Eren had never seen so much pot in his entire life.
He knew these guys were partiers, and he knew that they meant business when it came to a Friday night. But he obviously underestimated what he was getting himself into. The few small joints he had smoked before in his teenage years were definitely not enough to have readied him for the mountain of bud he was presently face-to-face with.
"Not going to chicken out, are you?" asked Jean with a heavy slap on Eren's back. The room was darkly lit, and Jean nearly had to scream over the overbearingly loud bass of the surround-sound speakers. Eren was sure the photo-frames would start jumping off the walls of this ancient house soon enough.
"Of course not," Eren replied with feigned confidence. He kept his eyes on the mountain, which was now getting ground and packed or rolled by the senior frat members. "What do I look like?"
"Just wait until we get you crossed," Jean snorted. "You're going to lose your ever-loving mind, dude."
Jean turned out to be right, as much as Eren wanted to deny it. He did pretty much lose his mind. He had never been cross-faded before, and in general, had never drank more than a few beers. When he took his first shot of tequila, he could only think, 'I am definitely losing scholarships before the year is over.' But the alcohol felt good, it made his blood warm and he felt a little sweaty in the already-hot room, but the buzz he had and the stupid smile that wouldn't leave his face made up for it. Honestly, he was just thrilled that anyone was including him in anything. His biggest fear going to college was that he'd make zero friends and have nothing of a social life. Although he couldn't call this house full of people 'friends' just yet, he was confident enough to assume that they would be.
If Eren thought being drunk was nice, he was in for a surprise once he started smoking the passed blunts. Jean ushered him over to a dark corner with a tattered couch where a man, much older than college-age, it seemed, had a packed bong and a lighter and a mischievous look on his face. If Jean wasn't in his ear pressuring him (which simultaneously cheering him on), Eren would've never trusted that man. But he took a few hits of the bong (after being instructed on how to do it) and sat back in a chair he found, letting his eyes close and feeling the way the smoke burned going down his throat and into his lungs.
"Good?" Jean asked, a fat grin on his face. He had already smoked before the party even started, so his buzz began a long time ago. Eren looked at him, with his long face and pale blond hair, and wondered how he'd even ended up here with him.
"Always," was Eren's drowsy answer.
Saturday morning, Eren had his head over the toilet for a good twenty minutes. As soon as his eyes had opened, he felt his stomach rumble and knew the taste in the back of his throat. As he sat in his dorm bathroom (which he was lucky enough to have), back against the shower doors, he contemplated every decision that led him here. He didn't regret the night before, though, because he had made good with a few of the current frat members, even getting their numbers and being invited out again tonight.
Only, Eren didn't know if he had it in him.
Jean, miraculously, was up in time to go to work at 6 am. When he walked through the dorm door at noon, Eren was still in the bathroom, having woken up only twenty minutes before. Jean stopped in the bathroom entrance, raised his eyebrows, and said, "So you can't take the heat, I'm assuming."
"Yes I can, would you shut up for once? Maybe I just have food poisoning, you don't know," answered Eren sharply, wiping his mouth with the hem of his old t-shirt. He felt like a pussy sitting here sick; he hadn't even blacked out last night or anything crazy. On the scale of fucked-up, Eren had maybe reached a four. Maybe. "Besides, it doesn't matter. I got a few of the brother's numbers, and that's what I really went for."
"Well, go out again tonight and get some more. Having some sophomore's numbers you won't ever use isn't going to get you picked."
"Like hell I'm going again tonight. I can't even picture food without barfing."
"You'll regret not going," Jean shrugged, fixing his hair slightly in the mirror and then turning to leave the bathroom. Over his shoulder, he smirked, "Levi Ackerman will be there. Just saying."
Levi Ackerman. Eren had heard that name more times than he could count and yet he had no clue who the man was. He seemed to be somewhat of a local legend around here, especially to the frat boys. He didn't go to the college, Eren gathered, so he wasn't sure why everyone obsessed over him; but, allegedly, when Levi was around, a good time was soon to follow. Anyone who was anyone knew him, and if you had it especially made, you got invited to his parties.
Very few people Eren knew had gotten invited to his parties.
"So what?" Eren answered Jean, finally pulling himself from the floor. He grimaced as he flushed the toilet and then again as he saw himself in the mirror. "I'll never be invited anywhere near Levi Ackerman, so what does it matter?"
"That's unlike you, you're usually so stupidly stubborn and headstrong," Jean quipped. He unpacked his bag on his bed and Eren watched absentmindedly. "You never admit the truth so easily. But you know that you have to get an invite if you want to get in Sina Sigma Kappa."
That was true, it was an unspoken requirement. The only people that got in without an invite were the people whose siblings were already in, which would be the guys like Jean. Eren figured it couldn't be that difficult, but oddly, Sina Sigma Kappa had the smallest amount of members of all the frats on campus.
"You're a dick," Eren frowned. "And I could totally get invited to one of his parties, by the way, way before you ever did. I take it back."
"Oh yeah? Prove it. Go tonight and get yourself an invite, since you're soooo cool," Jean said, taking off his sweaty work shirt and throwing it in Eren's face. Eren cringed and plucked the thing off of him, tossing it as far from him as he could get it.
"You're disgusting, you always come in here smelling like a grease trap," pointed out Eren, to which Jean shrugged. "Besides, if this Levi guy is the big party animal that he's made out to be, he can't be that hard to talk to. Most of these frat guys don't give a fuck once you get alcohol in their system."
"Whatever you say, dude," Jean sang, voice high-pitched and cautious. Eren rolled his eyes and threw him a controller.
"We'll find out tonight."
"Who the fuck is that?"
Jean and Eren stood in the middle of a room full of people. The same frat house as before, only now it was packed wall to wall. People were tripping on every drug Eren had ever heard of in his life and even ones he hadn't. The speakers were turned up even louder. The strobe lights were new, though. Eren had to blink really hard every couple seconds just to stop himself from feeling pre-seizure.
There was no ignoring the person Jean had been talking about. Both of them had their eyes glued to the enigma himself, sitting on a couch surrounded by a swarm of people. While both Jean and Eren had drinks in their hands, they were being left un-sipped. There were far more pressing issues on the table right now, and Eren had to come to a quick and unhappy realization.
"That has to be him," Eren said, pointing out the obvious. He continued to stare at the dark haired man who looked entirely too bored for someone sitting in the center of a crowd with all of their attention on him. Not to mention the incredibly vibrant party going on around him, of course. "I… didn't picture him looking like..."
"Like a thirty-year-old runaway dad?" answered Jean, eyebrows furrowed.
Eren gave a numb nod. Levi was… rude looking. Suddenly, all his previous confidence had gone out the window and just like that, Eren was pretty much ready to leave the party. Firstly, he would have to fight through all the people attempting to talk to him. Then, he would have to face Levi up close, and then thirdly, probably be shot directly down.
"He can't be that bad, right?" asked Eren. He already knew the answer.
"Good fucking luck with that, bro," Jean pursed his lips and gave Eren a sideways glance. "You said you'd get that invite, not me."
Eren needed it, too. He knew that. He knew that he had no chance of getting into the frat if he didn't get this invite. "You don't need it, you prick," Eren muttered, venom in his tone. He really tried not to resent Jean for his privilege of having an older brother already in the frat, and he hadn't up to this point. There was no way Levi was as intimidating as he looked, though, or at least he continued to tell himself. He truly wanted to believe it.
Eren turned to watched Jean go get himself a second drink, and when he turned back, Levi had disappeared. The crowd hadn't dispersed, though, so Eren wondered if maybe he had just gone to the bathroom or something. Taking a deep breath, he weighed the pros and cons. It was likely he wouldn’t even be able to get face-to-face with the guy, seeing as the deep crowd of upper-class frat and sorority members was blocking his entry. And, of course, if Levi didn’t return, that also posed an obvious problem.
Downing the last bit of his mixer, Eren determinedly set his cup down on a nearby table and stared confidently ahead. This wasn’t as big of a deal as he was making it in his head. Levi was just a guy. As Eren sauntered forward toward the crowd of people, faces illuminated by dark red LED lights and voiced drowned out by EDM, he reminded himself that Levi was human too, and not some famed god, and maybe if Eren just asked nicely enough—
The people weren’t parting. Eren got as close as he possibly could before some upperclassmen guys blocked him. Eren wasn’t sure if they were doing it on purpose but either way, they were ignoring his presence, closing the gap, talking amongst themselves. Cursing under his breath, Eren wracked his brain for the name of one of the short, brown-haired guys. Elf? Elk?
“Hey, Eld,” said a girl over the music. “Sweet Hawaiian shirt!”
Bingo. Eren braced himself, grinned, and tapped Eld’s shoulder to get his attention. The guy began to turn, looking confused, as his friends' eyes slid over to meet Eren’s face in blank stares.
“Hey man, what’s going on? Killer party, right?” Eren tried, motioning his hands around and trying to act like he was ridiculously drunker than he was.
Eld blinked. Slight recognition dawned on his face, but Eren knew Eld probably didn’t remember his name. He’s only met him once at the first rush, and even then, for only a brief second. “Aw, yeah,” the tall man responded, less enthusiastic than Eren had been. “Great party. Glad you’re having a good time.”
Eren scratched the back of his neck. He was nearly at a loss and feeling a little embarrassed. “What’s the crowd for? Beer pong?” He asked, feigning ignorance. Maybe if Eld would get him up front, he could—
“Nah man. Levi Ackerman is here. Or, he was, but I think he just left.”
Fuck. Eren could feel himself deflate. Giving an “ohhh” kind of nod, he bid Eld farewell, and slid back to the back of the room where Jean stood waiting. Hands in his pockets and eyebrow raised, Jean looked ready to mock Eren for his failure. But Jean always had some shit to say for someone who had way less to worry about in this department.
“No luck, huh?” Jean played, a stupid smirk on his face.
“He left,” answered Eren shortly. Arms crossed, he huffed, “The king must think he’s too cool for this party or something.”
“What do you think his parties are like? Smooth jazz, everyone off molly and cocaine, one giant orgy?”
“Fuck if I know,” Eren muttered. He pictured Levi as that kind of guy, though, in his overdramatic brain. Like he lived in a house made of glass, some untouchable King on display for his adoring fans. He’d only had one glimpse of the guy, so maybe he was entirely wrong, but Eren had heard enough to know that Levi was probably fucking full of himself. “I really hate that I have to suck this guy’s dick, basically. I’m sure enough people do that for him already. His ego doesn’t need anymore stroking.”
“Oh I’m sure his dick gets sucked,” Jean remarked. He held his drink to his lips and then laughed, “And yet I doubt he’s ever stepped foot in a sorority.”
“You think he’s gay?” Eren asked. “There’s no way. He’s the alpha dog of the drug game around here.”
“I’ve heard some things.”
“Some things. I’m guessing from your brother?”
A shrug. “He would know.”
Indeed he would. Jean’s older brother got invites to every Levi Ackerman party. Yet while Jean’s brother wouldn’t talk about what went on, you know, to add to the suspense, he would apparently talk about Levi’s sexual preferences. Eren stared at where Levi had sat, questions blowing through his mind faster than he could think them up. How had this random man became a legend on this campus? Had he ever even gone to college here, or at all? Why did he only deal to the fraternities when he could easily sell to everyone on campus? What happened at his parties and why were they so hard to get invited to? Was he an asshole like his reputation claimed, and if so, why did everyone adore him?
That night, Eren made it back to his dorm at about three am, with Jean in tow nearly unconscious. Eren had stopped drinking after the Levi debacle because he had too much to think about. He was going to have to devise a plan for next time so that he didn’t experience total failure again.
So, he Googled the guy.
Turns out, after some digging, there were some social profiles belonging to Levi Ackerman. Although they were all private, down to every photo and post, they existed. At 3:30 am, Eren found himself scrolling through Google results for a guy he'd never met, and wondered if this is what his life had been reduced to. The first paper of the semester was due in two days, yet this felt more pressing. First, he found a Facebook profile under the name "Rivaille Ackerman", which Eren would have never considered until he (dumbly, quietly, to himself in the dead silence of his dorm) said the name to himself and realized how it sounds.
Rivaille Ackerman's page was completely secured, but thanks to Facebook's shitty privacy priorities, Eren was able to click the profile picture and cover photo. The profile picture was a grainy, cropped photo of the same black-haired man Eren had seen that night. Only, it looked a year or two old, as the man's hair was shorter and he looked slightly younger. Squinting, Eren leaned forward, taking a closer look at his monitor. He was handsome, by Eren's standards anyway. His pale skin and dark hair contrasted nicely, and Eren wondered absently what ethnicities he was. Even though the picture looked old, the same scowl rested unpleasantly on the man's face. There were at least two other people in the picture but it had been cropped so close to the man's face that you could only see the sides of their bodies.
"Why do you look so pissed off..." Eren murmured, clicking away from the photo. Next, he brought up the cover photo. It was a picture of a lake somewhere with tall trees and a sunset in the background. It wasn't a stock photo, it had been taken amateurly, probably on a cellphone. The contrast between the pleasant landscape and the disgusted look on Levi's face were jarring.
Well, his Facebook told Eren very little except that they had 0 mutual friends, Levi wasn't always an old man, and that he appreciated nature. Getting slightly frustrated, Eren clicked away from the page with a force, instead moving to the next result on Google, which happened to be an Instagram page. Eren felt a tingle go through his body like adrenaline was starting to rush. He felt like a secret detective, though he knew he was probably acting more like a stalker.
The Instagram account was private, and Eren would be stupid to try to follow it, but he took advantage of the profile avatar and description box. The photo was a side profile black and white picture of Levi, much more current than the Facebook photo, only Eren couldn't click it and enlarge it. He could, however, see the description box, which read, "Don't ask, don't tell."
Eren did not feel like he had any more information than he started out with. Maybe he wasn't digging hard enough? Maybe there were secrets hidden in these few glimpses of Levi's life that he just wasn't picking up on? But it was nearly 4 am and he had definitely taken this a little too far. With that thought, he closed the tabs and shut his laptop and moved to finally get in bed. He was going to have to devise a way to get close to Levi, just enough so to get on his good side, just to get that invitation. After that, he would never have to deal with the famously complex and bad-tempered man again.
The next week seemed to drag on. Eren had adrenaline pumping in his veins to meet with weekend with vigor, nervous and anxious to begin the phases of his plan. It was a messy, haphazard plan thrown together with a five-minute pep talk in the bathroom mirror, but it was a plan. He wrote that paper that was due, went to his classes and zoned out nearly the entire time, and went to the gym with Jean a couple of times. After what seemed like an eternity, it was Friday morning. He had no classes on Fridays, so he spent the extra time deciding what he was going to wear to this stupid party, like a girl, or something.
"You think plaid?" he asked Jean, raising both a flannel and an eyebrow. "Yes, no? Flannel? No flannel?"
"You're trying to get the guy to think you're cool, not bear your children."
"Hey man, whatever gets me that fucking invite."
"Don't wear a flannel. Get real."
Eren threw the flannel on his bed in defeat, a frown coming over his face. "Well, what then? Be helpful for once."
"The uh," Jean waved his hand dismissively. "Black jeans with the rips. And a white tank top, one of those sweet button-ups over it."
"So, basically, a flannel. Except with like flowers and shit."
Eren dug around in his closet and once he was dressed, he had to admit he looked pretty cool. Older than a freshman, anyway. He put on some classic vans, purposefully messed up his hair, and felt entirely too eager at noon. It felt more like he was preparing for a date than a frat party, which he attributed to his nerves. After all, he was trying to impress someone, so the nerves weren't mistaken.
"You think you can pull this off?" asked Jean, eyes glued to their shared TV and thumbs moving rapidly over a controller. "You're just going to walk up to him and ask for an invitation and you think he's going to be all like, yeah, totally dude, you seem cool?"
"He's not a fucking celebrity. He's not Bill Gates, or Hugh Hefner or… whoever else everyone seems to think he is," Eren countered with a huff. He was assuring himself more than he was assuring Jean, but that didn't need to be mentioned. "He's a regular person. His clout doesn't make him untouchable."
"Maybe not, but his gang-related past and criminal charges sorta do."
Eren rubbed his temples and wondered what got him in this mess. Was all of this worth it? His social status didn't mean much in the long run, but the connections this frat would offer him did. He wanted the respect the rest of those guys had, he wanted the job opportunities and the feeling of brotherhood. He wanted to feel like he belonged somewhere within this campus of 35,000 students, and not just in his dorm with Jean. It sounded incredibly arbitrary, but it felt anything but.
Eren had nothing to offer a man like Levi Ackerman. He didn't do drugs. He didn't even know the names of most of them or what they looked like. He didn't know anyone who could be customers for Levi. He had no connections, no money, and no status. He knew so little about this mysterious man that imagining anything about his life left Eren pulling blank scenes in his mind. It didn't matter what he did in his free time. It didn't matter what drove him to that life. It didn't matter that his social media was private, or what his sexual orientation was. All that mattered was that he needed to trust Eren just enough to invite him over for one stupid party. And Eren could lie about who he was if that's what it took.
"Erwin is like his best friend," murmured Eren, throwing his various things into his backpack. He had some errands to run before this party tonight. "Why can't he just get me the hookup."
"My brother thinks you're a twerp and would never help you with anything."
That night, Eren had to stop his hand from shaking as he opened Jean's passenger-side door and got out of the car. It was cooler than usual, but that would be a good relief if he needed to step out of the undoubtedly hot and stuffy house. There were already cars overflowing out of the general parking area and down the street. The music was loud and muffled, bass reverberating through Eren's body from the parking lot.
"Do you think he's here already?" Eren heard himself ask. Faintly, though, as his voice could barely be heard over the music as they approached the frat house.
Jean had a black hoodie on, which he now had his hands aggressively burrowed into as he complained about the cold. "I would guess so, yeah. Lots of potential consumers here on this fine Fall night."
Why was Eren so goddamn nervous? He couldn't figure it out. This dude was fucking scary, or at least, he was if the rumors were true. And even if he wasn't a mob boss criminal, Eren didn't like being flat out rejected and laughed at for his efforts, which he hauntingly anticipated after this conversation. Yet, as he and Jean entered the frat house, he knew immediately that Levi Ackerman was indeed in the building. The most obvious clue being the man himself standing on top of the dining room table counting a gigantic wad of cash.
Eren stood, dumbfounded, watching as this man entertained a crowd of people. He was entirely different from the guy Eren had seen at the last party, who had just sat bored and tired looking until he left. Every time Levi counted past another hundred, the crowd of drunk students would cheer. There was no way Eren was getting past that crowd or saying a single word to the man while he was swaying dangerously on top of a wooden mountain.
Maybe it would be easier to get an invite if Levi was this intoxicated?
Eventually, Levi did come down from the table. He seemed to be supervised by none other than Erwin Smith himself. Jean grimaced at seeing his older brother, which Eren didn't understand. If he had a half brother as popular and well-liked as Erwin, he would be telling everyone that they were related. Jean, however, seemed to stay as far as he could from Erwin, but didn't refrain from taking the handouts that came with being his younger brother. In any case, Erwin was enticing Levi to take a seat in a closed off room, which the crowd didn't enthuse over but Levi eventually relented to. The large doors closed behind them, leaving Levi and Erwin out of sight but definitely not out of mind.
People began to form a line at the door. Buyers, Eren presumed.
"I'll buy something from him," Eren suddenly blurted out, looking at Jean for approval. "It's the only way I can get closer."
"What the hell are you gonna buy? He doesn't sell pot."
"What does he sell?"
"Coke, molly, bath salts, ecstasy, LSD--"
"One of those, then."
Jean looked at him like Eren had five heads. Eren didn't care. It wasn't like he had to use the cocaine, he just had to buy it. Easy-peasy.
Before Jean could tell him it was a bad idea, he went into action. First, he took two shots of Fireball just to work his courage up. Then, he let it settle into his bloodstream as he waited in the line to be able to go into the room to talk to Levi. His hands were shaking less, but his thoughts were coming to him slower. All he needed to think about was two things; the cocaine, and the invitation.
The line went quickly. Most of the people shopping for illegal drugs seemed to mean strictly business and knew what they wanted. None of the people in the line looked like they even did illegal drugs, but what would Eren know about rich white fraternity kids. And what would he know about drugs in the first place? And he certainly knew nothing about Levi Ackerman, which was annoying in its own right.
He was almost there. Almost about to buy fucking cocaine for a party invitation.
He couldn't do this shit. There was no way. What did he think he was doing, who did he think he was? Buying cocaine as though he couldn't go to fucking jail for that shit. He could get kicked out of college. He could--
"You're up. Wait, aren't you Jean's friend?"
Eren was face to face with Erwin Smith. When did that happen? He had not thought this through. Before he could waste another second gaping with a stupid look on his face, he darted past Erwin and into the room, shutting the door behind him.
Turning around faced him with Levi Ackerman, who sat on a couch with two large suitcases next to him and a blank look on his face. The room was lit only by a side-table lamp, and Levi had one ankle resting on his knee as he leaned back, arm draped across the back of the couch, looking once again nothing like the person Eren had just seen outside.
"Well, kid, I don't have all fucking night."
Eren was not prepared for this shit. He remained planted at the door, although his brain was telling his feet to move. "I'm sorry," he blurted. "I want, erm, I want to buy some coke."
"Is that right. Well, I'm not going to hand-deliver it to you all the way over there, dumbass."
He was mean, and scary, and rude and assertive and Eren wanted to turn around and leave. He had steel-colored eyes that were dark under his droopy eyelids. He wasn't sober, that much was obvious by the slur in his words, but he wasn't fucking around either. His hair hung in his eyes in a methodical way, head tilted to the side, strong but slender body not unrelaxed but firm, and Eren was just some eighteen-year-old kid--
"If you came for what I think you came for, you can turn around and leave."
Eren blinked so hard he felt his eyes crinkle. Levi had spoken, but the annoyed look on his face hadn't changed. Had he been that obvious? This wasn't going to do.
"I'm here for some coke," Eren said, attempting to sound somewhat confident as he moved closer to Levi. "That's all."
"Alright," said the older man slowly, eyes narrowing as he leaned forward to put his elbows on his knees. Making direct eye contact with Eren, which shot adrenaline through the younger kid's body, he announced, "One gram. $200 dollars."
Eren sucked in a breath. Was that the going rate these days? "Okay," he said, stupidly, and Levi let out a ridiculously loud scoff.
"I knew it. You've never bought cocaine in your fucking life. $200 for a gram is fucking highway robbery, kid. Go the fuck home and read a goddamn book or something," Levi spoke curtly, a disdainful frown on his face. Eren figured, and with every word he winced a little more. "I'm not inviting you to a fucking party."
"I'll pay whatever you want," Eren said, firmly. Levi's eyes flicked to his, his hand twitching slightly. "I just need--"
"I know what you need. Or, what you think you need. And you're not buying your way into my presence, nor are you buying your way into this shithole frat," finished Levi, eyes boring into Eren's. "You're a little fucking kid, I'm not selling you cocaine."
"Then don't sell me anything, just invite me to a party," Eren countered, more assertive now, stepping closer and feeling courage rise in him. It made no sense. He had no ground here, and Levi only continued to shoot him down. This man obviously thought so little of Eren, it felt like he was about to spit at his feet. The redness in his tired eyes, the rigid motion in his body, and the mushing together of his words indicated extreme intoxication but it wasn't making the man any more easygoing, it seemed. If anything, he was on edge.
Levi was standing now, arms crossed over his chest, swaying slightly as he caught his balance. "Every... shithead kid in this house wants what you want, and you think I'm going to give it to you, you six-foot toddler? Let me show you something," he dropped down to rummage in one of the black suitcases. Eren watched in bewilderment as hundreds of pills, packets, and baggies were revealed when the lid to the suitcase popped open. Then, the man pulled out a baggie, white powder inside. Eren wasn't an idiot, he knew what cocaine looked like. "This is enough cocaine to kill a person. Just in this one bag."
"I don't want--"
"Of course you don't. You actually have a decent life, probably," Levi said, chuckling dryly as he opened the baggie and tipped out a line on the back of his hand with extreme skill and obvious practice. Eren stared. He continued to stare as Levi plugged one nostril and snorted the line like it was second nature. A sniffle later, Levi let out a long sigh, looked Eren dead in the eye, and said, "You should probably fucking leave now. Or, snort a line and prove you're really here to buy."
Maybe it was just Eren. Maybe it was just the drugs that were undeniably in Levi's system. Maybe it was the overcast of the poor lighting in the room, but whatever it was, there was a dread in Levi's eyes as he glared down Eren. It wasn't hard to detect if you didn't mistake it for annoyance. But Eren had seen annoyance, and this wasn't that; this was hollowness, so much so that it sent a shiver down Eren's spine.
Eren turned and gave a short knock, alerting Erwin and slipping out of the room as soon as the door was opened. He heard Levi shout, "That's what I fucking thought!" and it made his fists clench as he walked.