's almost comforting. And with that, Eren leaves, stepping out onto the path and parting ways with the stranger and his strange golden glow.
Even with his visits as regular as he can make them, it takes a few trips before Eren comes across his stranger again. He isn't quite sure what it is that makes him always look for the dark haired man with his lilting mouth and calming energy. Each time, Eren wonders the park, hoping just to see him once more.
As usual for the Spring, the sky is bright with billowing clouds lit with sunshine, balmy rain falling heavily in sheets. Eren wonders if he somehow brings the downpours with him, the rain clouds building and building until he finally sets foot out of the door. He doesn't mind at all, not in the slightest.
Eren makes his way through the park, his strides lazy and contented. Though his socks may be soaked, his hair dripping and forming rivulets that roll down his spine, Eren feels the happiest he has felt all week. This place has truly become his retreat and the rain has simply become a part of that calmness, washing away every fear he carries into the park so that he may leave feeling lighter.
Almost without thinking, Eren finds himself approaching the willow trees as he does each time. And there, under the shelter, sits his stranger - dry as always, not a hair out of place nor any sign of dampness about his being.
Though, as Eren approaches, he wonders, is he much of a stranger anymore? Eren feels a sense of familiarity as he takes in the sight of the man in his usual spot, dressed in his suit jacket and tailored trousers; a handsome grey pinstripe today. His sleek laptop is set on his thighs, his delicate looking fingers flying across the keys.
Without missing a beat, the other man speaks his greeting, "Do you ever check the weather forecast?"
His eyes meeting Eren's over the laptop screen, he sends Eren a sly smile, just bordering on a smirk. Feeling warmth building at his neck and earlobes, Eren enters the gazebo’s shelter, willing himself to stop smiling so ridiculously in return.
"My sister took the only umbrella we own this morning,” Eren replies, shrugging as he takes his now usual seat on the bench opposite. “She left for work before I woke up, besides, there's something about the rain..."
The man nods, a small gesture of understanding, "I work in an office just down the road, but when it rains I work from here. It’s fine as long as I get the job done... I can't stand being cooped up inside when I could be here, outside with the rain instead."
That must be the most information the stranger has offered about himself as of yet, and Eren finds himself wanting to know so much more. As he leans forwards in his seat, Eren feels like a flower looking for sunlight, wordlessly asking for the man to engage again.
“I never see you on sunny days!” Eren concludes, as excited as a child solving a particularly hard riddle. “That's why, huh?”
The stranger nods sagely, his fingers no longer type restlessly, indicating that he's invested in conversing. Though, Eren observes as the man taps the pads of his fingers together in an absent-minded rhythm, his hands looking for a task to occupy them.
“On sunny days, I’d rather be in my air conditioned office, yes,” he confirms, his voice a low hum that mingles with the rain’s consistent song.
Eren sighs wistfully, recalling the stifling heat of the Summer last year. How he wishes he could experience that luxury for himself, but alas, you can't have everything. “Ahh, that must be nice - air con.. My sister and I can’t afford it, though.”
Levi exhales gently, a soft indication of his amusement at Eren's whining, “It’s fucking better than a kick up the arse, that's for certain.”
Eren can’t help but bark out a sudden laugh, surprised by the unexpected turn in language - the vulgar words catching him completely off guard. His breaths come in little mirthful snorts as he tries to calm himself enough to speak again, “I can bet it is!”
With Eren's laughter still lingering between them, the stranger ducks his head back down behind his laptop screen, the rapid typing reaching Eren's ears once more; while unable to see his hidden smile, Eren can still make out the telltale crow's feet wrinkling at his stranger's eyes.
Easy silence falls over them as normal, like the familiar comfort of a blanket in the Winter. Eren takes up his usual hobby, sketchpad unfolded in his lap and his mind wandering. The white noise surrounds him - rain against the wooden roof, the clicking of the stranger's keyboard, the leaves rustling with the light wind. And truthfully, Eren zones out as his hand works across the blank page.
When Eren's companion nudges at his shin with the toe of his black Oxfords, he's brought into focus once again. Eren looks up from his sketchbook page to see a small silver cup held out before him, steaming expectantly. Almond shaped eyes pin him in place, kind and gentle… Yet, somehow, leaving no room for dispute.
Taking the cup in hand, Eren raises an eyebrow in question. He had assumed the first offering had been a once off, just a precaution against the damp and risk of illness. Though, if Eren insists on turning up soaked to the bone every time, his companion will likely insist on the same treatment - that stern face with an empathetic furrow in his brow, as if he's taking care of a stray kitten.
“I feel bad, taking your tea like this,” Eren explains, not sipping from the cup despite its inviting aroma. “I truly appreciate it, but this is yours.”
His companion merely turns back to his bag, rifling about in the depths before he produces an identical cup, pouring himself a share of the deep amber liquid. He takes a hearty sip, swallows and releases a long sigh, alike to the one during that first meeting.
“It's not taking, I'm offering,” he explains, voice diplomatic. Eren can't really argue with that reasoning, it's the sort of thing he would say.
He's taken back to primary school, when both he and Mikasa would give Armin their milk to drink, in the hopes that he might grow up to be stronger and taller. Eren grins to himself, feels his chest warm in the same way it did when he would watch Armin take dainty sips, his cheeks reddened from embarrassment but round like a pair of shining cherries with his grateful smile.
Mikasa would look at Eren with a quiet fire burning in her eyes that she's always possessed, truly convinced that two extra cartons of milk would really stop the relentless bullying and taunting. Back then, Armin hadn't been taking, Eren and Mikasa had offered.
Eren follows the stranger's example, sipping from his own cup. This is a much lighter flavour in comparison to the Earl Grey from before, and sweeter. Much sweeter, like honey. It’s very good, although… “I thought you didn’t like sweet things.”
“You complained about the bitterness before,” he comments, rolling his eyes amicably, “I don’t mind it from time to time - chamomile goes well with honey, it’s pleasant.”
There's just something extremely sensible about this man; sensible black shoes, a sensible straight nose, most likely a very sensible job. Eren just finds himself believing all that he has to say, this very sensible man with his neat hair and tea flask, who only occasionally curses.
Eren can't make out the other man's expression as he takes another sip, but his forehead is rid of the lines he gains when concentrating on his laptop screen. He looks younger like this, untroubled and relaxed.
“You say that as if you knew I'd be here,” Eren observes, tapping his pencil against his sketchpad absentmindedly.
“It’s a Wednesday,” he replies, his tone matter of fact, as if he's telling Eren that the sky is blue. “Each time I’ve seen you it’s been a Wednesday or Sunday.”
It seems his stranger has been paying a lot more attention than Eren had assumed… To take note of such a thing, and then to cater to his tastes upon the slim chance they would meet for a third time.
Eren detests his body as he feels his emotions colour his cheeks and earlobes, he clears his throat awkwardly before speaking, “Those are my usual days off, I like being able to draw here. It helps me unwind.”
Eren’s companion nods his understanding, his tidy hair falling into his eyes with the movement. Eren's gaze gets caught up in the way his hands brush it back into place, the black strands in stark contrast to his pale skin. Maybe it's the artist in him, but Eren can't help but think his stranger is attached to the prettiest pair of hands.
And then they disappear, back behind that screen, tapping away at the keyboard with their soothing click-click-click. Taking it as a signal to absorb himself in his own world once again, Eren hunches over his sketchbook and fades out of focus with the haze of rain surrounding him.
An hour or so passes before Eren is jarred back into reality, his phone sounding out from his pocket. Mikasa’s name sits centre screen, accompanied by a picture of her University graduation, Sasha clutched to her side with the biggest grin - Eren answers eagerly.
“Yo, you're not home?” Mikasa has never been one to beat around the bush. She must be home early, or maybe Eren happens to be late… What is the time?
“Hm, I went for a walk,” he explains, phone held to his ear and eyes darting across the way to his companion. He shows no signs of being disturbed by Eren's voice as he talks over the rainfall, so he continues at the same volume.
Mikasa laughs, her voice light and airy, “Eren, it's chucking it down!”
“It wasn't this bad earlier,” he says, and really when did it get this heavy? Eren hadn't realised the rainfall increasing at all, he assumes it came over gradually...
The rain pounds against the soft gravel paths, bouncing up high and sending ripples across the quickly forming puddles. A constant hum sounds from the wooden roof above him, sheltering him and his companion from the sky’s wrath.
“Are you far from home? I can come get you,” Mikasa suggests, and Eren hears the faint jingle of her car keys in the background of the call.
“No, it's fine, I'm five minutes away,” he assures, and although it's a lie, he doesn't want Mikasa running around after him. If he runs, it may take ten minutes to get home, and with this rain? It looks like it would be most sensible to leg it.
Mikasa sighs deeply, and Eren can tell she doesn't believe him, yet she concedes, “Okay, please don't be much longer? Dinner is in the oven, Sash is over.”
“Don't worry, I'll see you in a second!” Eren assures, pocketing his pencil and flipping his sketchbook shut as he speaks.
“Love you,” she offers, Eren can hear the smile in her voice, and then just before she ends the call, “Idiot.”
Eren snorts a laugh as he locks his phone, adding it to his pocket alongside his pencil. Turning back to his companion, Eren can see he's been paying attention, but subtly so. His eyes flick up to meet Eren's, and he smiles.
“You're off?” His eyebrows raise with his question, though he must know the answer, even from only Eren's side of the conversation.
“Hm, I am,” Eren confirms, handing the little silver cup back to its owner, drained of its relaxing contents. “Thanks for the tea! Hopefully we will meet again - elusive, though you are.”
His stranger laughs softly, little exhalations of air, as he takes back the cup and places it within the depths of his satchel. “Maybe, if it rains on a Wednesday,” he says, almost teasing Eren, a little smirk adorning his lips. “Or a Sunday.”
Even with the smile on his face, Eren feels deflated, the thought of leaving this behind forms an uncomfortable knot in his stomach. He is so calm here - among the nature, with the rain, his companion and silver cups brimming with tea. It all brings his thoughts to a stand still, it's good here.
Though, as he thinks of Sasha and Mikasa at home, waiting for him with dinner, he warms up to the idea of leaving. Sasha’s cooking is the best Eren eats without heading back home, her food always seems to be prepared with the same kind of love and care a mother's is. Eren's stomach growls with the realisation that he hasn't eaten since breakfast and fuck, he is hungry.
Home, while within the choas of the city and away from this park, doesn't really sound that bad. Standing to leave, Eren is caught off guard as his stranger speaks again.
“Which way do you go?” the man asks, gray eyes curious, his eyebrows drawn inwards.
“Oh, um.. Back towards Shiganshina street,” Eren replies, his mind trying to keep up with his companion's train of thought.
“I’ll walk you as far as my office,” he states, gesturing to the navy blue umbrella propped against the bench beside him. “It’s still raining hard.”
“Oh, no, it’s okay!” The awkward refusal rolls off of Eren's tongue, heat rushing to his cheeks, “You don’t have to do that!”
His companion shakes his head, however, undeterred, “I must be getting back too, and I'll be headed in the same direction.”
Again, such a sensible man. Eren runs a hand over his hair, the little bun he had tied this morning is damp where the locks all bunch together, but the strands at his scalp are only recently dry after his first run through the rainfall. He bites his lips, chewing at loose skin as he watches his companion ready himself to leave alongside Eren. He cannot turn the offer down, not really.
The stranger closes his laptop and slips it into his usual bag, along with his other belongings. Slinging the meticulously packed bag over his shoulder, he stands up beside Eren. When he picks up the umbrella, instead of opening it up himself, he holds it out to Eren, shuffling his feet slightly.
It takes Eren a second to absorb why, for he hadn’t noticed before, but his stranger is short - much shorter than himself. Had he been the one to hold the umbrella, the chances of Eren fitting under it at the same time are very slim, if not impossible.
So, with a badly contained grin and no comment, Eren takes the proffered umbrella with his free hand. Opening it up and holding it aloft over both of their bodies, he effectively shelters the both of them from the thundering rainfall.
They walk side by side through the park, and as they leave through the tall iron gates, Eren bids his little sanctuary goodbye until his next visit. The city beyond is busy with cars, their fumes almost suffocating; people fill the pavement and walk in every direction, in contrast to the water that runs in tiny rivers along the curb, only one way to flow.
The two men bump shoulders a few times as they walk beneath the umbrella, but it doesn't bother either of them, the walk is enjoyable and Eren's mouth aches with smiling so wide as he looks to his companion - he’s so short, Eren is able to study the dark hair at the crown of the man’s head from above.
Catching their reflection in tall windows as they pass, Eren can't help but think about how this man seems to be the complete opposite of himself. His own hair is still a little too short to hold a tidy bun and much has escaped. It's messy and fluffy, sticking out at random angles, very alike to a wispy bird’s nest. Whereas, his companion's hair remains sleek and neat, the undercut seemingly shaved very recently.
Eren's clothing is casual and comfy, his loose jeans are covered in paint and ripped, soaked at the rolled cuffs; his companion is eye catching in his suit, dress shirt crisp and his jacket tailored to fit like a glove.
Almost laughing, Eren comes to the conclusion that they must look a like a rather strange pair to outside eyes. Most definitely, they wouldn't have met under usual circumstances, but somehow they did.
Meeting his own eyes as they're reflected back at him, Eren sees how they crinkle with his smile, wide and bright. They're a pair, regardless of how they look. Acquaintances? Surely not quite friends yet… Whatever they are, Eren suddenly feels lucky to be under the same umbrella, sharing silence and tea with this quiet but kind man.
Despite the coldness biting at his wet toes, Eren's chest buzzes with a warmness, the same way he felt while drinking today's tea, the sweet and calming taste on his tongue and a contented feeling nestled in his chest.
Eren is pulled from his thoughts as his companion clears his throat. His eyes meet Eren's as he speaks for the first time since they left the park, “This is my stop.”
Gesturing to the tall glass building before them, the stranger walks off the pathway and out of the way of moving foot traffic. Eren takes in the floor to ceiling windows, glinting in the afternoon sunlight despite the heavy rainfall. He can't help it when his eyebrows shoot up his forehead in shock, though he ought to have expected something this fancy from his companion’s usual business attire.
The stranger's gentle touch at the small of Eren's back barely registers as he ushers Eren under the shelter inside the building. Eren watches people in suits bustle about the foyer he finds himself inside, their mobiles to their ears and each of their expressions set on a stern frown. He cringes inwardly as he drips rainwater onto the marble flooring - he's only just entered but he really wants to get out of there.
Folding down the now sodden umbrella, Eren offers it up to its rightful owner. “Thanks for walking me. Here’s your umbrella, I’m not far from here!”
Again, Eren lies about the length of his journey - he will surely get soaked the rest of the way home, but it doesn't matter so much to him. A little rain never hurt, he’s already sufficiently damp in the shoe department and it can't get much worse than that.
Shaking his head in refusal, the other man quickly pushes the umbrella back towards Eren, “Please, take it. It’s yours.”
“Oh, well,” Eren clears his throat awkwardly, if he's not taking this man's tea, apparently he's taking his belongings.
Eren almost offers it back once more, but thinks of the stranger's earlier insistence that he is merely offering Eren these things. Knowing it won't be returned today, at least, he takes the umbrella in hand with a resolute nod. He'll bring it back next time, hopefully he can return it then.
“I really appreciate it,” Eren says, his gratitude feeling clumsy as it leaves his lips.
Eren smiles, receiving one in return, subtle and reassuring. The other man's nose is red from the rain's accompanying chill, and Eren hopes that the pink of his own cheeks can be accounted to the same reason.
That smile is shattered however, as a shout echos around the high ceiling of the foyer. Eren's companion winces against the noise, his eyebrows drawing inward in a frown that matches every other face Eren can see.
A person barrels towards the both of them, hair pulled back in a messy ponytail, and glasses sliding down their crooked nose with each step. If it weren't for this person's dark grey suit, Eren would have assumed they didn't belong here, just as much as he didn't. “LEVI!”
Facing away from Eren, his companion turns around to look towards the commotion caused by the person running towards them on long, clumsy legs. Not unlike a deer, Eren muses.
The person comes to a sharp halt when they reach Eren's stranger, their hand coming up to rest on his suit clad shoulder, as if he might run away if not held in place. “Levi!”
“Hanji," comes the much tamer reply from Eren's companion, “Inside voice?”
“Levi, my inside voice ran away along with you! I've been searching the office for you all afternoon,” Hanji speaks around an enthusiastic pout, and even though they claim to have lost it, they now speak in a voice Eren would describe as a sufficiently suitable inside voice. “I almost thought you were hiding from me!”
Levi - that's three times within a few minutes that Eren's companion has been referred to as ‘Levi’. It's a nice name, not quite sensible, like ‘Mark’ or maybe ‘Samuel’. But it definitely fits, rounded syllables paired with the harsher sounds on the tongue.
Smile creeping back onto his face, Eren watches his companion’s expression soften again with the reduced volume of the newcomer’s voice.
“Hanji, I text you when I left for the park this morning after clocking in, didn't you check your phone?” he explains, removing the hand from his shoulder. Yet he leaves their hands connected, Hanji's little finger caught between his thumb and forefinger.
The gesture is oddly intimate, and Eren watches on with a furrow forming in his brow, discomfort building with each second alongside the feeling that he's intruding on something.
Hanji grins somewhat sheepishly, wiggling their finger in Levi's hand so that their arms swing together just so, “It's a funny story, really - my phone found its way into my morning coffee!”
Levi snorts, that harsh sound of amusement Eren has received a few times. “I'm sure it's a hilarious tale, you can tell me later. I was just saying my farewells to… Um.” Levi finally turns back to Eren, his nose crinkled in apology and his free hand lifted in a gesture towards the other man, “I'm so sorry, I don't even know your name.”
Hand raising to his own chest, Eren supplies an answer, “It's Eren. And yours is Levi?”
Levi nods in confirmation, he has a mischievous look about him when he speaks, "It seems that I get to say very little with Hanji around, they're loud enough for the both of us."
Hanji finally looks beyond Levi, their eyes finding Eren, as if only just realising he had been standing there the whole time. He can make out smudges on their glasses, the lenses glinting in the bright light flooding through the tall windows as they turn their attention from Eren, back to Levi.
Hanji’s eyes are wide, their eyebrows arched comically as they address Levi once again, their voice a rough stage-whisper, “Levi! He’s so cute! Did you find him in that park? Maybe I should hang around there with you more!”
Levi pinches Hanji's finger firmly between his own, a smirk adorning his features as they squeak at the sudden pressure applied. Though Levi berates them, Eren notes the affectionate tone to his voice, “Will you ever be quiet? I wouldn't get any work done if you followed me around all day.”
“Your life would be so boring without me,” Hanji challenges, a deep sigh escaping them as if it brings them great sorrow to think of Levi being productive yet without them.
Levi and Hanji’s back and forth almost reminds Eren of Mikasa and Sasha; two complete opposites that somehow found common ground and comfort within the other. Eren can't help it as a genuine smile blossoms on his face, the memory of Mikasa coming home all those years ago playing in his head, her heartfelt declaration that she was in love with ‘the most ridiculous girl from the bakery in town’.
Levi rolls his eyes at Hanji and turns back towards Eren, his words bringing him back to the present, “We must seem like quite the circus act, I'm sorry to keep you. Take care on your way home, I'll see you around, Eren.”
“Not at all…” Eren says, shaking his head softly, “I hope it's not presumptuous to say, but you both feel almost familiar.”
Levi tilts his head slightly, as if considering the declaration. His eyebrows pull inwards, as his smile lifts in a curious manner. It looks almost as if he's about to speak again when a buzzing emanates from Eren's pocket and he remembers that he should be getting home.
“Shit -” Eren exclaims, apologetic as he pulls his phone from his pocket and sees Mikasa’s name flash up, “I gotta run, but I'll see you soon! I hope!”
And with that, Eren heads down the street towards home, umbrella and sketchbook held awkwardly in one hand, and his phone held in the other as he answers Mikasa’s call and attempts to sound as if he's not running at full pelt.
The weeks pass by, and May turns to June. Summer comes barrelling onwards, bringing with it sweltering heat and less frequent rain.
The Sun shines during the day without break, shedding its unrelenting light on everything it can reach. It's thick and golden, just like honey it oozes and sweetens the landscapes - the flowers look brighter, the sky a hue of blue Eren had almost forgotten. It's a stunning reminder of the Earth's inherent beauty.
Even the nights, once a cooling recluse, are sticky and heated. The Sun sets every evening in a watercolour of oranges and purples, bleeding into each other until the stars find their place among a sky of deep navy. Yet, despite the absence of light, the heat remains ever insistent.
Eren and Mikasa’s apartment isn't immune to the weather change in the slightest. Even though they're shaded from the Sun inside, the heat penetrates the walls. Eren sleeps with the windows wide open and his duvet remains folded at the foot of his bed, disused and gathering dust.
Every morning, Eren finds himself looking to his window, hoping with all his heart that it will rain. Just a few drops here, anything to guarantee that Levi will be waiting for him, underneath the comforting cascade of willow leaves.
The siblings find themselves eating meals on their small balcony day to day, so that they might escape the stale heat inside and feel the slight hints of an elusive breeze slipping by. So, that morning, they sit together and take in the sounds of the city bustling below them.
It's an enjoyable arrangement, they smile at one another across the table as they finish up their breakfast. Mikasa peels an orange absentmindedly, and Eren watches as her eyes slip closed, a cooling wind brushing the stray hairs that have fallen from her top knot away from her face. She looks peaceful, and her own comfort is soothing to Eren.
Her skin looks so pretty, lit with a soft glow. Mikasa’s cheeks are so much fuller these days, most likely due to Sasha’s tendency to affection feed anyone within a meter radius. Eren's eyes are drawn to a few acne scars on her chin and he's reminded of the moon, rounded and radiant despite the marks on its surface.
A beauty mark sits to the left of her left eye - and Eren has always loved that when she smiles, it disappears into the creases that form with the expression.
“Do you have plans?” Mikasa asks, cracking open an eye to peer at him. “I'm meeting with Sasha, you're welcome to come with.”
Eren smiles at her suggestion, yet shakes his head, “I'm going to head to the park. Draw, you know.”
Mikasa nods, eats a segment of orange and looks to him with eyes squinting with curiosity.
“You really like it there, huh?” Her smile is knowing, almost a smirk, as if she feels assured in her knowledge of Eren and her original suggestion that he visit. “And the rain..”
Eren catches himself drifting away, eyes wandering towards the heavy grey in the distant sky, it promises rain this afternoon and his veins coarse with bright optimism. With rainfall comes Levi, and with Levi comes a comfort that's steadily becoming familiar.
Over the weeks they have crossed paths a few more times and Eren is always yearning for an opportunity to see Levi once more, their steady quiet and shared tea becomes a sort of secret held between them both - not even Mikasa knows of their meetings, even though she has apparently noticed Eren's new found anticipation of the rain.
It feels too fragile to trust someone else with, as if the gazebo and the flowing branches of the willow tree is a scene inside a snow globe, encased only in glass that's so easily shattered. Eren holds it close to his chest, tentative, just as he holds onto his metal tea cup when he meets with Levi.
“There's just something about the rain these days - it feels good,” Eren explains, eyes still fixed on the grey shadows building in the Summer sky above. He racks his brain for the correct word, "It's cleansing?"
While he doesn't mention Levi, Eren is aware the man's presence is a huge contribution to the easing of his worries and stress, it goes unsaid but Eren knows.
Mikasa hums thoughtfully, tries out the word on her tongue, “Cleansing…”
There's a few minutes of silence between them, as Mikasa swallows another segment of her orange, the tart scent filling up the stagnant air and making Eren's mouth water.
“I guess so,” she finally agrees, following Eren's gaze towards the heavy clouds, their fat and opaque forms teasing the downpour to come, “It washes everything away.”
That afternoon, the rain does come, it pours until Eren is certain there can't be much more to empty from the falling skies. It's almost as if the Summer was never there, sweating on the balcony beside Mikasa this morning simply a figment of his imagination.
The rain hammers upon the borrowed umbrella he holds aloft his head, sheltering him from the downpour. Yet Eren holds his hand out from under the umbrella, just to feel the droplets pool in his palm. A reminder of the Summer heat rests in the temperature of the rain, it lacks any chill, instead bathing his skin in a sweet warmth.
He could walk this route with his eyes closed, surely. Eren barely thinks as his feet take him to the peaceful shade of the willow, as it flits about with the breeze, whispering it's secrets to all those who listen close enough.
When his eyes finally land on Levi, Eren's heart soars in his chest and his feet pick up their pace along the gravel pathway. The crunching of his feet mingles with the rain's beating above him, and for once, the other man looks up from his laptop and notices as Eren approaches.
It seems almost as if Levi had been waiting, listening out for Eren's arrival rather than being absorbed in his work as usual. As he makes eye contact with Eren, a smile works its way onto Levi's face, and the warmth that had made its home in Eren's chest all those weeks ago spreads throughout his veins once more.
Eren's voice sounds breathless as he speaks, a smile stretching around his words, “You're here.”
Levi's eyes follow Eren as he takes his seat on the beach opposite, inclines his head in confirmation, “I am.. Though, I wonder if it really comes as a surprise, taking into account the usual pattern of things.”
Eren snorts a short laugh at the comment and waves his hand in a so-so gesture. “You can never be sure of these things.. Though I had an inkling.”
Levi clears his throat and his eyes flick away from Eren's face, focusing instead on his laptop screen. However, he doesn't fall silent as usual, he continues speaking, “I missed this… The rain comes less frequently now.”
At those words Eren's heart races, and a strange kind of relief washes over him, just as the rain runs down the planes of his umbrella. Levi missed this, maybe as much as he did, and Eren wonders if his presence specifically was yearned for in return.
A dusting of pink colours Levi's cheeks, and Eren feels heat rushing to his own ears as he voices his thoughts, “Maybe - if it's okay, I could get your number? And we could arrange to meet when the Sun is out too?”
The silence stretches out, the sounds of rain hitting the wood above them and the distant call of hidden song birds fill the space between them. Eren's heartbeat hammers in his ears, and he almost laughs over how suddenly talking to Levi fills him with fearful doubt, rather than the usual comfort.
Then his companion’s eyes rise to meet his once more, crinkled at the corners with the hints of a smile. His voice is soft when he replies, as if he doesn't want to speak too loud and shatter the moment, “I'd like that.”
Eren's cheeks almost hurt with his smiling as he reaches into his pocket expectantly for his phone, as Levi does the same across the way.
The Summer is a rush to Eren, always waiting and thinking about when he will next meet with Levi. While he still looks for signs of rain, he finds himself checking his phone for texts frequently. Despite the increasingly hot weather, Eren feels himself grow excited each week to share tea with Levi.
Levi texts first some days, Eren initiates conversations on others. The very first text had made Eren laugh, as expected, Levi's texting is very sensible - all the appropriate capitals and punctuation in place, direct and to the point as if he's always texting a business partner or emailing a client.
It's in stark contrast to Eren's own carefree and quick texts, riddled with typos and emojis with little to no relevance. But it gets the job done, they plan their meetings under the willow trees and soon the two meet almost weekly, making time in their schedules for one another.
Even if rain never comes, Eren will arrive at the draping trees and find Levi, sat at their usual spot. A sense of routine settles over the two men, this gazebo their retreat from everything else.
Eren arrives and they greet one another, some days they talk, some days they don't. Levi works, or reads on his days off. The books he holds in his hands are usually poetry, and Eren enjoys watching Levi's face merge with the words as he reads. Expression flitting from this to that, absorbed in the emotion of it all. The sound of typing makes way to the papery rustle of pages turning.
As always, Eren sketches - foliage and flowers that he presses between the pages of his pad; the ponds and their creatures; small birds that stay long enough, soothed by the silence between the two men.
Eventually, Levi shows up in his pages, his strong features so enticing. A hard jawline, angular eyes. He's good to draw; still, his gaze always fixed on his laptop screen or book, moving only to sip at his tea.
Levi still wears his suits, sans the constricting jackets due to the heat. Today, he's dressed in a simple white button down, rolled up to the elbows. Eren studies the folds and creases in the cloth as he draws; takes note of the prominent veins in Levi's forearms, like intricate blue rivers stretching across a map.
A smirk reaches Eren's lips as he draws Levi's hands, they're small, in comparison to his own. Pink blushed palms and almost delicate fingers that move across his keyboard and gently cradle his silver tea cup. Little but surely strong, judging by Levi's general form and appearance.
The other man's shirt is unbuttoned at his throat, his Adam's apple bobbing as Levi swallows his share of tea. It's enticing, Eren can't help but watch the movement with a keen gaze.
Their tea has become a game of sorts, Levi pours them both a share each meeting, and Eren drinks. Sipping at first, to really savour the taste in order to describe the flavour to Levi, always rating it out of ten.
The other man nods each time, storing the information away for the infusion he brews next week. Levi remembers Eren's preferences without issue, catering to his tastes the next week, or even admitting that he's trying out something new to see if Eren likes it.
Levi has a preference for black teas, Eren has learned. Sometimes they're smokey in taste, and almost always bitter. But Eren smiles on a day where Levi produces a variety of green tea, vibrant in colour and sweet with honey on his tongue. His favourite kind so far.
Today, they share a flask of jasmine tea, and as he sips it, Eren feels somewhat that they've come full circle. It's scent is a reminder of their first encounter, Levi's pleased sigh and insistence that it tasted good playing out in Eren's head. He grins to himself, thinks of that fateful April shower and wishes that it could be raining today too. But alas, its dry and hot, like most days have been as of late.
Yet, even if the Summer sun scorches his skin, it's nothing in comparison to the heat of Eren's reddening cheeks as Levi looks up and makes eye contact with him. Catching him in the act of staring, Levi's brow knits together as his head tilts slightly to the right.
Levi has never seemed to notice before, so absorbed in his work that he doesn't usually spare Eren a glance until he's spoken to, but today he clears his throat and asks, “Are you drawing me?”
Eren instinctively starts to pull his sketchbook closer to his chest, grinning with his embarrassment, “Am I that obvious?”
Levi’s lips twitch into that infuriating almost smile. It's the one expression Eren wishes so badly to capture, but it's so few and far between. There one second and gone the next.
The other man nods, voice brimming with mirth, “Horribly obvious.”
Eren laughs shortly, he really has never been good at subtlety. He's always valued straight out honesty and not dancing around what you truly need to say. He appreciates that while Levi is a man of few words when he can get away with it, Eren trusts him to say what he means.
Eren expects it when Levi gestures to the pad in his arms, he teases with a smirk growing on his lips, “Are you any good?”
Nodding, Eren retorts, speaking around an expression equally as challenging, “I've been told I'm decent.”
“Only decent?” Levi provokes playfully, laughing under his breath, “Can I see?”
His first reaction is to decline, keep his drawings to himself. Eren's drawing is his own personal way of releasing tension, with each scratch of his pencil he feels his stress melting away, always has. It's not something he shares with many, in some ways, his art feels like a diary of sorts..
He recalls suddenly being a young teenager, caught doodling love hearts and Jean's face upon any paper available. Writing the other boy's name in his notebooks, filling the pages with fantasies of a life together after high school. Armin and Mikasa had teased him for so long, relentless but all in good spirit - admittedly they still do. They hadn't cared that Eren was now admittedly into guys, only that he had a certain penchant for Jean.
But this is different, Levi is a friend, not a highschool crush. The other man just happens to be ridiculously enticing, his face is almost classical, a memory of renaissance sculptures with faces long past. Eren cannot help trying to map out those features he's come to admire so much, as he does with all those he cares for.
In Levi, Eren can pick out familiar features as he draws - for instance, Mikasa’s eye shape, and high cheekbones like Jean’s. But no two people are the exact same, and Levi is no exception to that rule.
When a face strikes Eren as particularly unique, he itches to draw it. Every now and again, Eren thinks of Hanji's hooked nose and thick eyebrows and wonders if one day they might sit for him. However, from what Eren has seen of them, Hanji doesn't seem like the type to sit still for too long.
Eren inhales deeply, collects himself. There's really no reason to feel embarrassed, nor is there reason to suddenly become shy and closed off in Levi's company.
Levi still waits, eyes trained on Eren, his face somewhat impassive. His eyebrows are neutral, the usual frown Levi sports while he's working is gone, leaving his face soft looking and entirely reassuring.
So, in answer, Eren stands from his usual seat and crosses the small space to sit beside Levi upon the opposite bench. He isn't close enough to touch, yet he inches close enough that he can hold his sketchbook open on his most recent spread.
The other man shuffles a little, and their knees knock together as Levi leans his head in to get a better view of the pages. Gesturing to the sketchbook, Levi sends a questioning look towards Eren, who nods before handing over the pad into Levi's grasp.
Leaning in so close, Eren can smell the clean scent of Levi's shampoo; maybe a hint of soothing lavender too, as it mingles with the perfume emanating from Levi's teacup.
The pages open to Levi are littered with sketches, and cello taped between the drawings are various dried flowers that Eren has pressed between the pages from his plant studies. Mostly, the paper is filled with Levi; snippets of his hands and forearms; images of his full face and even a study of his shirt collar and Adam's apple.
Eren doesn't look at the sketches, however, his eyes remain fixed on Levi. He finds himself chewing at his lips as he waits for a reaction, noticing a smattering of Summer freckles decorating the high points of Levi's otherwise pale face.
While Eren's work is for himself and it shouldn't really matter, he truly hopes that Levi's opinion will be appreciative. Everyone wants their efforts recognised, especially from those they hold high opinions of - it’s good to know your thoughts align with theirs, reassurance that you're on a two way street.
Eyebrows disappearing under his fringe, Levi's surprise becomes apparent on his face. A smile curves his lips enticingly, teasing Eren with a glimpse of teeth. Relief floods Eren's chest with the expression, releasing the tension that had been building uncomfortably in his shoulders.
"You're quite a bit better than ‘decent’,” Levi confirms, nodding his head slightly alongside the decisive statement. The man's words paired with that tentative half-smile, Eren is put at complete ease.
Eren grins at his companion in response, feeling his satisfaction burst in his chest with the complimentary reaction. “I try my best,” he comments, “It's a hobby more than anything, though. Keeps me sane, when everything else gets too much.”
Levi's head continues to nod, letting Eren know he's paying attention while his sharp eyes remain focused on Eren's sketches. Though Levi doesn't say much, Eren appreciates that he always listens.
He's attentive and perceptive - Eren is sure Levi doesn't miss a thing, impressively so; always nodding in the right places as Eren talks, humming softly to let Eren know he's following each word. Levi's silent warmth is something Eren has grown to truly treasure.
The time passes and still Levi watches the sketchbook pages, tilting his head this way and that as he views Eren's impressions of him.
"It's interesting - to see how you view me through your eyes. No one has ever drawn me before," Levi says, an airy and thoughtful tone colouring his words.
Eren's nods, his little ponytail tickling the back of his sweaty neck, contemplating how these pictures might look if they had been drawn by a different hand. After all, Levi is right, translated onto the paper is how Eren sees the other man - his individual sight and style of drawing. He supposes it is interesting..
“Everyone deserves to be drawn!” Eren insists, recalling the rush of excitement he had gotten all those years ago upon seeing how Marco had drawn him for a high school art class assignment. It's a unique experience, different to simply looking in a mirror. “I tend to gravitate to faces of people I care for, or people with distinctive features, like Hanji!”
“Oh?” Levi's voice is playful, yet bordering on genuinely curious as he asks, “Which am I?”
Eren snorts, caught between discomfort at the tricky question and genuine amusement. Levi is much too quick for him, always listening closely and sharp as a pin.
Eren stumbles over his own thoughts in his attempts to formulate a reply. This is what happens when Eren speaks without thinking, yet no matter how much he tries, he never manages to stop his mouth spewing forth all of his thoughts. He says what he thinks, and yes, it is a problem. Opting to take the truthful, and well trodden path, Eren steels himself and replies, “I mean… Both. At this point.”
Levi laughs a breathy chuckle, soft and refreshing, like the tender wind that periodically cools the back of Eren's neck. He feels the other man's breathy chuckle ghost against his skin due to their close quarters, but Eren doesn't feel intrusive or awkward; he feels utterly safe and content.
“I mean it!” Eren says, earnest. Leaning into Levi's space further, silently asking for eye contact once again. “What's so funny?”
Levi's laughing just takes on a more solid and rich tone at Eren's rebuttal, morphing into genuine sounding joyfulness. His eyes are scrunched closed, a modest hand lifting to hide his mouth as it opens up in sunny mirth. Soon, Eren finds himself laughing too, his soaring heart catching onto Levi's amusement.
It's a little moment of perfect, those few minutes of joint laughter as the Sun shines its light onto their surroundings, bright like the golden happiness thrumming through Eren's viens. Time seems to slow, sticky and delicious as jewelled honey.
Finally, Levi composes himself, controlling his sweet laughter. Yet, Eren spys the small wrinkles forming around his eyes in repressed amusement as he looks to Eren again, “You're just cute - so incredibly blunt and honest in everything. Your presence… Its like you bring sunlight even when it rains. Especially when it rains.”
Eren splutters, apparently Levi has the same problem as him - just saying what he means, always direct. Despite having confessed something personal to the other man first, Eren feels his heart beat rising in his throat.
Levi's smile is serene, and he shows no signs of embarrassment or anxiety. He has a presence so sure and steadying, Eren basks in the contentment. Levi doesn't say much but when he does, he says it with confidence as if he's thought about it from every angle and analysed every outcome. He's calculated, as if he's hardwired for certainty.
Eren still searches desperately for something to say in return, but really, he doesn't need to. He decides to take a leaf out of Levi's book, and allows the comment to sit in the air between himself and the other man, no words are needed when this glow of warmth is settling over them.
Closing the sketchbook with tentative movement, as if the pages are delicate and precious, Levi offers it back to Eren. Hands now free, Levi adjusts the cuffs of his shirt, and Eren notes it as another one of his little routine motions - akin to his regular finger tapping rituals that Eren seems to notice even when Levi himself doesn't.
Standing, Levi begins to collect up his belongings, stowing them away in his black messenger bag as always. Eren looks up into Levi's kindly face as the other man addresses him, “I should be off, would you join me?”
Tapping at his phone, Eren checks the time and confirms that yes, he ought to be on his way too. So, nodding his agreement, Eren speaks around a grin as he stands to follow Levi onto the pathway, “Lead the way.”
Summer passes, eventually. Even though the heat seemed determined to stick around at first, soon the leaves fall, as the Autumn welcomes itself in alongside the crisp cold and glittering frost everywhere Eren looks.
A chill becomes apparent, the air taking on an invigorating and energising taste that tickles the back of Eren's throat deliciously; it prickles along his skin, raising goose pimples all over.
Eren looks to Levi, sat on the bench across from him. The willow leaves behind him haven't yet fallen, instead they drape in colourful tresses, from red to orange to yellow. They surround Levi's image, reminding Eren of a fly in amber, a rare treasure for his eyes only.
Feeling his gaze, Levi catches Eren's eyes over the screen of his laptop. Raising one eyebrow, he offers an easygoing smile, “Tea?”
“Nothing sounds better right now,” Eren replies, a soft laugh punctuating his words. A small fog forms as his breath leaves his lips due to the biting cold; his fingers are numbed, wanting nothing more than to cradle the warmth of his camping mug.
Wordlessly, Levi closes his laptop lid as customary these days - Eren is allowed his full and undivided attention lately. More recently on his days off, while he still reads occasionally, Levi mostly occupies his fingers with crochet hooks and knitting needles.
The man is so practiced in his movements, he focuses only on Eren and what he has to say. Levi opens up more than ever too, explains how he and Hanji met as he knits them a woolen hat; he tells Eren of his friends Mike and Erwin as he sews together little blanket squares, steadily forming a quilt in celebration of their marriage.
When Eren asked why Levi had never knitted in his company before, he had simply shrugged, told Eren that the colder months were prime knitting season. But Eren wonders if it's just that Levi feels more comfortable around him these days, he feels able to partake in his more personal hobbies. It makes Eren happy beyond words, Levi doesn't come across as the most trusting or immediately open person. However, Eren feels as if this year, they have been working so hard on trust, it now feels like a second language.
It feels special, to see this side of Levi. No longer a stony figure who hides behind a screen, but a tender hearted man who knits and speaks to Eren about his friends, shares his life. Their relationship no longer feels tentative as it had been at the start, it's sturdy and familiar. They have cultivated a Spring sapling between them, watered it with their rainy afternoons and sunned it with their shared laughter. It now stands a tree so tall, roots established deep in the earth and unmovable.
Over the last few weeks, Levi's fingers had worked tirelessly over a handsome scarf of forest green, and Eren had admired it each afternoon they spent in one another's company. The whole time, completely oblivious that the scarf in question was a gift for himself.
When Levi finally handed it over to him, Eren had been so unsure of an appropriate response, he had stumbled many times in his attempts to show his gratitude. Though, Levi merely shrugged it off, insisted that knitting was his own version of Eren's sketching. It kept him calm, gave his restless hands a creative outlet.
Eren wears his new scarf today, wrapped in the snug fabric a few times over, still with wiggle room remaining. Its soft, unbelievably warm, and best of all, Levi's scent still lingers in the insulating fibres. Each time he catches the heady smell of lavender, his heart flutters in his chest and he feels as if the autumnal cold cannot touch him at all.
Hand reaching across the space between them, Levi passes Eren his silver cup of tea, and from the fragrant steam he can identify today's brew as gunpowder. He takes a sip, the dark taste spreading across his tongue, as refreshing and comforting as ever.
A harsh wind cuts by, and Eren's hair flies every which way, earning him a chuckle from Levi's direction as his disgruntled mumbles carry across the way. Frowning playfully in his companion’s direction, Eren gets to tucking the strands neatly behind his ears once more.
Gray eyes softening, Levi's cold chapped lips curve into a smile. It's almost wistful, the way Levi looks to Eren as he speaks, “Your hair. It's gotten so long since we first met.”
Fingers still working on keeping his hair contained, Eren stops in his work to consider Levi's observation. He's correct, of course he is. At the beginning of the year Eren's hair had been so short, by April it was growing past his ear lobes, but now it reaches his chest, long and thick - albeit frayed and damaged at the ends.
With the Autumn's arrival, Eren has started wearing his hair loose often, allowing the curtain of chestnut to keep him warm as the weather grows steadily colder. But coping with the volume of hair alongside the wind has been proving difficult - especially considering it's the longest Eren's hair has ever been. He ought to buy some hair pins, that would surely help to tame it while still having it down.
“Hm!” Eren hums his agreement, peering at Levi through a lock of hair he has held aloft, “It's grown out so quickly.”
“It would be nice, if you kept it that way,” Levi responds, voice light and airy. His hands clasp at his cup tighter, the reddened fingertips turning a stark white with the anxious pressure he applies to them.
Eren grins, Levi has an odd way of giving compliments, but he appreciates them all the same. His comments always take an uncertain tone that almost says, “I'm not used to this. But I'm trying.” And for that reason, Eren feels they mean more to him. He cherishes them and it's a comfort, that Eren can understand even Levi's words that go unsaid.
“Yeah, I think so too,” he agrees, his cheeks round with a smile, blushing with his sated contentment.
They fall into steady conversion, sipping at their respective tea cups at regular intervals. Eren relishes in the easiness of it all, the back and forth feels so natural now, their words spilling forth and making the space between them feel so little and insignificant.
Soon, both cups are drained, and Eren declares that he ought to be heading home to cook dinner. But as he gathers his sketchbook and pencil, he hears the tell tale pit-pat-pat upon the wooden gazebo. Rain… It's light but Eren just can't help but grin, turning to Levi he realises the other man must hear it too, because his grin is just as wide.
Levi's whole face seems to brighten - his cold reddened cheeks swell with a smile, his eyes so pleasant looking and inviting with their happiness. Eren watches as he turns his head towards the pond just across the way, and as expected, the surface ripples with disturbance. Raindrops bounce as they hit the surface, turning the clear waters suddenly turbulent.
“Rain,” Levi states, his mouth is curved so perfectly Eren feels his throat tighten with a sweet kind of affection. “It's been a while since we met in the rain, huh?”
He’s right, it's almost been too long since their chatter has been set to a calming stream of drip-drip-drop as the sky empties itself. It's exciting, and his heartbeat quickens as the shower turns heavy, falling with a rapid pace.
The rain hammers down upon the roof, and Eren watches as puddles start to form in the shallow dips of the gravel path; it's the heaviest rain he's seen in weeks and his chest swells as he breathes in scent of wet earth, clean and refreshing.
It seems to have come from all but nowhere, unexpected and sudden. While it's true that Eren rarely ever checks the forecast, usually he can tell if rainfall is brewing - the quantity of clouds or the sky's hue being two distinct pointers he hadn't noticed at all today.
“Was this forecast?” Eren asks, his head titling with curiosity as he looks to Levi. Being the kind of man Levi is, he checks the forecast daily, and surely if this was expected he wouldn't come across so surprised.
Levi laughs shortly, and when he speaks his voice sounds light and musical, “No! God, I don't even have an umbrella with me!”
The temperature outside, if possible, drops with the downpour. Eren thinks he would be shivering if he wasn't so filled with adrenaline, practically bursting at the seams with his brilliant excitement.
Laughter rips from Eren's chest, loud and clear as he shakes his head at Levi, “We're going to have to run…”
Levi's grin is fixed to his lips, even when he rebukes the statement, “No way!”
Jumping from foot to foot in anticipation, Eren nods, his hair slipping forth from behind his ears with his restless movements, “Let's run! Come on!”
“No way! There's no way!” Levi challenges, but his open expression and tone of voice gives his true intentions away.
He's resistant, but he wants to, so badly. All he needs is Eren's encouragement, just a push ever so gentle. Though, Eren has never been good at gentle, not with his clumsy hands and large frame. He's found that Levi brings out his calmer nature, the side of himself that enjoys the quiet company and his steadying grey gaze.
However, some things just can't be suppressed. The side of Eren that sees rainfall so heavy it causes his chest to soar is always there, waiting for the moment to release all his tension with reckless abandonment. His heart flutters like the wings of birds about to take flight, feathers light yet strong.
Hands searching for somewhere to find purchase, Eren scans Levi's being. When he had first witnessed Levi interact with Hanji, it was Eren's impression that the other man was comfortable with being touched, even practiced in initiating contact. Since then, however, Eren has come to realise that Hanji is the exception when it comes to Levi - in many ways Hanji stands out as someone who could get away with anything, but especially so when it comes to physical touch.
Finally deciding on a coat sleeve, Eren grasps at the coarse fabric with determination, allowing himself to give Levi a taste of his more risky behaviours. Reacting quickly, Levi's eyes dart to the place where Eren holds him. A few moments pass before those perceptive eyes look upwards to meet Eren's own once more.
And then he smiles, his subtle and secret smile, perfect like the afternoon Sun will be after this downpour. Levi's gaze is reassuring, his eyes softened in appreciation, silently thanking Eren for respecting his boundaries.
And then they're off. For a few moments, Eren feels resistance but then Levi concedes, and it takes only a few steps before the two men burst from the gazebo and out into the rain.
“God, Eren!” Levi seems to shout with his whole being, a rough cackle sounding out alongside his words, “It's fucking freezing!”
The rain hits Eren's exposed skin, the shock running down his spine in a cold shiver. It's worlds different to the Summer rain he experienced only a month before, this wet seeps through his coat in only a few minutes, determined to chill even his blood supply.
And yet, it's all the more exciting due to the low temperature. Manic laughter is stolen from Eren's lungs once more as he becomes quickly sodden, the huge droplets showering down upon the men unfaltering in their heaviness.
Levi runs alongside him, and although his legs are much shorter, he keeps up with Eren's quickening pace as they sprint along the gravel path and out the tall iron gates of the park.
The pavement beyond is deserted, not a single soul walking out in this weather. Water that rests upon the concrete path splashes up their legs with the force of their steps, and Eren begins to feel his thighs ache with the exertion of running full pelt.
Looking back to see Levi, Eren is taken aback by the expression on the other man's face. His eyes are bright and his crows feet branch out with the widest grin that Eren has ever seen upon Levi's face. He looks so alive, feeding off of Eren's chaos driven excitement, no doubt.
As they sprint, Levi shakes away Eren's grip on his coat sleeve, and instead he slips his hand into Eren's much larger one. The other man's skin is ever so cold to the touch, and rough with callouses, but Eren can't bring forth a time he's ever been so happy to hold someone's hand.
It builds up his mood even further, and Eren isn't quite sure how he could possibly hold all this emotion inside himself, he's overflowing with electric adoration for the here and now. Setting it free with another laugh that bubbles right up from the depths of his twisting stomach, Eren relishes in the relief it provides him with.
Levi's own laughter quickly follows and Eren is reminded of that Summer afternoon when they shared sweet laughter while bathed in golden light. This is the polar opposite, all harsh cackles and biting cold but similarly, it's fun and it's fucking perfect.
The rain still falls in harsh pelting motions, with no sign of letting up. The two take a quick turn directed by Eren, Levi quickly voicing his concern at the unfamiliar route, “Where are we going?”
“Short cut!” Eren clarifies, watching Levi over his shoulder as he continues onwards down the narrow pathway. A face filled with concern looks back at him, eyebrows drawn inwards and furrowed in the middle. The other man remains confused, and Eren squeezes Levi's hand in a way he hopes is reassuring, “To my apartment!”
Realisation dawns on Levi's face and he nods, his easy smile replacing the brief expression of confusion, it lightens his entire being and Eren grins as Levi's grip on his hand tightens in positive response.
Eren turns once again, taking on another little city alley, the dark cobbles under their feet becoming uneven and difficult to tread carefully while slick with rain. He slows his pace slightly and Levi follows suit, continuing onwards with a slow jog until they reach the regular paving stones.
It's not too much further before they reach Eren and Mikasa's apartment building, a tall tower of red brick reaching up towards the falling sky. Eren lets go of Levi's hand to push at the old door with its sticky lock, the paint from the heavy wood flaking off and sticking to his damp palm. As soon as Eren manages to unlock the door, he ushers Levi inside first, a cautious hand placed at the small of his back.
Seeing Eren reach down to remove his shoes, Levi bends down and follows suit, no questions asked. Even if they're going to drip all over the floor, it's best to not track in mud alongside it all. Traveling up the flights of stairs is an awful task, Eren's jeans stiff with wet and tight against his skin.
Finally, reaching his and Mikasa's shared apartment, Eren opens the door and once again he allows Levi to enter first. He holds the door ajar and the other man slips past into the open space beyond.
“It's not very warm inside, sorry,” Eren apologises straight off the bat, following Levi into his home, “Heating is expensive… But at least it's dry.”
Levi turns his head, eyes searching about the joint kitchen and living room area, alike to an owl with his watchful gaze. The space before the two men is all dark wooden flooring, a large woven rug at the centre of the room, stolen from the Jaeger family home; Eren and Mikasa's various trinkets and photographs decorate any available surface, giving the place a feeling so sweet and homely. Truthfully, it's a mess, but it's comfortable. This is the Jaeger siblings' space, their home.
“It's okay,” Levi comments, voice almost wistful as he finally looks back to Eren, “Dry is more than wonderful.”
Now finally coming down from his adrenaline high, Eren finally takes a good look at his companion. Levi is dripping where he stands, his skin is reddened with the cold, his hair slick and inky dark. While his face is lit with a smile, Eren hears him sniffle uncomfortably with the chill.
“Please, shower while you're here? Or at least borrow some clothes?” Eren suggests, beckoning for the other man to follow as he makes the trek to the bathroom.
“I'll shower, if it's not too much trouble - only to warm up,” Levi responds, his words coloured with gratefulness. Eren watches his fingers as they twist into the fabric of his sodden coat, surely to mask their shivering.
As Levi showers, Eren retreats to his bedroom where he takes the time to dry his sodden hair, combing the locks through with his fingers as he goes. Stubborn knots tug against his digits, but the discomfort is nothing in comparison to the blissful feeling of warm air blowing at his scalp. Eren is convinced that he's never been so happy to feel heat in his life...
Pottering about his room, Eren changes into dry sweatpants and selects a woolen jumper from his collection of many. A grin finds its way to his lips as he chooses one at random to bring to Levi; they're the kind of sweaters that you would expect to see your grandfather wearing. While Levi seems like the type to pull off any outfit, he will look hilarious in one of Eren's charity shop wonders.
He gathers some other things for Levi to borrow, including a particularly fluffy pair of socks, and deposits them outside the bathroom door - neatly, in a little stack, just as Eren told Levi he would before the other man stepped into the bathroom. Pausing in his task outside the door, Eren listens closely before hearing the water shutting off; Levi will be emerging at any moment.
So, hurrying along the hallway, Eren returns to the kitchen - boiling the kettle being his number one priority. As he waits for the water to heat, Eren's gaze wonders to the glass balcony doors and the scenery beyond.
The rain still hammers against the glass, heavy and unrelenting. Droplets bounce high as they strike the little table and chairs where they stand outside, dingy looking but just perfect for the siblings and their meals in the sunshine. Mikasa's lush plants that are placed about the balcony seem to become more vivid in the dullness of the city beyond, their emerald leaves cradling rippling pools that rise and overflow.
The kettle completes its task in no time, and Eren goes about filling two mugs with English Breakfast tea, taken from the supply kept in the house for guests. Even after all this time, Eren hasn't invested in his own speciality teas, since the ones brewed by Levi always taste better than his poor attempts. He leaves Levi's tea black, but adds sugar and milk to his own.
He hadn't really thought about it before, but as he makes practiced motions about the kitchen area, it dawns on Eren that Levi is in his home. His living space, his shower. And yet, for some reason, it feels natural. Levi belongs in this space that Eren and Mikasa share with their friends, their found family.
Special and sacred as it is, memories of Levi need not be secluded to the park, hidden away beneath the willow tree’s draping boughs. Eren wishes Levi were everywhere; he wants Levi sat upon the threadbare couch with his toes curling into the stolen rug; he imagines Levi sat across from him at the balcony table, feasting on whatever treats Sasha has baked that week.
Levi brings the same warmth to Eren's heart that he finds alongside Sasha and Marco; he gifts Eren that same excitement as Jean and Connie's never ending mischief. All these reasons why Eren keeps his friends close, they become apparent in Levi's presence.
The soft padding of sock clad feet brings Eren's attention to the hallway, and he takes a long look at Levi. The sweatpants he wears are rolled upwards at the hems to accommodate his short stature, his fluffy socks reach up and over his ankles. Eren's ugly jumper hangs loose on his smaller frame, and Levi looks positively adorable.
“Comfy?” Eren asks, a laugh bubbling up in his chest and bursting free.
“Truly,” Levi confirms, a harsh snort of amusement punctuating the sentence as his calm composure crumbles. “I look like an idiot, don't I?”
It's not that he looks like an idiot, Levi just looks different… Cosy and not at all like his usual very sensible attire. Even when the two men meet on Levi's days off, though he doesn't wear a suit, he wears neat and tidy clothing. Nothing alike to the outfit he currently sports, alongside his rosy cheeks and towel ruffled hair.
“Admittedly, yes,” is Eren's weak reply, his heart pounding an erratic beat along with the heavy rain outside. “It's good though - normal..”
“Normal will have to do,” Levi decides, nodding his head with conviction, a smirk playing upon his lips. “Is that tea for me?”
Grinning in response, Eren hands Levi his mug of tea, the liquid appearing inviting with its steady plume of steam. Fingers brush inevitably as he passes over the tea, and Levi's touch lingers. There's a moment where they both hold the mug between them, Levi's fingers covering Eren's, before he squeezes with a reassuring pressure against Eren's fingers. Levi's skin is no longer cold to the touch and a soft glow of satisfaction makes itself apparent within Eren's chest.
Levi's gesture of touch is small yet tender, in the same way that Eren has witnessed Levi handle Hanji before. The contact feels like it says ‘thank you’ and Eren wonders if, perhaps, over time he has become one of Levi's precious exceptions.
Levi looks at Eren through his damp fringe, the eye contact sweet and almost shy feeling. His smile is barely there, but it's lovely - his expression all soft edges and positively serene.
And then his gaze travels over Eren's shoulder, his eyes coming to focus on the balcony window. The rain still rushes down the panes of glass, falling like hundreds of miniature waterfalls in succession. A steady hum fills the quiet space, a background noise so familiar and soothing.
When he speaks, Levi's voice sounds delicate, as if he's sharing a secret. His words mingle with the rain’s comforting melody so perfectly, “There's something about the rain lately… It feels like a new beginning.”
From that torrential afternoon onwards, it rains and rains. The whole week is another downpour after another, unrelenting. Work goes by as usual, only Eren stares out the windows at every chance, just wishing he were elsewhere.
He feels strange, not like himself at all, his mind wonders at every given chance and his focus is merely a thing of the past. Eren finds himself constantly detached from his surroundings, thinking of only the pitter-patter sounds that the falling water makes upon the windows. It reminds him of raindrops against willow leaves; it prompts thoughts of hands warmed by carefully brewed teas; and it makes him pine for Levi, his chest aching with tenderness.
Eren reflects upon Levi's quiet companionship, his gentle hands and the way they felt pressed against his own. His mind plays the rich tones of his thoughtful voice over and over, like a song he can't get enough of - every note lilting and perfect, reminding him of balmy afternoons and secretive smiles.
Levi is like a book Eren has read so many times now, he feels he could recite every detail without any hesitation. He recalls his scent, sleepy lavender and soap, buried deep in the fibers of his gifted scarf. When Levi returns the clothes he borrowed this week, perhaps they will also carry his smell?
Eren's every thought seems to take him back to Levi this, and Levi that. It's always Levi, and the rain. The two seem almost inseparable after all this time, they are one in the same - comforting, affectionate, cleansing.
Eren wonders if Levi relates the rain so heavily to himself also; it is possible that Levi feels the same, and the other man is slowly finding that Eren's essence is becoming entangled with a showery afternoon.
Eren really does try to sleep, but with so much running through his head, it's near impossible. His mind will not fall quiet, it's musings running round and round. His thoughts trip over themselves as they form circle after circle; Eren connects dots that seem to have no connections, his mind lovesick and nothing else.
Eren tosses and turns, sits up. Walks to the kitchen for a glass of water, the cold flooring soothing against the soles of his feet. He sips the liquid to replenish his dry throat, then makes the trek back to his room with careful steps so as to not wake Mikasa and Sasha.
Once back in bed, Eren sits on the edge and ties his hair back in an attempt to stop it bothering him, it's much too tickly and irritating tonight. When he finally lies down again, his bladder complains, of course it does. So, with great contempt, Eren gets up to use the toilet.
He studies himself in the bathroom mirror hung before him as he rinses his hands, and he truly looks exhausted. Eren's own eyes look back at himself, darkened with bruise-like shadows and eyelids drooping with lost rest. A deep sigh escapes his chest, and he turns the light off before heading back to his room.
Even after completing all his rituals, when Eren lies down and closes his eyes, the rushing thoughts don't stop. His mind races with everything Levi, as it has for weeks, perhaps even months.
Eren thinks of the tenderness Levi treats everything around him with, despite his easily misunderstood quiet and withdrawn impression. The way he talks about Hanji, his other friends, his ginger cat Magnolia - Eren can't help but wonder if maybe that's how Levi speaks of him when he's not around... All rich tones with the sweetest edge of adoration harboured for the ones he loves most.
Does Levi even speak about Eren when he's not around? Does anyone other than Hanji even know he exists? Did Levi don the borrowed articles of his clothing and relish in the way they carry Eren's scent?
His brain conjures up images of Levi, dressed head to toe in his clothing - how pretty his pink cheeks looked, face framed by a mess of dishevelled hair. Eren's chest almost bursts with the memory, his toes curling into his bedsheets like a cat kneading it's pads with pleasure.
All these questions, and yet Eren finds no answers. Does Levi lay awake at night thinking of him? Perhaps all the reasons to feel something for Eren fill his head too. What is there to compare with Levi really though - Eren holds within himself too much. He's too loud, too invasive; his harsh laughter and chaotic personality are not really things that Eren would call endearing.
The sound of rain fills Eren's otherwise silent room, and he stares at the ceiling, listening and breathing into the empty space. It would be pitch black at this time of night, if not for the soft yellow glow of street lights filtering through his curtains.
Rolling onto his side, Eren takes his phone from his bedside table. The screen strains his eyes with its harsh white light, and he squints against it to read the time - 23:40. Chewing his lip, Eren opens up his texts and scrolls through his past conversations with Levi.
Eren will certainly go mad if he doesn't do something as soon as possible, and so he types a message, ‘meet me at the park?’
That will do, surely. He was never good at beating around the bush, straight to the point suits him best.
It's not even five minutes before Levi replies, yet its agonising. Eren's stomach churns, and he feels akin to a plant that's been uprooted - suddenly finding itself unsteady and unsure for the first time in its life.
Levi's response floods Eren's body with a sense of relief, ‘Of course, now? Are you okay?’
‘asap - ill be better once ive seen you,’ Eren barely even sends his text before he's jumping out of bed and dressing appropriately for the rain outside.
Walking alone at night would scare some people, cause concern in others if they knew Eren made a habit of it. But it never frightened him, he could hold his ground, never anything but self assured.
When he was a teen you could suggest that he was out looking for trouble, anyone to throw a punch to and receive one in return - constantly yearning for the adrenaline and stress relief of pain throbbing in his knuckles.
He would search for anyone to step up to him, he was almost begging for it, his supposed vulnerability an invitation to those who dare lay a finger on him.
Though, eventually, alongside age and maturity, the ritual evolved into something else. It became calming and so peaceful - just him, the street cats and the Moon’s tender glow. It's peaceful, to find yourself completely alone in a city so vast.
The sky is beautiful at night, jewelled purples and inky darkness that appears almost tangible in its depth. If Eren stayed out long enough during the night, he could often see the sunrise.
His teen years and early twenties can be punctuated by his trips out into the early morning light, studying the colours that seem so elusive at any other hour. The bleeding hues, mixing and merging with the coming of a new day - golden morning dawning once again. It's so hopeful; all sleepy lilacs, oranges and pinks as delicate as the first bird calls into the morning. There's a stillness to it all, but tonight is the opposite.
The rain hammers against the taught fabric of Eren's umbrella, and everything seems to rush by as he makes his way to the park. He treads the path as he has done for months, his gait taking on a hurried pace. Eren's heart is thunderous in his chest, echoing the constant roar of rainfall about him.
Each street lamp is a beacon, this way, they guide him from their posts along the pathway. They guide his way in the darkness and his breaths come in short bursts. He isn't even sure how far Levi has to travel in order to reach the park, perhaps he won't even be there if Eren continues at such a pace. It doesn't matter either way, Eren would wait out in the rain or snow for Levi, he's sure of it. As long as it takes for the man to come to him.
The tall iron gates are what Eren sees first, but his gaze quickly pins to Levi's figure, stood under an umbrella and wrapped tight in a dark coat and woolen scarf.
He looks so small against the gate with its great stature, reaching ever upwards to meet the Moon’s rays. A hefty padlock keeps the park closed off, but Eren has come to realise its not necessarily the park he adores so dearly. It's Levi.
Levi, who waits patiently for Eren in the dark and the cold; Levi, whose fingers tap out an anxious rhythm against his leg, surely over thinking and running in circles within his head.
His eyes finally land on Eren as he approaches, and Eren watches as the man's eyebrows draw inwards with worry. No doubt, Levi is trying to analyse the situation and glean any information from Eren's own expression.
“Eren!” Levi calls into the seemingly vast space between them, it feels as if they could walk all night and never reach the other. Yet, soon enough, they're face to face.
Acting in the most unexpected way, Levi drops his umbrella to the ground and Eren watches as it hits the ground with a resounding splash. His hands, now free, come to rest upon Eren's cheeks, holding his face so gently. His fingers are frozen, and his touch sends a chill down Eren's spine. How long has Levi been out here? Surely not much longer than himself, but Eren wants nothing more than to soothe his cold skin.
As Levi holds Eren's face, he turns it gently, as if to search his face for any sign of hurt, any trace of upset or worry. His voice is like music to Eren's ears, a lullaby akin to the ones his mother would sing in the past, “What's this all about, Eren? Are you okay?”
Eren feels like all the breath has been knocked out of him. All his electric adrenaline disappears, the rushing of his heart slowing with Levi's presence. The glow of the street lamps light the man's eyes with a gentle warmth, like the most homely fire during a harsh Winter.
His cold reddened nose crinkles with his concern, and the tentative nature of Levi's actions sends shocks of affection throughout Eren's body. He has become so beloved, yet Eren hadn't even realised.
“I'm fine,” Eren finally replies, his voice feeling heavy on his tongue, like there's a weight to the words he speaks. “I just realised something, that's all.”
Levi tilts his head, an indication that lets Eren know he is ready to hear said realisation. It's odd, how they have come to understand one another like this and Eren never took note until now… They work in nonverbal communication and endless understanding of the other.
Finally discarding his own umbrella, Eren lifts both of his hands to cover Levi's where they rest upon his cheeks. Rubbing his thumbs against Levi's skin, Eren tries to heat them as much as he can.
The raindrops hit his skin one after the other, and it's truly freezing, Eren gasps sharply before the full on laughter jumps from his chest. Levi's eyes crinkle with mirth and before long he's laughing too, shaking his head with his nose pointed to the sky and his eyes closed against the droplets.
“I realised that I want to kiss you, if you would let me,” Eren says, the giddy laughter still bubbling about in his chest. “I would love it more than anything.”
Levi's attention comes back to Eren all at once, turning his dripping face away from the sky and looking up to Eren once more. His steady gaze wavers with shock at first, his wide eyes bright with reflected light, and his eyebrows shooting upwards. But the words settle on him in little time, and Eren watches Levi's expression as his intentions sink in.
The pads of Levi's fingers assert a gentle pressure against Eren's cheek bones, almost as if he's checking this is all real. And yes, Eren is here and he wants Levi to kiss him - would beg for it if Levi made him do so. But of course, that is not necessary.
Levi bridges the gap between them, their lips coming together in a kiss so kindly, Eren feels warm to his very centre. He's reminded of all those balmy Spring and Summer days in the sunshine with Levi, reliving them as the cold rain pelts them from above.
Eren's senses become all Levi, nothing else matters, he is so close and he desperately wishes he could be closer. Toothpaste is the most prominent taste, as if Levi had been getting ready for bed just before receiving Eren's impulse text; his hair smells like shampoo, the usual scent of lavender and soap lingering on his skin.
The rain water rushes in sheets over the two men, pooling against their lips as they kiss for what feels like the first time in Eren's life. The night becomes theirs, no one else exists under the Moon's light, flickering as it filters through the falling water and heavy cloudbanks.
Levi was right, the rain does feel like a new beginning, something has been brewing for quite some time now. It washes over them and cleanses them of anything negative, leaving only the affectionate pulses of Levi's tender heart against Eren's own chest. The rain has united them time and time again over the past year, and maybe its reluctance to stop this past week was the rain nudging Eren into Levi's steady arms.
When they pull away, Levi looks to Eren with pink dusted cheeks and raindrops caught in his eyelashes. Eren is certain he has never seen a sight so wondrous, so perfect. His fondness flutters about his stomach, like the nightingales that itch to leave their shelters and sing their ode to the returning sunshine.
To Eren, there's something about the rain that feels like a friend, a companion as important to him as Levi has become. There's something about the rain that Eren will hold dear for as long as he can be beside Levi, filled with a golden tinted gratitude.