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I'd wait forever...

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“Where the fuck am I?!” The young woman exclaims suddenly, giving the elderly couple passing her on the sidewalk a mild fright in the process. She looks up from her phone for a second, realising that probably came out a little louder and harsher than she’d intended, and attempts to give the pair a nervous smile.

Her efforts, however, are met with a cold glare and shake of the head as they continue to walk briskly away from her, tutting all the while. She simply rolls her eyes when they are too far gone to see and continues to scrutinise the tiny map on her phone as it continues to update at a snail’s pace.

Sighing loudly, she minimises the screen and pulls up her texts, reading the address details she’d been given for the millionth time, checking she has everything correct before trying to head on her way once more.

The text reads:

104 Rose Street, just past the large wall that leads to the Underground Services, you can’t miss it. I’ll wait for you outside on the porch swing. Thanks again! E x

But she can’t see any large wall…there aren’t any routes leading towards Underground Services…and to top it all off, her phone seems to be mocking her by not updating her steps and sending her in completely wrong directions. The street signs don’t appear to be making any sense to her either, the words all jumbling together into a big pile of mush. Despite the fact she’s been learning English since she was in Kindergarten, and been fluent since she was a teenager, that knowledge always just seems to throw itself out the window whenever she’s left in stressful situations.

Luckily, her phone finally calculates the distance to her desired location, and she finds she’ll make it just on time if she hurries, worst case scenario she’ll be a few minutes late. Not the best first impression to make when starting a brand new job.

So far since moving to the states, she’s bagged herself several cleaning jobs in retirement homes or specialist hospitals that care for the elderly in their last days, but it’s not been ideal, especially as she’s not been able to fully utilise any of the skills she acquired back in Germany while working as a nurse.

The healthcare system is vastly different here, and while she’s fully qualified and experienced in her field, so far, it’s been slim pickings when hunting for a full-time job to pay her ever increasing household bills. The only opportunities she’s had to put her skills to real use have been when she had been cleaning a room and the occupant had requested help going to the bathroom, or that one time she’d administered a dosage of painkillers to a woman who had been crying out in agony. She’d checked the paperwork thoroughly and found that the older lady had been waiting for hours for someone to come by her room and give her the medicine.

She felt it had been her moral obligation to help the poor woman, but of course it had in fact led to her immediate dismissal from her post without pay for the full day.

To her dismay, it has now started to rain and it’s beginning to soak through her very light, denim jacket she’d decided to wear despite the winter morning chill. That had been a dumb decision considering it had snowed only a couple of days prior, even her wool hat was becoming drenched. She sighs, nothing she can do about it now.

Her rather heavy backpack feels like it carries tonnes of bricks by the time she sees the little flag marking her destination just at the end of the road on her phone, and she almost visibly rejoices when she notices the outline of a figure sitting on a green, wooden swing on a well sheltered, well-maintained porch.

The person on the swing seems to notice her presence as she starts almost jogging towards the porch steps, almost slipping in her enthusiasm to finally get out of the rain.

“Oh dear, be careful! I’ve done that about a hundred times myself over the years!” The person says kindly, arms stretched out in front of themselves as if to stop the young woman faceplanting into anything on her first day, “Are you Anna?”

The young woman, Anna, nods her assent, taking off her soaking wool hat and attempting to squeeze any remaining water out of her baby pink hair. Who ever said space buns weren’t for 26-year-old women? They were cute and incredibly practical when it came to releasing rain from her head, as she was beginning to find out.

“Yes, I’m sorry for the way I look, I hadn’t expected it to rain so hard.” Anna says apologetically, the foreign words feeling wrong and heavy on her tongue, no matter how many years go by, she can’t help but feel self-conscious whenever she speaks English in front of a new person for the first time, “You are Ellen, yes?”

“Don’t worry about it, Dad always keeps plenty of clean towels inside, just remember to put them inside the washing machine when you’re done, or he’ll have a cow.” The other woman replies understandingly, “And yes, I’m Ellen, I trust my directions were clear enough? I wasn’t sure how else to describe the place.”

Anna isn’t quite ready to admit she’d been wandering around aimlessly for the better part of an hour in fear of sounding like an idiot or wiping the pearly white smile completely off Ellen’s pretty, welcomingly sweet face.

She’s probably in her mid-thirties, but Anna can’t help but notice an almost girlish charm in her appearance, from her cherry red lips and wavy, chin-length, black hair to her beige fur-trimmed coat and brown, suede, knee-high boots with a conservative heel. And if the massive rings she wears on her left hand are anything to go by, she definitely comes from money, married into it most likely, based on the obscenely ostentatious and out of place white sport’s car parked in the driveway.

Anna realises she’s yet to answer Ellen’s question and has just been staring blankly for several seconds, “Ah yes! The directions were great, very…umm, transparent.” She answers dumbly, wishing she’d said nothing at all after seemingly losing the word “clear” from her vocabulary. So much for not looking like a complete moron in front of the new boss.

Ellen, surprisingly, doesn’t seem to pick up on her mistake or is simply too kind to point out the strange use of words and beams happily before instructing Anna to follow her into the house and through to the living room.

Anna had eagerly responded to the online advertisement that Ellen had posted several days earlier looking for a fully qualified, full time Nurse for her elderly father, thinking it’d be the standard run of the mill job she’d been used to back in her home country. She expected to be asked to cook, clean, administer medication and possibly provide help with bathing and bathroom activities when necessary, she wasn’t easily squicked out and those duties didn’t bother her in the slightest.

However, Ellen had been rather reserved when it came to answering Anna’s questions about her father’s state of being, or even what the job entailed in general, just that she was needed right away on as short notice as possible, and that she’d receive a salary paid generously above the standard minimum wage payable to someone in her profession.

What she hadn’t expected to see upon entering the living room, however, is an elderly man with a grey undercut and glasses perched on the bridge of his nose, on his hands and knees scrubbing harshly at the base boards of the wall.

Anna is just about masking her surprise when Ellen sighs audibly next to her and pinches the bridge of her nose, before approaching the gentleman still scrubbing away, not bothering to look up for a second.

“Dad, what have I told you about that? You’re going to hurt your bad leg!” Ellen complains, trying to pry the man from the floor with no luck.

“Ellen, I have lived in this house for almost forty fucking years, and in those forty fucking years I have cleaned these damn base boards every single weekend without fail, I hardly think some kneeling and a little bit of elbow grease is about to kill me, do you?” The gentleman replies exasperated, as if they’ve had this same conversation many times over, which going by the annoyed expressions on both their faces, they probably have.

“Can you please watch your language, Daddy? You have a guest!” Ellen remarks, gesturing to Anna and Levi creakily moves to stand before turning around to face her. He’s relatively fit for his age, Anna notes, standing with an almost unnoticeable bend to his back and knees, and he’s definitely able to move much quicker than many of her previous…she’d struggle to call him a patient in this instance, based on how independently he appears to live. Like the base boards decorating each wall, every inch of the house that she can see is spotless and well looked after.

The main thing strikes Anna as surprising, however, is how small the older man is. He’s probably around 5”3 if she’s being generous, and Ellen probably wouldn’t be much taller than him if she were to take her heels off. Anna has always been considered slightly taller than average, standing at a solid 5”8, but being in a room with these rather little people has her feeling like a genuine tower in comparison.

“Anna, this is my father Levi Ackerman. Dad, this is Anna, she’s here to help you. Remember we talked about getting you an extra pair of hands around the house?” Ellen asks Levi encouragingly, but the man says nothing, instead resolving to give her a cold, hard stare which she’s not completely unaccustomed to, she’s worked with many types of people in her time, and not all of them have been entirely welcoming. She decides after a beat that it’s her turn to say something now.

“Hello Mr Ackerman, my name is Anna Lehmann, I’m good at cleaning too and I’m a qualified…”

“You’re German.” Levi abruptly cuts her off, eyes narrowing in contemplation.

“Are you?” Ellen asks, looking surprised, “I hadn’t even realised.”

“Uh…Yes, I am.” Anna responds, confused, “Is that going to be a prob…”

“You have pink hair.” Levi interrupts her once again, as if the subject naturally progressed there on it’s own.

“Yes, I do.”

“Grown ups don’t have pink hair.” Levi remarks, assessing her with a cool, hard stare as he grimaces at her appearance, “I raised two teenage girls, I’ve been through the pink hair phase and…questionable fashion choices.” He says pointedly.

Anna feels her blood beginning to boil at his demeaning gaze and words, and she doesn’t mean to snark back at an elderly man, but she’s always had a temper and the words slip out before she can stop them.

“Well, this grown up has pink hair, lets call me an exception, yes? And as for questionable fashion choices, I always thought that cravats belonged on corpses, if you’re looking for extra morphine to tip the scales in your favour, you’re going to have to pay me a lot more than you are currently…”

Ellen has begun to look slightly pale, unsure how to handle or comprehend the exchange, and begins fidgeting with the hem of her coat in a nervous gesture. Levi, on the other hand, shows no emotion except the slight twitch in his eyebrow at her words, gaze unwavering until the atmosphere in the room starts becoming awkward and uncomfortable.

Anna gives in first, addressing Ellen once again.

“Look, thank you for your time today, but maybe I better go…”

“I don’t need a nurse.” Levi speaks up unexpectedly, “I’m not an invalid and I’m perfectly capable of looking after myself.”

“Nobody is arguing that Dad!” Ellen reassures him, “It’s just that you clearly can’t do as much as you were once used to and that’s a hard thing to accept. I can see the stairs are becoming a struggle and I know you don’t want to leave this house…and I would never force you. But I’m worried about you Daddy, Tom is worried about you, you know he thinks of you as like a father to him…and believe it or not, Olivia worries about you too, even if she would never admit it.”

“Olivia is about the only person in this goddamn family that doesn’t treat me like a dying cripple.” Levi snaps coldly, causing Ellen’s eyes to droop to her tightly clasped hands. Levi glares for only a second more before he sighs and continues,

“Having said that, I will admit that yes, it has become a little more difficult recently with the stairs and the cleaning since your Aunt Mika had that fall last year. Hell, she’s in a hell of a worse state than I am and you’re insisting I’m the one that needs the nurse!”

Ellen’s next words are muttered so low that Levi can’t hear them, but Anna manages to catch “Yeah, but she has Lexi there with her.”

“So, with that in mind…” Levi starts again, this time looking directly at Anna, “I will accept help with the daily chores and the groceries, which need picked up twice a week. And while that doesn’t sound like much, I run a tight ship around here, and I expect you to work to a high standard at all times. Otherwise, I have no need for you. The choice is yours.”

Anna is left stunned for a stretch, still not quite believing that Levi is relenting! She had fully expected to walk out of the door with an apology for her wasted time and to be back on the job search by tonight. Ellen gives her a shrug, indicating that she’s just about as shocked as Anna at the turn of events and looking at her imploringly, as if silently begging her to agree.

“I…well…if you are happy for me to come and work for you Mr Ackerman…then I would be grateful for the opportunity. I work well with direction…”

“Instruction.” Levi offers automatically, clearing his throat in embarrassment straight after.

“Yes, instruction…I will do my best to meet your expectations.” Anna says with a final nod, to which Levi simply grunts in acknowledgement.

“Well then,” Ellen exclaims suddenly, “It seems like I’m no longer needed here, I’ll make myself scarce and let you two get better acquainted. I need to pick Olivia up from practice anyway.”

“Lacrosse?” Levi asks with piqued interest.

“Football, actually.” Ellen replies, seemingly a little uncomfortable with the topic, “She’s insisted it’s what she wants to do, and there’s nothing I can do to change her mind.”

“Well you know Livvy, she’s strong willed and she’ll always do what she wants to do no matter what you tell her. It’s a good trait to have…” Levi says, trailing off and looking away sadly. Anna doesn’t know why that look sticks with her, but it does, and in that one look she finds herself wanting to know all about Levi Ackerman.

“Yeah, well, I’ll see you later okay, Dad? I’ll come and visit in a couple days, make sure you have everything you need.” Ellen assures, giving Levi a kiss on the cheek before making to leave, “Anna, do you mind walking me to the door?”

“Of course.” Anna says quietly, timidly following Ellen’s clicking heels all the way through the pictureless hall and to the front door. Ellen gives her a sheepish smile as they step just outside, the rain has died down since before and Anna’s hat looks to be drying well enough on the porch steps.

“I’m really sorry about that, Anna.” Ellen apologises, “I would have told you more about Dad and how he can be before you got here. I know he can be…intense, he always has been, and I know it can be overwhelming, but I love him so much and hate seeing him struggle…I guess I just wanted you to give him a chance.”

“Wait, you’re apologising to me?” Anna asks surprised, “I thought for sure you were going to tell me to leave for speaking to your father that way before, I’m sorry about that too. I don’t know why I did it.”

Ellen chuckles at that, “Oh please! That was nothing compared to the things I’ve heard come out his mouth before. Between you and me, I think he needs someone willing to challenge him, he hates when anyone takes his shit wordlessly, he needs to be put in his place every so often.”

“So, you’re not mad? I’m not fired?” Anna questions hopefully, already feeling far more elated that she ever has in all her time since arriving in the country.

“No, of course not! I actually just wanted to let you know that I’m still willing to pay you the full amount that we agreed on. I know it’s not EXACTLY the role we’d discussed and you’re not going to be his nurse as such…but he could really use the company. He’s been so lonely for years, since…well…and it only got worse when Alexia and I moved out for college.”

“Alexia?” Anna enquires curiously.

“My sister, Lexi, she’s a couple of years younger than me.” Ellen clarifies.

“I see.” Anna nods in understanding, “Should I expect to meet her any time soon?”

Ellen smiles sadly, “No, I don’t expect that you will. She doesn’t come around here…much.”

Ellen doesn’t elaborate, she doesn’t have to, Anna has seen it time and time again. Children who lose touch with their much older relatives, off to live their own lives and forgetting the ones who gave them it in the first place. It leaves a bitter taste in her mouth when she thinks of it, if her own parents were alive, she’d be taking care of them until the day they reached their graves.

They part with a kind goodbye on both sides, Ellen zooming off in her fancy car, looking a million miles away from where she should be as Anna heads back inside to see Levi, said man leaning back in a comfortable armchair and awaiting her return.

“Are you any good at making tea, Pippi?” Levi asks as she re-enters the room.

“Excuse me?” Anna questions, raising a quirked eyebrow.

“Tea? I take it you’re familiar with it? Or were you just taking a shit for so long that all the brain cells in your head have magically fallen out your ass?” He smirks as he says it, and Anna thinks it makes him look much younger than he is. 75 years old, if Anna remembers what Ellen had told her in the texts.

“I’m familiar with tea, Mr Ackerman, I was asking why you called me Pippi?” Anna asks in confusion.

“Because you remind me of Pippi Longstocking.” Smirk still painting his features in defiance.

“Well, I happen to find that offensive and incorrect, for one Pippi is Swedish, and secondly, she had braids. I don’t have braids.” Anna responds petulantly, pointing to her head and almost pouting at his teasing of her looks once again.

“Well, you’re the exception. You did say that, right? Now tea! And I’m telling you right now, nobody has made me a decent cup of tea in 26 years, so I will be incredibly disappointed if you screw it up. Cups are in the kitchen cupboards over the sink, and not the fine China! Your fingers have destructive oils.”

“As you wish, sir.” Anna responds, placing the emphasis on the Sir.

“But before you do any of that, take your shoes off and clean the floors, you’ve been trailing rainwater and mud inside since you walked in, it’s been giving me a twitch.”

“Okay, fine.” She says tightly, picking up a bucket from the floor and readying herself to fill it up.

“Hey Moron! I was just using that to clean the base boards, you have to disinfect it first! Seriously, are you always this disgusting?”

And honestly, Anna would have forever denied cursing out an old man in her native tongue when her back was turned…if he hadn’t called her out for it himself.

“I can hear you! Don’t think you can pull that shit with me, I was married to a German, I know every word in the fucking insult directory!” Levi bellows from behind her, and Anna expects him to be red hot with rage when she looks at him, only to find him barely suppressing his sheer amusement at her wide-eyed expression following her mistake. She reckons she must look like a doomed fish, too tempted to reach out and take the bite that she completely missed the hook embedding itself in her face.

And with that, Anna Lehmann is absolutely convinced that Levi Ackerman is, and always will be, one of the biggest contradictions she’ll ever be faced with in her life.

Chapter Text

As it turns out, Levi happens to enjoy Anna’s tea very much. Or as far as she can tell at least, if the slight upturn of his lips and the murmured “not bad” are anything to go by. She gets the impression that it’s probably going to be the highest form of compliment the older gentleman is capable of giving her.

He begins asking for a cup or two a day in the first week of her working for him, and although she senses he would drink more if she offered, it takes a few more days before she feels confident enough to simply make him a cup without prompt. And then a few weeks before she begins making herself a cup and joining him at lunch time.

On the few occasions where Levi has run out of the only tea he insists on drinking or the milk that Anna requires in order to enjoy a cup has run out, she insists he gets up off his ass and stretch his legs for the short walk to the store that carry the brand of teabags he wants and a small carton of milk. To her surprise, he does so without argument, but that’s not to say he does so without complaint.

It honestly shocks her how many curse words Levi can fit into the one sentence, especially around strangers. And it’s not always indirect. Whether it’s someone not properly looking where they’re going, or a mother ignoring her young, screaming children in favour of her phone or some random guy giving Anna the eye, Levi most definitely has a choice word for them.

“Hey fuckwit, watch where you’re going next time!”

“Shit for brains, usually if they’re crying it means they need something, or did they fail to teach that in the latest issue of Parenting for Dummies?”

“Seriously? You’re gonna hit on her when she’s carrying a tonne of bags and hanging off the arm of an old man? Take a hike, lecherous piece of shit.”

He always seems to get away with it, however, not many people wanting to start a fight with a member of the elderly community, and each time somebody new pursed their lips and began walking in the other direction, he’d turn to her with a conspiratory smirk, as if she’d somehow been in on it the whole time.

It’s always a silent affair, their tea drinking sessions. A comfortable, companionable silence one would probably associate with family or close friends and not the two awkward, almost strangers sitting only a couple of feet apart on separate sofa chairs.

The soft chair Anna sits in is plush and bright green, the cushions are still puffed to perfection, while Levi’s chair is beginning to wear from years of constant use, and it sinks in several places where it’s become accustomed to the man’s form. Anna imagines all of the afternoons and evenings Levi has probably spent in that very chair, alone and without anybody to talk to, and it breaks her heart a little. Her chair has obviously not been sat in frequently for a very, very long time.

She’s about to ask if her sitting with him, in that chair, is bothering him – she’d never actually thought to ask, and he hadn’t yet indicated that she should move – when he starts talking, seemingly to her and out of nowhere.

“Ellen makes a terrible cup of tea, always has done. My daughter is an incredibly gifted, talented woman, who excels in a lot of different fields. But tea-making has never been one of them.” Levi says, wrinkling his nose in disgust at the thought, “Alexia never drank tea growing up, so naturally she never made it either. Mikasa is more of a coffee drinker, but even if she did have taste and was a tea fan, I still probably wouldn’t invite her around any more often. My sister is not the conversationalist type.”

He takes another long sip from his cup, holding his cup in the strange way he always did, and Anna has to fight the urge to retort that up until today, she hadn’t pegged him as the conversationalist type either. So far, their interactions have mainly consisted of him barking orders at her to clean or dust something and then yelling at her for doing it wrong, coming up with a new and more creative insult each time. It’s quite impressive really.

She’d been a little offended at first by how much he called her a moron or an idiot, but soon came to realise that he referred to almost everybody as a moron or an idiot, so she stopped taking it personally. It had almost become a sort of term of endearment if she’s honest.

“So, I guess that’s what you meant about not receiving a decent cup of tea in the last 20 years?” Anna asks, smirking a little at the underlying praise he’s unknowingly giving her in not so many words.

“26 years.” He corrects smugly, “And in that time, I’ve learned that if you want something done right, you should do it yourself.”

“Oh really? So, is that why I’ve been scrubbing this whole house to within an inch of it’s life every day and why I haven’t seen you make a single cup of tea in these last 3 weeks?” She teases, feeling like pushing her luck a little now that he’s decided to be chatty for a change.

“Yes, well, your presence here hasn’t been…entirely shitty.” Levi mutters, not quite managing to meet her eyes and paying particular interest to the bottom of his teacup, and Anna beams widely at him, “Now don’t look too proud of yourself, you still dress like you’ve just run the entire length of a thrift store covered in glue, you don’t pronounce your Ws correctly, you always put the cleaning products in the wrong place AND in the wrong order, and don’t even get me started on that trash you call music...”

“Woah, woah, woah, wait a minute!” Anna exclaims, effectively ending Levi’s tirade, “You can insult my clothes, you can insult my hair, or my accent, you can even insult my work if it makes you feel better…but you don’t EVER insult my music choice! Are you deaf? Are your ears broken?!”

Levi scoffs at her outburst, “Tch, are yours? It’s awful, you play it so loudly and you insist on singing along. The first time you did it, I thought you’d brought in a load of cats with you.”

“Well I think you just need to live a little and a bit of artistic self-expression never hurt anybody.”

“Except my head and apparently broken ears.” Levi deadpans.

“Okay, that’s it!” Anna says, shooting up off her seat and turning on the radio to a station she knows plays an eclectic choice of music from a myriad of decades. And as if the universe had been listening all this time, ‘Critcize’ by Alexander O’Neal starts to play, a popular song from the 1980s and Anna begins to dance around while singing along loudly.

“Seriously? This is the kind of shit you listen to? This song was old when I was your age.” Levi complains, watching Anna as if some kind of alien life form has just landed in his living room and is attempting to communicate solely in the form of strange body contortions.

“I’M FED UP ‘CAUSE ALL YOU WANNA DO IS CRITICIZE!” Anna sings/shouts, waving her arms in the air.

“Please don’t…”

“DON’T JUST CLOSE YOUR MIND…OOH-OOH”

“That’s quite enough now, don’t you think, shitty buns?”

“YOU DON’T REALISE, ALL YOU WANT TO DO IS CRITICIZE!”

“Are you quite finished?” Levi asks finally when it looks like Anna is struggling to catch her breath from all her warbling, and she nods grinning before bending over, feeling a little winded. It really has been a while since she truly exercised.

“Moron…” Levi murmurs, but there’s no malice in his voice and he’s looking at Anna like one may look at their child bringing them the 36th drawing of the same rock they’ve been enamoured with for the last hour. Exasperated, but endeared all the same.

And as if struck by the greatest idea in the world, Anna stands upright and stretches her hand out towards Levi, “Come on, have a dance with me!”

Levi looks horrified and almost scandalised by the suggestion, “You cannot be serious!”

“I can and I am! Give me one good reason why you shouldn’t?” Anna asks raising an eyebrow, a challenge and Levi rises to it.

“Because for one, you dance like some kind of abnormal, giant, humanoid creature having a seizure, and secondly, I’m far too old to be dancing around with a girl young enough to be my granddaughter.” Levi answers, folding his arms and sinking further into his seat in defiance.

“That’s not true, your granddaughter is a whole decade younger than me!” Anna argues, beginning to move to the music once again.

“And I was considered old when I became a father for the first time.” Levi retorts, still not making to move from his chair.

“Regardless, nobody is ever too old to dance. Think about it Mr Ackerman, when was the last time you danced with somebody?” Anna asks, swaying from side to side and holding her hand out for Levi to grab onto.

But he doesn’t, instead his face falls instantly and his eyes cloud over, as if he’s remembering something. No, like he’s reliving a memory, and Anna can’t tell if it’s a good or bad one. She stops dancing, the music still playing obnoxiously in the background, she’s touched a nerve. A sensitive one.

“Mr Ackerman…”

“Are you finished with your cup?” Levi asks, eyes still glassy and interrupting whatever she’d been about to say. And good thing too probably, she has no idea what she was going to say next, she may even have made the situation worse in her attempt to try and make him not look so sad.

He gets up off his chair, with a little effort she notes, and collects both their cups before heading out into the direction of the kitchen. Anna begins to feel herself sag in defeat, things had been going so well, almost as if he’d enjoyed her company for once. Now he just looks lonelier than ever.

“It’s Levi.” She hears him say after a minute, and it takes a second for it to register he’d been talking to her.

“I’m sorry, say again?” She asks, feeling a little self-conscious at how constricted her throat is now.

“You can call me Levi.” He clarifies gently, “Having you call me Mr Ackerman all the time really does make me feel like an old man.”

++

It’s when she’s dusting the large staircase leading to the upstairs bedrooms, that she properly notices the lack of pictures in the house. She had noticed that there were none hanging in the hallway before, but she’d always thought nothing of it.

But now that it’s in her head, she can’t seem to stop thinking about the lack of family photographs, achieved diplomas or anything to even suggest a family once lived here at all. That it hasn’t always been just Levi occupying the much too large house for only one person.

Their tea sessions have never gone back to being completely silent, with Levi offering her bits and pieces of information here and there, but never allowing her to question further or to lead the conversation in a direction that would have him revealing any more than he wanted.

Through their chats, she’s learned that he is the oldest of a family of two, his younger sister Mikasa being 8 years younger than him. She is told that Ellen is 35 and at the age of 27, founded a charity organisation that runs several support groups for something Anna has yet to find out about. Through this, however, she has become a massive name in the medical industry for the charity's generous donations and is considered a role model for young mothers, since she herself had her only daughter, Olivia, with her now husband Tom at age 19. Something Levi describes as an absolute blessing and a curse at the same time.

A sentiment Anna can agree with based on the several occasions she’s been faced with the ‘delightful’ girl with the oversized tie dye shirts and black undercut not unlike her grandfather’s chosen hairstyle.

He doesn’t talk about Alexia all that much, and she doesn’t blame him based on the snippets she’s heard from Ellen when she comes over every few days, and even Olivia when she’s feeling particularly snarky, which seems to be more and more often with the amount of time she’s been spending with her grandfather. From what she understands, Alexia is a troubled woman of 33, who can’t seem to hold down a solid job or commit to anything in her life for a very long time. She lives with Mikasa in her home across town and for some reason, that subject alone is sore spot for Levi and even Ellen when it comes up.

The one thing Levi refuses to talk about, or at least never brings up in conversation around her, is the topic of a partner or a significant other. Anna knows there must have been someone living here with Levi at some point, the last time she checked men couldn’t have children and people in general couldn’t conceive them on their own. Levi could have adopted the girls, yes, but there is such a striking physical resemblance between him and Ellen that idea is inconceivable, and besides, he did mention on her first day that he had at least been married before. But what is the nature of that marriage now? Is he Divorced? Estranged? Widowed? The possibilities are endless, and there is no way of finding out aside from simply asking the question. Yet, she can’t bring herself to do it.

Anna’s mother had often used an English idiom in these situations, something about not wanting to disturb the dust, and while she could never understand what was meant at the time, it seems rather fitting in this instance.

There’s just something about the way that the house is laid out that makes it feel…incomplete. From the two sofa chairs in the living room adjacent to the much larger couch where she could easily imagine a child or two sitting to watch television, the four seats at the dinner table instead of three to sit Levi, Ellen, Alexia…and someone else for dinner, the chest of drawers in the bathroom that seems to go completely untouched, but still looks perfectly well cared for despite the fact it’s locked tight and is never opened…even the way Levi manoeuvres himself in the house, as if there is an entire presence somehow missing, like he’s never fully settled here on his own, despite his unwillingness to be moved elsewhere.

All of which just makes the absence of photographs seem stranger somehow, it’s as if the house itself and the man living in it are part of the most interesting book she’s ever picked up to read, only to find there is a whole chapter missing from the beginning, so she’s left guessing about what has taken place before the first page of her version.

She continues dusting all the way up the stairs when her eyes land on Levi’s bedroom door, left ajar and not completely closed like it usually is. Levi had said that it was the only room in the house he didn’t want her to clean, that he was perfectly capable of doing it himself, and while it seemed like a fairly innocent statement at the time, Anna can’t help but feel like the older man has been trying to hide something from her.

Unable to tame her building curiosity, Anna lets her gaze and concentration drift downstairs for a second until she hears Levi pottering away and polishing some knick knacks like he often does at this time of day, complaining about the build up of dust and other disgusting shit for the third time that week. Once she’s satisfied that he’ll be occupied for some time, she tiptoes her way across the hall and pauses for a second, trying to silently talk herself out of invading her employer’s privacy before letting herself slip into his bedroom.

Levi’s room is pretty much exactly how she imagined it if only quite a bit larger than she’d been expecting, pristine and clean, with not a single thing out of place. What surprises her the most is the décor of all things. There is a neatly made four poster double bed in the middle of the room, soft cream sheets with a sheer white canopy hanging over the top and down the sides of the posts, giving off a comfortable yet alluring vibe when you walk in the door. The majority of the furniture is solid pine and glossed in cream to match the bedsheets, expensive looking but a bit dated, as if it was all planned perfectly with the essence of the room in mind but hasn’t been changed in an incredibly long time. Most strikingly, however, is the ocean blue coloured walls. The colour itself isn’t what surprises her, it’s really quite a lovely colour, but it’s definitely not something she could picture the man just downstairs choosing for himself somehow.

Speaking of pictures, there are frames and frames of photographs on Levi’s dressing table, all different shapes and sizes, showing they were added to lovingly over the years and not just all dumped on there at the same time haphazardly. Upon inspection, Anna finds a photograph of what looks to be a heavily pregnant Ellen and a slightly younger, insanely gorgeous girl who she concludes must be Alexia, wrapping their arms around each other and grinning broadly at the camera, like they’d just been laughing before the picture was taken.

The photos of the girls are vast and plentiful, showing them at all ages and times in their lives, from childhood to adulthood. She does notice that Alexia looks hardly anything like her father, they have the same grey eyes but unlike Levi’s hers are large and round, and there’s a slight tan to her skin giving her an entirely different complexion from both Levi and Ellen. She also has long, poker straight brown hair and where Ellen is slim and slight, Alexia is curvy and tall. Their differences are immeasurable, but they still look like siblings and it’s incredibly odd to Anna, how two women so diverse could feel like they belong right next to each other. Like real sisters.

The next photograph that captures Anna’s attention is one of a much younger looking Levi, he must have only been in his forties when it was taken, and he has both of the girls on either side, both giving him a kiss on both of his cheeks as Levi smiles for the camera, they can’t be any older than 8 or 9 years old. His mouth is closed, and the smile could be easily missed in any other circumstance, but it’s immediately the happiest Anna has ever seen him look before.

Next is a photo of a young man probably in his twenties with shaggy brown hair tied in a messy bun doing a silly pose with a slightly older woman of around thirty, her red hair tied on both sides of her head, making her look quite a bit younger than she clearly is. They have the same eyes, and the same skin tone, and Anna concludes they must be related but she can’t help but feel like it’s familiar somehow. Like she’s seen or met someone with similar features before.

The young, tall man with brown hair appears alone in the next photograph, it’s a black and white candid photo of him staring out of a window while he runs his fingers across a barre in a ballet studio. For some reason the picture gives her a slight chill when she looks at it, and she’s suddenly struck by how similar the man looks to Alexia in the photo when she compares the two side by side. She wonders for a moment if Levi also has a son he doesn’t talk about for whatever reason.

That theory is shot down when she comes to the picture placed closest to Levi’s bed, from the angle, she imagines it’s the first thing he sees in the morning. Both Levi and the man from the other photos are present in this picture, each of them hugging one of Levi’s much younger daughters tightly to their legs in a field of snow, wrapped up tightly in woollen scarves, gloves and hats, skin tinged pink from the cold.

They look happy, they look content, they look like a family. A real family.

“Did you find what you were looking for?” A voice from behind her asks, a voice that she knows without a shadow of a doubt belongs to Levi. She turns slowly away from the picture and forces herself to meet the man’s eyes. To her shock, he doesn’t look angry or annoyed, just sad, just very, very sad.

“Levi…I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to….” She begins lamely, fiddling with the apron over her clothes, the one in her hair is slightly askew and she represses the need to fix it. Levi had been the one to teach her to do it in the first place.

“Sneak into my bedroom, look at my photographs, invade my privacy…which of those things didn’t you mean to do, Anna?” He asks wearily, like he’s trying to seem disappointed, but the energy has left his entire body, and he has no fight left in his old bones.

“I know, that was wrong of me, and I’m sorry.” Anna apologises, before continuing, “It wasn’t my intention to invade your privacy or break your trust, Levi, believe me…I just…I see you every single day, and while we have this playful back and forth that makes you seem a little happier for a time…I can’t help but sense…there’s this…” She trails off, hands gesturing as she's trying to find the right word, “Sadness. There is a sadness in you…it never goes away…and I think I just wanted to understand.”

“And do you understand now?” Levi asks, genuinely curious and Anna shakes her head in response.

“I can see that from these pictures you were happy…you look like you were happy for a long time. And then something happened…something that took your smile away from these photos. It’s like…it’s like your happiness, your smile, it only now exists in here. In the frames.” She says, absentmindedly picking up and thumbing at one of the frames containing a picture of the shaggy haired man and a very little Alexia.

Levi is silent for what seems like several minutes, alternating between looking at Anna and then at the photographs, and then back to Anna once more. He then heaves a heavy sigh.

“The man in that picture you’re holding, his name is Eren.” Levi says, nodding towards the picture Anna has in her hand, “He was my husband.”

The revelation startles Anna for a touch, not because she hadn’t expected Levi to be gay – it just wasn’t something she’d considered, which seems ridiculous considering her own sexuality- but that she hadn’t expected him to be so frank about it. She had fully assumed he would have told her to get out of his room and leave immediately, and that later on she would receive a phone call from Ellen asking her kindly not to return as per her father’s request. That could still happen.

“Oh.” She says and continues honesty, “I’m…wow…I’m not sure what to say.”

“Not what you were expecting? Let me guess, you were thinking I had a lovely, dutiful wife who would make me tea when I came home from work and would ask me how my day was, gave me two beautiful children and when I was done with her, chopped her into little pieces and hid her in the walls?” Levi asks, an evil, smug smirk just beginning to grace his lips.

“No, of course not!” Anna protests but still finds herself slyly scanning for any hidden cracks in the building, causing Levi to let out a chuckle at her expression.

“Nothing quite as dramatic as that I’m afraid. But, did you not even suspect? I mean, it’s not like I tend to flaunt the fact that I was married to a man and I know I don’t talk about him, but I had assumed Ellen would have mentioned it, or even Olivia. Guess I can’t be too surprised that they didn’t, seeing as I didn’t either. But I suppose I should ask, does it bother you now that you know?” Levi asks suddenly, and Anna isn’t quite sure what he’s asking her.

“Does what bother me now?” She asks, confused and screwing her eyebrows.

Levi rolls his eyes, “You know…me preferring Bratwurst…” and he says it so seriously that Anna can’t control the snort and cackle that follow.

“Oh my god, please tell me you didn’t just say that! Bratwurst, really Levi? The word is Gay! Unless, you’re not…ahem…on a…complete Bratwurst diet.” Anna says through tears of laughter, wiping at her eyes as large blops of moisture begin pouring down her face.

“Tch, fine, and here was me thinking I was being subtle. But to answer your question, I don’t really have a label for what I am. I did go out with a few girls in my twenties, but for all intents and purposes, I am a gay man. Although having said that, there was only ever one Bratwurst for me…and there have been no more since.” Levi teases, cracking a rare smile at her teary, red face, still pinched with laughter.

“Well, if it makes you feel any better, in that regard…I’m on an entirely pescatarian diet if you know what I mean, my fellow rainbow child.” Anna says with a wink, throwing Levi’s analogy right back at him, and to her satisfaction, it does catch him off guard fairly well.

++

“So, what happens now?” Anna asks as they re-enter the living room, both of them holding a cup of freshly brewed tea in their hands. The sun has only just started to go down.

“Nothing happens now, you saw the pictures, you know about Eren…it doesn’t change anything. And tomorrow when you fuck up cleaning the dust from the stairs, I’ll tell you you’re doing it all wrong in the same way I would every morning.” Levi says with finality, sipping his tea his unique way and looking everywhere but right at her.

“Levi…we can’t just pretend like nothing happened today. I still…I still don’t know what happened…with Eren…why you’re so sad. It is because of him, isn’t it?” Anna asks, pretty sure of herself.

“I’m not sad because of Eren, Anna…you just wouldn’t understand.” Levi insists, his eyes becoming glassy again and she knows she’s losing him once more. She won’t let him, she can’t let him retreat back into himself.

“Then help me understand. You can trust me Levi, I may not be family or even a friend, but I do care about you…goodness knows why but I do. I hate looking over at you when you think I can’t see and finding you so lonely…so resigned…it’s heart breaking. And the fact you hide all of those beautiful photos, photos of your life and love, away in a bedroom where no one can see them. I just really want to know why.” Anna says firmly, refusing to budge, and she can see his resolve beginning to crumble. But aside from the defeat in his expression…there’s hope? A flickering of something, something new she’s yet to see in his eyes. It drives her to continue moving forward, to keep encouraging him to talk about those feelings he’s kept bottled up for god knows how long.

“I…don’t know if I can…I haven’t spoken to a soul about Eren in about 20 years…I’m scared…I’m scared that I’ve forgotten…that there are these wonderful memories that I can’t recall…that if I make them real by saying them…that they’ll cease to be real anymore.” Levi trails off, looking truly fearful as he stares into her eyes and her heart truly shatters for him right then.

“You can tell me as much or as little as you want…this is for you, I’m just happy to listen. There’s no rush, I don’t need to be anywhere.” Anna reaches over tentatively and takes one of Levi’s old, frail hands into her own, she can feel ever bump and ridge of him, but his skin is silky and re-assuringly smooth.

With a deep breath, he takes off the thick-rimmed reading glasses he’d forgotten to take off earlier and looks her in the eyes properly this time.

“His name was Eren Yeager, he was a dancer, an amazing, beautiful dancer…and I met him when he was just a child.”

Chapter Text

Levi can’t remember a lot about his childhood, or even his time at elementary school for that matter, but he can recall that his mother Kuchel would often say to all of her friends that he was a good, quiet, little boy.

In contrast to the other kids his age, he took no interest in running around the schoolyard covered in mud, eating worms or crying to get attention, he was quite content to sit inside during recess, reading his book or doing his homework early. His teachers had often tried to encourage him to go outside and play in the sunshine, but it was dirty out there and he was perfectly happy where he was, so they didn’t force him.

It had struck them as rather odd however, and they did mention to Kuchel on several occasions that she might want to get in touch with a behavioural therapist and have them meet Levi, but she had rejected the idea each time without a second thought. In her eyes, Levi was a healthy, happy, little boy who didn’t need some professional asking him all types of confusing questions. And besides, what could a behavioural therapist tell her about her own son that she didn’t already know? Even if he did have to wash his hands several times a day and watch her iron all of his clothes, she loved him all the same.

When he was 8 years old, and Mikasa was born, he distinctly remembers arguing with his mother that he didn’t have to go to school anymore. He decided he would stay at home and help Kuchel look after his baby sister, ever since the man with the kind smile and who sort of smelled like sweat all the time – Levi cannot remember his name no matter how hard he tries - left his mother by herself with a newborn baby, Levi needed to be the man of the house and he told Kuchel so himself.

He didn’t win that argument, but he did make a point of helping Kuchel look after Mikasa every day after school. He had even learned how to change her dirty diapers without flinching within a matter of weeks, but he had of course washed his hands twice as often on the days he did that.

Nothing really changed as he grew older, he didn’t get much taller, nor did he have any friends aside from his kid sister, but he also didn’t really mind too much either. As the other boys who would once run around like crazy and push all the little girls down on the ground began to grow body hair and flirt with those same girls they’d once swore had girl cooties, Levi was still quite content to remain at the back of the classroom, reading his book or doing his homework as he always had.

It was only when he had gone to high school, and the kids were bigger and meaner, that Levi began to have problems. Or annoyances, as he would call them.

Some of the older guys had spotted him walking in the corridors by himself one day and thought him an easy target due to his miniscule height and slender frame. There were three of them, and they’d backed him into a corner and demanded any money he had on him, to which he had politely responded that they could go fuck themselves or go fuck each other, he didn’t really care which.

The first had swung his meaty fist at him then and Levi had managed to duck just in time, bringing his knee up high so that it struck the guy directly in the crotch, causing the much larger boy to sink immediately to his knees.

His friend had lunged at him then, but Levi had already raised his elbow swiftly and slammed it into the guy’s nose, hearing it give a satisfying crunch upon impact. Not ready to quite give up the fight yet, the other boy began punching the air blindly, his eyes closed in pain and left hand pinching the bridge of his most likely broken nose. His aims were too high however, and Levi easily dodged them, coming close enough to kick the guy in the stomach and send him tumbling on his ass.

The third, however, had not been so brave. It had only taken a single cold glare from Levi to cause the boy to apologise profusely for his friends’ behaviour, raising his hands in surrender before hauling the injured pair to their feet before they all started to run far away from him.

It had only been due to a few self defence classes that his mother had made him attend and the fact that they been a bunch of cocky ass shits, that he’d even been able to take them down in the first place. But it had been enough, and soon the whole school had begun talking about the small, quiet boy, who managed to beat up three of the most popular jocks in school all on his own.

From then on, he was feared by many, he was idolised in some cases by others, but most of all, he was respected by nearly everyone. And even more importantly, he was left alone, just as he’d wanted. But being left alone didn’t mean people didn’t talk to him, they just preferred to talk about him instead. The crazy rumours began to multiply by the day, and not wanting to disappoint, he’d ended up joining the gym.

++

Levi is having the shittiest of shitty days when the bell rings for the last time that day, signalling that he can finally pack up his things and leave this hell hole for a whole 48 hours. And honestly, after today, he feels like he fucking needs it.

First of all, his alarm hadn’t gone off that morning, causing him to have to rush his shower and miss breakfast this morning after Mikasa had complained he was going to be late dropping her off, just because he was late didn’t mean she had to be too. Then in his first class of the day, he’d realised that in his rush, he’d forgotten to pick up his History assignment, causing Professor Shadis to call him out in front of the entire class and give him a detention for the first half of lunch. And when he finally did manage to get himself some food for the first time today, a freshman who he hadn’t recognised decided she fancied bagging herself a bad boy and began chatting his ear off. He, of course, had ignored her the entire time in favour of eating, but he was then left with a headache in his next class which was only then made worse by his stupid fuck of a lab partner almost burning his eyebrows clean off.

Not wanting to waste a single second of his well-earned freedom, he loads his stuff into his car, climbs in and takes off driving in the direction of his home. He has to honk at several idiots who decided they wanted to walk smack bang in the middle of the road in their little groups instead of on the sidewalk, where they were supposed to fucking be. They move out of the way quickly, but he can’t help but wish he had a good excuse for running a few of them over like bowling pins.

To his dismay, he finds that the usual road he takes to get to his house is closed, and he’ll have to take the longer route through the ‘nicer’ part of town, aka the suburbs. It was the section of town that his Mom often said she would have loved to have moved them all to if she had enough money, but Levi knows that the average wage his Mom earns wouldn’t cover even the interest on a mortgage payment for one of those massive houses with the double garages and a big backyard. Levi, however, is just as happy in their respectable three-bedroom apartment as he would be in any of these big ass houses.

He’s stopped at a light when he spots them from the corner of his eye in an alley way. An older, homeless man pressing into a young schoolgirl wearing a uniform – indicating that she must attend the private school a few miles out - and the girl’s struggling form is enough for Levi to feel uncomfortable with the idea of just driving away. He halts the car next to the nearest sidewalk, and sees the man ripping the girl’s bag from her shoulder and then caressing her cheek with one of his dirty fingers, while his other hand grips at her tiny waist tightly.

Levi sees red and is out of the car in a flash, sprinting towards them in a matter of seconds.

“Hey! Get away from her!” He yells at the top of his voice, before bringing his fist back and connecting it with the filthy man’s jaw, feeling rather than hearing it crack under his knuckles. The man, reeking of alcohol and weed, stumbles back while clutching at his face and crying out in pain.

“What the fuck is your problem, man?!” The man manages to warble out, spitting out mouthfuls of blood in the process, “I think you broke my tooth!”

“I’ll break your fucking legs if you don’t get out of here in the next 10 seconds, you piece of shit.” Levi threatens menacingly, taking a step towards the man in warning.

Thankfully, he takes the hint, and is running off in the opposite direction in moments. Levi clicks his tongue in disgust and pulls out his bottle of hand sanitizer, rubbing it into his skin and feeling his anxiety lift now that he’s free of the disgusting pig’s germs. After a beat, he turns to the girl who is still looking at him in what looks to be shock and disbelief, he notes her cheeks are wet and her legs are still shaking.

“Do you want some?” Levi asks, offering her the bottle of sanitizer, “I’d want to take a shower if I were you, but this will have to do for now.”

After a split second of hesitation, she grabs the bottle from his hands, squeezing a generous amount into her palm and rubbing it into her hands and neck. Levi doesn’t blame her.

Levi takes the time to assess the girl as she does so, noting her crisp white shirt, royal blue blazer and tie. A quick glance of the crest located on her breast pocket confirms his earlier suspicions, she is from the private school a couple of miles away from here. Her short, red hair with messy layers is tied at either side of her head – although one side is beginning to come loose – and her knee-high socks are starting to slide down, showing off her grubby, scabbed knees. A clumsy kid, then. She’s just a little bit shorter than him, and Levi thinks she must be no older than 14 years old. She also has bright green eyes.

A couple of minutes later, the girl finishes rubbing harshly at her skin and hands Levi’s almost empty hand sanitizer bottle back to him with a timid “sorry.”

“It’s fine, kid, keep it.” He assures, waving her hand away and she nods thankfully, placing the little bottle in her breast pocket. Her eyes are still filled with unshed tears and she shakily moves to pick up her destroyed schoolbag, the whole strap ripped literally in half. She holds it against herself, clutching it in her two arms, and begins to silently walk in the direction of the street.

He should let her go, she’s had a horrific experience and the last thing she needs is Levi freaking her out too, but before he can stop himself, he calls out to her.

“Kid, wait! Just wait here a minute.” Levi says, trying to sound as non-threatening as possible, “I don’t feel right about you heading home by yourself, not after what’s just happened. Is there anyone that you can call?”

The girl looks at him with wide, scared eyes for a little, before nodding. She then opens up a pocket in her wrecked bag with one hand and reaches inside. She pulls out her cell phone and examines it before frowning, and then Levi sees why, the whole screen has been smashed to smithereens.

“Oh no…” She murmurs, staring at the broken phone as if she doesn’t know how to process it.

“That’s okay, if you know the number you can just use mine.” Levi reassures, grabbing his own cell phone from his jeans pocket. But as luck would have it, the battery is completely dead.

“Shit!” He exclaims, before glancing back at the girl, an apology in his eyes.

“I-it’s okay…m-my house is just a f-few blocks away.” The girl says through chattering teeth, the adrenaline finally beginning to wear off, and Levi knows he can’t leave her alone now. Hell, if it was Mikasa, he’d hate to think of anyone leaving her to fend for herself after such a traumatic event, he begins to feel the anger build back up and his resolve settle at the thought.

“Come on, kid, I’ll drive you home. You’re in no fit state to be walking anywhere, and someone should be there to help explain to your parents.” Levi offers, and the girl looks unsure, “Just give me the address, I promise it’s fine.”

The last of her willpower to say no seems to crumble then, and her shoulders sag a little as she nods her shaggy head of hair in agreement.

Without another word, they make their way towards Levi’s car and he opens the passenger side door for her, taking her poor excuse for a bag and placing it in the back seat. By the time he sits himself in the driver’s seat and puts on his seatbelt, she’s staring at him.

“Thank you for helping me…” She says, although looking as if she’s struggling to remember something, and it’s only then that Levi remembers that he’s forgotten to tell her his name.

“Levi.” He offers, “My name is Levi Ackerman.”

“I’m Isabel. Isabel Magnolia Yeager.” She responds with a slight upturn of her lips.

++

Levi feels incredibly uncomfortable and out of place when he pulls up outside Isabel’s house, the massive two-storey house with a driveway that fits two expensive cars, a Mercedes-Benz and a giant, imposing Range Rover, and a long pathway leading to the front door, that Levi suspects is larger than the length of his entire home.

He starts to become a little nervous as he lets himself out of his car and gently picks up Isabel’s bag from the backseat, carrying it in his arms so she doesn’t have to. He has no idea what he’s going to say to these people, how he, an 18-year-old man practically, can explain turning up to their home unannounced with their very upset, very dishevelled daughter in tow. He can’t imagine how any of this will make him look any better than he feels right about now.

Isabel’s house key is in the bag Levi is carrying, so instead of awkwardly rummaging around to find it, she instead decides to ring the bell and let someone answer them.

They are only waiting for less than a minute, when a woman with dark hair and a pretty face opens the door with a smile. That same smile drops immediately, however, as she takes in the sight before her.

“Oh my god, Isabel! What happened?!” The woman exclaims in shock as Isabel launches herself at the woman, wrapping her around her tightly and beginning to cry in the crook of her neck.

“Mama!” Isabel sobs, voice sounding thick with emotion and she heaves a little, unable to catch her breath properly. Isabel’s mother holds her just as tight without question, confusion painted clearly on her features as she absentmindedly cards her fingers gently through her daughter’s hair. It’s only when the woman looks up that she seems to notice Levi at all. She takes one look at Isabel’s ripped bag and then locks eyes with Levi.

“What happened?” She asks, directing her question at Levi, “Who are y…”

“I’m Levi!” Levi blurts out before Isabel’s mother can finish her question, “I saw what happened and gave Isabel a ride home. Her phone broke, and she was in a bad way…” He trails off lamely when he’s unsure of what else to say.

Isabel is still crying, and her mother inhales a sharp breath, closing her eyes for a second before looking back at Levi.

“Well…in that case, I think you’d better come in.” Isabel’s mother says gently, stepping aside from the doorway to let Levi inside.

++

“I…I just can’t believe it…I can’t believe somebody would do this to my little girl…” Carla manages through floods of tears, holding her head in her hands as both Isabel and Levi recount what happened in the alley. Carla and Isabel sitting on a two-seat sofa together while Levi sits in the armchair facing them.

Carla Yeager, Isabel’s mother, is absolutely distraught. Inconsolable. Heartbroken. And in this moment, she reminds him so much of his own mother that he can’t help but feel his own heart hurting for her.

“I was so scared Mama…I thought for sure he was gonna hurt me, or worse…but then Levi showed up and got him off me, he saved me! He punched him and the man ran away. I think Levi hurt him badly.” Isabel says proudly, her big green eyes beginning to fill with life again, not as dimmed as they had been before.

“Well good! I hope he got that…bastard…good and that he’ll think twice before touching another girl again.” Carla spits out with venom, her eyes filling with hate for the man in the alley, before softening again as they reach Levi, “I can’t thank you enough Levi, truly I can’t. I don't know how we can ever repay you.”

Levi is about to say that she doesn’t have to mention it, that he only did what anyone would have done, but he doesn’t get a chance. A little voice speaks out from behind Levi’s back before he can say any of it.

“Mama?” The voice calls out, soft and childlike, and Carla immediately straightens, wiping her eyes before the child can see her.

“Oh, Eren…did you need something sweetie?” Carla asks, trying the muster up the most cheerful expression she can manage.

The little boy walks further into the living room, tentatively and suspicious as he takes in the expressions of those in the room, shyly looking towards the stranger he’s not familiar with and then looking back to his mother.

Levi takes in the sight of the child he’s seeing for the first time. The little boy, Eren, is playing with the hem of his smart shirt in a nervous gesture, obviously unsure of what to do or how to act in a room full of people with such a tense atmosphere. He has messy, chocolate coloured hair that looks soft to the touch, the same slightly tan skin as his mother and sister, and the biggest, brightest, greenest eyes that Levi has ever seen in his life. If he thought that Isabel had bright eyes, then he could be blinded by the sight of Eren’s in comparison.

“You said you were coming back…so I waited and practiced a little…but I got sleepy and wanted to find you…and then I thought I heard crying…” Eren says nervously, and then catches sight of his sister, who is trying desperately to look as if she’s not just spent the last couple of hours sobbing her heart out.

“Izzy what’s wrong? Why are you sad? Did your teacher shout at you at school? I cry when my teacher shouts at me, but only sometimes!” Eren says so seriously with those big worried eyes that it immediately makes both Isabel and Carla laugh despite themselves, even Levi has to fight down a rare smile.

“Come here pipsqueak!” Isabel says, holding her arms out, and her little brother immediately runs into them, wrapping his chubby little arms and legs around her. She clings to him and kisses his head as he chats away happily to her, wiping at her face to clean her up, making her laugh.

Levi watches them for a few moments before feeling as if he’s beginning to intrude on their family time. He’s about to make his excuses to leave, when he hears the front door closing and footsteps heading towards the living room.

“Carla? Isabel? Eren? Where is everyone?” A male’s voice calls out from the hallway. The man has an accent, one he can't quite place.

“In here honey!” Carla shouts back, and the man enters the living room, scanning the faces of those in the room, pausing a second longer on Levi’s when he sees him. Levi can’t help but feel like he’s entirely out of place, and out of his depth.

“Hey, what’s going on?” The man asks, before scrutinising both Carla and Isabel once more, “Why are there tears? And who’s this?” He asks gesturing to Levi, not unkindly, just concerned.

“Grisha, something happened today that I need to talk you about, that’s why Levi is here, but…um, Eren sweetie, why don’t you go and watch some cartoons in your room upstairs?” Carla suggests, beaming brightly at Eren as if everything is right with the world. Eren doesn’t buy it, and Levi can’t blame the poor kid.

“But Mama…you and Izzy are still sad…” Eren says softly, his big eyes looking worried again, “…And Mr L-Levy too.”

Levi lets out a puff of air in amusement at Eren’s attempt of his name, “It’s just Levi, kiddo.”

“Yeah, that’s what I said.” Eren nods in agreement before looking back to his mother.

“Well Isabel is going upstairs anyway to shower, and then you can hang out with her when she’s finished.” Carla assures him, Isabel nodding in agreement, and Eren looks a little unsure. He appears to ponder the thought for a minute, his lips setting in a little pout, before he agrees to Carla’s terms.

Isabel takes Eren by the hand and begins leading him out of the living room, Eren lets his curious green eyes wander one more time, settling once again on Levi before he’s taken out of the room and they’re heading up the stairs. Levi can’t help but let his eyes follow them the whole way.

++

Carla is informing Grisha of today’s happenings, with the help of Levi whenever she’s missing some information. They are just deciding with Levi what happens now moving forward, when Levi spots Eren sitting on the staircase, peaking through the gaps between the railing and staring straight at Levi.

Levi lets his gaze settle on the boy’s eyes, and instead of retreating back upstairs after being caught, Eren continues to stare at him curiously, as if the man is some kind of amazing, interesting artefact in a museum that he just can’t tear his eyes from.

Levi tries to concentrate on what Carla and Grisha are saying, Grisha has gotten back to the point of cursing the culprit out in as many different colourful words that he can think of…there are some that even Levi has never heard before and he decides to bank them for later, but he can’t help but look over at the little boy every now and then. Until finally, a pudgy little hand begins beckoning him over silently. Levi tries to mouth to the boy to ask what he wants, but Eren continues waving him over.

“Levi, are you okay? You’re looking a little lost.” Carla asks kindly, “Can I get you anything? A tea? Coffee? Maybe some juice?”

“Ummm…no, I’m fine, thank you.” Levi says automatically, before adding, “Actually, could I use your bathroom?”

“Oh sure! Isabel will be in the one upstairs, so you’ll need to use the one under the stairs. It’s just the little door in the corner.” Carla directs, but doesn’t actually look in the hallway, so she doesn’t see Eren sitting there. Levi thanks her and gets up off his chair, before making his way out to the hallway, he can barely hear Carla and Grisha talking amongst themselves as he leaves the room.

As expected, he finds Eren still perched on the stairs as he makes his way to just outside the downstairs bathroom, so that if anyone came out to investigate, it would just look like he was entering or exiting and simply started chatting to Eren on the way. And anyway, it was Eren who would get into trouble for it, not him.

“Hey…Eren, isn’t it?” Levi asks in a way of greeting, his voice low and soft, so as to not draw too much attention to them or frighten the boy away…he’s been told he has a voice and face that do that without him realising.

Eren nods, “Izzy said that you saved her from a bad man. Was that true?” Eren asks with so much innocence in his little face that Levi can’t help but smile at it.

“I guess so, kid…I mean, he was a bad man, and he wanted to hurt Izzy…but I didn’t want him to, so I stopped him. I made him go away and then I brought her back here.” Levi says, trying to explain to the boy in a way that doesn’t frighten him but so that he’ll fully understand.

“Whoa…” Eren whispers quietly, “You were really brave…I wanna be like you when I grow up, so that I can protect Izzy too!”

Levi has to chuckle at the kid’s determination, the serious look in his eyes and the underlying hero admiration he’s placed on Levi now that he knows a version of what happened.

“Well that’s the thing Eren, I did bring Isabel back here…but I brought her back here so that you can protect her. You love Izzy, don’t you?” Levi asks, and Eren nods his head rapidly, “Well then she’s going to need your help. Today was scary for her, and she needs her brave little brother to look after her and keep her safe. Do you think you’re up for the challenge kiddo?”

Eren thinks about the question, ponders it, before answering, “I am 5 so I’m still little…but I’ll do my best.”

Levi smiles in response, three times in one day must be some sort of record for him.

“That’s what I like to hear.” He says, and begins moving back towards the living room.

“Wait! Levi!” Eren shouts, and Levi has to put a finger over his lips to remind him he shouldn’t be out here, “Sorry! Will you…will you come back and see us sometimes? Just to check that Izzy is safe…and that I’m doing a good job…”

Levi freezes then, he had already agreed with Carla and Grisha that he’d meet Isabel where he found her today on school days, to make sure she gets home okay in future. It’s on the way to his house anyway, and the route really only takes an additional 10-15 minutes, so it’s not like it would be a massive burden. They’d even offered to pay for gas, but Levi had said it wasn’t necessary, the ride home would have been the least they could have asked for considering he would have done the same if it had been his own sister in Isabel’s position.

Eren, however, had been a surprise. The plan had been for Isabel’s peace of mind, and by extension her parents’ too, but Eren obviously cares a great deal for his big sister, a sentiment that Levi can most certainly agree with. And it’s through this common ground they share, that Levi can’t bring himself to say no to the idea of visiting again.

“I will, I promise.” And surprisingly, Levi fully intends to keep it.

“Mama says a promise only counts if it’s a pinkie promise.” Eren insists shyly, not quite meeting Levi’s gaze.

Levi rolls his eyes at that, “You’re such a little brat, you know that right?”

Eren simply grins in response and holds up his pinkie finger, and without much hesitation, or choice for that matter, Levi links their pinkies together and squeezes.

++

After refusing an offer of dinner, despite Grisha and Carla both insisting it’s the least they could do, Levi says his goodbyes to the family, giving Eren a conspiratory wink to remind him of his challenge, and Eren grins goofily at him.

Before he leaves, he gives a much fresher, much more relaxed Isabel a copy of his cell phone number and tells her that she should use it when she gets a new phone if she or the family ever needs him for anything, or whatever. And to his surprise, she launches herself at him, hugging him tightly and leaving him gasping for breath.

He does warn her, however, that her number will be getting blocked if she starts sending him stupid shit for no reason.

When he gets home, his Mom has already left for work, but she’s made him dinner, which is sitting in the microwave waiting for him to heat it up. He doesn’t do that right away, however, he has something he has to do first.

Without much thought, he knocks on Mikasa’s door and waits for her to tell him to come in. When she does, he enters right away, ignoring her questioning stare in favour of hugging her from behind instead.

“Whoa! What are you doing you weirdo?!” She yells out in surprise, eyes wide and hands trying to pry his arms away.

“Just shut up and let me hug you, idiot.” He says in way of argument.

She does.

Chapter Text

Almost a year has passed, and Levi has quickly become a firm friend of the Yeager family. And not just the teenage, red-headed Yeager, but all of them in fact. Especially the youngest member of the family, a boy of 6, with big green eyes and the ability to dance like a prima ballerino.

Everyday after she finished school, Levi would pick Isabel up from outside the school gates and drive her back to her house. Since he’d graduated around half a year prior and had taken a part time job at a 7-eleven store close by (Isabel liked to come in and annoy him during her lunch break or bring Eren after school hours if he was on a late shift), it was easier to get her directly from the gate than a couple of miles out.

Plus, he gets some strange sort of satisfaction each time he parks up outside the pristine, well to do school where all the rich kids go to, in his busted up old car that he’d gotten as a gift for his 16th birthday. The thing is at least 10 years old and has gained a LOT of attention from the parents in their fancy convertibles and 4x4s.

There had been a couple of issues in the beginning with some of the schoolteachers who were concerned that Isabel was being led astray by an older boy who looked to be up to no good, and they had informed both Grisha and Carla. The pair had simply brushed off the issue and gave Levi full clearance to be at the school, although none of the teachers seemed to look any happier to see him even now.

The incident, however, had prompted the Yeagers to confront both Levi and Isabel about their relationship and assure them that if it had or ever did become romantic, all they wanted was to be informed about it. Levi had become an almost permanent fixture in their lives, and they trusted him immensely, but he was still a 19-year-old man and their daughter wasn’t even 16 yet. But it wasn’t like that, not for either of them, Levi didn’t see Isabel in that way at all and Isabel thought of Levi as more like the older brother she never had.

“Levi Aniki!” Isabel practically shouts as she makes her way over to his car, pulling him out of his own head as she throws her bag harshly in the back and lets herself into the front seat, giving him her signature grin which doesn’t quite reach her eyes today and strapping on her seatbelt rougher than necessary.

Both Isabel and Eren had been to his apartment on occasion when their parents were out late, and they had met Mikasa. She, surprisingly, had even visited the Yeager household when Kuchel had to do a night shift or she just felt like joining her brother after school. As expected, the Yeagers had adored his younger sister just as much as they did him, with she and Isabel becoming fast friends and fangirling over some anime series together. On these occasions, Mikasa (despite being 4 years younger) had attempted to teach Isabel some simple Japanese phrases - her father, the one who’s name Levi can’t remember, had been Japanese so Mikasa became interested in finding out more about her culture, much to Kuchel’s delight – and had taught Isabel the term “Aniki”, meaning older brother or superior. The nickname had been used as a joke to begin with, but eventually stuck as Isabel now, more often than not, referred to him as such.

“And who took a shit in your cereal this morning?” Levi asks, giving her a sidelong look with a raised eyebrow. She huffs and rolls her eyes in response.

“I just hate this stupid place, all of my teachers keep saying I need to be more ladylike and that I am a bad influence on the other kids, all because I said that I don’t want to go to University, at least not right away, and that Shakespeare is shitty. I mean, Romeo and Juliet, two dumb teenagers meet, get married and die all in a matter of a couple days? What the hell is that all about?” Isabel complains, resting her back against her seat and folding her arms.

Levi snorts, “Okay Iz, I’ll concede on the Shakespeare thing because you do have a point, but seriously? You don’t want to go to University or to a good College?”

“Honestly? Not really. I’ve never been the academic type and I can barely sit still in class as it is, if you leave me to do unsupported studying to work towards a degree, I’ll crash and burn, and you know it.”

It was true, she probably would. Levi could see from the start of their friendship that the younger girl was full of energy and was rarely able to deplete it, causing her to run rather than walk and fidget around in her seat to the point it even made Levi antsy. He had threatened to tape her hands together on many occasions just so he didn’t have to watch her.

“And besides,” She continues, “I would much rather be out in the world, getting real life experience like you do!”

“Tch, life experience? I work in a fucking 7-Eleven Isabel. The only life experience I get is arguing with customers about the prices of toothpaste, Slurpees and the occasional, questionable baked good. Not to mention all the cleaning.” Levi argues, giving his younger friend a smirk to cheer her up.

“Yeah, but you love cleaning, it’s weird. Mom keeps saying she should pay you for the amount of cleaning you do in our house. And that’s not even the point.” She says shaking her head, “It doesn’t matter that you work in a store that drives you crazy, you’re free! You’re not tied down to anything, no expectations, no obligations, you just…live, I guess? That’s what I want to do with my life. I want to fly, Levi! I want to see the world, I want to visit Germany, the UK, France, Japan…and Australia! I’ve always wanted to go to Australia. And I want to do it all when I’m young and all the serious stuff can wait until later.” She says resolutely, nodding her head decisively, “And it’s not like Mom and Dad will be left without a talented kid, right? Eren is bound to get into Juilliard or one of the best dance schools in the world, he’ll be the one to make them proud.”

She was right about that, Eren had been dancing ballet since he was 3 years old and already looked as if he’d been studying for at least a decade. His dance teacher called him a prodigy and his family couldn’t be prouder of him. Levi remembers when the young boy had shyly held out an invitation for Levi and his family to attend his dance recital around the Xmas period. Levi had never been one for dance, but he, his mom and Mikasa had all gone along fully expecting a tiny stage with loads of little rascals prancing around in tights and crying for their parents or throwing up all over the place.

In actuality, the recital was held in a massive theatre, bigger than any Levi had ever visited before (not that Levi made a habit out of visiting the theatre on a regular basis) and all of the dancers, aged between 5 and 16 years old, were full of poise and professionalism. There had not been one single tear shed…by the dancers at least.

Eren had performed in a pair dance with a little girl that had blonde hair in a bun and a bigger nose than Levi had ever seen on a kid before, and a solo dance at the end of the show. While he was too young to perform or learn how to dance en pointe like some of the older dancers, Eren’s talent for his age, and his bright smile and enthusiasm meant that he 100% stole the show. Carla and Kuchel had been in tears by the end, Mikasa and Grisha clapped and stood up politely while Isabel hollered and whooped loudly. Levi, on the other hand, had been rendered speechless. Every moment and every movement had Levi’s breath caught in his throat, he was aware his eyes were probably bugged out of his head and he couldn’t bring himself to care.

As Eren took his final bow on the stage, Levi could have sworn the little boy’s eyes had locked on his and his grin grew wider. And just in case, even though the lights probably made it impossible, Levi had mouthed “Not bad” and gave him a little smile back before clapping with the others.

Levi lets out a soft sigh, “Look Izzy, I’m not going to tell you how to live your life, I’m not your dad and it’s not my decision at the end of the day. But believe me, it may look like I’m free and that I have my life figured out, but I don’t. I can’t afford to study or go to a good school; I have to help my Mom with the bills because she already works so hard as it is, and I want only the best for Mikasa when she grows up. All I know, is that if I had the opportunities that you have, I would think long and hard before making any decisions to give up my education. The world is vast and wide, and it will always be there, but the chance to learn and do something worthwhile as a job? Something that will allow you to make money and that will take you anywhere you wanna go? It may not always be an option.”

Isabel seems to ponder this for a minute, screwing her face up in thought before finally replying.

“Okay, I promise I’ll think about it at least. I won’t rule out University without seriously considering my options, I promise.” Isabel agrees, and Levi ruffles her hair with his right hand, causing her to smile properly this time.

++

“Mama! We’re back!” Isabel yells, kicking her shoes off in the hallway as Levi takes his off and places them neatly in the corner, as usual.

“Hey kids!” Carla calls back from the kitchen, sounding a little stressed if Levi is correct, “Isabel, can you please bring your brother downstairs? Your father is coming home early and there is something we need to talk to you all about.”

Levi freezes at that, it can’t be good news going by Carla’s tone of voice and Isabel seems to notice it too, but she says nothing and wordlessly heads upstairs to retrieve Eren. Levi enters the kitchen and the first thing he sees is Carla sitting at the table with her head in her hands, her face pops up when she hears him however, and her eyes are red-rimmed.

“Carla…are you okay? What’s the matter?” Levi asks, rushing to her side and placing a tentative hand on her shoulder. She grasps his hand in hers and gives him a watery smile.

“Oh Levi…I don’t know what to say…actually, I don’t think I know how to say it…” She says sadly, words trailing off and loosening the grip on his hand as she rubs at her eyes once again.

In the time Levi has known her, aside from the day they met, he has never seen Carla cry like this or be at a loss for words. She is an opinionated, strong-willed woman, and he can most definitely see where Isabel gets those traits from. She’s become like a second mother to Levi, having long chats over cups of coffee, doing the household chores alongside each other and even going grocery shopping together. One time when she’d bumped into one of her friends from her book club, she’d introduced him as her friend Levi, not just her daughter’s friend or a family friend, but a personal friend. It had made him feel important and appreciated for once in his life.

He and Carla have spoken openly and honestly with each other, they have very few secrets and tell each other pretty much everything, Carla is just that kind of person and Levi doesn’t feel like he has to keep anything from her. He has told her about his lack of interest in dating right now, but when he does, he doesn’t think his interests will lay solely in women, and in return she told him all about a crush that she had on of one her female classmates in College, a crush that led to a VERY HOT summer romance that fizzled out during the following semester. They don’t hold back with each other, ever, so the very fact that Carla is struggling so much to tell him whatever she needs to, it speaks loud volumes.

Before he can probe any further, Isabel is back in the room with her little brother in tow. Eren gives Levi a large smile as normal, but then pauses as he notes the look on his Mother’s face. His happy expression fades in a second, and he looks around worriedly, as if expecting an explanation from Isabel, Levi or even the Universe. The three of them sit down tentatively at the table around Carla without a word just as the front door opens and closes within a matter of seconds.

And to Levi’s dismay, Grisha looks just as troubled as Carla, if not more-so.

++

“We’re leaving the country?!” Isabel bellows, standing up and slamming a fist on the table in the process, “You can’t be serious!”

“I’m sorry sweetheart.” Grisha apologises, and looks as if he completely means it, “But Oma Isabel has just had a stroke and needs people to take good care of her. I’m her only son, she has nobody else in the world, and she loves us all so much. We need to be there for her, like she has been for us over the years.”

“Well then why can’t we just fly her over here and she can live with us?! Why do we have to abandon our lives and move all the way to Germany? We have plenty of room here!” Isabel argues, Levi doesn’t say anything, he can’t say anything.

“We talked about that, we wanted to do that, honestly we did. But she’s too ill to fly, her mind isn’t working in the way it used to and it’s such a long flight, she’d only get worse.” Carla replies sadly, reaching out to comfort Isabel, who is shaking her head in disbelief. Eren has begun to cry and is rubbing at his face with tiny little fists.

“Neither of us want to you to uproot your lives and force you to move to Germany, especially as you haven’t spent an awful lot of time there, but we don’t see any other way. If it were up to us, we would never leave this house, this is our dream house and we bought it with your future in mind. But, as it is, we’ll have to place the house up for sale and we’ll be leaving in the next couple of days.” Grisha says gently, looking just as upset over the fact as the three other members of his family.

The mention of them moving in a matter of days causes Levi’s eyes to widen a fraction, he had expected a couple of weeks at the very least, not mere days. Surely it would take much longer than that move their whole lives to an entirely new continent? Suddenly the idea is of them leaving is beginning to sink in. Because of course, leaving their home and their lives behind, also means leaving him behind too.

“Papa please! I…d-don’t wanna l-leave.” Eren’s little voice pipes up and stutters as he tries to be brave and hold back the tears threatening to fall down his cheeks, “I don’t w-wanna leave our h-house. I don’t wanna leave Levi! Or Mikasa, or Ms Kuchel. I don’t wanna l-leave m-my dance class or my friends! P-please don’t make us go…” He manages to say before his little body is shaking with sobs and hiccups.

Levi can’t take the boy’s crying any longer, and swoops down to grab Eren in a fierce hug, burying his face in the boy’s tiny shoulder. Eren cries even harder at that - as does Carla for that matter - resting his head against Levi’s and grabbing his work shirt in his small fist as he wets it with his tears and whatever else.

Isabel slams her fist down on the table again in her frustration and storms out of the room and up the stairs to her bedroom. Carla quickly follows her, wiping harshly at her face in the process. Grisha merely sighs and runs a hand through his ridiculously long hair.

“Levi, would you mind taking Eren up to his room to calm down and meet me back down here in a few minutes?” Grisha asks pleadingly, rubbing at his temples and Levi nods and takes the man’s crying son up to his bedroom.

Eren hasn’t let go of Levi’s shirt for a second and it’s pretty much soaked through anyway, not that Levi can bring himself to care. He lays the boy down on his single bed and grasps his tiny hand in his instead, absent-mindedly rubbing the boy’s arms in a soothing gesture. Eren’s crying begins to slowly subside at the action.

“I don’t want to leave you.” Eren whispers quietly, as if speaking any louder will somehow take Levi away from his side at any second.

“Honestly kid, I don’t want you to leave either. Or Izzy, or your Mom and Dad. I’m gonna miss you all.” Levi replies honestly, not quite able to meet Eren’s big, bright eyes, “All of you…you’ve changed my life, in so many ways. I used to hate my life, before I met you all. You’ve given me a reason to enjoy every day. I’m gonna miss joking around with Isabel, cooking in the kitchen with your Mom, helping your Dad work in his study…watching you dance your little heart out. But believe me, I’ll never forget it. This is just…one of those grown up things…something that neither of us can control.”

“You’re a grownup, Levi. You could come with us? And Mikasa, and Ms Kuchel?” Eren asks hopefully, his big eyes full of innocence and it breaks Levi’s heart a little.

“Now, you know I can’t do that, kiddo.” Levi says lightly, “We have to stay here, this is where we belong. But you’re going to have an amazing life over there, Eren. You’re gonna blow them all away with your dancing, all of the best schools are gonna want you, kid. Your name is gonna be up in lights one day, I just know it.”

Eren hesitates for a little, rubbing his fists into his eyes and wiping away his remaining tears, “When I am a real dancer, and my name is in lights, do you promise that you’ll come and see me?”

Levi lets out a little breathy laugh and smirks down at Eren, “I’ll be the first in line, brat, I promise.”

“You have to pinkie promise, or it doesn’t count.” Eren reminds him, holding his pinky out to the older boy.

“Tch, how could I forget?” Levi rolls his eyes and interlocks their pinkies together. They don’t pull their pinkies apart for several minutes and it’s only when Eren starts to yawn that Levi realises it’s beginning to get dark and Grisha Yeager is still waiting for him downstairs.

“Okay kiddo, you’re falling asleep after all that crying, and I still have to speak with your dad. Do you wanna watch TV for a little while?”

Eren nods and Levi switches on the little television in the room, it’s playing some cartoon he’s vaguely familiar with, so he leaves it on.

“Do you want me to tuck you in?” Levi asks, and Eren would normally insist he’s too big for that, but instead he nods again. Levi pulls the duvet back and waits for the boy to crawl into his bed. He looks so small and Levi wants to wrap him in another hug, but he refrains, tucking the duvet under Eren’s body and ruffling his hair. Eren’s eyes begin to droop at the action and Levi is just about to pull away when he hears it.

“Love you, Levi.”

++

Grisha Yeager is in his study when Levi finds him, nursing a glass of scotch on the rocks. Carla and Isabel are still upstairs together, he’d heard Carla talking to his best friend on his way down to meet her father.

Grisha offers him an empty glass, “Can I pour you a drink, son? Think we all need one right now.”

Levi shakes his head in reply, “Best not, I’m not a drinker anyway and I need to drive back home tonight.”

Grisha nods his head in what looks to be approval as he rests the glass back down, “You’re a good kid, Levi. A little stand-offish at times and rough around the edges, but you’ve been good for my family. I can’t thank you enough for what you’ve done, and I’m not just talking about what happened with Isabel last year.”

“Sir…you and Carla say that a lot, but shit…I’m just being myself. People usually don’t like that, they think I’m the scum at the bottom of their shoes…but you’ve all been so nice to me, and my Sister, and my Mom too. I should really be the one thanking you…” Levi says uncomfortably, rubbing at the back of his neck.

“That’s not necessary, the people who have judged you before getting to know you have a lot to answer for, but nevertheless, respect is earned. And you’ve earned mine tenfold. You’ve been like a mentor for Isabel, she doesn’t get in to trouble as much since you’ve been around, did you know we were called to the Principle’s office almost weekly for a time? She faced suspension more times than I can count.”

Levi shakes his head, this being all news to him. He’d known she was a little bit of a hellraiser, but not to the extent that Grisha is telling him.

“Well we were, and now we barely ever hear from that school. If anything, we hear more about you than about Isabel. I heard that she’s taken to calling you “Big bro” when she talks about you. I must say, it had been a little awkward to explain to her teachers that neither me nor Carla has an older, estranged son.” He chuckles good-naturedly before continuing, “Carla has been fairing so much better since you’ve been around too. I know it had been difficult for her when she became a mother and we moved here, she can be a feisty woman and she tended to clash with the other women her age. She’d become a lot more timid and reserved over time, and then when you arrived she began to look and sound like herself again, like the woman I married. And then there’s Eren, he practically worships the ground you walk on. I remember just before his Xmas recital, he’d told his teacher and all of his friends that he had to perform the best he’s ever performed before so that you, Mikasa and Kuchel would be proud of him. Your opinion means a lot to him.”

Levi allows himself a moment to let the information sink in, he’d never expected that his presence had meant so much to this family, that he’d leave such an impact on them in such a short period of time. And in reality, a year is a short time, but in that year, he’d found himself thinking of them all like family, not by blood, but just as important all the same. He just never thought that they would feel the same way about him.

“And then there’s myself,” Grisha continues, “I’ve been watching you Levi, listening to you, paying attention to how you assert yourself in situations. I wanted to learn more about the kind of person you are, so I had you help me out with some of my work in here. I just wanted to see if I was right about you.”

Levi finds himself blinking owlishly, not fully understanding, “I…don’t know what you mean, sir.”

“Levi, you are a truly remarkable young man, a genius on many different levels. Your emotional intelligence is incredible, something I have never seen the likes of before. I feel that if you were to properly assert yourself and hone that intelligence, you could be unbelievably successful one day. It’s tragic really that your potential is being wasted on working in a 7-eleven. I know we talked about it before, but have you thought any more about what you’d like to be doing? Are there any colleges that have piqued your interest since then?” Grisha asks, sitting in his office chair in a relaxed pose.

“I haven’t really had a chance to look, sir, and if I’m honest I highly doubt I’d be able to get in to one even if I wanted to. The fees are far too high for my Mom or I to manage, and I need the steady income for Mom to be able to take a load off a little. She’s worked so hard for us; I have to at least return the favour.” Levi says solemnly, bowing his head a little so to not catch Dr Yeager’s calculating gaze.

“Well, that’s a sentiment that I can understand, truly. I wouldn’t be moving my whole family to Germany if I didn’t, so I can completely sympathise with your situation, Levi. But a piece of advice I will give you, is that as a parent, your mother wouldn’t want you throwing your abilities away so that she can take some extra time off. As a parent myself, I can tell you that if there were any chance of my child achieving their dreams, I would work every single day for the rest of my life. I can almost guarantee that Kuchel would feel the same, she does always talk about your excellent performance at school with the utmost pride.”

Levi feels his pale cheeks reddening a little at the praise, and he nods firmly, “I will think about it, sir, honestly I will. Maybe I could get a loan from the bank or something, or maybe a partial scholarship if I can. Seems a little bit like a pipedream, but I’ll do my best, you have my word.”

Grisha smiles then, his green eyes becoming warm under his round spectacles, “That’s all I ask. Now, it’s getting rather late and it’s been a long day for everyone, why don’t you head on home and relax? You can spend the whole day here tomorrow and the day before we leave. But before you go, I have something for you.” Grisha says, rummaging around in one of his desk drawers before finding a thin envelope and handing it to Levi, “It’s just a letter from myself and Carla, to say thank you again, we thought you’d want to have it. It’s got our contact information of where we’ll be living for the time being in Germany, if you ever wanted to send a letter or whatever.”

“Thank you.” Levi says, taking the letter from Grisha and pocketing it before turning to leave.

“Oh, and Levi,” Grisha calls out, causing Levi to spin around on the spot, “Maybe don’t open it until we’re gone. It can be something for you to hold on to…is that alright?”

“Yeah…yeah, of course.” Levi answers, and finally does leave this time. He decides to say a proper goodbye to Carla and Isabel when they’re a little less upset, and walks out the front door, closing it softly behind him.

When he gets in the car and begins to drive off, it doesn’t take very long before he has to stop again. His vision too blurred with moisture to be able to continue.

++

The days before his best friend and her family finally leave his life for good, go by in what feels like a matter of seconds. They say goodbye to each other for the last time every day, until it is finally time to say it for the very last time…no do-overs, no take backs.

As expected, Carla cries and pulls him into a hug, thanking him over and over again for everything he’s done for her family, he really wants to argue the point but instead he lets her say it, lets her cry and pinch his cheeks softly before she does the same to Mikasa.

His mother and sister decided to accompany him, knowing he’d need the company and to say their own emotional goodbyes to the family. Mikasa is wearing the red scarf that Eren had picked out as her Xmas present, and she has honestly never taken it off since, she’s grown fond of the little boy in a way that Levi never would have expected her to get attached to a kid.

Isabel, of course, cries too and tells Levi that he better write to her or she’ll fly all the way back from Germany just to kick his ass. He tells her that he’d like to see her try and she almost begins to completely break down again. Levi reminds her that she’d been the one to say she wanted to go to Germany, and they both agree it’s better to be careful what you wish for.

Surprisingly, Eren doesn’t cry, doing his very best to be the bravest little 6-year-old in the world. He hugs Levi’s middle and tell him that he has to remember his promise, and Levi vows that he could never forget. Not about the promise, and not about him either for that matter.

It’s with a simple pat to Levi’s shoulder and a reminder that Levi still has to open his letter, that Grisha Yeager says his goodbyes, finishes packing up the car and waves from the window with the rest of his family as they begin to drive away.

And then, they’re gone.

Kuchel and Mikasa, a little emotional themselves and knowing that Levi needs a little time alone to collect his thoughts, decide to take a walk to a nearby café to allow him some time by himself before he’s ready to come home with them.

Almost as soon as they’re out of sight, Levi reaches into the inside pocket of his long, black coat and retrieves the letter given to him a couple of nights prior. He carefully tears open the seal of the envelope and take out the several pieces of paper securely placed inside.

The front page, as promised, is a letter that reads:

‘Dear Levi,

I had to think rather long and hard about what I was going to say to you in this letter. If things had been different, I maybe could have helped you in other ways, I could have spent more time preparing you for this or talking it over with you before a decision was made on your future.

But unfortunately, we have not been rewarded with the gift of time in this instance, which is why I’ve had to do this in this way. Inside this envelope, along with this letter, you will find my personal letter of recommendation. This will help support your application to any future jobs or further education of your choosing. I would have liked to have taken you on as an apprentice for experience if the opportunity had come up, but alas this will have to be enough.

The thing is, Levi, I don’t think I could ever express in words how much you’ve unknowingly helped my family, or how grateful I am to you for saving my daughter’s life on the day we met you. So, as a gesture of my gratitude, there is a third part to this letter that will hopefully be of use to you.

Please be assured, that there are no expectations or conditions attached, this is my gift to you. You may use this in how you see fit, however I do hope you will consider using this towards obtaining a better life for yourself and your family.

With my gratitude and kindest of regards,

Grisha Yeager’

Upon reading this section of the letter, Levi finds the promised letter of recommendation from Dr Grisha Yeager, formerly of Shiganshina Hospital, attached inside. And to his complete shock and disbelief, he finds the third page of the letter, much smaller than the others and far more important than anything Levi has ever received in his life.

A cheque for $20,000.

++

“Holy fuck…” Anna exclaims excitedly, almost dropping her tea in the process, “He just…gave you all that money?”

Levi nods an affirmative, “He did, and it changed my entire fucking life. Mom was in shock and agreed to try and help me return it at first. But each time I tried, he simply sent it straight back and began threatening to add more each time I did. So, I eventually accepted the money gratefully.”

“Sorry if this question is rude, but…what did you do with it?” Anna asks, still wide-eyed from the revelation.

“Well, I tried to give it to Mom first, so that she could put a deposit on a house. But she refused that idea very quickly, insisted that the money was mine and that it was clearly intended for me to use towards my education. So, I quit my job, applied for some grants towards tuition as Mom was making much less than the threshold criteria. And then when I was successful, I used those, and the money given to me by Dr Yeager to do my degree in Business Law and Business Studies. Once I had completed that, I worked in a couple of firms, worked my way through the ranks and eventually was able to build my own company with my business partner, Erwin.”

“Wow…” Anna breathes, astonished and impressed all at once, “I bet Dr Yeager was happy when he found out that you had made a name for yourself. He believed in you, and that belief paid off.”

“I’d like to think that he was proud, but…he never got to find out.” Levi says sadly with a mournful expression, “I ended up losing touch with the Yeagers over time, it was nobody’s fault, I was trying to complete my degree, Isabel began travelling the world when she was 18, Mikasa started high school…life just got in the way, and eventually Izzy and I lost each other’s numbers…and that was it really. As it turned out, Grisha Yeager ended up dying around 14 years after he left for Germany. He took a heart attack and never pulled through, ironically Oma Isabel ended up outliving him for quite a significant amount of time.”

“Oh my god, Levi that’s so sad, I’m so sorry…” Anna replies regretfully, looking glumly into her cup before her head snaps up, “Wait a minute, 14 years? And he never got to find out about your achievements? That must mean that you and Eren…”

“Yes.” Levi cuts in, interrupting Anna’s inner musings, “After he left, Eren and I didn’t see each other for 16 years.”

Chapter Text

Before Levi can explain any more, there is a battering noise coming from the front door that damn near frightens the life out of Anna. And while he isn’t quite as startled as the young woman on the armchair next to his, it does cause Levi to raise his own eyebrows in barely hidden bewilderment.

Once she’s managed to shake off the initial shock at the unexpected noise, she checks her phone: 8:15pm. Far later than she would have ever expected for a house guest of a 75-year-old. And to her surprise, it turns out that she and Levi have been talking for almost 3 hours. Normally she would have left by now, her journey back home in to the city taking her an annoyingly long time each night.

Wordlessly, Anna reluctantly gets up off the comfortable armchair and answers the door to find a small yet familiar figure standing on the doorstep with an overnight bag slung over their shoulder and a white, backwards cap on their head.

“S’up Helga.” Olivia greets as she pushes past Anna and invites herself into the house, heading in the direction of the living room.

“It’s Anna.” She corrects, irritated and glowering at Olivia’s back as she follows her inside, which is then met with a dismissive “Whatever.”

Levi is still seated on his armchair as Olivia enters the room, throwing her bag from her shoulder onto the floor and plopping herself on to the couch. He looks at her in mild surprise, clearly he hadn’t been expecting her presence either.

“Oli? What are you doing here?” Levi asks, slightly confused.

“Hey Gramps, sorry for just dropping in like this but I was wondering if I could crash here for a couple days? Things are a little crazy back home and I don’t really have anywhere else to go…” Olivia asks sheepishly, and it’s the first time Anna has seen the girl without the arrogant, pain in the ass attitude she seems to adopt constantly.

The first time they’d met, Olivia had immediately accused her of being some sort of mail order bride looking for a Green Card (despite Anna’s insistence that she already holds Permanent Residence and therefore, is in no need of such thing) and made every effort to make Anna’s day a complete misery. From making fun of her accent to purposefully leaving things around the room for her to clean. It hadn’t lasted long however, as Levi quickly reprimanded his Granddaughter for being a “fucking disgusting slob” and had reminded her to remember her own roots before she made fun of anybody else’s.

“You can stay as long as you explain to me why you’ve been crying.” Levi insists with a furrowed brow, as he scrutinises Olivia’s sagged form from his seat. It’s only then that Anna notices that under the glint of the girl’s eyebrow ring, her eyes are red-rimmed and tired looking, like she’s been crying for days without reprieve. It drains some of the annoyance out of Anna’s body, the vulnerable sight of Olivia hunched over on the couch, looking as if she’s about to bawl again at any second.

“I…” Olivia begins, and then hesitates as she glances up at Anna, still standing in the living room doorway, entirely unsure of what to do with herself.

“Don’t mind Anna.” Levi says, waving his hand in a dismissive gesture, “Anything you want to say, you can say in front of her, she’s fine.” And, oddly, it pleases Anna a little to hear him say that.

Olivia seems to ponder this for a few seconds before sighing loudly, “I told Mom.”

Levi lets out a long breath and looks at his Granddaughter sympathetically, “And I take it that your being here means that the conversation didn’t go too well, am I right?”

The teenager then shakes her head solemnly before removing her cap, running her hand through the black curls above her undercut and covering her face with the hat. Her shoulders are shaking harshly as Levi pries himself out of his chair and places a comforting hand on her back, his knees cracking audibly as he crouches down to her level.

Anna, feeling rather like she’s intruding on a scene not meant for her eyes, announces that she’ll make them some sandwiches. Levi doesn’t tend to like making a cooked dinner for himself, instead opting to prepare something light after Anna leaves. She normally makes lunch during the day, but it’s been hours since then, and she doesn’t think Olivia has had the chance to eat going by her demeanour.

Besides, they’re clearly both in on a secret that she’s not been made privy to, the best thing she can do for the moment is keep herself busy and out of earshot.

Once she returns to the living room, after allowing them a good half hour or so to talk, she lays the large plate of toasted grilled cheese sandwiches on the coffee table and Levi nods to her gratefully. He has moved to the couch now, sitting close but not directly next to Olivia. Said teenager doesn’t look like she’s noticed Anna’s presence at all, only looking up upon the sound of the plate being rested on the table in front of her.

Olivia says nothing at all, but then slowly lifts her hand to reach out for one of the sandwiches, assessing it with her fingers a little before taking a large bite. Her shoulders seem to relax a bit then, and funnily enough, so do Anna’s.

Once she’s finished eating a couple more of the sandwiches, Olivia lets out a large yawn and Levi suggests that she should get some rest after the long day she’s had. She nods in agreement and lifts her bag back on to her shoulder as she makes her way towards her mother’s childhood bedroom. A room that Anna has been dusting every day religiously since she’s worked here. Before she does so, however, she stops herself on the way out and turns to face Anna,

“Thank you for the food, Anna.” She says, before glumly leaving the living room and heading up the stairs.

“Goodnight Oli.” Levi calls after her, and there is a soft “‘Night” heard in response.

Once it’s just the two of them in the room again, Anna checks her phone and it’s now well past 9pm.

“I better get going Levi, I’ll see you both in the morning, yes?” Anna asks, already lifting her bag and placing her phone back in her pocket.

“You’re heading back to the city tonight? Doesn’t it take you over an hour to get to your apartment from here?” Levi asks, checking his watch as if he’s only just realised the time himself.

“Yes, but it shouldn’t take as long if I get the express subway, I should still be able to make it if I leave soon.” Anna assures, and Levi doesn’t look convinced at all by her bright attitude. He looks out of the large living room window at the darkness outside, as if searching around for some kind of unseen danger.

“It really is quite late, and it’s a long commute. Not to mention the fact it’s already dark out, I keep forgetting it’s near the end of November. The city is bound to be dangerous by the time you get there, and it’s my fault for keeping you so long.” Levi says, looking rather regretful and Anna simply shrugs her shoulders.

“It’s not too bad, don’t worry about it. And I wanted to stay longer tonight, I’m glad you told me the things you did. I really loved hearing about them, honestly I did.” Anna says truthfully, trying to reassure the older man.

Levi nods, the tiny hint of a smile threatening to grace his lips but doesn’t quite make it, “Well, seeing as it is my fault that you’ve been forced to stay here later than you’re used to, why don’t you stay here tonight?”

“What?” Anna asks, slightly dumfounded and surprised.

“Alexia’s room is free, and I know it’s perfectly clean going by how much you dust it from top to bottom every day. Why don’t you stay here tonight and head home in the morning? That way you can take the day to yourself. I should be able to manage by myself with Oli here anyway, and no doubt my daughter will most likely show her face tomorrow…if she has the guts to, that is…” He trails off, and it leaves Anna wanting to know more, but she REALLY does have to go.

“No, honestly, it’s okay. I’ll be fine, and I’ll be back here in the morning to help you with the chores.” Anna reassures him and says goodnight before he can argue, tying on her bright blue doc martin boots at the front door before she leaves.

She slips on her light denim jacket and fluffy hat and heads out into the night, shivering as she makes her way in the direction of the underground subway station.

She really should invest in a heavier jacket.

++

Surprisingly, the weather has taken a turn for the better in the following days, despite it being almost December. And Levi has now started using the log fire in the run up to the Xmas period, not because he’s suddenly filled with joy and Christmas cheer, but completely out of “tradition” as he himself had put it.

He’d explained one day while Olivia was at school that having a log fire in the first place had been Eren’s idea and that his husband would insist on lighting the fire every single day in the month leading up to Christmas Day. Which, ironically, also turned out to be Levi’s birthday.

He didn’t elaborate any further, but Anna had to admit that the fire was indeed a nice touch that somehow managed to remind her of home. However, the added heat to the house was leaving her sweltering, and on this particular day she decided to wear a vest top rather than her usual long-sleeved sweater dresses or sweater/jeans combo.

It’s this particular change to her wardrobe that captures Olivia’s attention today as Anna is polishing the wooden furnishings in the living room.

“Nice ink!” The teen exclaims from where she is perched cross-legged on the couch, casually scrolling through social media on her phone.

Anna self-consciously begins to rub up and down her bare arms and chest, which happen to be covered in floral patterns. Roses, lilies, orchids, cherry blossoms…you name it, Anna’s body is filled with artistic drawings of her favourite flowers. Why? You may ask, and the answer is simply that she loves to surround herself with the things she finds beautiful. Her quirky clothes, her statement hair, her colourful tattoos…every part of her body is adorned with things she finds aesthetically pleasing. Not everyone would appreciate her style, but it was like art, not everybody enjoyed the same kind of art or saw it in the same way, and she had made her peace with that fact long ago.

“Oh…thank you.” Anna says before continuing to polish the cabinet she’d been working on. She does look over at Levi, however, and sees that he has stopped scrubbing at the base boards and is now assessing her body art himself, as if he hadn’t even noticed it before. Which, to be fair, he probably hadn’t.

“Gramps, will you take me to get a tattoo someday soon? I know you usually have to be 18 and all, but 16-year olds can get them as long as they have consent from their guardian.” Olivia says matter of fact, putting on her most endearing expression as Levi simply glares at her.

“For one, I’m not your guardian, nor am I willing to pretend to be. Secondly, you are far too young to be trusted not to make a stupid ass decision about a tattoo. And third, your mother would kill me if she found out I’d taken you to get one.” Levi states, continuing to clean the rough wooden board and Anna can’t help but smirk as Olivia rolls her eyes.

“Well that’s if I still have a mother…” She complains petulantly, to which Levi responds by throwing his sponge at her head in exasperation.

“Don’t be a shitty moron, kid. Your mom has always been one to take a tantrum that can last for days, she’s like your Grandpa Eren and Great-Aunt Isabel in that way. It’s part of the Yeager genetics, unfortunately.” Levi says offhand, before leaving the room to empty his bucket.

Anna initially thinks nothing of the remark but is slightly startled when she sees Olivia’s open-mouthed expression, clearly one filled with surprise. Anna is about to ask what Olivia’s deal is when Levi returns from the kitchen and the teen asks,

“Really? Grandpa Eren took tantrums?” Olivia asks, slyly baiting Levi for more information.

“Oh yeah, he could be a fucking little shit at times. If he was mad or annoyed about something or someone, he made sure you knew all about it. Or if he was feeling particularly bratty, he’d just sit and rant about it in German knowing fine well you couldn’t understand him. I used to hate that.” Levi says almost fondly, as if reliving a memory.

“Wow…Mom hardly ever talks about Grandpa Eren, only ever if we’re alone together and it’s usually just a comment in passing. She always makes him out to be quite intelligent and proper. She says he was an elegant man.” Olivia explains, and Anna rests against one of the walls, simply listening along without comment.

“Tch!” Levi scoffs, “I think your mother is talking about an entirely different person if that’s what she says about him. Sure, he was elegant when he was dancing and intelligent when it came to life and he could be wise too with certain things, but he was a complete dumbass at the same time. He, funnily enough, managed to convince his Mom to allow him to have a tattoo at 16, and it was the stupidest decision of his life. He wanted to show his appreciation of the theatre in his attempt to get into a good school to study dance further, and so decided he wanted to get a pair of theatre masks on his hip, a frowning face and a smiling face. By the time the artist was finished, it looked like he had a pair of giant red faces with no skin and massive teeth. He had to constantly keep it covered, and it made it very difficult to nuzzle down there without wanting to throw up.”

“Eww! Oh my god stop or you’re gonna make ME throw up!” Olivia complains, pulling a face and making gagging sounds, much to Levi’s amusement. Even Anna has to conceal a giggle at the teen’s expression.

“So no, your Grandfather wasn’t entirely ‘elegant’ per se, and that’s another reason why you should think properly before getting a tattoo before you’re legal.” Levi says pointedly, making Anna smirk as Olivia rolls her eyes for the millionth time in the last few days.

“Okay, point taken.” Olivia concedes, “So, what else should I know about Grandpa Eren?”

“Nothing that you don’t already know now. Anyway, the stairs aren’t going to sweep themselves. And Anna, you’ve gotten smudge marks all over the coffee table, redo it.” He orders, before leaving the room once again to tackle the staircase.

Anna can’t help but notice that Olivia looks incredibly disappointed as Levi effectively ends the conversation. She’s just beginning to restart polishing of the table when Olivia asks,

“How long has he been doing that?”

“Doing what?”

“Talking about Grandpa Eren, he never does that.”

It’s this particular statement from Olivia that reminds Anna of something Levi had said to her on the afternoon he’d told her of the day he and Eren met and how they’d been separated a mere year later,

“I haven’t spoken to a soul about Eren in 20 years.” He’d said. 20 years is hell of a long time, what on Earth happened all those years ago that caused Levi to stop talking about the man who very clearly had a massive impact on his life? A man whom he’d married and had two children with? A man whose absence obviously causes a great deal of pain to him. Why would he suddenly stop talking about him? Why would he remain silent in all matters ‘Eren’ for two entire decades?

“It hasn’t been very long.” Anna confirms, “He only began a few days ago, I accidentally saw some pictures and it got him talking. That’s why I was here so late when you arrived the other night.”

Olivia simply nods, as if a check box has been ticked in her mind at the revelation, “I haven’t seen any of Gramps’ photos, not properly. He keeps them all in his room. I remember I was playing in there when I was young, and he’d told me not to go in there anymore in case I accidentally knocked them over. I don’t really remember any images, just the frames, just loads of frames.”

Anna says nothing, she’d seen the photos for herself, she’d seen how happy Levi had looked. Eren too, even Ellen and Alexia looked happy in all of those photographs. She remembers the photo she’d seen of Eren and a woman with bright red hair doing a silly pose for the camera, and she realises now that the woman must have been Isabel going by the close family resemblance. She finds herself smiling at the thought, she’s exactly as Levi had described.

“Mom rarely talks about Grandpa Eren…and I think it’s because of my Dad. I don’t know if he’d…approve of that kind of relationship. I don’t even know if he knows Mom has two gay fathers, she’s always told me to keep that fact to myself around company. I haven’t seen Aunt Lexi in a while and I don’t think she’d be very willing to talk about him either for some reason, she never even talks about Gramps whenever she comes to visit, I’ve never known why…and I don’t even know why I’m babbling now, it’s stupid…” Olivia begins to trail off and Anna has to interject before the younger woman closes in on herself too. Damn this family sometimes.

“It’s not stupid, it’s natural to want to know about your family and where you come from. I lost both of my parents when I was still a young girl, and believe me, I made sure to find out everything I possibly could about the kind of people they were. I had my memories of them, yes, but memories can fade over time, and sometimes I can’t even tell if mine are real anymore. So, having that information at my disposal, it made me feel secure, made me feel like I knew them properly you know?” Anna asks and Olivia gives her an understanding look, “If I’m honest, I do not know an awful lot about Eren, only a small part. I don’t even know what’s happened to make your Grandfather too sad to talk about him.”

Olivia looks at her then apologetically, “That is the part of the story I actually do know about. But I don’t think I can tell you; it wouldn’t be fair to Gramps. But if he’s talking to you about stuff then…I guess he’ll probably tell you in time? You already probably know more than I do at this point.”

Albeit slightly disappointed, Anna accepts Olivia’s explanation without argument. Because deep down she knows Olivia is right, it would be unfair to Levi. Her employer had trusted her completely those days ago, taken things at his own pace and spoken about the man he’d loved for the first time in 20 years. That is not something to be taken lightly, and skipping forward to the end, it would almost feel like cheating.

“Anyway,” Olivia says suddenly, “A couple of my friends want to see a movie and go for a bite to eat, and it is Saturday, I need to get out for a bit.”

Anna continues to polish, with purpose this time and tells Olivia to have fun, and to her surprise, Olivia responds with,

“You know, you’re actually not so bad Heidi.”

Anna has to suppress the urge to toss her cloth at Olivia’s retreating form as she leaves.

++

“Would you like a cup of tea Levi?” Anna asks as she finds Levi sitting in his armchair when she returns to the living room. She’d been cleaning and dusting the rooms upstairs – with the exception of Levi’s bedroom this time – and it’s around the time when they’d normally stop for their afternoon tea together. A routine they’d had to suspend with the addition of Olivia to the house for the time being.

“It’s too hot for tea today, I think.” Levi says, fanning himself with his removed cravat, “But there is some pink lemonade shit that Oli went and bought the other day. Bring that in with a couple of glasses?”

“Sounds like a plan.” Anna replies with a smile, silently rejoicing at the idea of a cold drink instead of a hot beverage in the ridiculous heat of the house. She retrieves the large glass bottle from the fridge and pinches two drinking glasses from the cupboard. When she returns, Levi has moved a little side table to sit in front of them, somewhere to place their drinks, on coasters of course.

“So, how long do you think you’ll be having your live-in guest?” Anna asks casually, and Levi frowns in response.

“I’m not sure, but I do hope Ellen comes to her senses soon. She’s not come around for a little while now because she knows exactly how I’ll react when she does. Let’s just say my daughter can be too concerned with appearances to the outside world, that she forgets what’s truly important in life. She wasn’t raised that way, Eren made sure of that, and I do hope that she remembers that.” Levi says, vaguely enough so that he doesn’t give too much away on Olivia’s predicament – which still remains a mystery to Anna – but that he also suggests that he is firmly on his Granddaughter’s side in this argument.

“And what will happen if she doesn’t?” Anna ponders, not quite sure if her question is overstepping the mark.

“Then I’ll be incredibly disappointed in her. And Oli will always have a place here if worst came to worst.” Levi states with conviction, and he takes a sip of his lemonade.

They drink in a comfortable silence for a little longer, relishing the feeling of the cool liquid on their lips, gradually cooling them as they begin to wind down after a long day of working in what has felt like a sweat shop. Anna really wants to suggest they open a window, but is unsure of how Levi will respond, so she keeps the idea to herself.

“So…” Anna begins, “You were telling me about how you and Eren didn’t meet again for 16 years, how on Earth did that come about?”

“Ahh, so you do remember…I was kind of hoping you’d forgotten all about it or had lost interest…” Levi says a little self-consciously, continuing to sip on his lemonade.

“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.” Anna insists gently, “I told you, I’m hear to listen to as much or as little as you wish to talk about. I just didn’t bring it up before now as I thought you’d feel a little more comfortable if it were just the two of us. I’ll admit I’m rather intrigued…but I’m not going to make you say anything you don’t want to. It’s entirely up to you.”

Levi takes a minute to mull over Anna’s statement, and drags out the silence for a little longer by refilling his glass as slowly as humanly possible. In fact, it takes him such a long time that Anna is about ready to change the subject when he says,

“It’s been a really long time since I’ve told this story, and my memory may not be as good as it once was…but I do recall, that on the day that I saw Eren Yeager for the first time in 16 years, it was raining. And I’m not just meaning a light rain, I’m talking torrential, heavy, disgusting rain. And I’ll always remember, that when I saw those big green eyes again, like I’d seen them so many years prior, it didn’t feel like it was raining anymore. It felt like the brightest, hottest, most scorching sun was beating down on my skin…and all I knew is that I didn’t want it to stop, not for anything in the world.

Chapter Text

The rain is beginning to bucket down as Levi is packing up his desk for the evening. He’d been working tirelessly for the last 11 hours – although truthfully it had been for the last 11 months – in order to close one of the most important cases he’s come across since he started practicing in his own firm, and he can safely say that after the long hours, gruelling workload and insane amount of coffee he’s consumed in order to just survive through it, he’ll live the rest of his life a happy man if he never has to see the name Kitz-Woermann again.

Levi checks his watch to see that it’s just left 8pm, and it’s already dark outside, the rain still coming down in sheets that make it impossible for him to see any proper signs of life out of his window, just blurred street signs and floodlights that make his head hurt. He’s just about to turn off his desk lamp when he sees a familiarly suited man in his office doorway.

“Knock Knock!” The man with big bushy eyebrows says, before letting himself in without invitation. Not that he needs it or would ever wait for one anyway, being both Levi’s boss and best friend all rolled up into one came with its privileges.

“Erwin, you do realise that saying the words ‘knock knock’ without actually knocking makes the whole thing pointless? And it also makes you sound like a billion years old.” Levi says mockingly, grabbing his scarf and wrapping it around his neck before shrugging on his coat. He’d be protected from the cold tonight, but unfortunately, he hadn’t quite predicted the almost storm they were having, so he’d have to just get wet.

“I feel about a billion years old.” Erwin insists, chuckling away to himself, “I think I’ve aged about a decade in this last year alone.”

“Tch, you and me both. I didn’t get home until after midnight last night. I never thought I’d say this, but I’ll be glad of the day off tomorrow.” Levi says, grimacing as he stretches his arms, feeling them physically and audibly crack.

Levi may only be 35 years old and in incredibly good shape compared to most other specimens of his age group, but he can already feel his body start to protest and screech at him following all of the sit in meetings or business calls lasting hours upon hours at a time. Usually a lengthy case like this would only drive him to continue working harder, on his career or even on his body, but the clients for this one had been a complete pain in his ass, scrutinising every single tiny detail or asking for redraft after redraft of his proposals for their case.

Sleep had never been a problem for him before, a few power naps or a couple hours here and there being enough to keep him going for most of his life, he wasn’t a stranger to even falling asleep for the night in his chair at home and feeling completely refreshed the next morning. But now, even Levi can’t deny that he’s absolutely exhausted and wants to do nothing more than get home to his bed and never come out.

“Tell me about it.” Erwin agrees, hands casually placed in his coat pockets as he waits for Levi to get ready to leave, “But what I really want to do first is go and get a proper drink, I think we both deserve it.”

“Don’t even think about it, Eyebrows! I have my car with me, and I won’t be able to rest properly if I’m nursing a hangover all day. And you’ll be no good to anyone either if I have to come to your house and murder you tomorrow morning. Anyway, it’s not like we’re 18 anymore.” Levi argues, switching off his desk lamp and leaving his office for the next 36 hours, allowing Erwin to trail languorously behind him.

“Oh, don’t be like that Levi, live a little! We may not be 18 anymore, but we’re not dead. And besides, it’s not like you even went out drinking all that much when we were 18 either.” Erwin retorts, giving him a lop-sided grin that makes him look boyish, not at all like his 37 years, and Levi wants to do nothing more than punch it off his chiselled face. Smarmy bastard.

“You didn’t even know me when I was 18.” Levi retorts.

“Can’t have been far off?” Erwin shrugs, “Either way, my point still stands.”

Erwin is right of course, not that the man is really ever wrong, his literal job is being able to see right through people, a strategic mastermind and an all-round genius. It’s why he’s the boss after all…well, that and the fact he’d invested the most money into the company when they started. But he is correct about Levi, he’d enjoyed an occasional drink when he was younger and is partial even now to a glass of wine with dinner. Good wine mind you, not the cheap crap he’d sell in the 7-eleven he’d worked in during his younger years. But going out to drink and getting drunk? It was never in Levi’s best interests to do so. Going out meant dirty bars and being surrounded by germs or inebriated idiots, usually both, and getting drunk meant willingly lowering his inhibitions, none of these things had ever been particularly appealing to him.

At 18 years old most kids his age had been partying, taking part in underage drinking and doing recreational drugs, having sex and making stupid decisions. Not something Levi could ever afford to do back then, not that he’d ever wanted to. Levi may have had the attitude and look of someone who was undoubtedly up to no good, when in reality, practically all of Levi’s free time had been spent working to help support his mother and sister or hanging out at the house of a family long since gone, but who gave him the tools necessary to start a new life for himself. He often wonders what his life would look like now if he was never given that helping hand, how different it would be to the one he’s become so accustomed to.

“Levi? Are you even listening to me?” Erwin asks impatiently, snapping him back to reality in an instant. Levi sighs, resigned to his fate, knowing that no matter what he says there’s no getting out of this one.

“You’re not going to shut the hell up until I agree, are you?” Levi glowers and Erwin smacks him on the back with a smile.

“I knew you’d come around! I know this great little place, it’s not too far from here, just leave your car and you can pick it up tomorrow.” Erwin says as he picks up the pace, causing Levi to fall behind and shake his head in disdain at his older best friend.

He is so going to regret this.

++

The bar that Erwin takes them to is not exactly what Levi had been expecting, it’s not disgusting but at the same time it’s not the usual upscale kind of place like the ones that Erwin tends to frequent either. It’s a hole in the wall, figuratively and literally – in the sense that it’s literally called ‘The hole in the wall’ – but it is clean, Levi has to admit, not quite to his standards but nowhere ever is. The main thing is, he’s not repulsed to the point that they have to leave immediately.

Erwin has led him to a comfortable booth – or as comfortable as one can be when covered in rain-soaked clothing and dripping wet hair - with cushioned chairs that have high backs and wooden tables that have coasters available to sit their drinks, much to Levi’s relief.

Levi is nursing his second red wine as Erwin downs his fourth pint of beer of the night, bending his neck back as far it will go as he tries to drink up the last of the dregs left at the bottom of his glass. He’d bought himself and Levi a shot of tequila each at the bar, which Levi had point blank refused to drink so Erwin had downed them both himself and yet despite this, he is holding up relatively well considering. His face is beginning to go red as he brings his now empty glass back down to the table and his speech is only just starting to come out a little slurred, so Levi knows that the man will only be able to have a couple more before he’s on his to way to becoming completely hammered.

“L-Levi, remind me why we don’t d-do this more often?! We never just d-drink and talk like this anymore!” Erwin half shouts with a pout that looks ridiculous on him, and Levi rolls his eyes.

“Because we literally see each other every day, have done so for almost 15 years now and nearly every time we have a drink together, I’m left to lug your sorry ass home.” Levi glares, almost shuddering as he remembers the time he had attempted to piggyback Erwin around 2 miles back to his house from a bar after all of the cab drivers refused to take them. It was one of the few occasions Levi allowed himself to get drunk and Erwin was almost an entire foot taller than him, making the entire ordeal all the more difficult as Erwin had also been completely unconscious.

“I s’pose,” Erwin hiccups, “Guess I just w-wish we spent more time together outside of work…seems like the only time we hang out these days is at t-the office. I t-think I’m becoming a sentimental old man, m-missing the days we spent at college together.” Levi shifts uncomfortably at Erwin’s slightly drunk confession, feeling a little guilty at his friend’s words.

Levi and Erwin had been paired to share a college dorm after Kuchel had promised she and Mikasa would be fine on their own, and that Levi deserved to have a real life for once. They had clashed to begin with, Levi becoming annoyed with Erwin’s slobbish (by his standards) nature and Erwin getting irritated at being verbally attacked at every turn, but over time they began to respect each other’s boundaries and ended up becoming friends. Levi had been endeared by Erwin’s attempts to make an effort to ensure their little apartment was presentable so it wouldn’t set him off on a cleaning spree, and Erwin even started to become protective over Levi, taking personal offence whenever someone attempted to push the slightly younger man around due to his smaller height and stature. Although, to his amusement, it turned out Levi hadn’t actually ever needed his help and was far more than capable of dealing with things on his own.

They’ve been through a lot together in their friendship over their years, from the time that Kuchel had a cancer scare after finding a lump on her breast, or when Mikasa had confided to them over drinks that she is Asexual and then again when she revealed she was in a poly relationship with two other guys, to the time when Erwin’s father had died suddenly of a brain tumour. They were always there for each other, no questions asked, and no judgements passed.

Erwin had been in a steady relationship with his Highschool sweetheart, Marie, when he and Levi had met, and since then Erwin had been married, then divorced, and nowadays he is enjoying his bachelor lifestyle. A lifestyle that, at least from what Levi can see, contains constant visits to bars and clubs, casual one-night stands and just a sheer abhorrence towards commitment in general. It still amazes Levi that Erwin can even stay focused on one case for any length of time, seeing as he’s yet to see the same woman twice on Erwin’s arm.

The life that Erwin has chosen, while it seems to be working wonders for him, is not the kind that Levi could ever see himself fully being a part of. While he can still go to bars with his best friend to enjoy a drink and some good conversation, more often than not Erwin tries to introduce him to a friend of the girl he’s trying to take home or just leaves him behind once he’s successful in his mission. Not that the ladies’ friends are ever overly unpleasant or unattractive, he’s just not the meaningless sex kind of guy.

As old fashioned as it may sound, Levi has never had sex with anyone he’s not been in a relationship with first, and his overall relationship number and frequency are not the most impressive to say the least. Despite what people may think about him, it’s not that Levi doesn’t WANT sex, he enjoys it as much as the next man, but the very idea of putting his naked body anywhere near somebody he doesn’t at least know the medical history of makes his hair want to stand up on end.

“Well, you’re not the only one who misses our College days, Eyebrows.” Levi reassures his slightly drunken friend, “I liked when it was just us hanging out and being dumb together…Marie too, back when things were good y’know?”. Levi rarely brings her up now, but he’d enjoyed Marie’s company back in the day, he’d even thought for a time that he may have had a little bit of a crush on the golden haired, freckled woman himself. Not that he ever would ever tell Erwin that. Not that it would even matter seeing as it’s been nearly 4 years since their divorce, and she’s remarried since then.

Erwin nods in agreement before bellowing, “I just wish I was young again! Do you know what women in their twenties are like these days? Insatiable, that’s what. It’s messing up my back, I tell you.”

“Maybe that’s the universe trying to tell you that you’re too old to be messing around with women in their twenties.” Levi snarks, taking a sip from his wine glass, “Ever think of that?”

“Yeah, maybe” Erwin says, looking forlornly into his empty pint glass, “Hey Levi, can I ask you something?”

“I imagine even if I say no you’ll ask me anyway, so I suppose so.” Levi says, the corners of his hips upturned in amusement.

“Do you remember somebody called Hange Zoe? They went to the same college as us, they were in the dorm room down the hall, brown hair? Glasses? Kept a lot of bugs in their room?” Erwin asks casually.

“Oh, the four-eyed bug freak! Yeah, I remember, they had those two pet tarantulas, Sawney and Bean if I’m right? I think I accidentally killed them when I bleached the hall floor, four-eyes wailed the whole night after finding their bodies, I kind of felt bad.” Levi says, “Anyway, what about them?”

“Well, the thing is, we sort of found each other and got to talking on this website…” Erwin titters nervously and rubbing at the back of his neck, “It’s, umm, an online dating website.”

“Oh,” Levi says in surprise, “I thought you weren’t up for doing the dating thing again? You said you were content with just keep things casual.”

“And I was,” Erwin clarifies, “You see, some people go on these particular sites specifically for, uh, hook-ups and stuff. Well, Hange found my profile and dropped me a message to tease me about it, or at least I think that’s what it was…But anyway, one thing led to another and now…I sort of have a date.”

Now this was unexpected, but it does make sense now that Erwin would bring them here instead of to a seedy bar where he could easily pick up a bed partner and leave Levi to his own devices. But why now? Why after all these years? And if his memory is to be trusted, Levi is pretty certain that he and Erwin spent months trying to figure out if Hange Zoe was male or female, and now that he thinks about it, he doesn’t think they ever actually found out.

“Okay, well surely that’s a good thing, right?” Levi asks, slightly encouraged by the direction the night has taken, and Erwin nods.

“Yeah, but…I haven’t had a first date in so long, not since Marie. I can do the whole meet someone and sleep with them routine, I’m good at that. But when it comes to meeting somebody with the expectation that it could turn into something more…I can’t remember how it all works. And it’s not just that,” Erwin continues, slightly rambling and stumbling a bit over his words as he sways a little in his seat, “Hange is Agender…or genderless…it’s something like that. So, they haven’t told me what they have…y’know? Down there…and I’ve only ever dated women, I don’t know what this all means…”

“Erwin, I’m going to stop you there as I can barely understand you as it is,” Levi cuts in, raising his hand in a stopping motion and then holding up his fingers as he lists his points, “One, you are one of the most charming, confident, cocky bastards I’ve ever met in my life, and you schmoose with big wigs all the time for a living. I’m pretty sure that if you can do that with no problem, you can handle one date with shitty four eyes. Two, it doesn’t fucking matter what’s between a person’s legs, it doesn’t even matter what they look like or even what they identify as, as long as you want to be with them in that way, then who the fuck cares? You’re making this a bigger deal in your head than it needs to be.”

Erwin lets out a huff of a laugh in response, “Yeah, I guess you’re right. It’s just been a long time, I think, since I let myself…feel. How did you get to be so smart?”

“Tch, having an idiotic hulk of a best friend will do that to a man.” Levi smirks, “But I’ll concede, you having a date does equate to a monumental occasion in my book, guess that means we have to have another drink.”

Erwin lets out a bark of a laugh and whoops loudly in response, calling over a young waiter and asking that he bring them two of their biggest glasses of a drink of his choosing, and one for himself too. From the very corner of his eye, he sees the waiter nodding his head and heading back to the bar quickly.

Yep, Levi is definitely going to regret this.

++

Several hours and numerous drinks later, Levi is starting to feel the buzz from the alcohol he’s consumed running through his veins. He isn’t drunk, not by a long shot, but he definitely feels far more relaxed than he has in a long while, 11 months’ worth of tension and stress slowly beginning to drain and unwind from his muscles.

Erwin, on the other hand, is practically laying on Levi, as the smaller man attempts to haul him outside and into a cab. His best friend has been going on and on for the last 45 minutes about how Levi needs to get himself a date and how he’s far too young to devote himself to a life of abstinence.

Levi simply huffs in response, but he does have to admit - at least to himself - that it has in fact been a long time since he’s been in a relationship. His last one had ended just over 2 and a half years ago and it’s rare these days that any date he goes on makes it to a second. If he’s honest, he can’t remember the last time he went on a second date.

In his mind, Levi has only ever been in three relationships that he would consider life-changing or life-defining in any way. They’re the only ones he truly remembers, the rest have somehow melded into a mass of pointless encounters and shitty people he doesn’t care to waste his time recalling.

The first, had been with a woman named Petra. They had dated for just a little over 3 years and in fact, they had technically been engaged. Petra Ral was just starting her career as a high-profile prosecutor and was the sole heiress to the Ral family fortune, and Levi had met her as he was beginning to make a real name for himself as a commercial lawyer. After around 6 months together, Levi had left the apartment he shared with Erwin – and Marie unofficially – and he and Petra bought a place together in the city. People were calling them the perfect power couple before they’d even hit their first anniversary.

But appearances don’t necessarily reflect reality, as Petra had been obsessed with maintaining that perfect image, she had wanted them to be the poster couple for domestic bliss and happiness, the pinnacle of what every other couple would aspire to be. Her hunger for status had meant that, unconsciously, Levi found himself becoming more and more disconnected from his family, as Petra had been reluctant to spend any real time with his mom or sister, seemingly afraid that spending time with people who weren’t accustomed to her luxurious lifestyle would somehow infect it’s way into her own.

Truthfully, Levi hadn’t even been the one to propose to Petra, she had just seemed to decide one day that it was about time for them to become engaged and announce their upcoming nuptials in the paper. He hadn’t argued or fought her on the issue, and by the end of the night, she was sporting a brand-new engagement ring that she had picked out herself, Levi had had no input in the decision at all, simply paying for the ring once she had been happy with her choice.

It had only been a matter of months later that Levi decided he’d had enough, he was sick of all the charity dinners, the galas and the kissing up to people he didn’t even know, spending time drinking champagne in their mansions and penthouses instead of with his Mom and Mikasa, or even Erwin and Marie. He went back to their apartment after work one evening and told Petra he was done, that she should find someone who truly loves her in the way she deserves and she should live her life in the way she wants, not the way that her family expects her too. He left their shared apartment that night and moved back in with Erwin and Marie.

It was just over a year later that he received a letter from Petra, thanking him for giving her the wake up call she needed, along with a wedding invitation for her upcoming marriage to her College boyfriend and love of her life, Oluo Bossard, a man that had once been deemed unacceptable by her family. Levi, of course, had gone to the wedding alone with his head held high and had danced with the bride at the reception.

It was at the same wedding reception, in fact, that he had met Anka Rheinberger. She was a woman in her mid-thirties, so around 4 or 5 years older than Levi at the time, had been sat at his table in the seat next to his, and had seemingly come along alone also. She had struck up a conversation with Levi when she humorously pointed out how uncomfortable Petra’s upper-class family looked at being forced to socialise with the working men and women of Oluo’s. Levi, knowing exactly how stuck up and snobbish the Rals could be, had snickered in agreement and together they began their suspected commentary of the goings on at the top table for the entire evening. The next morning, having not gotten Anka’s number like he’d wanted, Levi enquired about the woman with Petra, who had been overjoyed and delighted to set them up, more-so than he would have expected from his ex-fiancée.

Anka was not what Levi would have described as beautiful, not in the way Petra was, she was more of a handsome woman. She was elegant of character and like a fine wine, Levi had suspected she would only continue to get better with age. Her sense of humour was unparalleled, and Levi found himself enjoying her company the more he saw her, but she was still a mystery to him. Clearly, she was familiar with the finer things in life and the name Rheinberger had suggested she came from the same family, one that he knew ventured in the same circles as the Ral family. But Anka was different from them, she had a clear sense of herself and knew that the world could be a cruel, harsh place at times, she wasn’t sheltered or in denial about the actualities of real life. And it took a couple more dates for Levi to finally find out why.

Anka, as it turned out, was a single mother to a 3-year-old son named Lucas, and her family, being much stricter and judgemental than Petra’s, had cast her aside following the shame of a child being born out of wedlock. She and her ex-partner Gustav (whom she called Gus) were still on good terms, but in reality, Levi knew that she and Lucas had been left on their own with little support, and Anka had been forced to re-invent herself in the wake of her life changing practically overnight.

Levi, having had very little experience in the way of children – except with the little boy with the green eyes he’d known a lifetime ago – was incredibly nervous indeed when Anka had made the condition that he’d have to get the approval of her son before she could agree to them becoming a steady couple. He needn’t have worried, as Lucas turned out to be a delightful little child with impeccable manners, and Anka had no further reason to remain coy about their relationship.

Lucas had seemed infatuated with the older man, wanting his attention all the time and would include Levi in all of the ‘family’ pictures he would draw, which always seemed to look like squiggles to Levi and would of course also include Gus, but it didn’t bother Levi one bit. What did bother Levi, however, was the man himself. Gus would come to Anka’s every Tuesday and Friday to pick up his son to stay overnight, always coming to get Lucas just before his bedtime and dropping him off far too early in the morning to be considered a reasonable hour. It irked Levi greatly that Gus wouldn’t want to spend more time with his child, especially as the little boy was a complete ray of sunshine and had a massive heart, always wanting his hand to be held by someone and to be read stories before bedtime. And even though it was always for a minimal amount of time, Levi’s chest would always hurt a little when Lucas would wave to him from the window of Gus’ car.

Things remained the same for around a year and a half, he’d become content with Anka and loved little Lucas to shreds, it was almost enough. Almost. And while he could certainly say he was happy being with Anka, he couldn’t quite come to thinking of himself as being in love with her, there was just something…missing. Like he was trying to fit himself into a picture that wasn’t meant for him, one that was already developed. So, when Anka had sat him down with tears in her eyes and told him that she and Gus were going to give their relationship another chance for the sake of Lucas, he’d almost been relieved.

However, the break-up of their relationship also meant that he’d have to give up the idea of Lucas being like his own son. He’d never called himself Lucas’ stepdad, nor had Anka, but he couldn’t help but feel like he’d been more like a father to the boy than his own poor excuse of a dad had been and losing him had been far more devastating to him than anything else.

Anka, of course, had promised him that he could send Birthday and Christmas cards to Lucas every year, and could see the boy whenever he wanted, however the promised visits became less and less over time. The first year apart when Levi sent a Birthday and Christmas card to the boy, he’d received a thank you card of his own with a little picture of Lucas included. On the second year when he sent a Birthday card, it was returned to his address the very next day, it hadn’t even been opened. That was when Levi decided that dating single parents wasn’t worth the heartbreak, but having his own children…that was now on the list of things he was open to.

The rejection, however, was the event that led to Levi quitting his job at the firm he was working at and buying a one-way ticket to Paris. He had told his Mom he would be taking a career break and planned to live in France for six months to figure out what he really wanted, and Kuchel - being of French descent herself – had shown him the utmost support and sent him on his way, but not without writing him a full list of things to do and places to visit. Erwin and Marie, on the other hand, had been sure he was having some sort of mid-life crisis, despite being only 32.

It was while he was living in Paris that he met Michel, an artist his own age that made it his mission to make Levi realise that life wasn’t all about work and structure, and that beauty could be seen in even the darkest of times. It just so happened that Michel found beauty in Levi, and Levi in turn had left himself fall for the dark, handsome man. Michel had taught Levi the importance of embracing every new opportunity, every desire, every urge...or he may find he'll live to regret it. It's a lesson he carries with him, even now.

Their whole relationship was simple, it had a start and it had an expiration date, they both knew it and they both accepted it. In the time that they were together, Levi spent 3 whole months living in Michel’s apartment, an attic space that had recently been renovated with large windows and art deco furniture, splashes of paint here and there were Michel had been frustrated with whatever piece of work he’d been doing and decided to turn his house into a Jackson Pollock painting. They spent every waking moment together, and every night also, but decided not to exchange numbers or even last names. That would ruin the entire dynamic of what they had completely.

They visited all of the famous tourist attractions together; The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe. Of course, Michel had visited them all a million times before, but in return, he’d also shown Levi his own favourite places in Paris, all the hidden gems that one would probably never find if they weren’t a local, and Levi loved every single second of it. And when the time came for Levi to pack up and move back home when the 6 months were up, Michel took him to the airport, kissed him goodbye and promised to never forget their time together. And Levi was able to leave with a smile and the knowledge that he would never again return to Paris, he didn’t need to. And when he returned home, he bought himself an apartment, put a deposit on a proper house for Kuchel, got a motorbike for Mikasa and started up his own company with Erwin.

“M’sorry Levi…Please don’ kill me in t’morning…” Erwin begs almost tearfully as Levi tries to wrestle him into the back seat of the cab and put his seatbelt on. Levi simply shakes his head in exasperation, and he can see the amusement of the cab driver as he laughs fondly to himself in the front seat.

“Don’t worry son, I’ll make sure your buddy gets home safe!” The driver assures him, and Levi nods before wishing Erwin a goodnight and slamming the car door a little too harshly. The rain is still pelting down, so Levi swiftly makes his way back into the bar to retrieve his coat as the cab drives off, taking his best friend with it. Levi had decided not to share the cab with Erwin out of fear of being vomited on, the last time had mentally scarred him for life.

As re-enters the bar, he can see the bar man beginning to clean glasses and try and shoo an older gentleman home as they’re planning on closing up for the evening. Levi’s plan is simply to pick up his coat and brave the torrential rain once again, he could try and hail a cab, but he may as well walk at this rate, he’s quickly sobering up and his clothes are drenched already.

However, when he approaches his booth, the waiter from before is bent over the table, holding empty glasses with one hand as he cleans it with the other. As the man works away, oblivious to his presence, Levi can’t help but appreciate the curve of the slim waiter’s spine and the plumpness of his ass as the man moves back and forth, wiping down the table with long, hard strokes. He’s admiring the young man’s thighs, which are deliciously thick but surprisingly muscled, covered in the tightest black skinny jeans he’s ever seen when the waiter turns around to meet Levi’s gaze, and Levi’s hears himself make an almost choked noise in the back of his throat.

Those eyes…those beautiful, bright, gorgeously green eyes…eyes that were once too big for the face they fit…eyes that once looked up at him with such wonder and innocence…eyes, that no matter how much he tried, he just couldn’t forget…eyes that were currently staring straight back at him…eyes that could belong to one person…

“Eren? Eren Yeager?” Levi asks in shocked disbelief, and the green eyes he’s watching initially widen in surprise, before the brunet man in front of him brings a hand up to his chest and begins smiling brightly.

“Levi...Is that really you? Oh my god, I can’t believe this…I-I’ve been saying all night to my boss that you look just like someone I used to know…I d-didn’t think…I didn’t believe it could actually be you, I can’t believe…Hi!” Eren says finally, taking a moment to breathe, his hand still covering his rapidly moving chest.

“Hi.” Levi says lamely back, his own breathing beginning to pick up a touch as he takes in the sight of the young man he hasn’t seen in 16 years, “What are you doing here?”

“Oh, I work here! Mr Hannes is an old friend of my Dad’s, he gave me the job…and you already know that, I’ve been serving you drinks all night. You mean back here in the Country, of course, I’m so stupid…” Eren says sheepishly as he continues to explain, “Umm, well I’ve been back for about a year now. I live in an apartment with my friend Armin, he’s from back home too but now he works over at…I’m sorry, I’m rambling…anyway, how have you been? It’s been so long.”

Levi is barely keeping up with anything Eren is saying, partially due to his new accent, but also because he just can’t stop looking at him. He’s still mainly in shock that Eren is actually HERE, but on top of that, he had never pictured Eren as an adult before, he’s still trying to wrap his head around it. And how had he not noticed him before now? As Eren said, he’d been serving Levi and Erwin drinks all night, how did it take until now to realise that the young man serving him was Eren? His Eren…HIS Eren? Where had that come from?

“Oh…yeah, I’ve been good.” Levi says, mentally kicking himself for how dumb he sounds, “Really good actually. Just been working a lot, the usual I guess.” He says, shrugging his shoulders and looking away a little embarrassed.

“Please tell me you’re not still working at Walmart.” Eren blurts, before slapping a hand over his mouth, “Not that it would be a bad thing if you are! Not at all! I just assumed that with the suit and all…”

“You might wanna quit before you hurt yourself, brat.” Levi teases with a smirk, “First of all, it was a 7-eleven. And secondly, no, I’m not working there anymore. Actually, I’m a lawyer now.” He says, folding his arms and revelling a little in Eren’s discomfort, not feeling so ridiculous now that Eren is just as obviously as nervous as he is.

“You called me a brat.” Eren says, positively beaming at him, “I remember you used to call me that all the time. I always found it really funny because you were trying to be mad at me. But I knew you were always pretending.”

“Well you always were a little brat.” Levi says fondly, and Eren is still smiling. He looks like he’s about to say something more, but before he can, the older man behind the bar pipes up.

“While this reunion is all very touching, kids, some of us are trying to go home for the evening. Eren, I’ll close up tonight, you go and do…whatever it is you’re doing.” The man says, waving his hand in a dismissive gesture.

Eren flushes bright red, “Okay, thanks Mr Hannes!” and he asks Levi to wait a second so he can grab his things from behind the bar. He returns less than a minute later, wearing a thin bomber jacket and motioning for Levi to follow him outside.

The rain hasn’t let up for even a minute, and he hears Eren muttering something under his breath. Levi is rather unsure where they go from here, do they go their separate ways? Does he ask for Eren’s number so that they can keep in touch? Will he look like a total lecherous creep if he does? Fortunately, he doesn’t have to find out as Eren beats him to it.

“Listen Levi, I’ve been working all day and it’s safe to say I’m pretty hungry right now. There’s a 24-hour diner just a couple of blocks from here, I was gonna go and get myself some food, would you like to join me? I’m dying to hear what you’ve been up to since I’ve been gone.” Eren says, nervously fiddling with the bottom of his shirt like he used to do as a child.

Levi is tempted to say no, it’s almost 1am, he’s worked his ass off all day and is now beginning to feel fatigue seep into his joints, the alcohol certainly hasn’t helped in that sense. But for some reason, he can’t bring himself to say goodbye yet, and as stupid as it sounds, he doesn’t want to seem like a boring old man as compared to Eren, who if he’s right will have just turned 22, he’s already positively ancient. And more than anything, he finds himself not wanting to disappoint Eren, which also seems ridiculous seeing as he hasn’t laid eyes on him in almost two whole decades.

Against his better judgement, and seemingly without any helpful input from his own brain, Levi’s simple answer to his question is “Sure.”

Eren grins at him once more and all of a sudden takes off running in the rain, “Okay, let’s make it interesting! Loser has to buy coffee!” He yells, before continuing to run off ahead, and Levi is left bewildered. Figuring he has nothing left to lose, he takes one last look up at the sky and then begins sprinting to catch up with the much younger man.

Who knows? Maybe he wouldn’t regret tonight as much as he first thought.

++

Levi ends up beating Eren by an embarrassing amount despite the boy’s head start. And despite the fact he’d been fully prepared to buy them both coffee anyway, Eren insists he put his wallet away, a bet was a bet at the end of the day.

Once he’s found a booth that he deems clean enough, Levi slips in and peruses the menu idly, slyly watching Eren the entire time over the top of it. Eren has gone up to the counter to buy their coffee and Levi can’t help but eye the younger man’s form, he’s slim but curvy in all the right places, his muscles from years of dancing visible but not bulging like some of his own do, his damp, caramel-coloured skin glowing like honey under dim lights of the little diner. Levi doesn’t realise he’s been staring until Eren is practically in front of him, taking a seat in front of him and handing him his coffee.

“Black, no sugar, if I remember correctly. I used to think you and Mom were so weird drinking this stuff all the time, but it basically runs through my veins these days.” Eren laughs, pouring what looks to be around 6 sugars into his milky coffee and stirring it thoroughly.

“Yeah, and type 1 diabetes by the looks of it.” Levi says, grimacing in distaste at Eren’s cup, causing Eren to snicker at his expression, “And yeah, you it right, although I am more of a tea drinker these days. But this shit is just what I needed; it’s been such a long fucking day.”

Eren giggles at him then, taking a sip of his own sugary mess, “Wow, you used to be so careful not to curse in front of me. You still did drop the accidental one around me, but it was rare. It’s nice to see you like this, relaxed and being yourself.”

“Tch, I was always myself around you, kid. In fact, you were probably one of the only people in the world I could be myself around back then. You were too little to have any expectations of me, and even if you did, it didn’t matter if I didn’t meet them. I guess, you just never seemed disappointed in me.” Levi says into his coffee, and Eren looks at him shyly.

“I idolised you.” Eren admits, “And I think if I’m honest part of me still does. You were so different to anybody I’ve ever known, even now. Back then, you were always so…so confident, so sure of yourself. “

Levi snorts, “Confident? Are you high, kid? I was this scrawny little runt who barely fit in the world, never mind felt confident in it. You must be mistaking me with somebody else, maybe he’s the guy you idolised?” He says, taking a casual sip of his own scalding hot beverage.

“Okay, maybe confident is not the word I’m looking for, seems my English has gotten worse that I’d thought,” Eren says with a hearty chuckle, “What I mean is, while you may be a little shorter than I remember, you were always so certain of your place in the world, like, you just sort of…accepted it? It took me a long time before I realised you were any different to us. I remember a while after we moved, I asked Mom why you hadn’t flown out to see us, and she told me that you didn’t have the money to fly around the world like we had, and I couldn’t understand what she meant. It was only later in my life, when I looked back, that I remembered you and your family lived in that tiny apartment, and your Mom was constantly working…I’m sorry, I sound like such an ass, I swear I’m not trying to judge you or anything…”

“No, don’t be sorry brat, I get what you mean.” Levi assures him, “I would prefer if you say what you mean rather than try and sugar coat it. You’re right, we were poor as shit, and your family treated me like I was their equal. It confused the hell out of me for a long time, I couldn’t understand why these people were being so nice to me after all the other rich fuckers would look at me like I didn’t belong, like I wasn’t good enough to breathe the same air as them. I thought maybe it was because of what happened to Isabel, but then I realised that they were just good people. Carla and Grisha, people like that are rare in this world…I have a lot to thank them for. Speaking of which, how they doing? Are they here with you?”

Eren’s face falls at the question, but he quickly musters up a gentle smile, “Oh, well no, Mama is back in Germany, Oma Isabel lives there with her. She’s doing well, she has a lot of friends over there. I think she prefers being surrounded by people who are a little more honest about their opinions, Germans tend not to hold back an awful lot! I think that suits her just fine. And Oma is doing amazingly, she’s got most of her speech back, she’s never quite been the same, but she’s happy enough and that’s all that matters…but, um, well Dad…”

Eren trails off, and Levi’s heart all but stops beating in his chest, he looks at Eren’s face and he recognises the expression right away, it’s the face Eren unconsciously makes when he’s trying his best not to cry. Levi doesn’t even have time to think, he just reaches out his hand and touches Eren’s bare arm, it’s hot to the touch and he rubs soothing circles into Eren’s skin with his thumb, not even thinking about it.

“I’m sorry Levi, Dad died just over 2 years ago.” Eren admits sadly, “He had a heart attack. Doctors said it was probably caused by years of built up stress. He took an early retirement and no matter what he did, he just couldn’t seem to settle. I imagine the heart attack was probably his body’s way of telling him to slow things down…he just never actually pulled through.”

Levi doesn’t know what to say, doesn’t know what to think. He’d always imagined that if fate was kind to him one day, and he got the chance to meet the Yeagers once again in his lifetime, he would personally like to thank Grisha especially for the chance the man had taken in him. He’d chosen to invest his time, his money and his belief in Levi’s skill, Grisha had seen something in Levi that he’d never even seen in himself, and he chose to give Levi a chance, knowing that he’d probably never get to see the result in the end, but he did it anyway. Levi would always be grateful, but he would never get the chance to say thank you.

With a deep breath, Levi begins to speak, “Well, I’m incredibly sad and sorry to hear that Eren. He was a great man, one of the best, and we’re likely never to meet anybody quite like him again. To your dad?” Levi asks, holding his coffee cup up in offering, and it takes a second, but Eren raises his too and clinks it against Levi’s.

Neither of them mentions that Levi’s hand is yet to leave Eren’s arm.

They order pancakes when the waitress comes over to their booth to take their orders. Well, technically Levi doesn’t order anything, but Eren bugs him to at least share his chocolate chip pancakes as he’ll never be able to eat them all on his own. Levi relents when Eren offers to order blueberry instead, as Levi has never really been one for chocolate, and to be honest the idea of pancakes right now is not completely abhorrent to him.

When the massive stack is brought over, Levi digs in and begins asking Eren what he’s been doing with his life since he was a 6-year-old, and Eren reveals that while he works part time in Hannes’ bar, he is in fact a professional dancer.

“I’ve actually just finished touring a few months back.” Eren says around a mouthful of pancake, “I was in ‘The Nutcracker’ over Christmas. Well, actually, technically I was the Prince’s understudy, but I did get to perform a couple of times after the original guy got injured. It was great, a dream come true really, I’ve always wanted to be in The Nutcracker ever since I was a kid, I just wish I’d gotten the part properly and not by default, you know?” Eren says and Levi nods in understanding.

“You’re still young, you have plenty of time to get there.” Levi says reassuringly, “And it’s not like it’s your first time on the stage, I do recall you having a cute little solo when you were a kid, do you remember?”

“Barely, it’s all a bit of a blur, but I do remember I was nervous about it.” Eren admits, “My dance partner, Annie, used to tell me I was silly for being nervous to dance in front of you. I knew you and Mikasa were coming, your Mom too, so I wanted to do a good job. I remember looking for you in the crowd after I did my solo…”

“You were looking for me?” Levi asks surprised, remembering a little Eren scanning the crowd as he’d taken his final bow and locking eyes with Levi, he had always just sort of assumed that the boy was looking around for his family, not necessarily him specifically.

“Well…yeah…” Eren says, face turning scarlet red at his confession, “I don’t know why, I just thought that if I made you proud of me, you’d think I wasn’t just a silly little kid. I guess, on some level, I just wanted to impress you.”

“I was very impressed.” Levi says honestly, and suppresses a smile at Eren’s shy little giggle in response, it’s incredibly cute to him, and he’d really like to hear it again, “So, do you have any dancing jobs coming up? Anything I could come see you in?”

“Oh, um, well not anytime soon. It’s still a little early, a lot of productions won’t start up until maybe late spring or summer time. I do have a couple of auditions lined up for those, but in the meantime, I’ve been working at the bar and part-time as a local dance teacher’s assistant. It’s just for little kids, but all great dancers have to start somewhere. Yelena is the actual teacher, but she’s getting on a little and needs me to demonstrate a lot of the time, especially for the boys. There’s been quite few more since I started working there, I think they feel a little more comfortable seeing an older, male dancer that they can copy from.” Eren explains, draining the last of his coffee and nibbling on some pancake.

“Makes sense, I know a lot of little boys like to have an impressive older man as their idol.” Levi says teasingly, and Eren rolls his eyes in response before locking his gaze with Levi’s. Something passes between them then, and Levi can’t quite put his finger on the feeling, but he feels lighter than air, giddier than a child and he knows that without a shadow of a doubt that he doesn’t want to leave this booth. He may never want to leave, not if it meant looking away from those gorgeous green eyes and that beautiful, beaming smile. And he knows, just by looking at Eren’s pretty face – and he is VERY pretty – that he feels it too, and that knowledge makes him tingle all over.

It takes several more coffees and plenty more hours of chat for the pair of them to realise that the sun has long since begun to come up, it’s still raining heavily but dawn has been broken for quite some time now. Somehow, they’d managed to gravitate closer together and their shoulders are now touching as they lean close, Eren having moved over to Levi’s side of the booth a little while ago to show him some pictures on his phone from his time touring, and a couple of himself with Carla and Isabel.

Eren had explained a couple of hours ago how Isabel is now married to an Australian man named Farlan, and how she lives over there now with him and their two children, Samuel and Mina. Levi surprisingly laughs when he first hears this, recalling the time she’d petulantly told him in his car that she would not be focusing on her education and how she’d always wanted to go to Australia. Looks like his once best friend had gotten her wish after all.

It’s only when Levi realises for the first time how bright it’s gotten outside, that he has the sense to check his watch and is appalled to realise that it’s 8:15 am. A whole 12 hours since he left his office the night before.

“Jesus, I hadn’t realised the time until now…” Levi says, showing Eren the time and the younger brunet man’s eyes widen in surprise as well.

“Wow, crap, I guess we better think about going home at some point today, or at this rate we’ll be getting lunch here also.” Eren jokes, and Levi thinks that the suggestion doesn’t sound overly terrible, but as it is, his body is screaming at him to get some rest. He stretches his arms and Eren does the same, the pair wordlessly standing up and grabbing their jackets before thanking the woman who had been waiting their table and leaving a generous tip.

Levi doesn’t even react to the rain when he walks outside this time, fully expecting it and still being too damp to care about getting soaked, he just begins strolling through it at a leisurely pace and Eren walks right alongside him, just as unbothered by it.

They are walking so closely together now, that their hands begin to brush with each step they take, and Levi is just about to move a little out of the way when Eren takes the plunge, and boldly grasps Levi’s hand in his. It’s soft and much larger than his, Levi tilts his head upwards to look at the younger man in question, but Eren is looking everywhere but at him right now, his red-tinged neck the only give away that he’s doing anything out of the ordinary for two men who have just spent hours being the only two customers in a dimly lit diner together. Levi doesn’t let go of his hand.

They say nothing for the rest of the time they walk along together, simply giving each other shy looks or smiles every so often, and Levi feels his heart beating loudly in his chest. What does this mean? Isn’t this wrong on like, so many levels? Shouldn’t he be concerned that this man is nearly 14 years younger than him? Shouldn’t he be feeling dirty as he’s literally known the boy since he was a child, and now he’s imagining Eren’s big, soft hands touching his bare skin in many other places? But the most complicated question he finds himself asking is, why DOESN’T he care more?

Levi is about to break the silence when Eren stops suddenly outside a block of apartment buildings and turns to face Levi directly.

“Well, this is me.” Eren says, gesturing to the building with his free hand.

“Okay.” Levi says breathily, not making a move to leave or to take his hand back from Eren. The pair end up just staring at each other, standing smack bang in the middle of the rain, not saying a word, when Eren leans in.

To Levi’s surprise, Eren doesn’t do the obvious, and leaves a light peck on Levi’s cheek. Eren’s lips are soft, featherlight, and they linger for a few seconds on his cheek. And when he pulls away, he looks embarrassed at his own actions when Levi says nothing.

“I’m sorry Levi, I didn’t mean for that to happen…I’m sorry if I’ve made you feel uncomfortable, I just thought that back at the diner we…I must have gotten the wrong idea, I…” Eren rambles, staring at his feet, and Levi shushes him with a simple finger to his lips. Eren looks down at him questioningly, and without overthinking things anymore than he needs to, Levi cups Eren’s naturally tanned cheek and stretches up to put his mouth on his in a gentle kiss. Levi isn’t left straining for too long, however, as Eren quickly bends down a little, wrapping Levi’s smaller, yet heavier body in his long, graceful arms.

Their kiss becomes more insistent as the minutes go on and the rain continues to pour down, making it harder and harder for them to breathe. They have to pull away every few seconds to catch their breaths, but that only makes the whole thing even hotter, their kisses becoming harder and more fervent every time their lips touch.

At one point, when the rain begins dripping from their hair and onto their faces, Eren pulls away from Levi completely, only to begin trailing hot kisses and little licks down the older man’s sensitive neck. Levi gasps in shock and arousal when Eren does that, and he absentmindedly grips the brunet’s long hair in his hands, pulling at the strands so that Eren has to look in his eyes, they are wild and almost completely black in colour. Levi decides to push the boundaries a little further and uses his teeth to bite down on Eren’s lower lip, hard. Eren shivers in Levi’s grasp and is almost brought to his knees by that action alone.

They begin kissing again almost lazily for several more minutes after that before they simply rest their foreheads against each other, staring into each other’s eyes with such intensity that Levi thinks his heart is going to burst out right of his chest. He continues to run his hands through Eren’s soaking wet hair, and Eren has since brought both of his hands to Levi’s hips, palms stroking at them gently as they stand together, just gazing at the other as if they are the only two people in the world.

And right at this moment, while the streets are dead, and the rain pours down heavily…it begins to feel like they may just be.

Eren gives Levi one last chaste kiss to the lips before asking, “Do you…would you wanna come up to my apartment with me? You can have a proper rest up there…and we can get you out of those clothes…they must be soaking wet.”

Levi listens to Eren’s tone of voice and knows after taking one more look in those jade green eyes, that if he were to go up to Eren’s apartment with him, he’d definitely be getting out of his clothes…but there wouldn’t be a lot of resting going on. And Levi must admit, the idea is more than a little tempting. He can almost imagine being led upstairs by a blushing like mad Eren, kissing him passionately against his front door before entering his apartment and stripping himself down for only Eren to see. He’d love to see the wild look in Eren’s wide eyes as he bares himself for him, revealing his snowy, pale skin and showing off the physique he’s becomes incredibly proud of, and then laying with Eren on the bed, and slotting himself between those wonderfully thick thighs…

“Best not,” Levi breathes with a sigh, “Neither of us have gotten any sleep, and I did have a bit to drink last night. If we’re gonna see each other again, I want it to be after we’ve both had a shower, a shave and good night’s rest.”

“And are we?” Eren asks with a hopeful expression, “Going to see each other again, that is?”

Levi rolls his eyes and gives him an exasperated little smirk, “Well, after a kiss as good as that, I’d like to think you’d at least be interested in us going out on a proper date, brat. But, then again I guess if you’re not interested then…”

“No, I’m interested!” Eren interrupts abruptly, and it’s so endearing that Levi has to stop himself from cracking a rare smile at it, “I’m very interested, it’s just that…I never expected this to happen, I didn’t think that someone like you would ever want to date me…this is crazy!”

“It’s so crazy.” Levi agrees, moving one of his hands to cup Eren’s face again, “But, I think I’m beginning to like crazy.”

Eren simply laughs and kisses Levi once more before pulling away and making his way towards the main door of his apartment building, “You have my number now, you’ll call me?” He asks, looking rather self-conscious and like he doesn’t want Levi to leave his side out of fear he’ll disappear again.

“I will, now get your ass inside, or at this rate we’ll both die of pneumonia before we even get to go on that date.” Levi teases, and Eren laughs as he lets himself into the building and out of Levi’s sight. For some reason though, Levi can’t make himself leave until he’s seen Eren has made it inside okay, that he’s safe in his apartment. It’s such an absurd idea that anything could possibly happen to Eren in the time it takes him to get from the street up to the third floor of the building, but still, he waits anyway.

Eren appears at the window about 5 minutes later, he waves shyly at Levi and Levi raises a hand in acknowledgement before he starts to leave and make his way back home. And, unbelievably, it’s as Levi is heading in the direction of his apartment, that the rain finally decides to stop. Levi simply clicks his tongue at the absurdity of it all, he still hasn’t totally felt anything that’s happened in the last 12 hours sink in properly.

But what he does know, is that he doesn’t regret a single moment of it.

Chapter Text

Chapter 7

“You KISSED him?!” Anna exclaims in shock, perched literally at the edge of her seat, “On the street, in the middle of a rainstorm?! Goddamn, where you part of a romantic novel by any chance? Things like that just don’t happen in real life.”

“I didn’t think so either. Until I met Eren Yeager.” Levi says, smirking at the mess of a woman in front of him, “I learned very early on that with Eren, anything became possible.”

“It’s just so…well, romantic!” Anna remarks, unable to find a better fitting term, “It’s just not what I would have expected from someone so…” she waves her arm, gesturing up and down at Levi’s form as she mentally hunts for the word she needs.

“Boring?”

“Reserved.” Anna clarifies, “You just don’t strike me as the type that would have done something so…so…spontaneous.”

“Honestly? If I had met up with Eren maybe 3 or 4 years prior to that night, I never would have kissed him then. Actually, I probably wouldn’t even have gone to the diner with him…I was insanely attracted to him, god only knows I was, but it wouldn’t have made a difference back then, if anything it would have driven me to keep as much distance between the pair of us as possible.”

“So, what changed?”

“I changed. But that was because of Michel. He taught me that the most important thing in life, is making the choice that I truly believe I'll regret the least in the long run.” Levi says with a shrug, “Before I went to Paris, I was the kind of guy that would always consider the worst case scenario before I made a decision, so I never really did anything that was out of my comfort zone, and to an extent I still am like that. But meeting Michel and spending those few months with him…it taught me that things were likely never going to turn out as bad as I once feared they would. I mean, I quit my job, left the country I’d never set foot out of in my life, abandoned my friends and family for half a year and shacked up with a complete stranger just because I felt lost and alone…all of those things could have had the worst repercussions for me, but they didn’t. When I came home, I bought myself the first home I’d ever lived in alone, gave my Mom her dream house, got Mikasa the motorcycle she’d always wanted…and selfishly, I got to have a love affair with somebody I found incredibly interesting and attractive, and then got to walk away from it with nothing but happy memories.”

“So, what you’re saying is, when you stepped that far out of your comfort zone, you got to see that everything else you used to worry about in comparison wasn’t as scary anymore?” Anna ponders, thinking to herself about the time she herself chose to leave everything behind and move to the US…maybe everything else going forward wouldn’t be as difficult as she once thought, if Levi’s theory were to be believed. The older man hums in acknowledgement at the idea.

“I’d never really thought about it that way, but I guess you’re right. All I know is that when Eren invited me to join him that night, and then later when he kissed me, I felt nothing but the fiercest, utmost desire for him, so I did what Michel had taught me to do, and I acted on it. Thinking back, I probably should have spent a little more time thinking about how weird the situation would seem to an outsider looking in, but the thing is when I saw Eren again, I didn’t see the little boy that would once watch cartoons and cry when he was tired, instead I saw a man who had grown into his own person and who’d been dealt with his own shitty hand in life, and managed to come out the other end with minimal scarring. So, when the opportunity presented itself, and I was given the option of kissing him back, I literally grabbed on with both hands. It’s one of the only things in my life that I’ve never once regretted even in the slightest…well, that, my daughters and saying yes to his marriage proposal.” Levi says reminiscing, with his lips turned up at each corner in a not quite smile.

“Whoa! Wait a second…Eren proposed to YOU?!” Anna splutters in barely concealed surprise, she’d assumed that Levi would have been the one to propose, it had just seemed like a safe bet. But then again, Levi was continually surprising her more and more every day, so really, she doesn’t think she should be too shocked at the information, “You have to tell me everything, I want to know! Where and when did it happen? Were there people watching? Did he cry? Did YOU cry?!”

“Calm down, shitty moron, I’m an old man and can only take one question at a time without you giving me angina. Anyway, why are you so keen to skip so far ahead? I still need to tell you about that first date, unless you don’t want to know?” Levi asks teasingly.

“No, I do! I’m sorry, I just wasn’t expecting you to say that. Please continue and you can tell me about the proposal some other day!” Anna pleads, and Levi rolls his eyes before checking his watch, his face becoming a mask of concern.

“You know it’s getting pretty late, it’s almost 9 o’clock already. Did Oli say what time h-she would be back?” Levi asks and Anna frowns, he was right, she better get going soon, but with no sign of Olivia, Levi was bound to get himself stressed out and a stressed Levi only ever meant one thing. Stress cleaning.

“No, but I don’t mind staying until she gets home?” Anna offers and Levi shakes his head in response.

“She won’t be far away; her friends all live around here anyway. I am a bit more concerned about you though, missy. It’s a real long journey back to the city from here and I already kept you late last week, that room is still available if you want it.” Levi says matter of fact as he watches her fidget with her phone.

“No, honestly I couldn’t impose like that. And besides you already have Olivia here, it would be too much.” Anna says, waving away his offer and readying herself to leave.

“Listen, Anna, call me an old fool or way out of line here if you want but…I don’t like the idea of you venturing out into the city at this time of night, I may be an old man but I remember what it’s like there when it gets dark, I lived there for long enough to know. Plus, I have two daughters who used to stay out until all hours at night, I could never sleep knowing they were out there, and I was convinced the pair of them would send me to an early grave. Olivia is one thing, she knows people around here, she has people to look out for her. You’re relatively new to the city…I wouldn’t want to think anything happened to you because I kept you late one night.” Levi says, almost muttering the last sentence so much that Anna has to strain to hear him correctly.

It warms her heart really, hearing that Levi has actually come to care for her wellbeing since they’ve gotten more comfortable with each other, but at the same time there is no other option to settle his worrying aside from her leaving at the originally planned time every evening. But that would mean no time for any more stories…

“I’m not sure what else I can do Levi.” Anna says, looking at her feet, she knows what the solution is, but she was so hoping it wouldn’t come to this, she wants to know so much more and recently Levi has seemed so much happier since he started opening up to her about his past with Eren. It’s so not fair.

“Well I do have an idea, but I’m not exactly sure how open you would be to it.”

“And what’s that?”

“You could move in here.”

Anna’s eyes widen at the suggestion, surely she hadn’t just heard him correctly? She must have misheard him completely! In fact, she probably fell asleep on the couch and dreamt the whole storytelling session, that would certainly explain the amount of bombshells Levi has been dropping on her all evening.

“You’re…you’re not serious, right? I mean…you’re kidding, aren’t you?” Anna stumbles over her words uncertainly and Levi raises a brow at her apparent struggle to string a sentence together.

“You’re the one that’s been saying constantly that you hate your apartment, that your neighbours are weird and you’re struggling to sleep with all the noise at night. If you were to move in here, you’d immediately eliminate all those problems and you’d save money on the commute to work. Seeing as there is none.” Levi says as nonchalant as humanly possible, “We’d still pay you the agreed amount and I wouldn’t expect you to do any more than you’re currently doing.”

“But…but, Levi…are you thinking about what you’re offering me? You’re giving me the option to move into your home, into your life…it may seem easy enough now but what if you get sick of me? Or if my being here would somehow tarnish your memory of Eren being here…” Anna trails off and Levi scoffs in amusement.

“You honestly think that you moving some of your crap in here would somehow erase Eren’s presence? I hate to break it to you shit for brains, but Eren hasn’t lived here in quite a long time, yet I’m still to completely forget about him, think that tells you something? Plus, it’s not like the set up would be entirely new to me, having you and Olivia wouldn’t be all that different to having Ellen and Alexia here…not that I’m trying to weirdly replace them or anything, just making an observation. And look, if it makes you feel any better about the situation, you wouldn’t even have to consider the move permanent if you didn’t want to. If you want, you can just live here until you’ve saved enough to get a decent place you’d actually feel happy in.” Levi says, and while the offer is sounding more and more tempting to Anna by the second…really, she’d LOVE to get out of that apartment…but there’s still one thing that would need to be addressed first…

“Levi, this is all very generous, I really appreciate the offer…but I couldn’t possibly agree. You see, the thing is, I have a cat.” Anna says as way of explanation.

“You have a cat?”

“Yes, he’s a house cat so he stays in the apartment and my neighbour feeds him while I’m at work, although I do think that neighbour is also stealing from me…”

“Hmm” Levi says, considering this, “I always wanted a cat.”

“Seriously? You wanted to have a cat?” Anna asks in disbelief, she'd never imagined a clean freak like Levi would have ever considered having an animal in his home, trained or not.

“Yeah, if I were to have a pet at all, that is.” Levi clarifies, “Eren didn’t want a cat. I wanted a cat and Eren wanted a dog, so eventually we compromised and got a dog.”

Anna snorts, “That doesn’t sound like much of a compromise at all!”

“Tch, well I learned over time that agreeing with Eren was much less hassle than dealing with one of his stroppy episodes. Honestly, even well into his twenties and thirties you would have thought he was a teenager, not that it helped that he always had this youthful look about him no matter how old he got.” Levi says exasperated, “But yes, we got a dog in the end. Eren named him Zeke Yeager, because I made it clear that the thing was his responsibility. He was a boxer, ugly fucking beast, looked like a busted-up leather couch, but Eren had a thing for grumpy looking things and if you make one fucking comment about that, I’ll kick the shit out of you. Anyway, see that silver thing on the fireplace you’ve been cleaning every day? That’s his urn.”

“Oh, well that’s…nice.” Anna says apprehensively, unsure how to feel now she knows she’s been polishing a dead dog’s ashes for weeks now, guess she can’t say much, pets are part of the family after all.

“Well, in regards to the feline issue, why don’t you bring him over tomorrow and see how he is? That way we can make a proper decision on your living arrangement once you know. Is he a long hair or a short hair?” Levi asks, secretly hoping Anna will say the latter.

“Oh, you don’t have to worry about that.” Anna says behind a smile and Levi wants to ask more, but he’s aware that time is getting on and Anna still has to get back to her current home and cat in the meantime.

They say their goodbyes for the evening, and not ten minutes after Anna has left for the next train, Olivia walks through the door and straight upstairs to her mother’s old bedroom.

Levi had never thought he’d have to deal with waiting up late for anyone to get home at his age, but then again, he can’t say it’s an unwelcome feeling to have a much fuller house once again.

++

“What in the actual fuck is that thing?” Levi asks, partially confused, partially horrified at the creature in front of him the next morning.

“This is Titan! He is a pure-bred, high quality and incredibly handsome, Sphynx Cat!” Anna coos, snuggling an irritated Titan up to her cheek and full-on beaming at Levi’s scowl at her precious pet.

“It looks like me, naked.” Levi deadpans.

“Well that’s fucking disturbing.” Olivia remarks, setting down her cereal bowl and grimacing around her current mouthful, making Anna snicker under her breath.

“Titan happens to be a fantastic house pet, thank you very much! He doesn’t have any hair, so thankfully he doesn’t shed anywhere, but he does need to be rubbed in special lotion every couple of days so his skin doesn’t dry out, and he can’t be left out in the sun for too long or he’ll get burnt. He has some little jumpers for when it gets cold and he’s fully potty trained. Other than that, he’s very low maintenance, but he does like his ears to be scratched and his paws to be rubbed, especially between his little toes.” Anna says, beginning to babble and make baby noises at the cat that looks suspiciously like a defrosted chicken.

“Okay, well, can I see him?” Levi asks, motioning for the cat as if he were requesting to cradle a baby.

“Sure, but be careful, I love him to pieces, but the little bastard has some claws! He seems to think I’m his scratching pole.” Anna warns, before handing the wriggling feline to Levi who simply places him in his lap and inspects his feet.

“Dirty paws don’t belong on a clean floor, but it seems like you’re fine.” Levi says to Titan as if the cat is bound to understand him, before he turns to Anna, “It’s a little disconcerting petting a cat without any fur, but I suppose he’s alright.”

“I think he’s cool!” Olivia comments from the couch as she takes pictures and videos of the cat on her phone, smiling the entire time, it’s the first time Anna has seen the girl look her age without also making some smart-ass comment.

“If he shits on the floor, on any of the furniture or breaks anything, I expect you to clean it. Same rules go for him as anybody else, he is kept out of my bedroom at all times. But other than that, I think he should be fine.” Levi says to Anna, absentmindedly petting the cat who looks rather comfortable, snuggled up and beginning to fall asleep in Levi’s lap quite content. And without a scratch either, Anna is on the verge of scolding her pet for being such a traitor.

“Is that okay with you Oli? If Anna and Titan come to live here?” Levi asks Olivia, and to Anna’s surprise, the teen simply shrugs and puts her phone away.

“Doesn’t bother me, now that I know that she’s not after you for your sexy residence permit.” Olivia says with a smirk, “Not sure how long I’ll be living here anyway.”

“You’ll be living here for as long as you need to.” Levi assures her and continues petting Titan, to which Olivia shyly looks at her feet with a concealed smile.

“If you continue like that, Titan will be staying right there all through story-time.” Anna jokes, not really thinking of her surroundings and Olivia looks at them both with confusion.

“Story-time?” She asks, and Anna bristles, looking up to Levi in apology. However, the man doesn’t seem phased in the slightest and continues focusing the majority of his attention on Titan, who has now begun to purr at the motion of Levi’s fingers on his wrinkly skin.

“I’ve been telling Anna the story of how I met your Grandfather.” Levi admits and proceeds to explain, “We got to our first date last night, but it was getting late, so we had to pause for the evening.”

Olivia seems to ponder this for a little while before coming to a decision in her head, Anna can practically see the cogs turning in her brain, but the girl hesitates before blurting out what she’d wanted to ask, stuttering the entire time.

“C-could I…if you want…could I maybe…can I hear the story too?” Olivia eventually manages, and Levi looks at her properly in mild surprise.

“You would want to hear about that?” Levi asks the teenager, who nods her head rapidly in response.

“Yeah, I really would! I don’t know all that much about Grandpa Eren, but from what I’ve heard, he seemed pretty cool. Mom has only ever told me a couple stories; I’d like to hear about how you met. But if you get too sappy, I may just need to throw up, just warning you now.” Olivia jokes with her hands up in surrender, and Anna can’t help but get the feeling that Olivia is all talk, and that the girl would gladly take any detail Levi is feeling generous enough to give up.

“Okay…well, as long as you want to, then that would be fine.” Levi says, he doesn’t smile but Anna has known him long enough to tell how the man is feeling, and she can tell just by one look that right now, Levi is happy…and maybe a little sad at the same time. But she doesn’t question him on it.

“Well, seeing as you have an additional eager audience member and Titan doesn’t look like he’s ready to move anytime soon, I guess I better get a move on with the house chores so we can get started later.” Anna says, readying herself to get up and take on the daily tasks herself, not that much needs to be done anyway, just the usual.

“Oh, please can we start the story now?!” Olivia pleads, looking between the two of them in desperation, as if they’d change their minds in a matter of seconds about letting her join their story sessions, “Please Gramps! It’s not as if the house really NEEDS to be cleaned today, it’s spotless! And even if there is anything that really needs done, I promise I’ll do it myself later! I really want to hear the story, please!”

Anna is about to protest on Levi’s behalf, knowing how irritable the man can get if his chores haven’t been done to his liking on a daily basis, however when she looks at Levi, the man simply looks amused and rather ecstatic – well, as much as Levi is capable of – at his Granddaughter’s enthusiasm, so instead she says nothing, letting the elder speak for himself in this instance.

“Tch, as long as you promise to clean that shit hole you call a bedroom later, then I guess I see no harm in taking it easy for today, that way Anna can leave early to get her stuff moved over tomorrow. But if we are going to start the story now, then I guess we’ll need some tea. Anna, do you mind?”

Once the tea is made and the three of them are settled – Levi and Anna on their usual armchairs while Olivia sits cross-legged on the couch – Levi begins the re-telling of his and Eren’s childhood past and then chance meeting 16 years later to Olivia, who'd become incredibly emotionally invested, before eventually picking up where he left off with Anna the night before.

“That morning, I’d been so tired that I decided to sleep in for once. During the Kitz-Woermann case, I was up and out of the door most mornings before dawn, so now I had the chance to sleep late and I was planning on taking it. But I must have slept for much longer than I expected I would, because I had promised to give Eren a call, and he would have been shitting himself that I’d changed my mind in the hours since I’d left him at his apartment. So that evening, in the midst of one of the heaviest sleeps I can ever recall having in my life, I was woken up by this incessant buzzing on my nightstand. Eren had decided to take charge and called me himself.”

Chapter Text

Levi is deep in the midst of a relaxing, dreamless sleep when he first hears the vibrations coming from somewhere near his head. He groans internally at the sound, he so desperately wants to ignore it, knowing it’s probably Erwin calling to tell him he needs to get up and come in due to some emergency. Maybe the Kitz-Woermann case has found its way back on to his desk, maybe they’ve changed their minds and Levi will have to write up amendment after amendment until he feels like his arm is bound to fall off. It had already been the subject of his nightmares for months now.

With a sigh and knowing he can’t ignore his cell phone for much longer, he heaves himself into a seated position on his bed and grabs his phone from the nightstand. To his surprise, however, the call isn’t coming from Erwin. The name that appears on the screen is Eren Yeager.

Eren Yeager. The memories from the night before and this morning come rushing back to him, so it hadn’t all just been some kind of stress dream then? He really had met a grown up Eren Yeager. He really had KISSED a grown up Eren Yeager…it’s all a little too surreal for him to process, so he decides to just answer the phone instead.

“Hello?” Levi greets, voice groggy and still heavy from sleep.

“Levi! Oh, I’m sorry…did I wake you?” Eren’s voice comes through, tinny as he lets out a nervous chuckle on the other end, “I just thought I’d call and see how you are, it’s getting late and I…well, I kinda just wanted to check that we’re okay, you know?”

This confuses Levi for a moment before he catches a glimpse of the time on his bedside clock, 5.45pm. Wow, he’s never slept this late in his life, what the fuck?

“Well shit, I’ve just seen the time, sorry kid. I must have needed the extra hours.” Levi apologises, “Did you sleep well?”

“Yeah, I slept for a little while. I don’t need all that much sleep these days, between work, school and touring, I’ve become used to only sleeping for a few hours at a time.” Eren says, before continuing awkwardly, “So…you’re not having any regrets then?”

“Should I be?”

“Well, ideally not, but a lot can change in a matter of hours. I know we were both quite caught up in the moment and neither of us were really thinking about consequences or what this could mean and it’s not like we really know each other all that well if you think about it…”

“Eren,” Levi says firmly, effectively cutting off the younger man’s rambling, “Are YOU having regrets?”

“No of course not! Last night was amazing, honest! This is coming out all wrong, I just…I want to see you. I know we only saw each other this morning, but would you be free for dinner tonight? Armin, my roommate, is working later so I’ll be home alone, I could cook something for us?” Eren asks shyly, and Levi can’t find it in himself to decline…not that he really wants to anyway.

“What time? I still need to get showered and dressed. And you don’t have to go to any trouble for me, brat. I’m used to shitty take-out as a stable diet these days.” Levi says, stretching his arms as he holds the phone loosely in one of his hands and forcefully manoeuvres himself off the bed with a little effort.

Eren giggles, “So Ms Kuchel never passed down any of her culinary skills to you? That’s a pity, I remember liking her food. But don’t worry, it’s just stir-fry, nothing fancy. How does seven thirty sound?”

“Okay, I’ll be there.” Levi says, before cutting the line off abruptly, wincing a little as he does. He’d been so used to doing that with everyone else, he didn’t even think about it. No matter, he needs to get himself ready for his date with a certain green-eyed beauty.

++

It’s a couple of minutes before seven when Levi buzzes up to Eren’s apartment and is let in by a very flustered sounding Eren. Levi chuckles quietly to himself as he opens the main door and opts to take the stairs up to the third floor rather than the elevator. The thing looks older than him and he’s not about to risk his life in that rickety old piece of crap. That idea can take a running fuck to itself.

He reaches Eren’s front door in a matter of minutes and is about to knock when it opens to reveal a small young man with chin length blond hair and glasses, carrying a brown, leather satchel over his shoulder. The man lets himself out of the apartment and closes the door behind him softly.

“Hello, you are Levi, yes?” The man asks, his German accent far more prominent than Eren’s and Levi suspects the young man is probably far less used to speaking English on a regular basis going by how almost foreign the words sound to him.

“Yeah, you must be Armin.” Levi says in return, holding out a hand which Armin politely shakes in response.

“Good to finally meet you.” Armin says, “Eren has talked about you and your sister before. But I’m glad you’re here now, Eren is, how you say...Having a cow?” Levi snorts at the term and Armin shakes his head in exasperation.

“Okay, I go to work now. I will hopefully see you soon, goodbye.” Armin says with a kind smile and a wave before taking off down the stairs at a quick pace before Levi has the chance to say anything further. He lets himself into the apartment and is hit with the scent and sound of frying vegetables.

Eren and Armin’s apartment is open plan, so the living room, kitchen and dining area all merge into one, not unlike his own, much bigger and more expensive home on the other side of the city. It is cosy, however, and it oddly reminds him of the apartment he’d grown up in. The one he’d felt rather embarrassed about showing to Isabel and Eren once upon a time.

How times have changed.

Eren, for all intents and purposes, does in fact look to be ‘having a cow’ as Armin had described. The young brunet is facing away from Levi, stirring away frantically and adding ingredients every so often to his wok without really looking at them. His long hair is scraped back from his face and tied in a bun at the back of his head, and he’s wearing an emerald green button-down shirt that matches the shade of his eyes with dark blue jeans that don’t look quite as tight as the ones he’d been wearing the night before. But that’s not to say those beautiful thighs don’t fill them out in just the right way…

He can feel himself staring and he manages to tear his gaze away just as Eren whips around to face him.

“Hi” Eren greets with a large smile that only looks ever so slightly manic in the man’s flustered state, “I’m really sorry about the mess, I had a minor crisis with the power, it’s a little umm… temperamental here and likes to cut out at the worst of times. Armin got it working, but it meant I had to start cooking a little later than I’d planned. You don’t mind?”

“Tch, of course not brat, you could have called and re-scheduled if it was too much trouble.” Levi says, trying not to sound too much like he’s scolding the younger man. Eren lets out a breathy laugh and tucks a stray piece of hair behind his ear in a nervous gesture.

“No, it’s okay. Like I said, I wanted to see you.” Eren says, looking at Levi through his long lashes and it’s an incredibly endearing sight, “Just make yourself comfortable, dinner shouldn’t be too long. Do you want me to take your coat?”

“No, it’s fine, I’ll just take it off here. But this is for you.” Levi says, proffering a bottle of white wine to Eren, who takes it gratefully. It had been Petra who had taught him that it was only good manners to bring a gift when visiting someone’s home for the first time, not that Eren would have thought any less of him if he hadn’t, he just felt that he wanted to make a good impression with Eren. A prospect he himself had found dumb considering he’s known Eren since he was a kid, he’s never had to be anything more than just himself with the boy.

“Oh wow, thank you!” Eren beams, inspecting the label on the bottle in awe, “This will be lovely to serve with the food.”

Levi is about to take off his coat, when he feels an arm wrap around his waist and a hand rest on the base of his spine. He looks up to face Eren, who pulls him in for a gentle, chaste kiss. It’s just a small brush of their lips really, but Levi still feels his breath catch in his throat at the action. Eren detaches himself from Levi’s mouth only a matter of seconds later and smiles cutely at Levi’s blushing cheeks.

It’s with a clearing of his throat that Levi composes himself, “Idiot, you’re gonna burn your vegetables.”

“Oh shit!”

++

Dinner is fantastic, much to Levi’s initial surprise. It’s not that he expected Eren to be a bad cook, but with the frantic, disorganised manner in which Eren prepared their food, he had at least expected the result to be a bit of a hearty mess. However, the grilled chicken stir fry is so packed with flavour that he finds himself almost wolfing it down ravenously. It takes a hell of a lot of restraint on his part to eat like a normal human being.

“Is the food okay? I’m sorry it’s not anything special, I’m working at the school tomorrow and need to make sure I maintain my weight. I’ve been letting myself go a little recently.” Eren admits, looking self-consciously down at his lower half.

“Are you a complete moron?” Levi blurts in disbelief, “For one, the food is great, I’m surprised you didn’t pursue a career in cooking instead, and I’m a last minute guest, give yourself a break and a bit more credit where it’s due. And secondly, you look great, if anything you could use a little more meat on your bones.”

Eren chuckles, “Well, thank you, you flatter me. But in terms of dancing, I am getting a little out of shape. My muscles are losing definition and my thighs are already huge.”

“Your thighs are perfect.” Levi says quickly, before immediately flushing at the words he’d meant to think to himself and not say out loud. Eren looks at him owlishly and then falls into a fit of laughter.

“Well, I’m glad you think so. But don’t think I haven’t noticed you staring when you think I’m not looking.” Eren says teasingly once he’s able to compose himself, wiggling one of his eyebrows and sipping on his wine smugly at Levi’s scandalised expression. They’d managed to get through half the bottle between them so far.

“Tch, says the shitty brat who likes to draw attention to them by wearing the tightest, skinniest jeans known to man.” Levi argues, waving his own glass accusingly in Eren’s direction, causing said man to laugh loudly in response.

“It’s hardly like I do it on purpose! I’m a ballet dancer, I literally get paid to wear tights for a living, it’s not my fault that fabric likes to mould itself to my body. You’d think I were doing it solely to attract dirty old men like you…”

“Dirty old men?! If I remember the correctly, you were the one who made the first move.”

“Excuse me! You were the one who kissed me!”

“Well you were the one who took my hand, and you’re forgetting we wouldn’t even have gotten that far if you hadn’t invited me to that shitty diner in the first place, brat.”

“Okay, you can insinuate that I’m a wanton harlot all you want, but you don't insult my favourite diner! I’ll have you know that I am a regular customer and their apple pie is to die for.” Eren insists, knocking back the rest of his wine and placing his glass on the table.

“I guess I’ll just have to believe you, or you could take me for a slice of pie sometime yourself?” Levi suggests slyly, finishing his own wine as Eren grins at him from across the table.

“Then, I suppose it’s a date.”

++

It’s a little while longer when Levi realises that once again, he and Eren have unconsciously moved closer together over the course of the evening. Their chairs are now almost side by side instead of on opposite ends of the dining table, and they’ve at some point begun holding hands, their fingers interlocked together and resting on the table in front of them.

Levi is enjoying yet another almost full glass of wine as he assesses their joined hands, varying so vastly in size and colour in a way that’s almost beautiful to look at, and Levi wonders to himself how pretty they’d look if other parts of their anatomy were pressed together so intimately, the pale white of Levi’s petite form against the deep, caramel sweetness of Eren’s lithe body…

“So I spoke to Isabel this morning after you left,” Eren says suddenly, pulling Levi abruptly out of his naughty thoughts, “I didn’t tell her about us or anything, I just said that I met you by chance at the bar and we got talking. She says she’s so happy to hear you’re doing so well and wonders if it would be okay if I were to give her your number?”

“Of course,” Levi confirms, rubbing the back of Eren’s hand with his thumb, “I’d love to hear how she’s been all these years. I’ve missed her. Is she just as full of energy as she used to be?”

“Worse.” Eren says with a grimace, “Honestly, you wouldn’t think she was a mom to two rowdy kids. Don’t get me wrong, I love my niece and nephew, but they’ve definitely inherited their mother’s adventurous streak and their father’s inquisitiveness, they’re quite a pair. But compared to Farlan and Isabel? No contest.”

“And what’s he like?” Levi asks, “Isabel’s husband? Is he a good man?”

“He’s the best.” Eren says nodding, “He loves Izzy a lot, and you can tell they bring out the best in each other. Apparently Farlan used to be really quiet and rather reserved until he met my sister. She’s helped bring him out of his shell while he is probably the only person in the world able to ground her successfully, with him she’s content to live life without going at it 100 miles an hour. I knew as soon as she brought him back home to Germany for a visit, that he was the one she was going to end up marrying.”

“I’m glad to hear it.” Levi says truthfully, the steady flow of alcohol causing him to speak a little more freely than usual, “If I’m honest, I used to worry about Izzy a lot. She was always such a dreamer and tended to live with her head in the clouds. I thought that maybe one day something would happen to bring her crashing back down to Earth and that real life would be too hard for her to deal with. Clearly, I was wrong, she really did do what she set out to do.”

“And what about me?” Eren asks, peering at Levi from behind his own wine glass, “Did you…ever worry about me?”

“Honestly? No.” Levi says shaking his head, “I never felt the need to worry about you like that. I always knew that you would do great things, there was never a doubt in my mind about that. No matter what you did, I knew that you’d be astounding. Do you remember what I said to you on the night we found out you were leaving?”

“You…you said that…I’m sorry Levi, I can’t remember.” Eren says sadly, eyebrows scrunched up adorably in his attempt to recall the long forgotten memory.

“That’s okay. I said that one day, your name would be up in lights, and that when that day came, I’d be the first in line to see your show.” Levi says and Eren’s golden cheeks flush brightly with colour as he stares at Levi with wide eyes.

“And now?” Eren asks, “Would you still be there now?”

Levi huffs a breath in response, before raising Eren’s hand – the one he’s still clutching – to his mouth and kissing the young man’s fingers gently, “I did promise, and it was a pinkie promise, so it’s real, remember?” He says, moving Eren’s hand around so his lips rest against that very same pinkie.

The air around them is beginning to grow hot as Eren stares unblinking at Levi’s pink, soft mouth against his warm fingers, and his tongue darts out unconsciously to wet his own in response as he struggles to remain in the chair, his whole body screaming at him to grab the older man and have those beautifully thin lips pressed somewhere else…anywhere else…

Eren is about ready to give in when Levi places his hand back on the table and lets go, before standing up and beginning to clear the table. Levi has picked up both their plates and glasses, bringing them over to the sink and setting them down as he rolls up the sleeves of his white dress shirt.

“Don’t worry about doing that, I’ll get them!” Eren protests, making his way to stand before Levi holds up his hand and ushers Eren to sit back in his seat.

“Sit down, brat. You made dinner, it’s only fair that I wash up.” Levi insists, turning away and begins scrubbing at their dirty dishes.

Eren watches Levi for a little, practically undressing him with his eyes as he admires the barely concealed muscles under the man’s white shirt and the generous curve of his ass. Eren imagines what it would feel like to grab on to, would it be soft and squishy or firm and muscular? He’s not sure, but he also doesn’t think he would be too fussy either way. Every part of Levi is just perfect and turns him on in a way that makes him want to hold on to the man for dear life, and not just throw him away after one encounter…like he’d done with most of his other lovers.

It’s not that Eren is afraid of commitment or could even be considered ‘slutty’ so to speak, that’s just so far from the truth it’s not even worth thinking about. But all of his relationships, if you could even call them that, sexual encounters would be a more apt name, had been pursued solely on the basis that Eren had been feeling rather lonely. Touring across the world as part of his career for a good chunk of the year is exhilarating in a way that Eren would struggle to describe to an outsider, and he loves his job more than anything. However, being stuck for months on end with the same dancers, the same faces for an extended period of time while knowing there is no one waiting for you at home had been harder for Eren to comprehend than he’d ever imagined.

While several of his co-stars and co-dancers had their spouses and long term partners back home to call at night, to keep them company over the phone or on Skype until they fell asleep to the sound of their loved ones voices, Eren found himself alone and craving the intimacy he couldn’t get from a simple call from his mom or sister. So, it didn’t take long before he was seeking company in the form of somewhat handsome strangers for a night here and there. It was always quick, and he never stayed overnight, preferring to get what he needed for a couple of hours before returning to his hotel room to shower and sleep, sated and decently satisfied enough to tide him over for a little while.

Of course, this hadn’t been an ideal situation, and Eren soon realised that what he really wanted hadn’t been sex, but a deep, meaningful relationship with someone he had a lot in common with, someone he could be himself with. He thought he’d found that in fellow ballet dancer Nack Tierce, whom he’d dated for a couple months before the relationship came to it’s inevitable end whilst on tour. Nack had been a man of average height, with brown eyes and brown hair to match his own, and they were to share the stage each night as back up dancers for the main entourage. He had been a gentle soul, and he cared for Eren in a way that Eren himself had never felt from anyone before, there was even talk of him visiting his home and meeting Nack’s parents once the tour had ended. However, as nice as their relationship had been, Eren felt no real spark, there was just no raw passion or excitement, no matter how hard he tried. And soon after, Eren had ended things, which led to an incredibly awkward couple of weeks before the tour ended. From then on, Eren vowed that he would never again mix business with pleasure.

Levi can feel his neck beginning to go red under the attention the younger man is giving him, from where he is standing, he cannot see Eren, but he can practically feel his eyes roaming up and down his body. Levi isn’t self-conscious, not by any stretch of the word, but having Eren assess him in such a way makes him feel small and vulnerable, something he hasn’t felt in an incredibly long time. However, despite himself, the sensation of being admired by an incredibly attractive man is not exactly an unpleasant one.

It’s another few minutes before Levi feels, rather than sees, Eren come up to stand behind him. The young man has a presence that is almost electric to Levi and he swears he can feel the static between them as Eren presses himself so close to his own body, without actually touching him at all. Levi quickly sets down the plate he’d been cleaning out of fear of dropping it, and Eren quickly takes the opportunity to press his palms flat against Levi’s waist, and dips his head in the crevice between Levi’s neck and shoulder, inhaling the scent of the older man’s cologne and growling appreciatively.

Levi feels his eyes flutter closed, as he lays his head back to rest against Eren’s broad shoulder and moaning softly as Eren begins nipping and sucking lightly at Levi’s exposed neck. Levi brings one of his hands up to grip the back of Eren’s head, pulling him closer as he uses the other hand to steady himself against the edge of the sink. Eren, encouraged by Levi’s reactions, starts caressing Levi through his thin shirt and rubs at his chest, barely grazing his nipples through the fabric.

Unable to control his own body, Eren starts rolling his hips against the base of Levi’s spine, fully aware that his erection is entirely visible, and Levi will surely be able to feel him through his jeans. He ruts against Levi for a few seconds longer before said man spins around in his arms and tugs Eren down by his hair for a fiercely passionate kiss. Their teeth clack together at intervals and loose strands of Eren’s hair get caught between their lips, but it’s perfect and Levi wants to taste more, to feel more, and it’s such a strong sensation that Levi feels like he’s about to claw his way out of his own skin just to be able to get closer and closer to the gorgeous brunet.

Eren takes the kiss completely in his stride, using one of his hands to cup Levi’s soft cheek as he continues to press himself against the older man, grinding their hips together and having to kneel down a little further in order to feel the evidence of Levi’s arousal underneath his slacks. Eren groans loudly when he finds the perfect angle for them to press their erections together and Levi is such a beautiful shade of red that he’s tempted to take a picture and keep the image with him forever.

However, before he can fully process that thought, Levi is pushing him away slightly before grabbing Eren’s wrists and dragging him towards the dining table. Levi takes a seat on the chair he’d been sitting on earlier and gestures to his lap, cheeks flushed and gaze heavy with arousal as Eren takes the hint and straddles him. Levi practically dives in and begins nuzzling at Eren’s long neck as the younger man plants kisses all over Levi’s burning hot face.

“Levi…you’re so perfect for me, I can’t help myself…don’t want to stop touching you.” Eren moans, almost sobbing as he grinds his hips against Levi’s.

“Me neither.” Levi agrees, breathing heavily against the skin of Eren’s neck, “I don’t…God, I don’t know what it is about you…you’ve grown into such a beautiful man…you’re stunning Eren…I never do this, but I can’t stop…”

“Oh god, please don’t!” Eren begs and begins babbling, “Don’t stop…don’t ever stop…used to think about this all the time…I wanted you for so long, always remembered…I don’t want to lose you again…I can’t lose you…not now…”

Levi pulls away from Eren then, and uses his hand to tilt Eren’s head so that they are looking directly at each other, “Listen to me and listen good, you’re not going to lose me…I’m right here baby, I’m not going anywhere…not unless you tell me you don’t want this anymore.” And he means it. Right here, in this moment, there is not one single place he would rather be. And with Eren of all people…his Eren…he can’t imagine there could be a more perfect moment in his life.

Their noses gently rub together in an intimate gesture before their lips meet once again, their kiss melting from an almost red-hot, fiery passion to a gentle, re-assuring brush of lips and tongue, a promise of sorts…and they’re just beginning to lose themselves in each other when the front door flies open and Armin walks in, grumbling away to himself in German before he catches sight of the pair of them pressed together on the chair.

Eren practically flies off Levi’s lap, blushing madly before re-arranging himself into a semi-presentable state. Armin, putting two and two together almost instantly, begins apologising profusely, his skin turning a deep crimson as he takes in their dishevelled clothing and bruised lips from kissing.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know I’d be back so soon!” Armin explains rapidly, “I’ll just go to my room and get out of your way!”

“It’s fine, kid.” Levi says suddenly, standing and tucking his shirt in where Eren had unconsciously been tugging at it, “It’s getting late, and I have work early in the morning.”

Armin nods in understanding but waves them both off anyway and heads straight to his bedroom, most likely in embarrassment at interrupting the two at such a time.

“Are you sure?” Eren asks suddenly, “You could always stay here if you wanted? I could put your clothes in the wash, and they’ll be dry in the morning.”

“It’s okay brat, I do need to get going. I left my car at work last night, so I’ll need to get up earlier than usual, there’d be no point.” Levi says in way of explanation, “And, well…Can I be honest?”

“Of course, Levi, you can tell me anything.” Eren assures him, although Levi can see the slight worry tinging his lovely eyes.

“Look, tonight was…fantastic, believe me. But honestly, I would like us to move a little bit slower if that’s okay with you?” Levi asks, uncertain of himself and scratching at the back of his neck, “I…find it very hard to control myself around you, and it’s not like me at all. I usually have far more self-control than this and it makes me nervous that all of that seems to fly out the window where you’re involved. And you and I, we have so much history, I don’t want to ruin any of that by jumping into bed with you too soon. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

“Levi,” Eren titters breathlessly, “I’m not going to get mad because you don’t want to have sex with me right away, please don’t think that. I agree, you and I have a lot of history, but we’ve been apart for so long, we’re different people now. We’re still getting to know each other…and I’m fine to abstain from any of that until we’re both ready, I really want to see where this goes Levi…honestly, I was just suggesting you sleep here, nothing else. But I’m happy to wait…I want to wait for you. I’ve waited for 16 years; I can wait a little longer.”

Levi smirks a little then, the corners of his lips turning up at the corners as he watches Eren, flustered and self-conscious at his own words, and suddenly Levi remembers something Eren had said before…

“Did you mean what you said just now? You thought about this for years?” Levi asks curiously, and Eren does his best to avoid the man’s gaze.

“Umm…well, yes, kind of…it’s hard to explain. It can be a story for another day, like you say, it’s getting late and you have work tomorrow!”

“Tch, brat. Well don’t think I won’t bring this up again, you’re not getting away with it that easy!”

Eren simply grins cheekily and walks Levi to the door. They spend another few minutes just outside the apartment, exchanging lazy kisses and holding each other at the waist. Levi gives Eren one last peck on the cheek and finally lets go of Eren reluctantly as he makes his way towards the stairs.

As he heads out into the cold chill of the night, he can’t help but smile softly to himself as he’s reminded of the events of the evening. It had been such a refreshing feeling to be with someone that made him feel lighter than air and as giddy as a teenager. Eren makes him feel alive in a way he hasn’t felt in…well, he’s not entirely sure he’s ever felt this way with someone before. Eren’s desire for him is so pure, so apparent on those beautiful features that it makes Levi’s heart soar and he’s sure it’s somehow going to pop right out of his chest.

He feels himself smiling almost the entire journey home, when he feels a text alert go off in his pocket. He pulls the phone out and checks the screen, fully expecting the message to be from Eren until he sees the unknown number and a text that reads:

G’day Aniki! Never thought I’d ever get the chance to say that to you, but when Eren mentioned he’d met you yesterday, I couldn’t help but get excited about it! How have you been? It’s been so long big bro. I’ve missed you all these years. I know it’ll probably be late when you get this but if you’re interested in chatting at any time, you have my number now. Hope to talk to you soon! Love Izzy, Farlan and the Rugrats! Xx

And it’s with Isabel’s message that Levi’s smile falters from his face. It sounds silly in his head now, but he hadn’t properly thought about what this thing with Eren would mean for his relationships with Isabel and Carla moving forward. The last he’d seen them he was a 19-year-old man and Eren was just Isabel’s 6-year-old kid brother who looked up to him like he was the real Superman. Hell, at the time he knew the Yeagers, Carla had been concerned enough that he was going to become romantically involved with her 15-year-old daughter, how is she going to feel when she finds out that he is in fact actively pursuing her son who is a whole 13 years his junior? How is Isabel going to react when she finds out that the man she always considered her older brother has kissed, touched, licked and fantasised about her actual, younger, basically a kid, brother?

One thing is for certain in Levi’s mind, Isabel is going to have to find out one day, and when she does…She is absolutely going to kill him.