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Lips Like Sugar

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Levi’s fingers are cold, but that’s not really a surprise considering how fast the winter is barreling into Shiganshina. His breath fogs in the chill, a thin jacket being his only protection against the harsh winds. Nose red and running, Levi pushes into the small convenience store, body immediately relaxing beneath the heater placed above the front entrance.

Numb fingers rub together, trying to circulate the warmth back into his limbs. There are days when he wishes that his life ended up differently, and today is definitely one of them. Especially when it’s ten degrees below fuck you outside.

If he’s being completely honest with himself, stuck in a shitty apartment complex with an even shittier landlord is not exactly how Levi pictured spending the rest of his days. He’s not stupid, never had any (life ruining) encounters with the law. He’s just been dealt a bad hand, and now he has to decide how to play his cards. People would probably tell him that he’s being overdramatic. Levi’s only twenty-six years old for fuck’s sake. But he knows how this world works. Or at least how it works for people like him.

Levi has been screwed since the moment he was born.

He shuffles further into the store, ignoring the cautious looks from the grocer at the front end. Levi’s used to the profiling by now, the anxious thoughts running through cashiers’ minds that guarantee him to be the cause of the next armed robbery. Even though, truth be told, Levi has never stolen a goddamn thing in his life. Probably should have. Would’ve ended up with a lot better than that shithole apartment with the broken heating system.

At least the state penitentiary has cable.

There’s not much he needs to pick up, well can pick up, given that his bank account is somewhere between zero and negative. The only thing he has is a couple of bills he found stuffed deep down in his dresser drawer. He should probably find a better place to hide it considering his landlord is a goddamn thief on top of everything else.

Levi browses through the bread aisle, eyes roving for the cheapest brand. It tastes like shit, but poverty can only afford him so much and expensive bread isn’t it. His hand fists around the bills in his pocket as he wonders how bad it will set him back to splurge this once. Too much. Sighing, Levi grabs the generic brand. One of these days, Sara Lee. One of these days.

Bread in hand, Levi makes his way back to the front end to check out, not really anticipating his upcoming brush with Jack Frost. Maybe he should hang out a few more minutes, act like he’s not just stalling for time in order to avoid facing the fucking blizzard raging outside. Well, actually, no. Last time he did that security followed him out of the store because he was acting suspicious. He swears that his face isn’t that intimidating.

Thankfully, the line is fairly long with only one cashier working the front. It’s a hometown store, so the employee to customer ratio isn’t exactly even. Not that Levi has a problem with that, body pulling into itself as he tries to conceal the last of this warmth. He has a good walk back to his apartment, and with the wind chill, that trek always seems a whole lot longer.

There's a catchy pop song playing over the speakers, and Levi finds himself quietly humming along, foot lightly tapping to the beat against the linoleum. He doesn't even like pop music, but considering he has nothing but the creaking drains to listen to back home, the tune doesn't sound that bad.

"Nice moves." Levi freezes, turning around to the voice coming from behind him.

The man looks like he was born and raised in a pile of money, suit pressed clean of all wrinkles, brunet locks slicked back, and a pair of sunglasses hanging off his collar. A typical rich douchebag. Levi could be sick.

He's a little tempted to stomp on the tops of Mr. Moolah's shiny, black dress shoes like a petulant child, but he settles for giving the man a deadpan glare before turning back towards the front of the line. Levi hates - well, hate is a strong word - cannot stand rich assholes. And it's not just because he's sitting dirty at the bottom of the totem pole (although that probably has a little bit to do with it). It is because those pretentious pricks are so careless, so unbelievably arrogant. Completely unknowing to the world around them. Selfish. Throwing their million dollar galas, showing off their new addition to their car collections while people like him, people like Levi, starve on the side of the road. Maybe it is just because he's poor.

"Hey, you-"

Levi whips around, a dangerous stare cutting off the stranger. The man seems at a loss for words, probably the first time he's been turned down wearing a Prada suit, Levi thinks. But if the bastard just assumed that he was going to go down on his knees just because a little prestige was flashed in his face, then this guy has another thing coming.

Levi's about to say something, like maybe, who the fuck wears a suit to a grocery store anyways, when the man interrupts his train of thought, "I was just going to tell you that you dropped your dollar." In the brunet's hand is a wrinkled dollar bill, which Levi quickly snatches away.

"Thank you," he mumbles, cheeks tinted a slight pink from embarrassment. Levi doesn't let the man reply, turning back around to face the front of the line before the guy can do something like try to continue the conversation.

He's biting his lip, twirling around the dollar bill between his fingers. And suddenly, Levi is wanting the line to move faster. He feels uncomfortable standing here, like he's being analyzed. He has half a mind to elbow the asshole behind him, but Levi knows the guy isn't technically doing anything wrong, and that the law is never really on his side. Then again, at least a jail cell has central heating.

He takes a small step forward as the line moves, awkwardly shifting from one foot to the next. If he really wanted to, Levi could probably pass it off as his way of circulating body heat and not a nervous tick. But no one seems to be any the wiser as Levi sways anxiously from side to side.

"I can save your spot in line." That damnable voice is back in his ear, causing him to jolt slightly as he slowly turns back around. The man is looking down at Levi, brows furrowed with seriousness plastered all across his face.

"What?" Levi manages, eloquent as ever, thin brow quirking as he takes in the figure before him.

The guy huffs, almost sounding annoyed with the way Levi has completely missed the point. "You obviously need to go to the restroom, so I'll hold your place while you go." The brunet's head jerks backwards in the direction of the bathrooms, and Levi could just die right there.

"I don't have to piss," he deadpans, trying to control his twitching brow and tightening jaw.

"Oh." The man looks sheepishly down to the floor before glancing right back up at him with these too bright eyes that have Levi's breath doing this awkward little hitch. "Seemed like it." Levi ignores the comment, far more content on letting his vision drift further down the lithe body before him. He feels like a pervert - and he probably is - but in Levi's defense, the little shit did start it.

Levi has reached the end of a solid blue tie when he sees it: a bag of Doritos and a liter of Pepsi. Not quite what he expected from a guy who's worth probably more than everyone in this store combined. But Levi thinks that the man did have to come in here for something. It does seem a bit too egotistical to assume that the brunet just entered the grocery store to chat up Levi.

A throat clears, and he realizes that in all the time he has spent eyeing the stranger, Levi's failed to notice it's his turn in line. The cashier doesn't look exactly thrilled to see him, or maybe it's just that she doesn't want to touch the same items that his 'filthy' hands have been. Joke's on the cashier, though, because Levi, for all his financial difficulty, does manage to keep a commendable cleaning regime. Even if it does cost him an extra twenty on the water bill at the end of the month.

"This all?" she asks, upper lip curled in a permanent sneer as the smacking of gum rattles off her lips. Levi merely hums, not wanting to make more conversation with this lovely example of the human race than he has to.

He watches closely as she grabs ahold of the bread. Levi's not above asking for a replacement, lest the cashier take too tight a grip on the loaf. However, to his surprise, the bread manages to be bagged without incident, even though the girl looks like the type to intentionally dig her fingers into the slices of wheat. He has his fingers wrapped around the two dollar bills when the cashier tells him the total.

"Two twenty," she says, and Levi pauses.

"What?" His grip on the couple of bills tightens, and he can already feel the watchful eyes of the man behind him burning into the side of his skull.

"I said: two twenty." There's enough bite to her reply that Levi is already gritting his teeth.

"I heard what you said. But that total isn't right." A bubble pops in his face, and Levi's ready to earn that spot in the state penitentiary. "Maybe you scanned it twice," he mumbles, cheeks flaming red while trying to give the shrew a benefit of the doubt. This just isn't the time for things to go to shit. Well, they're already shit, but his cheap, generic bread can't be one of them.

"Maybe you're lying."

It takes Levi a couple of seconds to process what actually just spewed from the cashier's mouth, but by that time, a hand on his shoulder has already pushed him backwards.

"Are you serious?" The man behind him - well, in front of him now - is leaning over the counter, one hand still on Levi's shoulder, the other with a dangerous grip on the counter's edge. "I don't think 'be a stereotyping asshole' was listed as part of your job description." The girl is gaping, silence swallowing up any rebuttal she had to make. Suddenly, the stranger is placing his own groceries on the lane, slamming a crisp hundred dollar bill beside them. "Just put everything together, and maybe apologize while you're at it."

The cashier looks over to a red faced Levi, mumbling a quick apology before she turns back to the register. And Levi can do nothing but stand there slightly in awe of the man he previously thought of as nothing more than a greedy, rich bastard. Appearances can obviously be deceiving, Levi himself is enough of a testimony to that; and he feels sort of like a hypocrite for judging the stranger so early.

The groceries are quickly bagged, and the man’s change is handed back to him with a quiet, ‘have a good rest of the day, sir’. He scoffs and quietly exits the store, Levi following behind. The man does have his bread after all.  

“Sorry about that,” the stranger says, arm extending out a plastic bag as soon as the pair passes through the threshold of the store’s entrance. Levi merely hums, taking the bag and double checking to make sure his bread is still unharmed (it is). “And sorry if I overstepped my bounds back there,” a heavy sigh falls off the man’s lips, “I just fucking hate how goddamn judgemental people are.” Levi’s staring up at the brunet, brows slightly furrowed as he watches the guy through silver eyes. “I’m Eren, by the way.” Levi stumbles backwards as a hand is thrown towards him. Smooth, real smooth, Ackerman. He’s quick to recover though, clearing his throat as he grabs ahold of the man’s hand, one that radiates heat as it squeezes around his own.

“Levi.”

The man - Eren - simply smiles.

But suddenly, there is something else being pushed into his palm, something that feels an awful lot like the change the cashier handed Eren back in the grocery store.

“I’m not a charity case,” Levi mumbles, his hand dropping from Eren's as he watches a frown start to pull at the brunet’s cheeks. But guilt is the last thing he feels for upsetting Eren. Contempt. He feels a little bit of that. Because the last thing he wants to be reminded of is that he is a poor piece of shit. That he needs handouts to survive. He’s made it this far without turning to the street corner for help. Sure, there have been the frequent visits at the local soup kitchen, but taking someone’s hard earned money… that feels different. Feels dirty in Levi’s eyes.

“I don’t… I just…” Eren fumbles with the words, obviously trying to make light of his generosity. “I don’t think you’re a charity case. I just think you’ve been dealt a bad hand,” The brunet sighs as he looks Levi up and down. And the sympathy still makes him angry, still makes him want to kick the shit out of this little pretty rich boy right here. But something else, something deeper in Levi is telling him that Eren means it. That maybe there is more to the surface of Eren, as well.

“You don’t even know me.” It comes out as a half whisper, playing off Levi’s lips as his vision falls away from Eren’s face.

“Yeah, but you seem like someone who might be worth knowing.” Eren has this weird grin on his face like he just did something really smooth, and Levi has the strong urge to just strangle him where he stands. Instead, he opts to curl his fingers around the money, shoving it deep into his pockets. “Need a ride?” Levi looks up to see Eren gesturing to the shiny black Porsche sitting pretty in the parking lot. Of course he owns a Porsche, Levi thinks, rolling his eyes at the cliche. And he really does want a ride considering the snowfall is already chilling him to the bone, and it’s a good walk back to his apartment complex.

So, he just subtly nods his head, following Eren to the car, which apparently ‘has seat warmers that you should probably use, because you look really fucking cold’. He doesn’t miss the small smile pulling at Eren’s face as he opens the door for Levi, and it silently makes him hope that this man isn’t some psycho serial killer, because that would be really shitty. Levi’s usually pretty cautious, but he assumes that attractive men who throw money at him make his caution fly off into the wind. All in all, if he does die, at least it won’t be before he has experienced a little life of luxury. In a car that does have seat warmers.

Levi can definitely think of worse ways to go.

Chapter Text

The leather feels smooth beneath his fingertips. And warm. Eren hadn't been lying about the car's seat warmers. The toasty feel of the heated interior is doing wonders for Levi's chilled body, encasing him in a small sanctuary of warmth. He hears a quiet chuckle echo throughout the car, and the sound has him turning his head towards Eren, who is sporting a sly half-smile.

"Enjoying the ride?" Levi's cheeks flush a brilliant pink, face turning to press against the window. Watching the snowfall is surprisingly comforting, for all the distaste he shares for the frozen shit, seeing it cover the ground from the view of a Porsche is distinctively aesthetic. "Levi?" His head lifts from the window, leaving behind a foggy smudge. Eren's looking at him out of the corner of his eye, most of his attention - thankfully - focused on the road ahead.

That strong jawline reigns in Levi's attention, causing him to suck in his bottom lip as he pulls further into himself. Eren sighs, hard and heavy as Levi continues to follow the contours of the man's face.

"If I've made you uncomfortable, I'm-"

"No," Levi cuts Eren off, unthinking and instinctive. He has to take a second to gather himself, swallowing thickly before he starts again, "No, you haven't. I'm just..." Levi pauses, glancing over the shiny sleekness of the leather. "Not used to this," he mumbles.

Eren's mouth drops into the expression of silent realization, and Levi would like to remind the idiot that it isn't every day he gets to ride around in luxury automobiles. Levi delves back into the awkward silence, much more comfortable with that than making small talk with the man to his left. He's never been much of a conversationalist after all with the introverted persona he has.

"So, what do you do?" Eren asks, a puppy dog smile back on the brunet's face. And Levi thinks that underneath that fancy, thousand dollar suit there is probably a wagging tail to match. Amazing. "I mean, for a living." His silence has obviously been translated into confusion, and Levi has to push back the urge to roll his eyes.

"Clean up shit all day." There's a sudden choking noise, and Levi sees Eren cough harshly in a curled fist. There's a subtle smirk pulling at his lips as he watches Eren's face morph from unique curiosity to abject horror. "I work at an animal shelter." Levi can audibly hear the sigh of relief that passes over Eren's lips.

There's an awkward beat of silence before Eren is clearing his throat, "So, you like animals?"

Levi quirks a brow at the question, "Obviously." Eren gulps, and Levi is left feeling like he's unintentionally put an invisible wall between them with his shortness. Verbally speaking, that is. Taking a deep breath, Levi interrupts the unease with an uneven sigh, "I like animals a lot more than I like people." He crosses his arms over his chest, turning his head to look back out the tinted window.

"You're a cat person." Levi gaze briefly flickers over to Eren before he continues to watch the piles of snow pass them by. "Know how I can tell?" He huffs, fully turning towards the brunet, brow furrowed and arms still crossed. Levi probably isn't doing a very good job at being approachable, but he's not the one who offered to take a random stranger home. "Right here." Eren extends an arm across the median of the car, pressing his forefinger into the crease of Levi's brow. "You have that 'cat person' expression."

Levi's cheeks flush bright red as he playfully slaps away Eren's hand. "Watch the road, idiot." The asshole just chuckles as Levi goes back to staring out the window, scheming of the ways he can earn that pink blush from Eren. Because Levi Ackerman may do a lot of things, but pouting isn't one of them. Of course, he could probably just go for a crotch grab, but that seems like it will indefinitely lead to a sexual harassment charge. That's too forward for him, anyway. He's more of the silent but deadly type. Like a fart, Levi thinks.

Classy.

"Am I wrong?" Eren is side eyeing him again, that smirk making another appearance. Levi actually does roll his eyes this time.

"No," he mumbles, arms pulling tighter against his chest. Eren does that annoying laugh that has Levi's stomach filling with thousands of butterflies, and all he can do is bury himself further into the seat and try not to look too embarrassed. "And what about you? Shit money for a living?"

Finally, finally, Levi sees Eren's cheeks flare a faint pink. He counts it as a win in his book.

“What if I told you I robbed a bank? That I was running from the law in a car I stole from some old geezer down at the golf course?”

Levi tsks, “I wouldn’t believe you.”

Eren chuckles, fingers dragging down the sides of the steering wheel, "You'd be smart not to. I'm actually far less interesting." Levi doubts that. A man who not only owns a Porsche, but picks up random strangers has to be a little interesting. "Do you know Sina Corp?" The name sounds vaguely familiar, so Levi nods his head. "I work down there. Advertising executive extraordinaire." He probably should have expected something like that. It's not as if Eren could afford a Porsche working at a drive thru. It's at least more believable than Eren's runaway robber story. "Surprised?" Levi grunts, and Eren seems to understand that he's not. "It's actually not as fun as it probably seems. Dealing with nothing but asshole clients all day. Makes me want to throw myself off the roof of the building." A scoff flies across Levi's lips as he tries to relax in his seat. "But it does pay well, so I probably shouldn't complain, huh?"

"Probably," Levi says, fingers fiddling with the zipper of his jacket. Even with the seat warmers, there is still an underlying cold streaking down into the core of his bones. Like an incessant sickness that won't go away until spring decides to roll around. He shivers, eyes pinching shut as he tries to savor this last bit of heat. They're close to his street, and as much as Levi would like for Eren to drive him to the front door of his apartment complex, he's just not comfortable allowing the brunet to see just how shabby his place is. Call it pride, but Levi doesn't want to walk out of this car feeling completely like a charity case.

“So, you have a wife? Kids?” Levi notices how Eren swallows nervously, how his grip on the steering wheel tightens. He decides to make the brunet squirm for a few more seconds before clearing his throat.

“Would you’ve still given me a ride if I had a wife and kids?” His brow raises in silent question, and Eren suddenly turns to him, eyes jerking from his face to the road ahead.

“Of course I would have! I’m not… I’m not… you needed a ride, didn’t you?” Levi hums at the answer, watching Eren’s shoulders slowly relax and lose the tight tension. The man heaves a deep sigh, vision focusing back on the road as he starts, “I know you probably think I’m just some rich asshole, but I’m not. And I understand that my word means shit, but I’m not like the rest. I’m different.” Different. Levi’s lips slightly part, and he realizes that he has been staring unabashedly at Eren’s profile for several seconds now. And while it’s usually so hard for Levi to believe that there are decent people in this world with the shit he has been put through, he finds himself trusting Eren. Believing that the man is different. That the money is just some superficial symbol, nothing of true consequence in Eren’s mind.

“You’re rambling.” Levi enjoys the way Eren’s brows furrow, the way he sits just a little bit straighter in his seat. And, for the first time, Levi realizes that he has Eren under his thumb. Or rather, that he isn’t at the mercy of Hollywood smiles and slick pickup lines. At least not right now. He’s sure that will change, but for the time being, Levi is content to soak up the feeling of having the upper hand. “But if anyone should be asking the other about relationships, it really should be me. Wouldn’t want your trophy wife to impale me with her stilettos in my sleep.” Levi smirks at the outlandish expression that worms its way onto Eren’s face, all wide eyes and pink cheeks. This is definitely a win.

“I don’t have a trophy wife,” Eren hisses through his teeth, like the thought alone is absolutely disgusting to him. Levi would apologize, but Eren is the one who brought up spouses. He hears the brunet take a deep breath, “I’m unattached, I guess.”

And Levi can’t help the slight smile pulling at the corner of his lips. It’s crazy, the way his heart is beating so fast, so quickly over a man he only just met. He feels stupid, like this is some teenage girl’s fantasy that he will soon wake up from when his ass is kicked back out in the cold. And suddenly, Levi’s stomach is dropping at the thought. Not of being left to walk home in the snow, but of never seeing Eren again. To watch him drive away in a cloud of white dust. To leave Levi alone in his cardboard fairytale. It’s almost enough to catch his heart and yank it from his chest, but then he thinks about what kind of life Eren must live. The one of the rich and famous. One Levi has no business in. He’s just a poor soul from the wrong side of the streets. But that doesn’t earn him a spot in designer clothes and fancy cars.

Does it?

Eren looks like he is about to say something else, but Levi’s voice stops him as a familiar street sign pops up, “Stop here.” The brunet looks slightly baffled, but starts to slow the car down nonetheless. Levi grimaces as he sees the snow covered sidewalk, already feeling the chill seep past his thin layers. He really should start cutting back on his water bill and save for a decent coat. At least one that is not ten years old. Thank god he hasn’t grown since age fifteen. Pulling the jacket as tight as he can around himself, Levi reaches for the door handle, ready to just get this whole goodbye business over and done with.

But as soon as the car comes to a complete stop, Eren is grabbing ahold of his forearm. He turns, bangs swishing against his forehead as he takes in the man across from him, looking at him with this sense of desperation that only Levi could possibly understand. “Please, wait,” Eren breathes, gently releasing his grip and pulling away from Levi. He watches as Eren opens the driver side door, a gust of wind hitting the brunet directly in the face right as he steps outside. It’s almost comical, seeing Eren struggle against the heavy winds, but then Levi remembers that he will be facing them in a matter of seconds, and it suddenly doesn’t seem so funny.

Before he can prepare himself, the passenger side door is being pulled open and a hand is extended towards him. Levi takes it, immediately throwing himself in front of Eren’s body to avoid being hit by the winds. His teeth are already chattering, and as he looks up into those bright, green eyes, Levi can see that the other man is facing the same problem he is. Levi is about to just sidestep Eren, just going to mumble a quick thank you and be done with it.

But then Eren is pulling off his suit jacket, quickly throwing it over Levi’s shoulders.

He tries to start, but is quickly interrupted by a smiling Eren, “Don’t worry about it. Just give it back to me this Friday, huh?” And Levi isn’t sure what to say, still a little stunned at the jacket wrapped around his shoulders. However, he is quickly snapped out of his daze when he sees Eren start to wrap shaking arms around himself.

“Y-yes,” he says. And if Eren caught his stutter, then Levi will swear it was the cold. But that seems to be the last thing on the brunet’s mind, smile big and bright, a practical reincarnation of happiness. It’s enough to make that anxious throbbing in Levi’s gut completely dissipate into thin air.

“I’ll see you Friday then? Meet here at six?” Eren’s now rubbing vigorously at the sides of his arms, and Levi finds it cruel to make the man wait any longer for an answer. So, he just settles on nodding his head, smirking as Eren grins down at him one last time before heading back inside the Porsche.

Levi watches as Eren drives away, but with Eren’s jacket on his shoulders, he suddenly doesn’t feel so cold.

Chapter Text

It doesn't take Levi long to make his way back to the apartment complex, plastic bag in one hand, the other safely tucked away in the interior pocket of Eren's suit jacket. The snow has thankfully stopped falling and is now just left to sit in inconvenient piles alongside the road. Levi was able to sidestep most of them, only landing ankle deep when the entire sidewalk was covered. The walk back is definitely not as bad as he was thinking it would be, but that's probably because he was driven most of the way. And this stupidly warm jacket, Levi thinks. Yeah, that, too.

The stairs creak as Levi walks forward onto them, wary of the snow trodden steps that have obviously seen a lot of traffic despite the condition of the weather. He's only located on the second floor, and while that's a blessing today, it is usually a curse considering he is on the same level as his asshole landlord. Well, slumlord as Levi likes to call him. Truth be told, there are probably worse titles the bastard is worthy of, but Levi has neither the time nor effort to put towards finding a suitable name for the human toadstool.

He finally reaches the top of the stairs, turning to walk towards his apartment when Levi hears his name echoed out into the wind. "Ackerman!" Lithe shoulders turn slightly to spot the damnable landlord poking a balding head out the door. And he was so close to his apartment.

Levi sighs through his nose, eyes clenching shut as he opens his mouth, "Yes?" He's grinding his teeth, hoping that this won't be the time he finally snaps. He does have a date this Friday, after all.

"Don't think I didn't see you trying to sneak past me, you goddamned hoodrat!" Levi's brow twitches. "Rent was due yesterday, and like usual, I haven't seen a fucking penny from you." The bastard has stepped out onto the concrete now, clad in only a tacky robe and a pair of slippers. And Levi really just wants to tell the asshole that rent isn't technically due for another five days, but he has learned from past experiences that it isn't worth the breath to even attempt to argue with the lunatic. The only thing it lands Levi is a higher rental rate.

"I'll have it tomorrow," Levi mutters, even though that's not really going to happen considering he just spent the last of his savings on the shitty generic bread cradled in his plastic bag.

"I'll have it tomorrow," the landlord mocks with a squeaky voice, face morphing into an ugly scowl. "It's always tomorrow with you fucking people. I bet you're just shooting up my money on whatever shit you can find on the street, huh? The thanks I get for offering you a place to live." Levi turns away, digging in his pocket to find the keys to his apartment. The sooner he can get away from this nutcase the better. And even though his place doesn't have much to offer, at least it keeps him momentarily away from this asshole. "You don't get it to me by tomorrow, I'm calling the fucking cops. You hear me?" Levi waves a hand at the landlord as he finally unlocks the door, quietly shutting it behind himself.

He can still hear the muffled vocals of the angry man behind the door, but Levi ignores it, back scratching against the wood as he slowly slides down to the floor. He pulls his knees into his chest, left hand dropping the plastic bag beside himself in order to wrap thin arms around his legs. Levi stays like that until the shouts begin to fade, head falling backwards against the wooden door. His eyes pinch shut, brow furrowing as he tries to think of what he did to deserve this shit end of the stick. To the best of his knowledge, he's been a pretty decent human being, blunt and maybe a bit of an asshole, but a decent human being all and all. Perhaps it is because of the time he put sand in the playground bully's pants back in grade school. He thinks that's probably a long shot, but hey, maybe god is just extremely unforgiving. That kid totally deserved it, though.

Levi curls further into himself, and in the process, unintentionally buries his nose in Eren's jacket. It's way too big for him, and he felt a little ridiculous walking back swallowed in the thing, the sleeves of the jacket going way past his fingers. But it was warm - and Eren's - and that's all that matters. However, now, Levi is keeping it on for an entirely different reason.

Safe.

He feels safe wrapped in the expensive layers. Wrapped in Eren's scent. Something musky that smells almost woodland to Levi's nostrils. Pushing his face deeper into the collar of the jacket, Levi decides that it's distinctly masculine, and it makes his stomach flip with anticipation of meeting the man this Friday.

What an idiot he must look like right now.

But secluded in the confines of his shitty apartment, Levi doesn't care less how stupid he appears. Taking a deep breath, he pauses, allowing his cheek to softly nuzzle the collar as his fingers bundle up the inside of the sleeves. This is probably one of the most expensive things he's ever had his hands on, and for a brief second, Levi silently wonders how much he could get for it down at the pawn shop off Sina Avenue. The men working there are shady enough to not ask questions and would probably offer Levi enough money to make rent by tomorrow.

He sighs.

It's a tempting offer, but Levi can't ever see himself stooping down to that level. At least not to someone who has treated him as kindly as Eren, no matter what the man's intentions regarding Levi may be. He does actually have a set of morals, contrary to what society might believe.

Tired of moping, Levi slowly rises to his feet, worn tennis shoes dragging across the gaudy red carpet leading to the kitchen. It's not much, his apartment. Filled with only the bare essentials: a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and small living space. But the rent is within the realms of his budget. At least for now, Levi thinks.

The wallpaper is peeling off in the kitchen, but good riddance to that floral catastrophe. The cream colored drywall beneath the fraying paper is more appealing than the current pattern anyway. To be honest, if Levi had the money, he would love to redo this place. At least make it a little more livable. As it is, no one but broke and desperate would step foot inside, but here Levi is, leased with a practical ball and chain.

Walking over to the kitchen counter, Levi pulls the bread out from its plastic bag, immediately undoing the twisty tie sealing the loaf. He grabs a few slices and quickly rewraps the bread, placing it back on top of the counter before heading out towards the door. In the back of his mind, Levi is thankful that he didn't take off Eren's jacket considering he is heading directly back into the storm, give or take a few slices of bread.

Sliding his key back into the lock, Levi twists the handle, preparing himself for the steep breeze of cold air. It hits him just as expected, shuffling his dark fringe across his forehead as he starts to walk back down towards the steps. A ball of anxiety is swelling in his gut as the frost nips at the fabric of the coat, thinking that the cold may have wiped out what he's traveling down the stairs for. But they have survived worse, and Levi is almost positive that they will outlast this blizzard.

Finally reaching the bottom of the stairs, Levi heads towards the dumpster, a place he would usually never be within an arm's length of, but for the little monsters he's been unintentionally fostering for the past few months, he'd do practically anything.

Attracted by the sound of his footsteps, Levi spots a bright orange head poke out from behind the dumpster, followed by several more variations of color. They swarm him at once, brushing against his legs, all nonchalantly fighting for his attention. Meows fill the air, all directed towards Levi as tails begin to wrap around his legs. “Calm down, calm down,” he chuckles, bending down to stroke one of the cats as it nuzzles into his hand. “Now, who’s hungry?” A simultaneous cacophony of meows echos into the winter breeze, muted when Levi tosses the bread down to the ground. The cats are quick to jump onto the food, pulling it apart with their claws and teeth. There’s a layer of guilt that Levi feels for not being able to provide the feral cats with anything better than this generic bread, but he can hardly afford to feed himself, nonetheless a group of cats.

Suddenly, there's a pawing at his foot, and Levi looks down to see the runt of the bunch, a grey tabby he's plainly named Mittens. Her head nudges against his ankle, and Levi can't help but lean down to pick her up. The other cats aren't as friendly as Mittens, being feral and living on their own for such a long time. So, with the cat's friendliness came Levi's acceptance that Mittens was his unintentional favorite. Unintentional, because Levi doesn't think he should really be bonding this much with strays, but the look on Mittens' face demands love, and Levi is useless to resist.

"You've gotten so big," he murmurs, fingers stroking her fur as she purrs against his chest. "I saved you something." At that, her ears flick upwards, eyes following the path to Levi's hand only to see half of a bread slice inside his palm. Levi knows she isn't able to eat as much as the rest of the cats with her size, so he always makes an effort to save Mittens a little bit for herself.

She takes it eagerly in her mouth as Levi slowly lowers her back down to the ground, making sure to place her on the opposite side of the dumpster.

Taking steps backwards, Levi starts to walk once again towards the apartment building, leaving behind the feasting bunch and Mittens. It’s getting late, and this place isn’t necessarily the type one would want to be roaming at night.

As soon as he is behind his front door, Levi bolts it shut, heaving out a deep breath as his forehead falls forwards to rest against the wood. It’s been a day, that’s for sure. Thinking about it almost has his heart racing, his palms sweating. Thinking about Eren. The way he looked in that suit and- god, get your head out of the gutter, old man. Groaning, Levi lifts himself off the door, wanting to push his conscious to the deepest, darkest corners of his mind. He doesn’t want to think about if any of this - this date - is terrible and likely to end in a horrible bang. No, all he wants is to be covered in a lot more than just Eren’s jacket.

It’s problematic, Levi can agree with that much. At least in some way or another. But he silently swears to himself that he can have this one thing. That if all it ends in is a sloppy one night stand, he is totally fine with that. Actually, way more than fine, because he hasn’t had sex in what seems like years - probably has been - and he deserves this, dammit!

But what if it doesn’t end in sex, Levi thinks as he walks back into the kitchen to grab himself a slice of bread. What if it ends with a ‘relationship’? His nose wrinkles at the thought. It’s not that Levi isn’t a relationship person, it’s just that he’s sort of never been in one, and maybe the thought of being wined and dined by some suave bastard terrifies him deep inside. Maybe. Levi bites a chunk out of his bread. Okay, so what if it does? Some people are scared of spiders, Levi’s just terrified of long term relationships. Well, long term relationships with tall, dark, and extremely handsome. And rich. Extremely rich. Or so Levi assumes. Maybe he shouldn’t. Maybe Eren is living exactly like him and has only bought a Porsche to help himself believe that he’s worth more than a speck of dust in this cruel world.

Maybe.

And shit doesn’t stink, Levi laughs to himself.

Humor aside, this is actually a serious matter, and it’s at times like these that Levi wishes he had friends besides the local group of feral cats. And they only like me because I feed their fatasses, Levi thinks. That’s only mostly true, but he doesn’t think anyone would really consider animals as a reliable source for advice, anyways. At least the stray kinds.

Shuffling to his bedroom, Levi decides that he is going to risk it. That he is going to take a chance. Because, honestly, how much worse can his life get? It’s not like attending the date with Eren will make it anymore horrible. If anything, there is a likelihood that the brunet will make it something worth living. Levi dips his nose back into the collar of Eren’s jacket. This could just be the butterflies talking. Convincing him to go on mysterious dates with mysterious men. Or it could be the genuine sincerity he remembers flashing in Eren’s eyes.

His chest flutters again.

Yeah, maybe it’s that.

Chapter Text

There are several things Levi has done in his twenty-six years of life. Gotten ready for a date with a (probable) rich (definite) hunk isn't one of them. He's staring at the sparse clothing located in his single dresser drawer contemplating whether or not to throw himself off the top of the apartment complex now or later. There's hardly anything located inside that Levi would consider date worthy, unless Eren likes his partner for the evening to be sporting a work uniform.

"This is impossible," Levi mutters, eyes roving over the pile for what seems like the hundredth time. It's not like staring at the items are going to somehow make more appear, so he doesn't know why he hasn't already just accepted his fate as completely hopeless. Where's his fairy godmother when he needs one? Well, bippity boppity fuck his life, because Levi is pretty much guaranteed to look like something the cat dragged in tonight. Or vomited on the front porch.

Sighing, Levi tries one more time to shuffle the shirts in the hopes that something new will appear. And like magic, a flash of blue suddenly flashes across the corner of his eye. He's only used it once, a gift from Kenny when Kuchel died. Levi doesn't really find it very appropriate, wearing the shirt he adorned to his mother's funeral to a first date. Maybe tacky is the word for it.

He spends a good thirty seconds staring at the fabric before deciding that what Eren doesn't know won't kill him. Or get Levi dumped to the side of the road. Even though Eren doesn't seem that shallow. He'd at least drop Levi off at the corner before telling him to go back to the slums.

Levi sighs, but he still slides his arms through the sleeves of the dress shirt.

There's a worn but wearable pair of jeans placed on the bed. It's his best pair, even if the fabric is becoming a little thin. He hastily pulls them on, swearing under his breath as silvers dart to the clock on the wall that tells him that he has ten minutes before Eren is supposed to meet him at the corner. And Levi could strangle himself with all the time he spent trying to sort his outfit. He's not usually like this. So... nervous. Is that the word? Nervous? Well, there's definitely something swelling up in the pit of his stomach, but that could always just mean that he's due for a date with the toilet.

Levi prays it's the former.

Tugging on his tennis shoes, Levi quickly rounds the corner of the bedroom, making a fast stop in front of the bathroom mirror to ensure he doesn't look like he just rolled out of the dump. The shirt is a little wrinkled, but that's expected from something that has been shoved to the back of a drawer for multiple years. He runs a palm down the front, doing absolutely nothing but reassuring himself that his hand is, in fact, not an iron.

Taking a deep breath, Levi runs pale fingers through his hair one last time before walking out of the bathroom and towards the front door. There's a pounding in his chest, vibrating through his bones, getting louder which each forward step he takes. It's almost ridiculous, he thinks, to be this anxious. But then again, he’s never really done this whole date thing, so it’s probably completely normal to feel like your chest is about to explode.

Yeah, completely normal.

Passing the kitchen counter, he grabs the suit jacket that’s resting on top, wrapping it around his shoulders. It still smells like Eren, and that alone has Levi’s stomach fluttering. He pulls it tight around himself as soon as the front door is opened, a gust a cold wind hitting Levi directly in the face. His cheeks are already starting to paint a cherry red from the winter breeze, nose beginning to also turn a shade of pink. Levi’s teeth are clattering by the time he reaches the bottom of the stairs, and he silently starts to pray that Eren is bringing the Porsche with those incredible seat warmers.

Like a sign from above, Levi starts to make out a familiar black outline hiding against the white of the snow near the street corner. He has to grit his teeth in order to slow his pace, not wanting to appear too eager. Even it is cold as Jack Frost’s balls out here. Shoving his hands into the interior pockets of the jacket, Levi keeps his face muted in its usual bored expression, even as the sound of the front door opening reverberates through the chilly air.

Eren steps out, and Levi has to remind himself to breathe.

“Levi!” There’s a wide, warm smile pulling at the man’s cheeks, paired with a faint dust of red. Levi is wide-eyed as Eren sprints up to him, mouth slightly agape as he stands frozen. “Hi,” Eren says a little breathlessly. The brunet is still wearing that Hollywood smile, and Levi is finding it harder and harder to control the growing urge to dart back to his shit apartment and never come out. It’s just… overwhelming. Extremely so. Especially for someone like Levi whose only experience at dating was playing ‘check yes or no’ back in grade school. “You look-” Eren’s eyes run him up and down, “Nice. Really nice.” And Levi could scoff, but he’s pretty sure that Eren is actually being sincere. Even though he looks nowhere close to as put together as the man in front of him, freshly pressed suit, slicked back hair. Like a fucking movie star. Levi’s chest clenches.

He hums noncommittally, trying to dissipate the anxiety in his gut. But suddenly, there’s a hand pressing against the small of his back, and he pauses, looking up at Eren with a curious gaze.

Immediately, that hand is withdrawn and the man is taking a step backwards. “Ah, sorry. I…. shit, I’m not very good at this, am I?” Levi watches as Eren’s palm comes back to rub at the nape of his neck, those thick brows furrowing in embarrassment. “I don’t want to make you uncomfortable or-”

“It’s fine,” Levi cuts him off, eyes seeking out Eren’s with a new sense of confidence. Knowing that he has Eren nervous. It makes him feel good, powerful, in the weirdest meaning of the word. And the thought has him relaxing as he feels Eren’s palm slide back over his lower back as he is led to the passenger side. The brunet pulls the door open, fingertips dragging over the borrowed jacket as Levi steps into the car. It’s almost cinematic in the way this whole first date is happening, and Levi can’t really find it in himself to complain. He feels comfortable, and that’s not really the word Levi thought that he’d be using to describe today.

Safe.

His thoughts are interrupted when Eren slides into the car, Chesire grin back on his face as he eyes Levi over one more time. Levi pretends not to notice the way Eren licks his lips when he’s staring at him. It’s borderline pornographic, and if he’s being honest, Levi kind of likes the attention in a weird, craving sort of sense. This feeling of being wanted. It’s something he hasn’t felt in a long time, and it leaves him with a rush of adrenaline and excitement.

“I hope you like Italian,” Eren says as the Porsche starts to roll forwards. Levi doesn’t answer, more content on slowly sinking into the heated seat beneath him. “I’ll take that as a yes.” Eren’s chuckling now, and Levi thinks that he probably looks ridiculous in this monster of a jacket, allowing himself to be swallowed by expensive leather interior. But shame is the last thing Levi feels as he pulls the jacket tighter around himself.

Safe.


“I don’t even know how to pronounce half of this shit.” Levi was way off to think that Eren would be taking him somewhere like Olive Garden. Instead, they had arrived at some swanky restaurant that just oozed rich and privileged. Levi can't even remember the name, but it's not like he'd be able to say that correctly, either.

Eren is smiling into his glass of water, and Levi kind of feels like the man is probably being slightly condescending.

His cheeks flush red as he ducks behind the menu, eyes scanning the foreign words like he knows what any of it means. With Levi's luck, he'll end up ordering something that's still squirming on the plate.

"Need some help?" Levi lowers the menu only enough so that he can peek over the top. The man has his own closed and resting on top of the table. He answers by ducking back behind the menu, fingers gripping the sides just a little bit tighter. "I probably wouldn't be much help, though. This isn't really my thing." Levi drops the menu only to shoot Eren a raised eyebrow. "All this..." Eren's hands swirl around in the air, "Flair."

"Are you trying to impress me?" It's falling off Levi's lips before he can reign the words back in. Just as he goes to hide behind the menu for a third time, he hears that deep laugh echo out into the dining room.

"I don't know. Is it working?"

"Says the asshole that picked me up in a fucking Porsche." Eren laughs again, and Levi has to suck in his bottom lap.

"Was it that obvious?" Levi's eyebrow lifts again at the question, because while he really doesn't mind the extra effort Eren is going to, yeah, it was pretty obvious. But even though the fancy cars and five star restaurants are all impressive, Levi is way more intrigued by the genuine kindness that Eren has been showing him. That sincerity that Levi's often left without. It's definitely a nice change from the landlord always breathing down his neck. "You want to get out of here?" Levi's eyes widen. "I mean... oh god... I didn't mean... shit." Levi watches as Eren slouches back into his seat, acting far less suave than he looks. "I mean, do you want to go somewhere that doesn't make me feel like I'm drinking the tears of my enemies." Eren picks up the glass of water, hastily swishing around in its cup, and Levi can feel his lip twitch upwards.

"Thought your type liked that whole shit on your rivals kinda thing?"

"My type?" Levi feels like he might have unintentionally touched a nerve, but Eren's not acting offended enough for him to be able to actually tell one way or another.

So, Levi continues where he left off, elbows now resting on the table as he leans forward. “You heard me, Mr. CEO.”

“Advertising executive,” Eren corrects, brows slightly furrowed. He watches as the man sits up and starts to loosen his tie, slowly losing the appearance of an uptight multimillionaire. “Still up for Italian?” Eren is already standing and extending a hand out for him to take by the time the question is asked. It seems to leave no room for arguments, so Levi simply reaches out and lets Eren wrap a tanned palm around his hand.


They end up sitting in the back of some cheap pizza joint, crammed into a plastic booth. Eren looks painfully out of place, but Levi guesses this is sort of like retribution for the bastard deciding to take him to a high town restaurant while he’s dressed in a pair of blue jeans. There’s muffled 70’s rock crackling through the speakers, and he can see Eren quietly tapping his fingers against the chipped table in front of them. And before Levi can dismiss the image, he thinks that the music might actually be from Eren’s era. He hasn’t really put much thought into how old Eren might be, but the idea of the man being older doesn’t exactly bother Levi like he thought it would.

Excites him.

Levi twists in his seat.

He clears his throat, effectively halting Eren’s drumming solo. “So,” Levi tries to start, eyes focusing on the hollow of the man’s throat. He has to resist the urge of licking his lips, because Levi swears that he has been out of the whole ‘always horny’ phase for a few years now. It’s just taken a certain rich bastard to remind him of that old teenage libido. “How long until you’re shitting in a diaper?”

Suddenly, Eren is coughing, hand flying over his mouth as he looks incredulously over at Levi. “Is that your roundabout way of asking me how old I am?” Levi simply shrugs. “Thirty-four. I still have a few more years before I go senile.” He feels Eren bump his shoulder, the only intimacy in the place being the current booth the pair is squished into. Their thighs are brushing together, and suddenly Levi feels all too aware of the closeness. Like he hasn't really noticed how near they were to each other until now. The thought has his cheeks painting in a light pink and his eyes looking anywhere but at Eren. "And what about you?" Eren bumps his shoulder again, "Am a now a certifiable cradle robber?"

Levi scoffs, rolling his eyes as he looks back up at Eren, "Twenty-six, you old fart." The man throws a hand over his heart in mock hurt, face cringing at Levi's words.

"Harsh." Eren doesn't seem to dwell on the insult long, though, because soon, the man is reaching across the table to grab himself a slice of greasy pepperoni pizza. Levi just stares as Eren extends an arm out towards the plate, forearms toned and tanned, and shit, Levi, take a fucking breath. He sucks in harshly through his nose, catching Eren's attention. "Do you want a piece?"

“Why are you doing this?” Levi abruptly asks. The question has been hanging in the back of his mind for a while now. Ever since Eren first offered him a ride. And he just knows that none of this will ever feel completely right if he doesn't get an answer.

Levi is expecting a stuttering reply, something of the sort that allows Eren to apologize for offending him in whichever way possible. But instead, what he gets is a haunting stare that burns straight through him. “You piqued my interest.” He swallows hard, feeling his chest clench as Eren’s thigh nudges against his own. “That the answer you were looking for?” Eren is still looking at him like the man wants nothing more than to take Levi apart only to put him back together again.

And Levi’s just sitting there, mouth slightly agape as he glances up at Eren. It almost makes him forget that they are in the back of some shady pizza joint. He feels fingers begin to trail down the seam at the side of his jeans, and Levi wonders when Eren built up the courage to start pulling moves like this. That maybe the man’s had it all along, and for some reason, that just makes Levi feel even more flustered than he already does. However, Levi is still trying to play it off as if his gut isn’t starting to boil with arousal, simply humming as an answer to Eren’s question. And if the brunet notices Levi’s diversion, he doesn’t say anything, merely chuckling as he pulls away from Levi.

“You’re an asshole,” he murmurs, reaching for a slice of pizza. Even though the place is a dump, he is hungry, and well, Eren’s paying. All Levi receives back for the jab is a bright smile, full of teeth, and a nudge to the shoulder. There’s only a couple of pieces left, and the pair finish them quickly, Eren leaving a twenty on the table to cover the bill. He jolts slightly when Eren rests a hand on the small of his back once again, but this time, instead of asking for apologies, Eren simply begins to trace the outline of Levi’s spine through the suit jacket. It sends chills throughout his body, and he has half a mind to stop walking and tell Eren to fuck off, but the touch leaves him feeling pampered, wanted. And Levi fucking loves it.

They stroll out into the winter breeze, Levi being pulled close to Eren’s side as they approach the man’s Porsche. He feels like this might be the part where he tells Eren about what a great time he had tonight, but Levi settles for just silently leans into the man’s touch as they walk forwards.

The car ride back is fairly uneventful and quiet, the pair just soaking up each other’s company. Levi is more than alright with this considering the fantastic conversationalist he is. But once they reach the street corner, Eren turns towards him, brows furrowed, and Levi can already tell that he isn’t going to like what is going to come out of the brunet’s mouth.

“I’d feel a lot better if I could drop you off at your apartment.” A beat passes before Eren’s continuing, “I’d just like to know you made it in okay is what I mean.” Levi sucks in his bottom lip and looks out the window. It has started to snow once again, the sidewalk covered in the sheen of white. He glances back over to Eren, only to find the man staring back at him pleadingly. And it’s a gaze that isn’t asking for anything more than a verbal goodbye, that is truly concerned about Levi’s well-being. And he can appreciate that.

“Sure,” he mutters into the collar of Eren’s suit jacket. The brunet gives Levi another smile and silently takes the directions. It’s a quick ride, no more than a couple of minutes before they are pulling up to Levi’s crumbling apartment building. There’s a couple of shady characters leaning against the brick wall, and Levi can see Eren narrowing his eyes at them as the man moves to get out of the car. The unsaid protection has his gut twisting again, and he thinks that if he’s going to get back back to his apartment with his morals intact that he has to leave now.

He reaches down to pull open the door handle, but the door is already opening with Eren on the other side. When he steps out of the car, Levi mumbles a quick thank you before sidestepping Eren. But suddenly, Eren’s hand is grabbing onto his forearm. “Wait, don’t go yet, please.” There’s a certain yearning in the brunet’s voice that has Levi turning back around, and that’s probably a terrible, horrible mistake, but he's blaming his reappearing teenage libido. “I had a great time tonight.” Eren smiles at him again, eyes crinkling as the man’s cheeks stretch. “And I was wondering if I could maybe see you again.” Levi’s breath hitches, and he immediately feels the butterflies start to rage inside his chest.

There’s that ever growing fear inside of him that is also bubbling up. The one that’s terrified of being in anything close to a relationship. Because this obviously isn’t going to just end in a one night stand. Eren’s intentions have made that clear enough. And it excites him almost as much as it horrifies him. To think about being wrapped around the arm of this man. God, didn’t Levi tell himself that he was going to go through with this, no matter what the this might be? That he was going to do this one thing for himself? So, before he has time to think twice, Levi is stuttering out an answer, “Y-yes… I… yeah… okay.” And he could just set himself on fire.

But Levi’s sort of glad that he doesn’t, because Eren obviously finds his awkwardness attractive. “Great,” that million dollar smile is back on the man’s lips, “I’ll call you.” Levi watches as Eren fishes a phone from his suit jacket, “Just need your number.”

Levi guesses that he could give Eren the number of the apartment complex, considering he doesn’t own a phone, but that could lead to so many terrible things that all seem to circle around his landlord from Hell. Breathing harshly through his nose, Levi mumbles, “I don’t have a phone.” It’s embarrassing to admit, but he figures that it’s best to get out in the open how insanely lacking Levi is before Eren starts something serious with him. He’s almost afraid of Eren’s response, considering the man probably had no clue that Levi was that poor.

But instead of belittlement, Eren just places a warm hand on his shoulder, “I’ll take care of it.” And Levi is just standing there, brows furrowed, suspicion painting his face.

“Is that your roundabout way of asking to be my sugar daddy?”

Eren doesn’t even look surprised.

“I guess so.” The brunet winks at him, hand sliding off his shoulder and down his arm as the man walks away. “I’ll meet you here tomorrow, same time if that works for you?” Levi is capable of doing nothing but nodding, eyes following Eren’s smirk as the man steps back into his car. “Goodnight, Levi,” Eren says, tone sultry and wanting and just enough to provide Levi with enough wet dream material for the next few years.

“Goodnight,” he whispers as the Porsche drives off into the distance.

Chapter Text

Paws for a Cause is nothing fancy. A simple hole in the wall animal shelter that no one ever seems to really bat an eye at. Which has always been fine and dandy for Levi, considering his reputation for conversation. Today, however, has been fairly eventful. A range of new faces passing into the store looking to pick up a pet. Levi blames it on the influx of holiday cash many patrons probably acquired last month, the Christmas lights still hanging unlit from the animal shelter itself.

This just gives Levi another reason to hate the holiday season, with its greed and gluttony (and not because his birthday just happens to fall in somewhere along those lines). And also with impulse. Which is probably why so many animals have went to new homes today. Levi’s never sure whether this angers or excites him, seeing an animal he has cared for over the past few months be taken away by a family who may or may not understand the full repercussions of purchasing a pet. Sure, he knows that some - many - of the animals probably go to decent homes, but there is always this underlying feeling of protection that surges through his chest at the thought of any of these animals being tossed away yet again. Maybe he is too protective, but the creatures are the closest thing he can call a family. Well, besides the owner of course. Eileen, headstrong, old, and way too generous. At least to Levi. God knows she can’t afford to pay him, but somehow he still ends the week with a paycheck - meager, but it’s money, something earned while keeping his dignity intact at that.

“You’re brooding,” she starts, wrinkled brow furrowing, “More than usual.” He offers her an unimpressed glare before going back to contemplating the consequences of taking all of the animals home with him. He’s balanced caring for a group of strays all this time, what’s a dozen dogs and cats? An eviction notice, that’s what, Levi. “I know it’s hard. I love them all, too.” He’s being immature, he knows this, but Levi still doesn’t want to accept the fact by looking into those mother hen eyes. He’ll be doomed for sure.

Levi hums, fingers drumming on a chipped countertop as he feels her nudge his shoulder. He looks up at that, slightly startled even though he really should have expected some kind of sentimental mothering from the woman. “I’m fine,” he mutters, watching as she lifts a knowing brow. Doomed for sure.

“You’re not.” Levi thinks it’s something that probably comes with age, this ability to just make people tell you all their dirty little secrets. And for a moment, Eren comes to his mind, but Levi quickly remembers that Eileen is probably twice the age of the dashing CEO - advertising executive, Levi mentally corrects. “And for some reason, I don’t think it’s just the shelter that’s bothering you.” Fucking witchcraft. No wonder Salem was such a big deal.

He grunts, because like hell if he is going to start confessing all of his woes to this woman. Not that he doesn’t respect her enough to, god there’s no one he respects more. But there’s a matter of pride involved with telling your elderly boss that you might have just landed yourself a sugar daddy. Hell, he’s blushing just thinking about it.

And anyway, it’s not like that is actually bothering him. Having a sugar daddy that is. Levi swallows.

“Is it rent?” Her voice takes a softer edge, knowing how difficult the subject is to breech with Levi. And it is - partially - the rent, among other things tall, dark, and richer than god knows what. Eileen huffs, and Levi can already sense that she is trying to pull that maternal bullshit on him. It works like a fucking charm.

“No,” he says, stubbornly with a tight jaw. Eileen clears her throat. “Possibly.” She narrows her eyes behind the thick rims of her glasses, and Levi has to bite back a groan. “I’m taking care of it.” Levi's pretty sure that he knows what’s coming next. No, this is Eileen, of course he knows what’s coming next.

“I have a little-”

“No,” he interrupts, disregarding the way her jaw goes stiff. She’s probably thinking of a way to get him to accept the extra earnings, but they have both been through this so many times; and out of all the battles he allows her to win, this can never be one of them. The poor woman is already barely making ends meet as it is, the shelter being her only source of income, the rest being smothered years ago by a dying husband and incessant medical bills. “I’m taking care of it,” he repeats, and she thankfully backs down.

He watches her face fall out of the corner of his eye, bites the inside of his cheek at the thought that he has upset her. But taking money - her money - is out of the question. And he can’t afford to feel guilty about it. Well, he can’t actually afford a lot of things.

“It’s... ” he tries to start, grabbing Eileen’s attention again as he attempts to find a word to describe Eren that isn’t sugar daddy. That just seems tactless, even though he isn’t exactly the poster child for choosing his words carefully. “I’ve found someone... older.” Her eyes widen.

“Levi.” He takes a deep breath. “Are you trying to tell me you’ve found a-” she looks around before dropping her voice to a concerned whisper, “Sugar daddy?” He cringes, and that is all the ammunition she needs. A sharp intake of breath breaks the tense silence, Levi doing his best to just keep his eyes averted and away from the questioning woman. It’s not that he doesn’t appreciate everything Eileen has done for him, but she is similar to a bear protecting her cubs, especially concerning Levi. He blames it on the fact that she has no children and has, in a sense, fostered him for the past few years. “Levi, I-”

“I know you think it’s a bad idea,” he interrupts her, sighing as his shoulders start to slump forwards. “But I know what I’m doing.” Levi sees her mouth open to protest, and he quickly cuts her off again, “And he’s not that much older.”

“That depends on what you define as older. For example, does he still have all of his teeth or-”

“Jesus fuck, Eileen.” She doesn’t look offended, but curious, as if what she was inferring could actually be used to describe Eren. Sometimes he can’t believe this woman. “Eight years.”

Levi watches as her body sags with relief, and he can’t help the slight pull at the corner of his lips. She really does care too much for someone like him.

“Thank god,” Eileen mutters as she begins to walk away from the counter. Probably going to make sure none of the multiple children on site are trying to unleash the animals from their pens.

A shiver travels down his spine at the memory of the last time that happened. It was a long day, both of them sheened with sweat from the several hours they spent rounding up the animals. The experience is definitely something he would never like to relive, and he’s almost positive Eileen feels the same. He’s about to start cleaning the front, mud and gunk being tracked in the front entrance with the stampede of brats, when Levi hears his name being called out.

He turns to see Eileen standing casually by the door that leads to the back, arms crossed against her chest. She’s about to say something maternal; he can feel it. “Stay safe.” His mouth opens, but she is beating him to the punch, “Please.”

And as he stands there, thin-lipped smile still present on his face, Levi tells her the one thing he knows will soothe any of her worries.

“I will.”

 


 

Levi is leaning against the sidewall of the apartment complex when he sees the lights of the Porsche flash over the hill. Something inside of him burns at the thought, at the anticipation. Foolish is probably a good word to describe it, but Levi can’t find it in himself to give a shit as his bottom lip wedges itself between his teeth. Levi has never considered himself seductive by any means of the word, but for some reason when Levi thinks of the older man, he’s biting his lip, cocking a hip, probably looking like a hooker working the corner. Wanting to be wanted. And it feels fucking fantastic.

The engine revs as it approaches Levi, all smoke and dazzle. Levi’s almost tempted to question Eren’s age. But he decides to save the question for a rainy day, rather focusing on trying not to look like some star struck idiot as he watches the Porsche slow to a stop.

Sucking in a deep breath, Levi lifts his shoulders off the wall, shoves slightly shaking hands into deep pockets for good measure. God knows what Eren would think if he knew how anxious Levi truly felt. And for not the first time in his life, Levi is silently thanking his ability to pull off the emotional appearance of a mall mannequin.

But all the stoicism evaporates the moment Eren steps out of the Porsche.

“Damn,” Levi whispers under his breath, eyes widening slightly as the man steps over onto the sidewalk. Dark hair slicked back, dressed casually with a baby blue shirt rolled up at the sleeves. Eren looks like every single one of Levi’s wet dreams wrapped up into one delicious package. The air has practically waltzed right out of his lungs, watching the way Eren sways so nonchalantly over the edge of the sidewalk. Levi should probably do something like move, but he finds himself frozen, back ramrod straight, hands balling into fists in his pockets. Well, if anything, he is actually doing a pretty good job of perfecting the whole mannequin thing.

“Hey,” Eren smiles, voice silk and velvet in the breeze. Levi’s mouth suddenly feels very dry, and it’s all he can do to nod his head in acknowledgement. Eren’s head cocks to the side in obvious amusement, and Levi suddenly has the urge to run back and lock himself in his apartment for the rest of eternity. However, Eren obviously finds his awkwardness endearing, that smile not fading from those inviting lips. So, he simply stands there, bottom lip sucked in between his teeth, palms sweating beneath the concealment of the fabric. Doesn’t move as Eren takes a bold step forward, the man’s hand simultaneously digging in the back pocket of sinfully tight blue jeans. His eyes follow the movement as the man tugs out a thin object, immediately extending it out towards Levi. “You said you didn’t have a phone, right?”

Something in the pit of his stomach clenches, and Levi can’t help but allow his mouth to drop open in surprise. It’s not that he doubted that Eren would actually buy him a phone. It’s more like no one besides his boss has ever really seen fit to offer a helping hand to Levi’s financial situation. If anything, most people punish him for it. Mocking jeers, disgusted faces, cruel whispers. He’s been through it all. So, when he sees the gleam of the phone shine in the streetlights, he almost can’t believe any of this is real.

“I hope you don’t mind, but I added you to my plan,” That beautiful smile reappears on Eren’s face, and Levi’s heart may or may not start echoing inside of his chest. “I’ve got the bill covered, of course.” He sees the grin taper off into a tight lipped smirk and finally extends a hand out to take the phone.

It feels heavy in his hands but fragile at the same time, and he is almost terrified that any moment the thing will shatter into a million pieces in his grip.

“I don’t know if you realize it or not,” Levi glances up to see Eren staring fondly down at him, “But you’re really fucking endearing.” And just like that, he lights up a bright shade of red, cheeks practically flaming beneath Eren’s stare. Endearing. Levi sure as shit has never been called anything close to that. But he likes the word. At least likes when Eren calls him it. There’s a soft chuckle and then Eren is running a hand across his shoulder.

For some reason, Levi decided to wear the man’s jacket again. Like a habit he didn’t want to stop, even though it would only mark the third time he’s donned it. Levi silently wonders if Eren realizes… well, realizes the sentiment behind it. Not just the warmth the jacket provides, but the deeper meaning. The one that Levi keeps coming back to every time he sees the thing hanging alone in his closet. That makes his chest hurt, heart flutter. Levi guesses that kindness is probably the word. But then again, maybe Eren doesn’t realize it. Doesn’t know how much the small act has impacted Levi’s world. He supposes that’s another thing he’ll have to save for a rainy day.

“Shut up,” Levi mumbles, cheeks still a brilliant pink. It has no force behind it, and Levi suspects that Eren knows this if the way the man grips his shoulder is any indication. A chill runs down his spine as Eren’s thumb strokes over the jacket, and for a split second, Levi sees a flash of something elicit hint in those deep, green eyes. Something that confirms to Levi that as much as he wants to be wanted, Eren wants to want him. And that alone is enough to almost have his knees shaking.

“So, I was –”

“Hey!” That voice makes Levi’s blood curl up in his veins and freeze. Makes him want to shrivel deep into some forgotten hole. “I know you hear me, you fucking gutter scum!” He grits his teeth, trying to keep his composure. Levi can’t afford many things and an assault charge is definitely one of them. “Oi, you no good piece of shit, I’m talking to you!” The man’s voice gets closer, and Levi knows that if he is going to escape this situation with his record intact, they need to leave now.

He looks up at Eren, ready to demand departure, but what Levi sees has his eyes widening. Fists wound tight, teeth clenched even tighter, Eren looks almost feral. It’s a face Levi has never witnessed – never thought was possible. Sure, Levi has seen the man tear down a bitchy cashier, but this is something different. And like hell if it doesn’t shoot a bolt of arousal straight into Levi’s veins.

“Who is he?” Eren’s voice sounds strained, pulled tight and about to snap. 

Protective.

Over him.

“Levi.” There’s an aggression in the man’s tone, a dominance that has Levi’s breath hitching like some doe-eyed schoolgirl. This must be what it feels like, Levi thinks – what it feels like to have someone protecting you. A savior. And Eren is his.

“So, this is how you earn your money, huh? Can’t say I’m surprised.” And just like that the wall crumbles, and Levi is left exposed. He turns around, getting an eyeful of that god awful robe before his eyes finally settle on his landlord’s sneering mug. “A fucking whore. I should have guessed.” The word makes his blood boil, makes him see red until that assault charge doesn’t really sound that bad. He’s definitely been through worse.

“Shut your fucking mouth.” Eren’s voice echoes in the air, full of rage and anger. So thick with craze that Levi is almost scared that the man is going to do something rash in his defense. That’s something he couldn’t accept, though. To have Eren ruin a part of his own life in Levi’s defense. If anyone should take a fall, let it be him, the one who has nothing to lose.

A stark laugh bellows out into the air, “You’re defending him? I know he doesn’t suck your dick that good.” Levi sees Eren take a step forward, but he doesn’t let the man get far, hand wrapping around Eren’s arm to tug him back. The consequences aren’t worth it. At least that is what Levi tells himself as Eren starts to subtly shake with anger in his grip.

“Who do you think you are?” Levi can hear the growl in Eren’s voice, and he has to swallow down the lump developing in the middle of his throat.

“I’m this worthless shit’s landlord. And he owes me rent.”

“How much?”

Wait, what?

Levi’s grip on Eren’s arm falters, fingers falling away to the wayside as he furrows his brows at the man. This… this is too much, Levi thinks. Especially for someone like him. Someone Eren hardly knows. And it’s not that he doesn’t appreciate the gesture – god, there’s almost nothing he’s probably appreciated more – but this isn’t real. Can’t be real. He really should just pinch himself and get it over with.

“Four hundred,” the landlord smirks, dirty and devious. This fucking bastard, Levi thinks, opening his mouth to correct the asshole, considering that’s double what he owes. But Eren doesn’t give him a chance, pulling out his checkbook and signing the slip before handing it over to the man. All that the landlord gives in return is a nod along with a fucking grin that Levi would like nothing more than to wipe off as he shuffles away back to the complex. It’s not poetic justice by any means, and it just reminds him how cruel the world can be.

“I’m sorry.” It’s a quiet whisper that Levi can barely make out, even in the silence of the night. “God, I’m sorry.” Eren isn’t looking at him, but at the ground, previously clenched fists hanging loosely at his side. “That wasn’t my place. It wasn’t…” The man pauses, and Levi watches as he turns away to run fingers through his hair. Levi feels helpless for not the first time today, seeing Eren beat himself up over something that was out of his control. “I had no idea. I had no idea.”

This is probably the shittiest second date in existence, but if there is a positive to come out of this, at least his rent is paid.

“Eren.” He tries to hide the quiver in his voice, but it’s still there. Still hanging in the air. “Thank you.” Levi doesn’t know what else to say besides appreciation. He’s shit with words, and to be honest, Levi knows any attempt he makes to soothe things over will probably fall short – no pun intended.

When Eren finally turns back around, there’s a sad smile pulling at his lips, and Levi suddenly has this urge to make everything seem alright. To make this life appear brilliant and amazing, like he’s sure Eren’s is. Filled with fancy cars and fancier suits. But reality is a bitch, and Levi supposes that it was only a matter of time before it smacked Eren.

A hand suddenly is reaching up towards him, fingers feather light against his cheek. “You’re so strong, Levi.” He looks up into that sad gaze, goosebumps tickling his skin as Eren’s thumb traces down his face. “I’m going to get you out of here, okay?” It’s a promise that seems to hold a lot of weight, marked by a pleading glance and a subtle touch. And even though he shouldn’t smile, a tight lipped grin begins to tug at the corner of his mouth. Because he’s happy.

For the first time in a long time, he feels happy.

Chapter Text

Levi doesn’t say much as Eren drives down the busy, city streets. Doesn’t feel like there is more he actually can say at this point. ‘Thank you’ seemed like enough.

So, instead he sits impatiently in the heated, leather seat, waiting for Eren to do something besides stare out into the flood of incoming headlights. But the only thing the man seems to be capable of doing is tapping his thumb against the steering wheel of the Porsche and chewing on his bottom lip – which is causing all of the butterflies bundled inside of Levi’s chest to burst wildly, by the way.

He feels a little bit out of league; well, that is the understatement of the century though, isn’t it? Feels like maybe ‘thank you’ isn’t enough. That maybe Eren was expecting a lot more than a subtle smile and flushed cheeks. That maybe Eren isn’t the perfect Prince Charming Levi wanted him to be. But he’s probably getting ahead of himself. Has to be, considering if Eren wasn’t happy with Levi’s appreciation then the man would have probably left him stranded on the sidewalk. God, he’s a fucking idiot.

“You okay over there?” Eren’s glancing at him out of the corner of his eye – and Levi’s glad that the brunet has taken his advice on keeping both eyes on the road, the idiot. But he starts, not really expecting anything but rhythmic drumming from Eren for the remainder of the car ride. Nodding, Levi tries to brush off the picked up beat of his heart, now taking the initiative to watch the figures blur outside the window.

He doesn’t know how to do this – any of this – and is absolutely fucking terrified that he’s doing it all wrong. Granted, there probably isn’t a right way to do… whatever it is they are doing. But Levi still has this doubt buried deep beneath the concaves of his chest. That he’ll do something stupid and all of this… this will go to complete shit. At least, Levi feels like that’s how this will end.

Eren sighs, loud and heavy – and god, maybe he’s already fucked it up. Any second now, Eren is– “Your landlord is an asshole, just FYI.” Well, that’s not exactly what he expected to fall off Eren’s lips, but he can’t say he’s necessarily surprised.

“I know,” he murmurs, voice catching behind the collar of Eren’s jacket. And Eren laughs, causing this pressure to bubble up behind Levi’s heart, light and carefree. Pulsing beneath his skin like a constant reminder of how this man is making him feel. It’s pretty infuriating if Levi is being completely honest, and he kind of wants to show the bastard next to him exactly how he’s feeling. Wants to climb over into Eren’s lap, press his lips against the others, and really show the man how terrifying it is to feel this way. But he doesn’t do any of those things. Merely watches Eren’s grin fade away into a small version of itself on the man’s face.

“Fuck that guy,” Eren says, smirk still playing at the corners of his mouth. Levi really wishes that he had to courage to show him. “I don’t know what was worse: the robe or his smell.” Levi thinks that it is definitely the robe, but doesn’t say anything – lets Eren continue to ramble about how big of a shithead his landlord is (that guy probably runs stop signs and sits with his dick out on Omegle). And in a weird way as Eren rants, Levi feels better. Like the man is saying everything he’s never spoken aloud – not that he wouldn’t, it is just who would he have said it to? Mittens? The only thing he would have gotten in return is a confused meow. But regardless, it feels a little bit like liberation to hear Eren bash the asshole.

“You know, I really meant it, too.” That grin is still there, but Eren’s voice sounds different, deeper and serious in a way that only softly borders the way Levi had heard it when Eren had spoken to his landlord. “I want to get you out of there.”

Oh.

That.

Levi’s throat suddenly feels very tight, not like he’s struggling to breathe – more like struggling with what to say. Words, air, practically the same thing though. Both are seemingly always swept away from him when in close proximity to Eren.

“Unless I’m reading that all wrong?”

Levi doesn’t even wait a beat.

“No!” A pause. “I mean, no. No. You’re not.” Well, if you didn’t seem desperate before then you sure do now, Ackerman. However, Eren doesn’t seem to be put off, at least that’s what Levi is assuming when the man just reaches over across the console and gently places his hand on top of Levi’s.

“Good,” Eren says, and Levi doesn’t miss the quick squeeze his hand is given. 


“I thought this was a good in between from the last time.” It’s a nice place, obviously hometown grown and not costing an arm and leg to just sit at the tables. At least Levi had been able to actually pronounce the menu items this time. “It doesn’t seem too complicated to work, does it?” Levi looks up from the list of different burgers to spot Eren glancing at the new phone sitting face up on the table beside Levi’s elbow. He hadn’t even tried to mess with the device, not wanting to appear like a conceited asshole when he had something much better to focus his attentions on.

“Shouldn’t I be the one asking you that, old man?” Levi smirks, watching as Eren feigns hurt with a dramatic display of a hand over his heart.

“Ouch, give me a little credit.” He simply goes back to browsing the menu items, trying his best to ignore the pout blooming on Eren’s face. Really, a man of his age shouldn’t look that adorable while acting like a teenager. Levi thinks it is really unfair. “I went ahead and put my number in it… along with something else.” Levi peeks over the menu.

This sly bastard.

Narrowing his eyes and without breaking Eren’s gaze, Levi reaches out to the side for the phone. He only looks away from that burning stare when the LED screen flashes brightly. And all at once, Levi has a million emotions run through his body. Many of them being arousal. Okay, all of them being arousal… and maybe a little bit of embarrassment, but even so, it’s not enough to take his eyes away from the image in front of him.

A sly bastard, indeed.

Plastered across his phone’s background is the picture that will definitely be frequenting him and his right hand. Eren. Well, to be precise, Eren shirtless. And Levi knew Eren had to be built beneath the fancy suits and designer shirts. But this. This. He was not expecting Mr. Advertising Executive to be fucking stacked. And he’d call bullshit – actually no, he’d call Eren fucking weird, because who would put a picture of a random guy’s body as their screensaver – but even through the shitty phone camera quality, Levi can make out Eren’s face. The man is making some expression that’s probably supposed to be sexy, and Levi swears if this were anyone else, he’d be totally unimpressed. But this is Eren. And goddamn Eren is sexy.

His eyes are following the dark line of body hair trailing from Eren’s navel when the photo cuts off, and Levi doesn’t think he has ever felt more sexually frustrated.

He can tell Eren is grinning without even looking at the man. He’s actually not sure if he could look at Eren after seeing that, knowing what lies underneath those layers. Nope, ducking behind the menu seems like a much better plan.

“What, is it too much?” Eren laughs.

“You set a shirtless picture of yourself as my background, and you are asking me if it was too much?” Levi cocks a thin brow, trying to size up the man in front of him. Which is obviously much easier said than done. Levi’s always thought that he could read people fairly well. It’s not very hard to figure out people’s intentions on his side of town, after all. But Eren is different. Levi doesn’t know what to think of the laugh lines creasing Eren’s skin, of the way those bright eyes seem to just take him apart, bit by bit.

“Feel free to change it if you want,” Eren says, wiping the mirth from his eyes, “I couldn’t resist making you blush. It’s quite adorable, you know?” Oh god, is that what he’s been doing? His hand instinctually moves to cover his face, only reigniting Eren’s laughter. “No! No! Don’t hide it!” Suddenly, hands are on his own, gently pulling away the barrier protecting him from this sneaky, beautiful, sly bastard.

And then Eren’s looking at him, really looking at him like he is something so absolute and fragile, those hands a light warmth over his skin now. The laughter leaves the air, and suddenly, it’s just Levi trying not to fidget uncomfortably underneath that brazen stare. The only thing remaining, a subtle smile that is telling him there is nothing to be ashamed of. Thumbs now rubbing circles into his goose-bumped flesh. It all seems so very surreal, and Levi is not sure if he should actually believe that any of this is happening. To think that he could possibly find someone in this shitty world who looked at him like this.

“You’re beautiful, Levi.”

He doesn’t care if the blush stains his entire exterior a flushed red, doesn’t care how incredibly embarrassing it probably should be to hear such hushed declarations from someone he’s only known for such a short period of time. Levi just knows that this feels right, sitting here in this restaurant with this man on this night. It feels right.

It feels right.


 

The wind is cold against his face, even if Eren’s jacket is picking up most of the breeze. Temperatures had steadily dropped into the night, and now as the moon shines brightly up in the middle of the sky, Levi feels as if his balls might freeze and fall off. His teeth are quietly clacking together, nose a rosy red as he stands at the entrance to the stairs leading to his apartment.

Eren seems to not be faring any better, thick, dark hair windswept across his bronzed skin, hands stuffed deep into the pockets of his jacket. Levi knows he should probably do something like thank Eren for the amazing night, let the man get back to his heated leather seats before both of them come down with a pneumonia. But as selfish as it seems, Levi really doesn’t want to go back to living that life up in his decrepit apartment. Wants to make this night last as long as it can before he is forced back into reality. Wants to be able to–

There’s suddenly a hand on his chin, and Levi has no idea what is going on. Just lets his eyes trail upwards until they are locked on Eren’s stare. The man feels very close, and he guesses that’s because Eren is pretty fucking close to him right now. Well, conserving body heat and all, right?

But then that hand moves, and something warm starts to drag over his bottom lip – a thumb, he figures out, Eren’s thumb to be accurate. And god, he might be confused, but it’s a wonderful feeling. Staring up at Eren, bodies pressed close.

“Your lips are starting to turn blue.” Levi has a great idea of how Eren could warm them up, but saying it out loud seems way too cheesy. However, Eren might have the same train of thought as Levi, because he’s leaning closer and closer and– “I really want to kiss you right now.” Whispered across his lips, bright, green eyes burning into his gaze.

He slightly nods his head. “Y-yes.”

And then that heated breath is replaced by a soft, gentle press of lips on his own. Eyes slip shut, and Levi just lets himself be pulled into whatever Eren is, all smooth and wonderful. His face is tilted by the grip the man still has on his chin, angling their mouths until they slot together in an awkward jumble. It’s clumsy and uncoordinated, but the only experience Levi has in kissing another was ten years ago in the janitor’s closet. So, this. This is much better.

Only lasting a few seconds, Levi can feel the warmth from Eren’s lips spread all throughout his body, head to toe. And it’s one of the most wonderful sensations he’s ever had. Levi thinks that he should probably feel a little embarrassed, getting this worked up over a simple kiss, a peck on the lips. But then again, it is Eren who kissed him.

Cheeks flushed a brilliant red, Levi allows Eren’s hands to slide down his arms as they pull away from each other. He doesn’t really know if he’s supposed to say something after that – only remembering that after his first kiss the girl cried, so Levi supposes that he did something right when Eren smiles fondly down at him.

“I’ve wanted to do that ever since I saw you tapping your foot along to that awful song in the grocery store.” Levi’s eyes widen slightly, that spark in his chest burning just a bit brighter. He lets himself be tugged into a sturdy chest – which does feel as strong as it looks. Lets a pair of arms wrap tightly around him as he presses the side of his face into Eren’s jacket. Levi thinks that it is strange how he can feel so at ease with this man – well, he guesses that it’s not exactly the weirdest thing. If anything, the fact that Eren was ready to kiss him from the moment they met is probably a little stranger. However, Levi is definitely not complaining. Especially not while he’s wrapped up in Eren’s arms. When Eren presses a soft kiss to the top of his head.

When he feels safe.

Chapter Text

Levi can’t find it in himself to change the background image of his phone.

Sure, it probably looks a little weird to any onlookers who happen to glance at the screen over his shoulder, but being shamed by random strangers isn’t something that really concerns Levi. He’s never really cared what people thought of him, anyway. Well, until Eren that is.

Walking the downtown streets back to his shabby apartment, he tries to deny the urge of checking the phone every two seconds. It’s almost infuriating – to think that he is probably acting like some teenage girl caught up in a first crush. Though, it sort of does feel a little magical. Like some knight in shining armor coming to rescue the damsel in distress. But Levi is far from a damsel – even if he might be in a little bit of distress.

There is a faint buzz that vibrates inside of his pocket, and within seconds, Levi is scooping the phone out from its hideaway.

Eren’s name is flashing bright against the vibrancy of the screen, and Levi tries to swallow down the butterflies that seem insistent on welling up inside of his throat.  

[Eren Jaeger 18:43] Really feeling pizza and a movie? 

His lip quirks while reading over the message. For someone who has marched over the age of thirty, Levi would have expected something similar to dad texts popping up on his phone – anything but emojis. God, Levi didn’t even know what those things were until Eren explained ‘that’s what all the hip kids are using nowadays’. Somehow, he manages to feel older than Eren at times like this.

[Sent 18:45] Depends what movie  

[Eren Jaeger 18:45] Guess you’ll just have to find out ;)

He should cringe at the winky face – really, he should. But everything sort of just feels like a blur of nerves and excitement rushing together inside of his chest every time he even so much as thinks about Eren. It’s probably a little unhealthy, to be honest. Or enticing. Levi swallows thickly, thinking that Eren is probably sending these kinds of messages on purpose – knowing what he is doing to Levi. And that’s definitely unfair. To have that kind of influence over a person, sending chills straight down Levi’s spine.

[Sent 18:47] Guess I will


 

Eren’s apartment is nothing short of what Levi would have expected. Lavish, huge, and spectacular. He actually feels a little self-conscious stepping foot into such a grand place, like he’s somehow dirtying up the space by just standing in the doorway.

“Well?” Eren’s staring at him with this wolfish, cocked grin, hand beckoning out to him like an acceptance into this bright, extravagant world. The man’s smile goes a little strange when Levi doesn’t immediately reach for his extended hand. “Levi, are you–“

“Fine,” he interrupts, mind steadying onto that lingering hand. And Levi reaches out, fingers a cool contrast to the inhumanly warm grasp of Eren’s palm around his own. It seems to stand as just another reminder of how different the worlds they each live in are – Eren’s life of wealth, while Levi wades along the waters of the gutter. But those fingers clench around his own, and in that moment, Levi feels like maybe that difference isn’t as drastic as he thinks.

He’s led to the living room, greeted by a Netflix logo painted onto the screen. An unopened bottle of wine stands beside a thin, square box printed with the name of some local pizza shop. Levi feels a bit giddy, but of course, keeps his face schooled into an only briefly amused expression. He does have a reputation to maintain, after all.

“Ah, take a seat. I’ll get some glasses.” He’s almost reaching back for that grip once it drops from his hand, but grounds himself with the thought of pizza, wine, and a (hopefully) decent movie. “I hope you like pepperoni!” Eren yells from the kitchen, the sound of glass clattering in the background.

“I’m not very picky,” Levi says, loud enough that he hopes Eren will be able to hear him over the shifting of glasses. He’s standing awkwardly in the middle of the living room, unsure if he wants to take a seat on the incredibly comfy-looking couch or go help Eren in the kitchen. The sound of banging, followed by Eren’s exclamations of ‘I’m okay!’ make Levi lean towards the latter. However, before Levi can take a step towards the sound of the commotion, Eren is emerging from the doorway, a wine glass in either hand.

“Viola,” the man says with a heavy accent. Levi tries not to roll his eyes. Eren can probably sense his false annoyance, because the man struts up to him and gently nudges him with an elbow. “C’mon, Netflix awaits. And wine,” he adds, winking while shaking one of the glasses in his hand. Levi would never admit that he found the display completely adorable.

Watching as Eren plops down onto the couch, glasses still balanced in those hands, Levi smirks, feet carrying him over to take a seat next to Eren onto the couch which does, in fact, feel as comfy as it looks. There is a thin line of distance between their thighs, one Levi would very much like to close, but he’s never been good at making the first move – never really needed to considering how things always just seem to fall into place when it comes to Eren and him. But then Eren’s handing him a glass of wine, and their fingers might touch just so. Enough to stutter the breath in his lungs as he sees Eren’s lip quirk upwards.

“So, I’m thinking action. Maybe a little bit of drama.” This bastard, Levi thinks, silently wishing that he could play off the thumping of his heart as well as Eren seems to, falling back into normality so easily. Levi hums, not really caring despite his previous text message – trying to be as slick and smooth as Eren always seems to be.

They settle for some indie movie Levi has never heard of, but it is not like he is actively keeping charts of movies he’d not be able to afford to go see. It’s only ten minutes into the feature, and Levi is already starting to feel restless, palms sweating while pressed atop his thighs. The words coming from the screen becoming more of a muted backdrop to the rampant pounding of his heart. He just wants to be able to reach out, to make that first move without fear of moving too quickly. It’s secretly one of his biggest fears that he’ll eventually scare Eren away – that the novelty of caring for someone like Levi will somehow run its course. And it terrifies him, thinking of Eren leaving him alone like all the others.

But then there is a thigh softly pressed up against his own, closing in that distance that he’d been too afraid to fill. And a strong arm, now cascaded naturally behind his head. Looking to the side, Levi finds Eren actually focused on the movie, free hand cradling a half empty glass of wine. It is all so natural for the man, huh? All of this subtly romantic bullshit that Levi sucks at. Leaning back, he decides to just go with it, to not think about the repercussions of taking a risk.

Relaxing into the cradle of Eren’s arm, Levi warms as a fingers start to softly run through his hair, nails gently scratching at the surface of his undercut. Not being able to control the content sigh that falls off his lips, Levi allows his body to lean even further into Eren’s, soon being completely pulled into the tight embrace.

It’s nice, he thinks, being wrapped up in a warm body with fingers steadily dancing down his arm. Makes him sort of want to kiss the man. Maybe even a little longer than the last time. Then Eren’s hand is fully on him, gripping at his waist as fingers start to venture beneath the thin fabric of a black t-shirt. And Levi’s breath seizes up inside of his throat, catching on the startled gasp that echoes off skinny lips as warm fingers finally come into contact with pale skin. He kind of feels like melting, completely dissolving into this strong, secured grip. Kind of feels a little insane, crazed.

“Levi,” Eren says, voice rough and thick with something Levi can’t quite put his finger on. All he knows is that the sound makes his pulse quicken, shortens his breath as he turns to look up into that sapphire gaze. And if he was a lesser man, the stare being sent down to him right now would probably bring him to his knees – almost does, regardless. “You’re…” Then he sees those eyes flicker to the side, unsure, Levi realizes.

His mouth opens, but none of the words he has dangling at the end of his tongue seem to want to become audible. Simply watches Eren as the man glances back down at him with that wolfish gleam back in his eyes. Then that hand become surer, steadier as it takes a firm grip of his waist. Fingers pressing into the skin above his hips, lips now leaning down to trail along the underside of his jaw. And the movie seems all but forgotten, Eren now leading Levi to lean back onto the couch. But it just seems too fast.

The way those lips seem urgent, frantic almost as they nip at his chin. The fingers now skirting further under his shirt, and Levi doesn’t know what to do. How to react as Eren leans over him. A hand suddenly reaches up and he finds his chin being tipped towards the man’s direction, forcing him to look deep into the swarm of emotions raging inside of those eyes.

“Eren,” he tries, voice coming out far more shallow than Levi would have hoped. But the man hears him, stops everything and seems to quickly understand what Levi is trying to communicate. He watches as Eren’s eyes go wide for a split second before the man pulls himself off of Levi’s body. Rushed, almost ashamed. No definitely ashamed, Levi thinks as Eren runs fingers through thick, brown hair.

“I…” the man attempts, eyes not quite meeting Levi’s as he puts some distance in between them. “I… I’ll… fuck, what time is it?” The air shifts into this culmination of tension and frustration, something Levi can feel deep inside his bones as he brings himself into a sitting position on the couch. Levi stays silent as Eren grabs his phone from the coffee table to check the time, feeling more awkward the longer he sinks into the cushion. “I… I can take you back home if you want.” The man sounds so defeated, so embarrassed. And Levi wants to do something like maybe wrap his arms around Eren, tell him that everything is still fine. But the air between them still feels too harsh, too tense.

“You’ve been drinking,” Instead he says, ignoring the fact that Eren hasn’t even had a full glass of wine. And for a split second he wants to just say fuck it and kiss Eren against his better judgement, with the way the man’s face softens into something that makes Levi’s chest burst into flames.

“Uh, right.” A hand reaches back to scratch at the scruff of Eren’s hair, Levi watching as a slight fade of pink begins to bloom on the man’s cheeks. “How about we call it a night, huh? Movie kind of sucked, anyway.”

“Kind of,” Levi agrees, sliding towards Eren on the couch. And he does something bold, reaching out for the man’s hand, squeezing it gently when their fingers twist together. “I could probably go for a romantic comedy, though.”

“Really?” Eren half chuckles, gripping Levi’s hand a little harder.

“Fuck you,” he mutters, no real heat behind the insult as he begins to lean back into the warmth of Eren’s body. There has always been something about the genre that appealed to Levi, no matter how cheesy and awful most of the movies are. Maybe something about the unrealistic happiness that all of the films seem to end with, the boy always getting the girl. The thoughts of being able to live in that happily-ever-after.

“I’m sorry,” Eren whispers, interrupting his thoughts and causing him to jolt slightly against the man next to him.

He swallows, thick and heavy, words seeming to stick to the back of his throat until they finally fall off his lips. “Take it slow, okay?” It’s all a little scary for him, being in some kind of relationship that he has never experienced before. And those walls, they want to come up, wanted to block Eren out the moment the man’s fingers traced underneath his shirt. Just that fear, so prominent in the back of his mind. Thinking that letting Eren in, fully letting him in – will end terribly. So, yeah, it’s frightening. Terrifying. But he’s willing to push though the fear of the dark, willing to risk this much for Eren. It’s not the craziest thing he’s ever done, after all.

Then faintly, like a confirmation that he’s made the right choice, he hears Eren say, “Yeah, take it slow.” And things feel alright.

Chapter Text

He’s laying spread eagle on top of thin bedsheets, trying not to think about the eviction notice taped to the front door. It had been easy to spot, paper a sickly yellow contrast against the white of the entrance. Staring up at the ceiling, he contemplates what the best plan of action will be to take. There is not a doubt in his mind that Eren wouldn’t think twice about taking the chance to help him out, but therein lies the dilemma.

Levi hates the helplessness, the suffocating feeling of drowning in an ocean of anxiety. Hates thinking that his only option is to ride off someone else’s hard earned wealth. Taking a deep breath, he clenches the cell phone in his palm.

According to the notice, he has until the end of the week to vacate the apartment, but Levi doesn’t trust his landlord will even give him a full twenty-four hours. Hell, even that sounds like a bit of a stretch for the asshole. He’s about to just resign himself to his fate, contemplating if he really will be able to disappear into the mattress when a soft meow pulls him out of his thoughts.

Mittens wasn’t hard to sneak inside the apartment. But Levi hadn’t really given a single fuck what his landlord would think if he happened to be caught bringing the little ball of fur inside considering there was already a sign telling him to get the hell out posted on his door. Hell, if it was up to him, Levi would have done this months ago. Eren really was right when he pinned Levi as a cat person, huh? Speaking of the little ball of fluff, she’s currently nuzzling gently against his side, big, brown eyes begging for attention.

“I don’t know what to do,” Levi says to her, not really expecting anything much in the forms of an answer. He wishes that it could be easy, and he wouldn’t even need to be in this predicament in the first place. Somehow feeling as much a user as he does pathetic. He’s not sure which one feels worse.

Taking a deep breath, Levi gives Mittens one last scruff on top of the head before bringing the phone up to his face. He is able to quickly pull up Eren’s number, given it is the only one listed. However, when it comes to actually calling the man, Levi finds his thumb hovering over the screen.

There is an ebbing wave of doubt that seems to wash over him all at once as he gazes into the screen. One that keeps pushing into his mind how much of a nuisance he’ll become if he hits that button. A burden Eren would feel compelled to help out. Because, god, Eren’s some kind of amazing human being who would jump right up onto that white horse if he knew what was going on with Levi.

“Goddammit,” he mutters, dropping the phone against the sheets. Mittens meows like she knows something is wrong, the tabby stepping up to lounge atop his chest. Levi sighs, deep and heavy, lifting his hand to stroke gently down her fur. She purrs in content, settling into a tight ball as Levi continues to move his fingers. The sound is almost enough to settle the unease rising up inside of him, but then he is reminded of the stupid phone when its fluorescent light illuminates the room in a faded shade of blue.

Careful not to disturb Mittens, Levi grabs the phone, squinting to make out the message.

[Eren Jaeger 21:15] Haven’t heard from you in a couple of days… just wanted to make sure you’re alright. Call me xoxo

A bottom lip finds its way wedged between his teeth, fingers lingering anxiously over the keyboard. Had it really only been two days? Felt a lot more like two weeks in Levi’s opinion. It’s been their way of taking it slow, Levi assumed, never being the one to message Eren first. He didn’t want to be taken as desperate or needy and always waited for the other man to initiate a conversation. But shit, he wouldn’t have minded if Eren’s name had flashed across his screen every five minutes. That wasn’t what he wanted – needed when he asked Eren to slow down. It’s only now that he realizes it.

Looking into the phone screen, Levi thinks this must be what it feels like to be trapped in a spider’s web, unable to make any sort of move without the sensation of fear trapping him down. He swallows hard as he clicks the screen off, holding the button so the phone turns off. Levi lets it bounce atop the mattress as the device falls from his hands. It kind of feels a little like a victory just to know that he isn’t going to turn to Eren for help, that he’ll (hopefully) be able to get out of this situation alone.

But then again, it also feels fucking terrifying.

Almost like falling with no one there to catch him.


 

He has a small cardboard box that’s been designated for all his items. Levi’s not bringing much, only a few trinkets and some clothes. There are a couple of things of value Kuchel gave him before she died. One of them being a gold chain that he will probably have to end up pawning for a couple hundred. That should be enough to get him going at a new place, even if the thought of parting with the jewelry does have his gut clenching.

Levi doesn’t remember her as well as he should, most of his childhood shrouded in bustling from one place to another. Watching his mother clean the smears of red lipstick from her face. She’d been a beautiful woman. Levi did remember that. Long, dark hair with a porcelain smile. But that had quickly faded away when the illness tore through her body.

He squeezes his eyes shut.

Eileen had mentioned that he always had a place on her couch if things ever fell through, and he’ll probably end up taking her up on the offer. That is as long as Eren doesn’t find out. God, he doesn’t even want to imagine what the man would think of him if he knew Levi was bumming a place to stay off an elderly woman. Being poor is one thing, Levi thinks – but that just seems like a whole other level of pathetic that even someone as generous as Eren wouldn’t touch.

A voice in the back of his mind is screaming at him to just swallow his pride and call Eren. It would make all of this so much easier, wouldn’t it? But guilt absolutely eats him up alive, thinking of how beneath it all Eren would probably never see him as anything more than a fix-it. Maybe that’s all the man sees in him now. Has ever seen in him. Just picturing it makes Levi feel sick. Thinking of Eren looking at him like all of the rest. Hands start to rattle as they grip the box, and he hears Mittens give off a concerned meow.

“I’m fine,” he whispers, almost defensively. Mittens doesn’t seem too taken aback, though. She simply brushes off his aloofness and goes back to prowling around the small apartment. “I’m fine,” Levi says again, this time more to himself than anyone else. Knuckles starting to turn white, he finally releases his grip, immediately grabbing for the phone placed on the ground next to the mattress. With shaky hands, the device is turned on against Levi’s better judgement. He doesn’t even have to wait ten seconds before the messages start pouring in:

[Eren Jaeger 22:02 (Yesterday)] Hey, sorry if this isn’t taking it slow. I just need to hear your voice. I need to know you’re alright.

[Eren Jaeger 00:15] Seriously, are you okay?

[Eren Jaeger 03:20] Please call me.

[Missed Call: Eren Jaeger 09:47]

His vision glances up to check the time. 09:58. Taking a breath, Levi puts the phone off to the side, resolute on waiting to contact Eren until he has moved out of the apartment. He only has a few more things left to pick, anyway. And it isn’t that he wants to be an asshole, it is just that he can’t risk accidentally giving something away. God, there is hardly anything else Levi would rather do right now than listen to Eren’s reassuring voice whisper into his ear. He can almost hear it now, feel those hands wrap around his waist as Eren tells him just how strong he is, how beautiful. Things Levi never even would think to believe, not for a split second. And hell, if anyone but Eren were to have told him those things, he’d call bullshit. But something about that voice, that face makes him trust it all. Makes him trust Eren.

Yeah, Levi, trust him enough that you can’t even call to tell him you got evicted from your fucking apartment.

Even at the hour, the room is bathed in a cloud of grey, the rumbles in the distance signaling a storm on the way. It is all the same, Levi thinks, a kind of perfect setting for the mood that has washed over him. However, at least the feeling of discontent is good for something, helping him pack faster in the hopes of getting out of this shithole as soon as possible. Even though if it wasn’t for that fucking notice he’d have no problem keeping residence here. Well, he can’t really even think that with a straight face. This place has been miserable, and it is probably in his better interest that he was served the eviction. God knows even Eileen’s couch will be more comfortable than the apartment.

Throwing the last of his things into the box, Levi takes a last look around the room, a final farewell to the shithole. It’s bittersweet in a way, how he has to walk away with his tail tucked between his legs. Or at least that’s how it feels. Letting out a harsh breath, Levi pushes the thought to the back of his mind, focusing instead on just finally getting out of the place that’s never granted him an ounce of kindness.

He clicks his tongue twice, and Mittens is soon to appear beside the cardboard box. She looks as if she doesn’t understand what is going on when Levi lifts her up and places the fragile thing on top of an old t-shirt inside of the box, a bewildered meow echoing into the air. But she quickly seems to forget as Levi watches her nuzzle into the fabric of the clothing. The sight is enough to bring a slight smirk to his face, one that rapidly falters when he notices one thing he has seemed to leave behind. The jacket.

It is resting atop the bare mattress, looking like an unspoken omen from afar. Makes him question whether or not leaving that call unanswered really was such a good idea.

You don’t have to do this alone, Levi.

Hands squeezing into fists, he walks over and snags the coat up from the mattress, tugging his arms into the slots and pulling it tightly against his body. Levi is quick to gather up the phone and box, holding it close to his chest as he walks towards the door.

The thunder spooks him when he grabs the handle of the entrance, causing Levi to mutter an apologetic ‘sorry’ to Mittens. She pays him no mind, though, and Levi’s heart hurts when he thinks that it due to the fact a t-shirt is probably a lot more comfortable than a disgusting dumpster.

A twist in his wrist pulls the door open. He’s greeted by the smell of sulfur and the sound of pouring rain. Somehow, it feels like liberation.

“Hey!”

Levi thought he could possibly get by without ever having to see the insufferable human being ever again, already settled on leaving the key in the man’s mailbox. It’s only fitting, he supposes. A final farewell from the best representation of this place.

“Tryin’ to weasel one more outta me, huh? Should’ve gotten rid of you a lot fuckin’ sooner.” Levi grits his teeth. “You ain’t takin’ one more fuckin’ step till you give me that goddamn key, boy.” The man holds out a pudgy hand, wiggling the little sausages connected to it in Levi’s face.

Balancing the box against his chest, Levi uses a free hand to dig into a front pocket. He quickly finds the key considering it is the only thing in there. Tugging it out, Levi drops it in the outstretched hand. He had intended to make his leave immediately after returning the key, but he also hadn’t considered seeing the walking shithead ever again. So, before he can control it, Levi is opening his mouth to speak, “Goodbye and fuck you.”

It takes the asshole a moment to understand what Levi has actually said, and by that time he has already turned away from the man to make his way to the staircase. But then there is a force tugging him backwards, causing him to jostle the cardboard box.

“What the fuck did–” Levi doesn’t anticipate Mittens lifting her head to investigate what is disturbing her sleep. Definitely doesn’t anticipate the inhuman piece of shit to reach in and grab her by the scruff, causing Mittens to let out a pained cry. And everything seems to go mute, voices and sounds becoming a muffled noise in the background as he watches her lash out a paw and strike the man.

Levi watches her run off down the stairs and into the abyss of freezing rain, but his focus is quickly drawn back to the miserable bastard. He doesn’t think before a fist is raised, and he’s striking the man directly in the face. The realization of what he just did doesn’t quite settle with him until he sees the asshole wipe the blood from his nose, sees the cardboard box of his belongings dropped on the floor. Hears the word ‘police’ being echoed into the air.

He knows that getting out of there should be his number one priority, but it’s raining now – fucking pouring and he can’t stand to think of Mittens spending another night underneath that dumpster. And it suddenly hits him while he’s running down the stairs. That this must be how Eren felt every time he watched Levi go back to this shithole. Why he was always so determined that he was going to get Levi a better place. But it’s a whole different situation, isn’t it? Mittens will starve if he doesn’t find her.

And who paid for your groceries when you first met?

He bites his lip, pushing the thought to the back of his mind as he gets to the dumpster. Dropping the box to the ground, Levi gets on his hands and knees to look underneath.

Nothing.

Levi wants to scream as the rain continues to fall down on him. He’s already soaked to the bone, and he wants to ask whatever god exists up there why it was decided that freezing rain would be preferred to the typical snowfall in winter.

“Mittens!” He doesn’t even think she knows her name, more something that he nonverbally called the cat. “Mittens!” It still doesn’t stop him from trying, calling her name as the sheets of sleet continue to pour down from the sky. Grabbing his things, Levi heads towards the road, thinking that maybe she ran away from the building all together. Please, is the only thing he can think, please let me find her.

The rain is causing the cardboard box to rapidly break apart in his hands as he walks, and soon, the bottom is falling out, leaving his valuables strewn across the sidewalk.

“No, no, no,” he murmurs, dropping to the ground to try and gather what he can. There are a pair of headlights that hit his vision, and for a split second he thinks about how soon the police are going to get here. But then he hears his name spoken and swept away with the sound of the rain hitting the ground.

Eren is standing there, glancing at him in confusion as he shuts his front door. And there is nothing he can say, too ashamed to look the man in the eyes as tears begin to well up in his own.

“Levi,” Eren tries again. He can’t answer the man, though. Not without the possibility of looking like some kind of scared child who has lost his mom in the shopping mall. “Levi, look at me.” Then there are fingers cupping his cheek, gently lifting his head upward. “What happened?” There is a softness in Eren’s voice that he’s never heard before, a smoothness that flows just like water into the air.

His hands are shaking as they try to gather up the rest of the fallen items. Not wanting to face this reality. The one where he screws up one of the best things that’s happened to him. Because why would Eren ever want him after this. After he has seen what Levi really is?

But there is a slightly larger hand that comes to rest upon his own, halting those frantic movements as Levi finally looks up into Eren’s gaze.

Emerald eyes are pleading as water streams down the man’s body. That usual slicked back hair weather warped and plastered against Eren’s forehead. Thick brows pulled together to brandish that look of concern and confusion. He should say something.

“I… I don’t… I can’t…” Words don’t want to make themselves known as he struggles against his own tongue. And a thumb brushes his cheek, wiping away the tears Levi hadn’t even known had fallen. “Don’t make me say it,” he whispers.

Don’t make me pathetic.

Don’t make me stay here.

Don’t leave me.

Please.

Then, he is being pulled into a sturdy chest, cheek pressing against the soaked through fabric as Eren cradles his head and body in steady arms. They sit there silent for a few moments, freezing and wet. It’s not until the blue lights begin to appear that Eren lets him go, tells him something that sounds muffled to Levi’s ears. But then Eren is kissing him, completely overtaking him with the sweetest touch. And he’s selfish, so fucking selfish when he goes back for more when Eren pulls away.

However, the man doesn’t indulge him, instead lifting him into those strong arms as he walks Levi over to the passenger side door. He’s quickly deposited inside, his belongings soon following.

“You’ll be fine. I promise,” Eren tells him.

There is an officer walking over, and Levi isn’t even given a chance to defend himself as Eren shuts the door. He watches Eren greet the man, soon followed by an appearance of his landlord off to the side.

The discussion is over swiftly, and Levi is expecting the officer to visit him with a pair of cuffs in hand. It’s no secret that is usually how his level of status is dealt with. But what he is gifted with instead is Eren returning back to take his place in the driver’s seat, not saying a word as he takes off down the street. Levi doesn’t ask why he’s not currently being escorted to jail right now. Figures it’s something he can find out later when he’s not recovering from an emotional breakdown.

Regardless, the seats are warm, and the rain has stopped.

That’s good enough for him.

Chapter Text

He wishes Eren would say something instead of leaving him alone in this smothering silence. It seems sort of unfair, but Levi thinks that he did unintentionally drag the man out into the freezing rain. Bottom lip worried between his teeth, palms sweaty – makes him remember why he fucking hates feeling vulnerable.

There’s a blanket wrapped around his shoulders, a warm cup of cocoa in his hands. Somehow, he still feels cold. Probably has something to do with the sinking feeling in the middle of his gut as he watches Eren lean against the kitchen island. The man’s palms are flat on the marble, head hanging between his shoulders. Looking a lot like it was him who fucked up and not Levi.

And if Levi was any better at that thing called conversation then he would probably know how to make Eren realize that there was nothing the man could do about his eviction. Instead, he just wraps the blanket tighter around himself, stares down into the swirling liquid inside his mug.

“You’re not an inconvenience, you know?” The words seep down into Levi’s veins as he turns to get a good look at the man addressing him. Said so simply, so matter-of-fact. Like there isn’t a doubt that Levi is not causing Eren any trouble. But he is. And Levi doesn’t know how much longer he can go on with Eren trying to convince him that he’s not.

He figures there is really no point in answering Eren. Nothing he’ll say will probably make a difference in the man’s mind. Levi almost wonders why he’s trying to even fight this battle, refusing to be cared for like Eren would like. Maybe it’s a pride thing – no, it’s definitely a pride thing. Doesn’t even have to think twice about why the thought of Eren waiting on him hand and foot makes him a little nauseous. But that’s never something Eren’s suggested, is it?

He’d scoff if it wouldn’t make him sound like a complete and utter asshole.

Shit, Eren only wants to protect him. So, why won’t he let that happen? Why did it have to come to this?

“Levi,” the voice is closer now, softer.

Eren is crouched in front of him, looking like Levi’s the puzzle in which he’s missing the only piece. He tries not to appear so like the world is against him. It’s obviously not for him to have ever met someone like Eren in the first place.

“You can talk to me, yeah? Let me know when you need help?” It’s almost like a disappointed father talking to his adolescent son – the way Eren’s voice carries in the air surrounding him.

Thank you should be what Levi says. Instead, it’s something like, “I can handle myself.”

And then there is silence.

Something he’s too stubborn to break, content on watching the chocolate foam swirl around in his mug. Deep down, Levi realizes he’s on a precipice, of what he doesn’t know yet. But it feels like something big. Maybe the point when Eren comes to terms with the fact that this whole charade isn’t really that fun anymore and lets Levi fend for himself. But maybe it’s something totally different. And he’s just not aware enough to understand what it is.

The hand on his knee pulls Levi out of his silent reverie, glancing back upwards to a face that looks far more tired than it previously had.

“If you don’t want my help,” the man starts, squeezing his knee, “I won’t force it on you. God knows that’s the last thing I ever wanted to do.” Levi wants to tell him to shut up, tell Eren that he’s just so fucking confused. “Hell, if you just… don’t want me–”

“Shut up,” he says.

Then Levi is taking ahold of the hand gripping his knee. “Don’t…” He has to take a deep breath in order to get the words out, “Don’t say that shit to me when you know you’re fucking wrong.” He sees Eren’s brow quirk. “You know I need you. Want you.” He whispers the last part, a little ashamed of having to say it out loud. And his hands are shaking, Eren’s thumbs now smoothing over his knuckles as they whiten in the tight grip. He’s surprised Eren hasn’t complained about it yet, but Levi guesses Eren really doesn’t seem to do a lot of that.

“Then let me in, Levi.” He isn’t expecting that. Lifts his head in a quick jerk to cast a bewildered glare. He’d thought that was exactly what he had been doing. Letting Eren in. It’s further than anyone else has ever gotten. The man knew how he lived, what he did for a living– “Tell me when you need me. When you need help.”

Oh, he thinks.

It’s easy for him to look away, to avoid that piercing gaze that’s wanting to demand so much from him. Asking for that trust. To truly put his faith in someone else’s hands. Back to chewing on a thin bottom lip, Levi feels cornered. But not necessarily in a bad way. As if he were a stray dog running from the pound. More like a simple man who doesn’t know how to fully grab hold of the hand reaching out for him.

“I… I’m sorry.” It’s easier to say then he thought it would be. Like the words sort of just rushed out of his mouth in a quick flurry of emotion. He isn’t expecting the frown to tug at the corners of Eren’s mouth. Levi thought that was what the man wanted, validation that Levi was in wrong by not alerting him of the eviction. 

There’s a sharp escape of air from Eren’s nose, a thick brow that twitches, hands that grip tighter. “You don’t… you don’t have to apologize to me, Levi.” Then the man is looking at him, eyes trying to express an emotion Levi’s not sure he’s ever seen before. “You don’t owe me anything, and I’m not… I’m not mad at you for not telling me about the eviction. Shit, Levi. I don’t own you.” The words sting, and Levi wishes the blanket would swallow him whole. It’d be easier to deal with than this.

Levi silently wonders if he looks as small as he feels. Reminds him of the times he’d curl up in a corner with a ragged blanket over his body when he was young. When men would scream and throw harsh words at his mother. Expect there was no accompanying cocoa back then. No Eren.

He’s still lost in the memory when Eren’s hands reach up to cup his cheeks. They are warm, a stark contrast to the chill that always seems to plague his skin. Allows him to melt right into the smooth touch. It is almost embarrassing how easily his mind falters to Eren’s caress. As if the world stops while resting in those arms.

“You’re beautiful, Levi.” Words spoken so honestly that he could have no possible doubt that the man speaking them believes them to be true. “You’re so goddamn beautiful. And I wish I could make you see it. I could tell you a thousand times how wonderful I think you are, how kind, how genuinely breath-taking. But I don’t think you’d ever believe me, huh?” The lines are probably some kind of diversion away from all the bullshit that’s seemed to fester underneath the previous conversation. All the loose endings to sentences Levi can’t put together. But regardless, Eren’s words burrow deep beneath his skin, enflame his body until he’s absolutely positive that he’ll never be a shade other than red ever again.

“You say that to all the twenty-somethings living in Section 8?” Somehow, a smile has managed to form on his face. Through all the faults, the unrelenting stress, Levi is fucking smiling. If he didn’t know any better, Levi would say he actually had feelings for this rich asshole.

Eren gasps dramatically, “Are you questioning my honor, good sir? I’ll have you know I could have your head for such treacherous banter.” Then that touch is slinking down to cradle his head as Eren moves closer, the man’s breath a shallow echo on his lips. “I guess I could settle for a kiss instead.”

Levi doesn’t have Eren’s wit, charm. Can’t think of any funny quips to pursue the conversation. So, he just follows the cues, pressing forwards to accept the invitation above him. It’s not really a surprise to Levi how eagerly Eren meets his advance, fingers now weaving their way deep into his hair as he allows himself to be maneuvered backwards onto the couch.

Blindly, Levi reaches to the side to place the mug on the coffee table. In hindsight, he thought it would be smooth. To be honest, it sort of seemed like a mood killer for him to interrupt a make-out session in order to put up a mug of cocoa. But he quickly is reminded of exactly how smooth he really is when the mug drops to the floor, causing him to jolt upwards and collide with Eren’s nose.

They are both groaning, Eren more-so, who – oh god – now has a trail of blood trickling from his nose. He’s been in this situation before, although it had nothing to do with a failed kiss and more like getting the shit knocked out of him every once and awhile. His mom’s abusive boyfriends, assholes from school, Levi has never been a stranger to a bloody nose. Which is probably why he pushes the embarrassment to the back of his mind as he jolts up and heads to the kitchen, returning with a couple of paper towels, one dampened with water.

“Head back,” he says, not offering much of an option as he grabs Eren’s chin and tilts it backwards. Ripping one of the paper towels in half, Levi rolls each section into small balls which he shoves up into each of Eren’s nostrils.

“Done this before?” He hears Eren ask, voice all nasally and just a tad bit hilarious.

“A couple of times.” Doesn’t really want to tell the man exactly how many times a couple actually is. He is already a big enough sob story. Instead, Levi just leaves it at that, and thankfully, Eren doesn’t push. Sits there quietly as Levi uses the damp paper towel to wipe away all of the blood that had dripped onto the man’s face. “There, all done. Keep pressure here.” Levi grabs Eren’s fingers and leads them to the soft spot of the man’s nose, motioning for Eren to pinch.

And Eren smiles up at him like he has given the man the world. Probably the only thing Eren can’t afford. All teeth and charm… and a nose full of tissue. Levi would be lying if he said he found it anything less than astonishingly handsome.

“Sexy,” he says, patting Eren’s cheek before he gets up to throw away the dirtied paper towels. Levi pauses at the trash can, taking a moment to collect himself. “What are you doing, Ackerman?” Muttered into the air as he lets the paper drop. It’s not so much a question as to what he’s doing right now, but as to where this is all going to lead. If he’ll be scrambling to beat the rush at the homeless center or cuddling up next to a warm, inviting body. Levi doesn’t even know how to ask. Could I stay the night just seems too cliché and informal. Eren means more to him than that, and… and he’d hope that Eren feels likewise.

And then there is the issue of finding Mittens. He’d be damned to not try and look for the kitten, Eren by his side or not. Even though there is no way he’ll be able to get back onto the property of his old apartment. Not with the way he went out. Fuck.

Sighing heavily, Levi runs fingers through his hair. He doesn’t understand why nothing can ever be easy. Why everything has to be such a fucking struggle. It doesn’t have to be, Levi. He looks back to Eren sitting on the couch, fingers still dutifully pinching his nose. The man would be happy to help. Hell, he just finished explaining to Levi exactly how much he wanted to share in Levi’s burdens. But there is still this twist that tugs inside of his gut every time he even so much as thinks about using Eren as a crutch to lean on. How unfair and lopsided this whole relationship could turn out.

“Levi, you okay?” Eren’s looking at him now, brow raised and mouth set in an open-mouthed frown. He wants to agree, say yes, maybe fling some bullshit smartassery. But if Eren wants to help him, truly take care of him, the man needs to know.

“No, actually, no.” Then Eren sits up, sudden like it’s his fault something’s wrong. It’s hard to take the man seriously, though, when there is tissue shoved up his nose. He walks over, hips swaying as he stops in front of Eren. “I know you said you wanted to help, and I just need to know where we stand.” The man quirks a brow. He hates having to explain it, hoped that Eren would be able to make his own conclusion. “I need to know if I can stay here.”

“Oh,” Eren breathes. “Well, yeah. I mean I thought it was obvious. I don’t mind taking you out tomorrow to look for somewhere permanent if that’s what you want, but I do want to take care of you. That would be under my sugar daddy qualifications, right?”

Levi can’t help but smirk as he plops down next to the man, pushing him playfully in the shoulder. “Shut up, old man. People are going to start thinking you’re a pervert.” Eren wiggles his eyebrows, pulling Levi into his chest.

“I don’t care what anyone thinks of me. Just you.” Then there is a kiss planted on his forehead, a blanket thrown over their bodies. It’s frighteningly domestic, and Levi really doesn’t know what to think of it. Settles for burrowing deeper into Eren’s body, throwing his arms around that lithe waist.

“I need to find my cat, too,” he murmurs, feeling surprisingly sleepy surrounded by Eren’s warmth. “I have to find my cat.”

“I know,” Eren says, giving him another kiss on top of the head. “I know.”

Chapter Text

They don’t find Mittens.

Spent about four hours searching the place Levi is probably not supposed to be within five hundred yards. Eren had kept a steady lookout for that robe-wearing prick, though, and Levi was vaguely sure the landlord wouldn’t think calling the police a second time would even be worth the effort with Eren on site. Regardless, Eren has to practically force him back into the car and out of the freezing rain when it becomes obvious they aren’t going to find the kitten.

When the realization finally dawns on him that he is potentially leaving Mittens out in the cold for a second time, he is devastated. Actually tries to unbuckle the seatbelt and go back to searching before Eren grabs his wrist to tug him back down.

“Levi,” Eren calls, voice soft, unsure. This isn’t familiar territory for either of them to share together. The sensation of loss and how to deal with the frayed pieces left behind. His hand is still gripping the door handle when he turns back to look at Eren. Desperate. Pleading.

Swallowing hard, Levi’s hand falls into his lap, body relaxing back into the seat as his gaze falls away from Eren and back out the car window. He’s probably doing something stupid like shaking. Levi silently wonders how pathetic Eren thinks he is for getting this upset over an animal.  

“We can put up flyers if you want,” There is still an edge of uncertainty tainting the edges of the man’s voice as he addresses Levi. Like it’s walking a tightrope above a ravine, keeping a steady pace in fear of falling to its death hundreds of feet below if it should move too fast. “Hell, we can check the animal shelters–”

The shelter.

Why hadn’t he thought of that sooner?

Eren’s still rambling on, listing off people they could contact, places they could search. It’s all very endearing, and if they had the time to spare Levi would probably kiss him.

“Eren,” he interrupts, bringing forth a sudden silence occupied only by the quiet humming of the car engine. “I think that’s a good idea. The animal shelter.”

“Oh. Okay. Good.” The corners of his lips quirk up when he thinks of how fast he’s actually falling for this nerd. The man who has so far not only pulled him off the street, proven he’s actually worth a damn, but now gone out into the cold searching for a missing kitten.

Eren’s just pretty fucking incredible.

 


 

He can tell Eileen is not expecting him by the way her eyes widen at the sight. But then again, why would she be? Levi isn’t scheduled to work until tomorrow. Her short, grey hair is pulled back behind a thick headband as she walks over, the limp in her step fairly noticeable; but Levi assumes the change in the weather is just bringing back old aches.

“Levi, what are you doing here?” The question is obviously directed to him, but she’s glancing Eren up and down when she says it. Levi thinks the mother hen vibes are coming out a bit early if he’s being completely honest.

“I’m– we are searching for a missing kitten.” Eileen still hasn’t seemed to fully acknowledge that Eren means no harm, because she is side-eyeing him with the power of a dozen high school mean girls, the wrinkles between her brow even more prominent with the scowling. Levi decides the look doesn’t suit her normally inviting complexion at all.

“Who are you?” Words stern and sharp as they bounce off of her thin lips, causing Eren to take an audible gulp as he stands next to Levi. And even Levi is feeling a little bit intimidated by the small woman. “Are you that slick fellow Levi was going on about?” Levi can actually feel the grey hairs start to pop up around his hairline. “I don’t know much about you businessmen, but I know I don’t trust you. At all.” 

“Oi, Shirley Holmes, I appreciate the concern, but interrogating my boyfriend isn’t going to help us.” It takes him a hot minute to actually swallow what he just said. By that time, not only is Eileen gawking at him, but Eren as well. The first thought that comes to the forefront of his mind is, holy fucking shitballs I didn’t just say that. Then, holy fucking shitballs I DID just say that. And he kind of wishes that he would have just let Eileen continue with her needless investigation. At least then he wouldn’t be directly in the spotlight. Eren can handle a little pressure. Has to, right? Isn’t it his job to deal with assholes prodding him for deadlines and favors?

Levi, on the other hand, would rather go hide in one of the cages then continue being the center of attention.

“I’m going to look for the kitten,” is all he says before awkwardly heading towards the back where the animals are located.

Pulling the door shut behind him, Levi tries not to immediately sink to the floor. There is no one else currently browsing through the selection of cats and kittens, so it would be totally plausible for him to just take a moment to have an existential breakdown before having to face another human being. Instead, he just sucks his bottom lip harshly in between his teeth, trying to keep his mind occupied while he walks forward to search the multiple cages.

Most of them are empty, the majority of the cats being in the playroom instead of a cage. Those are only reserved for the elderly animals or ones that don’t do well with others. Levi instinctively looks towards the cage he knows houses Sir Fluff. He gets an expected hiss as soon as his eyes lock onto the old cat.

“Tch,” he mutters, silently wondering if anyone will ever adopt the old bastard. Never, his inner voice tells him. And Levi would almost argue, thinking that maybe someone out there would possibly find Sir Fluff charming, but then the damned cat strikes a paw out at him from between the cage bars.

Levi goes back to searching the other cages, hopeful to find Mittens in one of them. Each one is checked over, top to bottom. He knows that sometimes the newer cats and kittens like to hide behind anything in their cages to make them feel safe. Somehow, Levi understands the feeling.

But he doesn’t find her in any of the cages. Makes his chest seize up at the thought of this being another dead end. Sure there are other animal shelters, but the nearest one is another twenty miles away. If she was brought to a shelter, it almost would have to be Paws for a Cause. It would have to be.

Swallowing his doubt, Levi continues towards the cat playroom, ignoring the hiss Sir Fluff sends his way as he passes the cat’s cage.

There are about fifteen cats roaming around the room, some lounging on the scratching posts, others playfully chasing tails. Several immediately notice Levi as he walks in and a couple cats even pounce to attack his shoelaces. The sight warms his heart, reminds him exactly why he loves animals so much as one of the cats paws at the hem of his jeans.

“Hello to you, too, Hazel.” She stretches up to him, and Levi quickly obliges her as he lifts the cat into his arms. The purring somehow eases the anxiety that has built up inside of his chest, allowing him to finally take a breath while his fingers course through the cat’s fur. “You’re such a pretty girl,” he coos, scratching her once more behind the ears before lowering Hazel back down to the ground.

As he does, a flash of grey bounces into his sight. Mittens, he thinks and instinctively walks over, head high and heart heavy.

It’s not her, Levi notices when the kitten turns its head. Mittens eyes are blue. This one’s are brown. Sighing, he looks around the playroom to see if he missed anything, missed Mittens maybe hiding in one of the cardboard boxes. She had always been a little bit shy, being as small as she was. But she’s not there. Not here.

He doesn’t notice the door to the playroom open, too involved in finding that one spot that Mittens could possibly be located. Levi knows it’s fruitless, but his conscience isn’t going to let his mind rest until it is absolutely sure the kitten isn’t here.

“Levi,” there’s a warm voice, a warm hand resting on his shoulder. God, he has almost forgotten the man who brought him here. Caught up in trying to make a kitten appear out of nowhere. “Any luck?” Eren sounds hopeful, but he probably hasn’t seen Levi’s face yet. Probably knows this is the only other place the kitten would be as well.

“No,” he says simply, absentmindedly shrugging off Eren’s palm from his shoulder as he moves forward to check under the scratching post for the third time. Part of him is sincerely still trying to find Mittens, the other trying to avoid talking about that whole slip of the tongue.

He hears an exasperated breath fill the air and feels a little guilty about dragging Eren into this mess. Should have just let the man drop him off and allowed himself to figure out everything on his own. But that’s just the thing, though. It’s always been himself, alone, figuring it all out. Never had anyone to lean on, and now he has Eren. At least Levi thinks he does.

“You know she’s worried about you?” That makes him pause in his searching. Turns around to find Eren with his hands stuffed into deep pants pockets, looking so fucking concerned that Levi actually feels his heartbeat pick up a couple of paces.

“She’s always worried,” is his brilliant response. Because of course she is. She loves you, dumbass. God knows why, but Eileen thinks of him like her own son. Levi’s just surprised she let Eren onto this. The guy who ten minutes ago Levi thought she would throw out of the shelter. Then again, maybe Eren just picked it up himself. The man’s not stupid, not by any means.

“Yeah, well, I’ll tell you in graphic detail exactly what she said she would do to my “spaghetti and meatballs” if something happens to you if you’d like to know.” Levi releases a drawn out groan, covering a now red face with his hand. “She’s quite creative. I’ll give her that.”

Levi knows Eileen means well, but he has to think that her threats towards a man’s dick is probably not the best way to go about protecting his virtue.

“I had to promise her that I wouldn’t break your heart before she let me come back here.” Levi looks up at that, eyes meeting that intense gaze that seems a lot closer than it was before he tried to hide in embarrassment. “I don’t know if she really believed me, but I’m here, aren’t I?” Eren smiles like this whole thing is something casual. Like him committing to not leaving Levi alone on the side of the street isn’t a huge fucking deal.

“Yeah, you’re here,” Levi practically whispers, words being hard to form with the emotions welling up inside of him. Bubbling to the surface and trying to spill over. Like an overload of senses all trying to escape at the same time. Hazel has warmed back up to circling around his leg, silently asking to be lifted into his arms again. It reminds him of why he’s here in the first place. Not to have some kind of love revelation but to find a missing kitten. Who obviously isn’t here. And he kind of doesn’t know what to do about that.

“She’s okay, Levi.” He knows that Eren isn’t referring to Eileen this time. “I know you’ll find her. You’re strong, and if that kitten is anything at all like you then she’s strong, too.” Levi feels like this could probably be considered something like false hope, but he takes it. Reaches for it and grabs ahold with both hands. Anything to make him feel like he hasn’t failed. Like he hasn’t lost her. Because Eren is right, Mittens is strong. Stronger than she had any right to be for a kitten her size.

“Okay,” he says, finding that one word constitutes more than a million could.

Eileen doesn’t throw any obtrusive comments when they walk out hand in hand. She does throw Levi a quick wink, though. And if she sees the smirk he tries to hide, well, Levi’s sure Eileen will bring it up tomorrow. He throws a goodbye over his shoulder, which she returns with a little more spunk than usual. 

Levi thinks that maybe that headband is squeezing her head a little tight.

 


 

“So, boyfriend, huh?” Levi knew it was coming, could feel it in the air as soon as they took off in Eren’s sports car.

“Shut up,” he mutters. Of course, there is no heat behind the words, and Eren just playfully brushes off the banter.

“Well, if it’s any consolation, I’m honored.” Levi sort of wants to punch him, sort of wants to kiss him. He hasn’t quite decided yet. “There’s only one problem.”

“Oh?”

“I’ve not asked you to be my partner yet.” Levi’s heart jumps into his throat. “So, how about it?” Eren glances at him from the corner of his eye. Levi definitely wants to kiss him.

“I guess you’ve become an official crib robber, old man.” Eren laughs as he reaches over to take Levi’s hand, squeezing it for good measure. And despite it all, Levi feels happy. Feels wanted.

Feels like this is where he was always supposed to be.

Chapter Text

Levi tries not to think about the past. It holds nothing but swollen eyes and unshed tears as far as he is concerned. Never being one for the pity, that suffocating sense of useless, Levi does not bring it up. Not to Eileen, not to… well, he guesses there really has only been her. Until Eren, that is, the bright-eyed bastard the man can be. That is why he is thrown off kilter when Eren mentions it.

Of course, the question is just mentioned in passing. In between Eren asking him how he likes his fucking eggs for Christ’s sake. Levi doesn’t know if the man is being intentionally unsubtle or is just horribly bad at trying to hide his ulterior motive. He likes to think it’s the latter – puts a little bit of a dent into the Superman armor Eren parades himself in, makes him more human.

“Just curious,” Eren adds as if to soften the blow. Levi could scoff, but he holds his tongue, instead looking up to stare off into the delicate, brunet curls swirled around the base of Eren’s neck.

“Just curious,” Levi repeats, slow and baiting. He feels like this must be what people mean by living domestically. The breakfast served hot and fresh, questions about dark pasts. Well, maybe it’s not the textbook definition. Regardless, he likes the feeling, even if it does dredge up unpleasant memories of watching a pimp throw his mother into a wall. “Shouldn’t you be focusing on not burning your apartment down?”

There is a wicked grin on Eren’s face when the man turns around, spatula in hand. “You underestimate my culinary expertise.” Eren takes the next couple of seconds to lamely toss the spatula up into the air a couple of feet and catch it on the retreat. Levi would be lying if he said the whole sight wasn’t extremely arousing.

“Loser,” Levi mumbles, trying to hide the fluttering in his chest with elementary taunts. His face is blazing, and god, Levi is just really terrible with all of this. Eren – Levi takes back the whole bastard bit – plays none-the-wiser to Levi’s obvious lapse in mentality. Allows him precious silence while Levi wanders away from the scene of the crime like the cat who tried to catch the canary but ultimately just ended up destroying the upholstery. 

He tries not to think of it as a walk of shame, but it becomes just that. Hell, the only thing missing is a sad background song and his head hanging low to mark his disgrace. How is he actually so terrible at this?

“So, bacon man or sausage man?”

God fucking dammit.


Levi spends the day apartment hunting… which proves to be an all-around depressing experience. It’s just that Levi can’t expect to leech off Eren forever – wouldn’t expect that, no matter how much of a sugar daddy Eren claims to be. There has to be a limit. So far, Eren hasn’t seemed interested in showing one, but then again, Levi doesn’t think he has been quite demanding for a… a sugar baby. Fucking hell.

He sighs deeply for what feels like the thousandth time, eyes beginning to go hazy from concentrating on the pulsing LED screen on the laptop.

“You okay?” Eren plops down next to him, nursing a can of generic beer. There is a concerned expression on the man’s face, a deepening in the brow. Reminds Levi of when Eren caught him on the wrong side of his eviction. That this the same Eren who drove a stranger home after paying for their loaf of bread. Who searched all the ass-end parts of town with Levi in search of Mittens. It’s Eren, and even if Levi doesn’t want to use his money, he does want the man’s support. 

“No,” he mutters, defeated and annoyed. And somehow, it feels intimidating to turn and face the man. To truly express that he feels fucked three ways to Sunday. He wants so badly to conceal this weakness, because it’s just that. Weakness. Another sign that he’s a piece of gutter filth who would have never been pulled from the impoverished chokehold if not for the rich philanthropist beside him.

There is a beat of silence, a slight movement that causes him to finally give way to the man. Eren’s gesturing, obviously unsure with how to breach the topic, trying to speak through his limbs.

“I…” The man looks slightly like a gaping fish, and if not for the dire situation, Levi would probably find the reaction a bit amusing. “I have a spare condo on the other side of town.” Eren’s hands are flying up before Levi has a chance to ask him how much of a charity case he actually looks like. “Okay, before you say anything, before you say anything, I came up with a plan.” Levi cocks a brow at this, never underestimating Eren’s intelligence, but merely the idea that Eren would be suggesting something other than giving Levi a free condo. “You could work for me.” 

Levi pauses, giving a moment’s reflection to realize Eren is being serious. “I’m not exactly corporate material.” Imagining himself in a fitted suit, charming the asses off white-collar somebodies – it doesn’t feel right. He’d be a stranger in his own skin, trying to impress an elite bastard who wipes his ass with sheets of gold. Worrying his bottom lip, Levi breaks eye contact with Eren, trying to find some kind of resolution in the swirls of the hardwood flooring.

“You don’t give yourself enough credit. Anyone would be crazy to underestimate you, Levi.” It’s not exactly enough of a confidence builder to convince him to storm into Eren’s office building the next morning, but it is enough to get him to glance back up into that bright-eyed gaze. Then, just like the tide, Eren pulls him in with a gentle squeeze on the knee. A silent reassurance. But Levi has none of Eren’s charm, none of the man’s graceful way with words. So, he settles for letting his body fall sideways into Eren’s, allowing his head to drop on a firm shoulder.

Eren just holds him closer.


The temperature has begun to steadily rise in the past few days, and though it’s not quite low enough to warrant the freezing rain, Levi still feels chilled beneath Eren’s coat. The sidewalks are lined with slush, and Levi’s worn soles aren’t really doing an adequate job of standing up to the cold ground. Eren had offered him a ride this morning, but Levi refused, needing the cold air in his face for a change. Needed some time to think, more like – uncoil all these emotions tangled up in his gut. 

He figures Eileen will have an earful to give him about the whole situation, but Levi doesn’t know how biased that opinion will be. Eileen has always been protective of him, each becoming the other’s unofficial family. So, he’s understandably a little nervous about breaking the news to her.

There’s a frosty sheen on the glass door of Paws for a Cause when he raps his knuckles against the hard surface. The shelter does not open for another couple of hours, but Levi always enjoys the time spent with the animals before shop open; and he knows Eileen will never deny the extra help. 

There is a quiet thud of footsteps, followed by a wrinkled smile in the window. She opens the door in a rush, hurriedly signaling Levi into the shelter.

“C’mon, shorty, you’re going to freeze your ass off out there.” Levi smiles, pressing a chaste kiss to her cheek as he steps through the entryway. “Where’s your fancy boyfriend, What’s-His-Name? Shouldn’t he be keeping you out of this mess?” Levi resists the urge to roll his eyes, knowing Eileen only has good intentions.

“Let’s just say I’m concerned for his ‘spaghetti and meatballs’.”

“Damn right,” she states, grin playing on the corners of her mouth. Regardless, she’s quick to lay a fragile hand on his forearm, paired with a delicate smirk. All deep lines and faded skin, still beautiful in her own magnificent way. There’s a gentle tug and Levi’s following her down the hallway to her makeshift office, no words needed. 

She opens the door, motioning for him to take a seat in a rusted, old metal chair. Tells him she’ll be right back, then he’s alone, left to filter through his own thoughts as he stares into the blank abyss of the off-white walls. 

The office is cramped, never intended to house a desk in the first place. There are adoption papers strewn about the desktop, pens left uncapped and haphazardly abandoned. It’s a real mess, and it has Levi’s brow twitching in anticipation. He’s offered to tend to the office before, but the idea has always been cast aside with a flick of the wrist and a smile. Though, Eileen has always seemed to have a method to her madness.

In his scrutiny, Levi is stopped by a photo framed on her desk. He looks much younger, hair longer and face full of acne. There is a half-smile forming on his lips, eyes partially sheltered by a curtain of dark hair. In his arms, a brown, wide-eyed puppy, ears floppy and tongue hanging out from the side of its mouth. Levi reaches for the picture, traces the edge with his thumb.

He’d been so angry back then. So naïve. Wanted an outlet to focus all the unfiltered rage he’d felt deep inside himself. That had brought him to Paws for a Cause with a rock in his hand and a chip on his shoulder. Levi still remembers Eileen dragging him back to this office by the shell of his ear. Gave him a choice to work to pay off the damage or be given over to the police. Two days later saw him buried in bundles of fluff and fur. 

Levi doesn’t think he’s ever truly thanked Eileen for her kindness, not in the way he should have. That she deserves so much more than he has ever been able to give her. Because who truly knows what could have become of him if she’d not taken him in, given him a job? Probably washed up on the side of the highway, living beneath a bridge with track marks lining his arms. Closes his eyes and grips the photo slightly tighter.

The quiet meow breaks him out of his thoughts. 

And there are tears falling down the contours of his cheeks before his eyes even reopen.

Eileen is smiling, an internal glow emitting from her expression as she cradles the kitten in her arms. Not just a kitten, Mittens. Mittens, who he thought he’d never see again. Who he thought would starve to death beside a grimy dumpster.

She looks freshly cleaned, grey coat seeming to shine beneath the office’s florescent lights. Levi supposes he has Eileen to also thank for that, as well. 

Placing the frame back onto the desk, Levi pushes himself up out of the chair and stumbles over to Mittens. He is shaking as his hands come up to stroke her head, earning himself a noise of thanks from the tiny kitten.

“How?” he asks, still dumbstruck and dazed. 

“I found her rummaging around in the back this morning. She must have followed your scent here.” It’s then he realizes that he is still crying like an infant who has missed breakfast. Like a goddamn baby. But there is not one ounce of himself that can find it to feel ashamed. Not when he snuggles Mittens close to his chest and realizes how much he had truly lost with her absence. It might be edging towards slightly unhealthy, but Levi needs this cat, probably more than Mittens needs him.

“Thank you, Eileen,” he whispers, pulling her into a tight hug with his free arm. “Thank you so much.”

Levi still thinks that it is not the thank you she truly deserves. Could give this woman the world, and he would still feel indebted to her kindness. But it’s a start, and Levi can accept that.