The rumors start shortly after Levi makes the decision to remain in the Survey Corps - after Farlan and Isabel perish outside the walls, and Levi is left with nothing and nobody but a few strangers that barely know his name, soldiers who don’t trust him, and Erwin Smith. It doesn’t take long for the rumors to get around after Levi decides to stay, and at first, he ignores them
Levi doesn’t necessarily appreciate anyone talking about him behind his back, but he keeps his head down, minds his own business. They seem to be a little bit afraid of him anyway, so Levi lets them continue to talk in hushed tones, only when they think he can’t hear him. He lets it slide.
"I wouldn’t trust him," they say.
"He’s a thug from the underground - who knows what he’s capable of!"
"Squad Leader Smith is making a bad decision."
Levi ignores it when people say things like that because in some aspects, they’re correct. He wouldn’t trust himself if he were in their position either. Hell, he’s not trustworthy - not really. Even he knows that – he doesn’t understand why Erwin didn’t kill him or send him back to the underground when he had the chance. He joined the Survey Corps under false pretenses, tried to kill Erwin Smith and got his only friends (and the closest thing he had to a family) killed in the process.
Honestly, Levi doesn’t even know why he’s still alive, why his life was spared, but he does know that he owes it to Erwin.
Erwin gave him a second chance when nobody else would, took a chance and gave him a shot when a smarter person would have left him behind to die. Because of that, Levi resolves to devote his life to the Survey Corps. Erwin saw something in him, something he couldn’t see himself, and for some reason, he trusts him. He devotes his life to freeing humanity from the walls, from the titans, and in turn, he slowly but surely finds himself becoming Erwin’s right hand man.
In the beginning, Levi doesn’t understand why Erwin would want to spend any time around him, much less look at his pathetic face. He tried to kill him, after all. It doesn’t take long for Levi to realize, however, that he is Erwin’s responsibility. Everyone else either hates him too much or is too scared to be alone with him, but apparently, not Erwin.
For the first few weeks, they don’t say much. Levi trains with Erwin, becomes part of his squad, but they don’t really speak to one another - not more than they have to. Slowly, though, Levi finds himself feeling more relaxed around Erwin. He’ll catch the other man smiling up at him as he swings through the trees above him, testing out a new move on the maneuver gear, and can’t help the sense of pride that fills him at that look.
They never discuss what happened on that rainy day outside the walls, but as time passes, Levi realizes that they don’t need to. Erwin trusts him, for some reason that Levi can’t seem to fathom, so reluctantly, he gives him that same trust in return.
Two months after Farlan and Isabel’s deaths, the Survey Corps embarks on another journey beyond the walls. This time, Levi finds himself in Erwin’s squad, alongside him and Mike (who still doesn’t seem to trust him much), and when they return to the walls, it’s from one of their most successful outings yet. Or at least that’s what Erwin says. They still lose some soldiers, but nowhere near as many as Levi’s first expedition. The thought of it makes him sick.
If only it had been a good mission when Levi left the walls for the first time with his friends - maybe he would have returned with them.
After they return from beyond the walls, Levi wants nothing more than to retreat to his own quarters, spend the rest of the night in solitude. In fact, he plans on doing exactly that, but apparently, Erwin has other plans for him.
“I’d like to see you in my office, Levi,” Erwin says, just as they’re about to part ways. Some soldiers still linger, watching the exchange in the hallway, and their eyes feel heavy on Levi.
“Why?” he bites, just a little too harsh, “Did I do something wrong?”
Erwin smiles - it’s faint, but it’s there - and shakes his head. “You’ve done nothing wrong. Please, come with me.”
So reluctantly, Levi swallows his grief and pain and regret, and follows Erwin down the hallway and into his office, ignoring the heavy gazes of his fellow soldiers as the door shuts behind them.
“What do you want?” Levi bites as soon as the door closes.
Erwin turns on his heel, watching him for a long, careful moment before replying. To Levi’s surprise, it’s not a reprimand on his tongue. “You were exceptional today, Levi,” Erwin says. His voice is honest, eager, excited.
Levi just crosses his arms, waiting for him to go on. He knows that there’s a catch. There’s always a catch.
Thankfully, Erwin is quick to get to the point. “The Survey Corps needs funding for our next expedition. It’s a process that I’m not particularly fond of, but I’d like you to join me in the capital next week for the meeting and-”
“No,” Levi bites without thinking about it.
“Levi, listen to me,” Erwin starts, but Levi is quick to cut him off.
“Fuck that,” he hisses, “I’m not here for you to tote around to get funding from those pigs in Sina. You can find someone else.” He turns on his heel, already reaching for the door to leave, but Erwin is quick. He grabs Levi’s wrist, stopping him, pulling him back. Before Levi has a chance to say anything else, Erwin is speaking again.
“You’re a strong asset to the Survey Corps now, Levi. You may be able to inspire them to give us the funding that we need. It won’t be difficult, I promise. I’ll walk you through it.”
When Levi doesn’t say anything, just stares up at Erwin with narrowed eyes, he continues. “We need you to be there. I need you to be there.”
So reluctantly, Levi finds himself traveling to Sina with Erwin and a few other members of the Survey Corps a week later, and to no surprise, the rumors seem to only continue when he returns. In fact, in the weeks following Levi’s trip to Sina, they only seem to get worse. Coincidentally, Levi seems to find himself in Erwin’s office and by Erwin’s side more and more often after that second expedition. And he finds, the more time he spends with Erwin, the worse the hushed voices and lingering glances get.
"He only speaks to Erwin," they say at first. In a way, it’s not a lie. While, over the next few months, Levi finds some of the other members of the Survey Corps a little more tolerable, he finds himself by Erwin’s side more often than not. He’s still new, after all. Still unpredictable.
He’s still Erwin’s responsibility.
"He spends more time in the Squad Leader’s quarters than he does in his own," they say.
"I heard he tried to kill Erwin. I’m sure Erwin is only keeping him close so he doesn’t go out of line again."
And again, Levi lets it slide. He lets people talk, because he is unpredictable. Some days, he feels like a ticking bomb, just waiting to go off. When he closes his eyes and sees his friends’ mangled bodies in the darkness, he wants nothing more than to lash out, to hit something, to hurt someone. He lets the rumors follow him, because in a way, they’re true. Besides Hanji and Mike - and that’s a far reach - Erwin is the only person he really speaks to.
Then, Erwin becomes Commander. Nearly half a year after Levi joins the Survey Corps, Erwin becomes Commander and offers Levi the position of a Captain, and everything changes.
“I’ve only been here for six months,” Levi argues behind the closed doors of Erwin’s office, a room that has begun to feel more like home than his own quarters at times. Erwin stands behind his desk, Levi’s paperwork laid out before them, and Levi stands on the other side, arms crossed, feet squared, resolute.
“There’s someone who wants this more than me,” he continues, “Someone who has actually trained for it and deserves it.”
Levi doesn’t quite remember all of their names (what’s the point, he asks himself, if they’re all going to die anyway?) but he could point out plenty of soldiers who would be better qualified than himself. There are at least half a dozen soldiers in the corps who would kill for the opportunity to become a Captain.
But Erwin argues him. “You deserve it, Levi,” he says, in that no-nonsense, commanding voice that convinced Levi six months ago that maybe he did belong on the battlefield.
“Bullshit," Levi bites.
I tried to kill you, he doesn’t say.
Sometimes, the amount of trust that Erwin seems to have in him makes him want to be sick. Not six months ago, he held a blade up to the man’s throat and threatened to end his life. Yet somehow, Erwin trusts him enough to ask him to be his Captain. He doesn’t get it.
"I want to keep my strongest soldiers close,” Erwin argues, “You are one of those soldiers, Levi.”
Levi scoffs, averts his eyes. “Are you sure you’re not just keeping me close so I don’t try to kill you again?” he bites before he has a chance to think better of it. In some fucked up way, the rumors are getting to him. Every day, he’s reminded of the life-altering choices that he made six months ago. Every day, he’s reminded that he’s the reason that Farlan and Isabel are dead, as people talk in hushed voices when they think he can’t hear them.
Erwin laughs - actually laughs - and the sight and sound of it is almost startling. He shouldn’t be laughing at a time like this, yet he is. “Levi,” he says, “You were never going to kill me.”
Levi opens his mouth to say something, but promptly closes it. Erwin is right - he’s always right, always one step ahead of everyone else. It’s one of the reasons that Levi chose to follow him. It’s one of the reasons why he’s been appointed Commander.
“I want you as my Captain,” Erwin says at last, when he doesn’t receive a response from Levi. “I trust you, and I want you by my side. Think about it.”
So Levi thinks about it.
He leaves Erwin’s office that evening without another word, but he thinks about it. He does for about a week, weighing the pros and cons, and eventually and shows up at Erwin’s door with an answer a week later.
He doesn’t knock, doesn’t announce his presence, instead, he just barges into Erwin’s office unannounced late one afternoon, when he knows that he’ll be alone. “I’ll be a Captain,” Levi says as the door clicks shut behind him and Erwin glances up from his paperwork. “Under one condition: I only take orders from you.”
Erwin nods once, setting his pen aside to give Levi his full attention. “That can be arranged,” he simply replies.
“I’m not dealing with those fucking idiots and higher-ups. I’ll lose it,” Levi continues, “And I don’t want to be in charge of any brats. Not yet.” He doesn’t have to say that it’s because he doesn’t want that responsibility yet, that he’s scared that he’ll get them killed.
Erwin knows. Erwin seems to know everything, even before he does.
Suddenly, Erwin is standing from behind his desk. He crosses the room in swift steps, only stopping when he’s within arm’s length from Levi. Then, he’s reaching out, placing a hand on Levi’s shoulder.
Levi doesn’t shy away from the contact.
“You’re making the right choice,” Erwin says in a surprisingly soft voice, “Thank you.”
And the rumors continue. Only, after Erwin’s new place in power and Levi’s fresh promotion, they get worse. Those who are bitter over Erwin’s promotion (and those angered by Levi’s) talk. Everyone talks. Word quickly gets around, especially after Erwin’s first outing as Commander. They lose some soldiers, but it’s not their worst mission yet.
It’s also not their best.
"Levi is Erwin’s war dog," they say after they watch Levi soar into the air to kill a titan on his own, without the help of anyone else, by Erwin’s command.
"He doesn’t have a mind of his own," they say when Levi follows Erwin on multiple trips to the capital, dressed nicely with his head high, mouth tight.
"The Commander’s sword," they call him, then jokingly, "The Commander’s sheath."
"He’s small, feminine. I’m sure Erwin’s into that kind of shit," they say, implying Levi and Erwin’s relationship. Those words earn a lip curl from Levi, clenched fists and a racing pulse, but he manages to keep himself together. He isn’t in the Survey Corps to make friends - he’s there for good of humanity. He shouldn’t care about what others think about him, or his relationship with his Commander, as unconventional as it may be.
But then, after a particularly deadly expedition, it becomes, "Erwin cares more about that thug’s life than he does about the rest of us."
"He keeps Levi by his side but doesn’t care while the rest of us are being eaten," they say when Erwin leaves the mangled bodies of his soldiers on the forest floor.
Levi is in the mess hall, just leaving to retreat to his quarters for the night when he finally snaps - when the words finally get to him.
“Erwin is just a bad leader,” someone, a faceless soldier who Levi has seen once or twice before says in a hushed voice to the man next to him. He sits, hunched over his dinner, speaking to his friends as they nod and even snicker at his words like children.
“He won’t last another mission,” another one says, and that’s what causes Levi’s step to falter. He pauses, but his presence goes unnoticed. The men are too busy talking in hushed voices to one another.
“He throws soldiers lives away without even batting an eyelash,” a third chimes in, “None of us mean anything to him. He should be the one dying out there.”
And that’s when Levi hits his breaking point. In a fraction of a second, he’s moving, striking. He balls the soldier’s uniform in his fists, ripping him from his seat and slamming him up against the wall, hard. Hard enough for him to close his eyes in pain as his head collides with the stone.
“If I’m Erwin’s sword, then I won’t have any problem slitting your fucking throat where you stand,” Levi hisses, venom dripping from his voice.
The anonymous soldier’s friends stand quickly, ready to fight, and Levi throws an arm out in warning. “Sit down!” he barks, not once taking his eyes off of the young man in front of him, “Now.”
Whether it’s out of fear or because Levi is technically higher ranking than them, the men listen, slinking back down into their seats like wounded animals. Levi turns his attention back to the one in front of him, the boy desperately clawing at his arms, trying to wriggle free.
“Erwin Smith is your Commander because he’s a good soldier - because he cares about this fight,” Levi bites, “He saved your pathetic, miserable life, didn’t he? Without him, you wouldn’t be able to spew this bullshit about him, now would you?”
In the midst of the scuffle, Levi doesn’t hear footsteps behind him, doesn’t notice his Commander - Erwin - watching the scene unfold from the dark hallway, waiting to step in and intervene if necessary. Instead, Levi just continues to speak, his grip tightening on the soldier's collar.
“Say what you want about me - you’re probably right anyway. I am a thug from the underground, and that means I could kick your ass without even breaking a sweat, so think about what you’re saying about your Commander before you speak, or you’ll have to deal with me.”
By the time that Levi releases the boy and watches him and his friends scurry off to their own quarters, leaving their meals unfinished on the table, Erwin is long gone. And by the time Levi finishes cleaning up their mess, he forgets where he had been heading before. Suddenly, he doesn’t feel tired anymore, and instead of heading back to his own room, he finds himself storming into Erwin’s office, unannounced, fuming.
“Ungrateful fucking brats,” Levi mutters to himself, pacing Erwin’s office, unaware of the fact that Erwin stands nearly in front of him, having only returned a few moments prior. “Little shit, I should have killed him. Doesn’t even appreciate his life anyway.”
“How can you listen to their shit?” Levi yells at last, spinning to face Erwin. His close proximity throws him off - he didn’t expect him to be right behind him - but it doesn’t deter him at all. “I know you hear it!”
Erwin simply shrugs, shoulders heavy, face defeated. “They can talk,” he says, “It’s not against the rules.”
“It’s bullshit,” Levi bites, “You save their lives day after day, and for what?"
“I’d like to see them do a better job,” Levi continues, “They wouldn’t last a fucking day in your position, they-”
Levi keeps ranting and pacing the room until Erwin comes up from behind him - until he feels Erwin’s hand on his shoulder. At the touch, he freezes, his words cut short. Erwin takes the lapse in bitter, shouted words to lay his left hand on Levi’s other shoulder, and, without being prompted, presses his thumbs into the tense muscles of Levi’s neck.
“Relax,” Erwin says, voice soft, barely there. It floats over Levi, leaves him lingering. He tries to catch it, but fails and ultimately ends up melting into Erwin’s touch. Behind him, Erwin smiles slightly, pressing his thumbs deeper into the muscle, rubbing them in small circles.
Levi feels his upper body slump into Erwin’s touch as he relaxes back into it. Months ago, he never would have been able to see himself in this position, eyes falling closed, mouth parted as Erwin’s hands travel downward slightly, fingers pressing into his tense back.
Levi doesn’t realize it until it’s too late - doesn’t realize Erwin pulling him in slightly, closing the gap between their bodies. Even then, Levi doesn’t freeze. He’s in a haze, adrenaline having disappeared from his bloodstream, leaving him limp and exhausted in Erwin’s arms. One of Erwin’s hands dips down Levi’s front, palm flat as it slides against his chest, holding him close.
Without thinking about it, Levi lets his head fall back against Erwin’s solid form, reaches back to anchor himself in Erwin’s shirt, fisting the collar of it.
For a moment, the room seems to stand still. Even the hand massaging his shoulder pauses, and all that’s left is the weight of Erwin’s hand on his chest, holding him close, his warmth on his back. After a long beat of silence, it’s Erwin who finally breaks the silence.
“Do you trust me, Levi?” he asks, in a way that makes Levi’s knees feel weak.
Levi’s murmured response comes without hesitation. “Yeah.”
And then, the hand on his chest is moving, coming up to cradle his bared throat, to cup his chin. With his head leaning back against Erwin’s chest, Levi opens his eyes to look up, matching Erwin’s heavy gaze. Erwin seems to search for any sign of doubt on Levi’s face, and when doesn’t find it - when Levi just gazes up at him with heavy eyes - he ducks down, brushing their lips together.
In some ways, the kiss comes as a surprise. Nearly a year after joining the Survey Corps - a year after that fateful day - and Levi isn’t even sure if he considers himself a friend of Erwin’s. A comrade, yes. A dedicated soldier and Captain, definitely. But a friend? Something more?
He’d be lying if he said he didn’t listen to the rumors, if he didn’t hear the way that people talked about their relationship. If they didn’t think that Levi was a mindless thug from the underground, they were certain that he and Erwin were fucking. Levi knows that Erwin is aware of these rumors, as well. He knows that Erwin hears everything - the lines on his face tell him that much.
So maybe it’s the rumors finally getting to them - if that’s what everyone thinks, then they might as well do it. But at the same time, the kiss feels natural, easy.
Since Farlan and Isabel’s deaths, Erwin has been the only constant thing in Levi’s life. Other soldiers and comrades come and go. He may know the rest of Erwin’s squad, and he may even be able to tolerate them, but Erwin is constant. Levi finds himself in Erwin’s company almost more than he finds himself alone. So leaning back into the touch and pressing his lips back into Erwin’s almost feels right.
It’s also a little laughable - Levi thinks about where they started, Erwin threatening him if he didn’t join the Survey Corps, Levi holding a blade up to his throat with a promise to end his life.... Never, in a million years did he think he’d end up here, but surprisingly, it’s okay.
He relaxes into Erwin’s touch, his body going limp and pliable underneath him. Eventually, it’s Erwin who breaks away first, who ends the kiss and pulls away, his hand falling from where it had been cradling Levi’s jaw. And after a few hazy moments, Levi blinks his eyes open, gazes up at Erwin with a sense of wonderment and awe.
Erwin releases his hold on Levi’s shoulder and takes a step back, and Levi takes that as his cue to face him. So he turns, hands at his sides, relaxed, and cocks his head slightly, waiting for an explanation.
Surprisingly, Erwin seems to backpedal.
“Forgive me if that was out of line, I just-”
Levi’s laugh, however, cuts him short. Later, he’ll think about how it’s the first time that he’s laughed, really laughed, in Erwin’s presence. Erwin gapes at him, and that gives Levi a chance to explain his outburst.
“Don’t give me that shit, Erwin Smith,” Levi says, a faint smile still pulling at his lips, “You never do anything without considering all of the possible outcomes. You knew what you were doing.”
Given the smile on Levi’s face, Erwin allows himself to relax a little, as well. He smiles, shaking his head, “I suppose I did.”
“Huh,” Levi breathes. He takes a step closer to Erwin, reaching out just slightly without actually touching him. “Guess the rumors are true.”
Erwin takes the cue, stepping forward as well. His fingers brush Levi’s hand, find their place on his slender hip. He ducks down slightly, face close to Levi’s once more, and his eyes drink in the sight of him, as if waiting for permission again. “I suppose they are…” he murmurs.
And at that, Levi is arching forward, catching Erwin’s parted lips in a kiss. This time, it isn’t as gentle - Erwin’s lips don’t brush carefully against Levi’s, his hand doesn’t softly cup his chin. Instead, Levi balls Erwin’s uniform into his fists, anchoring him close, and Erwin wastes no time in wrapping his arms around Levi’s waist. It’s heated, too fast, too much all at once, but neither man makes a move to stop it.
It doesn’t take long before Erwin is backing Levi up against the door, pressing him into the wood and trailing away from his lips, down his jaw and finding his place at his neck. He sucks a mark into the skin just below the collar of his uniform, after pulling the fabric away, and Levi can’t help but gasp out at the way that Erwin’s lips feel on his skin. It’s been far too long since he’s been touched, since someone has touched him like this, and he wonders if the same is true for Erwin.
Levi finds himself pulling at Erwin’s jacket, shucking it off of his shoulders when Erwin realizes what he’s doing. When the article of clothing hits the floor, what they’re doing becomes very real to Levi.
“Do you usually fuck your subordinates?” Levi says on a gasp as Erwin begins to undress him as well.
That, however, causes Erwin to pause, to pull away from Levi for a moment to look him in the eye. His gaze is heavy, heated, but serious nonetheless. “No,” he says at last, voice low, “No, I don’t.”
And for some reason, the words seem to ignite something in Levi. Within moments, he finds himself unbuttoning his own shirt and letting it fall to the floor by the door. As soon as he’s shirtless, Erwin’s lips are on his own again, hard, heavy and solid. Wordlessly (and effortlessly) Erwin’s hands cup Levi’s ass and he lifts, hoisting him up against the door. Levi complies, his legs coming to wrap around Erwin waist, and, for the first time in months (nearly a year) he feels something other than anger, fear or anxiety in his gut.
When Erwin pulls away for a moment to steal a glance at his flushed face, it’s apparent that he feels it, too.
Eventually Levi finds himself being carried into the bedroom that adjoins Erwin’s office and deposited on the bed. With a promise to be right back, Erwin disappears for a moment, and Levi takes the time alone to begin undoing his pants, sliding them and his underwear down and off of his hips.
For a split second, he wonders what Farlan or Isabel would think about this if they knew - Levi, fucking the man that he swore to kill with his bare hands not even a year ago - but he shakes the thought from his head as fast as it comes. He doesn’t have time to think about that, not when Erwin returns to the bedroom with what looks like a vile of oil in his hand. It’s not preferred - Levi would really like some lube - but when he drinks in the sight of Erwin in the doorway, he can’t bring himself to care. Instead, he lies on the bed, stroking himself lazily, matching his gaze.
The sight of Levi naked on his bed seems to ignite something in Erwin, because within seconds, the oil is forgotten on the bedside table and Erwin is all over him all at once - too much but not enough.
It’s not necessarily what a first time should be - it’s rushed and frantic and all too much at once - but Erwin and Levi have never necessarily been conventional. Erwin still takes care in stretching Levi properly, waiting until he’s writing beneath him, thrusting back against his fingers and begging him -
“Fuck, come on Erwin, just fuck me,” he bites, voice not taking on as much venom as he’d like.
Erwin pulls him apart, presses his fingers into his prostate, abuses him, leaves him whining and clutching onto his shoulders before he finally pulls them out, replacing the empty feeling with the blunt head of his cock.
And, in a moment of passion, Erwin catches Levi’s parted lips in a kiss as he presses inside of him, drinking down any moans or whimpers or curses with his mouth.
It’s hard and it’s fast, and honestly, it’s just what Levi needed. He meets Erwin thrust for thrust once he finally gets a rhythm going, fingers clutching onto any piece of Erwin’s body that he can reach. Erwin is relentless, fucking him into the mattress, mouthing at his neck, biting his skin, and Levi has to stop himself from moaning out at the sensation.
It isn’t until he opens his eyes, however, that he feels the reality of the situation. Erwin nearly pulls out at one point, just the tip of his cock sitting inside of Levi, and Levi’s eyes fly open wide, body tensing. Immediately, he meets Erwin’s gaze, and he feels like disappearing under the weight of it. It only takes seconds before Levi is throwing an arm over his own face, as if to hide from it, and pressing back against Erwin.
“Come on,” he bites, “Fuck me, Erwin - fuck.”
Then it all happens too fast. Then, Erwin’s pressing into him, his weight heavy on top of him. Then, Erwin’s grabbing Levi’s cock and pumping him along with his thrusts, precome slicking his length.
Levi comes first, clenching around Erwin and spilling across his own chest, a silent gasp on his lips, head thrown back, hand on Erwin’s wrist. He rides the waves of his own orgasm as Erwin continues to fuck him through it, coming shortly after Levi with his name on his lips and his head pressed into his shoulder.
Levi wants to feel dirty, disgusting with Erwin’s come spilling out of him and his own chest covered in it, but he can’t bring himself to care when Erwin practically collapses on top of him for a moment.
Thankfully, though, Erwin eventually moves without Levi prompting him do so. He climbs off of the bed, and, still naked, rummages through his wardrobe before producing a towel, handing it over to Levi before cleaning himself off.
Eventually, Levi sits up, wordless, and swings his legs over the edge of the bed before standing. He glances around the room, searching for his discarded clothing, but he doesn’t have a chance to find them before Erwin is approaching him, speaking. He isn’t shy, even in his post-orgasm haze, reaching out to brush his fingers against Levi’s hip once more.
“Stay the night,” he offers, voice hushed, like a secret.
Levi huffs, looking up at Erwin. “They’ll talk,” he insists.
Honestly, he’s not sure if he should stay. Not because of the rumors, but because he feels vulnerable now, and not just because he’s naked in front of Erwin.
“They will regardless,” Erwin insists, but his voice is gentle. He’s not going to force Levi to stay, not going to order him to do so. But he’ll ask. “I don’t care,” he adds softly.
“Hah,” Levi shakes his head, avoiding Erwin’s gaze, “You really don’t.”
And then, there’s a hand on his naked hip. Erwin’s other palm cups Levi’s jaw once more, tilting his face up so he can look him in the eyes.
“Stay the night,” he repeats, voice gentle.
It’s not a command, but Levi finds himself nodding, relaxing into the touch. “Okay.”
The rumors are a constant thing, and Levi becomes accustomed to them as time goes on. It doesn’t mean that they don’t bother him from time to time, when he hears a newer recruit questioning Erwin’s abilities, or even when he hears the hushed voices of bystander speaking on the street when they return from an expedition.
"Erwin Smith is wasting our money, killing our children," they say, "And for what?"
Levi wants to leap off of his horse, teach them a lesson, show them how bad the world would be without Erwin Smith, but he holds himself back. He keeps his head held high, lets the words fall flat, and remains proudly by Erwin’s side.
Over time, their relationship grows, and Levi doesn’t feel uncomfortable or guilty in Erwin’s presence. He finds it easy to perch on the edge of Erwin’s desk as he does paperwork, pestering him to eat, to get some rest because he’s only human, after all - despite what people may say. He finds himself stealing kisses in the stables, quick fucks on Erwin’s desk, finds himself bringing him food from the mess hall on particularly rough or long days.
And people talk. The more time Levi spends with Erwin, the worse the rumors seem to get, but the more Levi realizes that he doesn’t give a shit. The people who truly care about their fight - Mike, Hanji, Moblit, Nanaba, their squads - they don’t talk.
Then, Eren Yeager and his friends come into their lives. Then, Levi’s entire squad dies on a bloody, deadly mission beyond the walls, and when they return, Levi is almost certain that the rumors are going to worsen. Even with an injured ankle - even after losing his squad - Levi can’t help but worry about Erwin. He knows that people will talk, and he knows that, as much as he acts like it doesn’t get to him, it does.
Levi sits on the edge of Erwin’s bed after the mission, watching Erwin carefully as he helps him bandage his ankle. They haven’t spoken much since they returned, but that’s normal after a tough mission. That’s to be expected after what happened today - after Levi lost some of the few people he allowed himself get close to after Farlan and Isabel.
It’s Erwin who eventually breaks the silence first, and Levi isn’t surprised. He is, however, surprised by his words. They’re quiet, unsure, maybe even a little shaky, as if he doesn’t want to know the answer. “Do you resent me, Levi?” he asks, and the question goes straight to Levi’s chest.
He knows that Erwin is speaking in regards to his squad, that he’s talking about the shaky beginning of their relationship - from cornering Levi and forcing him to join the Survey Corps, which ultimately lead to the deaths of his only friends. The question catches him off guard, as Erwin has never asked him anything like this before, but still, Levi’s response is as swift and sure as ever.
“No,” he says, sitting up on the bed to look Erwin in the eyes. He looks unsure of himself, small in Levi’s eyes for the first time since they met. Levi doesn’t like this look on Erwin, wants to kiss it away, make him feel better.
“How?” Erwin questions, his eyes falling to Levi’s ankle, “After everything I’ve put you though?”
Levi huffs out a frustrated breath and reaches out to grab one of Erwin’s hands. “Stop talking like that,” he insists, even pulling a smile to assure that everything is alright - even if he is hurting, even if the pain of losing his squad almost matches that of losing his best friends, his family. It’s not Erwin’s fault. It’s nobody’s fault.
“If I would have let you go when I caught you,” Erwin begins, voice careful, obviously speaking about their meeting in the underground, “If I hadn’t threatened you, given you an ultimatum back then… Would you have still followed me?”
Levi sighs, shaking his head. “That’s unfair to ask,” he mutters, “I didn’t know then what I know now. You did what had to be done.”
Still, Erwin argues - it’s as if he wants Levi to tell him that he was wrong, that he’s an unfit leader, an unfit lover. “Sometimes…” Erwin murmurs, voice far away, “I feel as if I’ve caged you, forced you to be my war dog-”
“Erwin-” Levi starts, wants to tell him that the exact opposite is true - Erwin set him free - but he’s interrupted before he can get a word out.
“-to shoulder my pain,” Erwin continues, “It’s not fair to you. You don’t-”
“Erwin,” Levi bites, “Will you shut the fuck up for one second?” His voice takes on a harsh quality that he didn’t want to use with Erwin in such a vulnerable state, but he doesn’t know what else to say, how else to get his point across.
When Erwin stops speaking and stares up at him, however, Levi takes it as his time to speak. “I would have left long ago if I didn’t want this,” he assures, “I want to be part of this. I want a better world, and I know that you’re going to be the one to give it to us.”
“How can you be so sure?” Erwin asks, his voice weak. It nearly breaks Levi’s heart.
He leans forward at that, reaching out to cup Erwin’s chin, forcing their eyes to meet. “Because there’s nobody else like you, Erwin Smith,” he murmurs, and then, before Erwin has a chance to argue, he’s pressing a silencing kiss on his lips.
Thankfully, Erwin seems to relax into Levi. Within seconds, he’s pressing back into the kiss, reaching up to anchor his fingers in Levi’s hair. Levi smiles against him, and when he pulls away, it’s to press his forehead against Erwin’s.
“Don’t doubt yourself,” he murmurs softly, “Okay?”
Erwin nods against him, “Okay.”
And then he’s all over Levi. Then, he’s climbing into the bed with him, pressing earnest kisses to his lips, pressing him down into the mattress. Over the years since Levi joined the Survey Corps, Erwin has grown to know him like the back of his hand. He knows when Levi needs to be left alone to his thoughts, when he needs to be smothered, when he needs to forget. And suddenly, Erwin feels incredibly guilty for pushing his problems onto Levi - Levi who just lost his entire squad, his first and only squad, in one outing.
He needs to forget, so that’s exactly what Erwin helps him do. He kisses Levi deep, undresses him slowly, presses his hips down into the mattress as he licks a broad stripe up Levi’s hard and leaking cock. Levi thrashes beneath him, thrusts his hips up, but Erwin takes him apart slowly, painfully, and Levi loves every little second of it.
Levi’s fingers thread through Erwin’s hair, tugging, pulling, and Erwin lets him. His legs wrap around Erwin’s neck and his heel knock against his back, and Erwin only leans into the touch, wrapping his mouth around Levi’s cock and sucking him down.
Eventually, Erwin lets Levi go, lets him thrust up into his mouth, fuck his throat. It’s what Levi needs, so he gives it to him, becomes pliable under his nimble hands, lets Levi press his face down, thrust his hips up.
When Levi comes, Erwin swallows every last drop, collapsing against Levi’s stomach. And even then, he presses kisses against the soft skin, fingers rubbing soothing patterns into his ribs.
When Levi breathes out a soft, post-orgasmic, “I love you,” moments later, Erwin sits up to press another passionate kiss on his lips.
Erwin is strong, but that’s not to say that his role as Commander doesn’t weigh on him. On particularly hard days, that’s not to say that Erwin doesn’t joke about his own death - about how he’d deserve it, when it happens. Erwin jokes about losing his arm, when it happens, calling it karma - that’s what he gets for sending countless men and women to their deaths - and though he says it with a smile, Levi knows that he means it. He sleeps next to Erwin in his hospital bed that night, pressing kisses to the fingers on his remaining hand.
“In another life,” Erwin says that night, voice groggy with exhaustion and medication, “I’d marry you, Levi.”
Levi’s heart swells at Erwin’s words. He buries his face in his shoulder. “I’d like that,” he murmurs in return, a moment of weakness. He almost lost Erwin, he can’t help it.
“Maybe when all of this is over,” Erwin says with a smile in his voice, “If we make it out of here alive, I’ll make good on that promise.”
“I don’t care what they say,” Levi says one night in bed, after Erwin returns from Military Police custody, after they’re reunited once more, “I’m here with you until the end.” His voice is muffled by Erwin’s skin and blankets, but he knows that Erwin hears him.
“I’m unfit to lead them like this,” Erwin murmurs in return, “I should let Hanji take over.”
“Bullshit,” Levi bites, “That’s bullshit and you know it. Even with one arm, you’re more fit to lead us than anyone else.”
Erwin presses a kiss to the top of Levi’s head as a silent thank you for the compliment, but still, he argues. “But if I was gone -”
“Don’t,” Levi hissed, “Don’t you dare say that. You know it’s not true.”
He sits up at that, so he can look Erwin in the eyes, even in the dim light of the bedroom. “The world is a better place with Erwin Smith,” he says, utter sincerity dripping from his voice.
Erwin smiles at that, leaning forward to press his forehead into Levi’s. “You think so?”
“I do,” Levi says, nodding against him. He leans forward at that, pressing a kiss to kiss to his lips before adding, “I’d follow you anywhere, Erwin.”
When they finally win the war, Levi almost thinks it’s too good to be true. It’s been over a decade since he joined the Survey Corps - even the brats are adults now - and somehow, he manages to live through all of it.
Somehow, Erwin manages to live through all of it.
They don’t make it without some casualties, but they make it.
And when they return from their first successful trip beyond the walls without any casualties - without and titans - it’s with freedom in their hearts and smiles on their faces. Even Erwin can’t help it.
Levi rides back to the walls by Erwin’s side, and it isn’t until they near the gate that Erwin’s smile fades. Even outside of the walls, it’s easy to see the rather large crowd that has gathered in the city, awaiting their return.
Years of rumors and hushed voices and hatred will do that to someone - even though the crowd seems to chatter in excitement, Erwin’s face falls out of fear. Levi notices it almost immediately, and, without thinking about it, he steers his horse closer, so his foot almost touches Erwin’s, and reaches out to grab his hand.
Erwin immediately turns to glance at Levi - face unsure, worried - but Levi just offers him a reassuring smile. Fuck the rumors. Let them talk.
Eventually, Erwin drops his reins and links his fingers with Levi’s, and when they ride through the gate, it’s to the loud cheering of the crowd. Children sit on top of their parents’ shoulders, waving to the soldiers, yelling in excitement -
“Father, look!” one of them, a young boy, sitting on his father’s shoulder to their left calls, catching Levi’s attention, “It’s Commander Erwin Smith! I heard he lead the final battle with only one arm - can you believe that?!”
Levi glances at Erwin, who stares at the child, dumbfounded.
“He’s so strong,” the kid rambles on, drumming rather obnoxiously on his father’s head, kicking excitedly at his chest, “I want to be just like him when I grow up.”
And finally, Erwin’s face spreads into a small smile. He nods at the man and his son, and Levi can’t help but smile, too. In fact, he can’t help the laugh that escapes his lips, bordering on hysterical, because they actually did it.
Later that night, Levi finds himself wrapped up in Erwin’s touch, lying naked in his bed. When they fuck, it’s not rushed, desperate, as if they only have one night left together before they die. This time, it’s slow, easy. Erwin takes his time to stretch Levi, presses soft, deep kisses to his lips, worships his chest with his lips and hand, takes in every inch of his body as if he's learning it for the first time. This time, Levi rides Erwin slow, wraps his arms around his neck and whispers words of encouragement into his ear.
“Just like that, Erwin, right there, fuck,” he murmurs, “God, I love you, I love you.”
And Erwin buries his face in Levi’s chest, overcome with emotion, body trembling when he finally comes, releasing inside of Levi.
Afterward, Levi curls up next to him, pressing kisses to his chest and neck and every inch of his body he can reach.
Eventually, Erwin reaches down to grab Levi’s hand, lacing their fingers together. He brings their linked hands up, holds them in the dim moonlight, shining through the bedroom window, and smiles.
He wants to tell Levi how proud of him he is, how he couldn’t have done any of this without him, how the world is a better place because of him, but he doesn’t say any of those things. Instead, he opens his hand, unlinking their fingers before wrapping his index around Levi’s ring finger.
Levi looks at him in the dim light, eyebrows pulled together in confusion, waiting for an explanation and Erwin simply smiles in response.
“I told you I’d make good on a promise to you, if we made it through the war alive,” he murmurs, voice barely above a whisper.
“I wouldn’t be here without you, Levi,” he continues, before Levi can interrupt, “I owe my life to you, and I want to spend the rest of it with you - will you marry me?”
Levi rips his hand from Erwin’s grip at that, in favor of reaching out to embrace him, burying his face in the crook of his neck. Erwin almost begins to worry, but then Levi is nodding furiously against him, holding onto him for dear life.
“Yes,” he breaths, “Yes, Erwin.”
And a repeat of a promise he made years ago, “I’d follow you anywhere.”