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The light of family

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Everything promised that it would be a quiet Sunday. The sun shone peacefully from the bright blue sky on this warm spring day and only scattered clouds drifted lazily.

The fine curtains danced like a veil on the gentle breeze that blew through the open room, almost as if it were curious.

Erwin and Levi were still sleeping peacefully, nestled close together and with a blissful smile on their lips. The past few days had been exhausting and they were looking forward to just enjoying this suspended state between dreaming and slowly waking up, when they could already feel each other's warmth but their bodies were still completely relaxed.

However, peace never lasts and that wasn’t any different in the household of Smith-Ackerman. Just when the married couple was about to open their eyes, the door to their bedroom flew open with a bang and quivered in its frame.

“Attack!” squealed the excited, bright voices of two girls as they jumped onto their fathers. Erwin’s and Levi’s eyes snapped open and they huffed as one of their daughters landed on each of them.

“Get up, get up, get up,” Maggie, the younger one of the two, demanded while clapping her hands and bouncing up and down on Levi’s hip, her wild, brown curls jumping up and down. For a moment, Levi pretended to still be sleeping, a small smirk slowly spreading over his lips, before he turned his head to her.

“Oh, just you wait,” he warned with a grin, before he snatched his little daughter and ruffled her hair. Maggie squealed loudly, which then turned into a laughter, when Levi began to squabble with her over the bed. “Waking up your poor, old dad like this.”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the bed, Erwin laughed as he rolled onto his back and raised his hand above his head.

“Okay, okay, I surrender. Please have mercy,” he begged with a chuckle in his voice, while Eileen grinned happily, stroking her long, blond hair out of her face.

“Good morning, daddy,” she whispered while hugging Erwin tightly, snuggling into his embrace. Immediately, Erwin’s face softened and he wrapped his arm around her small form and pressed a kiss into her hair.

“Good morning, little one. Did you sleep well?” he asked in his smooth, warm voice.

“Hmmhmmm.” Eileen nodded eagerly and snuggled her head into his chest.

“No nightmares?”

“No.”

“Good.” Erwin let out the word as a deep breath and stroked through her hair. Maggie and Eileen were orphans, born into the darkness of the Underworld and doomed to live a life similar to Levi’s.

After the Titans had been defeated, Erwin and Levi had enjoyed their freedom and peace, but after a while they had noticed they weren’t made for it. That they needed a task and therefore they had decided that they wanted to do something for the people in the Underworld so that not everyone had to live a life like Levi had to.

It was an almost impossible task, in some aspects even more difficult than the Titans as they had to convince the politicians and underground bosses alike, but it had become a matter of a heart for them.

Around a year ago, when they had been walking through the narrow paths between the ruins of a given-up civilisation, when the desperate, pained screams of two girls had echoed through the darkness. Immediately, Erwin and Levi had rushed to the origin and had just been able to prevent that two broad, dumb criminals were doing the most gruesome things to them.

Hot, acid hatred still poured into Erwin’s and Levi’s veins when the thought back of it. After they had beaten up the two bullies, they had seen two girls cowered together behind some trash bins, quivering from fear. They had worn nothing but a rag, their bodies covered in dirt and wounds. With eyes wide from fear, they had looked up at them, tears glistening in the faint light as they had begged Erwin and Levi not to hurt them.

The sight had broken Erwin’s heart and, in that moment, he had known once again why they were fighting another hopeless, exhausting battle. It was for children like them, to continue their wish to create a better world in which they could grow up without any fear. A world in which children didn’t have to face the gruesomeness of humanity and could keep their innocence.

Erwin had knelt down to them, while Levi had leaned against the wall, a worried expression on his face. It truly had been a déjà vu when Eileen had looked up to him, pulling Maggie tighter against her to protect her even though they hadn’t known each other beforehand. Eileen had only seen that Maggie was in trouble and therefore tried to help her only to end up in a dangerous situation.

Erwin’s voice had been soft and gentle as he had reassured the frightened girls. Eileen had been cautious, while Maggie had hidden herself more into her, holding tightly onto a tattered teddy bear. Erwin’s smile had softened when he introduced them and Levi’s face became warmer, too, when he had asked them for their names and they had said they didn’t know.

In that moment, Erwin and Levi had exchanged a long gaze and decided to take care of them. At first, they had only intended to give them something to eat, a bed and bath for a while and to treat their wounds. They had known how shy and sceptical children of the Underworld were, but the two girls had blossomed the moment they had taken a step into their house and at the first night, when the girls had been fed, bathed and had been tucked into a bed together, Erwin and Levi had known that they adopt them.

Since that evening, they were suddenly the fathers of two girls of about six years old.

“Dad,” Eileen's annoyed voice rang through Erwin's thoughts. “You're doing it again.”

“Doing what?” he asked, blinking.

“Getting lost in your thoughts.” Eileen sat on his stomach, her hands on her hips and her lips pulled into a pout, which she always did when she was sulking. “We're here, though.”

For a moment Erwin's eyes widened in surprise, but then he sighed and smiled.

“You're right. I’m sorry.” Tenderly, he stroked a strand of her blond hair behind her ear, before he pulled her back into his arm.

“Where have you been,” she murmured against his chest.

“I just thought back to the day we met you,” Erwin replied. “That was almost a year ago.”

“Are you happy about that?” Erwin felt how Eileen tensed slightly on him and her hands clenched tighter into his shirt. Erwin looked down to her and saw how she held her breath. These two incredible, lovely girls had never experienced what love felt like and they feared they could be losing it any minute.

“Yes, my beloved little daughter,” he whispered and kissed the crown of her head. “I’m overjoyed that I met another part of my heart on that day.”

“Am I one of it, too?” Maggie asked. Levi and she had stopped squabbling and now they sat tightly entwined on the bed. She looked at Erwin with these beautiful eyes in the colour of the grass, hope glistening in them.

“Of course,” Erwin said right away without any hesitation. He reached out and ran his soft, big hand through her auburn hair. Maggie squealed happily and leaned into the warm palm that always provided them a feeling of safety. “Everyone in this room is a piece of my heart and I love each of them.”

Maggie’s eyes widened, becoming big as the moon in disbelief, but then the brightest smile, brighter than even the sun basked its way all over her face and she squealed and threw herself around Erwin’s neck so forcefully that she knocked him over and he landed back in the pillow.

“I love you, too, Dad. Sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo….” She opened her arms as wide as he could, until she lost her balance and fell onto him. “much,” she said squashed against his chest and laughed.

Then she snuggled herself back against him, resting her head on his collar bone to listen to his heart and Erwin could barely suppress a sniff.

“Oh, my two,” he whispered with a voice shivering from emotions and buried his nose into their hair. “I love you so much, too.”

Then he opened his eyes and turned his head to Levi, who watched the scenario with a tender smile, the sunbeams tousling through his black hair and he mouthed I love you.

“I love you, too,” Erwin whispered back and opened his arm. “Come here, my love, please.”

Levi rolled his eyes as he tried to act annoyed, but the soft smile of his lips betrayed him.

“Daddy, please, come cuddling!” Maggie begged and it was always like that. Maggie desperately sought for every sign of affection she could possibly get, while Eileen tried everything to be a good girl so that she wouldn’t risk to be send back into the Underworld.

Erwin and Levi tried their best to make them understand that they loved them unconditionally, because it was the truth. Ever since they had seen them sitting there behind the boxes, it had felt as if it had been destiny. As if their task wasn’t to reform the Underworld. They still tried, but their first priority was now that these incredibly lovely girls had the parents they were suppose to have and to live the life they deserve.

Finally, Levi gave in with a huff and snuggled up to his beloved. Lovingly, he put a hand to Erwin's cheek, turned his head around to face him and kissed the corner of his mouth.

“Good morning, dearest.”

“Good morning, love.”

For a while, this small, unusual family just lay there, enjoying the moment in which bliss flowed through them like a warm ray of sunshine.

It was strange how everything seemed so much brighter with children. Everything was softer, warmer, tender. The sun shone brighter, the sky was bluer and the scent of flowers more intense. 

After a while, however, Maggie unconsciously took up more and more space on Erwin in her urge for physical closeness, displacing Eileen until she almost fell out of bed. Normally Erwin noticed and made room for her again unnoticed, but this time he was distracted by Maggie's nuzzling.

Fortunately, they were both attentive fathers. Levi opened his eyes when he noticed a weight disappearing from the mattress. Eileen was now sitting on the edge of the bed, looking sadly at Erwin and Maggie who were cuddling. After taking the two of them in, the children had each taken their cue from one of them. Maggie had sought out Levi's closeness, Eileen had chosen Erwin as his caregiver, but now that Maggie was becoming more confident, she was also trying to get attention from Erwin. Eileen, however, was more sensitive than Maggie and was totally attached to Erwin and every time he cuddled with Maggie, she felt rejected. She didn't show it though, because she didn't want Erwin to feel bad about it. She knew that Erwin loved her equally. Yes, she really tried to be a good girl, but that led to her being pushed out by Maggie more often than not.

“Come here, Eileen.” Levi sat up and smiled. Eileen hesitated. Levi smirked and opened his arms, while saying: “Once in a lifetime opportunity.”

By now Erwin had also noticed what had happened and when Eileen gave him an uncertain look, two deep blue eyes met hers and he nodded at her. In this moment, her face lightened up and she hurried around the bed.

“I love you, Eileen,” Levi whispered as he hugged her tight and kissed her hair.

“I love you too, dad,” she said happily as she rested her head against his shoulder and closed her eyes. Levi smiled and rested his head onto hers and stroked through her hair.

It might take a while until they had everything figured out and the children were able to leave the insecurities of their past behind, but at this morning Levi and Erwin knew once again that they would do everything to give them the life they deserved.