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Chapter 3  

   

Levi 

   

Did Levi mention how much he hated these things? The constant stream of ‘ I’m sorry for your loss’ and ‘my condolences to you and Mikasa’ were obnoxious at this point and he was officially irritated at everyone and everything. It was okay the first five or six times but it gets stale really quick.  It really didn’t help that his suit felt heavy on his frame and he was hot in this warm and stuffy room. He envied Mikasa a little bit with her light weight and short sleeve black dress that hung just above her knee. She had a small grey shawl she had been wearing over her shoulders for a bit but had since removed it. They were both situated at the back of the room on either side of the table with Kenny’s urn sitting on it along with one of the very few pictures they had of the man placed next to it. He had been standing in the same place for a good twenty minutes now since the second visitation slot had started. Only about a half hour left to go and he could go home and relax for five minutes. Then of course, people would start showing up for the get together planned for this evening.  

   

Mikasa had been right, their uncle was a lot more popular than he expected. Past employees had come to pay their respects, the majority of Mikasa’s friends and most of their small town had stopped by it seemed. The room wasn’t packed but there were currently a fair share of people milling about, talking to one another sipping at the water the funeral home had provided everyone with. They weren’t in a position to see the front door but Levi could tell when it opened as there was a gust of cold air that wafted into the area and it made him sigh in relief at the feeling.  It only took a moment before a small child bolted into the room. Her red hair was neatly braided from the top of her head, down the back and stopped at the nape of her neck where it was tied off with a black elastic. She was dressed in a black long sleeve sheer looking dress that went just passed her knees. She quickly looked around the room before her eyes locked onto Mikasa and she ran full tilt toward her, almost running right into an older man making Levi flinch slightly at the near miss. She didn’t seem all that phased as she basically barrelled into his sister making Mikasa laugh softly and return the hug around her waist as best as she could.   

“Aunty Mika!” she said a bit loudly. Mikasa put a finger to her lips and gave a soft shushing sound and she immediately obeyed with a whispered apology.  

   

Levi was only given a moment to wonder who this was when the little girl lifted her face and looked in his direction. Green eyes met his and he knew, without a doubt, who this child belonged to. This was Isabel Jaeger and no doubt Eren’s kid. Mikasa wasn’t fucking around when she said Isabel was a spitting image of her father. She had his eyes and wide, infectious smile. The kind of smile that showed all her teeth. Her eyes narrowed at him then and he was about to introduce himself when movement from the corner of his eye caught his attention along with a voice that he hadn’t heard in a good three or four years.  

“Isabel, we talked about you running off like that,” he said sounding stern. Levi’s breath caught in his throat when he finally locked eyes with him.   

   

Eren Jaeger had grown into quite a beautiful man. His eyes weren’t as bright as they had been when they were teens but he was still captivated by them. They had been Levi’s favourite feature; they were always so full of life that it was impossible not to get lost in them. He had shot up in height as well and even from the slight distance Levi could tell the top of his head would only just rest below Eren’s chin if he were to stand next to him. That should have annoyed the shorter man but it only made Eren more attractive to him. He had a bit of a weak spot for taller men. Another glaring difference was the fact that Eren had grown out his hair, it was still the soft looking cinnamon brown colour it always had been but it was much longer and currently tied back into a half bun with the loose strands only falling just above the base of his neck. He had a few strands that had escaped the bun and dangled softly in his face.   

   

He cleaned up really nicely too, he wore a white button up dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows, revealing tanned forearms and hands buried in his black dress pant pockets. All in all Eren Jaeger was absolutely gorgeous. Levi had been attracted to him in high school but now? The older man didn’t even stand a chance.   

   

Someone cleared their throat and with a small jolt Levi realized it was Eren, probably catching him looking. The man looked embarrassed and awkward, reaching up to rub at the back of his neck, a nervous tick he clearly had not grown out of.  

“It’s been a while, Levi,” he mumbled quietly. Levi swallowed.  

“It’s nice to see you again,” he admitted “I wish it was under better circumstances.” Eren refused to make eye contact with him and nodded before dropping his hand back to his side and moving to the left to pull Mikasa in for a tight hug. He whispered something in her ear and she gave him a sad smile and nod. Eren reached out to pat Isabel on the head to get her attention. It was then that Levi realized she was still staring at him. Finding it a bit odd but chalking it up to childish curiosity over someone she didn’t know he knelt down to her level.  

“Hi, I’m Levi, it’s nice to meet you,” he said trying to break the moment of silence between the four of them that was starting to get a bit awkward. She continued to stare and Levi saw Eren begin to fidget behind her. It was about to get unbearable when she finally spoke.  

“You look like the guy in the picture,” she said with a smile as if this whole time she was trying to figure out why Levi looked familiar to her.  

“Which picture?” Levi asked curiously. “Mikasa here is my sister I’m sure I’m in some of her pictures.”   

“No you are the guy in the picture my daddy keeps in his wallet,” she said with a matter-of-fact tone. She knew she was right and no one would convince her otherwise. There was a slight choking sound followed by a cough from behind her and when Levi stood up straight again and looked at Eren the poor guy looked absolutely mortified. Did he really keep a picture of Levi in his wallet? He glanced at Mikasa to see her hand covering her mouth and her eyes wide as she looked at Eren. Warmth spread through Levi’s chest at the thought that after all these years and after what Levi did to him that he would still keep a photo of him so close. He really didn’t know what to say. Isabel tugged on the hand of a still thoroughly embarrassed Eren.  

“Daddy, can I show him?” Eren opened his mouth to speak when they were interrupted by Carla and Grisha’s approach; the relief on Eren’s face was noticeable as he nodded once at his parents before pulling Isabel away toward the other side of the room. Guess that was that.  

“Levi,” Carla said, the skin around her eyes was tight, controlled and her smile seemed forced. Levi internally sighed, he expected hostility from Eren’s parents but he appreciated that they were trying not to cause drama at a time like this. Not that they were usually the dramatic type.  

“Carla, Grisha,” Levi greeted “Thank you both for coming,” he said while reaching out to shake Grisha’s outstretched hand. The man’s grip was definitely a lot harder than strictly necessary but Levi didn’t comment and waited for him to retreat. They quickly moved onto Mikasa who got a considerably warmer greeting and hugs from them both. Suddenly the room felt a bit suffocating and he needed some air. He quietly told Mikasa where he was going and took off toward the front exit.   

   

He was blasted with a gust of cold wind as he exited the building and turned right. He settled his back against the brick wall of the building and took a deep breath of the frigid air, relishing in the slight ache it created in his lungs.   

“If you’re out there old man you’re probably laughing your ass off at me right now,” Levi grumbled under his breath. Kenny never stopped telling him he was an idiot to let Eren go. Now Levi was being forced to face it all. Not just face Eren himself, but his parents and friends as well. All of which clearly disliked him greatly. He supposed he couldn’t blame them; it was just becoming glaringly obvious that Levi‘s support group had dwindled down to Mikasa, Erwin and Hanji. Hanji wasn’t even in town at the moment either, she was away at university. Erwin was around but he was busy with his new job as a teacher at the local high school and aside from a phone call a day after Kenny passed, Levi hadn’t contacted him further yet.  

   

The sound of the door to the building opening to his left pulled him from his thoughts but he didn’t look up until someone joined him against the wall. Jean pulled out a pack of cigarettes and placed one between his lips. Levi looked away, wondering why the man didn’t go to the other side to smoke. He lit it and exhaled the smoke away from where Levi was standing. At least he wasn’t a total asshole.  

“Want one?” he asked holding out his pack. Levi gave a sharp shake of his head and he wordlessly placed them back in his pocket. It was silent for a moment and Levi was content to let it remain so but Jean seemed to have other plans.  

“You alright?” he asked. Levi levelled him with a bored look.  

“As okay as I’m going to be at my uncle’s funeral,” he stated blandly. Jean’s lips thinned into a firm line before he took another drag of his smoke.  

“Fair enough,” he answered after a moment.  

“Did you come and stand next to me for an actual reason or are you just here to annoy me?” Levi asked rather harshly. He kind of regretted it but he really just wanted to be left alone. Jean exhaled with a chuckle.  

“Still an asshole I see, some things never change I suppose,” he said with a small grimace. He took one more pull before he reached over to the tall container next to him where people could extinguish and dispose of their cigarette butts. Levi rolled his eyes at Jean’s comment and decided not to respond. “Mikasa sent me out here, wanted me to check on you,” he admitted.  Levi’s shoulders tensed.  

“I don’t need to be checked on,” he said shortly. Jean raised his hands for a moment in surrender and took a step back toward the entrance.  

“Just wanted to make her happy.” Levi sighed.  

“You seem to make her happy,” Levi admitted and Jean stopped walking. “Don’t fuck it up,” he added after a moment. Jean laughed and Levi watched him turn around and flip his hand out dismissively.   

“Don’t worry Levi, I’m not like you, I don’t intentionally hurt the people I care about,” he said, disappearing through the door before Levi could respond. He clenched his jaw in irritation but knew he deserved it. Levi was beginning to feel like returning to this stupid little town was a mistake.   

   

That thought process reminded him that he needed to meet with Pixis before he flew back to his apartment to finish packing. Pixis was the town veterinarian and Levi had grown rather close to the old man during his summers working for him when he was in high school. Pixis knew Levi would be going to school to become a DVM* and had spoken to him about potentially taking over the clinic when he retired. The man was already passed the usual retirement age and he had been one of the first people Levi called to tell him he graduated. Pixis was happy that everything worked out and agreed to postpone his retirement another year so Levi could gain some clinical experience with Dr. Shadis. Now though, he really needed to have a long detailed discussion about when and how he would be taking over the clinic, he would be lying if he said he wasn’t excited and looking forward to it. This was a new journey for him, one that had been in the works for a very long time.  

   

A chill began to set into Levi’s body the longer he stayed outside and decided he had been avoiding everyone long enough. He took a deep breath before opening the doors, trying to get himself into the proper mindset to deal with the last of this.  

   

**  

   

It was much later in the evening and the celebration of life was in full swing. Unsurprisingly Levi hated it. He was once again trying to find somewhere to hide to get away from it all. He didn’t even know half of these people.  Mikasa seemed more familiar with them all so he felt comfortable letting her handle the conversations. Levi walked down the hall toward his room but stopped short when he looked to the other side at Kenny’s bedroom door. His chest tightened slightly as his hand reached out and grasped the metal door knob, twisting it and pushing the door open. It squeaked slightly on its hinges and before he could change his mind he stepped through it and entered the room. It was similar to what he remembered it being, not that he entered his uncle’s room all that often but the room was large with dark green painted walls and dark wood furniture set up nicely around the room. The en-suite bathroom was further into the space on the left side.  

   

To the right, settled up against the wall, was the major difference Levi hadn’t been expecting but really should have. A hospital bed was situated in the place Kenny’s normal queen bed used to sit. Kenny’s mobility took a hit when the cancer got worse and it took Mikasa and Levi an unholy amount of willpower and patience to finally convince the proud bastard that getting a bed that could move with him and help him in and out of bed would be easier on him and on Mikasa. Levi had won when he brought Mikasa into it knowing the man would cave when he realized it benefited his niece just as much as him. So, in the end they got it. Levi figured someone would come to retrieve it sooner or later as it was more of a rental than an actual purchase.  

   

Levi was pulled from his thoughts when his phone vibrated continuously in his pocket. He pulled it out to see he had an incoming call from one “ Shitty Glasses” Levi couldn’t stop the small smile from stretching his lips. Hanji , he wouldn’t admit it but he was rather relieved she was calling him. It’s like the woman had a weird sixth sense when he was feeling upset or melancholy. He accepted the call and brought his phone to his ear.  

“Levi!” she cried before he could even greet her.  

“Four eyes,” he said unable to keep the smile out of his voice.  

“How is my little munchkin?” she asked cheery as ever with that stupid nickname. Levi’s smile slipped from his face and he moved toward the bed and sat down. It was pretty comfortable if he was being honest and he scooted further back to get into a better spot. Levi could lie to her and tell her he was fine but he found he didn’t really want to. He knew he could be vulnerable with Hanji; she was one of the few people he felt comfortable with like this.  

“Could be better if I’m honest.” There was silence on her end for a second before her voice softened.  

“Of course,” she started “I heard what happened.” Levi hummed in acknowledgement. “You didn’t get to say goodbye, did you?” She asked and her voice was so calm and comforting that Levi felt tears prick at his eyes and it pissed him off. He hadn’t cried once since Mikasa told him the news why start now? He kicked halfheartedly at the nightstand and it made a loud thump as it rammed into the wall.  

“No,” he growled “That bastard made sure of that,” he said getting more irritated at how his voice was slowly thickening. He swallowed around the lump in his throat willing it to go the fuck away.  

“Oh Levi,” she said sadly. “I’m sure he didn’t mean for it to happen that way.” Levi knew she was right; it was just the way things went sometimes.  

“If he had been honest about how severe his condition was, I’d have come home a few weeks or even a month early.”  

“You know the man better than I do and even I know he was too proud for his own good. He probably thought he could make it until you came home. Or,” she paused for a second “bear with me Levi, maybe he didn’t want to say goodbye to you.” Levi’s brow furrowed at that.  

“Why wouldn’t he?” Levi was a little hurt by that possibility. Sure they didn’t have the best relationship, but they still cared for each other quite a lot.  

“When people are dying, they tend to feel a lot of guilt,” she explained “Not because they are dying per say but because they know they are leaving behind the people most important to them. Kenny knew you and Mikasa would be okay without him but he also knew you would be sad. Between you and Mikasa you have always been the stronger and more put together emotionally. Maybe Kenny didn’t want to see your sadness.” She paused and sighed when Levi didn’t say anything. “I suppose we will never know. For what it’s worth munchkin, I wish it had turned out differently.”  

“Me too,” he whispered. Levi could feel the burn in his eyes strengthen and the lump in his throat grew uncomfortable. Hanji’s explanation hit a little too close to home. Kenny saw Levi break when his parents had died and then never again. Maybe the thought of Levi being sad and crying over him would bring up too many memories of when his sister died; memories of seeing his niece and nephew openly grieve the brutal death of their parents.  Levi tried to clear his throat but it only sounded like he was choking.  “Thanks for calling Hanji, I gotta go,” he said roughly hoping to rush her off the phone before he lost his composure. As if she could sense the thin line he was walking she agreed easily.  

“Okay, if you need me don’t hesitate to give me a call okay honey?” Levi tried to clear his throat again.  

“Yea, I will,” he whispered before pulling the phone away and ending the call. He set his phone down on the bed. He then moved to the edge of the bed and slid down to the area rug on the floor. He bit the knuckle on his left hand as tears escaped from his eyes without permission. The feel of them running down his face was the last straw and with a strangled curse a sob ripped its way up his throat and he let it all go.  

   

He wasn’t sure how much time had passed before he felt two gentle arms wrap around him and a body settle next to him. Even through the tears he could see the familiar dress Mikasa was wearing and he melted into her and immediately wrapped his own arms around her. They cried together for a while and it was something Levi could now admit they both needed.  

   

**  

   

Eren  

   

Eren quietly closed the door behind Mikasa as she rushed toward her brother and began his slow retreat back downstairs but stopping at the bathroom first. He had come up to use the bathroom when he heard a voice coming from Kenny’s room. He had been concerned someone was in there that wasn’t supposed to be but realized quickly when he glanced through the crack in the door that it was Levi, sitting on the bed and talking to someone on the phone. He looked upset as he listened to whoever was on the other line. It was only a couple seconds before Levi was roughly saying goodbye to the person and saying their name so quietly Eren couldn’t catch it.   

   

The brunet felt bad for kind of spying on the man but when he slid off the bed and began to cry Eren had to forcibly stop himself from barging in to comfort him. The entire time he had known Levi he had never seen him cry. The wounded sounds that tore from Levi’s chest in the form of sobs were squeezing painfully around Eren’s heart. He knew he was not the person to comfort the man at this moment and if he was being realistic, it would probably be unwelcome. So Eren ran downstairs and cornered Mikasa to quietly explain the situation. She had immediately placed her drink on the coffee table and hurriedly excused herself from the man she had been talking to.   

   

Levi and Mikasa were gone long enough that Eren took it upon himself to begin subtly hinting that people should be making their way home now. It was getting late anyways and no one seemed to question the absence of the two siblings. Eren wasn’t about to explain it to them either. After everyone left, he hurriedly made his way around the main floor, picking up plastic cups and any dishware that needed to be washed. Once the garbage was thrown out, he started the dishes.   

   

He only had a few left when he heard footsteps coming down the stairs. He turned expecting to see Mikasa walking down but was surprised to see Levi instead. He was still dressed in what he had been wearing all day minus the suit jacket, which left him in a plain white button down with a navy blue tie and black dress pants. Even with red rimmed eyes and a rosy nose from crying he was still absolutely gorgeous. He had grown up much like Eren had and adulthood had treated him well in the looks department. He was still nearly as short but Eren knew he wouldn’t grow much more past high school. Even though he still cared deeply for the man he couldn’t look at him long before an ache lodged in his chest. Part of him still held onto to the bitterness of their past and didn’t think they would ever get over it. Levi had probably moved on anyways, he had been the one to leave Eren to begin with so obviously he didn’t want to be with him.  

   

Eren decided not to greet him and instead sunk his hands back into the soapy water to begin washing the last glass.  

“Where is everyone?” Levi asked, his voice hoarse. He cleared his throat as if that would help. Mikasa came down the stairs then and she looked just as miserable.  

“Sent them home,” he said turning back to his task.  

“Oh you cleaned too?” Mikasa asked and he immediately noticed her voice didn’t sound any better than Levi’s. He was suddenly glad he thought to send everyone home before they came back downstairs. He figured neither of them would want everyone to see them like this.  

“Yes,” Eren said putting the last dish in the drain board and pulled the plug in the sink. He wiped his wet hands against the towel hanging from the handle on the stove. He moved to pull Mikasa into a hug and she gratefully accepted, wrapping her arms around him in return.   

“I told Jean what happened and he said to call him and let him know if you’re staying here tonight.” She pulled back and offered a small smile in thanks.   

“I’m going to head out though, I need to pick up Izzy from my parents still,” he said beginning to walk past Levi who was still hunched over on a stool with his forearms resting on the kitchen island. He hesitated a second before putting a gentle hand on his shoulder and gave it a soft squeeze. This prompted Levi to look up at him in slight surprise. Eren made sure to hold eye contact for a second before looking back at Mikasa and removing his hand.  

“If either of you need anything, please don’t hesitate to let me know. You know how to reach me,” he glanced at Levi and held his gaze when he said “Same number as I’ve always had.” Levi’s lips parted slightly in surprise and Eren knew he understood the weight of that comment. It meant that if Levi hadn’t deleted his contact info, he could still reach Eren at the same phone number.   

   

With that out of the way Eren grabbed his coat and put on his shoes before saying one final goodbye and heading out to his truck. He had no idea if he could ever fully get over everything that happened between him and Levi but at the very least he hoped they could be civil with one another and maybe even friends again one day. For now though, he would leave it up to Levi when it came to whether they started communicating again. It’s all he could do right now.