"I've figured out a way to settle this." Eren started somberly, fixing everyone with a serious gaze. He was sitting on his bunk in their headquarters, hands clasped together where his chin rested, his elbows planted on his knees.
"Can you skip the dramatics and just tell us already? It's hard enough to maintain this concentration for all of us to be gathered here together. Especially not with your brain." Jean groaned in complaint, leaning back with crossed arms on the bunk where Annie and Sasha made themselves comfortable, opposite to where Eren's is located with Mikasa and Reiner at his sides.
Eren was about to tell him off somewhere on the lines of neighing horses being the ones that makes things difficult to focus when Reiner graciously intercepted the argument before it even began.
"Not that I intend to take sides, but I kind of agree with Jean here." He started, and immediately followed it up with his reason of doing so, partly scared Eren would take it the wrong way and mean it to refer to his brain capability. "I mean, since we're all gathered here, I'm not sure who's exactly out right now. Though I am betting it could either be a combination of a couple of us, or a giant blob of all of us."
"Or it might just be one of us who's staring blankly at one spot as we're speaking." Annie suggested.
"If the body's looking stupid as it does that, no doubt it's Eren." Jean smirked.
"Have you ever seen yourself in the mirror, horse-face? Or have you ever only looked at your reflection in the pond where you graze at?" Eren shot back.
"Guys, please. We don't want to have that flash of migraine now, do we?" Sasha whined, clutching the sides of her head as if that would prevent it from happening.
"Thank you, Sasha." Reiner sighed, glad somebody was taking his side.
They were currently having a headspace conversation in a rare occurrence where everyone of them was present. The last time they attempted it, it was nothing more than to simply try and see if it could be possible for their system. And it was, though not for long as when Eren and Jean's bickering got out of hand, everyone else acquired a headache from it.
But right now, they were all gathered for a very important reason. One that involves around who gets to decide where their next week-long vacation to celebrate their anniversary would be.
That's right, the Ackerman-Jaeger's third wedding anniversary was approaching. How time flies, really. It still seems like they have just been married three years ago. (When Eren cracked this joke to his husband, Levi just looked at him blankly. "Blankly" as in contemplating on what compelled him to marry this idiot in the first place).
They haven't really done much on their first, seeing as they were still recovering from the financials of purchasing their new home. But Eren was more than content with the simple candlelit dinner they shared in their abode, amplified by the wild sex they had afterwards.
The second one they spent in Disneyland. Levi really wasn't as enthusiastic about it at first, but the insane rides lifted his mood up considerably. The cheesy, overly-used kiss under the fireworks wasn't bad either. And of course, Eren had another kind of ride before the night ended.
And now for their third, Eren was now generously letting his alters decide where they were going to spend it. Even though it was technically him and Levi who was married, he knew his alters also deserved their own vacation. Something that had been a bit difficult to achieve from focusing on their job.
Levi had no qualms about that, understanding the fact that their anniversary was a justifiable reason to ask for a leave of vacation. Erwin might have been more than glad to shoo him away from spending everyday at his desk, anniversary or not, but Eren was adamant on being the best employee he could be. Something that concerns with making up for his mental health issues, which Levi then and there refuted and demanded to give him the names of whoever it was that was ignorantly using such reasons against him.
Other than that, Levi also couldn't help finding it ironic how the brunet used to berate him from overexerting himself on doing his job, but is now treading into that same habit himself. Granted, he may not be overdoing it as he did, but the fact that he was so invested in his work might lead him to do just that if left unchecked. He could sense Eren has the same insecurities as he did with regards to keeping a job, after all. And he's not going to let that happen.
Which is also why he let the brunet decide where they were going to spend their yearly honeymoon. It really doesn't matter much to him as long as Eren is happy. And since his husband had told him he was letting his alters have this vacation for themselves too, Levi had no objection as long as they'd get to have sex before the conclusion. More than once would be preferable.
So, everything was smoothed over between the husbands. But the same could not be said between the alters.
Apparently, they had different opinions on what constitutes as a vacation that they would thoroughly enjoy themselves. Different ideas with different places they wouldn't be able to fit going to in a span of a week. Or even if that was possible, they wouldn't be able to savor it thoroughly if they were to hop from one place to another.
So, in order to resolve this, Eren had so carefully, strategically thought of a way on how he'll decide which opinion to follow.
"We've been a system for more than half my life now." He started, sitting up straight to better gauge the others' reactions. "And I assume that's more than enough time for you to practice being in my shoes. Literally."
"What the hell are you implying?" Jean narrowed his eyes. He has a feeling he's not going to like what the brunet was about to say. Then again, that's hardly unusual.
"Are you saying we pretend to be you?" Mikasa asked with confusion. That was something they had been doing for the majority of their existence, so it was weird that Eren was asking them of that now.
"Yes, but it's not as simple as that." Eren grinned mischievously. "I want you to make Levi believe you were me without him recognizing one of you has taken my place. If you get to front for an entire day without him noticing anything, then you win. Of course, it has to be on a weekend where we get to be with Levi all day."
They were silent at that proposal, thinking to themselves if that was even possible. It's Levi they were talking about here and that guy seems to be able to look inside their head to determine who exactly it was that was conversing with him. Granted, they haven't really tried after the raven became aware about their condition – hell, they didn't even really give it their best shot even before meeting him, which then left Eren to deal with the confusion of the shit other people gave him – but they really couldn't help but wonder if duping Levi like that could even be done. That would be an insanely difficult feat to achieve. Perhaps which is why Eren so generously proposed it.
"What if we switch out mid-day or something?" Mikasa pointed out.
Eren took his time to mull over that possibilty. "I suggest we should just stay at home then where we feel utmost security, and avoid anything that could possibly trigger someone else out. But since chances of that happening are relatively high, then maybe I'll shorten the required time to over 12 hours or something. It's important that Levi thinks he's with me before he goes to sleep at night."
"What if Levi uses the triggers?" Annie added in.
"Well, if he'll do it on purpose, then wouldn't that mean he already knows it's not me who's fronting? Besides, he's hardly done that to us." He shrugged.
"And if none of us could fool him?" Sasha asked, knowing that even though she was considered to be the best Eren impersonator, Levi still called her out every single time.
"Then I guess I'll just have to decide for all of us." Eren shrugged again, grin still plastered on his face.
"You little shit. Of course you'll propose it since you damn well knew that's going to be impossible." Jean groused once again.
"Technically, it's supposed to be mine and Levi's wedding anniversary, but here I am, graciously offering the planned vacation to you." Eren glared at his direction. "And with that in mind, I think it's only fair if the challenge I give you also revolves around your abilities to take my place on a day, or a week, that I should be spending with my husband."
Again, silence took over them. Eren may seem like an idiot, but he could get very creative with his ideas if he really wanted to.
If he really wanted to piss someone off, especially. And it's currently working wonders for Jean.
"He has a point." Reiner sighed after giving it a thought.
"Are you really accepting that reason? 'Coz I still think it's just a waste of time since he'd still get to decide things in the end." Jean scoffed.
"Of course, we could already cross out Jean's chances of pulling it off. Basically, this is a contest between just the four of you." Eren continued, smirking smugly.
Jean's brow twitched at that. "Listen here, you fucking bastard..."
"Oi, brat. You okay?" Levi gently put an arm on the brunet's shoulder after said brunet had buried his head on his arms at the table they were sitting at.
He had noticed his husband staring off blankly into space for a while now and decided to just let him be, having pretty much gotten used to it by now. He was perfectly fine waiting until the brunet snapped out of it, but seeing him looking like his brain was being hammered was another thing.
It took a moment, but the brunet soon hummed in response that Levi had to wonder if it was even directed to him at all.
"Head. Arguing. Again." The brunet mumbled the broken words out, not lifting his head up.
Levi couldn't tell who it was that was speaking, but he could damn well determine who might be arguing inside his head again. He just had to wonder what it's about this time.
Annie stared at herself (or Eren for that matter) in the mirror, taking in deep breaths as she closed her eyes. She had purposely feigned slumber and let the raven get out of bed first to mentally prepare herself for the day. She was going to do this.
She never really felt compelled to act exactly like Eren before, deeming it to be unnecessary and awkward. As long as she just kept her distance and her silence, then she wouldn't have to worry much about entertaining other people with an energy that was on par with their host.
And now that she was compelled to do just that... it had to be with the most difficult person to convince.
She really was tempted to just fuck it and accept defeat, but with the prospect of an actual vacation in the outside world, she figured she could at least try her luck.
It was quite daring to attempt it at the start of the day, though, since Eren said it was important that Levi goes to bed at night without any suspicions. But in her opinion, it'd be easier if Levi thought he was with Eren first thing in the morning, and it would also give her a kickstart to be in-character if her mentality was set on to it as the day started.
She took in another deep breath as her hand landed on the doorknob. And another one before she turned to open it. She could tell Levi was in the kitchen from all the noises he was making.
"Morning, babe." She greeted huskily, wrapping her arms from behind. Somehow, that felt way more cringey than she thought it would, and if Levi would ask about anything unusual, she could write it off to having just woken up.
Levi stiffened for a second, probably out of surprise, before turning around. Just as she feared, he took his time just looking at her, scrutinizing her features for something.
Annie tucked a loose strand of hair to the back of her ear, glad she hadn't bothered to fix their bed hair as it gave her hands something to do. She made sure to remember to specifically use her right hand all the time.
"What?" She asked, smiling sheepishly like she knew Eren would when the raven continued to keep silent.
"What're you doing, Annie?"
She could've just stopped there and then, knowing if she kept this up, she'll just embarrass herself to the grave. But for some reason, she felt like she couldn't give up just like that, and was glad she processed all these thoughts within a second.
"What're you talking about? I've just woken up to romantically greet you like how a husband should, and you're thinking about Annie?" She huffed indignantly, pouting with her arms crossed.
Damn, why did Eren have to be such a brat?
Levi stared at her blankly for another moment, but made no comment to address that. Instead, he just moved on like nothing was wrong.
"We're having bacon and eggs for breakfast. I'd appreciate it if you could help prepare the table while I brew our drinks up."
"Okay. Thanks, love!" She bounced happily and stepping on to the task.
Damn, not even 10 minutes in, and she was already drained from trying to match their host's enthusiasm. Not only that, all these pet names are internally difficult to spit out, but she knew she had to say them knowing Eren had a habit of doing so, especially in early mornings when he was still feeling fuzzy in every way she was not.
And as if to put her out of her misery, Levi suddenly called her attention.
"Catch." was all the warning she got before the raven hurled an apple in her direction.
Annie was quick to react, and she found the apple on her hand before she even knew she caught it. Her left hand.
"So again, what're you doing, Annie?" Levi repeated, an amused smile curling his lips.
At this, Annie frowned, knowing she was fighting an already lost battle. "How the hell did you know?" She decided to ask.
"Well, for one, Eren's hugs are different. Yours, obviously, has more strength in it. And Eren doesn't really have a habit of tucking his hair away, especially in the early mornings even though he's practically eating it." The raven pointed out, going back to finish brewing their beverages.
Annie just sighed and sat defeated at the table, waiting for the raven to finish up so they could eat and she could just sleep the day off.
"What's with the sudden interest in impersonating Eren?" Levi asked as he settled the steaming mug of hot cocoa in front of her and carried his to his own place.
Annie didn't bother with an answer and just shoveled up food in her mouth. She already feels downright embarrassed by her attempt and she didn't want to talk to him to make it worse.
"Are you gonna keep the pet names? 'Coz I sure enjoyed hearing them from you." Levi smirked before taking a sip of his own drink.
"Fuck you." She muttered out, having half a mind to throw the apple back on that smug face of his.
It wasn't long after that when Annie decided to go in hiding, and Reiner thought it was a good time to make his attempt. After all, Levi wouldn't think he was getting duped twice in a row, right? Surely he would be expecting Eren to front now.
After showering, he was no longer surprised to find the raven already starting up with the chores. He felt the urge to utter a, "Hey, Levi" or something, but figured at the last second that that would be weird since that would also mean he was greeting Levi again when Annie already did earlier.
Then again, he supposed that should be normal since the raven already called out Annie earlier, and that he was supposed to be pretending Eren had come out for real this time. Only, Eren would do it in a much more... expressive way that might involve hugs and kisses.
"Hi, love!" He beamed and went in to try and hug the raven when he was stopped by said raven holding a hand up.
"Just a sec." Levi muttered out without even sparing him a glance, before bending over to vacuum under the coffee table.
But after doing that, he turned off the vacuum and turned around to face him with an expression Reiner could only describe as confusion. So, without dwelling too much about it and giving the raven time to think and observe him too much, he decided to go in and hug the man in a way he knew Eren would.
"Can I help you? I'm bored being on my own and I want you to finish soon so we could cuddle." He whined.
Holy shit! Reiner can't believe he actually said that. Pretending to be Eren shouldn't be this hard, but it's a whole lot of another story when it comes to the husband. Hell, he's already dreading the "cuddle time" he proposed himself.
He kept clinging on to the shorter man so he could avoid looking at him directly in the eyes in that creepily fascinating way he does to determine who was currently out.
"How about you finish up here and I'll go start with the garage?" Levi finally proposed after a while.
"Okay! And then we'll cuddle, right?" He beamed again, smiling widely it was splitting his face. He's probably overdoing it, but Eren could be overly enthusiastic when he's promised with something he loves.
"Yes." The raven responded after a second's hesitation.
"Yes!" Reiner cheered before setting on to do his assigned task, taking the vacuum away from the older man.
Levi didn't immediately move away from his spot though, and Reiner could feel his eyes burning at the back of his skull. So before it could unnerve him further and break him out of character, he decided to shoo the raven away to do his own chores.
"Come on, Levi. Stop slacking around so we could finish this as soon as possible." He pouted, planting a hand on his hip with his other one still holding the vacuum.
Levi took another second to look at him before muttering out a, "Right" and going on his merry way, finally giving Reiner the chance to sigh out in relief. So far, Levi seemed suspicious but he hadn't called him out so he figured that was a good sign.
After finishing his job and even double-checking to make sure it was at least on par with Eren's, Reiner steeled himself to follow the raven in the garage knowing it would make sense that Eren would do it considering his clingy nature. When he arrived, Levi was busy rearranging heavy-looking boxes and dusting shelves, and just looking at him, Reiner felt the urge to offer assistance.
"Do you need help?" He asked tentatively. Surely, Eren would always offer to help his husband in this situation.
"I'm fine. These boxes are as heavy as they look. I don't want you burning yourself out and whining to me afterwards." Levi declined, not once pausing from his work.
"I could do the dusting then?" Reiner tried again. At this point, Eren wouldn't really push things, especially when it comes to cleaning. But Reiner's instincts are just screaming at him to help.
"I'm pretty sure that's one thing you despise doing." The raven continued nonchalantly.
Does Eren despise dust? Damn, why doesn't he know about that himself? He never really bothered to ask such mundane things like that since cleaning hasn't really been instilled in the brunet before they started dating years ago.
So, what is Reiner supposed to do now? Just watch the raven do all the work? Eren might be able to do that since he'll just use the opportunity to gawk at his husband uninterrupted. Besides, Levi telling him that he could skip doing a particular chore is practically bliss for the brunet. But for Reiner, standing still and not helping someone who clearly needs help is torture.
Not only that, but Levi seems to be throwing curious glances his way as he does his task. He really didn't think much about it at first. Maybe Levi was just checking if they were still there standing stupidly at the doorway. But when the raven shot him another look while he heaved a particularly heavy-looking box Reiner definitely knew would be difficult to do alone, he couldn't stay still anymore and went over to help him carry it to where he intended it to.
"Oh, I'm actually just putting it down here." Levi said as he set the box down on the floor together with the younger. "Just wanted to see how much you're willing to stand by and do nothing, Reiner." He smirked deviously.
Reiner groaned, dry washing his face with his palms. "How'd you know it was me?"
"First off, nothing would stop Eren from assaulting me with his hugs. Not even me. So when you stopped at that simple gesture, I immediately knew you weren't Eren. Also, Eren would've pestered me to cuddle first over offering to help with the chores. And only you would take over an equipment from me. The others would've gotten their own and started with something else, leaving me to finish what I started." He explained, all the while dusting the shelves like how he was supposed to.
"How do you know all of these?" Reiner couldn't help furrowing his brows. Seriously, the raven should've been a detective with these skills instead of a businessman.
"After... what? Six years of being together and almost three years of being married, it would be a shame for me if I didn't." Levi blurted out, then immediately followed it up with, "Now put these boxes back where they belong." and moving over to the next chore.
Reiner knew he was just covering up his embarrassment for that statement by suddenly bossing him around. Nonetheless, he was pleasantly touched that Levi was still trying to be a good husband when Eren already found him to be the best.
Then again, he just had to wonder: is duping the husband really possible?