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It's Colour Haze's Tempel playing in my left earbud as I'm shading the corner of the page. My stomach is...rumbling. Didn't eat breakfast. Now I'm piling fries in my guts. Gross! They're greasy.

I remembered the grease would stain the paper, so I wiped my fingers on my pants.

I wrote down the word "JEAN", in all caps, with ugly, disproportionate letters, and gave these sickening little letters a better thought.

Well-- I guess a "Jean" is what you call someone with rich, nutritioned hair, a just as rich bloodline, problems with girls and problems with spelling the word "electronegativity". A "Jean" would be someone who inhabits Wildwood's wealthiest area, a dickhead who happens to own a large ranch in the countryside, and by just pure fucking luck seems to reside on this planet as the prototype of Your Perfect Anything.

Just seconds later I wrote "EREN" down in my notebook. I always carry around a backpack and there's always this worn piece of shit.

EREN

  • so I do stuff
  • I'm nice...
  • I play soccer
  • 20 y/o, miserable, horny, depressed, unwilling, not-doing, anti-productive, arrogant, (would love to be) dead
  • Porn.
  • I wear socks over the ankle
  • I condemn speedos; Marco wore a speedo the first time we spent a month in PACIFIC (fav place on Earth) lol how's it feel tucking your balls in
  • Lol I just hate marco he's absolutely oblivious to it
  • I am
  • more attractive than jean
  • trust me, everyone knows it
  • Ask my mom

I drew a dick next to my pinpoint list. I guess now you're expecting a gigantic intro like in all epic comedy movies about college or high school, so I'll try to reenact it via text.

There's supposedly a cool Blink-182 song in the background and it's supposedly followed by an introduction to the main character from a hundred shots. That would be me, then. I'd pose well. I'll make sure you can get stills you can post on the Internet later. In these 2x2 format posts, you know? Throw in some badly cut-out joke clips. Oh, then something happens. They pause the audio and I say something funny.

And then the entire movie is spoiled by the trailer.

Isn't this just the bee's tits? Time to become a director.

If you want a proper introduction with my blank-ass personality: Hello, again, my name's Eren. I'm an asshole who loves himself way too much. For having existed on this planet for twenty years, I sure haven't done shit. I masturbate and I have celiac disease, but am still able to enjoy other food, like scrambled eggs and packet rice.

'Cause I'm obviously not the biggest chef here.

Boring facts? Yeah, alright! If you squint and take a look at most of my clothes, my favorite color is red. I play soccer and it's the base of my college scholarship. My biggest accomplishment in high school was pulling a Magnum over my head, I've disappointed my parents and all of my girlfriends, and really, I'm just so regular, I blend in well.

I use "lol", "lmao" and other abbreviations unironically, as real and actual words (not this "El Oh El", "El Em Ei Oh" shit, I can say "lol" with a flat face and mean it)  not-caps-locked, and with serious, flaming passion. I'm in love with Jeff Mangum and I kinda dig emo stoner metal, or something. I like music! Every genre asides the mainstream slur. That's all you need to know. See? I'm cool. Just takes a while until this garbage facade of mine crumbles under everyone's judgment skills.

"You see?" Jean raised a packet of fries. "The center of love. Not even a dollar, right down the street."

Birds chirp in the background and I want to kill myself.

We're sitting on a park bench near Jean's MTV-worth crib. It's the largest, ugliest cream-colored house on the block. Not like it can be compared to any neighbor houses around. The rest of them aren't as enormous. Only four of them have a pool.

He fed ducks with economy talk and me with boring thoughts about spring break, soccer, women and life contemplations.

The short week of spring break is behind, this - our way of grieving. Tomorrow's Monday and moderately early classes, and it means I've got an even more specific crave to commit suicide in the most painless way there is. I'll wipe at tears really quick. Don't just sit there and stare? Act like you're interested in staring at the trees, or something.

Everybody hates the jetlag feeling after a school break. This can't be good for anyone. Who cares if it's just a week? Same goes with autumn. Autumn break is fucking stupid, anyways. It always fucking rains. On this scale, spring break, in comparison, is perfect and nourishes my soul. Winter break is good for nothing but breaking my neck with a snowboard and summer's clearly for soccer and unlimited masturbation to everything and everyone.

Me and Jean, we understand each other. And, you know, on days like this, I wonder about high school.

I still have no idea how I passed high school. High school's a pretty dark memory nobody wants to talk about. Except for me, I guess. I love talking about embarrassing things. My high school experience was the mildest and most boring pit of shit. I've played soccer ever since I can remember myself walking, so it dragged in from a hobby to a serious passion and lifestyle. In grade six, I discovered self-produced pleasure, and that's all I got until grade ten. Semen stained Adidas socks, soccer and absolute relaxation. It worked as a daily schedule. School, soccer, home, food. Jacking off. But food and jacking off switched places depending on my mood and whether mom was home or not.

Grade ten opened my eyes and tossed down angels that ripped at my eyelids and shrieked I can go outside and start flooding my hormones down on girls. That's what I did. I liked girls and girls liked me. I've kissed a lot of girls in my life, and to underline my saint heterosexuality even more, I'm a virgin at twenty. People probably think I'll fuck after getting married.

My hand sunk in Jean's fries.

The break changed Jean again. He keeps finding new interests that turn out to be dangerous for his well-being. I didn't really want to meet up today, he seemed weird and strangely excited over the phone.

It's a beautiful Sunday and I'm forced to listen to Jean's flawed opinions about America's economy.

I honestly planned on doing nothing for the whole weekend, and the entire break, at that, but my mother has tendencies to shit on everything I love. My Friday was spent in recoloring the guest bedroom. Because mom said so. Saturday was a torture. Don't want to think about Saturday. It's probably the most awkward evening over the past few years.

Our bilingual Japanese family friends reserved a table at a nice restaurant around ten miles away and I was being forced into wearing appropriate clothing other than stained boxers, socks and Element hoodies.

I was reintroduced to the only kid, a twenty-year old gem, Mikasa. Sleek, stunning beauty. Never heard of her before. All the countless other times her parents had invited us to their fancy restaurant, Mikasa was supposed to be at a camp, trip, hike, and so on, continue this list with other moderately dangerous activities. She was nice to look at 'till the point we were forced to sit side by side. She's Asian. Talked funny for the first two hours. Her accent was killing me. She talked funny in a cute way.

As the evening went by and the adults got a bit more tipsy than us (if you count the shallow glass of red wine we sipped with twenty minute intervals), Mikasa told me the truth behind her school trips, and it left me slightly clueless of what to think of her.

Turned out Mikasa was a black belt at martial arts. I think karate. I think karate. She told me about the belts and their relative meanings according to the color system, and I listened to two out of ten of everything and nodded in my pasta dish. Mikasa also tried to explain why her parents kept telling everyone their daughter was at a school trip when she's actually on a tournament, but I think she got so infuriated she forgot I'm not bilingual.

I listened to five minutes of aggressive Japanese before excusing myself to the toilet.

It's just her parents not accepting the way she is and how she's chosen to be less girly than other feminine creatures her age (and up/down). They hate it and, I guess, are ashamed.

Fucking... I'd probably make a better mother than Mikasa's mom ever has.

That's about how I spent last evening. Sure, I'd much rather spend it on the Internet, browsing some fucking memes and materializing my cancerous existence in our Steam group. And yet here I was now, pulled away from my comfort zone. Grieving. Mom likes Jean. He has this odd skill of getting me out the house with a: "Hey, Eren, let's get fries and go check out the park."

Yeah, fuck you, I had to pay for it. Who's the winner? You are, obviously. You didn't have to spend a single quarter to entertain yourself! Though I do love the park, so that's sort of my weak spot, I guess. And-- shit, you know? McDonald's suck. I'd kill for Applebee's.

"Stop touching my French fries."

"Stop touching my French fries," he mocked.

I looked at him. The word "PISSED" was practically carved in the middle of my forehead. "Remember your birthday?"

"Oh, yeah. Shit was good. Pretty glad we got the pool done by that time. You jumped from the roof and shit. Pretty cool. Also, thanks for ruining my dad's electric grill, that was really necessary, he's still not over it, and I'm kind of getting him a new one for Christmas."

"A grill for Christmas, you genius."

"Fuck off."

"I jumped from your mom's balcony, not the roof. Got stuck in the roof window on my way out, so it didn't work out. The cut's too deep, anyways. I'd hit the bottom of the pool and break my legs. God. That was great." I ate a handful of greasy fries. "We're doing it at the ranch next year. I don't care if that place doesn't have a pool, we're doing it at the ranch."

"You sound like that nerdy emo who loves Electric Wizard."

"Shit, what a coincidence! Could that happen to be me?" I satirically asked. "Think about sleeping in hay, though. Mmm. The way to a man's heart."

"I've slept my good spare in hay, thanks."

"My last birthday was so miserable. Props to turning twenty. it's possibly the lamest fucking birthday I've ever had."

Jean frowned, signalling he's got no clue what I'm talking about. "What do you mean? I can't remember you having a party, or anything."

Haha, oh, shit, yeah. I remember waking up on that exact fucking day. Stayed in, watched some movies, made, like, corn chicken wrap and totally chilled my ass off. Went for a short run around the block by four PM. Took a shower, got dressed, went downstairs; my mom got home by six and gave me a huge box of shit I still haven't checked out, and it's been, like, a month.

"I didn't. I'm just... Man, I don't like taking responsibility. Any sort of. I'd be the shittiest dad if I ever, by some delusional chance, had the audacity to be one. Plus I'm old enough for birthdays to depress me."

I'll unbox that present tonight.

"You're not thirty, or anything."

"Yeah, but I'm a stinking, ravaging emo boy. Haven't been in the mood for anything lately. I just hope Regionals are good this year. And I'm worried about volley results, I think I might-- Umm, you know. Leave volley. I don't feel like it anymore. The team's breaking up, anyways."

We sat in silence for a brief while, watching the channel's water ripple in front. Days like these get me melancholic. Just like a movie, preferably one you've watched with your historical significant other - an ex, in other words. It's got that teenage heartbreak stink. You sit and talk with your best friend, and you're freshly twenty. But the plot thickens when the narrator (you, namely) reveals you're also unemployed, potentially garbage, and don't shave your face much, because you also don't have a girlfriend, your sex life is in a crisis, and you're overall really miserable - but at least good-looking.

But, oh, man, the looks are going to fade if you keep that regular Friday alcoholism running, the beer gut is not going to take itself out for a walk and get lost in the woods, shit, you're going to get fat, ugly, work in a boring company, and never, ever do anything else with your life.

And you sit and have moral conversations in your head.

With yourself.

And Yourself keeps joking about your situation. It's depressing, I know. Shit, I know, I should know the best out of everyone.

I took a deep breath and sighed an undefined, out-of-place "yeah", because nothing could ever fit better.


In the middle of the kitchen, swirling the contents of a wine glass, Eren Jaeger feels bipolar about his mother. A part of him is currently throwing his body around the sunny, yellow kitchen in terror, and the other's busy dusting off some soft dune pillows for his mommy to lie down on. See, Eren loves his mother, but sometimes FUCK A MOTHER, but moms are cute, generally, I guess, maybe.

I'm swirling some sort of shitty content in a wine glass. The liquid's dark, sort of red, I don't know. It had a light scent of grapes. I placed my bets on wine and gulped it down.

Oh, fuck. Yeah, that's... It's home-made. It's wine, I'm positive. Held back that burp.

My mother's a beautiful human being, she's arrogant and funny. Whenever there used to be "parent evenings" back in middle school, she dressed up and looked elegant as fuck. I used to be very proud of my beautiful mommy, but grade nine rolled in and I finally googled the definition of a MILF. What, it piqued my interest! Older guys from school kept calling my mom a MILF. Look. Yes. I wish curiosity never existed.

Yes.

We don't talk about this.

"Eren?" Came a muffled response from the other side of the house. I placed the mystery glass down. "Eren, are you-- shit! Oh, shit!"

Uhh, yeah, I am shit.

"Mom? Are you tip-top?"

By the apparent sound and the ground shaking underneath, something heavy fell. I even felt the walls vibrate. Our house is built of snot, I guess.

"Are you home?" She yelled back.

I rubbed the door frame with my thumb, trying to figure her exact location. "No, I'm not home, I'm Eren. Jesus Christ! Where else could I be? Where are you? Are you okay?"

"Upstairs, I'm fine!"

Yikes!

My bedroom's upstairs. So is hers. And the guest room, which I had to repaint on Friday. And a bathroom. So where exactly is my mother. The whole house smells like ammoniac and chloride. And paint, too. She's been working on the canvas again. Shit. Shit! Means she's got that, I don't know, fucking spurt of energy. Starts tidying the house and completely redecorating everything. I should've predicted this yesterday.

Hashtag: artiste mother, god, I swear to St. Elliot Alderson, she's hacking my computer to gain access to all my sick memes. Or, she's probably just found my nude folder. It's a joke, I don't take nudes. That's also a joke. Oh, man! This is going to be a thrilling freaking ride! Don't trust me on anything I say, I'm incredibly goofy and never, ever serious.

"What are you doing upstairs?" I cautiously asked.

I'm an experienced, young man, I know what a danger a mother in her son's bedroom can be. Though, Jesus, I'm an adult, what's there to hide? Nudes? She's seen me naked. True, that was twenty years ago, but I believe I haven't changed. I'm still the fucking infant I was, just more hairy. My only concern at the moment was her trying to guess my device password and raiding my porn folder.

That's gotta go.

My password is "hydrogen peroxide", but written together and in all-caps. By the way. But you're not my mom, and you'd never see this.

"I'm hanging up a painting at your room," she called back. "Pretty neat, I'd say!"

What? A painting in my room? Dude, you've seen my room?! It's a literal trash hole with some Marvel merchandise boxers hanging out the drawers, and it reeks of...citrus deodorant.

"Why are you doing this? What's your damage?"

"It's very cool, I found it in the lobby."

Post your face when your mom says things like "cool", "rad", "on fleek" or "slay".

My face is that dog drinking coffee, saying "this is fine" while everything behind him is burning.

"Mom, you're cleaning the lobby and just scattering all your shit around the house. I took it down last week." I eyed the stairs and checked if she's coming. "Do you need help with hanging it? I'm getting food otherwise."

Something cracked. Another few diligent phrases. "There's Chinese in the fridge. I won't be home tonight, but I'm making lasagna tomorrow."

"Glutenfrei?" I mocked.

"Ja, Eren! Don't order pizza."

I don't remember any aspect of this conversation that ever mentioned ordering pizza.

"Mom, I don't eat Chinese food." And then more silently: "Not...stale Chinese food, anyways. Yeah, whatever...you're not listening."

I actually do eat Chinese food! Love Asian cuisine. I just didn't feel like Chinese food at the moment. I didn't have the energy to deal with a microwave and I hate when bell pepper seeps in my noodles. Really does taste gross. A little upsetting to my princess stomach.

I actually considered pizza.

"Yeah, I'm going to order pizza."

"Make salad or pasta, Jesus Christ, just don't order pizza, it's always such a bargain to make you not do it, why is this still a problem at twenty?" I practically felt the corners of her mouth slip down. "Same goes with carton milk."

"Squirrel milk."

"Oh my god."

"You don't even have to pay, I've got something left from last month."

A disapproving sound.

"Why?" I whined. She sighed like she's a millisecond away from giving up. "It's lovely how you don't care about me and everything, but it's not like I'm making you eat it. Pizza Hut has them gluten-free, anyways."

"It pisses me off how you're on your gluten-free diet and still get to eat everything you want," mom said. "God, and it's so expensive to feed you, and you're just never happy."

"Diet," I cheekily dragged. "What the fuck is a diet?"

She sucked air in whenever I said a bad word. Look, this can be witnessed when I'm playing The Witcher and she drops by in my room because she's bored, has free time, or gathers laundry. I curse a shitload when I play this game, so it's sort of funny watching her go -sssss- every two words.

"I'm twenty." (I was nineteen a week ago.) "I can totally do this."

"I'm forty-two."

"Oh my god, okay. Wow! Shit, you're forty-two, that's endgame. I really can't argue with you now."

"Get your ass upstairs, sonny."

"Sorry. Hey, so... Why are you hanging the painting in my room, again?" I took a few steps up the stairs. Tapped the handrail. Tugged on my backpack.

"It's nice. It's that rice field painting you always wheeze at, for whatever reason. You repainting the guest room made me wonder if we should do the entire house, all bedrooms, maybe."

"Hell no, I'm not doing this. Hire a hot gardener to do this for you. You just want to revise how much embarrassing shit I keep in my room." I paused. "I don't have magazines anymore. I have, like, two." Three if we're taking the Toyota mag."

I heard all movement stop.

"One's under the nightstand..." I squinted and tried to remember. "The other might be under my mattress. And if you want my laptop's password, it's "hydrogen peroxide", like, with all-caps and no space, and my porn folder's called--"

"Eren, holy shit!"

I made the air sucking sound she usually did. "Jesus, mother! Watch your language! You're not fifty yet!"

Mom's laughing, obviously. I tiptoed up the stairs.

My room's on the left, her and dad's - on the right. The guest room and the bathroom takes up the rest of the second floor, leaving only a tight hallway between all rooms. There were a few simplistic paintings on the walls, and at least seven family pictures weren't missing, either.

We used to have a bird and his name was George, but he got a brain tumor and died. We also had a dog, her name was Wicky. Our neighbors hit her with a car. A white Persian, Lucas, went missing two years ago, but I'm sure mom gave Lucas away because he peed in her mocassins. I'm digging the "George Lucas" jokes. And I've received two goldfishes which I didn't even try to name; they were already dead the next morning.

I walked up to the doorway to my room with my hands in my back pockets, ready for the same old picture of chaos as every day. Choked on my spit for a change. The floor was actually see-through (as in, I didn't have to shovel my way through heaps of clothes), my bed was tidy and the sheets had been switched from the washed-out cranberry red to a new, fresh jet black. Even my desk was (relatively) tidy.

I noticed she'd opened the windows. Explained the light all around.

"Did you clean my room?" I stupidly asked.

Overflowing with pride, mom put her hands on her hips and grinned just like I was grinning. I had a crooked grin, just like her. The canines are slightly pointed towards the center, but they're symmetrical. Cool, right? My specific sort of teeth are from her side. And my papa is a dentist.

Off-topic, you can't believe how much looking at mom depresses me. The older I get, the more often I'm using the word "depression". Even though there's still a shit amount of light in her deep brandy eyes and she's nowhere near being a granny, she is getting older and I'm aware of the fact it's soon time for me to begin a life of my own and get off from my parents' asses.

The tiny wrinkles around her eyes and dimple on her cheek made me smile wider. She poked me in the ribs and I whined again. She's so cute.

"I dipped in for laundry and couldn't resist. Do you like the painting? I think this is the one."

I looked at it.

Welcome to the rice feels, motherfucker! Yes! It's the one. I can feel myself cracking up.

"It looks like a penis if you squint."

"Eren!"

Man, I love my mom.


The wet sensation on my wrist is fucking drool, I bet. Scrolling down 4chan for a daily dose of self-hatred and ruining myself, amazing. Don't bother. I'm actually just checking out /out/ and /k/, and stuff like that. It's really fun until you get to the "NSFW" section of 4chan, then it's pretty fucked along with your mental health.

I leaned on my hand and thought about succulent porn, mostly. Saliva is amazing for getting off. Pack your food with sweeteners, spit a puddle on your hand. The better it slips, the harder you'll flip.

It's at least a good two hours past midnight and I forgot to sleep again. I had to resume college in a few hours.

Uuughhh... Early classes steal my faith in Christ. As if I had any in the first place.

I closed TOR and leaned back in my chair. Rubbed my face. I'd probably fall asleep any second now, if I really tried.

Mom was asleep. Talking to Jean would result in absolutely nothing, and I also didn't want to, and the rest of my friends and soccer team members weren't on my fucking level right now. The only thing for me to do would be taming my backlashing hunger and finally heading to bed.

I just laid in my boxers for a minute and stared up at the ceiling. I love staying up late. It's fucking beautiful. Except if it's a Sunday.

I pushed off the table and pulled my hoodie over my ass to cover up. No idea why I do this, I guess it's natural reflex. The only women that have ever seen me naked would be my mom, one or two nurses, and my cousin. But I don't think my cousin is a girl. She's a worse war machine than me. A Spartan. Her name's Christa, by the way, if you wanted an introduction, which you most likely did not.

Even my rare girlfriends have only seen me shirtless. Never had my asscheeks out in direct sunlight.

Newsflash, Eren heads out in the hall to sneak downstairs.

The kitchen's floor was still warm from our fireplace and central heating and made my toes wiggle. I stood in front of the fridge and inspected it's belongings.

Absolute shit food we have. I hate the upper shelf. The upper shelf has the tiny fridge light, right? But my dad has a habit of buying canned beans practically every time he's at the store. Every time. So if he used to go shopping twice a week, it resulted in four cans a week. I don't understand, like, does he really think we eat them? Like, mom's just used to it, she just stacks them at empty drawers and tells me I'll be thankful if there's ever a zombie apocalypse. And the top shelf is stacked full of canned beans and corn, and the light doesn't even shine through.

I stared at the white carton with an imprinted dragon on it, and the white carton stared at me. You know, the abyss to abyss thing... I've had too much of /lit/.

Took the box of noodles and closed the door. Fished out a fork as silent as I could and tiptoed back upstairs, stubbing my left toe as a casualty.

The air in the house was thick. Not heavy, thick. Light remains of paint, oil and mom's shampoo. Something smelled like old leather and suede. She got out her bath around two or three hours ago and wished me goodnight.

I inhaled the humid air before disappearing back in my room, secure from the hot, extortionate atmosphere. After-bath air makes me sick. That's why I never take baths.

I checked if my window was open, then sat down.

My laptop's screen had dimmed down while I was away and I didn't bother to change anything about it right now. Just dug my fork in the noodle box and ate. The noodles tasted like they'd sucked up all bell pepper and chicken, and shrimps, and then I remembered why I didn't eat this before. Ew. Never liked cold Chinese food. It's good if it's hot, like, scorching. I can't eat it and focus on it if it's cold, that shit does not work. So I began thinking, about my useless break and volleyball. The weekdays mom wasn't home consisted of waking up at nine or ten, watching YouTube, taking a piss, breakfast, everything the regular Eren would do.

A shower, personal hygiene, like, shaving my face twice a week and trimming everything lower by the end of every month or two. Brushing my teeth. Clean boxers and a t-shirt, breakfast again.

Sweet, sweet meat beat.

Practically how the entire week was spent. Except for Tuesday, I went to Jean's place and played Fallout. He cheats like sweet heaven. Jean's actually pretty bad at video games in general, Mortal Kombat is eternal sadness for this guy, 'cause I'm always Scorpion, and he's always Sub-Zero, and we all know Scorpion fucking wins. All raise hell, fuckers, fire beats ice.

I thought about Scorpion until it lead to thoughts of Kitana, Kitana led me to Mileena, and now I'm really just down for jerking off and going to bed.

Jerking off to mobile porn is fucking terrible and the experience is disappointing and frustrating, but I've been getting off to mobile porn the entire week and having this incredible opportunity to masturbate to the resolution of an eighty times fifty sized screen was...thrilling.

I ditched the fork with the noodles and pushed the box aside for a second. I already had my headphones around my neck, so I put them on, leaving one ear free for SOS "Mother: Entering" Alert. Only thing I had to search for was the cable, so as soon as I plugged it in, the white carton was close to me again.

I moved the mouse. Felt like the screen exploded. You know, damn a light wallpaper at all times, forever.

Opened Safari again. Poked the noodles and typed a single "p" in the address bar. The results listed down. Pornhub's on top. What a fucking surprise, oh my god! Next follow different variations of webpages starting with and including the word "porn" just so you know how active I am in this field. And there's Putlocker, too. How embarrassing.

The screen went dark when I clicked on the website. I got more comfortable and turned the brightness down a little. Then I began scrolling down.

Gross amateurs. Teens.

Mmm, homemade lesbians.

I mentally :-)'d.

But this is a tasteless list. I went on the category page and settled in for a more thrilling ride.

Now, categories, amusing. HD porn is okay. Artistic and pretty fake, but HD is always a plus, like, this comes from a guy who's been watching porn for a long, long time. HD porn is probably the best porn out there. So is the female friendly category. I love these because the girls aren't treated like shit, it's really cool. All teens in the "teen" category look like the girls from my high school.

Deepthroat's okay. I love watching blowjobs. Cumshot's lovely. Latina, ebony, bondage, gay, lesbian...nnnnnit's okay, I guess, but I'd never checked the "gay" section out. It's supposedly a whole different part of Pornhub.

I'd never watched gay porn with intent. Only time's back in fifth grade with a bunch of my friends, you know, just a friend circle of eleven-year olds sitting in a room and having a group porn session with awkward little tents in their pants they're trying to hide. Obviously, the second we got home we all jerked off. It's so...normal to be eleven.

But shit, no, what are you even saying? Homosexuality's a taboo, all my friends are straight, mom thinks I'm in a relationship, stuff like that. I'd never even considered being gay or trying out being gay, or, you know, you catch my drift, whatever, I'm bad at wording, you can't just try out being gay. You can try out being with boys to see if it knocks your ducks. So far, zero boys in my account. It's the aspect that keeps me away, the idea what everybody else thinks, I guess. Not that I'm implying I'm damn straight down and ready to fuck every boy I find worthy, I just don't mind and don't think I'd panic if it turned out I had a knack for guys.

I'm, uh, straight as hell. No, for real. Even if I did like guys, I like girls, also. That leaves me with options.

Pushed my headphones on entirely and then pushed one side off again, and held my breath to listen to the sounds around. Only thing I heard was absolutely nothing in the room on the other side of the hallway and a few cars on the road next to our house. Probably the big delivery trucks or something like that, those drive by often.

I clicked the permalink and dug in the noodles while the page loaded.

The ads changed, turned into gay perversions and penis enlargement pill offers. I tried not to focus on that stuff and checked out the main build itself. Same as always, I guess, just gayer.

Curiosity took over while I scrolled down the first page, inspecting the names and thumbnails. Had to admit these were slightly more creative than the blank shit on the straight section. These guys had things like Breed That Faggot Boy Ass and Homemade Fuck, I don't know, original, right? At least it's interesting.

I checked out the category page to find stuff I'd never heard of before. Then browsed the most viewed page, then, the daily recommendations. Everything seemed pretty unappealing.

Out of really idiotic curiosity, I clicked on the search bar and threw in keywords like "grinding", "bjs", and for personal satisfaction, "soccer".

What pops out is a list of "Coach & Player"-esque videos I begin scrolling through. Immediate regret. I've got a coach, his name's Levi. Seeing so many videos with the same theme made me wonder whether it's really that popular to fuck your seniors and shit.

I grinned at a video called Handjob 006. For whatever reason, that got me so bad. I got interested in the thumbnail, narrowed my eyes at the small picture and hovered the cursor above it. Tiny screencaps from the entire video promised a pretty nice dose of cock sucking and handwork. Wow, and it seems artistic. Like those pretentious porn videos on non-mediocre sites like Pornhub is. Alright, fuck it, Handjob 006, you say? To hell with it. I want to see this. I can go with it. It's totally cool.

Still didn't click it and checked the screencaps.

First ones offer an insight with what looked like an introduction. Pretty cute! It's sick when porn offers introductions, it's like they're inviting you into their world full of privacy, and ten minutes later you're ejaculating and you don't remember she's from Atlantic city and has two cats.

Then it gets further where the guy's joined by another one who looks practically the same. The first guy seemed okay, the standing guy. Two screencaps later his pants are around his knees and the newcomer's nuzzling his cock through his black boxers. Both of them seemed relatively okay. Couldn't tell much by the thumbnail, but there's a HD icon lower in the corner, so I guessed the video's a lot better. I could consider the one on his knees being older. He had a Christian Bale sort of beard. Also a little more veined physical build.

I thought I'd made a great decision when I clicked the video. I think I make the best decisions. This was the worst one so far, next to drinking with one third of the entire school and thinking I looked stunning in all pictures taken. Though I did. In a twisted way of You Have To Be Wasted And Done Fucked To Think I'm Hot There. In That Exact Picture. In Those Jeans.

Since I hadn't pulled myself out of my boxers yet, I could still eat with one hand and close the tab with the other, in case shit gets too hard. Similar to experimental rock. It's experimental until a point it gets psychedelic, and the line between these two is paper thin. When you're a virgin at something, have backup. Guys watch lesbian porn, don't they? It's the same thing. Girls watch lesbian porn as well, it's great. Girls are amazing. Everyone seems to lowkey love lesbians and find them hot, but guys having anal sex is such a sadface.

The video took a while to load. I toggled fullscreen on and leaned back in my chair. I wasn't planning on getting off yet, so I also crossed my legs in a meditative yoga pose and put the carton box in my lap. Fixed my hoodie from wrinkling in the armpit area. The box didn't stand up straight, so I had to tear my eyes off the screen and try to position it so I wouldn't get cold noodles all over myself.

Goddamn preparations.

The video started before I could look up, and a series of loud, aggressive and unusually low moans drilled in my ears. I jumped and almost dropped my noodles. Reached out to the keyboard and frantically tapped the button to turn the sound down. Due to shock, my hands were trembling like I'd just had a bad fight.

Oh god. My eyes are glued to the screen.

Short cutscenes with everything that's expected to be in the video. I cringed through them all. Focusing on cocks isn't essential in straight porn, straight porn emphasizes on women more, it's not, like, rocket science. This is so much different.

Then it showed the title and I straightened up. I'd aimed to jerk off and now it feels like I'm exploring Jean's world of logic. You do not try to argue with Jean about logic or philosophy or anything like that, he will wreck you and you'll end up feeling like shit.

A nice, big mansion was displayed from a higher point, revealing a huge, blue pool and a garden that made Jean's living territory pale down. I swallowed and poked up a slice of chicken. Damn, rich boys. Wished I owned a damn crib like that. I'd be all over MTV.

Next scene was the one from the screencaps. The pale guy stood in the center of the frame, hands in the pockets of his jeans, shoulders lifted upwards like he's shrugging, but not really, I don't know what this pose is, seems like he's trying too hard. Defined arms, nice forearms, underground fighter imposter neck. A really thick neck, but not like, you know... Bull thick. Just good thick. Meaty. He's generally very proportionate and it's obvious he's put time in creating this image. Chest in a black tank top, earlier mentioned jeans (not skinny, just good fit), and legs - in a pair of Converse sneakers. Fuck, Jesus, that's some style. My eyes went up to his face. It's rare there are actually attractive men in porn, but this is slash gay, after all.

Oh, whew.

The video's so HD I think I could count his lashes. Straight nose, prominent cheekbones, arched and uneven eyebrows, dark, narrow, not particularly large eyes. Dark hair, longer than the standard men's hair length. I twirled the fork in my mouth.

He's actually attractive.

I looked up at the ceiling and looked back down at his face. I paused the video and stared.

My stomach is tickling. With stomach I mean the area right above my dick, and it's not a good tingle.

The most important factor's the feeling I fucking know this person and I know this person really, really well. Like, when you see something or someone and it's like a sick déjà vu. You feel super special for a while, and then it's like, hang on, fuck, that's such a casual thing. Memory is just ass and people don't use their brain to it's extent.

There's suddenly a memory flash of a video called Anal - An Intro on the straight section, and the first ten minutes are narrated by a really senseless woman.

Anal sex is another way of making love, and can be described as an act of utmost respect and trust between you and your partner. The most important rule is to never try to convince your partner in doing something she does not want to do.

This, but in the voice of a single, forty-year old woman that clearly does not know what's the fun in sex.

This is the capacity of human brain. I resumed the video and nervously poked my noodles, still having this blank voice in the back of my head.

"...from Atlanta asked if we'd agree to shoot a private scene of this, and I said, no, hell no, we won't get it private." That voice was ass deep and sultry, but it's not his. "We're making it public, because the idea is amazing. Thanks Andrew, the crew is with you, we're hoping you're on your feet soon. Atlanta's missing you."

The standing guy made a hashtag out of two peace signs. "Pray for Andrew."

Hang on, this is porn? He looks and acts fucking fifteen or something.

"Pray for Andrew," the cameraman said. "Hey, he asked if it's possible you tell us about yourself. Like, not to us, we all know you like a colorful dog, but Atlanta's interested. Make it interesting, we might air it to Chicago on the weekend."

"Chicago?" He's cringing. "I'm not on this CB track, sorry."

"We'll talk about it."

The guy standing did a fainting act. "Unprofessional, your star's rocking daggers. Sue me, but CBs' sturdy guys need new ideas, sorry."

There's a lot of people laughing behind the camera. He also smiled and looked over at them instead of the cameraman.

I literally understood shit from this conversation.

"A, let's go."

His name's A? Wow, man, no wonder you ended up here. Life's gotta be tough with analphabetic parents.

"Alright. What counts as an effective introduction?" A asked. "CB flashing all over the screen? Beef me all you want, but advertising yourself needs a borderline, and I'm not talking about this here, I did it two weeks ago back at Plaidbacks. Plaidbacks to the end of tomorrow, sorry, Andy, there's nothing good in this world. Link it lower."

"Schedule!" Someone from the back shouted. Whatever this guy's name was, his expression jerked and he stepped back.

"What's your name?" A lighter voice asked. "Name, age, interests?"

"My name's A to you and Levi to my parents." He winked. "I'm twenty five, a professional soccer player and soon-to-be soccer coach. Love sports. Soccer is great. Sex is better."

Jesus Christ, oh my God, oh, sweet fucking mother, fuck.

It's probably just a coincidence, Eren, don't stress it.

"...and it's, as in, don't steal my game. Been there since I turned five, still hanging. Pretty sure no Jamie or Knux has it better. I'm lovely and aspiring, a New Jersey boy, two thousand..."

I know you, dude.

"...love fun, sex isn't a leisure time activity, it's more about..."

No way.

"...because it's a form of art if you understand it from the aspects of being in front of the camera and being a grinning cameraman..."

I paused it again and stared at his face. These really familiar vibes, he's the same, it's the same person, he's just five years younger, it's him, he... It's fucking...

HOLY FUCK. FUCKING SHIT.

Fucked up good.

So fucked.

So, so very fucked.

Toggled fullscreen off and closed the tab. Closed TOR and shut down my computer. Didn't finish my noodles, threw them out. Ditched teeth brushing. Fuck that.

I fell in my bed and closed my eyes.

Levi. Levi. Levi.

I didn't know anyone else in New Jersey named Levi. He said it himself, it's not a porn star pseud, A's his porn star pseud. A stands for Ackerman. Levi Ackerman. LEVI.

IT'S HIS NAME. IT'S HIS NAME. IT'S THE NAME OF MY SOCCER COACH. MY SOCCER COACH. IT'S HIS NAME.

Hey, Eren, still thinking it's a coincidence?

No.

No, no, man, it's not a fucking coincidence, it's real life. Terrified, I pulled my blanket over my head.

I go on Pornhub to find what I need, master-debate, clean the mess and clean my history, not run up on a five year old video of my soccer coach getting a fucking handjob.

And my fucking life aim is to become a professional soccer player. Foreshadowing where I'm ending up in five years?

Light me on fire.

Fucking Jesus Christ, light me on fire.

Chapter Text

"Jean? Guys, look. The one at the counter. Fuck, oh my god."

Jean reacted with a good twist.

I felt weird.

My night was the worst night ever. Never thought porn would affect me and my sleeping pattern, but there's no other explanation to me feeling tired and depressed. And thinking about gay porn, kinda. Just one video.

Just Handjob 006 and the starring actor. Still wasn't a believer, even after my several attempts of begging for Jean to pinch the fuck out of my biceps, still very anti-Christ. I didn't even watch more than mere seconds of the video to have a say in the first place, but the intro was good proof I've seen things I shouldn't.

My first thought of the night was whether I happened to be the first one in school to see and know this. Didn't seem to make sense if I was. The video's five years old with a tail, I can't make myself believe it hasn't exploded and Levi hasn't resigned.

My second thought was: How am I ever going to look at him the same? :-)

Mom sent me a message asking why I ate in my room at night and if I needed dark clothes to be washed first, because she's not going to be home tonight and I'd only get my white t-shirts tomorrow. I just told her, you know, that stuff happens. Sometimes you gotta eat in your room at night. And that I'm wearing my Umbro sweatshirt for a continuous week, so no, you can wash dark clothes first, mom.

"The one with dark hair." Marco pushed closer to Jean and pointed at the crowd behind me. "No, more to the left. That's fucking Mina. Like, that one. Fuck, are you blind? See? Yeah. Have you seen her hanging around before? She looks new."

Somehow I have never felt this uninterested in a girl as I was at the moment.

"Oh, what the fuck? She's gorgeous." Jean's face literally bloomed. "Reserved."

"For me, too," Marco said.

"Shut up, Marco."

"Right?" I murmured and looked over at them both.

Jean and Marco have been friends for a longer time than Jean and I, but our friendship's kind of stronger. Like, nobody can ever handle Marco, so Marco doesn't have friends. He's always there and talking, but nobody actually gives a fuck. That's really funny if you sometimes take the time to look at him and feel his vibe. He's, like, Marco's nothing. He just exists there and copies everything you do.

Us talking about girls and porn was normal. It's our typical thing to do. I began this tradition with my old friends in high school. Casually got my lunch, you know, got to their table, went like, yo, and just as casually talked about a thread on 4chan about, like, foreskin infection, or something. So sex talk is a lot more casual than this. But the habit dragged in to college, when I first met Jean, and you won't believe how happy I was when I found out he's a faggot from a shit site, too. There's nothing more beautiful than being friends with another Robot 9000 guy.

I love Jean, Jean's my best friend.

So the tradition went on. Before last night.

Because now I'm struggling with thoughts, like, do I change the subject before I say something about what I saw at night? Do they know? Would it be okay for Levi if I told anyone? I didn't want to talk at all, felt like it could slip out unnoticed. I wouldn't want Levi to get fired. IT'S SO FUCKING UNTYPICAL FOR ME TO STRESS ABOUT SHIT LIKE THIS, but it terrifies me so much. I can't properly speak, even.

Come on, I'm the star of this school, the big, tough soccer player.

The college I attended was trailed to the physical side and our school's sports teams were more in numbers than there were people on the planet. Much to everyone's surprise, I only attended soccer and volleyball because of the strain and pressure and all other sports I wanted to try. Also, my leg injury, but that's old. Ball is life. Signed up for baseball when I was twelve and two months and got my face smashed in. I left baseball when I was twelve and two months and one day.

I've tried football since it's in my blood to do an American sport, and it's also in my physique; I'm the perfect build for football, but I really do not have a passion for it and left the same thing a week later.

Mom wanted me to do tennis because she said it's safer. I googled images of tennis injuries and several bone fractures and she just agreed I rather chose a sport I personally felt better playing, so I chose soccer once again, despite both my parents trying to convince me I need to change things in life. Jean once said I have a thing for balls.

Which was exclusively unfunny.

I stretched. "Jean, your roots are growing out. When are you asking my mom to bleach your hair again?"

Mentioning this embarrassed him. It's only happened twice, but he hates me for bringing it up. Everybody knows Jean likes my mom. I don't know in which sense, but he likes her.

"It's a trend," was his immediate reply, like he'd be waiting for me to point it out. He talked while looking over my shoulder, presumably at the girl. "It's a trend, okay? I'm growing my hair out. It's pretty cool. Called ombré, supposedly. A fading transition. You never sit on slash F, so fuck off."

Sit on slash F, yeah, right. Sit on my ass, skank. Fucking model.

I skeptically looked at his "transition". "So this is a transition."

Jean nervously ran a hand through his hair. "Yeah."

"Your natural hair is literally a thousand shades darker. That's not a fading transition. That's your hair growing out for three ugly centimeters."

Marco choked on whatever he just ate.

Then I shrugged. "Sounds stupid. Hey, and nobody follows any fucking trends anymore. Maybe, like, Marco's mom or my mom, or something. You could hook up with Marco's mom, for all I care."

Eren's back in track.

"She's single," I heard Marco mention, and mentally tore my hair out.

Jean's brows lifted up real slow, and I returned to slouching in the chair to avoid a possible "your sense of humor is really twisted, Eren".

"It's really stupid," Marco miserably agreed and pushed closer to the table. I just couldn't watch him make a fool out of himself, so I kept looking down at my pants. "Uhhh... At least you're pale and, like, moderately handsome."

Moderately. I grinned at that.

"Ombrélla," I said.

"It's ombré," Jean repeated, voice higher than usual. "O-m-b-r-é. Please, like."

I rubbed my cheek again, dragged my hand down to scratch my neck. "Chill. Where's the new girl you were talking about?"

"Counter behind you."

I peeked over my shoulder.

Our school's cafeteria was tiny, compared to the size of all three floors, the sports hall next to the main building and attic on top (I'm not even counting the field and lockers), so it wasn't hard to spy out anyone who'd be new or different. All new kids came to the cafeteria. Main place gangs and friendships formed. Light walls, wooden panels, creamy colors. This was my favorite place to spend my free time at, right after the field.

There's only a single dark-haired girl I noticed and her physical build was amazing. I really got what Jean meant with taking her, because I'd gladly take her, as well.

I blinked, my eyes focused and I watched her actions. She's stuffing change back in a wallet and tugging on a fitness bar at the same time, and it looks...really cute. A second later, the wallet's tucked in the back pocket of her jeans, she's saying something to the lady over the counter and gesturing, and even her gestures look like I'm falling in love.

Then the object of my all time searched despair and answer in girlfriend topic turned, nibbling on the edge of the muesli bar.

I choked.

MIKASA.

"Mikasa?!" I screeched. "Mikasa, holy fuck! Fuck! Hey!"

My screaming made her jump. She looked around, searching for whoever called her, and smiled once noticed me waving. With my stomach in a twist, I watched her walk over.

"Eren?" Her eyes got bigger. "Eren, wow, shit, you scared me, hey."

"I'm sorry I scared you?" I laughed out of embarrassment and tried to stand up. Tried. "I'm sorry. For, you know. Not contacting you, and the reaction, too, I guess."

Due to the surprise, I banged my knee against the table and had to hold it for a second or two.

"Oh, it's really fine. Haven't been up for anything lately, anyways. I'd have contacted you otherwise. Man! I was about to say we haven't met since forever, but we met just a few days ago."

"Awkwardly, yes."

"I'm a mess when I drink," she shamefully confessed. "Anyways, jeez, what's up? What's going on?"

"School, boredom, soccer season launching literally right now." I swayed back and forth. "Busy boy looking for a job."

"Cool. Same, kinda."

"Why are you here, anyways? Didn't you..." I gestured. "You know, town's school, martial arts, something?"

"Uhhh, man, it's a long and boring story. I'm a student now."

"Wow, shit, really? Congrats. Go on, though." I was still rubbing my knee as I pointed over at both of my friends. "They don't care."

She looked at Marco and her eyes practically lingered on Jean until she returned her attention back to me. She got the hots, I'm telling you, she got the hots, it's apparent and actually pretty obvious. Oh, man, don't get me started on the Jean Linger! Every girl here has a type, and it's either me, or Jean. No other way. You either linger on me or on Jean, and it's pretty much set after that.

"We're hiring a flat in the city right now. Sold our last apartment to some lame scum named... Harold. He told us there's like a pile of some fucking difficulties with the payments, or some shit like this, I don't know."

"Parents?" I tried to expand.

"Fuck 'em. The Parents are having a hard time with money, so they can't really afford the house now. Guess they lost the place they owned before, a restaurant, something like that. I'm kind of living on twenty bucks at the moment. Fitness bars are way too expensive. Plus college money."

Oh yeah, and your parents weren't generous at the restaurant two days ago, what the fuck, can you go bankrupt in two days?

"Shouldn't have bought the curry lobster on Saturday," I said.

She narrowed her eyes.

"You're hilarious, dude. The flat barely has space for mom alone, plus dad's junk and all my..." She hesitated and waved the muesli in the air. "All my training equipment is stored in the school's attic at the moment. Talked with the principal about it," Mikasa said and tore the fitness bar open. I watched her take a bite. "Looks like a nice guy. I'm thinking about taking up a job."

"Really?"

"Yeah. Perhaps an instructor for kids at a karate camp or something, I don't really know. I need money to rent the flat's basement for keeping my stuff, at least. Don't want all my suits dust up at the attic. Like, no, I just want a place for myself, but I can't afford it. This is what you get when your family's a fucking sinking wreck."

I bit my lip and turned my attention to my terribly interesting wrists. "There's a sports equipment store I've been aiming at for a year or so. Mike takes everyone. He's pretty cool. My family knows him well, so, like..."

"Yeah." She cut me off.

"Yeah," I weakly echoed.

Mikasa chewed, looking down.

I felt devastated. My mood had dropped in literally two minutes.

I had no idea how it was to live off on your own. I've never been in a situation like this. Mom's always been supporting me, just like dad, though now he's away. For a while. I think he went to the Canaries. Maybe not. Shit, nobody ever knows where he's traveling.

It's funny because his salary is regular and consistent (he's a dentist), much less like mom's. Generally her aim was to become a fashion designer, it didn't work out, she became an interior designer, which is why our house looks torn out of a magazine.

Right now she's mostly roaming around New Jersey from one project to another. Paints at home and sells the paintings, too.

There's a clear "khem" behind me that tears me away from my thoughts. I turned to meet a pale Jean and slightly irritated Marco.

I should introduce her.

Or not.

Or should.

Or not. Man, I should, for bonding reasons.

Jean looked interested and scared as fuck. Matchmaker Eren? Aye, girl!

I stepped to the side a little and revealed her to the pair. "Sorry, uh. Guys... This is Mikasa." I gestured.

This was the most awkward moment in my life.

"Mikasa, that's Marco Bodt. He plays basketball, soccer and hockey. Worthless to talk to, unless you're bored as ass of Earth and he's the last person to exist, then, yeah."

"Fuck you, Eren," I heard Marco hiss.

"Hi," Mikasa said.

"The pretty one is Jean. Kirschtein. You'll never spell it right. He, uhm. He wears good clothes and has a lot of money. Everything about him on the inside fucking sucks because of his shit personality. But at least he's got a face." My smile was enthusiastic. "Soccer and volleyball. Used to train at karate. He's sexy."

"Uhh."

I winked at her.

"He has blond pubes," Marco blurted.

"That's...not fucking true at all," Jean commented on the last one and I swear I saw Mikasa's stomach jerk to suppress laughter.

"Don't ruin it," I said. "It's true."

There's this silence that could have crickets in the background. Then Marco finished drinking his carton milk with a louder slurp, and we all looked at him.

"If you left the introductions to me, Jean would probably get laid tonight," he said. "I'm just saying."

Mikasa looked at me like she's asking me if it's okay to murder Marco, and I'm like, shrugging, like, yeah, sure.

"First impressions?" I awkwardly asked, looking at each one of them, because I'd never done this before, and by now it had gotten as lame as it possibly could.

She shrugged and looked and me. "You know I like anyone with dark hair, so. You're cool."

We're just sitting in silence.

We're just waiting for her to mention Jean.

But she's just fucking finishing her wholegrain bar, folding the paper in four, tossing it on our table, and: "Okay. I'll go catch up with Pixis, I need to give him the keys to the attic." Mikasa hugged me with one arm. "See you later, Eren."

And she walked off. It's silent until Jean is back to life.

He's friendzoned before he's even gotten into the friendzone.

She literally ignored his existence.


"Training is moved."

Aaand my brows were knotting. There's a tingle in my stomach. "Details?"

"From Friday to today. The Wednesday's training is still there, but Friday's moved," Jean said and nudged my shoulder to change my walking direction. We took course to the sports hall and my stomach was refusing.

"That...sucks." I couldn't think of anything else to say.

"Why? Training's literally after school, you get more free time on the weekend."

"No, I mean," I began explaining, looking over my shoulder, back at the empty hallway. "I don't really have anything to do this weekend, asides from the regular stuff. Steam, porn. Really dreading the big games this year, I think I've gained, like, rice mass on myself. I've been eating cooked rice with eggs for the past, I don't know...two months."

I remembered porn and my intestines collapsed and I could've just caught fucking Existential Cancer.

"Cool."

Wow, fucking asshole, that's rude.

"We could hang out with Mikasa," I carefully suggested. "Like, you heard her situation. It wouldn't be bad if we went out with her and had a few drinks. Like, it's alright. No fucking around. Light atmosphere and stuff."

"You're not fucking pairing us up, her stance's pretty obvious."

"Hey, there's always a chance."

"Yeah, especially when the utmost perfect being doesn't even look at me. She seems to like you," Jean said. "So I'm not sure if it's even worth a shot. You know, like all girls from first years. Once you go Eren, you can never go Jean."

Jean's actually not good with girls. He's never been good with girls. I'd leave Jersey if he fucked up with Mikasa. She was ten levels too intelligent and fourteen levels too hot to get wasted by someone like him, but then again, Jean's also very smart and certainly has a future, so I'm not sure. I'd need to think about this if I really did consider pairing them up.

"You know..." I swung my bag a little higher. "We could go to your place. Play Mortal Kombat. She plays Mortal Kombat, I think. Like, she's a black belt at karate."

"What else does she do?"

I couldn't ignore the curiosity in his voice, but we were at the sports hall, and that was also an important matter. All the earlier dreaded scenes and memories banged straight back in my head. "I'll tell you when we're alone again, training's more important right now."

"Okay, sure."

I pushed open the left side of the main door and took a deep whiff of the air inside.

God, always smells great.

Like paint, sweat, socks, lavender and really bad cologne. The smell of soccer trainings and occasional middle school kids having P.E. here. I loved it.

"Smells worse than usual." Jean winced. "I wonder why both trainings are moved to today. There's practically nothing on Thursday and Friday."

"Maybe there's a tournament."

"Maybe."

"There haven't been any posters, though," I said and threw my bag on the bench. "At least I haven't seen any. Should've asked Marco, maybe there's a basketball thing in town."

Jean shook his head, looking up to the ceiling. "Nah. He'd talk about it all week if it was so."

"True. Weird."

"Really."

I didn't see Levi anywhere, but I did spot Thomas and a few others forming a little group on the opposite side of the hall. The floor was splattered in something wet and greasy. A thin trail of this substance followed up to the boys. I raised a brow.

"Thomas?"

"Yeah?"

"What's up with the..." I pointed at the leak. "...something?"

"We had a dodgeball warmup. Levi hit Connie in the face. Someone's really pissed today."

Ah, Levi, nice. Best introduction.

"I think it's broken," Connie murmured. Someone recommended tilting his head back. Yeah, fucking probably, your whole chin is dripping.

"Ouchhhhh," I dragged with zero care.

Soccer trainings were usually hell if Levi's in a bad mood. Maybe he's not pissed and it was just an accident. The trail of blood wasn't convincing, though. I could admit this might be worse than being burned alive. Or Connie just had a strong, healthy pulse.

On the bright side, we're not having trainings out yet. Probably because it's cold as ass and there's still chunks of snow.

Levi was the coach of our soccer team and the prior instructor for floorball when people still played it. Time fled and it kind of got out of the trend, Levi ran short on money and left the school for a hiatus of some sort. Happened every spring. His comebacks meant new uniforms, sports equipment, clothes. Sometimes a haircut. Looked like he also got the money for gym.

Jean guessed he had good contacts with a few other professional players and that's what he's been doing while away, but the only good contacts of his I knew were with the principal, Dot Pixis, the equipment store's owner, my Almost Uncle Mike Zacharius, and my ex-History teacher, Erwin Smith.

Erwin's his best friend.

So, nobody paid him extras.

But then again, Levi's somehow connected to the large world of porn industry, so I'm just guessing it all starts there.

Jean left to the lockers and I followed.

The room was huge and included the showers and toilets. The walls were in a bright green, luminous tone. Girls didn't have a separate section as trainings never happened together, but every boy knew they all complained about how abominable and vile the color is. The only girl to ever participate along with boys at some points was Ymir.

First time I saw her I thought she's a guy.

Ymir's a year older than I am. A literal dream girl of mine and I WOULD MARRY HER, TRUST ME, but she's lesbian (and open about it since quite recently). As soon as I found out, I kind of switched myself off. Couldn't get over myself for literal weeks. I had a huge crush on her the first week I arrived here, though.

She knows my mom and they've worked on a few art projects together, like, they're in pretty good terms, so her family sometimes came over to our place for dinner. Kind of liked the vibes. We also used to be friends earlier, in high school, I guess.

I'll never forget how hot I found her in seventh grade.

Ymir's great in sports, regardless to her gender, she's our moral and physical champion, plus a main supportive for the college and the creator of our soccer team's new emblem. The last one was outdated as fuck.

It's not really common in our town. Being gay, I mean. We're all mostly straight here, even Jean. I've had my doubts about his sexuality, but Jean's actually the straightest. Connie has been dating Sasha for four years now, Thomas, Mylius and Franz are straight as the very equator, Marco's straight, I'm straight, the rest of the fourth years are (kind of) straight, except for Ymir and Reiner, maybe some other scattered homosexuals around Jersey, but there's not a concentrated amount.

Then there's Levi. I don't want to think about that. I'll leave it ambiguous.

All boys back in the hall wore our red Nike t-shirts, which meant there's no team play today, otherwise a half would have the navy blue ones. Which left us with one option. Which were physicals.

Fucking. Physicals.

"It's physicals today," I said and pressed two fingers to my temples, symbolizing fucking shooting myself in the head. "Yayyy."

"That sounds nothing like the joyful Eren I know. We're fucked," came his reply. "Gotta wear the tight Nikeee's."

"I hate the tight Nikeee's." I actually really loved them and would have sex in one if asked.

"Me too. My stomach hurts."

The tight Nike's meant the t-shirts for physical trainings. They were red and extremely clingy. And Nike. Advertisement? Is anyone going to pay me for shameless advertising?

Bottoms were plain, gray sweatpants, my favorites right after basketball shorts, though I hated basketball itself. I changed into the improvised "uniform" and sat down on the bench to pull on my shoes.

Jean dressed quicker due to his desperate need of taming his hair before and after every training, which was stupid, but reasonable. Whenever he didn't comb it up or down, it fell in a straight, slick cowlick. That's what I always tease him for, for having a cowlick. Ironic, because his relative owns a ranch and he works there. There's a cow farm, too. You get?

Ah, shit. I'm fucking idiotic, but anyways.

I tied my left shoe and looked up at him. "It's soccer, dude. You'll get sweaty anyways. It's been three years, do you ever learn."

"Fuck you," he said. "You don't know what it's like. Fuck you, you don't look like you even own a comb, look at yourself."

I made an insulted face.

Well, that's not exactly true, Jean, I do own a comb.

"I'm glad we're friends," I replied and gave my thigh a pat. "Let's go, I'm ready to get myself killed. Watch him literally give me a thousand reps, I'm not kidding, he will."

"I really don't want to do anything right now. Today fucking sucks." He hesitated. "I think she fucking ruined my mood with that ignoring."

"Who gives a fuck? The season's coming up, the Regionals are coming up. The quicker the last bits of snow melt, the better. You know he's going to kill us if we lag on physicals." My voice was convincing. He frowned a little. "Come on, Jean. She's just embarrassed."

"God, I'd rather endure physicals than listen to you trying to convince me."

"Great! Let's go."

He made the sounds of a deceasing dinosaur.

We went back to the main hall. Turning around the corner that led us out to the open space, I nearly tripped from what I saw.

I hadn't seen Levi since last night's video. He stood a little turned sideways, holding Connie's head back in the position he held it himself when we arrived. It looked like Levi's calming him down. Just seemed like he talked and pressed a bag of ice against Connie's nose.

A trail of heat dripped down my spine when he finally looked over to us. I distinctively placed my hands over my crotch.

"The line," he calmly said, as usual, as if he'd be completely alright there's his porn on the Internet. "Eleven, ten."

He called us by player numbers.

My legs felt heavy.

I didn't want to go to the row behind the line.

I didn't want a single training anymore, and I felt like I hated soccer from now on.

His voice was so much different than it was in the video, but it was still so very Levi I had no other choice but to accept my fate and truly realize I was being trained by a porn star.

Curiosity killed me, and I burned in anticipation to find more about the whole ordeal. Whether it kills me or not, I'm not the person to leave this hanging and live with knowledge like that.

Levi. Twenty-five. Soccer, volleyball, sex. New Jersey boy.

I went to take my place.


"Thirty more, eleven! Twenty for tenth, ten for third! The others take a break and fill the last set, go, go, go! Jaeger, move, fucking move! Ten more! Nine! Eight! Seven! Six!"

Translation: thirty for me, twenty for Jean, ten for Thomas.

Translation: I'm dead.

I fell back with five left and miserably grasped the air above me. My shirt was drenched in sweat, and this is why it's made so clingy. Like, red Nike shirts. Physicals kill us on the inside and outside, and sometimes Levi ironically says sweat is just our souls crying. I don't ever comment on that. It feels true and accurate.

But right now I can't think about my crying soul because I'm the one crying out in exhaustion. I tried breathing through my mouth.

Crunches.

I hate crunches.

I hate everything when it's physicals.

"I can't. Can't, I'm done for today."

I know I shouldn't have said that, but we all respect each others' limits here. I'm like a senior soccer player for everyone, so I'm respected by Levi, too, but his mood's just not the right mood today. But it's spring. It seems natural Levi's shitting on everything living.

"What?" He asked. "Jean, keep it up, good pace. Straighten your back, do a flip after this. No reps. Then stretch. Eren, what?"

"I said I can't. I'd need more of a leg day today, like... Call an ambulance, I'm dying."

"Do you feel like repeating that?" His irritation was silky.

Okay, so this is what we call Levi's "Percussive Maintenance". He's going to bomb the fuck out of you. He'll make you repeat yourself until you realize you sound stupid, it's like, it's like with Jean and politics or philosophy, he's going to make you feel like shit and you'll want to kill yourself.

Except Levi just wants you to do five more crunches.

"I can't," I patiently repeated.

"Again," he calmly asked and knelt down in front of me. I looked away the moment his face caught my eyes. "Say it again, come on."

P-E-R-C-U-S-S-I-V-E M-A-I -N-T-E-N-A-N-C-E.

Also flashes of the video and I'm glad my face is already red from the exhaustion.

"I fucking can't make it!" I sat up. "Stop, holy fuck, I can't do that! You make me do five sets instead of three. I can't do five. Give me a break. I'm out of shape."

His hands pinned down my feet so it's practically useless to try and stand. I moved to sit in a more comfortable position, and then he stared me down until I lost and closed my eyes.

I can't even fucking look at him now, what's next?

"Oh my god, I feel like shit."

"I have reasons," Levi said. "Keep your breath steady for ten seconds, do ten more. Then take a pause and we'll do another set. Just keep it steady and regular, it's very easy. Concentrate and don't rush it, okay?"

For a porn star, he sure is a fucking calm guy.

But my stomach did flips. It's three pauses per six sets. Following his instructions, I tried to keep a regular pace, felt up my pulse on my neck and I rubbed it. The sweat left my palm wet and hot, and I wiped it off in my pants. With the corner of my eye, I saw Levi turn away.

Haha, he thinks it's gross we sweat a lot, but everybody sweats, him included.

Jean fell back after his twenty, breathing with barely any signs of exhaustion, and Thomas was doing extra crunches somewhere in the background. It's my time to shine. Again.

JUST DO IT, EREN!

I snorted imagining Shia.

"Lie down," Levi dictated and pressed on my feet. I felt his knuckles even through the sneakers, but didn't make a reaction. I felt him but didn't want to express I felt him, because having a porn star feeling you up (even by just holding your feet) is weird, and good boys don't do that, and my inner voice is going up like Michael Cera's.

Read that paragraph in Michael Cera's voice and you'll understand absolutely everything.

Okay, now listen, know what pisses me off? Knowing for how long I play soccer, I'm always the one who gets an extra set, an extra lap, extra weights and very little attention otherwise. I'm like a dummy voodoo doll in trainings. In all physical activities. Levi works me off like I'd be a dog with rabies, he exhausts me to a certain line of death and then says: "Okay, rest for a second, then we're repeating the entire fucking program, 'cause I like exhausting you so much you have problems dragging to school the next day."

"Are you listening?" He gave more pressure on my feet. "Lie down, Eren. Just do it."

I accidentally snorted again.

I followed the order and fell back down. My hands went behind my head in the usual position, and I took a deep breath. Clenched my muscles. This will hurt and it's only Monday. I want home.

"I literally hate this day," I said. "I hate my life."

"Take a deep breath."

"For someone who knows me this long, you should know I hate this more than anything."

If it's a physicals on a Monday, I'm never even in the mood to get off.

"Three, two, one. Go."

One, I counted. Two. Three. Shit, four. Holy shit, five.

"Five more," he said. I squeezed my eyes shut.

Six. Seven, God, eight. Nine. One more, one more, fuck, it hurts, fuck, ten.

"Ten more!"

TEN MORE? YOU FUCKING WITH ME RIGHTTTTttttt, sorry, no, YOU KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?

Eleven, for myself. Ten, for Jean, nine, eight, I'm fucking dying, seven.

Zero, zero, six.

Five, fuck me over. Four, a jerk-off session would do.

Three, but to what porn?

Not slash gay, two.

One? Nice try, I started counting from eleven.

I laid back and considered expressing myself in a victory scream to the ceiling, but nobody wanted me screaming, so I laid still. This cool heat surged through my muscles. Tried to breathe through my nose to appear more silent and had to cover my face with my wrists because it still came out loud anyways. Managed wiping away the sweat while keeping my breath even.

I probably looked like a total idiot. I should've remembered there's another set for me to do. Alone. With a porn star.

Christ, I can't stop referring to him this way now.

The pressure on my feet disappeared. I laid there for a while, a few minutes at least. Then I leaned up on my elbows, only to realize there's nobody in the hall anymore.

I swallowed whatever my mouth held. If this wasn't as odd as it was, I'd be alright.

"Good job." I heard Levi's voice from the cabinet next to the lockers. "You've improved a little."

"A little?" I asked. "I've always been the one who's a little too overworked. Plus I'm getting fucking fat."

"Then stop eating shit. Don't be stupid. You have the same program as everybody else." He came out of the small room, holding a water bottle. "It's just a little more efficient for your form."

He liked using the word "little" in all the wrong fucking places.

"With exclusive two laps in spring marathon, extra set of crunches and fucking fifty push ups, for fucking what, a bit of endurance? Why? Like, I know I'm doing it for a longer time and everything related, and..." I sat up fully and caught the bottle he threw at me. The cork was screwed on tight and I nibbled around it for a while longer than I naturally would, when in reality, I was just fucking nervous. "Thanks."

He shrugged. I watched him walk up to me. "No problem. Drink it, rest, do the last set and you're free to go."

"Why?" I repeated.

"Water?"

"No," I reasoned. "I mean, why isn't, like, Jean working his ass off? You never get anyone else do this goddamn program, it's just me. Eren, do this, Eren, do that. Eren, lick the floors, Eren, go run a few hundred more laps. This really fucking sucks, you know? I'm tired. Leave it for the summer."

He rolled his eyes and grinned like he knows the suffering I'm in.

"I'm not kidding about getting fat."

"I thought we've talked about this. Jean isn't you," Levi said. Like that, simple. "You're very easy material to take and mold. I'm technically molding you into a monster. You'll see yourself going big if you do this, you have something they don't, but my opinion surely hasn't mattered if we're bringing this up again."

I took a few mouthfuls of water before actually figuring his words out. Swallowed and looked up. I enjoyed how my stomach filled up. "What?"

"Not trying to kill you for fun, obviously. This has been talked through. You have everything you need to get to a professional level. Big points, big games, big ego. You have potential."

"So you torture me, because... Because, what? I have potential?"

That's fucking lame, dude!

I got cut off. "Because. Trust older people when they're talking about potential and you having some. It's going to be useful if you learn to accept reality. Just get a grip, really. Stop fucking around." He pressed down on my feet again. "You'll get far if you work hard."

I tried to murmur silent enough. "That's beautiful."

"Want more reps?" The knuckles of Levi's middle and index fingers were especially sharp. Then he shook his head. "Alright, forget it. I don't have that much time for you right now. I have to leave in a few minutes."

"Oh, yeah." I sealed the lid again and let the bottle roll to the side. It hit the blue mat Jean and Thomas worked on. "About the trainings on the weekend. Why are both moved?"

"Tournament," Levi said. "Cut to it."

"What kind?"

"Volleyball."

I really felt like he's not telling me something. Or, felt like he's lying.

I frowned and thought about it while laying back down. "It's not even the season yet. Indoor volley? You coach volley? Or are you in a team?"

"None of your concern right now."

Oh, that's edgy as fuck, Levi.

"You're coaching a prodigy, it's good enough for a reason." My breath hitched when I began the last set. "I think I'm privileged enough to know."

Nine down, twenty-one to go. The warm sensation returned to my muscles, and the sweat that cooled down while I drank the water returned with a great wave of heat. Eighteen to go.

Levi's smirk was a little mocking. "Don't think you're much more privileged now when I've told you you're the spine of our soccer team."

"The hell are you so nice to me, then?" I asked. Fourteen. "I meant nice quite rhetorically."

"I talked to Erwin about you in high school. Turns out you haven't changed a bit since back then, and he's known you for a while now."

THEY TALK ABOUT ME? COOL!

"So?"

"So?"

"What do you mean by that? You're just going to, I don't know, befriend me? Were you a horrible kid in high school and feel like you can relate?"

Levi gave a short, abrupt laugh. "Where are you getting this from?"

I suddenly realized it's just my subconscious speaking and he may not be interested in relating or being friends with me at all. That caused sudden embarrassment and my self-defense mechanism worked wonders. "Fucking nowhere, I'm just wondering."

"You do feel more relatable than others, but I'm not too interested in pursuing a friendship. Our relationship is professional and stays like that."

"Not too interested," I quoted.

"Maybe we'd have more to talk about once you get out of college and grow up."

Fuck my set, I'm getting great opportunities. I sat up and stared straight at him. He didn't complain about the crunches. "You're implying my future could only be a lowlife profession like yours?"

"Since when is this a lowlife profession?" He asked, visibly irritated now.

"Since forever?"

"This is what I meant with growing up, Eren. Your mouth is too large. You don't judge people for what they do for a living, and you don't know how difficult it might get for someone to pull their ends together."

I hadn't heard him talk with a tone this serious and collected. I guess it kicked me off the trail.

"Porn sure pays better, doesn't it?" I suddenly asked. "But you don't want to risk it too much and keep balance."

It took a few seconds to realize what I said.

The change of our facial expressions was immediate.

FUCK THAT. FUCK. THAT.

FUCK THAT.

WHAT THE FUCK DID I JUST SAY THAT FOR?


"And she's like, what the fuck, you look fucking hot now, and trick is, it's not what she fucking said in high school while pushing me off, so I don't know who's gotta cry now; me because I was denied when ugly, or her because she was denied because of denial."

I paused the game. "What'd she say in high school?"

"Were you fucking listening? I just told you." Jean cracked the second Dr. Pepper can open. "You're not fucking listening, ever. Just like your mom never listens to you."

"Sorry, I'm tired," I said and leaned back in my leather chair to prove my point. A sad excuse, but I couldn't actually tell him what happened. It's a physical strain on my nerves.

Last time I saw Levi so shocked was in Berlin, a while ago. Broke my left leg on a soccer match. We lost. It was three years ago and I still remember how the bone poked through my skin. My quick, shallow breaths, Levi's cold hand on my forehead. That's a pretty cool fucking memory, I think about it sometimes. Levi worries about me often. I'm the one to do shit the most, hah.

I hadn't thought of a retreat plan in case I actually spurted the sensitive matter out like I did two hours ago.

Fucking disappearing was the only thing I could imagine doing. I remember pulling my legs from his grip that grew loose the second I uttered "porn", clumsily stood up, apologized, and walked backwards for a while before sprinting off.

Locked myself away in the furthest shower cabin and waited for my death sentence to be filled. I just sat on the wet shower tiles for at least thirty minutes. Nobody came. There wasn't even as much as footsteps or knocking near the lockers, there was literally nothing.

Then I wondered if we're getting a new coach. Thought about Levi zoning out in his car for a few minutes.

I ran home in my same, sweaty uniform. Only tucked my actual attire in the sports bag. I knew my sweatshirt was going to reek afterwards. I've never washed the bag.

Alright, but that honestly wasn't my major fucking concern. Not when I dashed through the entire school and down the street, breathing like those would be the last bits of oxygen on Earth I can get.

I was honestly...honestly, pretty fucked. Went to shower as soon as I stepped in my room. I also considered burning the sneakers Levi touched and pressed on to leave no trace of his on me, but that seemed stupid. Hilarious. Childish. I'd never do it, I mean.

I called Jean over for relaxation and a two hour regular fucking around in my house, or something just as lame, knowing it might help and might also bring me to the verge of tears. I still wasn't sure if I should tell him everything or show the video. And I couldn't ever tell him Levi knows I know.

Jean cleared his throat. "Your room smells different, by the way."

He sipped the drink. The slurp was loud.

"Mom bought me new shampoo."

"Oh, okay."

"Cranberry, I guess."

"Nice."

Another sip.

"Levi sure worked on you today."

My heart lagged. "Barely finished the last set, yeah. Hard."

"He looked really pissed. But he always does, I guess. Did you find out about the weekend? The trainings, I mean? Asked anything?"

I resumed the game and paused it again. Pushed back from the table. Turned to Jean. "Yeah. Yeah, he's on a volleyball tournament, or something. I was pretty skeptical. It's not the season yet."

Jean prepped his arm with the other, moving the soda can in a slow pendulum motion. His facial expression was a little suspicious. He eyed me. Carefully. We stared at each other for a few seconds before he broke off, returning back to the screen of his computer.

"Indoors volley."

"Indoors volley," I agreed and gladly resumed the game again. The only audible noise was our rare cursing, keyboards and Jean's Dr. Pepper sips. I cleared my throat and paused the game. Had to get it out of my system, now or never.

"Jean?"

"Yeah?"

"We have to talk about something really fucking sick."

"Boy." He slammed his computer close. "Knew you were fucking weirded out from the moment I stepped in your room. That's a problem. I'd like to know what can mess you up like this."

"Shit, I... I don't really know how to start." My voice was a little lower than usual. "It's a fucking stupid thing. I mean, I think I should start from the very beginning, but you'd misinterpret it all and I'd end up being a total fucking loser, so I might just...not...say anything."

"Holy fuck, just tell me."

I took a deep breath. He pressed the cold can against his left cheek.

This could fuck me up . Jean could take it in a wrong way. I could get Levi fired. I could lose friends. We could not get to the Regionals, or to Berlin. So this could fuck everything up, but Jean also might not react like I expect him to.

"So, uh."

He nodded. "Impressive."

"Sorry."

"Talk."

"Have you ever wondered what Levi does in spring while away?"

I got interrupted by a silent knock on the door.

Jean hid the soda can behind his bag since my mom was pretty strict on sizzled slash canned drinks. Sometimes even carton milk since I drank milk straight from the carton and she thought that's super unhygienic.

We both turned to the door only to see mom stretch out a hand holding a plate of brownies. I recoiled from the table since my chair had wheels, took the plate, Jean screamed a "thank you!" and I tried to recover from this sickening feeling of heat up in my neck.

I've never believed in perfect timing.

I've never believed in coincidences. Until last night.

Until literally last night.

Maybe the coincidences happening lately are just leading me on to something.

For the rest of the evening of us chilling, I could only feel thankful Jean had poor memory and attention spawn, because the subject was dropped and long forgotten.

Surprisingly, I wasn't going to pick up on it ever again. It felt like a lot of people depended on my silence now. Time to shrink that big mouth of mine.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

"You'll be home by nine, right?"

"Yeah, mom."

"Okay, baby. There's salmon in the oven if you're hungry. Heat it up when you get home. I'm locking the doors."

"I have the keys, it's okay."

"Alright, be careful."

"Bye."

I wiped my nose and dropped the call.

The neon 7-Eleven sign behind me lit the wet street in front. There's a bunch of ducks in the channel. The squeaking is comforting. They're always so active after it rains. Like snails. Snails just crack so obnoxiously when stepped on.

It rained the majority of Tuesday, and it rained this entire morning, as well.

Mmm.

My mood is hanging on a question mark.

I felt, roughly saying, bad.

Our training was canceled today. Not moved, canceled. It should've happened. It's Wednesday. And for the past two days, all I've been wondering about is what Levi might be thinking.

I felt really guilty for his absence. I knew this was because of me. Just, like, felt it. Now we're not fucking going to Regionals, or Berlin. In my delusional dreams. Everything Levi said was right, my mouth's too fucking big and I need to grow the fuck up.

Nobody knew anything about my mood and mom assumed I just need some free time alone, which I don't really have, considering I'm sitting on a wet park bench and waiting for my three gentlemen to arrive.

College is a little hard, by the way, but it's going easier on me this year.

In grief of all this downhill situation, the weather and the training not happening, Jean asked if I'd be up for an improvised soccer training with Connie and Marco. I said, yeah, why not. I'm way too distraught by thinking, anyways, and I needed some form of relaxation, so we all gave in for a late night endurance session.

At first, Connie offered playing basketball, but Jean hated basketball, and so did I. I let Jean handle saying a brutal "no" in my place, just because I was too tired and too soft to try and talk Marco and Connie out of it.

We usually met up in the park next to Jean's house. Today wasn't much of an exception.

I don't know how well the friendship rectangle we all four shared worked, but we've been handling each other pretty good. Not that all our interests and personalities match, though. I mean, there sure are flaws in this. A lot of them. But the main would be:

1. Marco's eighteen.

2. Connie has a girlfriend.

3. Jean is too attractive.

4. I'm an idiot.

So taking this in consideration, we have:

5. I find Marco annoying.

6. Connie always talks about her.

7. Jean always talks about himself.

8. I ruin their normal, casual triangle.

The first time I held a conversation with Jean was in soccer tryouts. He asked me if I've trained anywhere else previously and whether there's any case my hairdresser might be blind. Back then, him being platinum blond and seventeen, I thought I'd never find anyone else able to handle my shitty personality better.

Jean has a way of living. Jean's just like me. He is exactly me, except a lot more unsure and self-loathing. Don't know what happened or which girl turned him away, but it has created an image of a hurt, pretty boy, and most girls are usually all about that. I also find him smart, he's pretty wise and will always have an opinion.

Then there's Marco. He's been Jean's neighbor for around five years. They went to the same middle and high school, so their friendship was a little tighter, but it didn't change any aspects towards me. I'm still good with Jean.

Guess it was Jean's birthday when I met Marco, seventh of April. We'd known each other for the first semester and I already considered him being my first, best and only friend in the whole school. Ten minutes of talking and I was invited. If anyone thought it happens all formal like it does with girls, it doesn't. Not between guys. I guess we just do our shit. We're a bit less constipated about subjects like those.

I drank so much I actually got really fucking drunk. Remember the story about me jumping in the pool? Marco dragged me out of it after I jumped.

He also took a picture with me passed out next to him and posted it on Snapchat.

Maybe that's why the feud is so real. Haven't liked him ever since.

"Jesus, Jean, take it easy... She's not going to fall in love two days after finding out you exist."

"Yeah, but she didn't even look at me. Fucking ask Marco. Or Eren."

"Marco?"

"Pretty accurate," Marco confirmed.

I perked up at the familiar voices and pulled off the back of the bench.

"I don't know, feels like you're still not getting my point, Jean." Connie sounded calmer than usual. "It's been two days. Give it time. Start hanging out with her."

"I've seen her and I'm pretty sure I'd marry her right now if she'd fucking say "hi", at least."

Marco snorted. "Yeah. Yeah, the best part is you've seen her once."

"Back off. I know what I'm talking about," Jean hissed. "Eren?"

"I'm here!" I called back. "What's up with you two? Connie?"

Jean growled. "Connie doesn't understand shit and I'm so pissed today."

Footsteps of three were now heard almost clearly. I wiped my hands off on my sweatpants and stuffed them in my pockets. I could spot them a few meters away, lit only by the neon lights behind. As all three came closer, I could figure out who was who.

I gave Connie's hair a mischievous glance. He had a band-aid on the bridge of his nose. Marco's skater socks were cringy, though. I used to wear socks like those.

It's really just too obvious, God.

Why do I give a fuck.

"Cut your hair?" I asked and shook his hand. "Looks nice."

He rubbed his head and sat down on my left side. "It's getting in the way when I'm playing, so I had to. Sash is really unhappy. She's making me wear hats. My mom says I look like a molested animal."

"Aw," I dragged.

"My girlfriend is really unhappy, too," Marco joined in. "Wanna know what she's unhappy about? Not existing."

Nobody said anything for a while.

"That was actually very funny," Connie said. I think he said it just to erase this awkward silence between the one taken and three single guys.

"It's the funniest thing I have ever heard," I added, unamused. "Good job."

"I fucking wish I had a girlfriend," Jean murmured. I heard him zip his jacket up and down. My eyes worked on burning a hole in the wet pavement, mind deep in thinking about my last girlfriend around a year ago. I knew Marco will comment on this.

And he did. "Yep, you've got a way with the easy ones, but you can't get a girl you'd keep."

"Fuck off, I can get a real girlfriend."

"No, you can't. You're pretty miserable at that."

"Marco, you're fucking twelve. You don't know shit." Jean laughed. "Fuck off."

His laughter was sour.

"I just don't really need a girl right now. Most girls are trash, anyways. I want that one, you know. The one who isn't complete garbage."

"You know," Connie began, bringing the conversation to a milder level. "You know, I think it's very obvious who is single and who is not. I see why you're all this lonely."

"Enlighten us, oh, Lord Connie."

"Guys, you suck with people and have no idea how to tolerate a woman."

Oh, yeah, now the singles are angered.

"Way to fucking go, star of Google."

"Right? Fuck off, Connie. At least you get head. We all know there's nothing more blessed than head."

"Fuck off," I also mentioned.

Connie punched Jean.

"Well, we all know I've been single since the day I was born," I murmured. "I have issues. I'm boring and attracted to anything. Girls don't pay much interest. Jean has too high standards. Marco is too pure."

"I'm not pure, what the fuck?"

"By the way, Eren, you've had four, and it's a number."

"Jean just wants an Asian girlfriend. He's got that stinking kink for Asian girls. They're innocent, kinda. But slutty as fuck."

"By the way, how's your nose, Connie?" I changed the subject while still having the chance. The growl from Jean's side sounded thankful. "Thomas convincingly said Levi broke it."

He raised his hands up to his nose, ignoring Marco's stuttering attempts to justify his anti-purity. I watched his fingers glide down the bridge of it. "It's not broken, it just, like, cracked. He hit me. Pretty hard."

"What happened?"

"Jesus, I don't fucking know. He was mad pissed when we arrived, no warm-ups, no nothing. I tried to talk to him, he said "warm up with dodgeball" and tossed me the ball. You see the result. Why?"

Tossed the ball. He just tossed.

All hairs on my body stood straight up. I leaned back on the bench and shook my head. "Eh. Just wondering, you know, since the training was canceled today. Maybe something serious is up?"

Porn shoots, maybe? Yeah, whatever.

"Pshhh." Jean kicked the ground. Some pebbles jumped off. "Serious? He had a fight with Pixis again, I'm betting a million. The single-day-school-skipping-thing has turned into a bigger deal and someone has to clean it up. I mean, doesn't this make sense? I think Levi might be retiring soon. He's losing the position. It's just his attention span. It's as short as he is."

"Yep. You skip school, you fall out."

I sank even deeper down. "Yeah. I mean, maybe Levi has a reason of some sort."

"Like what?"

"I don't know. I'm sure it's not just not giving a fuck. He cares about us, you know?"

"Why the fuck are you defending him?" Jean asked. "He literally broke Connie's fucking nose."

"It's not broken, but okay."

I felt my ears flame bright red. "Who cares. All I know is he's not leaving us like that. He'll make us win Berlin this year, I'm sure. Levi wouldn't leave his favorite team hanging."

"It's true, Levi's pretty responsible, but we don't know much about him. So."

"Meh, you're just blinded by your absolute soccer idol, you skanky little fangirl."

"Okay, forget it, can we just go to the fucking field?" I asked and abruptly stood up. Jean followed me soon after. "I have a ton of shit to do at home, the quicker we end this, the sooner I get to study. I'm close to failing again. Probably going to need help from Erwin like all other years."

"Me too, actually," Jean murmured. I noticed Marco move. He looked pretty concerned. "I can't keep up too well. There's something wrong with my concentration skills."

"Jean, you have none."

Mentally LMAO'd.

Connie rubbed his short hair and pulled over a beanie. He also sighed a little. Probably fucking content at least he's passing this year.

We all stood awkwardly for a few seconds, shifting weight from leg to leg before Marco actually suggested moving. The field wasn't far from the park; in fact, it was on the other side, so we walked through it. I didn't like the place at night as much as in daytime. Now it's just plain creepy.

And then again, the topic of my idiocy. Why the fuck am I trying to reason about Levi's absence? It's clear as fucking day what he's doing. I guess it's super easy to just take a while off from school and fuck a bunch of people for just as super easy money.

A light nudge on my right shoulder made me jump. Realizing the face next to mine was just Jean's, I took a breath and turned back to the path in front. "Could've warned me, I almost passed out."

"Sorry. Are you really, like, failing again?"

I looked back at both boys. Turned to Jean again and realized we were holding good distance from the pair behind. I cleared my throat.

"No," I said. "No, well... Yeah. Erwin told my mom I'm in deep shit. Like I'm not failing, but I'm not far from failing."

"I bet he didn't literally say you're in shit. He's too eloquent for that," Jean murmured. "Ehhh. He only told me to talk to you. We already got close to being dropped once, I don't want to survive college for another extra year. Really want to get my papers and flee."

I wiped my nose again. "You're lucky you got sick."

Jean grinned. His teeth were pretty bright in the dark. "You're an idiot."

"Did you realize only now, or..."

"No, I knew all along."

"Okay. Cool."

"Yeah."

I appreciated Jean's existence for a short while. Pondered. Bit the inside of my cheek. "So, told you anything else?"

"Only reminded me getting into the Revolution Academy requires a minimum GPA of 2.0. He did praise me for keeping up, though, he said I'm better than last year. Oh! Oh, yeah, and he also said they're not counting in the championships like they did last year. So that's a bummer. You know what, Eren? You're really fucked, I'm sorry."

I felt like crying. My eyes felt like they're borderline hurting and drying out. I looked at Jean. "Thanks for the info. I'll need to fap to drain it down."

"Start advertising Kleenex. And Astroglide, or Wet. Or ID."

I considered crying at home.


"Hi, sugar boy."

I looked up from the position I was in. "Hey, babe."

Mikasa sat down on the opposite side of the table. I watched her shake a packet of milk in her left hand. The t-shirt she wore had pink sewn-on stars on each breast. I have never stargazed so nonchalantly.

"Something wrong?" Mikasa asked and ripped the straw off from the carton. "You've been like this the entire day, what's up?"

"Bleh."

"Come on."

The water bottle in my hands fell back on the table and I blurted out some delirious sounds.

Cafeteria, I was sitting and drowning my sadness and bad mood in the cafeteria again, eating a chocolate bar and texting Jean as a parallel because Jean was sick and has been staying home for the past two days already. He told me it's nothing big, just a running nose and cough, but I can't see how it's holding him from coming to school. My own nose was running from the training session on Wednesday (Jean and I won the two versus two match) along with my throat being very itchy and not in a great condition at all.

And now it's Friday, and the soccer training still isn't happening.

Guess I kind of missed Levi being here, you know? He's a cool guy asides from BEING A FUCKING PORN STAR, RIGHT?

I keep realizing I think about him more and more often. It doesn't upset me as much as it should, probably. I still think he's a total lowlife for doing what he does, but I also still hold a lot of respect because he's, again, still my coach and soccer idol forever and always.

"I'm a bit sick. Jean's sick as well. I'm hungry. I'm cringing at a bunch of people here, and won't ever graduate, probably. I need to piss, but the toilet is on the third fucking floor. See my problem now?" I smiled, sarcastically. "Just the basics."

"Got it," she said and tucked her hair away. "Can I help with anything besides taking a piss?"

"No, thanks. I mean... I mean, yes, I'd love and adore you if you helped me, but I doubt I need help. I doubt you can help. Physically."

I broke off the left side of my chocolate bar and tossed it to her.

"I can lend an ear?"

With a loud groan, I slid down on the table and pressed my cheek against it.

"I'm screwed, I'm so screwed. Mom's actually getting worried about me and keeps talking to my high school History teacher about it behind my back, dad isn't sending e -mails anymore, I'm sick and feverish and twenty, and fucking single, and still living with my parents, from which one of them is a workaholic and the other is a goddamn mother..."

I listed the problems down, avoiding Levi-related concerns.

"I thought growing up is like spreading butter, nice and smooth and fucking easy. I guess I never considered I could be a loser, then it's like trying to smear a rock on soft toaster bread. I'm so fucking...so done. I want to masturbate my pain away. I wish I could do that."

Mikasa rubbed her wrist and twirled the chocolate between her fingers. I watched the chocolate melt and wondered if she'd say anything if I licked it off. Wondered about it for a while. Then realized I'm just a weirdo.

Due to her sudden and apparent mood swing, I regained my breathing and previous position. My face was probably very apologetic.

"Hey, sorry. It's just me. What's up on your side, how are you hanging? With the parents and money, and everything?"

"Well... I have to find a place to live within the next three days," she murmured. "I'm getting kicked out. That's for starters."

I watched her hair fall back down to the sides of her face. It covered her ears.

"What?"

"Our landlord made a scene in front of all our neighbors, complaining it's a two-person flat, respectively, a flat for a pair, not a trio or anything." She nibbled on the chocolate. "So, since I'm twenty, grown up, responsible, parents decided they're going to kickstart me with a few hundred and spew me out to the world."

"What the fuck is your landlord's problem?"

"Oh, fuck. I bet that fucking pimp just fucking hates me. I turned him down when he asked me out, he's like, I don't know, fucking fifty years old. Fat fuck with a family and no big future. For fuck's sake, I don't need that type of shit in my life."

My lower lip quivered. "How much money do you have at the moment?"

"Seven bucks on hand, like two or three hundred in general."

"You can buy shoes at Walmart. For seven bucks."

She gave me a long stare and I raised back up. Prepped my head on my wrists.

"You're cute, though," I played my trump, the only one I could afford.

Her smile died down and she just stared at me and I stared at her, and I'd say it was a pretty fucking, uhm, you know, romantic thing? Like the intimate stare-down where you've got to be careful with breaking the contact.

My phone buzzed and saved us both from it getting uncomfortable. Mikasa looked at it and squinted at the sender's name. "Jean?"

I grinned. "Yeah. He just texts me constantly when sick."

She rolled her eyes. "Does he live alone?"

"Nope, parents. But their house is enormous, so it's like he has a house for himself. We both think the parents are getting a divorce, so he's planning on moving out when his dad does."

"Why do you think they're getting a divorce?" She asked, voice lowered.

I broke off another piece of my chocolate. With a peek at the cashier, I tucked the paper in the vent under the table. Chewed slowly, enjoyed the taste, and gave it all a thought before speaking.

"You know, Mikasa, the problem isn't in the whole get-along thing, I think. They two are getting along too well, you know. There's no love there. It's almost damn platonic. They're comfortable with each other, but they could be just as comfortable without. I'm expecting a breakup. Jean's okay with it. He knows what a breakup smells like."

"I don't see how it's problematic. All married couples get to that phase sooner or later. The arguing. No sex. Constant irritation."

"Yeah, but they don't have this. They're just not interested anymore."

Mikasa didn't say anything, so I took my phone and tapped on the new message.

[15:33:57, Friday] Jean: I'm going to cough my fucking heart out :^( Where u @?

Grinning inwardly, I typed back.

[15:37:49, Friday] Eren: With Mikasa at the cafe rn

[15:37:55, Friday] Eren: We're literally talking about you lmao

[15:38:00, Friday] Eren: Good timing

The reply was immediate.

[15:38:04, Friday] Jean: Stand up and leave

[15:38:11, Friday] Jean: Please just don't talk like SAVE a life

[15:38:19, Friday] Eren: :^) I'm gonna tell her everything you don't want her to know, petal.

[15:38:24, Friday] Jean: CONSIDER YOURSELF FUCKING DEAD

[15:38:32, Friday] Jean: EREN HOW MANY FUCKING TIMES HAVE I FUCKING TOLD YOU

[15:38:36, Friday] Jean: LEAVEIT TO FUCK;ING ME

[15:38:41, Friday] Eren: :^^^^^) I'll probably bike to your place later

[15:38:47, Friday] Eren: Want me to get something?

[15:38: 59 , Friday] Jean: I'd kill for avocados

[15:39:06, Friday] Jean: Maybe 1/2 a watermelon if it's not hard

[15:39:18, Friday] Jean: Can you please please not tell her anything embarrassing Eren like please

I laughed aloud and that caught Mikasa's attention.

"Having fun?" She asked and slurped her packet milk.

I checked the label. Oh, vanilla. Great, we have a vanilla girl over here.

I looked up. "Jean's sick. He's funny when he freaks out, is all."

"Freaks out?"

Just shook my head. "It's nothing, nevermind. I got carried away. Do you have any expectations towards him? Any points of interest, impressions, anything?"

Am I too obviously trying to lure out some personal thoughts and information about Jean? I mean, she did sound interested and also showed it, so maybe, like, Matchmaker Eren is still alive.

She might've snorted. "Impressions?"

"Yeah."

"I heard he's a massive fucking jerk, I mean, fuck that, but he's pretty," Mikasa said. "He's obsessed with himself. A fuckboy. Mina said he's on shit like 90-60-90, or something. I like his hair at the end of the day. He's pretty cool, but..."

"We call it a cowlick," I interrupted.

"But not really my type." She paused. "I like brown hair on guys."

I looked out the window, obviously ignoring the fact I'm brown-haired. Jean's natural hair color is a dusty brown, though.

Mmm.

So.

Considering.

"I also heard he has a big kick for good music," she mentioned, to erase the sudden silence.

"Pretty much."

[15:39:50, Friday] Eren: She just called you a fuckboy

[15:39:54, Friday] Eren: Shots fired

[15:39:58, Friday] Eren: You're a fuckboy lmao

[15:40:07, Friday] Eren: Kill yourself before it's too late Jean

[15:40:12, Friday] Jean: Please

[15:40:16, Friday] Jean : Eren please

[15:40:21, Friday] Jean: This damage is enough.

[15:40:25, Friday] Jean: >tfw no gf

I put my phone down. "Mikasa?"

"What?"

"Is there by any means a chance you'd like to see Jean ugly?" I asked.

"Umm." Her face expressed no emotion. "I guess?"

"I have to get him some stuff from the store. We'll probably play Fallout 3. And he's sick, so he probably looks like shit. Uhhh...anyways." I noticed her expression still didn't change and it made me shrink around three times my size. "Join us, maybe?"

"How far from here is it?"

"Like a few miles. Normally I'd bike there. But I can pay for the bus."

Her mouth made a "T". "Fallout is okay, I guess."

My face bloomed in a smile. "You're coming?"

"Yeah."

She finished drinking her vanilla milk and we headed out to the bus stop.


What at first seemed like the best idea I've ever came up with now felt worse than anything. We went to the store behind the school's bus stop and bought Jean's shit. I stuffed the watermelon in my backpack and gave Mikasa the avocados.

On our way to the park I kept pulling my phone out and constantly considered warning him I'm not coming alone. Also, knowing how much he adored Mikasa and how deep it would scar him to be viewed in a condition like this, with each bus stop driven, the guilt just killed me.

At least I forgot about Levi for a second.

See, and now I just remembered him.

Great.

Fuck.

"Why do you keep checking your phone?" Mikasa boredly asked.

We sat next to each other. The bus wasn't too full, the last few stops were closing in. Sun not too scorching, could be about a quarter past four.

"I'm just waiting for a reply," I lied.

"Oh. Okay."

She turned to look outside the window and sighed.

My eyes ran down her thigh almost by accident. I let my gaze land on her pigmented, slightly tan skin. It created weird feelings down in my stomach. She had boyish legs with muscle definition. There were a few feathery hairs on her upper thigh. She wore shorts.

Generally I thought her features were of a thirteen-year-old girl. I somehow adored how it all looked put together.

I wrote Jean a message.

[16:27:02, Friday] Eren: Omw with your gf

[16:27:15, Friday] Eren: She looks stunning btw so try not to look like shit

[16:27:22, Friday] Eren: Tidy your room

I looked at Mikasa again. She was still staring out the window.

[16:27:39, Friday] Jean: You're on your way with who

[16:27:48, Friday] Jean: Are you with mikasa

[16:27:58, Friday] Jean: (smiling emoji)(gun emoji)

[16:28:08, Friday] Jean: Eren was it really necessary

"Jean is excited to meet you." I touched Mikasa's bare thigh with my knuckle. "A little nervous, but he's excited."

She slid lower in the chair and pressed her shins against the front seat. "Oh?"

"Yeah. You're all he's talking about the past week. Really. Give the guy a chance."

"I'm not sure I want someone with previous girlfriends all over New Jersey."

"It's not like that."

Her head jerked backwards. She smiled. "He's had something with almost every girl I've currently talked to. It's sure not like that."

"Mikasa, he's pretty broken. You need to understand that. I guess he was fifteen or sixteen when she broke him. That girl. Jean never tells me her name. I don't think anyone really knows who she is. Sometimes I doubt she even exists." I shrugged. "I don't know. But he's never acted like this before. Crawled out of his skin to say "hi", I mean."

"Can't he just deal with it?" Mikasa closed her eyes. "Her leaving him and me not being interested."

"How'd you know she left him?"

"I guessed."

>:/

[16:29:59, Friday] Eren: So are you ever going to tell me who was the girl

[16:30:11, Friday] Eren: Cuz mikasa is suspiciously just the most accurate dream girl of yours I could imagine

[16:30:23, Friday] Eren: Are you some kind of forbidden long-lost lovers

Jean is typing...

[16:30:39, Friday] Jean: Why does it matter all of a sudden

[16:30:45, Friday] Jean: How far are you

I looked outside, along with Mikasa. She was probably pissed at my phone vibrating all the time, but it's somehow not my concern because she shouldn't be mad at me for anything at all.

The few trees reminded me of Veteran's park.

[16:30:59, Friday] Eren: Veteran's park. We'll be there in five minutes.

"So, how do you like this part of the town?" I asked Mikasa, to drag her away from whatever she was thinking about.

"It's nice."

"This is the park we usually hang out at. Have you met Connie?"

"Sasha introduced us."

"Do you like him?"

"He's a great guy to his girlfriend." She turned to me. "Skinny, but ripped as fuck. Seen his pack? He's fun, I guess. Though at some points I really find him irritating. Why?"

I shrugged. "I just wanted to let you know who my closest friends are."

"You don't seem to like Marco too much," Mikasa pointed out.

"Oh, it's because I don't. His facade is overrated. It's clear once you'll get to know him. There's no depth, really."

"Honestly, Jean doesn't seem deeper than a road bump, either."

Coincidentally, the bus jumped. I remembered the perfect timing thought in the back of my head.

Though the entire road is just filled with bumps here.

I checked the bus' front screen. The letters on the strip changed to "VETERAN'S PARK".

I nudged Mikasa again. "Let's go."

Even though the ride didn't last longer than twenty minutes, perhaps, the sun had already shied down between the huge oak trees. The air was also a lot chillier. I got worried about Mikasa in her t-shirt and shorts, but the combat boots and high socks balanced it out. Obviously, I offered my varsity jacket, but she didn't take it.

The walk to Jean's place was around three minutes long. He lived right around the block, so the park's close to him. I can imagine how nostalgic it feels to walk or sit there, knowing how many girls he's met there and the evenings I've spent talking him out of idiotic ideas.

"I don't think I should go," Mikasa suddenly said, around half a mile before Jean's house, and stopped in the middle of the pavement. "I think I'll just grab something at Smoothie King and go for a walk. You can go alone."

I pulled her asides so she doesn't get hit by a biker. "Mikasa, we're literally feet away."

"Yeah, but I'm not going to just barge inside and act like we've been friends for years. It's fucking stupid, I'll feel out of place. I'm a girl, for fuck's sake."

"What happened to you?"

She shrugged and looked down.

I looked around in despair, then back at her.

"We can all get smoothies and, like, go for a walk? Show you a bit of New Jersey. Maybe it won't feel as tight that way. Jean will lend you a jacket, you're obviously freezing. It'll be nice, trust me."

Mikasa raised her head to look up at me. Then she just let it fall back down and hit my arm.

"I'm just so tired," I heard her murmur. "Don't let him get his hopes up."

I bit my lip. "Alright."

Fuck!

We continued walking, now closer, side by side. She emitted heat. I'd say it was comforting. Intimate, kind of, and if it weren't for her tan legs flashing in the corners of my eyes once in a while, I could easily mistake her for someone else. If I walked with my eyes closed, my hand would probably fish the air for hers. The way we walked reminded me how it felt to be with a girl.

Fuck... Last year, Veteran's Park. March. Annie.

"Mikasa?" I awkwardly spat.

"Mmm?"

"Do I count as a hypocrite if I'm thinking about my ex right now?"

"We count as idiots. Me too."

"Fuck."

"Double that."

I tried to avoid our hands brushing.

We met Jean on his way out the door. He was still in socks, so I assumed he got ready for staying inside. I zipped my bag open and gave him the watermelon half. Mikasa also reached out and let him take the fishnet bag of avocados.

"Get dressed," I said, closing my bag. "And take around five bucks. We'll show Mikasa some Jersey highlights and get smoothies."

Jean looked confused, but didn't say anything. I noticed he looked at Mikasa while I talked about our ride and the people I saw in town. I also talked to fill the silence while he pulled on his shoes and jacket, and asked if he could lend Mikasa one of his warmer garments since she's freezing her ass off.

We ended up walking straight to Smoothie King. Jean got strawberry, Mikasa got banana. I chose blueberry.

Jean's green varsity jacket was a bit baggy on our girlfriend. It reached over her ass, so to someone from behind, it looked like she's not wearing anything else. I couldn't figure how Mikasa felt walking around with a huge "KIRSCHTEIN, 10" on her back, but I sure knew Jean loved and adored literally every aspect of the evening.

We opened up in the first fifteen to twenty minutes.

For the major part of the night, I walked between them both. I realized I could just walk on one side only when we fucked around on the bridge over the channel. The last thirty minutes it was Mikasa between Jean and I. I felt like it's my responsibility to stay by her side for comfort.

You wouldn't believe how much Jean likes her company and how easy she handles him.

And it's crazy how nostalgic it got when we entered the park.

The sky was dark purple, the lanterns lit up row by row. Old, wooden benches, green trash cans, brick pavement, I've seen all this so many times. Neither of us talked much once we entered, and my discomfort only grew and grew after seeing both on them get along so well.

Later on I faked a telephone call and let them walk a few feet ahead.

And all I could think of on my way home was my phone I squeezed in my left hand and the drafted message of "Do you ever fucking think about me anymore?" I'm never going to send.

Chapter Text

Sunday mornings are the calmest and most soothing when the low hits me. I usually lay in bed for hours and think about everything that's been happening. All the people I've seen, TV shows I've watched. My garbage attitude.

I love waking up on a Sunday and realizing I haven't showered in a few days. Read: with "few" I might mean two and might also mean a week. There's some hidden satisfaction in rubbing an oily scalp.

No idea, but I love how it smells.

Like, fuck, that's so natural.

Feels good, man.

At the moment I just slouched in my bed and checked Facebook to lift my mood.

There were albums full of classic Friday party pictures and nights out. Normal posts and updates. The usual 20+ on all groups I've joined and never check. Reiner's usual hangover literature. He writes blocks of beautiful text the morning after drinking. People usually comment and press a lot of likes. Sometimes I consider trying it out, too. But I'm not much of a writer. I'd never find the correct words for anything.

I scrolled past two relationship statuses, too.

Mom wants me to establish an appropriate relationship. She bugs me about it all the time. Compared to my friends, I'm kind of not the one to seek a relationship just to count as being "taken". Girls aren't toys. Deal with it, mom.

If I'm not interested, I'm not interested, I've got other shit to mess with, anyways.

But Connie said right, I wasn't someone to put up with it, I'm not trained for that. My only passion was, is and will be sports. Maybe in a few years, when I got over it, I'd start thinking about things like love and marriage and sex everything that comes along.

Though right now I'm dragging my palm over my face and wondering why is "love" always connected with "marriage" somehow, because marriage is just the most idiotic aspect nowadays.

I'm used to the idea mom wants everything she can't always get. A daughter, a great body, a Porsche, a villa in Italy, Greece, perhaps.

My mom has weird patterns of deciding if someone is good for me or not, she thinks she knows what's best. She thinks she's really smart, and that might be the top reason for my love life to fail. Her standards reach up to space. I don't like it. It makes me feel like relationship is something really important.

The reason I woke up this early was another Lawn Mowing Sunday. Coincidentally, all neighbors just love mowing the lawn on days all I wished for was fucking staying in bed until noon.

Or, they usually schedule it haphazardly. Once Neighbor A is finished, Neighbor B starts mowing.

It's like a never ending cycle, and it pisses me off.

Right now it's Erwin's turn, and I can hear his radio through the obnoxious sound.

I pressed a pillow to my face, but peeled it off right after. April sun is just really hot in the morning. All I had on were socks and my grey briefs, and I was sprawled all over the bed. A look to my right revealed the nightstand. There's a glass with an old lemon slice and a bit of water. Also a straw. Industrial, with red stripes.

The nightstand had a drawer I always kept locked. I know there's condoms I'm never using and lube I've (embarrassed and on the down-low) only used on myself last Valentine's day.

The realization I'm still jerking off on Valentine's day was so embarrassing I covered my eyes with my forearm and just laid still until I could think of something else.

My room's really big! The wall facing the window is white, same as the window's wall. Both others are blue. My room was previously beige, all four walls, and it's been beige ever since I can remember. For my seventeenth birthday, I finally got the room re-paint I wanted.

Of course I had to do it all by myself, what else do you think might've happened?

The carpet is still beige, though. A sandy color. So my room kind of looks like a beach.

I drew a breath and calmly stretched. There's no use of a nice room if you don't show it to anyone. I know Jean loves my house and Connie's also always musing, but I can't see what makes my place so much better than Jean's literal mansion and Connie's cozy two-story house.

It's probably just because my mom's an interior designer. They know something about housing mere mortals do not.

After five minutes of staring at the posters on my ceiling (Borderlands, some I've stolen from movie premieres, high-res pictures from my own soccer games) I checked Facebook for the last time and decided it's time to get up.

A few seconds passed while I fought on my clothes from yesterday and brushed my teeth. Noticed a little breakout on my right cheek and had a hard time trying not to touch it.

Erwin's lawn mower had silenced down by the time I was ready to walk downstairs for breakfast, so on my way to the stairs, I casually peeked out the window. At the moment, he was pushing the machine around the house, to the boiler room. He's got some kind of an advanced lawn mower. It cuts in six different layers and stuff. We borrow it once a month.

I figured I might mow our terrible lawn today, since I don't have anything better to do. With a long, tear-filled gaze over our raging, clover-filled yard, the decision was made.

I opened my window and yelled out to my neighbor. He turned to my window right away. Waved, also.

"Good morning!"

"Good morning, Eren!"

I casually hung out the window like I sometimes do when asking for something. "You inspired me. Can I borrow your lawn mower? I'm mowing our lawn today."

"Carla spoke about getting you into gardening."

My smile died and I looked up in exasperation. "Uhhh, god. I know. She talked about moving the magnolias on the corner. And she wants thujas all along the fence."

Erwin theatrically widened his eyes. I watched his brow tick a little. He pushed the machine next to his green trash container, in the shadow. "Slavery."

"You'd know better. So, exchanging breakfast with that? I can make something really quick. I just woke up."

"Sounds great. I only had cereal."

"Amazing," I breathed out. "I'm on my way, literally."

I rushed out of my room and left the window wide open. Our stairs have tiny mats that only cover a half of each step. The rest is lacquered wood. Slippery. So trying to run downstairs almost ended with me breaking my neck and scaring my mother to death.

She was in the kitchen with a cup of tea and planner on her right. Was scribbling something when I practically flew in the room and made her jump.

"I'm spending my time outside in the garden today," I proudly presented and opened cupboards one by one. "The yard, the flowers, I'll take care of that stuff. But Erwin's coming over for breakfast. I have no idea what to throw together, you could help me, I'd really like to work with his corded mower."

Mom stared at me, visibly just awoken. "What?"

"Can you just make breakfast?"

"Can't Erwin just have some cereal along with you? Why do you always invite him without my consent?"

I kissed her on the cheek and peeked in the first drawer. "Nope. Just make an omelet, maybe. Two, one for me, too, 'cause I'm a hungry, hard-working man."

She smiled and drank her coffee.

"Has dad written anything?"

"Oh, yeah. Last night. Sent pictures titled "The View from the Windows of My Cottage". Just three sunsets. I don't understand your father, Eren." She drank again. "Sometimes I wonder how are we still married."

"That makes my stomach tingle, don't say that."

"I love your dad, baby. Don't worry."

The corners of my mouth slipped downwards. "I'd like him sending sunset pictures to me, instead. At least I'd appreciate it. You've seen my Instagram. It's just sunsets, mom." (Sometimes I post pictures of myself shirtless, but I SWEAR IT'S NOT FOR FUCKING ATTENTION!)

After a brief moment of recovery from mom's teary comments about my growth spurts and public body display, I pulled on a hoodie from yesterday's slacking off ('cause it's chilly) and ran over to Erwin's house.

We had a little chat about his garden and the distant neighbor's cat who always sits on our fence, but there wasn't a single serious conversation I could gain something from.

That is, until the end of the breakfast, a while later.

"You know," Erwin spoke and fell back in his chair with absolute grace. "Eren could use some help with college. I've been hearing it's getting difficult."

I deadpanned Erwin from the other side of the table and didn't risk to look at mom.

Fuck off, Levi, stop talking about my fucking life.

Fuck, man! Just because he has access to everything I've reached in college so far doesn't fucking mean he can just talk about it with Erwin and then let Erwin bring it up at breakfast with my fucking mom, dude.

"Are you talking about tuition? Because he's on scholarship."

"I'm talking about the general idea. Bad concentration skills. And he's been a little rude to the volleyball team."

Mom scratched her nose. "Yeah, that's my fault. I let him leave the team."

"At least he did it after the championship," Erwin sighed. "Well, it's done now."

"I'm not invisible," I said.

"I'm sorry, Eren."

We all sat in silence for a while. I tried to figure out Levi's intentions and why he thought it'd be a great idea to tell Erwin I left volleyball knowing it would get me in so much shit if I hadn't talked to mom sooner.

"I don't know, does your private school have anyone to help him out?" Mom then resumed. "Eren's just perky and stubborn. Have you seen his mood swings lately? Christ. I thought I'd seen the last of it when he turned seventeen."

"Ha, ha, mom."

"It's normal. College sucked for me." Erwin smiled.

I sat up straighter. "Hey, but can I get a tutor that doesn't leech on my bank account, or is that, like, a legend? Can't you tutor me? Just give a helpful hand?"

He sighed and pushed the sleeves of his shirt up. "You're majoring as a sports coach. I teach history. I'd help you if I had the time to. I'm split between two schools at the moment. The one in town, the more prestige one, and the country private school."

"Thanks."

"Don't be rude." Mom nudged my side. "You're just lazy."

"Thanks," I dragged again.

Erwin focused on his empty plate. I zoomed in on the basil leaf he left untouched and tried to figure what (other than Levi) might've been holding me back from giving a hundred percent performance at school.

I only looked up when Erwin crossed his arms again.

"See, I need to think about it," he said and looked at me. I squirmed. "You don't need anyone qualified. Just some raw intelligence to talk to. It would get you running. I'm thinking if I know anyone like this."

I let him think while chugging down my leftover glass of juice. Mom slipped in a deep state of life choices meanwhile, and there was a bird choir in the background.

I jumped at least an inch when Erwin suddenly slammed his wrist down the little table we held breakfast at. It made the dishes rattle together. Wide eyed, mom and I stared at Erwin, waiting for his beaming smile to be replaced with an explanation.

"Arlert." He looked at me. "Armin Arlert."

My brows lowered. "What...?"

"I'm talking about a student, Armin. I could get him help you for free. He has spare time on certain days of the week. You both used to go to the same high school, by the way, that's the only reason I found the connection."

"I have literally no memory of anyone named Armin."

"I know, you weren't too friendly during high school."

I flushed furiously, more due to triggered anger. "How old is he? Like, twenty-four?" I asked.

"Turns twenty this fall."

TURNS TWENTY THIS FALL? SO HE'S LIKE, WHAT, NINETEEN?

I choked on my orange juice. "What?"

Erwin didn't understand the motive behind my surprise. "What's so bad about it?" He then asked. "It's not like he has to explain marxism to you. It's just for personal development. You could use some fresh faces, too. It's going to be good for you, but it's just my humble opinion."

I looked over at mom. She was smiling wider than before. I frowned at that.

"What?" She silently asked and threw her braid over her left shoulder. "I'm happy you're changing things, even if it's just for a short while."

"Hey, hey, hey, nobody said I'm going with this!" I warned. "Armin might be too busy to help me. He could refuse."

He should refuse, I kind of want him to. Being friends with the utmost nerd from high school I don't even remember, like... Uhhh.

Man.

:|

"He'll probably refuse," I murmured.

"You sound too hopeful, Eren."

"That was my point."


"Let's go get lunch," Jean said, "there's gluten-free pasta today," Jean said. Jean fucking lied; he's a gluttony-filled little spawn of hell.

I stood at the end of line in the cafeteria and tapped my wallet against my thigh. Talked to Jean. First hearing of normal food down in the cafeteria. Jean's nose kept scrunching at something in the trays, so I turned to check whatever he acted this anal about.

That's the moment I noticed the cheap, neon orange stickers saying "gluten-free" next to slimey-looking pasta. These idiots also managed to slap a few next to potatoes and some desserts where being gluten-free couldn't be more obvious.

Based on my current lifetime experience, the shit in the trays was by no means pasta, gluten-free or not. Maybe this was really just a huge fucking joke.

I turned around. "I thought you said "pasta". This looks like prison food. Like...cat vomit."

"Marco said it's gluten-free," Jean reasoned. "I mean, heads up. At least they serve guacamole today. Feels like food ladies just feel us hard on Mondays, doesn't it?"

"I know Marco hates me, but this is just too much."

"Guacamole, focus on that."

Monday, long break before the training. Having thirty minutes until the training (that hadn't claimed for itself to be canceled (just yet)) was blissful. I was hungry, so Jean brought me down to the cafeteria. Implied this "normal food" side would ever serve anything "normal"?

I was so hype about the training happening. Also on the verge of figuring if that's a good or a bad sign. I really did love soccer, alright, and I missed physical energy exertion, but I was more or less frantically terrified of Levi and the torturous things he could do to me and my already poor mood and life, overall.

I didn't see him arrive at school that morning; his white Chrysler was easy to spot in the parking lot when it was actually there. So far, during the two-and-something hours I had spent here, there weren't any signs of Levi.

Which, again, made me a little concerned. I didn't aim at losing the best coach I've ever had. Plus I still feel stupid for having wasted almost an entire week on just feeling bad about what I said.

The line moved forwards.

"What do you think," Jean began and leaned against the rail. "Is the training happening or can I flee?"

"If you flee and training's happening, I'll help you commit suicide later," I said. "If you stay and training isn't happening, we can go to Pizza Hut."

"I don't see how I'm a loser in any of this."

"Shit, me neither. Maybe let's just go to the park and skate or something."

"Economy."

I got the guacamole by Jean's request. With a side dish of chips. I had to make sure these we're fucking gluten-free, 'cause they just had to slap "gluten-free" neon stickers on everything I'm not too concerned about.

I know there's a lot of girls here who follow multiple diets and avoid gluten because some stinking vegan said gluten's a killer. It's not true. Fucking normies. Avoid gluten only if you have celiac disease.

Fucking honestly, this gets me so pissed. Pretentious women. Not all of them, but I can name at least seven.

The second I poured change back in my wallet, Jean excused himself with a ringing phone and flustered claims it was "urgent".

I'm going to guess once, and my guess is Mikasa, and you don't have to worry, I've won before anyone's talking about a winner.

I fucking hate this, by the way. I'm totally losing him to a fucking girl. Girls just have this power. They just bat their lashes and it's all it takes for a boy to start decaying on the inside.

At least that's how it felt with Annie.

I nervously looked around the cafeteria to avoid embarrassment beforehand.

All corners were partially filled, so I slid down in the nearest seat from me. It faced the door and I'd have the best opportunity to just be walked in on with a chip mid-air.

I lifted up one of the chips in a lazy motion and watched the green mass plop back down on the dish. Had a funny smell, but it wasn't bad. At least not as bad as I assumed it might be. But the contents of this guacamole fucking suck, probably, because the chips also look cheap and not very pigmented.

Each time the door opened, I hoped I could finally shake the loneliness off and have a light chat with someone. Be it Jean or Connie, Mikasa, fucking Marco, for the fuck of it.

The door banged open, once again, and I looked up with a strong delay, ready to be disappointed again.

And, shit, no.

Fuck.

Dude, I'm just having a mental blackout.

Fucking Levi.

God.

Fuck!

Something was wrong with my legs because I couldn't move them. They just felt frozen. Full of lead. I'm not moving. Getting up was my current aim in life, but I wasn't moving an inch.

Levi hadn't noticed me yet, and I knew he'd spot me the second I moved.

And so, I didn't soil the moment and patiently sat and waited.

Why now, of all times, honestly? I'm trying to eat. :-/

I didn't know what I'd expected from Levi's arrival after yet another week-long absence. Probably some changes, but in lighter form than these.

He had the usual difference. A haircut, new layer of clothes (this one was especially nice; he wore a brown leather jacket), and overall better physical appearance than before. Levi looked a little healthier than always. As if he doesn't look healthy constantly, he just looked... healthier.

To avoid possible eye contact, I slowly reached down in my pocket and patted up my phone.

And as if sensing my thoughts from five meters away, he turned and looked straight at me. Now I just pulled my phone out in less than a second and acted like I had something important to deal with.

Would Jean take care of my Steam account if I was murdered?

Would Annie still think about me from time to time?

Would Levi really regret anything?

[14:58:11, Monday] Eren: Mom I'm in a really bad mood mom

Mom is typing...

[14:58:23, Monday] Mom: Calm down youre hormonal

I looked back up at Levi.

Couldn't really tell if he was glaring or gazing or staring or just looking, like, he just blankly looked over at me and I just as blankly held his stare . So all in all, we're staring, and I'm just doing GUACAMOLE SHAAAAARK with my nacho chip. Really, just pushing a chip through to reduce stress.

There we go, he's heading over.

I swear I felt like shitting my pants.

Levi's eyes weren't focused on me anymore, he looked to the side, but was still walking in my direction in a brisk pace. I guessed he got interested in something around this direction.

Like, one meter radius, because he's very precise with directions.

Like, he's just coming right at me, I'm just NOT LIVING FOR THIS VERY MUCH RIGHT NOW.

He sat down at my table and pushed closer to it. The loud thud somewhere under made me flip back to reality and start filtering the situation. My left knee pulsed and was in pain and I figured I might've banged it against the table by accident.

Thought Levi hit the leg of it during sitting down.

"What's that?" He calmly asked and stared straight into my eyes. I forgot my mother tongue for a second and almost gargled common German.

"What's what?"

"That." He pointed at my plate. His nose wrinkled a little.

I looked down.

What a casual way to start a conversation.

I can't believe it's happening right now. I suddenly couldn't remember the name of it. GREEN FROG? SAD BOYS 2014?

"It's, umm..."

IT'S GUACAMOLE, YOU MORONIC CUNT.

"Guacamole," I stuttered. "I love guacamole."

His expression didn't differ for a while until I began spotting a change in the height of his eyebrows; soon enough, the difference was significant and I realized this hasn't been the right expression for the current situation.

I looked down at my plate. It looked like a war zone. Mostly just soaked chips. The green mass was all over the dish.

Levi also looked down at my plate. Then he looked back up.

"You sure love this dish," he said.

"Uh-huh."

None of us said anything for a while.

"You know you're creating the image of an awkward idiot, right?" Levi asked.

"When am I not?" I murmured and picked up another nacho to continue pushing it around. I hummed Randal's "Salsa Shark" at the back of my throat. To lessen the pressure, you know.

"Most of the time. Jokes aside." His tone changed too quickly for me to adapt. "Spent twenty minutes on searching for you. I wanted to talk."

"About what?"

"I'm retiring," he simply said.

I dropped the chip. "What?"

Levi leaned back in the chair and looked around for a while. I probably reeked of shock and confusement. It's usually just him leaving for a while. He's never mentioned retiring as a thing.

"Sorry. I hate repeating myself, but I'm retiring. I want zero bonds with this school."

RETIRING? YOU'RE RETIRING? YOU'RE FUCKING KIDDING ME, RIGHT?

Fucking take a glass of water and think about what you're doing.

My jaw wasn't in place and I leaned on my palm to push my mouth close. I sat like that for a few seconds and then let it fall back open.

"What the fuck?" I stretched every word out and emphasized the "fuck".

Levi rubbed his temple, out of sudden irritation. "Don't ask why."

"Why are you retiring?"

He ignored me. "I'm letting you know first because you're the only one to gain any sufficient damage from it. And because the Regionals are coming and you'll have to take hold if you want to keep playing."

"Berlin?" I weakly uttered.

"I doubt Berlin is happening. I'll tell the others before training."

I sat there, a little dazed.

"What sufficient damage are you talking about, anyways? " I screeched. "What fucking damage? Huh? Regionals are fucking... Regionals are a few months away, you can't just fucking retire right now!"

And after a short breath: "Just leaving your fucking entire team here like it never mattered."

And then, angered: "Wow, you couldn't even guide us through the last games."

For the cherry: "What a dick."

I didn't even think far enough to consider he might feel offended or personally insulted. I just thought it's much more of an insult if he left the entire team hanging like this. A good set of eleven trained, strong, athletic boys, and you just (incoherent sounds), man, you fuck it up.

"You don't have the right to make me feel guilty about this, alright?" He still remained as calm as before and it pissed me off even further. "It's my decision and not your problem at all. You could use acting your age and being less ego-centered."

Can you fucking stop saying I need to grow up? :-) Can you fuck off with that? :-)

"Holy shit, don't you just love insulting my temper and age!" I sarcastically smiled and fell back in the chair. "Wow, fuck, here goes talking to you on a more personal level. I wonder who'd ever wish to get close to you."

"If it weren't for the three years we've known each other, you wouldn't talk this way."

"Probably would, I'm not afraid of my opinion," I defiantly spat.

Then I realized I'm really just talking shit for the past while. He did seem very calm about it.

"I wonder how Erwin's still hanging" escaped me by accident and his collected frame turned a little more hostile at his friend's name. Levi placed his elbows on the table and pushed closer, creating the visual effect of being a literal heap of muscle.

Not that he was far from.

I shivered and dragged a hand over my face to calm down. Some sweat pearls had built on the bridge of my nose. Really hoped he didn't notice.

"Sorry, I'm just pissed more than ever. We have the Berlin games this year. It's the biggest opportunity for me to get noticed."

He just looked at me and said: "I know."

"Are you retiring only because I saw you on Pornhub?"

Levi looked away. I noticed him relax in the seat. I also noticed him smile a little. "That's the least of my concern right now."

"Doesn't look so, honestly."

"Well, it doesn't fucking shake me, if you're wondering," he said. And after a moment of obvious hesitating: "Did you tell anyone?"

So he was concerned.

"No."

He leaned in again. "Really?"

"Straight down real. I mean, it felt a little heavy to keep at first, so I almost..." My voice faded out at yet another raise of his brows. "Stop, I haven't told anyone. I'm not going to. It's too weird to talk about."

"Are you gay?"

If this was filmed and posted on YouTube, the title would possibly be "BOY CHOKING AS HE TRIES TO THINK OF A GOOD, BELIEVABLE AND EFFICIENT WAY OF SAYING "NO"".

"No," I finally gargled. "No, I'm not gay."

Levi crossed his arms.His expression clearly implied I'm a liar. "How'd you find the video?"

"You can't have a video on Pornhub and expect nobody's going to see it." I played around the center idea. "I just found it."

"Mmm, okay. Let's think about this for a second." Levi played with his knuckles. "How about we take two fine facts in account. Now, listen. Listen."

I felt confused.

"One, that tape is five years old," he dragged the last three words out , looking at me with a strongly smoldering face. "Means it won't just pop up on the front page. It's not just randomized. As for second..."

His lower lip jerked a little and he looked outside the window.

"Are you making fun of me?" I asked, thunderstruck.

"No, Eren, that's the gay category. Pornhub has two sides. Gay videos aren't on the straight side."

Oh, yeah.

Fuck.

I remember that night. Experimentation. Oh, fuck.

Fuck, no.

I'm just (smiling emoji)(gun emoji) right now.

I had nothing but clear air to justify myself with, so I just shrugged and admitted defeat. Note: defeat, not complete homosexuality.

"Whatever, even if I did browse there. Means nothing to you, honestly."

"Gotcha," he gloomily dragged.

Now he thinks I'm gay. I'm so fucked, but anyways. He's retiring, so who cares.

"Maybe now tell me the reason why you're retiring?" I asked, gleaming of hope.

"Business."

"That business?"

Levi glared. He didn't look at me, he actually glared. "Calm down, you don't have to think about me. Think about your future and soccer potential. Don't make me force you into thinking about it."

Fucking funny how he says I'm not supposed to think about him, yet he's been on my mind for the past week and I'm just all about that shit. Like, that's the shit right there. Fucking men cannot ever comprehend how complicated concern might get.

I pushed my plate around. "Does anyone else know?"

And added: "About the porno, not retirement."

"I don't feel safe enough to share that information with you."

"It can't get worse than this," I said. "Erwin?"

Levi laughed, I think. "Sure as hell Erwin knows. Pixis also knows."

"Pixis?" I coughed out. "Pixis knows?"

"Why shouldn't he? He has my file."

"No way. He's perverse."

"I know." He suddenly zoned out for a few seconds and stared down at the table. I awkwardly nibbled on my zipper to avoid staring at him like that.

"I know," Levi then repeated and returned to reality. "Look, I have to go. Training's at the usual time. Whatever you do, please be there. It might be the last time we all meet together."

That was a little painful. "I'm not even going to think about their reaction."

"You can't imagine how hard it is."

"I'll be moral support," I said.

"Great. I'm counting on you. Try to act as clueless and shocked as possible." Levi stood up. I watched him dust his thighs off. "You're a great kid."

I scoffed at the word "kid", but stood up along. "One more question."

"Yes?"

"Is there a chance of you coming back? Considering you're just taking a break right now."

"Eren, I don't know," he said, and it honestly sounded like he didn't.

"Okay," I said. "Okay."

He tucked his phone back in his jeans. I subconsciously did the same.

"Don't get mad," Levi murmured. "You'll figure things out. You're still young. Life won't end if you change a coach or two. It's just permanent change you'll forget about in a week. Don't stress it."

"Sure," I blankly said.

Oh, man. Levi had no idea. And neither did I.


"Your current schedule is shortened to two trainings per week, one's endurance plus field play, the other's pure physicals."

I heard at least two people whisper "hello, sweet suicide".

"The upcoming season and Regionals are either canceled or delayed until the new coach arrives, I don't know, and the sports hall is possibly being put under reconstruction. I received safety inspection's results from last week and they're having some problems understanding how safe exactly is this place."

A sigh.

"Fuck, this hall has been here since forever, what safety are they..." Some scribbling. "Fuck it. Whatever. Next thing. I signed my papers before due time, so I doubt your next superior is going to appear on the first day. Takes time to find someone new."

I switched weight to my other foot and watched Levi scratch his jawline.

"I hate spring, honestly." He looked up at us. "It's full of nosy ladies inspecting the school."

I scratched my shoulder. Someone coughed. Nobody's really saying much. We're all broken as fuck.

"So you're, like, done with coaching us," someone in the back murmured.

"Yes." Levi's voice was almost too joyful, like he'd been expecting someone to conclude that.

"Why?" Connie asked with a lot of emotion in a single word . "You were the only one who got us anywhere. We won the Regional Cup for three years straight, we got in the finals last summer. Eren even broke his leg in Berlin. Everything for the team. Dude. You're like a big brother to all of us, come on. You've got to be insane to just leave us like that."

I might've been the only one to appropriately notice the moment Levi was unsure of what to answer. Ouch.

"Adult problems," he said in the end. I knew it wasn't entirely true.

Nobody said anything for a while. We were all waiting for an explanation. Maybe for him to just expand on the subject, really, because right now it just looked like he's going on a vacation.

Connie really did hit a nerve about the brother thing. And we only say "everything for the team" when it's crucial as fuck.

"Okay." Levi threw the documents aside, on the floor, and dragged his palm across his forehead. "Okay, let's be honest with each other. I'll be the most open person I can right now."

I almost raised on my toes.

"I'm a shit coach," he confessed. "And I never really legally graduated."

"What does that mean?" Jean puckered up. "You're not certified?"

"My certificate is holding on snot as much as I know."

Jean looked at me and we shared a short while of "???".

"Why don't you literally just stay?" I suggested before anyone else had the chance to. "Have you ever considered a new coach won't adapt? And neither will we."

Yeah, I thought of threatening him with leaving the team myself. Then I realized the only losers would be my teammates, not Levi. Which is why I didn't say anything else. Which sucked, because I probably should've.

But then again, I knew my own coach good enough to be sure he won't buy my sentimentality and tantrums. I made sure of that back in the cafeteria.

Levi looked at me. "This conversation isn't worth picking at, Eren. I'm done with coaching here and I'm done with coaching in general. These were great three years and you were my favorite team, but I'm not a...stagnate. I'm... I like mobility."

Dude, he stuttered.

I switched my weight back to the other leg again, and my hip cracked. Jean glanced at me. I smirked.

"I'd be lying if I said my salary isn't playing a big deal in this. Don't think about it in a way I only care about money. I don't."

Jean mumbled something I didn't catch. Probably an insult about the money thing, because it's the only reason Jean ever talks shit about Levi.

"I think I've told everything by now. You'll be getting new uniforms next month, ordered them after your fall measurements. Fixed a detail or two, based on observations."

Levi fumbled with the zipper of his jacket. He dragged it up and down. "Connie, your shoulders are broader. Jean, you too, your waist got fucking tiny. Eren..."

I squinted.

He looked at me. "You're just wide. Good job. You all grew up quick. I remember watching your fifteen-year-old asses run around the park's field under a different coach. Never thought you'd end up reaching world class."

I just stood with my mouth open.

WIDE? EXCUSE ME? I'M WIDE?

Otherwise, everything was happening too fast and too sketchy, and I liked exactly nothing about Levi leaving.

His final word was a landmine. "Dismissed."

That blew it.

"Coach, really, this is hilarious."

"You can't do this to us, we're a fucking team!"

"What a fucking tool," Jean murmured close to my ear. "I bet he got fired for skipping. Or gramps found a better replacement with a lower salary acceptance, there's no in-between. I didn't think Levi was so easy. Man... Cheap. I'm disappointed."

"Don't you see money isn't the actual problem?" I hissed back, trying to sound less defensive. "There's something more to this, I think. Something more serious. Not money, not the pisspoor amounts from Pixis. Something else."

"Like a lot of money? You heard him say it."

That got me nudging his right side, but I wasn't disagreeing. I had no idea about the real reason, whatsoever, so I wasn't in the place to judge or assume anything.

On my right, Connie laughed a bit hysterically to catch Levi's divided attention again.

"You're kidding, right? It's a fucking joke."

Levi looked down.

"Mid-April Fools?" Connie let his hands fall to his sides. "Fucking really? It's happening?"

HOW CAN YOU GIVE UP ON EREN?

I was about to open my mouth again to at least try and argue against his idiotic plans to leave the position, but I wasn't bright or fast, or anything like that. Someone succeeded before me. Someone none of us were expecting, not me, not even Levi. Definitely not Levi.

You could never imagine the change of atmosphere compared to then and five minutes later.

The door behind Levi creaked. He didn't react, fingers still pressed against his temple like this moment would give him the worst possible headache. Like, maybe it did. I was almost sure it did.

"If it's number three, someone please repeat everything I said, I'm not repeating myself all over again," Levi said, unmoving. "I hate when you come late. You miss the best things."

A man marched his way inside. We silenced down completely, and I narrowed my eyes to focus on the newcomer.

Sleek, muscular. Nice legs. Jeans. A leather jacket, black. Absolutely nothing to stand out with, but here was something really, really familiar about the guy. Stance similar to Levi's, pace similar to Levi's. Similar. Very similar and very seen.

Almost painfully seen.

Oh. Oh.

Oh my god. No, there is no...

It's completely surreal.

I closed my eyes and opened them again, but as expected, it changed just about nothing.

The clump in my throat wasn't going down. MY LIFE'S A HUGE FUCKFEST! FUCK THIS. FUCK ME. FUCK YOU! FUCK ALL OF US! FUCK ME WITH A TEN FEET LONG FUCKING POLE! LET ME FUCK THE POLE AS WELL!

I coughed and looked down to hide the raw emotions that threatened falling out of my mouth. "Levi, third's present. Everybody's present."

"Third here," Thomas waved a weak hand.

Levi opened his eyes. "Thomas, Jean, Mylius, Eren," he counted aloud while turning around in a snail's pace. "You're all here, who the fuck..."

No.

No.

Levi, it might be smart if you...

You know, nevermind. There's not much I'm capable of doing right now, asides from faking a seizure.

Levi's voice cracked on the last word.

"Nile Dawk," the newcomer said, vaguely amused. "Dawk's present. Sorry for interrupting. Looks like you all had a moment."

There we go, another porn star. I MUST BE FUCKING DREAMING.

Levi turned back to us. His eyes blankly focused on the wall behind Jean and he kept clenching his jaw. Clench, unclench, clench, unclench. I watched his Adam's apple bob up twice.

Oh dear, this is a jolly, jolly ride.

"Dismissed. Leave. Everyone."

None of us budged, too intrigued by the other guy. Especially me, I was oddly intrigued, and not just because I knew Nile, not because I saw him on the same video as Levi. Handjob 006. Handjob fucking 006. I felt like I had to rake underneath and find out why was Nile's presence so effective.

It felt so gross to know what's been up with these two, but I guess you just can't blame anyone for liking a little pleasure. :^)

Levi looked straight at me. "Everybody, please leave the hall. Right now."

I realized it only then.

He knew.

He knew I knew. He knew I recognized Nile.

He knew my mouth was huge and he knew I connect faces in three milliseconds. He knew it all. Levi knew me too well. He's been here with me for the past three years. But curiosity's a fucking sin, ain't it?

So I'm not budging, and I'm sure neither is the rest of us.

"Oh, is this your team?" Nile asked, heading towards us. "Hey. What's up?"

It got so silent you could hear Jean thinking if you listened hard enough.

"I'm cool," I stupidly said. My hip cracked again. I smiled.

A few guys laughed at me for daring to talk to him like an absolute idiot.

Nile smiled back at me. I glanced at Levi while palming the side of my hip. Never in my life had I seen him that cornered. He looked like a beaten dog.

Then my gaze fell upon his companion again, the more arrogant man.

Nile's exterior was okay. Okay in a way you'd never tell such a good-looking guy would ever commit perversions like blowjobs.

A long, attractive face. His hair wasn't short. It was styled and fell a bit past his shoulders. Levi's hair was a lot tamed. Even though after a closer look he looked absolutely nothing like Nile, I could still compare them. Except for Nile's trimmed beard and Levi's smooth shave.

I admit he also had a bit of Jean in there.

But the undercut, the hair color, the eye color, the pigment, the occupation, the irritation in their features and curve of their brows, the bags under their eyes, it's all close to identical.

They're literally clones of each other, but one of them looks like a spoilage. Go and guess which.

As none of us gave any other answer, Nile pushed his bag higher on his shoulder and crossed his arms. I narrowed my eyes, taking it as a defensive action. The jacket he wore wasn't much different from Levi's, only exception being the color and maybe size. The sleeves were pulled back up. He had great forearms.

"It's really inconvenient if a bunch of third years don't talk to their new coach. I'm just saying," Nile joked.

The words brought light in Levi's eyes and he turned his head, glancing, glaring, or--whatever, at Nile. I noticed his hand form a fist and relax a second later. And so on. Repeatedly.

"New coach?" He repeated like it's the funniest anecdote he's ever heard. "What?"

"You thought I'm paying a personal visit?"

Oh my god.

"I'd anticipate your personal visits more if I was dead," Levi said.

Someone on my left whistled. Connie probably. I smiled at this cooperative defense system.

Nile looked a little saddened. This whole situation was a big bummer for him. Twenty-four thick, dense and well-trained horses playing for the good of Levi.

I'd leave this place and kill myself if I was Nile.

"I'll be done with them soon," Levi said, now a lot more grounded and more personally meant for Nile, not showing off.

"I'll need more time than the weary fifteen minutes you're going to give me now, so..." Nile pulled his shoulders up. "I'll go make coffee."

Levi turned back to us and motioned him slitting his throat.

"Have fun." Nile turned on his heel and prepped the bag up higher. Then he stopped. "Where do I go?"

"The cabinet, left from the lockers."

"Where the hell are the lockers?"

I raised up on my toes. "Middle white door leads to the toilet, the door on the right is for the lockers. The teacher's cabinet is behind the brown door, behind the column on the left."

I had no real justifications for that. For generally talking to Nile. Levi's glare was sawing through my skin, but I pretended I didn't feel it, even though, FUCK, I did. Nile turned around, making my legs feel weaker than ever. His eyes were friendly.

"Thanks," he dryly said, staring at me longer than he did with Levi. Then he disappeared behind the door I told him was the right to choose.

I assumed I'd count to five until my teammates flipped in the most literal sense. I only got to two.

"That was so bad."

"Oh, man."

"What the fuck?" Connie loudly presented . Both his arms were stretched forwards in absolute confusion . "What the fuck did I just witness?"

"That guy," Franz began. "That guy's not my coach."

"Was he your brother? You two are way too similar."

Jean snorted. "Did Pixis clone you?"

"Still not agreeing he's our next frontman."

"He is now," I murmured.

Levi heard me."Shut up," he said. "I'll talk your principal out of this."

"He's here already, isn't he? Too cocky to walk away. I think he's staying for good."

Levi's lips pressed together.

"How the fuck do you even know that guy?" Jean innocently asked. I've never felt a stronger urge to take his neck in my arms and strangle him. I looked at my friend before looking back at Levi.

His gaze was completely focused on me, as if I was the one to ask the question. As if I was the one who had to know a false, perceptional truth, as well.

I was being consciously brainwashed. Holy fuck!

"We both went to the same college, academy..." He explained calmly, eyes boring into mine. "And a gym. Rusty friendship."

Rusty, you say...

There was a space missing after the gym part, the pause was too long. Fuck, I knew it, I knew Nile was the other guy, I wouldn't mix it up. He's got more of a porn star vibe than Levi, I've got to admit.

I should watch the video entirely. Bucket list.

Levi pointed his chin at me. "Any problems, Eren?"

I zoned back in. "What?"

"Looks like you're going to complain."

"He smells a bitch," Jean whispered.

I had to puff up my cheeks to give the sudden bubble of laughter some space. Levi's eyes narrowed a little more, not directed at me this time. Whew.

"Don't you all get as cocky as Nile just now," Levi dragged. "It's our last time together like this, at least pretend you care."

Aww, romantic, he wants to be romantic.

"We could go out and get pizza." Connie scratched the back of his head. The mention of pizza perked everyone's attention. "I mean, the whole team. Pizza Hut."

"Sounds good."

"Yeah, actually."

Levi shook his head and pointed a thumb back at the teacher's cabinet. "I have an old trash friend to deal with. Plus your principal, I have to catch Pixis and have a brief talk about this. Letting Nile "take care" of you is complete nonsense."

He literally did the quote signs in the air, by the way.

And now I just stood and wondered what was his big grudge against Nile, and after all, how did they end up filming in a single porno if there's so much hatred in-between. Like.

I understand they were partners, but did that last? I thought porn was about matching two porn stars for a clip, nothing else. I'm probably wrong. I've never been interested in that.

Another thing: what the absolute fuck was the reason behind Levi's aggressive behavior towards Nile being our next coach? Was there something more to it, or am I just blowing things up right now? Would he answer if I asked? I should ask, I'm very interested.

We were dismissed five minutes later. Levi was completely off-track because of Nile's unexpected arrival, Connie was giving up on life (crying) and I couldn't tear my eyes off of the teacher cabinet's door because Nile was leaning against it with brown, plastic coffee cup.

Waiting.

I was disgusted by his boldness and thrilled by his damn courage.

A few boys went back to the lockers to grab their bags, including me and Jean. The rest left theirs outside the sports hall, on the benches next to infirmary. As soon as the place began clearing (along with Jean who kept saying something about a doctor's appointment), Levi left our presence without looking at me for once. He didn't even thank me for keeping my mouth shut, and I found that a little upsetting.

You gross, perverted piece of shit. What an unthankful jerk.

I let my bag fall on the wooden bench next to the rails that were supposed to be unsafe by all guidelines. Guess I had to wait for my turn to rent Levi's attention.

I knocked down time with twenty-five pull-ups and a realization the rails really were broken. The upper rows were getting creaky and unsafe to hold on, and considering I weighed a lot due to pure muscle (bow to King Levi; thanks for morphing me into a hunk), I stopped at twenty-six. Didn't seem so, but I had self-preservance. Like, a tiny drop.

My legs gave out and I sat next to my bag.

"...taste is great, I've always loved your taste in who to fuck. Never thought you'd go this far."

"Get lost. Get fucking lost."

I froze. The first voice was Nile's and I heard it quite clearly from the cabinet a meter away. The other was Levi's.

And Levi was irritated.

There was no one else in the sports hall besides me and two, by all and any standards, mildly attractive porn stars.

Oh my god. Oh my god!

I was supposed to go and knock and ask for Levi, but eavesdropping was mentally more pleasuring, so I went with it. I knew I was fucked, but I'm fucked anyways. I knew this wasn't going to end well.

And yet, out of cursed fucking curiosity, I fought the meter to the door (my fucking shoes just made a lot of noise right when it wasn't necessary; the rubber squeaked against the polished floor) and positioned myself comfortably enough to be able to peek inside. The gap was less than two centimeters wide. Little, yeah, but enough to see a good third of the room.

A half of the room would've been enough.

Nile was sitting on the tiny couch in the furthest corner of the entire cozy space. His legs were on the coffee table. Levi wasn't in my range of view, but I guessed he sat at his table behind the aisle and had legs hooked over the armrests of the chair. He sat like that often. And did some shit on his phone.

"Get the fuck away from my school."

Nile raised a brow. I found it mocking. "Your school? Didn't you just retire?"

"My team."

Levi came into view. His jacket hung on his left shoulder, the free sleeve flailed around. My eyesight might've went dull at that point, but the t-shirt he wore looked like a grey V-neck.

"Don't fucking dare to touch any of them, they're my team and my boys."

That really made my heart ache and wish it wasn't fucking gross to tell nice things to Levi. I'd pretty comfortably tell him we're all just so in love with how he treats us, and I wouldn't be kidding.

He walked back out of my sight.

"I think you should stop acting like they'd be your property and start thinking about your next job. Hey, and I can recommend a place. It's called "Where You Fucking Came From"."

"Edgy," Levi boredly said.

That sounded much heavier than it would if, for example, I said it.

Nile seemed too out of it to try and act affronted. He rubbed his thigh and forcefully looked at Levi. He smiled. "You're jobless and it's really sad we meet at a time like this once again. I wish life went easier on you, my old, dear friend."

I watched Levi slowly walk back into the view and realized he's just walking in circles.

"I retired. Semi-retired. Actually, it's none of your business, you're not staying here. I'm signing back up for the place."

"It's not really your right to decide where I'm staying. Rewind to New York, then maybe. Then, maybe, I really needed that."

I was weirdly convinced Levi was going to walk over and punch Nile.

His fists were balled tight. He did walk up to Nile, and I'm cheering again, because I might be the witness of a fight. And maybe I adorned the situation with frail innocence too much, but there were no sexual undertones until the very point Levi's hand cupped Nile's cheek.

Blergh.

Disgust flamed inside of me and I pulled off the gap for a second, just to ease out the churning in my stomach. I can't believe I'm still watching this shit.

The same hand that just shook in fucking anger? And now he's just toying around with that fucker's face? It's driving me crazy! What the fuck! Levi seemed more of a hypocrite now than ever before. I don't know how to describe anything sexual, but it stood right there, right between them, and screamed for attention.

"New York gives me memories," Levi said. His fingers slid down to Nile's chin, and he prepped it up. I watched each touch and notion with maximum attention so I'd be able to shit straight into Levi's soul when we get to talk about it later. "You're only pretty from up here, by the way."

Nile rolled his eyes. "I know. Yeah."

"But you're not coaching my team."

I was surprised by his persistence.

"Why?"

Levi's fingers gripped his jaw with a little more than ease. "I don't want anyone to trust you. It's really enough you fucked my life up. You'll ruin most of them as time passes."

"They're not kids," Nile replied. "They're all around twenty."

"You're gross as fuck."

"I know."

Nile's lashes fluttered lower for a second only, and I didn't think it's anything worth noticing. Apparently, that was the biggest blowjob implication I'd ever seen yet, because Levi's reaction was immediate. He pushed Nile away for a few inches.

"We're in an educational building."

"Is that a mental barrier for you?"

"Nile."

I liked the insulting sharpness in Levi's voice when talking to that other fucker.

"I gave up on that shit. Grew up. You still can't. My point here isn't looking for new bait, unlike you, it's getting a bunch of stallions to world class. Nile, I'm over it. Not as selfless. I film some shit at times, but it's not a lifestyle anymore."

"Heard you frequented."

"Yeah, last week."

Nile pulled his head back. "You're boring now. This shit got you soft."

"This shit made me realize there's more to it, thanks for reminding me why I worked here in the first place," Levi drearily said. "And welcome me back to my old job."

"Hey, are you banging someone from the team? Because from the looks of it, you might be."

I nearly choked.

Levi retrieved his hand and wiped it down his pants. Nile seemed entirely pleased with himself. Too bad I couldn't see Levi's expression, I really wanted to.

"I'm not banging anyone," he said.

"They're not minors anymore, so technically, you can. I also can't find any other reason why you're craving to stay so bad."

"Being able to isn't equal with wanting to."

"What about that pretty boy?"

There was a short pause. "Pretty boy?" Levi asked. His voice was odd.

Nile nodded while rubbing his thighs again, as if he'd try to keep away from reaching up. "The one who told me where to go. Brown hair, sweet build. Has the most childish face out them all."

Well, thanks, loser! >:|

Levi looked outside the window through the blinds. "His name's Eren."

"I'm not interested in his name, I'm asking if you two are fucking."

"We're not."

"Liar. He's pretty glued to you. Caught all your movements. I watched him a lot."

My brows made a literal V-shape.

I pulled off the gap to take a deeper breath.

Was I being this fucking flat about it? Clingy? Holy shit. Nobody ever pointed out. Does Nile mean it's fucking obvious I stare at Levi a lot?

It's just like that recently.

I hope neither of them mistakes it for something.

I swallowed and turned back to my position.

"I'm not fucking my students."

"Give Eren a shot now, you're not his coach anymore. It could get interesting. He looks like a mountain of innocence."

NILE, I'M SORRY, BUT YOU DON'T KNOW SHIT.

Even Levi scoffed at that. "Sure. Mountain of Innocence. I'll sign back up for the job tomorrow. I'm not romantically involved with anyone, not from the team, not out the team."

"You just left!" Nile whined, exasperated. "Pixis isn't an idiot, he won't take you back like that. And you're sticking with me for the control time I'm having, after all. You'll have to show me around. Spend leisure time together. Grab Eren along."

I freaked out every time they mentioned my name.

"Leave Eren out of this," Levi said. I watched him walk over to the window.

"Okay, sure."

My breath seemed loud for a second.

Nile's voice held no signs of belief. His eyes slid lower down from Levi's face, probably his crotch. They lit up. "I can still blow you."

"Stop talking to me like we're fifteen for a second, will you?"

Nile fell back in the couch. "Why were you avoiding me?"

"You mean you care?" Levi scoffed and leaned against the table again. Only his legs were visible. "You appear and disappear once in a while. I'm used to it. I just imagined I'd be better off completely without you."

"I personally think you were the one to disappear. How's Erwin?"

I twitched at the familiar name. Nile knew Erwin?

"Erwin's okay."

"Continue."

"He's still single, thanks to you."

Nile grinned. "You, too. Cock size still wrist and up?"

"We don't talk about it." Levi sounded slightly irritated. "Don't mix Erwin in this, he has nothing to do with you anymore. Stop mixing in people completely unrelated to us or you."

"Mmmhmmm."

"You fucked the only woman he loved, what the fuck's your problem? You took everything you wanted. Just leave him alone."

"Marie gave birth to the third kid a year ago. Dad's genes, all beautiful."

"Fuck off, Nile."

I was getting uncomfortably hot. In case Levi gave in, I'm full-fledged and ready to leave.

"Come on," Nile suddenly pleaded. "Let me make your day of retirement the best and dirtiest day ever."

My stomach was still churning from earlier before.

Levi dragged his palm across his own junk. "I'll check the hall."

WAIT, HE'S CONSIDERING THAT FUCKING SHIT?

He turned away from Nile and headed straight outside the door.

I suddenly realized I might get killed if I didn't flee the fuck away.

Backing off as quickly as I could, I tried to place the soles of my shoes flat to keep the squeaky sounds down. I had no idea where to go; the door was too far away and the lockers were fucking locked . That made the divider column the only safe place to hide behind.

That is, if Levi wasn't going to check the toilets. I would've went to the stalls and locked myself in, but the specific detail that every single door in this school creaks like a motherfucker seemed important enough to pay attention to. For survival, I mean.

If he did bother to check the toilets, I could've just began writing down a testament.

I hid behind the column the second he stepped outside of the cabinet, hands tucked in the pockets of his jacket. Having no idea if my breathing could be heard, I held my breath for safety and pressed closer against the dusty, cold wall that seemed to be my only friend and support. I felt little and miserable and certainly not twenty years old.

Levi whistled.

He came into view, walking along the line of the benches. Stopping at the rails, he looked up, tugging on one of his face level. Pulled it. The wood creaked. He pulled a few more before backing off. My eyes slid over his figure, then over the rails, until they landed on the bench.

Levi was standing at the one, particular bench I sat on earlier, shins pressed against the surface. I couldn't figure, but I could've bet on my life he was staring at the same thing I was.

My bag.

He was staring down at my bag.

I left my bag in open space.

Levi knew I was there.

Levi knew I heard.

And yet, I was shocked when he took a step back and resumed the careless whistle. He should've searched for me; it'd be more than instinctive to do so, but he didn't. Levi only walked back to his earlier whereabouts, pulling his jacket off a meter before the cabinet's door; the moment his jacket was off of his shoulders, the only thing I felt like doing was running away.

So I ran, picked up my bag, and made sure the door to the sports hall was slammed close with lethal strength.

I hoped it was loud enough.

Old fucking...men...fucking...

Adaptive, uh-huh, well-trained, yeah, sure, but my body wasn't used to this type of running. The frantic flee-for-your- fucking -life-running that made me run into people and ignore all possible traffic lights, for the sake of my own good.

Twenty-seven minutes later I'm sitting on the floor in the corridor of my house, back pressed against the wall. My breath hitched between every inhale I made, heart drilled through my chest like a fucking tropical storm, and my legs weren't feeling too good, either.

I ran home for twenty-seven minutes. The drive from my house to school by bus took thirty.

Usain Bolt much?

Mom wasn't home. I had no idea where she was. It didn't matter much at that time. I took advantage of it and jerked the fuck off. Got my shit all over my hands and got some on my wrists, and cleaned up only when the semen staled and got a little drying coat.

Sweaty, salty, and reeking of lathered deodorant, I laid in my bed and stared at the Battlefield poster. Realizing it's getting late and mom might be home in not that long of a while forced me to take a shower and fetch clean boxers and a t-shirt. I chose a grey V-neck, just for the fuck of it.

Just for the fuck of a repelling pair of men.

That night I didn't want anything besides playing War Thunder and eating. I made steamed potatoes and locked myself up in my room.

I ignored Jean's messages asking me out for a walk and didn't really check any social networks.

I ended up masturbating one more time and fell asleep right after.

Chapter Text

I've been ignoring my buzzing phone for the past two minutes. I know it's probably a YouTube notification or someone from the team pulling an all-nighter and complaining about it now when it's a few hours until classes. It might also be my alarm clock, just on silent.

I laid in bed and ignored it.

Due to all this recently endured horror, I didn't even want to go to school anymore.

My phone buzzed again.

I cracked one eye open.

Bzz.

FUCK OFF FFF.

I stretched my hand out, blindly, and patted over and across my nearest meter radius. Another annoying buzz followed soon after, and I finally opened both my eyes, pissed as hell. Whoever the person was, fuck off! Oh my god. Should've stopped wasting your time after the first message. Literally. Literally, fuck off.

I suddenly felt sadistic.

Then unlocked the phone, rubbed the inside of my left thigh and tried to wake the fuck up and read the slur in front of my eyes. Nothing made sense.

[07:22:01, Tuesday] Mikasa: Eren???

[07:22:17, Tuesday] Mikasa: Are you up? Would be really nice if you were up

[07:22:28, Tuesday] Mikasa: Eren

[07:22:36, Tuesday] Mikasa: EREN IT'S REALLY IMPORTANT

Slightly confused, I looked up from the screen. I blinked for my eyes to adjust. Nothing changed after I looked down again, so the only message I really read was "EREN IT'S REALLY IMPORTANT" before pressing the call button.

I sat up, slow and sleepy, and scratched an inch under my armpit. The phone was connecting and there were the regular beeps, but it suddenly seemed like Mikasa didn't need me anymore and this has just been a campaign by Jean™ to get me up and running.

I thought it was fucking important, can't she just pick up the phone?

"Hey!" Mikasa breathlessly called out. It startled me.

I fell back in the bed. "Hey, babe, what's round and ticks constantly?"

"They threw me out."

"A clock, and..."

Hang on.

"Umm. What?"

The only audible sound was her loud breathing and a faint, fuzzy rumble of cars passing by in the background.

"Mikasa?"

No reply.

"Mikasa?" I repeated.

She was just breathing in the receiver. "They threw me out. Like... Fuck. I'm, like. Fucking breaking down right now."

OH, PARENTS! FUCK. I sat straight up.

Despite it being so early, I recalled her talking about this a while ago. Mikasa was constantly worried about getting thrown out and skipped classes whenever she could. Her absence troubled me, if I was unfocused enough to pay attention to it.

She actually didn't come to a lot of classes, despite being in my course.

"Where are you?" I asked. Silence stretched and I heard a muffled sound, similar to a sniff. There was also the sound of fabric ruffling. "Mikasa, can you just answer me? Where are you?"

"I'm... I'm outside the flat, next to the TurKebab booth with the two buck fries and sweetened juice."

It took a few seconds for me to file down. TurKebab's around twenty minutes away. "Can you come over?"

"I don't remember where you live. Sorry."

"Do you have anything on yourself?"

She cleared her throat and I heard another car drive past. "Two backpacks and my bike. The rest is at school."

"And money-wise?" I asked.

"Like a dollar."

"Fuck."

"Do you have a car?" Mikasa then asked.

I made a face. "Do I look like someone who has a car?"

Mikasa was silent for a second.

"Don't each of your parents have a fucking car of their own?" This persuasion irritated me for a bit.

Fucking smart. Mikasa knew my mom had a car and Mikasa knew exactly how well-fitted mom's car was for her. She knew what she's talking about, and I could imagine her grinning through all this pain and sorrow, because me driving my mom's Sedan is probably the most abstract and homosexuality-implying action to ever make.

I wasn't fucking going to touch it. The salon reek s of sweet perfume and coconut air freshener. Plus the radio 's broken and the only music mom ever listen s to are Bollywood movie soundtracks and those made me about as sick as a feverish pigeon. My mom fucking loves Bollywood. That's what you fucking get for a Turkish mother.

I'm fucking pissed right now, but it's alright, it's always alright. :^)

So yeah, a cherry red 2006 Renault X84 II Megane Sedan? That car, Mikasa?

The spirit of Indian film industry?

"You're fucking kidding me," I replied. "I'm not driving that thing. And dad doesn't fucking let me drive the Subaru when he's not home, so, no. I can't. I can't pick you up."

"You have a license, Eren, please."

"I have classes, also."

"Eren, please!" Her voice trembled a little. "Holy fuck! Just this once. I need your help. Don't be a jerk, not right now, I know I woke you up and you're pissed, but..."

I gargled.

And then gargled again. "Why don't you call Jean?He'll scoop you up for sure."

"Fuck Jean, Eren! I fucking depend on you, dude, you're currently the only one in Jersey I can fully trust, and you're smearing it all over by saying I should just "ask Jean"."

"Holy shit! Stop stressing out."

No reply.

"I'm sorry," I added.

"I'm sorry, but you piss me off!" She angrily said, and I've never thought she's cuter than this, right now.

I put my hand over my mouth and blew a bit of air. "You're fucking ador..." Mumbled it, and: "Yyyeah. You were saying?"

"Fuck off, I'm not in the mood." A little pause. "So, do you have the balls to drive your mom's car yet?"

"Mikasa, you know my relationship with it," I said. "I can't even leave for groceries. I need dry cleaning after it. Full-body. Just laundry service and bleach all over. It stinks like a mom with high salary and cheap lip gloss. Which is almost accurate, by the way."

Mikasa didn't reply to that.

"And Rexona deodorant," I added.

She sighed.

Her sighing became more and more frequent, and it made me really uncomfortable. I pulled my phone back from my ear. Checked the time. Seven twenty-four.

Oh, fuck it. Classes start at nine.

I'll skip, even though I'm totally able to make it.

"Fiiiiine," I dragged. "I'll go downstairs and ask for dad's car."

"Thank you."

"If mom's awake."

"Just take the keys if she isn't."

"I'm not that fucking rebellious. Don't you have any other relatives to bother? 'Cause this is just tearing me apart, babe. I'll call you soon, Mikasa. Stay put."

"My other relatives don't give a fuck. I'll wait here. Thanks a lot, Eren." Her voice was sincere. "Forever in debt."

I automatically imagined what she meant with "debt" and rushed the end of the phone call to get over it.

My phone slid down between my legs. I rubbed my face and filtered the dumpster of information I just got stuffed in my head.

So, Mikasa's currently homeless. A+ parenting!

I also felt slightly hungry. A part of me craved good, thick pizza. Felt kinda bummed we didn't go to Pizza Hut yesterday. Maybe the rest of the team did while I was busy fucking listening to those fuckers.

But I somehow felt good this morning, despite for every negative factor I had to face when just woken up, like Mikasa's sturdiness, and the few revelations I faced yesterday. Yesterday's evening helped me tense down, I guess. Masturbation's an amazing sin. I always end up masturbating when things get too difficult, I just find more ease in life after doing so.

Still, feeling good didn't mean I had motivation. Not that I really wanted to, but I still got up. Had shit to do, after all.

I was drowsy, gloomy and slightly hungry.

That's, like, my everyday life for the past week. Slow and painful.

I hate myself.

I scratched my ribs and briefly thought about Levi again. By accident. Catching myself at these thoughts felt like I'm seriously sinning. But I decided I'm not fucking my mood up any further just by going to college to stare at Levi's white car outside the window and think about his life and what's all this stuff he's been up to.

I wondered if he was mad at me or not.

Then I dropped the thought and stretched because I didn't exactly care, anyways.

I figured it wouldn't hurt anyone if I put on pants 'cause roaming around in my dad's old t-shirt and black boxers didn't quite fit what I was about to do. Honestly, I didn't really feel like jumping over my head and driving across the town to pick Mikasa up, but I wasn't leaving her in total despair, either. We have the guest room free and I can't imagine how dreadfully enlarged the costs might be to just buy a little extra groceries.

Plus I assume she'd help around the house, and we're both thinking about taking up normal jobs, too.

Fuck, I have to wear pants.

It's so boring.

I took a piss before brushing my teeth and getting dressed; didn't change my shirt, just pulled on a pair of socks and sweatpants to feel at least a bit comfortable during the ride. Fifteen minutes there, fifteen back.

I spend too much time on things I don't enjoy.

In the end I also grabbed my cranberry hoodie and threw it on my shoulders. 'Cause it's chilly.

With my phone sliding around in my left pocket and five bucks crumpling in the other, I made my way downstairs to the kitchen, which was, by the way, drenched in an awfully good smell. I noticed mom at the counter and smiled the moment she looked back at me.

Mom, by the way, it's literally seven o'clock. In the morning.

"Morning," I said. "Smells great. You're cooking?"

"There's something stuck in the dishwasher so I'm draining it down with hot water," she replied and straightened up. "Probably your old spaghetti. You never wash the kettle."

My nose wrinkled.

What a turn-off.

How gross.

I never really wanted breakfast, anyways.

Reeepulsive, ew.

"I don't personally think it's all my fault, but sure." I lazily opened the fridge. Are we ever getting fucking rid of the beans?

"Eren, we live in this house practically alone. You and I."

"It's positive dad drops by and totally trashes the dishwasher. By the way, umm..."

I swung, feeling a prick of nervousness creep in. How do I ask for car keys? I mean, yeah. Sure. I've asked for car keys a plenty of times, but each time had it's reason. Mall, college, soccer or volleyball trainings, camping trips on the weekends, didn't matter, just as long as I had a reason, I usually got the keys in seconds.

Like. Mom knew Mikasa. She'd let me pick her up. But it's a bummer I've planned to skip classes today, and I'd be totally fucked if she found out through the Levi>Erwin>mother chain, which she probably will, anyways.

Man, I felt a little guilty, because now the Sunday breakfast talk seemed like empty words and whatever was this wild rebellion I was doing now, it was nowhere complimenting my inner promise to start keeping up with school more.

Though I do have to admit I've never went through this much shit at once, and they all just need to face the fact I'm trying to sort things out one by one.

Mom pulled off her gloves and threw them on the counter besides the sink. She rubbed her hands together, fixed her hair a little so it didn't get in the way, and finally tiptoed to the fridge to open it. I peeked over her head to indifferently scan the contents again.

How can Levi trust me with his porn if I can't trust him with my college attendance?

Wow, I'm sure stressing about this a lot.

Fuck it. Anyways.

"Mom?"

"Yes, baby?" She murmured.

"Can I take the car keys?"

"Mine or dad's?"

"Uh, dad's."

"What for? I'll drop you off at school if Jean's not picking you up. I have a meeting in town later on. When do your classes start, nine, or something?"

I pursed my lips. "It's not about school, I have to pick Mikasa up. From her flat, I mean. I have to go get Mikasa."

Mom turned to me and gave me the hardest stare ever. I tried not to squirm and shrink in front of her.

Expression unreadable, she turned back to the fridge. "Oh."

That didn't sound good at all. That didn't sound like anything at all.

I reached out and sneaked my hand past her to press the freeze button, otherwise the fridge would've started beeping.

"Mom?" I carefully spoke. "I'll bring her here with me. And skip school today. And, um. Probably just spend the day with Mikasa."

"Of course. It's great you've found a girl, baby."

I squinted.

Then I opened my mouth and took a breath, and then squinted a little harder.

"Are you..." I began. "No, mom. It's not like that."

"Oh, sure it's not." She grinned. "Congratulations on your new girlfriend."

"I didn't mean that." I reasoned. Then stressed out. "She's not my girlfriend! Mikasa would never... We're not together. Holy fuck, mom! No."

She always pushed me into awkward conversation fields where I had to either lie I had a crush or a girlfriend, or at least tell her it's a girlfriend in process.

Like, a date, or something, I don't know what those are called.

I'm literally so distant with girls now I've started calling them "it".

I'm a virgin. A weirdo. Anti-girl sort of type. I've tried being with them and all it's done is terrible damage, and now I'm pretty unethically fucked. My past girls fucked me over when I was around seventeen, and I took a pause until last year.

Then Annie came and fucked me up like nothing else ever could, and now I'm strong on the fact it's just not meant for me.

It's not cool being seen as a macho jock-type figure because it somehow always equals with just looks and not much thinking with the upper head. I'm not entirely an idiot, and even if I do come off as good-looking to some, I still personally think I'm just a regular guy.

Just far on the loser side.

Mom reached up for a new carton of eggs and bacon. "You know I'm not blaming you for liking Mikasa, she's a great catch. It's alright. You need changes. It's been a long time since I've heard you mention a girl."

"I don't like Mikasa. Not like that."

"It's okay if you do," she went on. "She's a really nice girl, Eren."

"I don't like her."

"Why not?"

I didn't reply and pressed my hip against the counter as I leaned on it. Mom got out a fork and a bowl. Then she froze a little as if realizing something, placed both of them down and turned to me. I held her stare patiently, trying to put on a confident mask.

AND I'M ALSO NOT GAY, MOM. DON'T GIVE ME THAT LOOK.

"It's like you and Ryan Gosling," I murmured. "You think he's insanely attractive but you wouldn't hit on him."

"Because I'm married," she said. "And because Ryan Gosling is just too much."

"You're way hotter than Ryan Gosling, mom, and I believe you'd totally cop him if having the chance."

"So does that mean you're in a relationship still? Mikasa is such a great girl. I'd be very happy if you two ended up falling in love."

I mimicked throwing up while she wasn't looking.

"I still can't get over my last girlfriend, don't talk about getting another one, I don't want another WW2-sized heartbreak."

Mom stared at me for a while before breaking into a smile. Punched my shoulder, lightly. It didn't hurt, but I still rubbed the spot and tried to ignore the fact Mikasa was waiting for me in the middle of a street.

"Grey looks good on you," mom mentioned.

I looked down at my shirt.

Fuck, it's a V-neck. Didn't realize.

"Thanks," I said. "I never wear grey."

"Is it because of Mikasa?

So done.

I watched her crack four eggs in the bowl and start whisking them. She stopped. "Should I count her in?"

"Uh, I. I don't know, I'll text her."

"You have her number?" Her excitement rose.

"Yes," I said. "I also have her address and postal code."

"Romantic."

With a grunt of annoyance, I slipped out of the kitchen and pulled out my phone.

[07:33:02, Tuesday] Mikasa: I'm inside Baskins' , got some yogurt.

[07:33:18, Tuesday] Mikasa: Now I'm + - fookin bankrupt.

[07:33:30, Tuesday] Mikasa: I'll wait for you here.

I tapped a reply.

[07:37:11, Tuesday] Eren: I'll call you when I start driving

[07:37:31, Tuesday] Eren: Btw are you staying at my place for now

[07:37:52, Tuesday] Eren: Cuz mom asked if you want breakfast and her eggs are killer

I checked the other messages while waiting for her response.

[07:35:08, Tuesday] Jean: Morning, sunshine

[07:36:00, Tuesday] Jean: Who's driving today bc fuck I'm not driving :^)

[07:36:21, Tuesday] Jean: You gotta pick me up boy

[07:36:38, Tuesday] Jean: Ok, wake the fuck up Eren, we got classes in two hours

[07:36:45, Tuesday] Jean: I'll send you my fucking nudes eren

[07:36:58, Tuesday] Jean: ***New picture message!***

Being sure about the contents of the picture, I still tapped on it. The file took a while to load.

My jaw fell.

The apparent crack idea of Jean's pubes being blond isn't a joke, if anyone's wondering, and I've seen them a million times, in the showers, anyways.

[07:37:17, Tuesday] Eren: Mikasa would('nt) bang

[07:37:27, Tuesday] Eren: Honestly fuck off it's pretty unfair you get to look normal on most mornings

I checked if Mikasa had responded. I noticed she only began writing then.

[07:38:43, Tuesday] Mikasa: Yeah, I'd die for breakfast, thanks.

[07:38:59, Tuesday] Mikasa: Baskins' is trash. Your mom is super nice.

[07:39:21, Tuesday] Mikasa: Can we talk about it when I arrive?

[07:39:36, Tuesday] Eren: Sure nbd, stay in Baskins

[07:39:39, Tuesday] Eren: Hey btw

I still wasn't recovering from Jean's picture. It's not a nude in the literal sense, he's just shirtless and trashy. So I'm sure neither Jean or Mikasa would really mind.

[07:39:45, Tuesday] Eren: ***Forwarded picture message from: Jean***

[07:39:52, Tuesday] Eren: Lol merry christmas I'm omw

And to Jean:

[07:40:16, Tuesday] Eren: Dude I'm skipping today cuz Mikasa's on financial probs and I have to pick her up

[07:40:34, Tuesday] Eren: RIP college and my dreams of ever getting a job lmao

I tucked my phone back where it belonged and walked back inside the kitchen. Mom was at the stove already. She heated up a pan.

"Mikasa's going to be hungry," I said. "And I really have to go, she's waiting."

"The keys for Subaru are on the counter and mine are in my purse, I think."

I went straight to the counter because I wasn't going to dig through her purse. Her purse was even worse than her car.

The flat surface was splattered in papers and old paychecks from the last two weeks. Pencils, pens, hair clips, perfume, sticky notes, my beanie, mom's scarf, my scarf, a few cents and four mint candies. Briefly: anything but the keys. I don't know what I expected, this was our house, after all. You wouldn't find a whale in here.

"Could they be somewhere else?" I asked over my shoulder. "The Subaru keys, I mean."

"I think there's no gas in it, anyways. Why don't you take my car? I filled up last night."

Thanks, I'll pass.

"I can't drive with automatic transmission."

"The Subaru has automatic transmission, too."

Fuck! "It's different. I feel more comfortable with the Subaru," I lied. "And Mikasa has a bike, it won't fit it in your car."

"It will if you tilt the back seats down! There's plenty of space. Really, Jesus, just take my car."

And this, here, right now, just sounded so shady. Her sudden defense caught my attention.

"Mom?" I paused and leaned on the counter. "Is there a specific reason you don't want me to take dad's car?"

I heard her pour the eggs on the pan and rinse the bowl. Then she came out of the kitchen and stood straight in the doorway. Her hands were crossed. I never realized she was so short, and also, her stance screamed murder.

"I don't know what you're talking about," mom said. "I'm just telling you it's out of gas."

"And?"

"I don't know where are the keys, also."

"And?" My voice became more skeptical.

She looked down. "Don't go to the garage."

"Why?"

"Just don't."

So she did something to the car and doesn't want me to see. How mom of her. It's literally the most typical fucking thing for her to do.

"I'm telling dad."

"I didn't do anything to the car, I swear! It's-- I mean, it's not the car, it's the garage you shouldn't see."

"What did you do to the garage, mom?" I asked, excited, and turned to slide through the kitchen. There was a boiler room connected to it, similar like Erwin's house, and after a short walk through the said room, I'd reach the garage.

"I fucking drove straight in the wall, Eren," she finally admitted with another sad and sinful "fucking straight into it".

What I saw was sudden and unexpected. And a little eerie. It also caused the idea of homelessness and children doing charity, I don't know.

The entire wall the Subaru's engine was facing looked like a huge web. The center damage point was located exactly down at the car's bumper (front, in general) and spread up from there. The cracks reached up to the ceiling, even. A few bits of the wall had dropped off and fallen down, mostly on the front window.

I figured why none of us used the car for the past weeks, ever since dad left on vacation.

"Mom."

"I know."

I turned to her, unamused. "Mom."

"That was an accident, okay? My car was at the service and I was driving in the garage with the Subaru! And I tried leaning forwards to see how much space is left there, really, and pressed the pedal a little too harsh."

The way she told me this like she's just commited the worst crime ever combined with her facial expressions and stuttering got me turning away to let the grossest Aerobics Mom laughter come out. I knew mom hates when I laugh at her, but it's too fucking good.

"I'm still fucking telling dad, you know," I uttered after calming down.

"Eren, this isn't funny."

"How is this not funny? You drove into the wall." I had to laugh at that one more time. "Fuuuck. God."

Her mouth crooked. "It's still out of gas. I wasn't lying about that."

There went my hopes. My smile was wiped out in seconds. "Yeah. I guess I'll have to do with your car, then. Have you fixed the radio?"

"No."

"Fuck, mom, how can you listen to the same music over and over?" I widened my eyes. "Plus the volume's crazy and everything."

"It's so charismatic. I love it," she defended.

"Yes, sure it is, mom. Bollywood sucks."

"Whatever." She patted my chest. "Whatever. You're still a traitor. Tell your father before I get this fixed and I'm putting you out on the street."

I snorted and walked over to the other car.

"I'm not kidding," mom mentioned before leaving me alone in the garage.

 


" Meri manzil tu tu tu tu, dil ki baat jahaan dil se ho!

Chalo dildar chalo, jahaan ishq chahat ho!"

My eyes are slanted as fuck and I just.

Christ.

I thought I'm going to drive off the road and make a pretzel out of this car.

The red lights I got stuck at were all suddenly long-lasting. "Chalo Dildar Chalo" was dimmed down by the engine while I drove, but it blasted high-volume whenever I pressed on the brakes.

I couldn't even count how many times I started slapping the entire stereo system just to fucking turn it off. In the end, I just went with it and promised myself I'd get dad's toolbox and tear it out the second I got home.

The songs went off whenever I stopped and I felt the need for a goooood dose of nerve medicine. I had only five more minutes to drive until I'd have reached my destination. I called Mikasa right after starting the car, and Jean right after ending the call with Mikasa.

I told him I sent his "semi-nude" to Mikasa, he said a lot of words I couldn't comprehend and the line went dead. Then he sent me an apologizing "Sorry, babe, but you're suuuuuch fucking scum".

I was glad at least someone felt sorry for me. At least ironically. A three hour loop of Indian love songs wasn't really my thing.

I slammed down on the pedals the second red turned to yellow and relaxed to the purring of the engine over the music earlier. I also began paying more attention to the surroundings since the ice cream place was closing in; realized Jean's house wasn't really far away, neither was the park. Did Mikasa live somewhere here?

If so, why'd she act like she saw this place for the first time?

One more question; how'd she know where Smoothie King was last Friday?

>:|

I pulled over in the lot next to the café and flicked the key around immediately. This area wasn't loud and I didn't want to disturb people. Instead, my hand reached down to the tray besides the gearshift, and I dug through mom's papers to find my phone again.

[08:02:09, Tuesday] Eren: I'm outside

[08:02:17, Tuesday] Eren: Waiting for the princess

I looked outside the window.

There were three bikes locked in front of the shop. One was mint green and fucking adorable (for someone whimsical and vintage), the second one was red and looked like a sports bike due to the stickers and frame, and the third one was so fucking muddy I couldn't read the color. Maybe black.

The latter bike seemed like my type of bike. Mikasa's was probably the red.

The door swung open and here came my potential girlfriend.

Her hair was flat and pulled back in a loose ponytail, face unreadable and a little pale. Her eyes were puffy. I figured she's been crying. Certainly looked different from when we last met. The only clothes she had on (considering how fucking cold it was) was a black t-shirt and sweatpants. Like me.

Mikasa had two bags, exactly like she told me she would.

She narrowed her eyes upon the Renault. I watched her crouch and wave the moment recognition hit her. I did a peace sign.

Turned out the muddy bike was hers. I got out to help her get it inside the back seat; tilted the cushions down to free space (my nose wrinkled at drying mud), and threw both her bags in there, as well. Like, fuck it. She'd made a mess out of the car already, so who cares.

As a side note: Mikasa commented how well grey suited me. :^) Which was great.

We got in the car. I didn't want to turn the key yet, since it meant shame and eternal headache. So, I sat in silence and turned to her.

"Hey," I said.

"Yo." Mikasa smiled. "You look good for eight in the morning."

"Thanks, you too."

"Bullshit. I've been crying for two hours straight."

I rolled my eyes. "Like that changes anything."

She brushed the left side of her face and hid it. She was smiling, though, and I found it pretty cute. Flustered babe. That, or I'm just embarrassing at this subconscious flirt.

"Listen, I'll start the engine, you check if the line's clean, okay?"

"Wait, what?" Mikasa fastened her seat belt. "Why?"

"The radio's kind of broken and this music will shatter your sense of sound. It gets silent if the engine's running like a bitch."

"Is it dubstep?"

"Don't shit on dubstep, Mikasa," I said. "It's Indian music."

"Alright, fuck, I'm ready."

"Check the line," I murmured and rashly turned the key.

"Tera tasavvur hai teri tamanna hai, yeh dil tujhise lagana hai!

Betaab rehke bhi har dard sehkar bhi, teri mohabbat ko paana hai!"

Mikasa turned to me in panic and pressed her ears close. "What the fuck is this?!"

"Check the line, Mikasa!" I yelled over the music. My fingers gripped the wheel until my knuckles went white, and I quickly looked over my shoulder to search for any incoming traffic. This was a silent street, usually, but it's probably just my bad luck to have five cars driving.

Mikasa turned around in her seat and looked over through the back window. Her bike was pretty much in the way for me to see anything. Two cars shot past and I got really impatient, both due to the loud violin and high solo parts.

For a second I thought I'm just going to drive and sail with a YOLO.

"Line's clear! Go, go, go!"

I fucking hit the pedal so hard.

The Sedan roared and the music went silent immediately. We both tensed down in our seats. I slowed down a little to regain normal speed and wiped my palms in my sweatpants individually.

Mikasa rubbed her forehead and I just didn't want to say anything.

"Wow. That was...wow."

"I fucking hate this car."

"It smells a little."

"I know. I fucking hate it so much."

We sat in silence for a while. I jammed on the conditioner to clear up the air. At least the car didn't stink like perfume and lip gloss two minutes later.

It took me ten minutes to get out of the urban area of the town, and the ten minutes were also good for embracing ourselves for a conversation. A "long" and "meaningful" conversation full of "beautiful" revelations.

"How are we going to tell your mom?" Mikasa asked.

"I already told her," I lied.

"Oh! Great."

That's it. The next time we talked was a while later, closing in to my house. I kept looking at her when acting like I'm staring out the window. She seemed distanced and very odd this morning. I looked at her hands and arms instead of the face, because it seemed a little inappropriate to just stare at a puffy-eyed girl.

"Are you cold?" I asked.

"No."

"You've got goosebumps."

She looked at her left arm. "Oh. Whatever. It happens."

I turned to the road and straightened my back. Might be generous to the end. Should finish what I've started. Also, girls like this motive.

"You can take my hoodie, it's underneath you," I shyly murmured.

Mikasa moved a little and pulled on a red sleeve. "This?"

"Yeah. You can have it. Like, forever. Just take it."

She did. I was glad I could get rid of it. I've had it for two years as a minimum. But it was also currently the best I could do.

"It smells nice," Mikasa commented and raised the fabric to bury her face in it. "Like vanilla. Your deodorant and fabric softener. You smell really good."

"Mikasa, it's embarrassing to listen to."

"Sorry."

"Thanks."

I peeked at her once in a while, on our way home.

Mikasa's nice, actually.

I'll consider what mom said about her. I can't figure in what sense, but I do like her a lot.

 


"That's absurd! Why'd they do that?"

"I don't know, the landlord's an asshole, I'm so sorry for using language like this, Carla, but there's just no other words."

"It's alright, darling, it's your comfort."

Great, Mikasa had opportunities and I didn't. Mom didn't like me cursing, but hey, Mikasa sure can curse all she wants. Fucking great, I fucking love this, oh my god.

UNFAIR.

"My parents were strictly against throwing me out, but the guy threatened he'd throw us all out if we don't decide who moves or something like that. Mom wanted to send me to the college dorms, dad wanted to send me back to J-town, I wanted to stay put somewhere in this area. I honestly thought I'd manage to figure this all out, you know?"

My mom sympathetically nodded.

Mikasa tightened her grip on the cup of tea. "Time fled way too quickly. I talked about getting a job with Eren. He said there's a sports shop nearby, but if that's not an option for me, too, I'll find something else."

Mom nodded again. "He's been wanting to work there for years. Eren works at sports equipment stores, mostly. This is a bigger one. The shopkeeper's nice, his name is Mike. He has a dog."

"Mom, I'm not mute."

"Sure, baby, I'm just saying."

"I need a place to stay," Mikasa said. "For at least a day or three. Until I find a willing roommate on Craigslist or something similar. I'd get off your ass the second I find a flat."

Mike's dog bit me in the balls when I was seventeen. Literally hate that fucking pup. It's the only reason why I never worked there before.

"Mikasa, you can always stay here, you know," I interrupted. "Like. Permanently. Until you're really stable."

They both looked at me. Mom looked surprised as fuck, but in a positive way. I just shrugged. "I don't know, like. You're almost family, anyways. So. You can stay in the guest room upstairs. It's almost next to my room. I'm sure mom wouldn't mind. Dad, too. And don't take up much resources or anything, so you wouldn't have to pay rent or shit like that."

Both were still staring. Mom's completely shocked.

"I mean, if you feel a sick crave to pay us for staying, you can always take the electricity bill."

"Eren!"

"I'm obviously kidding," I murmured.

Mom's hand found my forearm and she clutched it tight.

I stared at this anomaly.

"Mikasa, really. Like Eren said, you're practically family. I've always wanted another girl in this household. The guest room upstairs has been empty for a while. Eren fixed the shower in the bathroom, too."

"I think I've fixed everything, so your room's pretty much perfect."

Mikasa looked a little touched.

I thought she'd hug me for this, but I've surely set the bars too high.

After another long conversation, at least three more cups of green tea and helping Mikasa settle in her new room (because she obviously agreed and took up the offer), I also went out for a morning jog, worked out, met Jean after classes and copied shit from his notebook.

I spent the rest of the day tidying up the garage. I also fixed my mom's stereo system.

The three of us watched TV in the evening, and by the end of the night, I left them in the couch due to extreme and quite sudden exhaustion.

I went upstairs, to my room, and fell back in my bed.

I felt tired. Emotionally tired.

Having another "family member" actually seemed fun, despite her previously being my friend. I mean, yeah, it was just for the time being, probably, but I still felt comfy with the idea of having a sister. I'd always wanted a sister. Mom also seemed to like having Mikasa around. She really liked Mikasa, in general.

But now us both moving things forwards would feel a little incestuous.

My pocket vibrated and I clumsily plunged my hand down.

I had two old, unread messages from Jean and a few messages from...

I squinted.

Oooh, what?

What's this?

[20:57:32, Tuesday] Coach: Why are you skipping classes? If this is me-related, wow, you're being weird.

[20:59:57, Tuesday] Coach: Are you afraid?

[21:01:48, Tuesday] Coach: I'm not going to touch you. I don't really give a fuck. But you should come to school and not miss out on anything.

[21:02:33, Tuesday] Coach: I'd like a short talk and some answers, maybe. Nothing much.

[21:03:59, Tuesday] Coach: I also never thought you'd be enough of an asshole to eavesdrop.

My heart died.

I stared at the screen for flat minutes and read the words over and over again until the letters all melted together.

Levi had my number and I had his for coach-and-player purposes. For soccer purposes. Not individual accusations.

I didn't know if I should reply or call or ignore him, so I sat patiently. And hey, patience pays back, I guess, but in what currency.

[21:07:21, Tuesday] Coach: Not that we both don't have an iPhone and I can't see the "Read" receipt

[21:07:30, Tuesday] Coach: But sure

I fucking gaped at the screen.

Is this the modern coach-player talk?

Perhaps I should respond.

This is offensive. I feel offended.

What is he, fifteen? WHAT'S THIS TEXT MESSAGE ARGUING?

[21:07:42, Tuesday] Eren: Im sorry? :-D

Coach is typing....

[21:08:12, Tuesday] Coach: :-D Alright, fuck you. :-D I 'm really pissed. :-D

[21:08 :20, Tuesday] Eren: The fuck

[21:08:27, Tuesday] Eren: My number is for emergency&schedule changes???

[21:08:40, Tuesday] Eren: Wtf, I didn't do anything

[21:08:53, Tuesday] Eren: Using emojis ironically is 2009

That sounded really good in the means of lightening up the mood I already had down knocking in depths of hell.

[ 21:09:26 , Tuesday] Coach: Your number's on my phone and I'm using it to contact you

[21:09:49, Tuesday] Eren: Yeah okay but you're mainly just assaulting me

[21:10:00, Tuesday] Eren: I'm not interested in how pissed you are

[21:10:16, Tuesday] Eren: I'll be at school tomorrow and we can talk before/after the training whatsoever

[21:10:33, Tuesday] Eren: Goodnight I'm very tired

[21:10:47, Tuesday] Coach: It's barely 9PM.

I didn't respond.

But I didn't fall asleep, either. I rolled on my back and stared up at the ceiling.

The last time Levi messaged me was two years ago, called: last soccer season or so. Our team got lost in Berlin during post-game partying and he paid sixty bucks for his phone bill afterwards.

This felt fucked and weird, and I constantly regretted coming off this childish when I could've honestly just acted mature for once. Count in the fact he's been the only adult to openly insult me for being this way.

I realized he's been looking for me at school today, and I also figured out he's assumed I'm going through moral trauma because of whatever he thought I might've seen or heard from his and Nile's conversation.

Wow, fuck, I gotta breathe for a second.

Shit like this gets my brain steaming.

Bzz.

[21:13:01, Tuesday] Coach: Alright, can you do me a favor?

I swallowed.

Favor?

What fucking favor is he talking about?

How should I respond? "It depends"? Yes or no? Something more sophisticated? What's a proper answer to this? I've got no honest clue.

I took a deep breath and held my phone up.

[21:13:39, Tuesday] Eren: Depends.

Bzz.

[21:13:50, Tuesday] Coach: Be at the sports hall in fifteen minutes.

I swear my stomach just burned in high flames. I sat up in my bed and re-read the message. He sent two more a short while later.

[21:14:34, Tuesday] Coach: Please.

[21:14:39, Tuesday] Coach: :-D


My palms were insanely sweaty.

So was my scalp, forehead and armpits.

Mom and Mikasa were still sitting in the couch when I came downstairs. My hands felt slippery and I tried to wipe them off in my pants. Wasn't much help.

I was so fucking nervous I changed into jeans without exactly knowing why.

No, fuck it, I know why. I changed into jeans because I thought jeans were more appropriate for meeting Levi this late in the evening. Whenever there's an event during which I'm sure can turn my life into shit, I dress in jeans.

As if jeans would be my absolute guardian angels, they give a specific feeling of safety. And it's just so unnerving I have to see Levi in this condition.

As safe as I felt with him usually, I do admit I'm slightly worried now.

Normal people, normal soccer coaches, they don't ask their students to come over to the sports hall at nine in the evening. Then again, it's Levi, and I didn't know he's a porn star during these three years of being in his team, so.

It's quite interesting.

He'll probably beat me to a pulp and trash me in the nearest river. Levi's not very stable. He's quite of a physical exhaust type. He looks like he's the calmest shit, but he's not. Whenever something gets him deep, he goes full-on physical, and it hurts.

Think about Connie for a second.

Levi broke Connie's nose by tossing him a ball.

Levi could hit girls. It's a global assumption. Nobody's ever seen him hit girls, or any women, or anyone in general, but we all know he can kick a puppy. That concerned me the most.

Not because I'd be a girl. Or a puppy. Because the idea of no restraints scared me.

I felt a little nervous and scared, but I've still got some courage left. Not like he's going to kill me or anything. He wouldn't sexually assault me either, I know it. Never rubbed me that way.

Tiptoeing down the stairs has never felt so stealthy.

"Eren?"

I stopped on the last step of the stairs. "Yeah?"

"Are you going out?"

I jumped to the ground and walked over to the living room. I either had three seconds to make up good lies or at least fifteen minutes on trying to explain the reality.

Imagine how awkward would that end up being.

"Yep. I'll buy beer and breathe some fresh air."

Mikasa turned and leaned on the back of the couch. "Didn't you say you're dead tired a few minutes ago?"

Crap.

I bit my lip. "Yeah, but I can't sleep. I'll just bike to the park and be back in around an hour or something."

"Wasn't your bike broken?"

"I'll just take yours."

She turned back to the TV, losing the interest. "Sure."

Mom also turned to the TV and they both continued watching the movie without paying much attention to me. Which, I thought, was blissful, so I calmly walked back to the corridor and started looking for the Subaru's keys.

Dad wouldn't mind, I think.

I found them in mom's grey coat, the inner pocket, along with some paychecks and hair pins.

The only reason I'm taking the Subaru is because I want to check how much gas is really left, and if there's enough for me to get to the closest gas station and just fill up.

Not that there were two miles of driving, but school wasn't too far, and there weren't any buses driving this late.

Probably were, but I'm not taking a bus.

I got in the car parked next to mom's ugly Sedan with his scraped sides and sad bumper, fastened my seat belt and pushed the key in the ignition, all while already pulling out my phone to text Levi I'm actually finally heading over and going to be there in ten to fifteen minutes.

It turned on and purred in the loveliest way ever. I sank back in the seat and finished writing the message. Opened the garage in the meantime, and threw my phone in my lap when I was ready to start driving.

The fuel bar was burning red, but it looked like I'd totally manage to make it.

I drove backwards for a few inches, just to get the boot out in open space, and the car just broke down and turned itself off.

Confused and slightly irritated, I turned the key again, but nothing worked.

I tried out turning the key a few more times and ended using up another five minutes looking if I'm maybe missing the white safety card that sometimes gets lost or taken inside and thrown on the counter.

Exasperated, I realized I've wasted ten minutes by now, and slammed my face down against the center of the wheel.

The car honked like crazy.

My whole body jerked up in the seat. Since I'm tall as fuck, I banged my head against the roof (and knees against the wheel) with the softest yelp I could manage to let out. It didn't hurt, but I still yelped because I was surprised and frustrated and my heart was trying to slam a hole in my chest.

The door to the garage flew open and I noticed mom with a cautious Mikasa peering behind.

"Don't we have any gasoline in the garage?" I asked, getting out of the car. My head still hurt a little.

"No, Eren, I told you this morning!" Mom raised her voice in frustration. "Why'd you honk? I got scared."

"Carla, is he wearing fucking jeans?" Mikasa pointed at my legs.

I looked down at them. These were my most regular jeans.

"Oh, Christ. He is."

They were silent for a while. Mikasa sat down on the steps.

"He's having a date," she importantly concluded.

Mom just nodded.

"Wow. Great," I said and placed my hands on my knees. "I'm not having a date, I'm emptying a can of beer outside the house. That's it, I swear."

"You're wearing jeans. You said you're going biking, by the way. With my bike," Mikasa mentioned. "Biking with jeans is probably the most uncomfortable option."

"Is your bike still in the boot?" I ignored everything she said.

"Yeah."

The trunk's door was heavy as fuck. So was Mikasa's bike. I still managed to get it out somehow, along with letting it fall on mom's neatly stacked carton boxes. They made a squeaky noise, but nothing broke.

They both kept staring at me the whole time and I didn't think it was possible to feel as embarrassed as I felt then. I pulled up the garage door up even more, just to relax and calm down.

Fresh air hit me right in the face and I inhaled lots of it. It sneaked everywhere, through my hair, in my lungs, every crook my body had, armpits, scalp, palms. I knew I was hot and sweating like crazy and I knew it was obvious for someone who knew me. I was freaking the fuck out, but you'd never tell from afar.

I also wondered if I should lather myself in deodorant before heading to school because I was weirdly upset with the image of Levi's nose wrinkling.

I stared outside for a while, trying to manage my body.

"Aren't those jeans too tight?" I heard Mikasa say.

I could fucking yodel right now.

"No," I replied. "They are not."

"I think they are."

"Stop thinking."

"I'm assuming."

"Don't."

I cycled for fucking seventeen minutes without stopping to take a breath or check my phone for incoming calls or messages. Levi could've told me he won't be there and I'd realize only after arrival.

Which wasn't exclusive in any way, or at all.

It felt weird to hang around the territory when it's dark. There was a fleck of light just above the horizon, but it disappeared in a few minutes, causing the discomfort to rise. I was sweaty, breathless, and wearing jeans. Pretty tight jeans. Top that with whom I'm meeting.

Sweet fucking Christ. I really am an adrenaline junkie.

The second I rolled around the corner, my already non-existent breath was kicked out completely and I pressed on the brakes, causing a loud, creaky noise.

Levi's car.

Oh, fuck, he's here already, and I'm wondering since when.

There were no parking stalls for bikes next to the sports hall, so I shamelessly balanced my transport against Levi's car. The trunk, I mean. I didn't chain it because nobody was usually trespassing college territory besides the students who lived in it. I mean, in the dorms. But the dorm students weren't exactly the type to steal dirty bikes.

That is, if none of them worked in a metal dump or something.

Which was a far fetch.

I rubbed my hurting knee. What really bugged me was the way Levi's car was parked. Out of the lot. With "out of the lot" I meant with poorly paid attention. Looked like he'd driven the car there in a YOLO matter. Just because it's a parking lot.

"Yeah, fuck the lots, honestly."

His silent voice almost killed my sanity.

I turned around. "I really wasn't complaining."

"Hey."

"Hey."

I stood still while he examined me. I'm not saying I didn't examine him, either. He was dressed better than me and he generally looked better than me, but when has that been surprising.

And he had dark jeans, too. Dark wash.

I had so many questionable thoughts and feelings going on I didn't know exactly which one to focus on. He wasn't looking at me anymore, he was now looking somewhere to the side, and I actually felt thankful for it.

Levi didn't seem as angry as he had in the text messages. Maybe I got the context totally out of place, but I thought he was ready to slit me open when writing. Now the face before me seemed calm and collected, his posture relaxed and fingers hooked behind his jeans.

He took a deep breath and kicked a pebble. I figured he expected me to speak.

"I left my bike behind your car," I said.

"Yeah, okay."

Cricket orchestra.

I stuffed my hands in the pockets of my jeans, almost mirroring his action.

This was awkward and I never asked for it.

My eyes trailed off from his figure to the white, spotless car. The windows were dark.

Aww, fuck. I'd love to check out the salon. It's probably beige leather. Levi looked like a beige leather person when it came to cars.

I noticed something.

"I thought your car was a Chrysler?"

"It's a Grand Cherokee," Levi replied.

"So it's still Jeep?" I asked, to keep the conversation running.

"It's a Grand Cherokee."

It's really a great way to start the evening. :-)

Right now he was fascinating me with this fucking out-of-nowhere shitty attitude, and I couldn't figure if it meant I'm actually risking with getting injured. Maybe Levi's just going to fuck around with my head and I'll end up being the one leaving New Jersey.

It's possible. His levels of intelligence are astounding. Sometimes. And sometimes I spend at least twenty seconds on wondering at which point his IQ reached a state so fragile he decided gaining something from pornography was the way to go.

I'll possibly never understand the porno industry.

"What are you thinking about?" His voice cut the air between.

I hesitated a little. "Nothing."

"I can hear you thinking."

"I'm wondering why I came."

"Because I asked you to come," Levi said, lifting his shoulders a little. "But you can go home if you want to, I'm not holding you."

"Hey, I cycled here for seventeen fucking minutes."

"I know, you're sweaty."

"Appreciate it, it's my soul crying."

It creeped up a smile on his face and that was my exact aim.

Shit, do I stink?

"You look petrified," he commented.

"Am I the bad sweaty or normal sweaty?" I dared to ask.

He squinted. "You're just sweaty."

My lips curled and I stupidly smiled.

I've never admitted this, but it felt easy as fuck talking to Levi. We do know each other for three years now, after all, but every once in a while talking to him makes me appear like I'm seriously retarded. I just can't concentrate enough.

It's because I kept forgetting he's not my age, that we're differently categorized, and most of all, that his life's completely different from mine.

He's not even fucking straight, what the fuck are you talking about? :-D

Without all mentioned issues, I believe we'd be great friends.

"So..." My shoulders slouched as I tilted my head back. I felt my neck stretch along. "I bet you have a really good reason for calling me here at nine in the evening."

"I do," Levi said. "I actually do."

I've never looked at him this way, but ever since I found out about the video, it's been sitting in my subconsciousness and fucking grating my brain. It's kind of humiliating and everything, but I can't be the only one assuming he might've called me over here for something "spicy".

I know this is the furthest fetch right now, but still.

My heart shivered from the several ideas of what's happening right now, and I felt my knees getting a little jittery from the thoughts of what'd happen inside of the hall, in the teacher's room.

I'm fucking perverse as fuck.

My breath caught up in my throat, just a little.

"Really?" I cautiously asked, trying to avoid being too diligent in challenging him.

"Yeah. I didn't plan this to be outside, but..."

Thoughts buzzed like psychotic bees. I felt drunk. What are we doing here?

I straightened up. "What do you mean?"

"With what?"

"With not planning this... Uhm." I stuttered. "This "something" outside."

"Oh. I thought you'd prefer sitting in the hall," he shrugged. "We can just sit outside, too. Thought it's cold.

OH GOD. WE'RE JUST SITTING. GOD. THANKS.

The bees in my head died off in an instant.

"You still have the keys for the hall? I thought Pixis took them away."

"He said I need to give mine to Nile because he trusts me and making another nineteen would cost extra," Levi explained. "But Nile's got no fucking idea I'm supposed to give him anything. Like the keys, or the old journal. He doesn't have your files, either. Unless Pixis gave him copies."

He got visibly gloomier. "It doesn't matter much."

"That old man can cut you with his Jewish nose," I said. "You should've given those back."

"That old man can't tell the difference between good scotch and my urine."

I choked out something distantly similar to laughter.

"Pixis drank your piss?"

"Urine, not piss. Piss sounds so prepubescent."

"Not like you're the one constantly telling me what a child I am."

"I don't always mean it," Levi sincerely said. "I throw it around a lot."

I looked at him, he looked back, and I weakly smiled. It sounded like he actually said what he meant.

Sometimes, but it's rare, he says completely opposite things of something he's said in the past. From the levels of sincerity you can easily tell which is his personal opinion, and which is just the first one he thinks of.

He also smiled, because I did.

I felt angered at his teeth for being straight and got a little pain in my stomach because mine weren't. My canines weren't perfect, but they were symmetrical, so my orthodontist said I can ditch braces.

Fuck my orthodontist. And before questions are raised, no, my dad's a dentist, and my orthodontist is a bitch.

I shivered. "I'm getting cold."

"We can go inside."

"We should go inside."

Levi gave his front pockets a pat. The right one jingled. I focused on his motions and watched him fish out the keyring. He swiped through different keys.

His eyes lit up at a thicker one.

"You know," I began, watching him press on the door with a broad shoulder. "I honestly thought you're going to beat me up."

The pressure on the door disappeared and he stood back straight. Eyes filled with surprise, he practically laughed.

"What?" Voice was just stuffed with disbelief, too.

"I mean, after the messages." I hurried to explain."You seemed really mad. Had no clue what upset you so much. Apparently shit's so bad you're forced to send me text messages."

Levi looked back down at the lock. He pulled the knob again.

"I threw a little hissy fit alone here. Calmed down while you were on your way, it's really not that big of a deal."

Apparently my face still expressed concern, because he added: "Don't worry, I'm not aggressive."

I also leaned against the door, same as him.

"But would you kill me if given the chance?" I eagerly asked.

"Yeah, maybe."

I sucked in a breath. "Okay."

The lock gave up and Levi pulled at the door for the last time. Nobody really used this exit. We usually marched through the school like the hottest motherfuckers alive whenever trainings happened outside, in the stadium.

Yes, it caused more pleasure to show off.

Yes, I know.

Mature, I know.

The temperature inside wasn't as low as outside, to which I rubbed my arms in joy. My goosebumps were slowly fading. With great difficulty, I tore my eyes off my skin to find Levi again. I should've looked more thankful, probably.

He'd taken the jacket off and left it hanging on his shoulder, just the same as back when I (UNSTOPPABLE COUGHING) eavesdropped the fuck out of his and Nile's conversation. It also reminded me how much I really underestimated Levi for being a protein junkie, because, good fuck, he's packing.

Fucking envious.

"What happened?" Levi silently asked, making me look back up to his face. "I'd be glad if you'd talk, you know. Say something.Don't just gape at everything. It's fucking creepy, you're not like this at daylight."

"Sorry."

I'm also wondering where the joyful Eren went, don't worry.

I cleared my throat and stepped back to close the door. It isolated the whole hall from the crickets outside and the poor light shed from the lampposts, so we both stood in silence and clean cut darkness. I could see where Levi was standing, but I couldn't see the details anymore. Everything was velvety and soft.

Like, absolute serenity. Wow.

"I need to pee," I whispered.

Levi laughed. Genuinely. "Go ahead. I'll poke my way to the cabinet."

"Don't die."

"You too, eleven!"

I watched his shadowy figure flip around and walk straight in the opposite direction he was just facing. I figured that was where the cabinet was located, so the bathrooms should be a little to the right. Pinning down my destination, I began walking.

I realized this need was urgent.

I mean.

Urgent.

"Fuck. Levi, I can't see!" I called out and stretched a hand for safety. There should've been a column in front of me.

Where the fuck did the column go?!

"I feel fucking blind."

"You're not blind. I can't blast the lights on, sorry."

"Why?" I cried, patting the wall I'd just found. "I'll piss myself if you don't do something, come on!"

Levi's laughter was dimmed by the distance.

Moron.

I kept patting the wall until I stumbled upon the column. I knew I'm safe from that point. Tripped over a bag left in the doorway, and found The Holy Door of The Toilets. Barged the fuck inside. And turned the lights on.

Fuck, light!

My eyes got a little watery while I watched the lamps flicker on one by one. The undertones were scary. I'd played enough horror games to know how this might go, but I had to urinate too bad to be afraid of any kinds of paranormal shit.

There was a row of urinals on the left, a row of sinks and mirrors on the right, and the rest of the tiled room was filled with stalls until the furthest wall. Then it took a turn to the showers. I was only interested in the urinals.

Closed the door behind myself and walked up to the closest one. Pulled the zipper down.

Then began doing my thing.

The speakers scratched.

I moved uncomfortably. A while of thinking and I looked up at the corner of the room. The tiny speaker made a sound again.

I'm fucking sure every fucking school gets haunted by the moment it breaks twilight.

What if my dick gets bitten off?

What the fuck are these ideas?

"Today, on Fox News."

I jumped. The flow cut off by primal sense of fear and I froze, unmoving.

"Eren Jaeger, I can see you peeing."

My mouth literally jerked open and I stepped back.

Levi's familiar baritone filled the tiled room and echoed in every corner. The fuzzy sound through the speaker filter didn't make it any better, so I tucked myself back in my pants and crouched to hide anything embarrassing.

"What the fuck?!" I screeched and shot my hands down in an X-formation in front of my crotch. "Levi, seriously, what the fuck?! You spy on us?!"

He cackled through the speakers. "Jesus Christ, no. No, I don't. These are security cameras. We had to put them on. I couldn't see anyone's genitals even if I wished to."

"That doesn't fucking change much!" I yelled. And then panicked even more. "You're just fucking around! You saw everything!"

"You've seen me have sex, we're game."

He had a point there.

"You do have a point," I echoed the thought. "But your porno's there with your full consent."

"True. I'll turn this off."

Then we were silent for a while. Obviously, he hasn't turned anything off, because there's still a faint fuzz and distant clicks.

"Why aren't you peeing?" Levi curiously asked.

"Because you're still fucking watching?"

"I'm not."

"How the fuck would you know I'm not peeing?"

"I closed my eyes."

"Betting on fifty fucking bucks you didn't."

"It's great to own fifty bucks, kid. Thanks

I frowned and raised up a middle finger. Did a full circle; in case he didn't catch it. "I'm taking a stall."

His laughter was soothing. "Sure. I'll only see your head."

WHICH HEAD? >:|

Whatever.

I took the furthest stall and unzipped my pants once again.

The only audible sound was the clicking of his microphone. Levi cleared his throat a little. I resumed. Again.

This isn't making sense. I'm probably just living out a really, really vivid dream.

Is this reality? It's really happening, isn't it?

Fucking prayed it is, 'cause this is actually, like, really cool. It's like bonding. I fucking love bonding.

"Levi?" I called out.

"Yeah?"

"How old were you?"

" Expand?"

I finished and tucked myself back inside my pants. "When you began filming. Like, working with the porno industry in general."

I assumed he choked because the speaker suddenly went gritty as hell.

"You're really fucking bold, you know that?"

"I'm hiding in a stall. Everyone's bold when hidden. You wouldn't gape at my dick without a security camera in the way, either." I wasn't sure about what I said, but to justify myself: Levi's not attracted to me, and any sexual implications wouldn't make this any more awkward and fucked up.

"I wasn't watching you urinate for a sick fetish."

I sat down on the toilet's lid and raised my feet up. The soles of my shoes are clean rubber, so they hitched on the door of the stall, and I sat there like that.

"Sure."

"Blergh." The brash sound filled the whole bathroom. "I thought this would go differently."

"Were you expecting this conversation?" I asked, surprised. "I mean, I can, like. I can go back, if you want to."

"Be realistic. I've drank a little and it's a lot easier to talk when I don't have to look at you. Fuck, you're just so judgmental. You fucking stare straight at me while knowing what I do, and it's..."

"Great," I said. "Guess I'll rot in this toilet stall forever, then."

"Ha, ha."

"Sure is fun! I'm enjoying myself."

He sighed.

We sat in silence again.

"You can come to the cabinet, you know."

On my way to the exit, I glanced sideways at the several mirrors and slowed down on each one.

Seriously, these jeans are pretty complimenting.

Levi sat in his authentic position (legs draped over one of the armrests, back pressed against the other) and fiddled a microphone in his hands. He squinted a little when watching me comb through my hair. I just did casual gestures.

"You sure took your sweet time," I heard him comment.

I sucked my cheeks in and pulled my shirt lower. "Like I missed anything."

"Nothing much, really. Just me almost missing the chair."

I laughed and sat down in the small couch. Put my right hand on the armrest, and realized where I'm sitting.

My face froze and I felt like getting up.

I suddenly felt really uncomfortable, but didn't say anything and mirrored his position, hooking my legs over the armrests, too. "You told me you had a conversation planned."

"Yeah, I planned to tell you some details. To enlighten you, more likely."

"About what?"

"Porn. I don't know. Porn, I guess. Or just me."

It felt like the air between us turned into a cold, slurry mass.

"Why'd you think I'm craving to hear any of that?"

Levi put the microphone back on the table and focused his attention on me. "You know pretty much already, why don't I tell you everything? Besides, even if I left this school, you'd be the only teammate I'd still remain in contact with. Probably."

I'M SWEATING AGAIN.

"You're the captain. I'd give you training plans and schedules."

I swallowed. "Aren't you going to ask me if I want to hear anything about it?"

"Do you want to hear about it?"

"No."

"Good," Levi said. "I'll start with the salaries."

I protectively raised my hands up and sunk back in the soft chair. "Levi, I really don't think I need to know this. It's...personal stuff."

He looked up to the ceiling. "You don't need it, but I want you to know." Sounded painfully raw.

"Why?"

"I just want to. I don't want you to think I'm bad. You know? To think I'm cheap."

This is the moment I noticed he's had some alcohol. Alcohol equals self-loathing talks about being cheap and unforgiving, usually.

"Why?" I repeated, mind in a knot. "I've never thought you're bad. You annoy me sometimes, but I generally look up to you."

He swayed a hand in the air. "I didn't mean bad, I meant something else. Forgot the word."

"Terrible?" I suggested.

"No, not that."

"Awful? Strange?"

Levi shook his head.

"Pitiful?" I miserably tried.

He made a soft pop sound. "Exactly. I don't want you to take me as an unsympathetic, perverted clown of some industry I can't seem to fully grasp."

The gap between my brows literally creased and I fell back in the couch.

I couldn't figure out what he meant with that and it took me a while to think.

"Where'd you get the idea from?" I finally asked, tilting my head back.

He shrugged, looking down at his lap. "If I'd have an important idol I looked up to for years, and it suddenly turns out he really is working a low-life, scum-level job, I'd be pretty pissed. Disappointed, at that, and I'd wish I never had him as an idol."

"I think it's pretty fucking acceptable," I said. "You're cool, Levi, okay? You're really calm and smart. I like you as a person. You being a porn star doesn't upset me. I don't usually say shit like this, but you're a great guy. I don't care, fuck everyone, if that makes you feel better. You don't have to impress me. I think you're...good. Like, you're good to be around. I feel alright."

Levi's gaze was hard to hold, so I focused on the diplomas behind him.

"Plus you seem very knowing in terms of soccer and team play," I added, and looked at him again. "Fuck it, who cares if you're qualified or not. You do your job better than any straight A's graduate."

"That was unexpected. Thanks. No, really." A soft, breathy laugh followed. "Eren?"

I felt my ears warm up.

"Yeah?"

"Nile didn't blow me, by the way."

"Yeah, sure. It's not like you have to lie about it," I said. "I won't judge."

"I'm not lying. Do you think I've lied about anything so far?"

"Not sure. Maybe."

Levi rubbed his face. His fingers dug in his hair soon after. "Nothing happened."

"Really? Things were getting pretty heated. Bummer I kind of ruined it."

Levi smiled while hiding behind his hand. "Doubt anything would've happened even if you weren't creeping on us."

"Why?"

"I lost my non-existent interest in Nile a long time ago." He paused. "And I don't find this too necessary. Plus you were there, somewhere, and I didn't want to risk it."

I felt slightly more special than ever.

"So you generally ditched a blowjob thanks to me?"

"That's a good aspect!" Levi laughed. "You can take it that way."

"I like that way."

"I like your way of thinking."

That made me feel uneasy as fuck.

I'd lie if I said I didn't like Levi's company. He was easy to be around. Sometimes easy enough I forgot he's not my age. It never felt like he'd be a good ten years older, I just never...felt the vibe.

Especially now, getting a brief view on his raw side. I'd never tell he was thirty. Thirty-one that winter.

Never in my life.

I smiled and let my teeth show. "Thanks."

"You fucking center of arrogance."

"Do I piss you off?"

"I'll throw you off a building." Levi closed his eyes. I watched him squeeze deeper in the chair. "Seriously. Hey, by the way."

I let out a low sound, meaning it as a "go on".

He glanced at me before closing his eyes again. "I'm staying the night here. You're free to talk to me until I pass out. The keys are where I left them."

"Sure." Had no idea where'd the keys go. "What were you drinking? You mentioned you've had a drink."

He pulled out a whiskey bottle from the drawer and raised it for me to see. It wasn't full. He drank two glasses, maybe. Could be three.

"Are you intolerant?" I skeptically asked.

Levi put the bottle back immediately. He opened one eye. "I've been hearing you drink like a monster. Lucky fuck. Fucking alcohol tolerance."

"You're intolerant as fuck! That's why you texted me."

"I'm surprised I didn't call," he murmured and draped his forearm over his eyes. "Can you just talk to me right now? Tell me about your day. It's so fucking calming to listen to you rambling."

"You're fucking weird sometimes," I said. "You're just as bipolar as I am. My mom's usually anal about that. Says I can't make my mind up."

He didn't reply.

"Nile mentioned something about frequenting," I remembered. "Did you film anything?"

"Yeah. Short scene, two times."

"Mmm."

"You don't have to talk about this, though. I understand it's not the most comfortable topic."

"It's fine."

"Really?" He peeked at me.

I rolled my eyes.

I never got to the root of the reason he called me over to the sports hall. Still, I had an amazing opportunity to tell him everything he'd never give a fuck about.

The girls that broke my heart, cars I'd like to drive and possibly own, my family, school; my grades, my friends, my dead pets, I told Levi everything he knew and possibly didn't, and even though I was sure he fell asleep in the first few minutes, I still talked for a while.

Him finding me calming triggered something inside me, apparently, because I just couldn't shake this odd feeling off.

Sentimentality's disgusting as fuck, but I can't fight it. At certain times it's just impossible, and I have to face it. Always happens back at Veteran's park. Always in Vineland. It's all the places I connect to memories and people, it lures this stinking emotion out. Sometimes it gets mixed up with different others.

At least I've started battling nostalgia. I know it's the cleanest trick of my mind to soothe and repair itself.

Nostalgia isn't the most romantic feeling, despite everything you're trying to tell yourself.

I barged in my room at two AM. The dusky smell of the cabinet and coffee was still in both my hair and clothes. I laid still in bed for a long time. Didn't count how much. Undressed later, thought some more, and fell asleep by four.

Fucking hate opening up. So far, it's went good only with a few. Peel me out of this annoying image and realize I'm just fucked up, broken garbage.

Chapter Text

Erwin finally called this morning. Proudly told me he'd talked to Armin and got us both a meeting at Double Coffee later today.

Then he asked me if I needed a lift to school. I told him Mikasa's living with us now, too, and asked if there's any extra seats. He said yes. So I also asked if we'd pick up Jean (even though he lived a good few blocks into the town), and Erwin ended up having to do an extra seven miles.

But he's super generous and kind to me, so he didn't complain. Even though I knew he's always biting his thumbs about gas expenses. They always talk about it with mom.

Right now, I'm on my way downtown, to the mall. On my skateboard, to avoid all these fucking gas expenses I tore from Erwin in the morning.

It's Saturday, by the way.

We also had the first training with Nile yesterday. Nobody could get used to him to full extent. He had a pretty ignorant way of training us, and I noticed he'd spent most of the time raking through the archives and writing down our data. I kept looking over at Levi and grinning, because it's only the two of us who knew Nile's working his ass off for nothing.

Could've just asked Levi for all our papers, and he'd hand them over. Just like the keys.

Nile was qualified in bodybuilding, unlike Levi. Never heard of soccer players building much mass, it slows you down when on the run; being bulky is just not that recommended. I, personally, pack the best combination. Since I'm tall, I can afford to be muscular. I'm a pretty good build, certainly have muscle definition, but still lean and not Reiner-looking.

Reiner's definitely bulking lately, heard Jean talk about it.

Jean's never been packing much. He's my height, a little more, but he keeps it down low. Always says he's more of an endurance type and it asks for smaller mass. I don't listen, usually, 'cause I think it's absolute bullshit for him to keep his form and muscle weight steady in place. It just doesn't exist, this ideology of his.

I was on the phone with Jean while rolling down one of the main roads of the downtown. We talked about last evening's training and how sore unexpected places and bits of our bodies were. I felt my inner thighs like I've never felt them before. Jean complained about the spots underneath his shoulder blades.

I tried to masturbate last night, but it didn't work out. I usually lean back in my chair and place my legs a little wider. That's when I realized I've worked on my legs that day; the strain was too real. I tried again after going to bed, but it felt even worse horizontal, so I gave up, brushed my teeth and knocked out.

This neighborhood is really cozy. And costly. They've got the white panel houses, and everything. Heard a few game devs live here, but it's unconfirmed. The lamps down the street weren't lit yet, but I knew they'd all be shining when I passed this place around an hour later. It was six fifty-two PM when I reached the mall. Around seven more minutes to roll 'till Double Coffee.Hey, at least I won't be late for the first time ever.

"Where did you say you were heading?"

I fixed my earphones and turned the volume up. The Ricta wheels were loud. Maybe it's just the shitty pavement. "Double Coffee."

"To meet that geek, right? What's his name again?"

"Armin."

"Oh, fuck." Jean whistled. "I suggest you ditch it."

"I can't. Mom's going to kill me. And as I've been hearing, Erwin really got out his ass to get Armin to meet me." I paused, kicking for speed. "Fuck. So weird."

Jean cackled on the other side of the line. "Yeah, he sounds so fucking weird. Armin, I mean. Did Erwin tell you anything about him? Asides from you being almost the same age and shit? Did he even fucking expand on this nerd?"

"Not at all. By the way, just check my fit. I look like the local asshole in this," I said. "Like those guys from Hitch's blog. You know, with the clean cut everything. Too bad you weren't at school. You'd hand me your lunch money and call me Christ Jaeger."

"I'll bet a million you're wearing the clothes I've always wished you wore." I heard him drink something. "Plus you probably have my shirt on."

"No, fuck you!" I laughed and looked down. Of course, I'm wearing his t-shirt. I'd facepalm, but I'm in the middle of a road.

"Sucker."

"Fuck off, I dig this one."

"Bet you do."

I turned left, off from the main street, and almost got hit by cars on at least two crossroads and a biker when I passed a lingerie store.

My town was a perfect representative of East Beach in Los Santos, GTA: San Andreas, except the crime levels here were cropped for at least ninety-eight percent and everything wasn't so trashy. My town's more like GTA V, with better graphics, stuffed with great scenery and better dialogues, but with additional San Andreas vibes, because nothing beats it.

And we didn't have prostitutes here. Even if we did, it's not a large number, I haven't seen any, and not on the main street, anyways.

The town was beautiful that evening, I kept at that.

I had to get off my skateboard (his name's Baker and I'll refer to him that way further on) when I rolled in the mall, thanks to the row of stickers plastered on the door. Looking at these brought up memories. The icons had layers of permanent marker washed off as the ages had went, but the doodles on them looking like the shit I used to draw on the front of my English books back in high school were still visible.

The "NO SKATING" sticker had a little penis and a huge "FUCK H8ERS LOVE SK8ERS" text on Mariah Carey's face right underneath. The rest of them were just as good, the "NO PETS" sign had a doodle of a Tyrannosaurus fucking the dog on the sticker. That's size kink.

This was drawn four years ago by two guys (then first years, now last years), Reiner and Bertholdt. Bertl for short, Bert for shortest. But everyone mostly calls him Bertie. They're sort of our college legends. I guess they count as football seniors, too, now. At least Reiner does. Fuck if I know if Bertie's still in volleyball. Dude sure makes passes being, like, twenty foot tall.

"There's still a penis on the skater sticker," I said, both to myself and Jean. "At Gallery Center. The guards seem to like Reiner's sick art."

Jean giggled. "Oh, man. Haven't been in the mall for a few weeks."

"Yeah?"

"'I'm going through my lowest. I've been doing fucking nothing lately. I need some new clothes. Tore a hole in my jeans, the black ones."

"Just take someone with you and buy yourself new jeans, it's not like it's impossible."

"Like you? Kinda not craving Marco and Connie's fucking busy, as usual."

"Sure, yeah. Just hang on until midweek," I murmured, only vaguely interested as I continued walking.

My eyes scanned the mall after I'd set myself for walking to the south entrance. I tried to avoid looking at Double Coffee, but the sign was screaming to be noticed. A minute of slow walking and I'd be there. Almost in time, too.

"Please tell me you're wearing something nice, by the way, it'd lift my mood to heaven."

"I'm wearing your shirt, my grey hammers and white Etnies."

"Uuurgh." Jean made incoherent sounds. "Good. You've passed."

I grinned and thought of Neutral Milk Hotel, and finally entered Double Coffee.

I never come to Double Coffee. It didn't even exist until very recently. I also noticed there's more stores and additions I couldn't remember from when I last visited. Our "skater fountain" has also been taken down, and now there's just a large, rectangular basin with a few lights.

The mall used to be our main hangout place a few years ago, like, three, or something. Still in the teens. It didn't have this cafe back then, only a sick, large space with a small bridge over a fountain and stable rails so the kids visiting don't fall in the water. Obviously, a skater hangout. We went there in the morning and got home by ten or eleven in the evening.

So many bruises from the rails, but those were the best summers and late fall evenings.

The Double Coffee place, instead, was narrow and tight. They used a lot of deep burgundy colors in the interior. I only saw three taken tables, counting off the two that were placed deeper in the cafe because I simply couldn't see that far.

Didn't exactly adore the atmosphere in this place. The burgers here sucked, Jean told me he'd ordered once, but the coffee was good and the service was expected to be very forgiving about the burgers.

"Let's talk about your shitty mood later." I ran a hand through my hair and squeezed the edge of my board tighter. "I'm at Double Coffee now, I have to hang up."

"Okay. Message me when you two are done, I'll see if I can talk," he said. "Luck."

"Thanks, I'll need it."

"No problem. Don't get too smart."

"Sure. Bye."

"See you."

I hung up and pulled out my earphones before even considering I could've come off as a cool and radical guy if I walked up on Armin while listening to progressive rock or something like this.

There was a detail I never gave thought to, and I slightly panicked about it only now. Two details.

1. I didn't have Armin's number in case stuff went down and one or neither of us could make it. I guess I could always contact him through Erwin, though. Takes some time, but at least I'd be safe.

2. What the fuck does Armin look like?

Am I supposed to await a tall, lanky dude with glassy eyes and a gap between his front teeth, or am I expecting a pizza face with glasses and clothes from Abercrombie & Fitch? Both portraits mildly resembled the word "Armin" alone.

What if he wasn't that bad? Like, what if he wasn't a pizza face but had only around two or three zits? I usually have spots on my cheeks. It's faded since high school, but I still break out.

Also, maybe he wasn't tall and lanky. Maybe he was short and fat. All I knew was his name, last name, age, and the not very amusing fact we used to go to high school together.

I gave the place another scan.

One of the tables was consumed by two business guys. Neither of them looked like chess players, or nineteen, so I kept on looking. There was someone in a Rastafarian beanie sitting by the counter and another three girls surrounding the table not far away from the Mitt Romney twins. I hadn't seen them before, all of the girls looked around sixteen, so I didn't pay attention (unlike they did; gets me sick when minor girls stare at me this much).

Now it was my turn to get a seat because just staring around was the most idiotic way to enter a place like this.

Everything went surreal, the smell of coffee beans and a good mocha handed to the beanie person took over me, and I walked forwards and took a seat a bench away from the guy, leaving Baker somewhere underneath.

The interior in this place was cool, actually. The more you get used to the coffee bean print on practically everything, the better it starts to feel.

I noticed the barista was very pretty and kept looking at her. Figured I could get to talk to her if I ordered something. I'd found whatever the person next to me ordered smelled fucking great, so I might just not slip into detail, and:

"Can I get the same?" I asked and pointed towards the beanie person. "I think it's a caramel mocha. I'd fancy the same."

The girl gave me a weird look and ripped off the receipt from before. Her eyes scanned the paper. Then she looked up. "Are you sure?"

"What's in there?"

"Two pumps of pistachio syrup, one pump of coconut syrup, almond milk, a dash of salt, salted caramel on top..." She listed down. "No hearts, no stars, no patterns. Three dashes of cinnamon. Try to make it foamless, don't hit over 0,5, 0,6 is tolerable, 0,7 isn't. Stir with a steel spoon."

I quickly looked over to the person next to me to check if they're okay. Who the fuck places orders like this?

"Yeah. Something like that."

She stared at me, then looked at the other person, in the hat, and then back at me. "Okay."

I pressed my forearms against the counter to push myself up and cross my ankles underneath the bench. I also tried peeking over at my distant companion, but my shoulders were suddenly huge and in the way and I didn't want to stare this shamelessly. Would be stupid if I was just caught looking. As if me ordering a bizarre coffee wasn't stupid already, but alright.

The barista paid more attention to the drink than me, which got me a little saddened. You don't always get good-looking baristas, I guess, and when you do, it's a massive "fuck you" because they never look in your direction.

"Those were four dashes," I heard someone say. "You just added four dashes."

Alright, it's a he, the guy in the beanie is a he.

"It's fine." I shrugged and waved at the confused girl. "Really."

"Yeah, but she's literally abusing your human rights," the guy said. "You might be intolerant to four dashes of cinnamon. Might choke or turn out to be allergic. It can actually disturb your digestive tract."

"It's really fine, I don't have--"

"I'll google it up, there's a whole page."

"Of what?"

"Declaration of Human Rights."

I suddenly felt so attacked.

The barista was staring at me, obviously unsure if she should start over because the guy said so, or continue, because I really was not giving a fuck. Technically, I'm the one to order, so she shouldn't pay attention to what he just said, but she still did and trashed the can.

Uuuughhhh.

"Seriously?" I murmured. "What the fuck, I tolerate cinnamon perfectly."

The guy next to me shifted and turned to face us - me and the barista at the same time. He held his phone up in the Instagram-landscape-picture-taking height. I noticed his face was devilishly attractive, but didn't comment.

"Here, listen," he said, wriggling in the seat. "Article twenty-five, I'm quoting right now. "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control"."

He proudly leaned against the counter and drank a bit from his mocha.

I just sat there, swinging my legs.

"I've got no idea why you're telling me this," I quite honestly said.

"Well, you can sue her and her manager and get a bit of cash off of it, otherwise, nothing more than ruining someone's life."

There was bitter silence as I watched the barista pump the syrup. I looked back at the other guy shook and my head.

"You're a dick," I finally said. "You're a dick, I'd never sue anyone for a dash of cinnamon."

His expression screamed "unimpressed" and he continued drinking. "Kinda stolid."

I figured that was the response for my insult. Or maybe he insulted my private anti-sue campaign. Had no idea.

"Asshole," I said, nonetheless.

"Do you think posing as a skater is going to get you anywhere?"

I winced. He noticed it. What's up with these off-the-bat insults? First Levi, now just strangers at Double Coffee?

"Shut the fuck up, dude."

"It's just the barista and your fucking creepy staring, no big deal, dude."

"Your nose is fucking ugly, stop posing as a radical with that piercing."

That got him. Saw a jerk of the lip.

His nose wasn't ugly at all, it was small and fit his face, but he still raised an insecure hand and dangled the septum around. I ran out of names to call him, Button Nose would be good and appropriate, but I settled for Philodendron because IQ levels have to match and because Button Nose wasn't fucking insulting.

With the sourest possible expression, he fixed his beanie and wrapped his fingers around his mocha cup.

Maybe he had a nose complex. Fuck it, for all I care, though.

I turned straight on my bench and prepped my chin on my palms. Watched the barista work and occasionally smiled at her if she looked over, but I was still torn and agonized about the insult deal and ugly-but-not-really-ugly nose thing.

I felt like I've just single-handedly insulted someone I don't fucking know.

I looked around to check if Armin's waiting for me somewhere, but there wasn't anyone new asides from Asian tourists.

The dude kept staring down and I watched him. I noticed a faint tremble of his lower lip and squinted to assure that his lip really was curled and trembling.

As honest as I earlier was, I suddenly regretted ever insulting his nose.

"Are you crying?" I asked and slid off my bench to get closer. "Holy fuck, I'm so sorry. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to insult you."

He turned to me. His fingers were squeezing the cup.

I tried reasoning myself again, so I couldn't exactly note the moment he began pouring his Human Rights mocha on my head, but I did fixate the moment it got incredibly hot and underneath my shirt.

The barista over the counter gasped and something made a clink before she ran inside the additional room, leaving us both unsupervised and equally damaged; him mentally, me physically.

I was confused at first.

It grew to irritation. Then anger.

I couldn't stop staring at this asshole and his merciless button nose and septum. So I pushed him, for shits and giggles, and maybe fucking justice and maybe, maybe because, BITCH, YOU JUST POURED A FUCKING MOCHA ON MY FUCKING HEAD. He barely kept his balance and slid down to his feet, leaning back on the counter. And, well, since I managed to get this dude off the bench, I saw his actual height and build.

Nah, this pansy wouldn't fight me back. Human rights are against it.

That's exactly what I thought before receiving a pretty painful right hook.


 The manager of the place threw us out after we paid for Philodendron's wasted mocha that landed more on my head and the floor than in his stomach, my first unfinished mocha that only contained four dashes of cinnamon and hot water, and my second unfinished mocha whose future I couldn't predict because I was heated as fuck.

My left cheekbone was bruised by this guy's sturdy knuckles and firm hit. No other damage besides a few dark flecks on my shins weren't obvious. I didn't damage him as much as he damaged me, I only tore off his beanie and pushed him around. And pulled his hair. He turned out to be a clear blond, which was surprising and knocked up stereotypes one after another.

And, well, my hair. He ruined my hair, and I ruined his.

We stood in front of Double Coffee and stared up at the sign. He kicked Baker over back inside the cafe, and that got me pissed. Now the board was under my foot and I rolled it back and forth to erase silence.

"You know," I began. "Never really liked Double Coffee."

There was a catchy beat playing in the background. I tried rolling Baker to the bass line of it.

"Me neither," he admitted, probably after weighing out all the positives of this. "I never come here. 'S boring to piss these guys off. Starbucks is a lot better. I hate Double Coffee. It's basic as fuck and they don't have the big cups."

"Same."

"Cool."

I stopped the movement and looked over my back.

"I was supposed to meet someone here, but I guess it's gonna pass. Should get moving. My muzzle is hideous, I'll fuck up their rating. I already fucked up their rating."

He looked at me and scratched underneath his piercing. I watched it dangle. "Oh?"

"Yeah."

We stared at each other for a good while. His fingers were constantly nibbling around his septum and I could've sworn I heard him thinking.

"Well, nice to meet you," he finally said.

"Yeah," I repeated. Figured stretching out my arm for a polite handshake would be fitting and might seal our hatred. "My name's Eren. Sorry about your hair."

He looked down at my hand really lazily, blinked, looked up, blinked, looked back down, and by the moment our eyes met again, his were in the size of my mom's dinner plates.

Or at least the breakfast plates.

I felt very self-conscious because twelve seconds had passed and he still gaped at me and my hand.

I jerk off with that hand, how'd he know.

"You're Eren?" He asked.

I was very ready to yell something sarcastic/ironic/lame and then yell something insulting and go home. Instead, I just nodded stupidly and tried to act cool because I felt like this guy knew more than he expressed.

Then I looked at him, and finally realized why the blond hair and peach fuzz cheeks felt so fucking similar.

Wait a second.

Oh, wait a fucking second.

It all clicked and I opened my mouth to say something, but Philodendron was quicker.

"I'm so sorry about your face," he said, low-fiving my hand. I watched his face morph in a totally different person ; cracked a grin , pressed his fist on my chest like a stamp or something. "And I'm super sorry for being so gross. It's really, really nice to meet you."

My jaw dropped. "It's--"

"--okay," he interrupted. "I'm Armin."


Alright, now let me list this down. First of all, I had expected anything but this.

2. Armin was possibly the biggest cunt in Universe.

3. I'll just go with it.

Our first normal conversation outside Double Coffee was lame. He tried to apologize too much, I tried to apologize too much, he offered money for my loss, because I was the one forced to pay for everything back inside, but I was really pushy and tried to be a proper, good kid, so I refused. Obviously.

It terrified how quickly he changed. He didn't open up (much), but I got to know at least the basics, you know, the facts I achieved through lousy small talk. His birthday, his favorite stuff, you know, mild privacy. Not like I paid a lot of attention, but it was nice meeting someone new and figuring them out.

Yeah, about not expecting Armin to be like this: I really didn't expect him to be... umm, cool. I've been thinking wrong a lot lately. It felt so weird to be with someone from high school times. The only other people I'm still in somewhat contact with is my cousin, Christa, Ymir and Reiner.

When I asked if he's really an AP student in all courses possible, he looked at me with the same, weird stare as when he first saw me and asked where the hell did I pull that out.

"Erwin," I replied. "He said you were his best boy and stuff like that."

Armin shook his head. "AP's only happen in high school to ensure you credits at university. Or college, or whatever. I took those when I had the chance and blew a hundred percent at everything besides AP English."

"English? You failed English?"

He grinned like he actually expected me to react this way. "No. The teacher retired. But the whole AP thing was a big fucking mistake."

I raised a brow.

"Alright, I can explain."

"Please do."

Armin rubbed his nose. "So, the school we attended had Regulars, Honors, AP and IB."

"What does IB stand for?" I asked. "Imbecile?"

That personal comedy show I talked about...

He looked ready to punch me. "No, god. International Baccalaureate, IB. Sounds about as hard as it is. I picked it up and realized it's useless to stress myself that much only to be chosen over someone later when entering a college. AP was just fine, IB was too much."

"You know, when you say AP and IB it sounds the same, so I'm not really following," I said. "By the way."

He rolled his eyes and looked at me. "I know, I sound like I have a bad lisp. By the way."

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little envious over this guy.

After palpating each other (it's a metaphor) and getting to know the basics, he told me we have around an hour to knock around until his last bus. I agreed, since it was the weekend and I really didn't have anything better to do. Jean wasn't home and I wasn't in the mood for basketball. Basketball only comes with Marco and Connie because that's the only fucking thing they ever do.

Okay, I've talked about it already.

So we strolled around the mall. Armin dragged me to the bathroom and forced me to rinse my hair. He threatened the syrup-filled coffee will dry up and stay there unless I shave my head off. I knew the threat was indirect, but seeing how good his hair looked made me believe he knew what he's doing. He helped me get the mocha out.

We also went to McDonald's because he said he wanted to teach me the Art of Fucking Around. The cashier was a new employee. He said those were the best and I believed.

My task was ordering something she'd freak out about. Armin had the page of Declaration of Human Rights open already. He pushed around his septum and tilted his chin to encourage me for stupidity.

Seriously, this kid's a sick genius.

Fucking around with people felt so good. The girl obviously wasn't a native English speaker and I confused her with my specifics. Armin said I did good, though I only asked for a really detailed McWrap.

She stared at me for a while, shook her head, asked me what I wanted again, and after I told her a completely different thing, she freaked out and asked the guy next to her replace the cash register. Or at least type in it's not working at the moment.

We ended up getting two liters of sprite (four cubes of ice, two four millimeter thick slices of lemon and only green straws) and hatred from every single employee in the place for spitting the drink out after the first sip because it tasted like ass and mint.

Guess who read article twenty-five again.

I'd never think Armin was such an asshole, but he explained he did this to tear away from college work.And I kind of liked it. I liked him. He was incredibly normal to me, actually. Had dark circles and very even, dark eyebrows. Liked talking about history.

We did do normal stuff besides screaming articles from a webpage. I found out Armin disliked cooking from the way he looked at a blender in Rito and that he had a paranormal book kink or something fairly similar.

He wasn't the guy I'd discuss girls with. He didn't seem like a girl person.I didn't think he was gay, but he just looked too smart to be dealing with relationships. I didn't want to ask in the first meeting, and figured we'd meet again, anyways, so I kept silent.

I accompanied him to the bus stop and we exchanged numbers. I typed him in as Peach and he listed me as Poser Skater, and we had a laugh. Not that I found it as funny as I found our sudden "friendship" just sailing off. It felt fucking odd to now act as friends when we've never even really talked during high school.

Armin worked for the school's newspaper. That's how I recalled him, because of the platinum blond hair; every newspaper's issue had the author names, surnames and pictures on the last page. He used to have blond, thin hair past his shoulders. It looks so much different now.

For the left three minutes of waiting his bus, I tried reassuring his nose really was fine and how I wished I had the nose to pull off a septum. I totally would. Not like I was a metal indie hipster boy and not like it'd fit me at all, but for the sake of Armin, I'd probably get a piercing.

I didn't want to ask how an AP kid got through with a pierced face because he seemed a little touchy with the subject.

We high-fived when his bus came and I stepped on my board only when he left.

My hair was still damp from the rinsing and I was a little thunderstruck from the amounts of his geniality in my head, but I felt refreshed. Refreshed grew into bored. It wasn't dark yet, and I wasn't tired, so I weighed out options for entertainment for my night.

I could ask Mikasa out. No, actually, bad idea. She'd probably set some bars up and expect me taking her out somewhere nice. She's also good at playing on her sex appeal and I'd fucking kill her for it if I could. But Mikasa's nice. So I'm torn.

Uuuuuuuuuughhh.

Nah, I definitely wouldn't ask her out. She fucking bought me a mint air freshener, which I spoke about with Jean earlier. Even he called me gross. I am gross, but the Air Wick thing is grosser. I won't forgive her. Ever.

I stepped down on the tail of my board and caught it mid-air. Guess I had to go home, after all.

I walked back inside the mall because it'd take less time for me to get back to the main street this way. Passed a few stores, rubbed away my smile at the sight of McDonald's, but stopped right at the exit.

I had a person to hang out with. I guessed he was free. Plus, he owed me one hang-out session for that Sunday night, so this could even it out.

I fished my phone out and scratched under my ear while looking him up on my contact list. I also checked the time. Eight fourty-three. Not late.

[20:43:56, Saturday] Eren: Hey , b usy?

When he didn't reply the first two minutes, I went to the nearest bench and sat down next to a guy with a cool hat.

[20:47:02, Saturday] Eren: Wanna hang out?

I thought about sounding thirsty, maybe, and suddenly regretted ever sending both messages.

[20:47:49, Saturday] Eren: I'm at the mall right now

[20:48:13, Saturday] Eren: So fucking bored it'd be cool if you repaid for the Sunday night

[20:48:34, Saturday] Eren: Cuz I went home really late lmao

[20:48:58, Saturday] Eren: Wouldn't mind just walking to the beach or something

[20:49:22, Saturday] Eren: Can you please reply to me

I was generous with my time and it was a Saturday, and I didn't want the woman oppression back at home, so I stood up. Patting off my ass was a bit painful. I felt up a bruise somewhere on my side. I mentally thanked Armin for fucking pushing me back at the counter.

I gave in and strolled through all the stores on the first floor. I was bored. I texted Jean, but he didn't reply, so I figured he couldn't. I didn't text Armin, he'd think I'm fucking clingy. He probably thought I was lame already, but I didn't want to make it worse.

And there my time went; thirty minutes spent alone as a total loser in the mall. I didn't dare to go to any places with something edible because they all hated me thanks to Armin's entertainment complex. Except for the grocery store, I went in and got a Snickers. And sat back down on the previous bench, except the cool hat guy had left.

I was honestly about to give up on awaiting a response from Levi until my phone buzzed. Getting my phone out while biting down the chocolate bar was hardcore, but I did it; and when I did, I realized he's calling me, not texting constantly.

I chewed my Snickers in the speed of light and flicked my finger across the screen to answer the call.

"Hey, I just got in the car, left my phone here, apparently. Where are you? How are you? I'm heading over to the mall. Christ, I'm in a great mood."

"Ease down, oh my god. I'm very far from my comfort zone," I said and crossed my ankles in front of myself. "Feeling pretty calm. Do you really want to hang out?"

"I'm free for the night, so, yeah. Alright."

My mood dropped. "Shoot?"

"How'd you guess?" Levi let out a long breath. "Where are you?"

It surprised me how easy and lighthearted he appeared to be when regarding to porn. Can he just not talk about it while we're together? It feels weird. I don't want to think about him screwing some guys all around New Jersey. It's not gross, but it's gross my soccer coach does it.

"I'm at the mall, first floor. Next to the basin."

"Can you wait?"

"How long?"

"Ten minutes if I drive like a thirty year-old guy, eight if I break two speed limits and seven if it's Fast & Furious 7."

"What about nine? I can wait, I've sat here for forty minutes already."

"Sure . I'm over in a few."

Seven minutes passed. I told Levi to act appropriate and preserve himself longer, but I didn't know if he took my words in account. Nine minutes were his total given spawn. I was sure he'd arrive sooner. I didn't know what to do, what to occupy myself with, so I plugged my earphones back in and put my main playlist on shuffle. I wasn't content with the songs that came up and found myself picking out songs according to my mood. I'm quite happy today. I tried to level myself up with Levi's apparent great mood, too.

My feet were pressed on against the grip tape of Baker and swung it side to side. The tile pattern underneath was irregular. The Rictas made it clear.

Ricta wheels suck. Not just because of the tiling of the floor, Ricta wheels just suck big game. But Erwin drove over my Black Label, so my Bones STF went fucking flying. I could've ordered new STFs for Baker, but I wasn't really that high on cash. Plus mom refused Erwin's offer to buy me a new board; although that would've made me a fucking god. A God Of Leeching Money Because The Clueless Citizen Does Not Know The Price Of A Good Board.

So I went with Rictas, and it was the worst decision ever.

Besides ever browsing the gay tag.

Could've taken Spitfire, but Spitfire's a bitch. Their wheels get flat spots. Anyways. This is just fucking skater talk only other fellow skaters get.

Armin didn't ask me about my board even when I swayed it in front of his face, so I guessed boards were the only thing he was clueless about. That, or he just fucking hated "poser" skaters. It's what he insulted me about, after all. But I doubt he'd just shit on it without knowing. Didn't seem like a kid full of weaknesses.

I still didn't believe that dude was only nineteen. Twenty on November third, but still. He's a kid, barely nineteen.

And I'm the big fuck, the one to talk, like I'm a fucking century older, or something.

I was occupied with music and skateboard philosophy for the left two minutes of anticipating my hang-out with Levi. By the way, he arrived the exact fucking minute he promised to. Which is insane, since even I couldn't do that.

I wouldn't comment on his appearance, usually, but it felt like it's law then. I was too biased for objective thinking when I laid my eyes upon him that exact Saturday.

I didn't know if he expected my already shitty sexual orientation to crumble like chalk, or something, but for a guy in his thirties, he looked pretty nice. Hair wavy, wet, slicked back. God, how I hate this greaser fad going on around social sites. 4chan hates it, too. Levi looked unintentionally good with it, though, so I could shrug it off. Hate being descriptive. I'd never done good at writing essays, or writing in general, but this was possibly the only time I saw Levi so raw, open and oblivious. Looked so fucking clear he's just fucked.

His cheeks were irregularly red and his eyes were unreadable, dark and foggy, but sprinkled with so much excitement they made me uneasy as hell. The rest was more or less okay, except his wet hair, but I had just as wet hair from Armin's rinsing, so commenting on it would've only earned me something sarcastic in response. So I didn't say anything, even though I'd be okay with being humiliated by my big brother-based coach.

Levi wasn't wearing what he usually wore; I mean, the brown jacket and dark wash jeans. The new hip thing seems to be a white t-shirt combined with bleached jeans. What a guy.

"Took a shower?" I choked out, eyes pinned to his wet hair.

"Yeah. Took a while. Hi."

Levi was swinging on his feet, looking somewhere over his shoulder. I was about to fucking explode from how easy he acted. Chewing the inside of his cheek, squinting at further stores, acting like he wasn't the way he was at all. When he realized I didn't reply, all attention was brought back to center on my stupid face.

I looked away in an instant and tried to act like I don't care.

"What's up? Why are you in the mall?"

Casual as ever. I tried to look bored. "Eh, meetings. Erwin got me a guy to help keep up with life."

"College?"

"Overall."

"Wanna go walk?"

Too sudden, but, "Okay."

He began walking before I even got up. I tried to match his pace, and he let me by slowing down until I caught up. We continued walking, hands stuffed in my pockets, mind out wandering about Levi having his own fucking life.

Why'd he even come meet me when there's so much more shit to do?

I felt Levi looking at me and I looked back.

"Something wrong?" He asked.

Weirdly precise. Fuck his observations. Nothing was wrong, I just felt weird, but I knew I'd loosen up as soon as we'd begin talking. The first ten minutes are torture, after that I'm pretty chill.

"No," I replied. "No, I'm just really tired. I got a mocha dumped on my head. Also, been skating the entire day." I gave Baker a pat.

"Do you want to go home?"

"Nah."

"And if I asked again and told you I didn't waste any gas and time to come to hang out with you, would you still resist going home?"

I had reasons for believing Levi had a philosophy of his own.

"Yeah," I said. "I'm not going anywhere."

"Good," Levi said and turned his head. He inhaled deeply. "Good, because I need company. Fuck. You could try and calm me down, I'm pretty fuckin' tight right now."

"Thought you said you're feeling great?"

"Not anymore," I heard him murmur.

I wondered what happened and if I did something wrong. Which I probably did, 'cause there's literally no way something else got him pissed. Counting off sudden stomach pain. That's always passable.

"Do you want to hear about the mocha incident?" I calmly asked.

He nodded. "Yeah, I was about to ask. What happened?"

"I think my new friend is a pothead." I wasn't looking at Levi when I said that, but I felt him turn to me and slow his pace again.

"What?" He asked like I wasn't being clear enough.

I had no idea if he was against weed or not, so stepping into that territory could be a big threat for Armin. But I'm an asshole and putting people in danger was my kind of thing.

"I think my new friend is a pothead," I repeated, now looking at Levi.

"I heard what you said, I was aiming at getting details," he gestured. "Why'd you think your new friend is a pothead?"

"He wore a Rasta beanie."

Levi's lips twitched. "I have at least four pairs of Rasta boxers and I'm not a pothead."

Literally thought about his Rasta boxers for a good while.

"You should see that guy, you'd tell he smokes pot in a second," I assured. "Are you okay with pot?"

"Yes. Why?"

"Just wondering."

"How is he connected to you getting drenched in this stuff?"

We were almost at the elevator and I pointed at it, getting the idea Levi was up for a shopping spree or something. He nodded, but I knew he was waiting for my answer more than checking out clothes. Honestly, he didn't really look like craving a shopping spree. Whatever.

"Uhhh, we got into a fight."

Levi laughed. "Not like it wasn't obvious. Who started?"

"I did." Obviously.

"Why?" He asked, lip still curved.

IS HE JUST NOT ACTING LIKE A FOUR-YEAR-OLD WITH HIS FUCKING CONSTANT "WHY"?

There was jazz music playing from Zara when we passed the store and I longingly stared over my shoulder for at least ten seconds. "Can we go check the tees?"

"Yeah. But you didn't answer the question," Levi murmured. "You can tell me. Won't do anything about it. We don't have anything better to talk about, anyways."

Kind of true, his point.

We went back and entered the store. I've always loved the atmosphere in Zara, but everything was so expensive it made my eyes water. The price wouldn't bother me if I was Jean, or, I don't know, Reiner.

Armin had good clothes, too. He's probably rich as fuck.

"He was being an asshole to the fucking barista I found pretty, I called him a dick. We exchanged insults, he seriously just put me down for existing. I said his nose was ugly. Dude got mad."

"Sensitive boy," Levi dragged. "What next?"

I swiped through a rack. "Next I tried apologizing and got rinsed."

"And you fought back," he assumed.

I nodded and pulled a blue shirt out. "Shoveled him around a little. He punched me, mostly. Fucking tough frame. He's nothing compared to me, agility and skill wise. Didn't think he was capable of a punch."

"How old is he?"

"Nineteen."

Levi laughed.

For a while.

A good while.

Then he stopped.

"Hey, but the bruise looks bad," he said. "For a nineteen year-old's punch."

I looked up from the tag of the shirt. "What?"

He pointed a finger at my left cheek and brushed against the tingling spot. "That. It's swelling."

I forgot I had a bruise in the first place. Armin said it looked good on my face, said it contrasted with my eyes, but if even Levi's concerned, I probably look like shit.

"I don't understand what you're talking about," I said.

Levi took the hanger with the shirt out of my hands and hung it back on the rack. Then he pushed me. I was about to complain, but his grip was tight on my shoulders and nobody complains when there's that.

The action made me dizzy and it took at least ten blinks to refocus.

I realized he'd pushed me to a mirror.

Holy fuck.

The left side of my face was temporarily ruined. There was something distant from hair on my head and I had a few scratches on my neck. Also stale blood from my nose, but I picked that off earlier. There were still scabs.

My hammers had questionable stains.

"Why weren't you saying anything?" I asked, raising my fingers up to my cheekbone. Swollen, pained, felt like it's ready to tear. It had actually teared, in a place or two, but the spot was too dark for the blood to be noticed. "I fucking look like shit."

'"I don't know, I thought you'd tell me the reason behind this."

"I did?" It wasn't meant to be a question. "I did, but you saw me the whole time. You could've warned me, or, I don't know."

He shrugged. "I stared a little."

"And didn't ask why is my face smashed in my skull."

"As you can see. Not like I'm the sort of person to start expressing my shock towards this sudden change in your facial features, it's normal you do something to yourself. I'm used to it, at least," Levi added.

"I've been walking around like this since seven o' clock."

"Not like I could do anything about it. You got in a fight before meeting me, not a minute ago."

I stared at him through the reflection. Levi's posture was so relaxed he might've began picking his nose or cracking a beer. I moved the hand that felt up the bruise and hid the dark spot.

"It was just puffy and red when we washed my hair," I said. "Armin said it's nothing big."

"Yeah, well, that's what happens after you get your eye punched in. It's red because your blood is leaking. It swells. Then the oxygen gets cut off, and hemoglobin turns blue. You should know that, you anatomy geek."

My mouth curved in a disgusted scowl because I didn't want to hear it all. Levi's voice was silent and concentrated, and it didn't make things better.

I looked at him. "I've had my eyes punched in in the past."

"Is Armin the friend?"

"Yes."

"You have a good guy to help with college. He did martial arts when he was younger."

His words lasted for a while as I milled through them.

"How'd you know Armin?" I asked.

"Erwin is my best friend," Levi said. "And you can't not know Armin, honestly, so I'm kind of wondering where you've been all this time."

So Armin was that known. I looked down at Levi and felt his energy seep through his shirt.

"Let's go outside," I said. "The shirt I wanted isn't here."

We left the mall after Levi bought ice tea for us both. It was good, but extremely sweetened, and he gave me his half-empty bottle after two chugs. He said he'd rather last 'till getting home. He said he has tonic at home.

It was humid outside. The closing summer tried to force itself on the town and the beach and us, and the weather forecasts (and forecasters) were also becoming important. There were farms outside the town and the farms lived off of what they could sell. Nothing sold if they didn't watch the weather forecast. :^) So thanks, weather forecast.

We discussed this with Levi because he asked about Jean's absence. His mom's sister, his aunt, respectively, owned a farm, and Jean was free manpower. He's totally getting the farm after his aunt passes, though.

But the ranch thing was a good thing. Jean was the main host for most parties, and the farm was the best place to hang out. I asked Levi if he knew something about farms. He said no, he's a city kid, so I told him about Jean's.

"The ranch is huge, and the territory is insanely hard to manage over," I gestured actively as we walked down the narrow street. "They have an electrocuted fence and stuff dies there. Jean always forgets to turn it off because he has a car there and it's occupied whenever he has a break."

"Isn't Jean a city kid, or something?" Levi asked.

"No, not really, it's the exterior. He loves his hair. He does the whole fashion thing because he's a ranch boy. Ranch boys are made fun of. He's pissed at people making fun of him for doing that, but ranches cash so good."

He snorted. "Ranch boys aren't made fun of. Ranch tapes sell really good."

It sunk in.

"Do you have a..." I begun.

"A cowboy tape? With me fucking in the ranch? No. Unhygienic." But he was grinning and waiting for me to push the topic forwards. I knew I'd entered a dangerous block.

"You have one," I concluded and nibbled around the cork of Levi's bottle. He was carrying Baker and my full bottle. "You have a ranch tape."

And then Levi paled and stopped.

I stopped too, and looked at him while I chugged down the ice tea.

"Are those on Pornhub?" He asked. Terrified.

I continued drinking for a while, but after comprehending his question, my throat gave up on functions and I had to pull off otherwise I would've spat ice tea all around and choked on it.

I wiped my mouth. "That was a guess! A conclusive test, or something."

He didn't move.

"So you have a ranch tape."

"Conclusive tests are illegal in most schools, did you know that?"

"Sure."

"How far into 006 did you get?"

He asked it so casually I almost just as casually responded. "Uh."

"Be honest, please."

There was open curiosity in his voice and it got me jarred. I realized I've been leading Levi on for this whole time.

He'd probably assumed I watched the video and knew all the poses, and how he looked during sex, and how he sounded during sex, and if the shots were good, if he came enough.

"The first minute," I very honestly said.

"Bullshit!"

"Not bullshitting." I raised my voice. "I saw your face and heard you say your name. Pissed my pants. I haven't opened Pornhub ever since." I had to look at him and the only thing that met my eyes was his scalp because he didn't turn to me. "Look, Levi. I swear, it's--"

Something unattractive came from his side. Uglier than a snort, though even his snorts were cool. "Aesthetically pleasing", that's how Armin would describe them.

My stomach did flips. "Are you alright?"

"You can last that long?" He turned his head back straight. I observed his profile.

"What do you mean?" I asked, confused. Openly confused.

"Without pornography. I thought you're the kind of boy who couldn't handle twelve hours clean."

I shrugged. "Yeah? Yeah. I've never measured. I don't know. I have more important things." Obviously not. I looked away from Levi and focused on the asphalt underneath our legs. "Things like failing everything and fucking around at trainings."

"You're kind of good with Nile," he said with clear bitterness and tore away from the earlier topic. "You handle that big guy well."

If anything, I had to shrug again. "I guess."

"Do you like him?"

My left eye was pulsating.

"He's a good personal trainer."

"I meant the romantic sense and you know I meant the romantic sense. Do you like Nile?"

The sudden defense in his voice made me cautious. It might be that Levi's a little bugged about Nile commenting on my form and trying to spend time with me on trainings, but it's nothing major, honestly.

I shook my head along with the the ice tea bottle. "No."

"But you think he's attractive, don't you?"

Oh, controversy. "Well, I wouldn't say he isn't, but--"

"Cut to it. Do you? Yes or no?"

"Nyes? I'm not exactly sure about what you're expecting me to answer."

He sighed and slapped his thighs in the process. "If you said yes, I'd give you a lecture. If you said no, I'd give you a lecture."

"Well, yeah. I guess he's attractive, I don't know. I find a lot of guys attractive. Jean's got a face, you're alright, but I've always liked gir--"

"Don't ever get involved with Nile," Levi said, interrupting, and I'd never heard him so serious. Except for a few times before big games. "Deny offers, make up excuses."

"Why?"

"Just trust me."

The sun was setting in a rapid pace, but the town was still light. We passed Levi's Cherokee at least ten minutes ago, and I thought he was going home then, but he didn't even look across the street.

So we continued walking, to the direction of the beach. GTA: SA, fuck.

"Why?" I repeated.

"He'll become your teacher, your coach, your friend. One day, you'll be cornered and entirely intoxicated by his charm, or sex appeal, or whatever works on you." Levi looked down. "You'll agree to everything he says, because he claims he's being honest. You'll be driven to a point you're the one going for it, and you'll have great sex in the end."

I shook the bottle another time.

"You'll probably have the best sex in life. Nile has a certain seniority in the industry," Levi finished. "And he knows everything."

He was good at storytelling and pushing my mood into another dimension. "Yeah, but you're missing a point."

"What point?"

"I don't like Nile," I stupidly said, in case he didn't catch the drift. "Not like that. Doubt I'd ever like Nile in any way you imagine. Just because I find him hot as fuck doesn't mean we're sleeping any soon. Or, fuck it, ever."

Levi shook his head immediately. "No, no, no, you don't understand. He'll lure you. I'm warning you because you're easy bait, and things get rough when you're cornered. You'll get a different perception on him when it gets to that point."

Cool, I'm easy bait. Really comforting. "Why are you telling me this?"

"Because you're smart and you're the only one who knows," he said.

"But I don't fuck with guys," I said. "I don't fuck at all, honestly."

I watched Levi's brows raise up. "Pretty weird for being twenty, don't you think?"

"What's your problem with that?" I snapped. "What the fuck is your problem, really? I'll fuck if I want to fuck, fuck where I want to fuck, and whoever I want to fuck, be it Nile, my cousin or Jean, it's not your deal, last time I checked."

We walked aggressively, if that's how it could be called.

"Okay, I'm sorry," he said. "For snooping around your privacy."

"I'm not."

"Eren, get real. It's a threat."

"What threat?" I asked, voice calmer.

Levi scratched his forehead. "He can get you into porn, and it's not safe."

To replace a stupid answer/question/assumption, I drank Levi's ice tea again. The sweetness made me sick, and the bitter aftertaste was just as sickening. And I found it relevant to what Levi just said, minutes ago.

"Do you think I have the potential to..." I trailed off, focusing on his eyes. He looked like Mikasa, so much.

"For porn? Like, filming?" His voice was more like a bark compared to mine, because he was upset. He had this voice when he was upset. "I'm sorry. Yeah. You have. You've got excruciatingly good features for it. Not just visual, your personality, also. So Nile might've noticed you."

I couldn't figure if it's good or bad news.

We sat at the beach and I was still emptying Levi's ice tea. He began drinking mine, telling me he wouldn't last 'till home otherwise. After all this talking, he really wouldn't

His was peach, mine was citrus, and by his face, Levi didn't like citrus, but he drank it, anyways.

"Citrus tea sucks," he presented his expression, raising the bottle. "Citrus products fucking suck, and there's nothing better than fresh fruit."

I watched sun seep through the drink. It cast an orange shade on Levi's face. "Yeah, but that's my tea. You took it from me."

"Because you have mine," he said and chugged down at least an inch.

I watched his neck move. "You gave it to me."

"Still."

We talked about a lot of things when we came down to the shore, and drinking ice tea meant a pause. I finished the story about Jean and his aunt's ranch, I told Levi about my balcony jump video that's still circling around Facebook, shared how I almost broke Marco and threw up in Jean's dad's car. Levi laughed at everything, genuinely or not.

Our hair dried up because it was windy. Nicely windy, not strong enough to get the sand to dust up, but strong enough to get us dry. The collar of my (Jean's) t-shirt also dried up. I never noticed it was damp.

We ended up tossing the bottles in the water because there wasn't a trash can, and if there was, it was way too far away. None of us wanted to move; especially Levi. He was digging a fortress. I was digging a moat.

"You know," he then said. "Your shirt is pretty misleading."

I tossed sand over my shoulder. "It's not mine."

"It's too tight in the waist to be yours."

My guts bubbled. Levi knew Jean had a narrow waist. Fucking maniac.

We sat at the beach until it got dark. Levi kept bringing up he's driving me home. I kept saying I've got Baker and my own legs, and some money for bus, anyways, so it's not that necessary, and I wouldn't want to be much burden.

Obviously, he didn't give me my board back while at the shore, because it was under his ass and I could only longingly stare after it. I was forced to being driven home. But I felt super good about myself today. I got Levi's mood back up in order, and mine wasn't wasted, either. Plus, I met an old high school friend. I know how I'm always shitting on nostalgia/melancholy/et cetera, but sinking in memories is such a great, good, emotional feeling, a gross little tingle at the bottom of my stomach, and I can't ever get enough of it.

Whatever, though. Goodnight. I fell asleep with the widest smile.

Chapter Text

My balls are freezing.

Thanks, end of May! You sure live up to your title, end of May. Fuck you, end of May, go screw fucking Egypt or some other place that might need your minuses in addition. We're good here. Thanks.

It's so fucking cold in early mornings. Especially when there's a pretty strong background breeze and a few clouds plunging in front of the sun. It's not even warm when the sun is shining.

I wore my varsity jacket today. Fucking wear this shit in winter, not the end of May.

Was also shaking a little due to my bruises. It's always like that when I'm bruised or injured, even if just lightly, I automatically have the mindset of being in a street fighter movie where the main character's really stressed and mysterious and his friends keep asking him about the blood spots and black eyes.

True, though. When Levi dropped me off on Saturday, it was pretty dark outside, and I managed to sneak up to my room without mom or Mikasa noticing. I took a shower and washed my hair properly. It's getting so weirdly long, by the way, I just can't get over it.

I'm thinking about growing my hair out. Looking at Armin's hair gave me good chills. I'd never grown my hair longer than just past my ears, and that was when I was seven.

After the shower, I really paid attention to myself. My eye looked fucking terrible. I couldn't figure out how Levi was this little concerned, because I'd probably freak if any of my friends asked for a meeting in the mall and I drove over just to find them dirty and beaten up.

I had a light purple undertone right above my ass, where the counter hit, and the same height bruise right on my fucking hipbone. Looked like a straight-across horizontal slash, just with blurred edges. I stood at the mirror and poked it for minutes. Felt a little swollen.

I did some research on the Internet and remembered what mom did when our dog Wicky had an eye infection. Not that I was worried I'd catch an infection, but my left eye felt twice as fucking swollen as the hip, so I had to sneak down to the kitchen and make chamomile tea. And get round cotton pads from mom's bathroom.

Mom was downstairs, sketching. Sat in the couch. Mikasa wasn't anywhere around, so I assumed she's not even home. Nobody usually gives a fuck when I head to the kitchen because I eat a lot, often, and any time of the day. (And then complain to Levi about getting fat. But I fucking am! Ever since I dropped volleyball I've been filling my free time with eating and hanging around with friends. I'm nowhere near Connie's clean-cut body, he's a fucking carbonite monster, he's stone hard when you knock on him. I'm more comfortable, I have skin to pinch, but there's also muscle mass underneath. But I'm really bugged about that little space below my navel. Mikasa pinched it last week and it pushed me in a pit of depression.)

I got a cup of the tea. The constant watering of my left eye was super irritating, so I hurried back upstairs to get the pads and just clean it.

Surely, when I walk inside mom's bathroom, face bruised and looking like shit, there's Mikasa cutting the ends of her hair for some fucking reason, and I stop dead in my tracks (and just wish I could literally stop dead).

She saw me through the mirror and freaked out. Five minutes later I'm sitting on the toilet, she's sitting in my lap (with half-cut hair) and cleaning my eye.

I saw no romance in this since it hurt like hell, but I'm sure I'd normally be bulging. :^)

I let her check out my hip bruise and only told about the one on my ass, although she was dying to see it.

And obviously, minutes after I'm already in my room and on the computer, mom barges inside and asks for an explanation, because "Mikasa said you got in a fight".

Mom, like.

Don't.

Whatever, on the positive side of Monday's cold fucking morning; I sat in Erwin's car with his OP ass-warmer seats and dangling melon scent air freshener that didn't smell like melon at fucking all. He was still getting ready, packed his stuff and kept asking me if the car was warming up every two minutes. Being driven place to place by my superiors could become a hobby. They had cool cars.

I mean, get real, Erwin's got a black RS600 Range Rover, who are you kidding, dude?

Currently, Erwin was my favorite father figure right after Levi. Levi's the top dad slash big brother. I count in Mike as my long-lost Swedish-looking godfather and Nile's the stray rat uncle who hates all of his nieces and nephews.

I watched Erwin flip through a pile of papers on the porch. He stilled, as if trying to remember something, and went back inside. I got more comfortable in my seat, ready for another five to seven minutes of watching him roam back and forth with piles of papers and notebooks.

Really, how difficult can being a teacher get?

A while later, Erwin slid in the car.

"Sorry," he said and waved the papers. "Tests."

"It's cool," I replied. "My class starts at nine today. We won't be late."

Like, if we drive with two hundred miles per hour.

"I will. I have a lecture in around fifteen minutes." Erwin fastened his seat belt, tossed the pile behind, and turned to me. "And I need to organize my month away with the principal. And the town's school's principal, too. So much things to manage. I hope I get to go."

"Oh, yeah. Annual no-Erwin-no-polocrosse month." I nodded so looked like I'm concerned. "Yeah. Crazy."

He sighed. "Living in Jersey like this is hard. I wish I could just leave the town and go back to Atlantic City."

I'd always guessed Erwin still worked here because Levi worked here. That's the most plausible reason and everybody thinks it's like that. Sometimes I felt sorry for Erwin. For being tied to this level, I mean. Erwin could get far in life. He could get into politics more than he's already gotten, consider taking up modeling. "Far in life," Eren said.

"Is Mikasa living with you for a long time?"

The question punched me off-track and I slouched in the seat. "Uh-huh..."

He laughed. "Sure feels nice to be the only man in the household."

There was a certain sour note in his voice. Couldn't decide if he was mocking me or not.

"Yeah, sure." I watched him restart the engine. The locks clicked, three beeps followed. Then a familiar, warm purr. Erwin's car was a big kitty. Loved Range Rovers.

He placed his hands on the wheel. "Doesn't she have the same classes as you?"

"Who, Mikasa?"

"Mhm."

"Umm." I rubbed my face out of habit, though I forgot I had a monster bruise covering most of my cheekbone. I turned away so Erwin wouldn't see my eyes water.

"Fuck, I'm sorry, this really hurts," I apologized, holding my burning cheek. "But, uh. Yeah. Same classes as me."

Erwin's profile was painfully Vogue, even with his furrowed brows, sharp shadows, creases, wrinkles and all the rest. What the fuck. I 'm still refusing to believe this guy's over thirty. Like, slightly over thirty, but still. Even I looked older than Erwin.

By the way, I've got visible smile lines. Also, when I grin, but, like, cockily grin, I've got these small sideways "V's" at the corners of my mouth.

In addition to my fucking smile lines.

I'm probably so fucking ugly to everyone around.

"Where'd you get the bruise?" Erwin asked.

"Ran into a door," I lied.

"Mmm."

Not passable, and I'm not telling this to anyone else.

We were silent for a while. Watched the gate slide open. He only spoke up when we were outside and sliding past my house.

The day was awfully ugly. Last evening brought fog and this morning cleared it away with long, cold sweeps of air. It ruined my perfect Levi's Saturday (slicked back, a little wavy) hairstyle I worked so hard on.

I fucking try so hard to look good, look at me, copying Nile first, now's Levi, who's next? Jean? Am I supposed to bleach my hair and let it grow out so the contrast is undeniably obvious?

"How is she getting to school?" Erwin asked, fixing the rear-view mirror. "Should I drive you both?"

I just had to shrug because I really didn't know, most of the time. Sometimes we go with Jean, sometimes it's Erwin. Occasionally we just take the bus. If I'd be alone, I'd skate. On warm mornings.

"I think she's cycling."

"Cycling?"

"Yeah."

"Then whose car is that?"

Whose car is what?

I followed his stare through the mirror. Had to rub my eyes to actually believe what I was seeing.

Internal asthma. Seizure. Blood vessel rupture.

Audi.

A beige Audi. That car belongs to Jean's dad, but Jean drives it ninety percent of the time, anyways.

Felt questionable emotions. Mostly confusement. I was pissed at Jean like nothing and no one else so far. Not because he's fucking driving or anything, because he's a fucking dirty little liar. Guess what he fucking told me this morning? "No, Eren, I can't pick you up today. I'm skating to school."

You're skating to school in a car, Jean? :^)

Knowingly, I looked at my front door.

There was Mikasa with my red Nike hoodie and her stupid, black backpack marching out of the house.

"Jean's," I said under my breath and got out of Erwin's car.

The wind was worse than I expected. My hair got blown back away from my face. I turned around to show Erwin a raised index finger, gesturing to wait a little, and turned back to meet Mikasa almost in front of me already.

"Good morning," she said. "You didn't eat breakfast, is something wrong?"

"What the fuck?"

"Are you coming with us?"

"What the fuck, Mikasa?"

She frowned. "What?"

I looked over at Jean.

"That." I pointed at him, and then pointed at her. "This. Since when are you two so friendly?"

Jean was in the car, arms crossed and face literally blurting how alright he is with all this crap. I remember how I wanted these two to hook up, but, like... If I had a bucket of shit, I'd pour it on his freshly washed hair and Pierre Cardin sweater.

She shrugged. "Jean's just driving me to school."

"Oh yeah? Just driving you to school? What about when I said Erwin can drive us both, what'd you say then?" My brows made a knot. "Didn't you say "no, I'm cycling like I do every morning, why would Erwin even bother driving me to college"."

"Eren, chill."

"No! I'm not fucking chill, because Jean lied, too. What the fuck is going on?"

She pulled her backpack higher on her shoulders and punched my chest. With ease, but it left a sensitive spot, and I was angry, anyways, so I wouldn't mind punching her back.

"Calm down," she said. "I don't like Jean, alright? If that's what concerns you. We live in a mutual friendzone. We've come to terms about a lot of stuff, Eren. I don't exactly like anyone currently. Jean doesn't like me either."

My eyelids dropped. Sure.

"Yeah, he doesn't like you, not your ass, definitely. He's not looking at your ass. Not even now."

I peeked over her shoulder.

Yep.

"He's doing it."

Mikasa rolled her eyes. "Eren, you don't know the story."

"Mhm, I really don't know the story , there's probably a lot to it."

"Jean's just not what you think he is to me, please, calm down."

"Aha. No problem."

"He's fucking helping me financially, Eren!" She hissed now."I signed up for a job at Sports Authority to get off Carla's, and even more, your ass. Jean gave me around a hundred bucks in paper and said I can use his car if I need to. Though I don't have a license, but I'm getting it once I'm more or less stable and can schedule my time."

"Wh--"

"But it's just that, Eren, all Jean's doing is staring at my ass, right?"

I actually wished I had the balls to say yes, but she'd kill me off in a second.

Now I frowned even more than I did before and turned to her with my jaw completely slack.

Jean never did this. Like, ever. He was normally as greedy and selfish as any rich grandfather I always wished I had. He never threw money around and complained taking girls to dates was expensive, tiring, and in most cases, a total waste.

Jean never had money in paper.

Jean never drove anyone to school.

Realization came at great timing and I was proud for being such a smart tat.

"He wants to fuck you," was my conclusion.

Mikasa's brows shot up. "What?"

"Are you fucking blind, babe?" I asked, tilting my chin to Jean's direction. "Look at him. He just wants to fuck you. It's not how he normally behaves. He's sitting in his dad's Audi and smiling like he'd just pissed his pants."

"Uhh."

"I fucking don't know what you did to Jean, but you fucked him up, Mikasa."

She rolled her eyes like what I just said wasn't anything serious. Though she did tug on the straps of her bag and looked over my shoulder as if considering getting in Erwin's car all of a sudden. And by the moment I was just about sure she was going to ask me if Erwin can give us both a lift, she just weakly smiled.

Was she thankful I told her my opinion?

Was she mocking me?

What the fuck?

"Thanks for the info," Mikasa said. "It's cool you think that way, but you're pretty much fucking wrong about everything. Hope you end up in my situation at least once in your life. Shit's gonna feel good when people treat you like you treat me and my friends."

"Your friends?" I almost choked. "Since when is Jean your friend?"

"Since a long time ago. But I doubt you ever border friendship from anything else. Your mindset on this is as good as fucking nothing."

She said that, and walked off.

I stood there and didn't know what to do.

Or say.

Either life was fucking me up hardcore, or I really wasn't ever meant to be happy. I walked backwards, to Erwin's car, and kept silent during the ride.


Jean pissed me off the whole day. He didn't say anything much, we just had classes together, but he still pissed me off and I still had the need to punch his fucking eyes in. I've never believed violence is the key to anything, but it took a fight for Armin and I to bond, so it's slightly contradictional now.

People at school were super concerned about my face. "Why's your face swollen?", "what the fuck happened?" and "got in trouble again, Eren?" were the most common ones.

Christa was the only one who actually gave a fuck enough to do something.

"You can use my concealer.It'll dim down the green, but it's going to be super visible. You're totally not my shade, I'm pale as fuck."

I obviously refused. "It'll heal soon. But thanks."

"It's okay. It looks better than it could have."

"I had a split somewhere over..." My fingers touched up my cheekbone. I added pressure to the sharpest point. "Somewhere over here. It healed. But had, like, the tissue visible and everything. No idea how that happened."

Christa was leaning over the table and squinting at my cheek. "That's so sick."

"Yeah, I know."

"Awesome."

Alright, so, Christa. Felt like I needed expansion on this kid.

She's Marco's age, seventeen, everyone's best girl. I'm not kidding when I say "everyone's". I guess people know and love her because she's my cousin, but it's totally possible it's just her personality alone.

Christa used to be my other neighbor besides Erwin; now the house's empty because her family moved to the town. She still didn't want to give up on our college, so she stayed and our contact didn't break off.

Most people thought she's a pastel baby girl, listens to indie music and reads a lot of thoughtful literature and poetry, has an Instagram full of flower and scenery pictures, drinks tea, all the time, and fucking always looks good in photos. Nothing about this is true. Except for the last.

Dude, fucking hate people who look good in every photo taken. Somehow photos of me in parties are taken from the worst angle, in the worst lighting, and when shitfaced.

You haven't seen horror until you've asked Christa for movie recommendations, by the way. She's sick and twisted. Listens to distorted rock and doom metal. Has incredible knowledge about SCP's and everything paranormal. She fucking browses Creepypasta. She's also been in the Deep Web, along with me.

If Christa wasn't my cousin, I'd probably really like her a lot!

My training started ten minutes ago and we were both still sitting in the cafeteria. We watched people enter and leave. Leave, mostly, because the third years had their last classes by this time, and the third years were the biggest in numbers in the whole school.

I cupped my chin, aware of the fact my training was dragging in as I talked.

"Why aren't you going home?" I asked.

Christa threw her shoulders up. "No idea. It's boring at home. It's been fucking boring at home ever since we moved away. I don't have job today, so I figured I could catch someone on their way out. Or...something, you know?"

"Yeah."

"What about you?"

I looked at the door. Guilt pressed my stomach down. "My soccer training's actually happening right now, but it's not fucking important at all, I think. I'm also pissed at Jean, so I don't want to go."

She slapped the surface of the table, winced, but kept her posture. "Go to your training, Eren, Jesus!"

"I don't want to leave you here, so I'm not going."

"Eren, you still have two full hours of training.Why didn't you tell me?" Christa frowned. "God, I feel so guilty. Please go. I'll get home with Reiner or anyone who's still around."

My mouth made a sound I wasn't aware of, but that's around how a dying cow would sound. I wished Christa knew why I didn't want the training and everything. I wished I could actually tell someone, because this porn thing was a big ordeal. Weighed me down.

I'm so fucking tired of keeping this to myself, honestly. I just want to talk to someone about this, hear their opinion on it and maybe shit on Levi and Nile a little, but nothing that much, nothing much in general. I just fucking crave getting this off my chest, but I can't do it.

I stretched out on the table and pressed my good cheek against the cold surface. Felt so good I made another whining sound.

"Eren."

"Okay, don't urge me... I'll go."

Five minutes passed.

Christa's fingers were combing through my hair because I asked her to do it. I made weird and annoying sounds against the table and tried telling her my problem.

"I can't," I murmured. "I can't. This is so hard, Chris. I'd tell you, but I can't."

Her fingers shook and I knew she was laughing.

"That's not funny," I said. "I'm actually suffering."

"I'm scratching your scalp, how can you possibly be fucking suffering? Did you wash your hair? It's so soft. And long. It's getting so long."

Mentally threw a fist up in the air. Somebody's admiring my long hair! :^) It's a good day now.

"Is massaging my scalp the same as suffering?" I frowned. "And thanks. I got scorching hot mocha poured on my head, new shampoo brand. Only, like, twenty bucks a fucking cup."

She laughed.

I continued entertaining her with the mocha story and told it in details. She asked me who exactly this Armin guy was and if I could think about introducing him to my friends here, which I, actually, had never thought of doing before.

The mental image of Armin talking to Reiner or Connie was killing me and I had laughter spasms so hard Christa had to pinch my arm for me to calm down.

Armin would think my school's filled with concentrated stupidity.

I didn't tell Erwin about my Armin incident. He didn't ask how it went, actually, so I assumed Armin had maybe twisted the story to a more mild level, or something. That is, if they've talked about it afterwards. I think they talked about it. Erwin was definitely interested in Armin's opinion about me. Not that I'm not. Would be nice if I knew his honest thoughts.

By the time Christa moved from my scalp to the sides of my head, I was sure around a quarter of the training was cleared. Also, by the same time, we got an intruder.

The cafeteria's door opened with huge force. I barely raised my head, both because Christa's hands were resting heavy on it, and because I felt really comfortable, but I figured who the newcomer was in a second.

Jean. I closed my eyes.

He was red and sweaty, breathless, hands cupping his knees. He stood in the exit and watched us both on the other side of the room.

"What the fuck are you two doing?" Jean breathed out.

"Talking," Christa replied instead of me.

Jean inhaled and straightened up. "What about the training?"

"Fuck soccer, honestly," I spat.

"Eren, you have to come."

I slowly turned my head and felt mine and Christa's moods drop.

"What if I say no?"

"You can't say no."

"What if I do? Because I'm not coming."

There was loud tapping of a Converse sneaker and the only one in this cafeteria wearing Converse sneakers was Jean and I was about to fucking kill him right then and there.

"It's serious, actually."

"Alright, what's your fucking problem, Jean?"

"Levi almost killed Nile, alright," he said.

Uh.

Uhhh.

"The fuck?"

"We all came except for you. Levi came up to me, okay? And he, like, asked if you were at school today. I said yes. Then he asked me about your mood. Told him you've been pissed off the entire day. Also that I lost you after classes. And the last question was why weren't you at the hall. I was like, what the fuck, I don't know, he's hormonal."

I rolled my eyes.

"Don't get pissed, sorry! And then Nile walked up and said you "probably have your reasons", and it got Levi so angry he almost barked at him and went back to the bench. But, like, I checked some stuff at home, and apparently Levi's not even allowed to be there during the trainings. He's almost like expelled for these sixty days."

"Was there a physical fight?" I asked. "Or is it just bland and angry?"

Jean shook his head with a loud exhale. Wow, boring. What's the point. I expected a climax of the story, but Jean's absolute shit at storytelling.

"But, uh." He rubbed his neck. "But Levi's in a bad condition, I think. He's just sitting with his arms crossed and eyes closed."

"Doesn't he always?"

"Yeah, but sometimes he rubs his forehead," Jean added. "You should just show up, you know. At least tell Nile you're sick, or something, to make it less of a fuss."

"What the fuck," Christa interrupted, but I ignored her for the moment.

"What else is Levi doing?"

Jean looked up at the ceiling. "Checking his phone."

My stomach felt weird all of a sudden, and I knew what was up.

Our conversation from Saturday's evening, the warning or something. It just clicked and I figured it out.

I pulled out my phone and met six new messages.

I'm fucking dead. I'm just as good as dead.

[13:12:45, Monday] Coach: Are you ok?

[13:14:23, Monday] Coach: Reply when you're available.

[15:22:17, Monday] Coach: You haven't read the messages, where the fuck are you?

[15:37:12, Monday] Coach: Eren, are you alright?

[15:43:01, Monday] Coach: This won't makd sense because i'm stressed a nd autocorrect doesnt work when I type this fast. Ignore grammar. Where are you? Nile is acting weird and i dont trust a thi ng he says. We had a shoot together last saturday, ebfore I drag raced to meet you. Our production manag said we're having an open day the next week and new

I scrolled down to read the continued message.

[13:46:56, Monday] Coach: New guys are coming and we're gettign a new film crew too. I warned yu on the same day and now i dont know if youre avoiding me, or if Nile got his hands on you. Reply if youre alive and if youre dead, reply as well.

I scanned the messages over to be sure I actually read what I read.

Levi's concern was based mainly on my disappearance, but I wasn't in the state of figuring out how everything should click. The only thing I knew I had to do was going to the fucking training and showing my ass off to my two jackass coaches so none of them can have any shit towards each other.

Because I had the feeling Nile would bullshit everything to piss Levi off, and Levi would die from concern.

I looked at Christa. "I have to go, Chris."

"Yeah, I told you that, like, half an hour ago."

"Find something to do, alright? Catch someone at the exit. Reiner might enjoy your company," I said and combed my hair back in place. "But thanks. I'll come over with mom someday, okay? Tell your dad it's happening. In the nearest week or two."

"Sure. My fingers smell like your hair."

I snickered.

"Eren, let's go," Jean urged.

We took Christa with us and left her at the exit, the benches. I hugged her, Jean didn't, because they weren't the best friends. He was also really fucking sweaty and she just didn't look willing in the first place.

The hallway leading to the sports hall was suddenly very short and my breath didn't cooperate. I had no idea why I was so worked up for something as stupid as six fucking text messages, but I think it was Levi's concern that got me so bad. I didn't like getting him concerned. I always got shit for it in the end.

Jean pushed the door open with his shoulder.

The hall hadn't changed; there were still weights, benches and dumbbells stacked in the middle and the lap trail around cleared for sprinting. Half of the boys were lifting. The other half jogged and switched to sprints once in a while.

I knew the door was loud when someone moved it and a few turned heads proved my point. I searched for Levi's face on the side benches.

I found it, but he wasn't looking at me. He also wasn't sitting.

If I was a guy like Connie, or anyone who watched lanky basketball players instead of MMA's every Thursday night of the fourteenth year of my existence, I wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a hostile stance and a relaxed stance. But since I wasn't a guy like Connie and really spent a whole year's worth of Thursday nights watching MMA's, I was sure Levi was just about to smash Nile's jaw to the other side of his head.

And then lecture him how bruises form. :^)

"Coach!" I called out, hoping at least one of them would turn to me.

Both did.

Fuck, I'm cornered.

Levi's face changed in a second. Relief washed over anger. His hands fell down to his sides and he pushed past Nile. Nile, though, Nile followed right after, and in the matter of seconds, I was crouching in a shade the two threw over me.

I felt like a cornered ant.

"Are you fucking insane?" Asked Levi.

"Are you tired?" Asked Nile. "You can go home if you want to. I marked you're absent."

Levi bit down his lip and glanced at Nile. He didn't look back.

"We're going to have a talk, alright?" Levi placed a hand on my shoulder and forced me back to the exit. I sort of gave up at that point. I was too confused.

"We're going to have a talk and then you can talk to Nile."

Nile looked pissed, while Levi was possibly burning in triumph, because he'd always be a priority over any other coach, obviously.

He actually shoveled me out of the hall and slammed the door behind.

I swallowed an ugly, thick clump of words as I watched Levi press his knuckles to his lips.

We stood silent for a good while. I listened to my hammering heart, Levi stared down at my shoes or something in that direction. Then I calmed down and stretched, you know, to drop the silence. A good bunch of my bones cracked like a wrecked ship.

He looked up at me. "I'm sorry. I overreacted and freaked you out."

"It's alright," I said. It's kind of always alright. "Not really. I freaked out at first, but you really should know me better."

"I'm really sorry. But you have to admit you're not fucking normal for not checking your phone for two hours."

I wished I could drink a cup of bleach instead of having a conversation like this. "I'm, umm, sorry? I'm sorry, I had it on silent."

Levi tensed down. "Where were you?"

"Down at the cafeteria. Sat with Christa."

"The cousin?"

"Yeah."

He smiled, but the smile faded. "It's great you're ignoring trainings, sure, but don't do this again. I'm serious. This is serious. Staying near me is all I'm fucking asking for, just for the time being. Nile won't be here forever, wait for the summer, then I'll piss off."

I gave Levi an understanding nod. "Alright."

Had no clue why I agreed to this, but it's cool.

Also I had no idea why he assumed Nile wouldn't still keep on hunting me down after he'd left the school. It's even easier then, knowing Levi couldn't control me outside of trainings and shit. Just a thought.

"And reply to messages. If you can't type anything out, call me."

"Okay, mom."

"Not funny." He frowned. "You can wake up at New Jersey with a full bank account and sore ass. I'm trying to keep you away from it."

I swallowed.

Okay, mom.

"Also, Eren?"

I looked back up to him and played with the string I used as a belt. "Yeah?"

"Nile doesn't know." Levi brought his hands together. He rubbed his wrists. I watched the motion and smiled like a moron. "He doesn't know you know about us. Don't show awareness and try not talking about it."

My smile faded.

Holy fuck. I'm probably cursed.

I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHY HE THINKS IT'S SO FUCKING EASY.


Levi's motives were still partly shady to me. As much as I liked to believe he was trying to help/supervise/protect me, I had a feeling he wasn't telling me something vital about the whole thing. It's not like I didn't understand the current situation as it was explained to me, it just didn't feel right somehow.

There was something underneath, probably, but I was currently too stupid to figure it out.

So now Jean's driving me to Sports Authority, just because I phoned mom and told her I needed money for the weekend. She was in a rush, so she said I should go get a job, and so I did. I called Mike and asked if I can just go check the place out, and if there's any chance he'd take me now.

But, like, jokes aside, Mike's really like an uncle for me, so he and mom got to an agreement to take me in as an employee at the sports equipment store when I turned eighteen. Mike spent the year I turned eighteen in fucking New York, so I had to work at different stores and gyms.

I'm probably going to suck with the people part here, at Sports Authority, but hey, at least I get to wear cool sports brand clothes as improvised "uniforms".

"So you mean you're applying for a job? Like, right now?"

I nodded and brushed through my hair. "Yeah."

"Are we heading to Sports Authority?" Jean squinted.

"Yeah."

"Are you nuts?"

I turned to him. Flashed a grin. "What? Are you pissed I'll get a shift with Mikasa?"

He rolled his eyes and slammed his fist against my back. I had to choke for extra effect, though it really did hurt and I felt like dying. But Jean turned back to the road, serious and silent, and I knew I had to ask something.

"So, are you two..." I trailed off, seeing how quickly his nose wrinkled. "Alright, not asking. Fucking delicate, apparently."

"No, dude, it's alright. I just, umm. I just don't know if I like her as a friend or not. I mean, she's pretty. She's pretty pretty."

I made the most skeptical face I could. "Pretty."

Jean looked up. "Alright, she's downright the most fucking gorgeous girl in town."

"Nah," I said. "Annie is."

"Mikasa is. You're thinking of Annie just because you two used to be together."

"Still, Annie. Not like you've known Mikasa for years, either."

He got silent after I said that. I didn't say anything for a while, just to let him calm down and see if he's going to bring anything up. After a few minutes he still hadn't said anything, so I slid down in my seat and began playing with the window. Rolled it up and down.

"You're not going to tell me how's shit going for you two, are you?" I asked.

Jean tapped the wheel and looked outside his window.

"I'm confused," he said. "I'm confused. She's the only girl I'm actually willing to do anything for. And I'm not kidding," he mentioned, seeing me grin again. "I really don't want her because of sex and anything connected."

"You sure don't, Jean."

"I don't."

"Yeah..."

"Eren, shut the fuck up and believe me for once, okay?"

I raised my hands to shield off the aggression. "Easy there, I'm not fucking complaining."

"I like her," he said. "I like her. You just need to trust me on this."

Wow, I felt so shocked ! Like it wasn't the most obvious thing ever ! Jean, you hide your emotions so good, Jean, teach me how to do it.

I recognized the surroundings and knew we were close. Jean hadn't really driven here before, so I had to instruct him and be a GPS. We made a few dirty GPS jokes while looking for a lot to park at. In the end, he parked behind Mike's minivan. And we joked about the minivan, too, because it was the most typical shit for Mike to drive around with.

And then came the big moment I was standing in front of the store with literal tears in my eyes because I finally realized this is the day I get the job I've craved for.

We entered the store, and I honestly think I came in my pants.

"Eren, Jesus!" Mike yelled across the stacks of boxes, nets and, holy shit, paradise. "You were a fuckin' lanky kid last time I saw you!"

"Nice to see you too, Mike!" I waved. "Let's take a shot for puberty! I was fucking seventeen back then."

"Well, cheers." He screwed open a water bottle.

Mike doesn't drink alcohol.

The fucking irony in me offering shots. :-/

The store was my literal Heaven, my entirety put in materiality, my dreams and future, my sense and feelings. I was so in love with sports equipment stores, and sports equipment in general, I could marry a soccer ball.

"Mikasa," I heard Jean breathe out behind me. "Look at Mikasa."

I looked at Mi-- ayyy.

That's hot, Adidas attire, that's hot, that's so hot.

She waved. Probably not at me.

I waved back. "Hey."

She didn't react and turned back to the pile of boxes behind the counter. So it probably wasn't directed at me. :^D Nice, thanks.

We moved further in the store. I admired the fresh smell of rubber, touched all the equipment and turned the TV on and off, just because it was a LED screen and because it had over a hundred sports channels.

Jean ended up helping Mikasa with the boxes and unwrapping and everything. She opened up a little, they joked and pushed around. I watched with greed and sorrow. Not being in great relations with Mikasa was kind of a killer, in the worst sense.

Mike told me he trapped his dog in the men's bathroom, so if I had to take a piss, I had to take a piss in the women stalls. That was saddening.

We signed all the papers. I had to go through piles of work safety and all that bullshit; Mike told me which ones I can sign without reading, since reading it all would just be jacking yourself up mad. He also said I can read through the manuals if I get pissed off by a client. He said it helped Mikasa.

The day wrapped up at around eleven PM, with all the showing around and memorizing where and how the stalls are placed. I kept mixing the tennis section with the baseball section, but Mikasa said I'll figure it out once I really get to meet clients.

Jean didn't look bored, which was a good thing.

Actually, today was a good day. I thought about it when laying back in my bed at least an hour later. Today was a splendid day.

I got a job. I pissed Levi off. I pissed Mikasa off.

Today's, like, the best day of the week.

Today's Monday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Marco asked if we'll ever make a graduation party and I told him to piss off. As a matter of fact, he brought up the unforgettable factor it's Annie's graduation, as if the entire school didn't know we were a major thing.

Thanks for mentioning Annie, and thanks for putting so much emphasis on her name. :-) Like the fact that she's a year older and we're in the same college isn't bad enough. I avoid her in the halls as much as I can, and this year, we have to organize them a graduation party. Just fuck me over, honestly. I have no idea if she still feels anything towards me like I feel for her, but I've got a feeling we might at least talk during the party. Of course, hoping for anything else is useless, but I'm still thinking about it.

"Jean's on the second floor," I said and walked to the corner table. Marco followed because he was annoying and had no life experience whatsoever. "Fuck off, I've got a lot on my mind."

"I'm not interested in his opinion," Marco said. "His opinion is based on everything Mikasa has ever said. If I was interested in her opinion, I'd just ask her. She likes me better than him."

That's a far shot, Marco. She used to like you better than Jean, but the tables have obviously turned, and now she doesn't like neither me, nor you.

"I noticed and I don't care."

He sighed.

We had this thing where all years from first to third organized a huge graduation party for the graduates. I'd say it's almost like a tradition, but it really counts as a tradition by now. Last year was a blast, we did a good job. Thank god my ass is out of here next year.

"When can you join me and Connie for a basketball match?" And after noticing my expression change: "Or, you know, like, just hanging out. It would be cool if we could reunite. If not with Jean, then us three, at least."

Marco's a persistent, moronic asshole. You know how they have these nice, sunny faces, bright smiles and personalities asking for a good kick in the nuts? Marco Bodt. That's Marco Bodt. I don't think I've ever disliked anyone as openly as I do Marco, but he's the most unlikable boy material I could imagine. He copies, his jokes aren't fucking funny, he always tries to be best friends with everyone, but it kinda floats up, you know, and everybody finds out Marco's just such a kiss-ass it's a turnoff.

"Whenever I'm free," I said.

"And that is? Don't say never."

"Never." I took my fork. "Can't fuck around with college anymore. I have a job, too."

"Yeah? Mike took you in?"

I tried to zone out and blur his questions with the buzz of the cafeteria. There weren't many people, but enough to make a blank noise. The blank noise was zero percent relishing.

I got distracted. By a pair of eyes, casually set on me, over the room.

The teachers' table was the closest to the cashier. One side of the cafeteria was for snacks. Had colorful tables, orange chairs and sold chocolate and putrid, gluten-filled shit. The other was mild and served human food. I sat there.

Nile also sat there.

Nile sat at the teachers' table and stared across the ten square meter space, pushing around a pile of beans. Casually.

I came down before my last classes and that was wrong. I did wrong. Today was wrong. I shouldn't have come to school.Note to self: re-evaluate every time you wake up, Eren, 'cause there's a twelve out of ten's chance you're gonna fuck up!

Marco slapped the back of my head. "Eren, your fucking juice. Stop."

I looked down at my fist. I was clenching my Capri Sun that looked more like Capri Spill now, and the pond of cherry and apple juice mix was practically all over the table.

I tossed the packet back down and shook my hand to dry it off, as much as you can dry a packet of Capri Sun. It splattered over my dish of whatever certain gluten-free shit-looking meal I bought. It also caught Marco's t-shirt. I noticed he tried to rub the wetness away. He would've been a bitch about it if I wasn't this pissed. Marco just knew the line.

I went and got a few tissues and came back to him. Just threw them on the wet spot, for it to soak up. Then I turned around and began walking away.

"Are you going to finish this?" He called after. "The pasta, I mean."

I didn't reply and left the cafeteria. That's merely how it all begun.

I never noticed how often was Nile really around me. You never notice the threat until the threat is literally knocking on your front door. Like the shit I read in /pol/. Europe never really feared another war until the shit with Ukraine began, and now it's gotten to the point Russia is practically banned whilst being almost the size of Europe alone. Even though Russia's always been a little oppressing on the smaller European countries, it's a good comparison. Not like America's too saint, either, but at least we're currently more or less controlling the world.

You never really notice the predator until the predator is baring it's fangs. I've had too much good English literature lately, and that's because of Armin.

I called Armin on Thursday, which was last night, and asked when are we hanging out, because I needed that little uplift again. He told me he's currently super busy, but the best thing to start off with is watching movies that would never interest me. Shitty recreations of Phantom Of The Opera, gritty textured musicals, old basketball games. It didn't need to be vintage to fit, he just said it could help more as I was obviously disinterested in quality worse than 720p. Armin had a tick for filtering people.

He said I'd be better at concentrating if I tried to riddle low-definition poems in the meantime. And he said he'd pay a visit when I'm expecting it the least. But now wasn't about Armin, now was about Nile.

He was suddenly in my way. In the cafeteria, in the halls. At the schedule papers, at the news stand. In the halls again, in the toilets. I had a class at Pixis', and he was there. He was there, looking over the paper they both discussed, and looking at me.

I shouldn't have looked back, I know, but if I didn't, I'd be a clueless moron, and would never even imagine he paid this much attention to me.

Levi wasn't at school today. Now I figured it's obvious why Nile seeks opportunities to talk to me.

It was relishing, Levi not being here. I didn't have a constant safety guard. Nile seemed to like that detail, too. Levi sometimes didn't come to school when it wasn't soccer trainings for our team, so two days a week (excluding the weekend, though we also tend to have trainings then) I was free to be chopped up by coach Nile Dawk.

So, up to four days a week were more than three days a week, Levi, you're bad at calculating my approximate safety level in school.

My last class was fucking boring, but I paid attention. For the first fifteen minutes.

I kept thinking about Nile and all the shit Levi said about him. I can't fucking figure out what bums me about this, and I can't figure whatever it might be Nile wants from me. Asides from sensually dragging me into porn and maybe trying to be a Levi icon, like, a replacement, nothing else came in mind.

He had a good face. A model face. But the realest model face currently. This sharp, planed skin. Pretty velvety, but not like mine. Edgy. Good. Nile wasn't as angelic as Erwin, or as normatively appealing as Levi, he had this trickle from Hell that made him look so good.

Sometimes, due to this, I go all: "Fuck, maybe Levi was right, maybe Nile will play his charm Yu-Gi-Oh! on me and I'll fall to my knees like an absolute little slut.".

"Do you have any plans for the weekend?"

My Nile images were ripped away by Jean's voice.

"Not really," I said. "Might have a drink somewhere, at some point. Don't have any plans."

In all honesty, I asked mom for money on Monday because I wanted to drive down to Vineland with Jean and a few other boys from the team, maybe go camping, or just set tents, sit around the campfire and drink, but now I've fucked some shit up with Mikasa, so it equals Jean being mad at me for making his angel mad, and Jean's probably not fucking coming, anyways.

And now Connie's so infatuated with Sasha, although they've been together for forever.

I'm really fucking angry at all this relationship bullshit happening all around me. It sucks I can't get anyone to care about me and fetch dinners in town together. I'm not even asking all that, I just want a very sincere, close friend who wouldn't give me up for a girl. Unlike all other friends so far.

Jean looked thoughtful. "Mmm."

"Why?"

Somehow I felt a glint of hope he might want to revive our friendship and ask me out for a small trip. Or even a fucking shitty walk at the park with cheap fries and boring talks.

He leaned back.

"That's cool. If you do happen to make any plans, don't include me, I won't be home.I'm going to the ranch with Mikasa. We'll work there for the weekend and everything, she wanted to see how it is. So we're probably going to be home by Sunday evening."

The sudden urge to rip his face in two was so overwhelming I had to keep silent to press it down.

"You've been really off lately." He talked anyways, despite my emotional stage. "Something's wrong, Eren."

Oh, yeah. Oh, haha, yes. Oh yes, there's a few things.

I turned down to my notebook and took my pen. "No, I'm okay. Just moody."

A while passed as I doodled a cube in the corner of the page.

"Were you expecting me to back down and let you stay like this?" He asked.

"No, but I can't tell you what's wrong," I said, unmoving. "If I tell you what's wrong, I'm dead. If you try to guess what's wrong, I'm dead. Assume it's okay and I'm okay and fuck off for a while, it'll probably bubble up some day, anyways."

"Alright..." His chair creaked a little when he straightened up.

I dared to glance over. Observed his profile for a while. He had the expression of a rejected bitch.

"Not that you fucking care or anything," I spat.

He looked at me and guiltily looked back down.

Whatever. Jean's sudden acts of concern pissed me off. For the past few weeks, he hasn't been thinking about me at all. He was thinking about Mikasa. Everything's nice and all (for them), but this was painful (for me).

College was said to be the time for establishing and keeping the strongest bonds.

Well.

Fuck me, I guess.

This was the last class. After the last class, I had two hours of training, and after that, I was free to go home. I didn't have shifts on Fridays.

Alright, guess who made another mistake? Look, it's Eren! Raising a fucking hand!

After the training, instead of heading downstairs for food or just going home, I walked fifteen minutes to the mall and went straight to the gluten-free section for mindless personal groceries.

I bought this pack of spring onion crackers and a few packs of pasta and aimed to go home, but I felt bad as fuck, so I figured I'd rather cry about it somewhere more private and all alone.

So I aimed past home and went back to the bleachers in the field (or stadium, call it whatever) next to school. The bleachers were a good place when it wasn't the season yet. It was even better at winter break. Pixis never took them down during winter, it asked for too much effort. He didn't even know the seats were rusty and the screws got fucked up. It was always Levi who paid reconstruction fees, and in the end, it's generally just Levi who had them taken down and up again.

But in winter it was cool, the snow covered the gaps and seats and we hung out underneath. We used to throw all our old shit (like notebooks and school papers) in barrels from Jean's ranch and lit those up. Then sat a whole night there, under rusty seats, and talked about life. I thought it was beautiful, until a point we all grew up. I mean, we still did that last winter, just not as often and not as sensual.

Honestly, now, my stomach is tingling, because I know we're never doing it again.

The barrel burning was when I was still with Annie. It's actually where we first kissed.

We'd been going out for a few days or a week, I guess, and I was still absolutely struck by her ever liking me back. She did talk about me worrying too much, said it's just fucking college and I need to calm down. But it's not easy. Calming down with Annie as my girlfriend didn't go together.

So one night, Jean called me and asked if we're burning a barrel. I had the sickest tingles in my stomach when he asked if I'm taking Annie, too. I found the dim light, orange tones and general darkness the most romantic thing ever, so I quite obviously said I'm taking her with me. I thought she'd enjoy it.

I called her right after and asked if she's up for it. Felt obnoxiously happy when she agreed.

I picked her up in my dad's car (he drove a black Toyota back then; the Subaru is quite recent) and we talked about the upcoming dance night. Never quite got the idea she might've wanted to go. But the dance is just for the first two years, thirds and seniors have a night like that a week later.

Right now, I'm sitting in the middle row of the bleachers cross-legged, tired, pissed and sad, eating my fucking gluten-free crackers and wondering what went wrong, and why. Felt like I'm actually fucking just about to cry. I closed my eyes and kept thinking.

I remember we got out of the car and walked to the bleachers from the parking lot. It's a few minute walk. I held her hand because she didn't have gloves, and it was pretty fucking chilly out. I do remember what she wore and how she looked.

My heart feels like someone's ripping it out. :^)

Mustard-color Timberlands, black jeans and a dark blue jacket with a faux fur hood. Hair up, as usual.

God.

I looked up, to the cloudy sky.

Jesus.

Connie also had Sasha along, so I didn't feel like a complete asshole for dragging my girlfriend with me. Jean had a girl I didn't know, but by her stance and his expression, it didn't look like they're more than friends.

There were a few more people from school I'd never been too close with.

We sat on the long benches they take off the field in winters. I had Annie's thigh over mine and held it with both hands. She just had hers on my thigh, without holding.

Jean's friend had small speakers. She asked if we wouldn't mind indie rock.

Annie knew I hate indie rock, so she just grinned when I said I don't mind. Surely, my heart was breaking, but I've got to be the white knight. Over the time someone asked for specific songs, and the music got better.

We listened to Grizzly Bear and Tears Over Fears.

I kissed her when Bee Gees' "I Started A Joke" was playing.

I opened my eyes and sat up. Reality's what I want the least now, but I think I need to go home before I get self-destructive.

It wasn't sunny. Sun peeked out once in a while, but not often, and majority of the time, it was just blue clouds. Some of the seats around me were wet. The plastic grass on the field was also wet, and I only then realized how humid it felt.

The ugliest Friday yet.

And I thought it wouldn't be more adventurous than me crying about Annie, but here's what happened: look, you know that feeling when you're in danger but you can't or don't want to move? And have your cheeks stuffed with salty crackers? Dirty fingers and some killer depression? I thought I was careful when I left school. I took a lot of time getting my jacket, going to the mall, buying the crackers and pasta, standing in the line, so either I didn't notice, or he really had an eye out for me.

Nile, I mean.

Nile was marching across the stadium. Casually. Like ever.

I tried to breathe and continue eating. Then I just looked to the side and tried to recite at least the first line of The Holy Bible so Nile doesn't come up here and try to ignite a conversation. I wasn't really ready, and I had no idea what he might want.

One cracker, I counted. Two, three. A cracker per his three steps. Five crackers and he's walked fifteen steps, fifteen meters. Nile had long legs. Ten crackers, it's a thirty.

Levi's thirty. Thirty's a good age to still hang on porn. He must've been a slayer in bed. No idea how old Nile is, though. His beard signifies he's older, but it might be an assumption only.

The field was a good hundred or more meters long.I'd finish my crackers sooner than Nile was here, so I slowed down and ate a cracker for each fifteen of his steps. I ran out of them, either ways.

Mouth full of salty crackers, I stared at the distant town. I probably looked interested in it. Eren Jaeger, twenty, single. Practices landscape staring as a hobby. Date this man.

I felt the seat under me shake and I knew he was here.

"Thought you were one of the junkies who burned the barrels," Nile said. "But it's a rumor and you all kids are fakers. There's nothing underneath. Pixis complained there's always barrels there. You know anything about it?"

"Where'd you get that from?" I turned to him. "Doubt anyone does that here."

Was this small talk? I tried to act casual.

"I've got sources."

He smiled and stood on the first step, hands in the pockets of his jeans. I lost all my urge to kill along with my bad mood, because, asides from Levi's threats and warnings, Nile wasn't an obsessive sex-haver, and I couldn't force myself thinking bad about him when he's this calm-looking. Slow steps, eyes focused down. There was a smile tugging on the corners of his mouth.

I wondered what was he thinking about.

"Are you waiting for someone?" He asked. Calmly.

A part of me screamed staying loyal to Levi would be better, the other part screamed for having my own opinion on this man. And, you know, sometimes, I fall for the best.

"No," I said. "I'm having great leisure time with an empty pack of spring onion crackers."

"Neat."

"Yeah."

He just stood down there and I sat all the way up to the third row, and we looked at each other. Phrases of what Levi told me fled around my head like a swarm of annoying flies and I tried to swat them all away.

Mentally, of course, otherwise Nile would've written me down as socially unacceptable.

"You can come sit down" was what I was just going to say, but he seemed quicker.

"I'll sit down, if you don't mind." Nile stepped up. I moved my bag to the side and wiped the seat with the sleeve of my sweater because I was loving and caring.

He sat down and the silence stretched out once again. My leg was in an awkward position since the weight of my bag was noticeable, but I didn't want to move anything. It would ruin the silence and make it more uncomfortable than it was.

Nile sucks cock, I kept reminding myself. Nile has three kids and he sucks cock for money.

I cleared my throat and straightened up as casually as I could.

Oh, casualities.

"I actually came here for a reason," he finally admitted. "I have to talk to you."

Oh my god. Oh my god, so this is it, breach the wall, Nile. Tell me your secret, seduce me. Get me into porn. Tell me how cool being gay is.

I looked at him and crumpled the packet. "I'm all ears."

"Can you trust me?"

Well, it depends. I don't know if I can trust you. Levi told me it's not a smart thing, Nile, do you think I should listen to Levi? Levi's been around for long. So you tell me, can I trust you?

"Yeah," I said.

Nile looked at me. "Do you trust me?"

Again, Nile, do I trust you? I think this is more personal, Nile. I think this is you asking about my own private attitude towards you. You're expecting me to be unsure and with shaky ground. You think I don't know.

"Don't look like a threat," I lied. "Why?"

"Because I need to convince you about something and it needs a lot of trust from your side. You know, I notice a lot of things." His eyes weren't on me anymore, voice silent, smooth and professional. "I notice your patterns of skipping school, patterns of mood change and aggression."

"That's stupid," I said. "I'm just hormonal."

"Destroying a Capri Sun while staring at me is also stupid."

"I don't usually have big mood changes."

He agreed. "Yeah, but it's still a factor. I need you to trust me on one thing. And answer one question. Then I can drive you home."

I considered the offer. Levi would kill me if I agreed.

"Living On The Edge" could start playing at any given moment.

"That's exclusive." I nodded. "I'm all ears take two."

His fingers were playing with the watch on his wrist, eyes still forced somewhere down to the field. I had yet another great chance to observe his flawless profile and everything that came along. His sweater, his shirt underneath, his nice, tidy trim.

"Who is Levi to you?" He asked.

The question hit me like a hot wave of air. My mouth fell open and gaped a little. I decided to turn away and pay attention to the crumpled packet down in my hands. And shut my mouth.

While Nile didn't have a reason to ask me this; because he didn't know what I knew, I still felt like there was a good moment he noticed between Levi and I that made him go, like,"Yeah, this is it, this looks right, I should ask Eren what's up.". None of the boys in my team held any suspense towards us, so I figured it was a Nile kind of thing, and maybe because he knew Levi a lot more better than anyone here.

I brought my hand up to my forehead and rubbed it. "If I'm getting a ride home for telling you what's two plus two, I'd do math every day."

He laughed. "Funny, but I'm serious."

"He's my coach, always has been."

I wasn't lying. I've known Levi worked here and coached Jersey's best team since I was a kid, dreamed about it in high school, and actually achieved my dream now, in college.

"Best one I've ever had. He's good at what he's doing. I don't regret joining his team."

"Just a coach, you say?" Nile looked down. "Nice."

"Yeah."

"But you spend time together after school, right?"

Bullseye, motherfucker! I knew he's on to something.

I knew I shouldn't have felt guilty, or caught, but I still flinched back and frowned. Nile shouldn't have known, unless Levi spilled it. Nile should have no idea we kept meeting up from time to time.

"How the fuck would you know?" I asked, also very spot-on.

We stared at each other for a good while. I felt my heart calm down, but my blood was still boiling. What caught me the most was his own surprised reaction, like he didn't expect it at all. Me answering that way, I mean.

Being protective over the fact that, yes, indeed, we meet after school sometimes.

And then he smiled.

"Busted," Nile said.

Fuck, he didn't even know! What the fuck did I say that for, then?

And he stood up. "Let's get to the car."

"Oh, come on, what the fuck?" I fell back and heard the seat creak. "You never got to the sensitive convincing part. You said you had to convince me!"

"The car, Eren," he purred.

I felt pissed, but I listened to him and got up.

I trashed the cracker packet underneath the bleachers and took my jacket (I had it under my ass for the whole time; wet seats). Nile was down and walking already, and I noticed it was something Levi did a lot. He walked in a quick pace and didn't care if I could catch up.

He just knew I would. Like a fucking puppy.

Threw the jacket over my shoulders messily, took my bag that weighed a shit ton and crashed down the stairs to walk after Nile. At the moment I realized walking just wouldn't do, I began running, and that was also the moment he stopped walking and figured he had to wait up a little.

We walked in silence when I joined him. Until the end of the stadium, at the toilets, he pulled out his phone.

"Would it hurt you if I took you with me to sign my papers?" Nile asked. "I mean, you can stay in the car, I won't be long. Two to three pages, a handshake, and I'm back."

I curled my lip. "Yeah? Yeah, I guess. I hope driving me home isn't a big problem or anything."

"I offered driving you home, so I'm driving you home." He slipped the phone back in his pocket. "Jesus. Don't act like I'd be the utmost asshole."

"Okay, I'm just saying."

His car was parked in a different place where Levi's usually was. Levi parked his car at the back exit of the hall, the one nobody ever used. Besides us, back at the time when he called me out and I had to touch my way to the toilet and not piss myself. That was so nice, a very moody night.

Nile's car was parked in the school's actual parking lot, by the entrance. He drove a pretty, black Mazda 6. Maybe a little too sleek for me, but classy and on point.

So we got inside and I finally got to take a break from quick pacing and everything. Nile didn't start the car yet; he was typing something on his phone. I got mine out, too. No new messages, no calls. Normally, I'd have at least two or three from Jean. Guess all the credit went to Mikasa now.

"Fucking co-workers," Nile finally said. I watched him tuck his phone in the space under the radio system. "I hate having a regular job."

Yeah, must be tiring.

I just nodded.

He started up the car. It didn't have the nice, low purr like Erwin's, or the aggressive roaring like Levi's, it just felt smooth and good, and neutral. I noticed I kept comparing Nile to those two, and told myself to stop.

Got through the main parking lot, drove out the territory. Hit the streets. We still weren't talking, so I thought, hey, come on. Don't leave me hanging.

"About what I said," Nile spoke up. "The convincing, I think."

"Yeah, I was just about to ask."

"What do you usually do together with Levi?" He asked.

I wondered if it's smart to let him know.

"Eren, you told me you spend time with him already. Not like there's much you're losing."

He's got a point.

I stared at the street in front. "We hang out. Sometimes he buys me ice tea."

Like, once, literally.

I thought it was a clever mention, but when I looked over at Nile, I felt like punching myself. He looked serious and really, really determinated, and the realization I should've never told him anything was like a cheese shredder against my face.

"That's nice," he sourly said.

"Is there something I should know?"

He turned to me at the next red light, fingers tight around the wheel. I noticed a ring. Still married?

""Something you should know" is a weak thing to say. I can't and won't go in detail, it's a danger for my own reputation, but..." Nile looked back at the road. "Promise me you won't get involved with Levi, will you?"

I gaped at him like he'd shit light bulbs. Wasn't this exactly what Levi told me about Nile? "Avoid Nile, he's a threat. Don't ever get involved with Nile. Deny offers, make up excuses."

That's what Levi said to me. He told me to avoid Nile, and now Nile told me to avoid Levi.

What the fuck?

"What the fuck," I said. Didn't ask, I just said. Like, rhetorically. "Why would I avoid Levi?"

"I've got no big say in this, it's just a recommendation. I'm adult enough not to interfere. There's simply things about him you don't know."

No, Nile, you don't fucking understand. Levi's healthy for me. He's full of everything I want to be, Nile, you don't understand. Nile, I know things about him. Trust me. I know things about you, too.

"I'm not going to avoid him, we're..." I fumbled with words. "I'm...we're friends. He's not just a coach, we're friends, we've been through a lot together. He's like a big brother, like, I don't know. Family. So I'm not avoiding family."

"Stick to him and you're getting pretty much nowhere," Nile said. "He'll drag you in his...lifestyle. It's really shitty, haha. You'll regret it after you've dropped out of college."

I only now fully realized the foundation was the whole pornography thing. Levi was warning me to avoid Nile so he doesn't pull me in it, and now Nile's telling me the same thing about Levi. Except Levi had an incredibly bigger chance of having me on his side. I know him for a lot longer while than I do Nile, but then again, it's also a dangerous factor, and he might use it against me, in any case.

You know, these two are going at it like sick fucking dogs.

"I'm not going to avoid Levi," I said. "I'll be warned, thanks, but I won't do that."

Nile only shook his head.

We remained on the road for another ten minutes at least. I watched the buildings around us grow in size; there were more windows, more sophisticated houses, more glass, more reflections. Less people, just cars. Knew we drove downtown.

He drove off the street at a crossroad, and after that, another one. We arrived at a nice, asphalted parking lot that stretched at least fifty meters 'till a building. There were six-stories on both sides of the lot, but it looked like Nile was interested in the central one, the highest, more office-like.

The house (?) was in a nice, warm chocolate milk color, temperate with details. It had a lot of windows, just like the other buildings, and a glass door, which, on the contrary, the others didn't have. A woman walked inside. I watched the door slide open and close. Cool. What is this place?

I turned to Nile and sunk deeper in my seat. "Looks like a nice place. I'd probably take more than ten minutes if I were you. Sheek artist house."

There was a glint of suspense in his eyes.

"Good to know," he then said. "I'll be back in a second."

Nile got out the car, pulled on his sweater and locked the car. Then he left. I watched him slide the cool door and walk inside.

I finally sighed and stretched, and felt free. Mental exhaustion. I was doing so much wrong that day. If Levi knew how I spent my afternoon, he'd probably lose all faith in me, and I'd end up being hated by everyone, not just Jean, Mikasa, and the rest.

And, speaking of Levi; like that saying goes, where you talk of the wolf, there it is.

Around the time ten minutes should've passed as a minimum, I was slouching in the seat, knees resting against Nile's preppy salon. He parked the car behind a massive truck, so my window was partly shielded, but I could still see the entrance through it. The front window wasn't dimmed as all others, though. It didn't disturb me.

Until a point.

The glass door slid open again and I slowly sat up, convinced it was Nile.

It wasn't Nile, and my heart totally dropped down to my stomach.

So there's Levi, walking out of the place, phone in hand, dressed in a cornflower blue shirt and black jeans.

I swear, at that point, I could've just jumped out of the car and ran up to him. If only the car wasn't locked, and if only I wasn't in a mentally bad state where all my cells froze.

I took in account the fact that I'm in Nile's car and I'm not supposed to be here.

His shirt was thin and plain, he had the sleeves rolled up and the upper buttons weren't buttoned.

I tried to breathe steadily and push myself closer to the dimmed window and the door so he wouldn't notice me by any chance. I was in doubt he even could, but I clung to safety.

Levi stood in front of the exit and stared down at his phone. I saw his fingers move as he typed a message. My own phone was squeezed between the door and my thigh, and I had no reason to pull it out. Until it buzzed, literally at the same second I pressed it even closer to the door.

I stared at Levi while reaching down in my pocket at the same time. He wasn't looking at his phone anymore, he was looking up now.

My phone was uncomfortably big for these jeans.

I checked the message, and it was obviously from Levi.

[16:34:01, Friday] Coach: Are you busy?

I wished I could've told him where I was.

He turned around, as if he'd actually heard me think, and slowly backed off. I guessed, maybe he's backing off to his car. It gave me an opportunity to relax my pose a little. I still typed the message out furiously quick without checking what I wrote. Due to stress, you know. Only when his attention was caught by the message did I look at what I sent.

[16:35:56, Friday] Eren: YEQS ,

Ohhh, fuck, great! All-caps! Now I looked really busy.

I watched Levi frown and look up. He did that for a while, then raised his brows, began typing something, shook his head, looked up, looked down, and finally called someone.

Clenched my phone in my hand and readied myself to drop the call as soon as his icon popped up.

It never did.

He talked to someone else for a really short while and my frustration only grew. I wished Nile would've left the windows open so I could hear. I wished I could yell for Levi. He'd free me from this car and drive me home and probably lecture me the whole way.

He didn't look like leaving after ending the call, though.

The door behind him slid open and my long awaited Nile came outside, trying to comb his hair back together. Levi turned around, lazily, and I watched him slide his hands in his back pockets.

I think they talked about something. I noticed Nile kept moving past Levi, towards this car, step by step, slowly and carefully, but he didn't break their eye contact to check if I was okay.

My brain was racing. Levi probably called Nile, and Nile was close enough for a meet-up. How fucking stupid of me to assume Levi would've called because he cared enough.

:-|

Both my legs felt grainy and heavy. I kept pushing myself up to the door to hide better. I knew I wouldn't last much longer, this was all I got.

Nile had walked around Levi to a point where his face wasn't visible and Levi's was. And, man, Levi was angry. At least he looked like he was. Again the hostile stance, and everything, again the MMAs.

Nile's stance was relaxed. His hands were still in his pockets while Levi pulled his out almost right after he slid them in.

Nile began gesturing, Levi followed every movement. Hand up, arms wide, do a circle, poke his chest. Then his thumb casually fell over his shoulder. Levi followed that, too.

Our eyes met.

I didn't read into the situation until a few seconds passed and it hit me.

His face expressed nothing but regret and slight disbelief. The brows were lowered.

I felt my legs giving out and I fell back in the seat. And since the car was locked, the security system went off.

The alarms went off.

I was sitting in Nile's alarming car, having a great, heart-wrenching moment with Levi while Nile probably enjoyed this all somewhere in the depths of Hell.

And he just left Levi there. Nile turned around and unlocked the car, and even dared to smile over his shoulder.

The alarm stopped and I slid down in my seat, breaking off the eye contact and losing all my motivation for the weekend. I heard Nile push the key in the ignition and turn it, and I felt the soft sound and a little vibration. A few beeps and clicks. But I didn't care much.

I knew what Levi assumed. Now I also suspected what the building was. There's no other place they both could simultaneously be at.

Nile cleared his throat. "I didn't tell him anything you wouldn't want him to know."

"Fuck you," I said. Silently.

"Well, you're sure in a mood."

I was in "a mood" the entire way home. I told Nile to drop me at the bus stop because I didn't want him to know where I lived. Which was idiotic, because right after getting out of his Mazda, I remembered our addresses are all listed down in our player files, and he had those.

That's why I wondered he knew where to go.

He'd planned everything today.

I went upstairs to my room, plopped in my bed, and just laid there for a while.

Mikasa won't be home this weekend, neither will be Jean. I'll be alone at work and at home, too, because mom has a new project.

So in general, the house is mine.

I went downstairs and took a bottle of red wine. And as I stared at the bottle, I realized something.

Levi didn't call Nile. He couldn't have called Nile.

Nile's phone was in the car, under the radio system.

Chapter Text

"Eren?"

I turned. "Yeah?"

"Don't you think we have something to talk about?"

It's a Sunday, and it's fucking eight in the morning.

"No."

Mikasa and I were at Sports Authority. We emptied our espresso cups and tried acting like we knew what was going on. Mike left earlier in the morning and took his Schnauzer along. He said he'd be back at around noon, so the store was left to us entirely. I used it. So much.

All this equipment still smelled like plastic and fresh rubber, something mechanized and industrial, all these clothes, tight materials, fit and unstretched, clear white shoe soles, packs of shoelace, kneads, straps, gloves, fuck! I swear I could've soiled my boxers from the new store refill. This place's made for me to work at, I swear, I'm never leaving.

Jean and Mikasa came back from the ranch this morning. Her cheeks were a little tan, so were her shoulders, but she looked like shit due to how early they woke up. I actually thought they'd stay the entire weekend, at least that's what I understood from Jean.

Mikasa watched me moan at the shoe boxes the entire morning.She watched me wrap myself in scuba suits and try out every single soccer ball there was. I would've been okay with all that if she didn't look like she's constantly pissed, and when we got to the point of talking, she had a box cutter in her hand.

Which kind of made me uneasy.

There was Eurosport running on the LCD. I was only able to hear the translation since my sinned position was right underneath the TV station. All the times I tried to step back and lurk up, Mikasa threatened me with the box cutter and said work is way more important.

We had a few customers from time to time, mostly the local hikers or swimmers. Sometimes groups of local girls dropped by to buy water or soda, or some fitness junk. Then I had to serve them, because Mikasa always refused. She said it's pretty humiliating to watch me try swatting them off.

At times like these, I curse Sports Authority for having sports attire as uniforms. At least I don't have to wear fucking running leggings. Girls would probably love me in sports leggings.

We had a fridge behind the counter, a few shelves for protein junkies, and a diet complimentary shelf with protein packed fitness bars and commercialized bullshit. Mike said we can drink whatever is stored in the lower part of the fridge and not pay for it.

And when I sometimes say the weather in New Jersey is as biased as I am on life opinions, I'm not kidding. Last Friday was cloudy and cold, it even rained; now it's the same week's Sunday, except it's June now, and it's so scorching hot I can't even stand still in a t-shirt and sweatpants.

Lunch pause was closing in and the heat outside was too bothering for anyone to be interested in coming to the store, so I asked Mikasa if she wanted to take a break.

"Yeah, grab some water," she said and went to the storage room.

It was barely noon, and my forehead was wet. I wondered how hot would it get in the real heat period. In, like, July.

I fetched two water bottles, placed a "BRB" sign on the counter, and went after Mikasa.

The storage room was cold, dusky and nice. Smelled like drying water and wet carton. Mikasa was sitting on the bottom of a flipped plastic box, and tapped on another one. I gave her one of the bottles and settled.

We were cooling down in silence, but her constant observing was somehow off. She kept looking at me like she's expecting me to say something, ignite a conversation, something of that sort.

So I drank my water until it got a little weird.

"What is it?" I uncomfortably moved. "Am I supposed to say something?"

Mikasa shrugged. "No. I'm kind of trying to tell you something, but I can't figure out how to make it sound good. I think I'll just roll with it."

"Okay."

"Eren, remember when Jean was sick a while ago? And we went to his place with half a watermelon and avocados."

I pulled my knees up to my chest and rested against the wall. I looked up, at the shelf in front.

"Mmm, yeah. Probably."

"Remember what you said in the bus?"

I tried to remember, but nothing asides the worry of telling Jean I'm going with Mikasa didn't come in mind. I did remember telling Mikasa about Veteran's park and something like that, but not in exact details.

"I'm probably ruining the moment, but I don't, babe. Sorry. Was it important?"

"No. I remember everything. It would just be easier for me to say it if you had a clue what I'm talking about."

"Mikasa, just talk, I'm fucking curious."

She also pulled her knees to her chest. She crossed her ankles and put the water bottle in-between.

"You know I used to live in Japan when I was a kid, right? I lived in Yakumo."

"Yeah. You told me that time at the restaurant."

"When I turned eleven, we moved to the States. We didn't live in New Jersey at first. We lived in Michigan for a year or over, and then moved to New York. Later, from New York, down to the outskirts of New Jersey. I think I was about thirteen by that time, and I kept changing schools."

I remembered how hard it was for me to just transfer from middle to high school.

"Didn't you have the fucking toughest time with English and shit?"

"Not like I didn't cry most of the time," she said. "Yeah. I had a private teacher. My parents were pretty accustomed. Not like they've ever had any problems in this family. Seems like I'm the only one being fucked around by life."

I nudged her with my shoulder, to cheer her up.

"I mean, how's that not true? They make me learn fucking English in the span of a single summer, then they move again, and then I'm forced to move away for high school, and now, when I'm back, they throw me out."

My head turned almost automatically. "You moved away for high school?"

"I was fifteen, yeah. Moved back to New York and lived with my uncle. This is kind of the point of the story I want you to know about."

"I'm listening."

"I went to middle school, here, in New Jersey."

"Okay?" I still didn't get it.

"Same school as Jean."

I leaned back immediately, looked outside the door, and turned back to her. If they went to the same school, Marco should remember her. Fuck, is she fucking around?

"You're kidding," I concluded. "I mean, so? Did you know him?"

"Do you still not remember what you said in the bus?" She let her legs fall back down, exasperated.

I closed my eyes and tried to.

"Jean is excited to meet you." I touched Mikasa's bare thigh with my knuckle. "A little nervous, but he's excited."

She slid lower in the chair and pressed her shins against the front seat. "Oh?"

"Yeah. You're all he's talking about the past week. Really. Give the guy a chance."

"I'm not sure I want someone with previous girlfriends all over New Jersey."

"It's not like that."

Her head jerked backwards. She smiled. "He's had something with almost every girl I've currently talked to. It's sure not like that."

"Mikasa, he's pretty broken. You need to understand that. I guess he was fifteen or sixteen when she broke him. That girl. Jean never tells me her name. I don't think anyone really knows who she is. Sometimes I doubt she even exists." I shrugged. "I don't know. But he's never acted like this before. Crawled out of his skin to say "hi", I mean."

"Can't he just deal with it?" Mikasa closed her eyes. "Her leaving him and me not being interested."

"How'd you know she left him?"

"I guessed."

My eyes shot wide open, and I just as wide-eyed I reached down the pocket of my pants to pull out my phone.

I checked the messages I sent to Jean that day.

[17.04.2015, 16:29:59, Friday] Eren: So are you ever going to tell me who was the girl

[17.04.2015, 16:30:11, Friday] Eren: Cuz mikasa is suspiciously just the most accurate dream girl of yours I could imagine

[17.04.2015, 16:30:23, Friday] Eren: Are you some kind of forbidden long-lost lovers

And then his extremely defensive:

[17.04.2015, 16:30:39, Friday] Jean: Why does it matter all of a sudden

I suddenly realized why Mikasa knew Smoothie King and wasn't amused by Veteran's park.

I suddenly realized why Mikasa didn't really greet Jean when I introduced them.

I suddenly realized why Jean felt so torn over.

I realized everything in the span of seconds.

Mikasa is the rumored first and last actual girlfriend.

"You were the girl who fucked Jean up," I finally murmured. "You fucked him up five years ago, and now you're doing it again."

"I'm not fucking him up, Eren."

"How are you not? You're most likely leaving, anyways."

There was devastation in her eyes. I watched her turn away. Her hair dropped over her shoulders.

"Eren, I came back to Jersey for Jean. Went to your school because I knew you'd be there. Trust me, I wasn't ready for this. I'd never think Jean would be best friends with anyone like you. I didn't even know he's majoring in sports communication."

"I'm not that bad," I mentioned. "He'll be Furman Bisher one day."

"We've been talking about it ever since the evening at Veteran's park. He was desperate for contact details and found me on Facebook," Mikasa continued talking with eyes closed. "Asked me out, just the two of us. From what I understood, he wants to start again. Everything. But Jean's changed so much since back then, I still haven't accustomed."

I widened my eyes. "Really? It's just five years. How could he possibly change? Did you expect him to stay in the state he was when you'd just left him?"

She shrugged.

Not that he has changed much, asides from his entire physical appearance, he's still the same old hurt boy he was back then.

We sat in silence for a while, both looking at our hands. I had a few shallow cuts from the box cutter when I tried to open the packages in the morning. Mikasa didn't. Her hands were small and pretty. The same light feather fuzz on fingers as on her thighs. Her knuckles had the small, light ridge right between. Sleek little fingers and short nails. She once told me she had to keep them trimmed for her martial arts classes.

My hands looked like shit, more or less. Not calloused, just very plain.

"Why didn't you tell me earlier?" I finally asked.

"Because I didn't want you to assume I'm moving things on with Jean and just using you for accommodation."

"Isn't that what you're literally doing?" My voice was slightly rash. "I doubt I'm any else good use for you, Jean, or anyone, other than just leisure time spending, staying at my house and hitting me up when you're bored."

"Yeah, sorry." She stood up. "Like I planned getting kicked out."

I took her by the hand and pulled her back down. Mikasa landed back on the box pretty heavily, and it cracked. She just pulled one knee up and looked down between her foot and thigh.

"It just looks like that lately," I said. "Jean's infatuated with you, you're just hanging around him like you didn't complain he's a boring asshole a few weeks ago. My phone's dead for the past week, Mikasa. I've never had less friends than right now."

"I'm sorry. I know I can't take your friends away from you, but he's doing it himself. He lied about skating to school because he's also not ready to just tell you you're living with his ex-girlfriend who fucked his teenage years up. You think this was fucking easy?"

"What?"

"Telling you. We talked about this on our way to school that morning. Jean kept bugging me about acting so idiotic and not talking to you. I got mad and told him it's a topic entirely up to you both to unravel, then, and I'm not even going to fucking bother."

We sat in silence for a while and both almost simultaneously smirked. Jean's running away from responsibilities, as usual. If he'd really take it as something only he can solve, I wouldn't be hearing anything from Mikasa right now.

She was warm and close, but she didn't touch me. I tried to be as open for it as I could. So we sat, and after a while of silence I realized she's waiting for me to speak.

"I still don't get why you're not living with Jean right now," I said. "Like, he loves you. So much. And he obviously knows you for longer, too, then. Am I seriously just the spare friend to fuck around with?"

"Do you like me?"

"I don't like girls my friends like. As in, if Jean's all over you, no, I don't like you. In any other sense, I would, probably."

"Probably," Mikasa echoed.

"Yeah. I'm currently not in the correct life position for relationships. I doubt you'd ever like me enough for us to be together. Not saying I can't imagine us going out on dates and spending a lot of time together, but you're obviously reserved for Jean, and I'm not tearing you away."

She looked at me, thoughtfully.

Our legs were pressed together at that point. She was leaning on me and I had my back against the wall. If Mike walked in, he'd think we had a moment.

"I want everything to be alright again," she said. "I know I liked being with him and that's why I came back, but now I can't get used to how different he is. He's matured so much. Changed, a lot. He's gotten smarter, less obnoxious and less of a teen. I was... I expected him being the same."

"No, you expected him having slid down after you left," I interrupted. "It happened and he gave up. Then we both started college and I managed to talk him out of this fucking shit. Mikasa, when I'm saying you fucked him up, I mean it quite literally. You have no idea what position he was in. Jean looked like shit for three and a half years straight until I forced him to get his shit together and start looking for someone new. Apparently, you left quite a hole, because he's still whining about this once in a while."

She brushed her face with the sleeve of my sweater.

"I didn't leave him just like that. We didn't officially break up."

My insides trembled. "You just left? Without saying anything?"

A guilty nod.

Holy fuck.

"Mikasa, would you feel really offended if I called you a fucking bitch right now?" I lowered my voice at the insult. "God, now it's fucking obvious. He probably thought you died."

"I've been calling myself even worse names by now." Her fingers sank in her oily hair and she looked up at me. "We were fifteen. I didn't think he liked me seriously enough. Thought he'd just get over it and forget me, eventually."

"Good thinking! Looks like it worked."

"Shut the fuck up."

We stayed in the chilly storage room for at least ten more minutes. I listened to the AC and Eurosport mixing back in the store. There were a few fat flies in the room itself, so it was mainly the only distracting noise, but we didn't talk anymore. Mikasa just rested against me and I cooled down and received her heat at the same time.

Hours could've passed if Mike hadn't arrived back. He caught us being lazy. Came in the storage room after raiding the store and realizing nobody's at the counter. He saw us piling up.

Good thing Mike wasn't the guy to be an asshole about it. He just looked at the clock and back at us with this cocky "get back to work unless love unemployment" smile, and we went back to work.

Mikasa and I worked 'till six o' clock. Saturdays weren't customer days, that's a fact. We had to get home by walking; Jean only dropped Mikasa off in the morning while having the time.He spent the rest of the day at the ranch. With his parents and all. He tends to spend the weekends there.

I took the bus in the morning, but didn't have spare change for it right now.

I felt a bit worn out and missed the cool air in the storage room as we began walking home. My bag was light, only had my spare, stinky sweatshirt and wallet in there.

The heat was overwhelming.

Mikasa had my red hoodie tied around her hips and I wondered how was she not sweating her skin off. She also had a purple DRI-Fit Nike running tee on, though, guess that stuff absorbed. Mike gave it to her as a new employee gift or something. I got one, too.

My least favorite color was purple. :-| I gave the shirt to Jean. It fit me pretty snugly.

Erwin was on his porch. Sat on the wooden chair, read a book and held the water hose over the rails of the porch. Great, watering. I waved a hi, but he (kind of) deflected it. There was a smile,but it died too soon. I found it really weird.

"Carla, we're home!" Mikasa called, entering the house. "Eren did a shit job at work again, as per usual!"

"I fucking did not!"

I shook off my shoes and threw my bag on the stairs, knowing I'll have to pick it up when I leave to my room. Praying for the safety of my stomach and nothing being underneath me, I slid to the couch in the living room and fell down, face-first.

"Your socks leave wet trails," Mikasa said, still at the front door. "Your feet probably stink."

"Fuck off, babe."

I reached down underneath myself to fetch the TV remote poking my thigh.

Mom called Mikasa to help her with the lasagna. I didn't want to think about food at that point.Hot, burning food. Stringing cheese.

A wave of heat surged over my face and I flipped around on my back. The thought alone made me sweat and want to pull my shirt off.

I watched Eurosport for a while. Didn't miss much during our walk home. Tennis was still on, and it fucking bored me until a point it switched to female tennis on a different channel. I pictured Mikasa serving, and actually liked the mental image. I should tell her to join school's tennis team. She'd get a nice letterman jacket.

I heard a knock on the front door. Since my ladies were in the kitchen, I called I'm taking the door and slid out of the couch.

Our front door used to have five little, square windows down in a row. Dad changed the door when I was nine. I shot a slingshot through two of the squares, and the new door was just solid wood, so I couldn't figure who's knocking. I assumed it might be Erwin.

I opened the door, bracing myself for the previously mentioned, but I couldn't recall Erwin being my height.

"Armin, what the fuck?" I breathed out in shock. My lips curved up in a grin. "Hi! You could've called me."

He shrugged and instantly pushed his piercing deeper up. "Whatever. I was at Erwin's. He's got mad cool books over there. Advanced human anatomy, only, like, ten volumes."

I watched him try to look past me. Then he focused on me and let the piercing go.

"You look dapper, by the way," he added.

"Holy shit."

"Your sentences are not constructive. Is that lasagna?"

"Yeah.You're practically right on time for dinner."

"Cool. Your mom's home?"

"Mhm. Mikasa, too."

Armin pushed his hands back in his jacket and looked up. He was slightly shorter. I didn't even have to tilt my head down. But I'm used to being the tallest fucker between my friends. Asides from Reiner and Bertie.

They're not normal.

"Mikasa, alright, sounds great," Armin said. "Introduce me."

I stepped back from the door and let him in.

Armin was the best shit I had ever met. He also had fucking cool fits. All his clothes looked like the expensive shit people post on their blogs with high-res pictures.

Obviously, mom fell in love with Armin before I even introduced him, and Mikasa looked just as friendly as she used to with Marco. Except now she actually expressed some interest asides from just saying Armin's great. Asked questions, engaged in conversations.

The dinner was awkward for me.

We ate the lasagna in silence before I choked on my glass of water due to the stress and uncomfortable distance between me and everyone else around the table. At first I thought I reeked of sweat, but then I realized they were just too good and advanced to talk to me. When that came to mind, I choked.

Armin even took off his snapback during the meal, and I finally saw his hair to it's full potential. It wasn't sweaty or greasy like mine was on the second day after washing. He just had pure, blond locks. Straight and tidy.

My jealousy was raging. I pictured what my hair looked liked from the place he sat at. Take in consideration how hot it was, plus I hadn't washed my hair in three days.

My hair most likely looked like oily, slightly wavy shit.

Mikasa finished her meal first. She shoved her plate in the dishwasher and ran upstairs. Armin was the next one to finish because he only ate one piece. Mom obviously offered some more, but he refused.

I was shoveling the third piece of lasagna down my throat and left my plate for mom to take care of. Guess which angel put his dish in the machine just as Mikasa did, though.

My mom was absolutely in love with Armin, and I had to admit, Armin was showing his brightest side.

I picked my bag up on our way to my room. I told mom we're going to study, so it's not recommended to disturb us. Armin had a bag with him, too. He'd left in on top of mine on the stairs. His was surprisingly heavy, but I didn't bother figuring why.

"My room is a huge mess. Is that okay?" I asked. "Don't go in the bathroom for a while, I'll tidy it up."

"Were you shaving?" He asked.

"Yeah."

"You got a cut right by your ear," Armin pointed out. I felt him press a finger on the spot. Fuck, I scratched it the whole day. Somewhere slightly underneath my chin.

Slightly embarrassed, I placed my fingers over the cut and let him go in the room first. I threw my bag on the bed and closed the door right after.

"Really, though," I began and turned around. "If it's too messy, we can go down to the living room, and--"

My jaw fell and I just stared at what he's pulling out of his bag.

"Armin?" I doubtfully asked.

He looked up. "What?"

"Is that a fucking bong?" I pointed at the black tube-like object. "Is that a fucking bong in my room?"

"Yeah," he said. "I got a pack of weed for tonight. I'm feeling super sleazy and emotional."

"You're fucking kidding."

"Am not."

"Open the windows first. I don't want mom to smell anything."

Armin shook his head. "It's warmer inside the room, so opening the windows won't help. Smoke sticks to the warmer air. It'll stench, anyways. Get used to it."

I whined.

"You'll take a hit too, right?" He asked and sat down on the edge of my bed. "I got enough for us both. Was hoping you'll join me, but I didn't know if you smoked or not."

"How much is "enough for us both"?" I asked and pulled the window open, because he obviously wasn't doing that.

"Enough for the cops to get involved, I guess, but if you want a number, I've got around five or six grams worth."

That costs a little money.

"You're sick," I said. "You're fucking sick. You could've warned me, Armin. I'll go clean my toilet."

"I love abrupt ideas. Sure, I'll set this up."

I walked to the bathroom and closed the door behind me. After a while of hesitation, locked it, as well. I washed down the remnants of my morning shave in the sink, slowly and peacefully. The hairs got all caught up in the water. I raised my head and stared at myself in the mirror.

The bruise on my face had slightly faded. Now it's a boring green. The one on my ass doesn't exist anymore, and the hip just has a weak outline left.

There was a knock on the bathroom's door. I almost pissed myself.

"I need warm water for the bong," Armin said. "I had Mountain Dew, we could've used that, but I drank it."

"You smoke weed with Mountain Dew?" I asked and closed the tap. "Isn't that fucking crazy?"

"Yeah. It just gets you super high on CO2. The feeling's amazing, unless you get a whitie."

"There might be a bottle of Mountain Dew in the fridge," I called back. "But it's downstairs. I'll take a piss. I have a half-emptied water bottle under my bed."

Armin let out an odd noise. "I'll take the same thing, then."

"Okay."

After being done, I opened the door.

There sat Armin, legs crossed, snapback next to him, and all the sweet equipment laid in front.

And this guy was said to help me with college, or something.

We did preparations. I took my computer and prepped it on a pile of pillows in front of us. All the movies Armin linked me to watch were saved in a folder I named after a string of random letters, and I had that folder open right then. He poured the water, I pulled down the blinds and pushed my beanbag chair in front of the door as a barricade of some sort.

Then we did it.

Wasn't my first time smoking weed, but a first time at bongs. At first I didn't inhale deep enough. I felt the taste of the smoke and tangerines, and something else. Then Armin took a hit, you know, to show me how it has to be done properly.

He did it nice and professional, and made smoking weed look like a classy advertisement. The way he held the tube and cherried the weed was the coolest and most considerate thing I've ever seen anyone do.

My next times were crazy. Armin warned me about dragging too hard at a breath too shallow, but I didn't figure what it was until I felt it.

"That's the whitie," Armin said and carefully took the bong from my shaking hands. "You're having a whitie. Lie down and think about brighter days."

I lightly trembled for a few minutes and held on to my pillow.

The rest of the evening was spent in emptying Armin's pack and watching movies and boring sports games. He smoked two thirds or more, I cut through only a little. He said I did good for a first time.

The effect began settling down a while after smoking. Everything in the Lakers' basketball match seemed hilarious as fuck, I wasn't following any of their movements, I just laughed at whatever the fuck they were doing and hit my head against the headboard.

"I'll go lock up in the toilet and do a hotbox," Armin murmured. "Your eyes are fucked, by the way. Don't go downstairs."

"You look like my cousin. Christa."

"Fuck off, I don't look like anyone. I don't even exist. Eren, I'm surreal."

"I'm leaving my body in a few seconds."

"Sweet!"

Best and last thing I recalled from the night was Armin's moaning. He locked himself up in my bathroom, rolled the rug and closed the gap underneath, and fucking hit it so hard he moaned and coughed. I sort of wasn't noticing anything by that point anymore, just laid in my bed and laughed with light, short rounds of laughter.

But Armin moaned pretty loud, and I wondered if Mikasa heard it.

Then I wondered whether Armin had come right in time and guessed how shitty my life was at the moment, maybe I just had to relax and chill out, forget about Nile, Levi, Levi, Levi.

Levi.

Fucking...

Shit.

I rubbed my face in hopes of rubbing away the name.

"Get lost," I murmured, generally to myself, but more directly at Levi, even if he couldn't hear.

I only sent three messages that night.

[23:56:31, Sunday] Eren: SORRY FOR THE FRIDAY

[23:56:49, Sunday] Eren: NILE AND I DONT

[23:57:00, Sunday] Eren: WE'RE NOTHING ALIKE YOU AND I

Didn't know if he ignored me for a reason, or if he was just asleep.


The week was filled with disappointment, heartbreak, nausea and mild, periodical migraines once in a while.

Armin stayed the Sunday night, being in a condition walking was the last option of mobility he'd think of. He slept in my bathroom, claiming he's "okay" and "totally fine", and "you don't even need to bring aspirin, I'm just a little peachy".

His "peachiness" proved itself at four in the morning along with a few emotional cries and a raging session of throwing up.

I did bring him two aspirins and a bottle of water, though. Later on I sat down in my bath, next to him. Armin had his cheek pressed against the lid of the toilet. I asked if it felt good. He said yes.

We laid there in silence. I felt drained and still kinda glossy from the residue of the smoke, not in the mood for talking or fun, even after sleeping through the four hours. Armin had it worse. I didn't think he slept at all.

He didn't throw up after the meds, and I fell asleep. My pants were wet because there was a puddle of water in the bath. Still there from last morning's shower.

My alarm went off at seven; three hours later, and I had to crawl out of the bath, want it or not.

"You pissed yourself," was the first thing Armin said after literal hours of furious vomiting.

I changed to normal, dry clothes and told my struggling friend I was going downstairs to make something for breakfast.

I felt shitty, so I made just as shitty pancakes. Mom ate perhaps two, and Mikasa didn't even consider trying one for the taste.

The only person who took them as a blessing was Armin. He slid down the stairs. I thought he'd fall for a second. Hair sticking to his right cheek, eyes wide, septum askew. There was silence in the kitchen when he sat down.

I peeked at Mikasa, mentally calculating how much could she possibly have heard from last night.

Armin weakly said something about a horror movie marathon. It fueled immediate jokes and responses from mom and Mikasa. He winked at me while caking condensed milk on the plate just so I knew he said it for a reason.

Mikasa also didn't look very suspicious, so I assumed she maybe slept by that time already.

Wrapped up with Armin walking to the bus stop with us.

That was just Monday morning, and not even the following week.

I had a guess the first two weeks of June were just supposed to be fucking devastating. The heat was thrilling, everybody enjoyed the sun and I noticed a pattern of tanning in a few people.There were distant and foggy plans to hang out at the beach on Friday. The topic bubbled up in Monday's training, but as soon as it appeared, it was also dropped.

Nile was extremely moronic the whole week.

And Levi wasn't at any of the three trainings we had. Any of them. He wasn't even at school, and his Cherokee wasn't parked at the back exit of the sports hall.

That got me extremely pissed and worried, because he also didn't respond to my three miserable text messages or the call I tried to make with repetitive, nervous swallows.

For a while I thought he died. Took a vacation, left us, and forgot his promises to protect my sweet ass from Nile's greedy hands and return in shiny armor and coach the team's way to the Regional Cup. Maybe he finally realized there's no future in this school, maybe he went back to porn for good, maybe he went to visit his wife or mother or family, or friends. I just liked all the ideas with the outcome of Levi coming back.

There were good news, too.

Erwin's leaving for his trip.

Partly cool, because I'm getting his house to look after. Partly not cool, because the conversation we had going on over the fence the other day made me uneasy.

"How's Carla doing?"

Erwin was so invested in my mom's well-being it made me upset. But I'd be really cool with it if they started going out and I got Erwin as my dad, it'd be the most radical thing ever. He's sick dad material. He's a Baseball Dad.

"Good," I said. "Good. She's really hyped for the summer, you know? Talking about trips for the past three months. I don't think I'm ready for another drive to Grand Canyon."

"You missed two weeks of school back then." He looked up to the sky. "I'm going for a trip to Orlando on May. Late May. Most likely June in the end. Orlando, or...somewhere more tropical."

"Oh?"

"Mmm. Still can't decide between leaving the house in your hands again, or having Levi live there for a change. For the month I'm away, I mean."

Having Levi live there? You mean, having Levi as my neighbor? Having Levi check me out in the mornings? Levi mowing the lawn?

Levi?

I mean, I knew these two were the ultimate BFF's; Levi's car parked in Erwin's driveway wasn't a rare and valuable sight. The terrace was their top favorite place to hang out, sometimes it's the porch. At luckier summer nights they drank cocktails and joked about the most recent politics bullshit.

"Levi?" I weakly asked.

Erwin nodded. "Carla keeps the place tidy every single summer I'm away, I can't make her do it for the rest of her life."

"But you bring souvenirs," I commented. "She loves souvenirs. The painting from your India trip, for example. It's fucking pretty, you know."

Yeah, she keeps that one on her wall.

Next to around thirty more.

"Still, the guilt is menacing."

I shrugged. "Mom's okay with it."

"I'll ask her," he said.

"You should."

My brain wasn't malfunctioning, I was okay. I just remembered Erwin's idea of leaving the house to Levi.

He told me about the trip on Wednesday, right after the training (he was driving by and able to pick me up), and we cheered. Connie and I ran to the cafeteria and bought melon soda cans for the whole team, Nile included (though he lurked in his office the entire time Erwin was around), and Jean held a speech about how health is wealth and how important have Erwin's high school lessons been to me this year.

He also shamelessly asked if Erwin was going to give Connie and I credit for the soda because we spent over ten bucks, and ten bucks was a lot of money.

What concerned me was Erwin's overall mood. I was also getting interested in his and Nile's relationship. They constantly kept a distance. I recalled the day I eavesdropped and was sure a mention of Erwin popped up once or twice.

The thing bugging me was the atmosphere. The tightness, almost. My vocabulary sucks when I'm thinking right about it, but you get the idea. There was something asides from them both just being Levi's friends.

Atrocious.

Erwin reminded me of a scared golden retriever around Nile.

After the small celebration and a few spilled cans, I helped Erwin tidy up the locker room. He told me a little more about the trip and his destinations, but there weren't any mentions about who would be looking after the house during his month away.

That is, until the point he flicked off the lights and I locked the door after us.

"You won't have to look after the house," Erwin said.

I pulled the door to get the lock clicking.

"I talked about it with Carla. She said she might be away, too, and leaving two houses to you and Mikasa would've been too much of a burden."

"You know it's not a burden at all, but it's totally your decision."

"Still." He paused. "Just don't take it as if I wouldn't trust my house to you. I trust my house to you. You wouldn't burn it."

"Is someone else staying there?" I asked. I knew the answer, bright as day. "I mean, it's not my business, but I'm just wondering if..."

"Yeah, Levi."

"Oh. Levi, then. Okay."

He frowned. "I thought I told you a while ago."

I shrugged and backed off so he could take the place next to me. We began walking down the hall.

"Mhm. I just thought you changed your mind, maybe."

Since it was the absolute end of the school year, the attendance levels had dropped and the student count decreased every day. I'm still the idiot who came to college just because it was a part of my daily schedule and I'd be rotting in my semen if I didn't have a pile of trainings to attend.

That also made me think far enough to consider my possible future. I had to get a full-time job and as little leisure time as possible, otherwise it all just falls back to the old tracks and I end up being a big, horny fuck.

Still wasn't believing I thought about this right next to Erwin.

"Levi's responsible." Erwin was silent. "He's smart, but you'll have to tell him about the knacks of the house he just can't know about. He knows about the tap and the window on the second floor. What doesn't know is the new leak and the lawnmower."

His lawnmower broke last week.

"Wait, so the house is under mine and Levi's care?" I asked. "And you still haven't fixed it? The lawnmower?"

He nodded regarding to the Levi question and shook his head for the lawnmower. "Haven't had the time. You could take a look at it while I'm away. You know where the tools are."

Well, yeah, good, just fucking great, just fuck me up.

"Garage, upper left shelf." I smiled. " Sure. I'll take a look at it."

He also smiled, but was still undeniably off and not Erwin.

I met up with Armin on Thursday again.

I would've never thought parks could be educating and never realized how different Armin was when he tried to knock something in my head. We took a light slip in my level's anatomy and he kept showing me examples on the people walking past. He gestured quite wildly.

I kept remembering he's nineteen and wondering how the fuck is he nineteen still.

After an hour of a brief insight and an overall swell in the back of my head, his crave to go demolish the Top Employee wall at the park's McD onald' s was strong, but I held him back and we just got cheap kebabs (I only got the largest fries because the KEBABS WEREN'T FUCKING GLUTEN-FREE, HOLY FUCK).

He didn't talk much because of what happened last weekend. We just sat there. I ate my fries and he watched me eat with the most angelic face of disgust I'd ever seen. I just ate my fries and kept looking at his kebab with obvious lust. For what reason, no idea, but I got the contents of his wrap in the end, and felt happy.

And so, the following weekend rolled in.

Erwin was supposed to leave on Saturday. He drove me and Mikasa to college on Friday, and asked me if I'd be able to help with packing on Saturday's noon. Mikasa said we have a shift, but I shoved my middle finger straight in her face and told Erwin he should call Mike and tell him the reason I won't be at my sweet workplace that day, because I really wanted to help Erwin with the trip business.

And also squeeze the last bits of information. For example, how is Levi expected to look after the house if he hasn't showed up anywhere for a week straight. :^)

"What are you, the CEO of a fucking...marble company?"

Erwin cackled.

His suitcases and bags weighed fucking tons and I considered three possible contents.

1. Erwin could try transporting corpses or body parts for medical research purpose.

2. Erwin could try transporting illegal seashore pebbles for big money.

3. He was taking all his books along.

"I'm taking a lot of books," he explained. "It's a big trip. I'm sorry I won't be here for the graduation party. Just graduation in general, apologize to Reiner and Bertholdt, please."

I pushed the suitcase deeper in the trunk and sat down on it. Wiped off the sweat from my nose. His expression was so honest I had to turn away to hide my smile.

Later on I carried a few more bags and filled the trunk. Erwin wasn't carrying anything; he just kept setting routes on Waze, frowning and looking good.

Levi, that asshole. He's a fucking baby. I felt bad for sending him the texts last weekend. He didn't need any explanations, he was just flat out an ignorant moron, and didn't need them.

"You're getting along with him, right?"

I looked up. "Who, Levi?"

"Mhm."

"Sort of."

Eren, come on. Be real. You two have the weirdest shit going on. You can tell Erwin, except you don't know how much Erwin knows. But Erwin knows a lot, you're sure about that.

Come on, Eren.

"Hey, about him..." I cautiously spoke up.

"What?" Erwin locked his phone almost the second I mentioned Levi, and turned to me, as if he'd anticipated the topic, or something. "Look, you don't have to watch after the house if you don't want to deal with him. I'll tell him to mow the lawn when you're away."

"What?"

"Was that the problem?"

"Levi?"

"Yes."

"No!" I shook my head, looking up in some sort of disdain. "No. I just want to ask something. About him, to you. Because you know him pretty well, and he's been away for the past while."

There was a visible shift in Erwin's mood. "Alright."

A few cars passed our houses, but it seemed normal considering the village was almost divided by a highway and tourists took shortcuts through here. Erwin's car was parked trunk-to-house, so we didn't see the street. His perfect, tiled mint green garage was open for me to inspect. I just stared at the tools and ignored the constant, low rumble behind.

"It's about the new coach, actually," I silently began.

He stilled.

"Nile."

"What's the deal with Nile?" I murmured. "Everybody here looks so pained when there's a mention. Like..."

I felt myself fume up, but I had to be careful with everything I was going to say.

"Like, Levi, for fucking example. He's fucking dogshit about it. Then Mike, same old Mike. He's usually calm as fuck. I talked about Monday's training with Mikasa once. At the mention of Nile, Mike fucking spilled his drink and left the store. Without his dog." I helplessly threw my hands up. "He never leaves the dog there."

Erwin was calm and collected. He only stared down. I was in the perfect position to count his fucking eyelashes and see every pore of his skin and a tiny scar beneath his right eyebrow.

And as he didn't say anything, I continued. "And now you, too. You come down to the sports hall, and Nile just suddenly forgot something in the cabinet! For an hour straight. And Nile ' s the lonely loser at the teachers' table all the time because everybody's fucking pained by his presence. What did he fucking do, poison your Canary bird? Set your Christmas cards on fire? What'd he do to you, Erwin?"

"Yeah." A voice behind us called. "Yeah, Erwin. Remember how Nile burned your Christmas cards? And poisoned your Canary?"

I had to listen to my pulse for a while, to calm down and to realize whose voice it was.

I didn't dare to turn around yet, so I just slid out the trunk and dusted off my ass and thighs. If Levi heard me complain to Erwin, I had the big, juicy chance to get my face stuffed in a local meat grinder.

"Hey." Erwin said. "You're early."

"I hate traffic jams, came earlier. Need help?" I heard Levi slide in the trunk behind me, taking my previous place. I still didn't turn around. I inspected Erwin's tile pattern very carefully and enjoyed life.

"Or did you already put Eren in slavery?" Levi jokingly laughed.

What followed next was Erwin's indignance about Levi supporting slavery and Levi's own loud, irritating laughter. I turned around, ready to, I don't know, greet him, probably. Make a sharp comment, a punchline, but I wasn't expecting to see a completely different person.

My lungs emptied and I made an awkward exhale. They stopped laughing.

Levi's always had nice, prominent cheekbones, and I've always considered his frame to be more or less perfect for his height. He had good mass, he wasn't meaty, and he also wasn't an absolute stick. More meaty than a stick, though. Since five foot three.

Thought right now, he looked worse than a week ago.

Dark bags of exhaustion, pale, rather dry lips and really, really tired eyes, but his smile was scornful as ever, and I found it so dear to me.

"You, umm." I began, rubbing my thigh through my jeans. "You look...fetching."

He just turned back to Erwin like I wasn't there.

"You told me there was a leak," Levi said."Where, and how do I fix it?"

Great, thanks.

"The leak's in the kitchen," I interrupted to catch his attention back. "It's the left pipe under the sink. I think scotch tape will do."

Levi just stared at me. He just stared and silently asked, who the fuck do you think you are?

"When are you leaving?"

"When I get my passport."

"Where is it?" Levi stood up. "The counter?"

"Yeah," Erwin called back and jumped out of the trunk. "Yeah. It's in the black backpack, take the whole bag. My wallet's in the car."

"Are you sure?"

"No, actually. Check the bedroom."

Levi walked off to the door from garage to Erwin's kitchen (similar to my house), and slammed it close. I was highly convinced he held a huge antipathy against me now. I was now also even more convinced they were the ultimate BFF's. Levi fucking knew Erwin forgot his wallet, what level of fucking friendship was that, fuckin' rhodium?

Platinum, son. Platinum.

Levi came back with the bag packed, tossed it over to Erwin and watched him check the final things and get in the car after that. The window was slid down and they talked about something I couldn't hear.After a good while of aggressive, incoherent hissing from Levi, he sent a good kick to the side of Erwin's Range Rover and pointed two straight middle fingers at it, too. And Erwin drove off with that . He waved a goodbye to me and almost drove into Levi's Cherokee.

Everything silenced down when he left, and I realized I have Levi as a neighbor sooner than I could spell the word "neighbor".

I stood there stupidly. My legs were facing a different direction than my torso.

I suddenly realized I'm not waiting for much and that I should get the fuck going.

"I'll get going," I said.

"Sure."

I took a few steps towards the gate, and stopped.

He's just letting me fucking go like that, even after not seeing me for a week.

"No, I won't," I contradicted myself.

"Okay," he shrugged, and turned around. We stood a meter away, and I just stared at his face and trails of sleeplessness. "Okay, sure. Do whatever, kid. You're out of my range."

"What?" I asked.

"You're out of my range," Levi repeated. "Goodbye, I can't protect you forever. You're soiled now, anyways."

I was squinting really hard.

"What the fuck are you talking about?" I patiently asked.

"What the fuck does it look like I'm talking about?"

"Is this about Nile?"

Levi turned around and began walking away, inside the house, and I fell in my deepest state of despair which caused me to move along and chase after.

"We're sitting down, right?" I breathed when he stepped on the porch. "We should sit down and talk about this and a few other things, too, okay? I need normal answers. You keep asking me questions, but I don't think I can answer them without your help."

Levi stood still for a second. He was facing the other house, on the opposite house. He had a t-shirt on, and I saw goosebumps. The day wasn't really nice.

"Okay." He turned around. "Let's sit down and share experiences about how great and enjoyable Nile is in his natural habitat. Want that?"

I watched him fall down in one of the chairs.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Bed."

I mentally screamed at myself and felt like vacuuming the whole neighborhood, shaving Mike, and telling mom her choices in raising a child were as wrong as my fourth grade pop quizzes. Instead, I just sat down next to Levi and crossed my ankles, and stilled to listen to the silence and hear Levi breathing.

Once in a while, I peeked over and saw him staring either down or straight, and once again, I felt like he was waiting for me to say something. Though he was probably not.

I felt like the worst.

"Levi?"

He made a soft noise, still staring straight ahead.

"The thing with Nile."

"God, I thought we're done."

"Yeah, we'll be after you listen."

No reply. Means I could go on.

"Mmm... I don't really know how to tell this. Everything sounds made up, but as unrealistic as it is, you have to listen to it. Nile came up to me after school and offered driving me home. I agreed. Then we, like... He said... He said he had to sign papers somewhere, and asked if I could wait in the car," I said. "Nothing happened. He just went in the building alone, and you saw me in the wrong car at the wrong time."

"Really?" He cocked his head to the side. Deep inside, my feelings told me he was trying to bite the case. "Know what that building was?"

"I had a clue, but I'm not sure.

He turned to me. "Eighty percent of porn is filmed up there. It's a studio, kind of."

"I didn't guess wrong, then."

"It's also a condo, the two top floors. I live there," he murmured, assuming I didn't hear. "But really, fuck off from that side. Don't get interested, don't google the address, don't get involved. Just stay away from anything pornographic. I don't want you there, with Nile or without."

We sat silent until he spoke again. "And this isn't about you anymore, I'm getting involved, too."

Rude, in a way.

"It's not like I've thought of joining, why?" I asked and leaned back on the armrest. It cracked. I earned a disappointed/worried glance from Levi, and straightened back up.

"I'm sorry, go on," I whispered. "What you wanted to say."

"About what, pornography? It'll chew, demolish and spit you out while putting it on the Internet and ruining your public image. Sorry for being a dramatic fuck," Levi added. "Just being real. I was planning on moving away from the town, actually. I had it all set and ready."

His face was sour and I felt like giving him something comforting, like a pillow.

"Why are you staying, then?" I asked the question of my life. "You keep complaining and telling me porn's bullshit, it sucks, fucks you up, but you're still there, fucking and filming."

Levi grinned.

"See my car?" He asked and pointed at it.

"Yeah?" I said, unsure.

Nice car, that Cherokee. More than nice.

"What do you think, how much did it cost?"

"Mmm... Around a fifty?"

"I'll take that," he agreed. "And now, what do you think, how long would I have to throw cents in my piggy bank to save a fifty?" Levi let out an unamused sound. "Porn pays, not going to deny this. But you, kid, you're not joining. I care about your future enough to keep you away from this."

"Thanks," I breathed out. "You're my dad icon."

"Cool."

"Aha."

To say Levi was "demotivational" meant I was saying it in the lightest form.

We talked. For the first time in the past while, we were able to talk about something unrelated to Nile, and I realized it was the first time we talked like that, overall.

He kept bringing up subjects I didn't expect he ever would, but after a certain pattern, I realized everything was tied together with the evening at the sports hall with the creepy toilets and how I couldn't take a piss because he was looking.

With everything I told him while he was asleep, all the details and opinions, and realized he's never fallen asleep that night when I rambled for ages and assumed he's bored. He said he likes my voice a lot, so fucking be it! Listen to me screaming and jacking off.

But I liked my voice, too, I had the smokey, low voice Jean hated me for. Jean's voice cracked at fourteen, mine at fourteen and a half, and it'd stayed in this broken, constantly jittery phase for the rest of my life.

By the time we reached subjects I knew I wouldn't talk about while being sober, it got dark. And since it was summer and it got dark super late, I figured mom's been shitting herself all over. My phone was back home and Erwin's porch was only visible from my room's window and our own porch.

Proved myself right enough. Ten minutes later, the front door flunk open and mom stepped out, stretching in her night gown. Levi whistled, and I punched his arm.

"Your mom's pretty hot," he whispered.

"I know. The whole school thinks she's a...nevermind."

"A MILF?" Levi asked.

I nodded. "Yeah. Asked me for autographs and private sex tapes. Gross, dude!"

"Gross to you, not other seventeen year-old buckets of spunk who love women like your mom. That's all kids do during that age," he said. "Polish their rockets."

"Jesus Christ..."

Levi laughed, loud, and that caught mom's attention.

"Eren!" She called. "Dinner was ready three hours ago."

I looked at Levi. Then back at her, and Levi again.

"What time is it?"

"Mmm, wait. Wait. It's..." He pulled out his phone. By the way his eyes widened, I assumed we'd been sitting here for a while. "If you were to wake up at nine in the morning, I'd say you had eight hours to sleep from now on. So, figure. We've been here for fucking forever. It's late as fuck."

"Oh my god," I said loud enough for mom to hear, though it was directed more to Levi. "Oh my god, and I have a shift tomorrow. Stab me."

I ignored Levi's "with what?" and punched his shoulder again. After a while of listening to mom's "if you don't come inside in the nearest two minutes, I'm locking the door", I really stood up and started fighting the stairs of Erwin's porch. She hurried inside because it was cold in a satin night gown, and I used it to step back to Levi. We fist-pumped as a farewell. I felt glad he's not mad at me at all.

"Can we do this again?" I asked. "I mean... It's nice seeing you get better. Well, like, no, not better, but, like."

"Yeah."

"Yeah?"

He grinned, cheekily. "Yeah. Tomorrow. Tomorrow's good."

"I have a shift..." My legs went soft. "I already excused myself today. I can't go another day."

Levi rubbed his jaw and frowned. "From when 'till when?"

"Noon to about six or five."

"I'll drive you."

I smiled. "I have a skateboard and I'm probably taking the bus, anyways."

"Point is? I'll drive you."

We stood there and I sort of stared with the most affectionate stare I could force out. Smiled like I'd just pissed my pants.

"Thanks," I murmured, embarrassed, and walked off.

Chapter Text

You know the mornings when I'm in a truly wonderful mood? These are super rare. They occur on my birthdays (not the latest, though), on a few holidays, and when school ends.

Currently it's just the last thing I'm cheering about.

School's ended, for now, and I can chill (for now), though I've still got my job at Mike's and trainings with Nile. Which have proven themselves to be pretty brutal, by the way, because I've gained eight pounds over the course of a few weeks, and it's not just me eating like an absolute monster, it's Nile's work.

Also, I'm considering weightlifting as my new hobby. I found dad's old weights back from his college years when he still lifted. Also an adjustable bench, which is the coolest thing, in my opinion. I've moved all this to my room and stuffed it in the corner.

I knew I still had my gym membership card from last February. I guessed it might still be useful, but it's kind of super awkward to go to the gym alone. Instantly creepy and time drags so slow. Count in the several toned, tan instructors lurking around, forming small groups and chatting. It disturbs me more than anything.

We used to go with Connie, but it warmed up by April, and we started training outside more intensively by May. So the gym season's generally from November to February or March. Depends on when the snow melts. This year it still stuck around until the end of April.

I got up at seven and drank a glass of strawberry protein shake. I thought I'll be doing weights for five hours 'till my late shift, because my levels of energy and positivity were fucking flowing over a lot.

I guessed it's because I got things clear with Levi, and another chance to meet him today, but it might just be my raging hormones.

Yeah, yeah. I know.

During breakfast I turned the TV on and watched the morning news. I got up way too early and had to knock down some time before I went lifting in my room.

I then realized it's fucking World Cup season, oh fuck, oh fuck, yes.

Levels of excitement, the amount of power and energy inside of me and my immense love for soccer all gathered up in a single little Eren, I wasn't holding myself back very well, and woke mom and Mikasa up because my ass landed on the TV remote in the process of jumping in the couch and blasted the volume up really, really loud.

A few minutes later they're both standing next to me, arms crossed and barely dressed.

"What the fuck?" Mikasa asked after I realized I'd maybe broken the remote and pressed the buttons on the TV to change the volume. "Why do you always keep breaking stuff? What's your problem, brother?"

"He's my son," mom said. "I know what I made."

I snorted.

Mikasa gave her a nod of sympathy and went to sit down in the couch while I fixed the sound behind the TV itself. She had her running shorts freshly washed, white socks and the same purple t-shirt as last weekend. That meant that was her attire for the day at work because the day promised to be hot as fuck. She never wore jeans or sweats on hot days.

"You look nice, Mikasa," I commented. And earned a loving look from mom. That was fraud as fuck and we all felt it.

"Thank you, Eren."

"Always."

"Aren't you two together already?"

"Who, us?" Mikasa spat. "No. He's got a girlfriend, obviously. And I've got my own shit to deal with."

Just titled Jean as "shit"? Okay, I'm not telling him, but just in case, if you ever "break up", I will.

I turned around. "I do not."

Mikasa threw her arms behind her head and relaxed in the seat. "Sure," she said. "Except you do."

"If you continue bullshitting the fact that I have a girlfriend, I'm not watching the news with you." I gave the TV a tap. "I have cable in my room, too."

"Alright, sucker, you wanna fight me? I'll punch the "taken" status in you. I'll punch the man in you, brother, if I make a promise, I'm keeping it."

"I'm fucking single, oh my god! I'm planning to be single for years and years in the future. I don't need a fucking girlfriend right now."

Mikasa turned her head towards mom. "Anything to comment on this?"

"He's single," mom joined in and tied her robe tighter. "All I picked up from the whole thing is that he's single."

"Wow. Damn, mom," I whistled and pointed a lazy pair of fingers at them. "Great. You two are fucking great. I'm off to my room. I'm lifting. I drank my proteins. I'm lifting."

I knelt down at the TV again and flicked the volume to normal.

"Watch the news without me. Maybe I'll join you for the game."

After a while of silence and the sounds from the TV, I stood up.

"When's the game?" I asked like an absolute idiot.

"At seven? At seven."

"Shift ends at six... Is Jean driving you?" I asked. "Like, to work and back?"

"Only back."

With the corner of my eye I saw mom rub her neck and shove her hands in the pockets of her robe. She looked pretty awake for this early.

"Is Jean doing good?" She asked. "Haven't had him over lately, Eren, don't you think?"

I scratched my wrists. "No, I don't think."

"I'll invite him over tonight," Mikasa chirped. "Get some food, buy a few cans of beer. Let's throw a loner party, what do you think, Carla? You'll be out tonight, anyways. You don't mind, do you? I'll call Jean and ask about it."

At the mention of pizza and booze, mom straightened up.I knew she hated pizza, she hated pizza and canned drinks (more so alcohol!). I thought she'd stepped the line and mom's finally flipping at her.

But who the fuck did I think Mikasa was, Mikasa was fuckin' Mikasa, so:

"Yeah, honey," mom said, smiling. "Sure."

I didn't even complain, honestly. I didn't try to talk against it. These levels of Eren-centered hatred in this family were too high lately. Just, yeah, fuck. Great, yes. Screw all my fucking priorities!

"I won't be home tonight," I said, and ran upstairs.

All my energy was pumped out during the thirty minute news. Flicked on my own TV, pulled the bench out in front, fixed the weights and began stretching.

I was surprised nothing was happening. I used to watch the TV downstairs with my parents from age six to twelve, after that it's been growing boring and lame. I only use mine for video games and sports channels. I watch cartoons if I'm bored out of my soul. All they talk about in the news is sickness and politics, and sometimes sports, and I tried to center only on that. I stretched during the boring politics part and checked my window occasionally.

Erwin's second floor bathroom was right opposite to my room's window. Tried not to think about that.

It bugged me for five whole minutes. In the end I tore off and went to close my blinds.

Have you ever tried working out to a news reporter's voice?

It sucked how short were the sports news, but I wasn't in the mood for Eurosport. Also, to back it up, Eurosport only had silent pool games airing at this time in the morning. The best times for any cool championships were noons and midnights.

There was a Top Shop commercial roll after the news, and these fuckers lasted for twenty to thirty minutes at minimum. Top Shop has to be stopped.

After a good five sets of my regular lifts in trainings, I took a break. Still had a bundle of energy, still wasn't pumped out, still had to do something.

I checked my phone. Nine twenty-two. Levi should be up.

Went to Messages.

[09:22:57, Sunday] Eren: If you're reading this and don't forward it to ten of your friends, an Eren will come to your house and drink all your FUCKING PROOOOOTEIN SHAAAKES

[09:23:39, Sunday] Eren: You're still driving me, right?

[09:23:50, Sunday] Eren: Sorry lmao good morning

Leaned on my desk to make the wait more comfortable.

The reply came really fast.

[09:24:34, Sunday] Coach: Good morning

[09:24:49, Sunday] Coach: What the fuck

[09:24:59, Sunday] Eren: Sorry!

[09:25:16, Sunday] Eren: I'm up since seven.

[09:25:30, Sunday] Eren: Drank a strawberry protein shake

[09:25:42, Sunday] Eren: No idea where to store all this fiber

[09:25:58, Sunday] Coach: I'm good.

[09:26:10, Sunday] Coach: What's up with these Facebook chain messages?

[09:26:21, Sunday] Coach: I'm up early, too. This neighborhood's a fucking hellhole.

[09:26:37, Sunday] Coach: Who lives in the house next to me?

[09:26:47, Sunday] Eren: Eeeeeeeren :-)

[09:27:12, Sunday] Coach: I meant the one on the other fucking side. :-|

[09:27:48, Sunday] Eren: I don't know those guys, just that they have a dog. I hate dogs with passion. I'm pretty traumatized lmao I'll tell you some other time

[09:28:09, Sunday] Coach: Guess what else besides a dog they have? :-|||||||||

[09:28:21, Sunday] Eren: A cat? Or is this like a super dirty subtext

[09:28:34, Sunday] Eren: Cuz if so then sex obviously

I looked up at the ceiling.

[09:29:00, Sunday] Eren: Lol I'm not comfortable rn

[09:29:16, Sunday] Eren: Why did I think of that

[09:29:27, Sunday] Coach: Jesus Christ

[09:29:38, Sunday] Coach: Go do something normal before it's noon and you've wasted the entire morning.

[09:29:50, Sunday] Eren: I already lifted.

[09:30:02, Sunday] Eren: So fucking boring... I'm so bored, holy shit.

Before he could reply, I tapped out another one, because consideration was a good thing and I considered what he said.

[09:30:12, Sunday] Eren: Ok

[09:30:21, Sunday] Eren: I'll clean my room.

[09:30:39, Sunday] Eren: Can I call you meanwhile so it's not boring? :-D

Coach is typing...

[09:30:51, Sunday] Coach: Great, sure. I'm just breakfasting.

Being sure "breakfasting" wasn't in the dictionary, I pressed the call button and listened to the beeps. I didn't feel nervous calling him.

He picked up after a few.

"That was fast," Levi dragged. I heard his mouth was still full. "Hey."

"Hey." I was barely containing my voice. "Good morning, once again."

"Something's wrong with you today. You're fucking off."

His voice was insanely different in the morning. I had to sit back down. It was a little too much for me to handle. Levi sounded a little like a long-period smoker, and a little like Solid Snake.

If you know who Snake is, you'd also know a long-period smoker is a synonym.

"I feel really good today," I said. "I feel like getting shit done. I don't know, guess it's just summer finally starting and me sorting shit out with you. Sorry if it sounds abrupt or, like. Pressuring. Just blurting whatever's on my mind right now."

"It makes such a change?" He sounded only moderately surprised. "We should fake arguments and assertive assumptions about each other. And week-long silences, because it's working, apparently."

"Dude, no. Last week wasn't the tits at all."

"I'm too old to be called a "dude"."

"I like how you're not complaining about me saying such a fucked phrase as "the tits" as an adjective."

"What?"

"Nevermind. I'll go get bleach, wait."

Levi was silent for a second.

"Why'd you need bleach to clean your room?"

I didn't respond and left the phone on the table. Went downstairs, to the laundry room, because all the cleaning supplies were located there. Came back to the room with a basket and closed the door with my foot.

"Hey, did you know?" I yelled. I forgot I didn't have Levi on speakers. "I have three types of bleach at home right now. Okay, okay. Now, listen to this."

I pressed my phone between my cheek and shoulder to free my hands.

"I got Clorox, alright, a classic. I got Ace, tragically European and only mildly strong. And I got Top Job," I finished. Dramatically. "Top Job sounds like a porn title, doesn't it?"

Took me a moment to regret my words, but he didn't comment on my question, so I shut myself up and stared down at the bottles.

Levi was silent for a while again.

"It's all laundry bleach," he said. "What are you doing with laundry bleach in your room?"

I was still silent. Ass-deep in reading the contents of the bleach bottles.

"Eren?" Levi murmured.

"Yeah? Oh, yeah. I'm reading. Mom usually mops the floors with a cup of bleach. God. I have so much energy right now. I never clean my room, ever." I kneeled down and checked under my table."Shit... I got a lot of stains under my desk. Oh my god.These are from, like, two years ago. I remember this stain. You don't want to know."

"I was about to get more cereal. At least now I'm not."

I cackled.

I put him on speakers and threw my phone on the bed. His gasp was clearly heard and the normally smooth voice sounded snarky and bad quality. I guessed he was surprised by the bump.

"You did something with your phone," Levi concluded. "You threw it, right? Could've fucking warned. Sounds like shit now."

"Do I have to give you a medal?" I dragged each word slowly, still distracted with reading the instructions on the bleach bottles. "Hey, listen, these labels suck. I can't read into these."

"That's why it's labeled as "not for kids"." Levi barked a laugh. "You're obviously a fucking kid."

If there was a camera like in The Office, I would've looked straight at it.

Just.

Fuck Levi sometimes.

I messed with the bottles for a while, googled up what bleach was about, got search results for a kinky demon anime, and bawled my eyes over tentacle porn.

It's barely ten in the morning, Eren, you sure are spending your time productively. As ever!

"Okay," I said, both to Levi and myself. "I can't screw Ace open and Google said Clorox is too strong. Guess I'll use Bad Porn Title bleach. Top Job." I laughed. "Jesus Christ... Your next porn tape has to be called Top Job."

" Funny. "

He sounded ice cold.

"You're so picky about the things you like me saying," I murmured and whiffed the bottle's contents. "Oh, fuck! This smells like my swimming trainings last winter! Fuck. Wish I had a pool sometimes."

"I'm picky. Wish Erwin had a pool."

"Would you throw parties here?"

"Party? Ehhh... Parties aren't my thing." I heard sleepiness. "I'm sort of intolerant, anyways. To beverages. Party drinks."

I tried to pour the bleach in the cork cup.

"You mean, like, alcohol?" I asked and looked up at the ceiling to press down my grin. "You can't tolerate alcohol for shit, dude. Was fucking funny back then, in your cabinet. You just kept on talki-- fuck."

I paused.

Something wet dripped down my hands.

"Ohohoho, ooohhh, fuck. Oh, fuck. Mmm. No. No way."

"Eren?"

I looked down. The cup was flowing over and the bleach was on my red basketball shorts, hands, forearms, and mostly, my legs.

I closed my eyes and cursed myself for being an idiot.

"Eren?" Levi repeated. "I don't feel safe knowing you have bleach around. You sound like you're crying."

I was huffing out of stress.

"Levi," I whispered. "Levi, I just poured bleach on myself. I'm, like, fucking dead."

"What?"

"Levi, I got fucking Top Job all over my fucking legs!" I screamed and dropped the cup. "I have bleach on my fucking legs, it's warm and my hair is fucking burning off!"

He wasn't saying anything for a brief while and I started freaking out. My palm had a little pink spot in the middle, but it wasn't doing permanent damage to anything but my shorts and the carpet. And my leg hair.

My legs felt like my face after a shave. Raw, painful and super itchy.

I knew I overreacted. Laundry bleach can't do that much damage, but I had a theatrical spark in myself and might as well just use it. For the fuck of it.

A few seconds later it did burn, though.

Fucking wished I could scratch everything.

I wiped my hands on my shorts and picked up the phone. I pressed it to my mouth and breathed loudly.

"Levi, I'm dying," I said. "Aaaaaaaaaa, fuck! Fuck! My legs are going to be smooth for the season. Or the rest of my fucking life!"

Then I heard it.

Really soft and silent, but I heard it.

"You're fucking laughing at me!" I cried. "You think it's a fucking joke, don't you? You think it's funny?"

I heard Levi uncover his mouth and his loud laughter filled my whole room. I turned the volume down.

"Go wash...your legs," he whispered between jolts of cackling. "Just take a shower."

"Already did, yesterday. I'll just wash my legs or something. Urgh, god."

"It's kind of civilian to take a shower every day," Levi said.

"I can take a shower tonight," I murmured and raised my leg on the table. "Holy shit, it's burning. It burns."

"At least rinse, yeah." He got serious. "Rinse the parts you got the bleach on. Did it get any fabrics? "

I looked down. "Yeah. Aha. My shorts and carpet. My t-shirt's white."

"What color are your shorts?" Levi asked. "And carpet?"

"Shorts are red and carpet's dark brown. Rest in pieces, I'm probably never wearing these again."

"Good luck with pink shorts and orange carpet," he barked again. "Your mom's gonna kill you. You destroyed the absolute harmony, Eren. You know what Carla hates, Eren."

I just rubbed my shins. Then knelt and rubbed the carpet. It didn't look orange... yet?

"Carla hates asymmetry. Can you just call her "mom" like everyone else doesn't? I'll wash my legs real quick.Will you drive me back home, too?"

I got the tap in the bath running right when I asked that, so Levi was silent for a while. Assuming he didn't hear.

"What?" He then asked.

"Drive me? Home?"

He paused. "Oh. No, I don't think I'll hang around the town for that long. Unless it's extremely important for you and you need my moral support and AC."

I imagined myself being the absolute burden. It's not hard to imagine. I know Levi's trying to be friendly and good to me, but I don't want our meek friendship being too expensive or time-consuming to any of us. Especially him. I consume excessive amounts of time and food, either ways.

So in the span of seconds, I decided I'm spending time with him only when it's favorable for us both.

"I think I'll survive." I took over. "It's alright, I'll catch up with Jean. Though he's pissed at me and we're not talking."

"For what?"

I stepped in the bath and flicked the stream from tap to the shower head. It weakly moved at the bottom of the tub. I poked it with my foot.

"Fuck, I don't know. No, I mean, I know. I pissed everyone off last week. Fuck you for not turning up. It really made me worry, you know? Would be nice if you didn't do that. It's the worst fucking shit to do, Levi."

"Yeah, I know, I tried to get over myself."

"Over yourself? Like anything ever happened. You could've just fucking talked to me and spared us both a week."

"I wasn't sure you're as loyal to me as I think."

"Maybe I am." I sighed. "Ehhh... I don't know how to solve my shit with Jean, now that things are clear with you."

He laughed. It brought my mood in level. "Tried approaching the problem?"

"He's a fucking liar, that's the problem. Jean's just such a douche... God. I'll tell you tonight, if neither of us forgets it."

"Sure."

I heard him eat again.

The water was still warming up, but I already rinsed my legs in the lukewarm stream. "Wow, water's actually helping. It doesn't burn like shit, at least. Thanks."

"Aha."

"I'll put you down a little."

"Okay."

Slid the phone on the edge of the sink and leaned down to look at my legs. I saw at least five or four tiny hairs swim down the stream. I rubbed my calves and a bit more followed. I just stared down, wide-eyed, and kept rubbing.

"Dude," I said. "Dude. The hair on my legs. It's coming off."

"All of it?" Levi asked, openly amused. "I thought that's what Veet does."

I frowned and turned to look at the phone like it was Levi and he could actually see me. "Just a bit. Veet? You mean, like, the...shaving cream? Strong one?"

He made an approving sound, and I heard a few crunches again. Can he fucking never finish a bowl of cereal?

"Sorry, I'm eating," he apologized. "Nile used Veet once. And Nair. For a gross shoot, don't ask, but it was a request. They just pay extra for small details. Veet's some kind of foam or gel, no idea. You apply and wait for it to work."

"And then you take the foam off along with all your hair? I remember watching a video like that. That's fucking sick."

"I guess. If the hair's coming off a lot, I suggest you just get over it and shave it. Should grow back to normal in around a month or two," Levi said. "Depends on how fast hair grows on your body. When I was twenty, I tried shaving--"

I coughed and dropped the shower head in the tub. It dragged a line of shampoos down along.

"I'm not sure I want to know that," I said. Closed off the tap again.

"Sorry. I keep forgetting you're not as open as I'd expect. "

"Wait, I'll get out the bath. Pray for my safety."

"Don't slip," he warned.

I got out without any significant trouble and stepped on a towel. I still smelled like chloride all over, but it seemed to drain. My shirt had a long, wet leak all over my stomach. My hands were a bit red and legs only had a few darker spots (along with just a bald streak in the middle; looked fucking hideous, but at least more didn't fall out), but I felt peachy and ready for a great day at work.

I walked back out to my room with my phone in hand, fell down on my bed and rolled over on my stomach. Had to lift my hips to fix the awkward side-bulge.

I leaned on my elbows and checked out the carpet.

Sunkist orange.

Just a small, irregular splash of orange.

"Fuck! Fuck."

Levi crunched his cereal for a while. I thought I heard him swallow.

"What's up?" He asked, as if I just hadn't bleached alien signs on my rug. I heard a slurp that indicated he took another spoonful.

"My fucking carpet!" I continued and reached a hand out to rub it with my finger. "It's dead! Orange! An orange circle with fucking burning red edges. Looks fucking sick, actually. Like flames, you know? Something Ghost Rider themed?"

"I imagined you bumping my shoulder after each word. Spilled my cereal. That's fifty cents."

I laughed and rolled on my back. "Should I do the entire carpet?"

"Carla's murdering you more brutally then. Check your shorts, rather."

My smile froze and I sat up. Still didn't look down, for the love of myself. The image of my mother freaking out over a bleached pair of basketball shorts felt pretty vivid. Fuck, these were my favorites.

I took a breath and looked straight at my crotch.

There's a thin line right from the bump my dick makes, down to mid-thigh, I assume. And a larger spot on my inner thigh.

Even my mouth fell open by the way I frowned.

"They look like I piss bleach," I said. "There's a leak on the left leg. Ohhh, fuck."

"Are they pink?" Levi asked.

"Yeah, just like you said. Pink. As fuck." I flicked him off the speakers right before a short trail of beeps came from his side. "What's that?"

"Someone's calling me, hang on." He moved the phone. Silence longed for a second, then another string of beeps, then silence.

I casually moved and stretched my shorts around. Levi came back in a short while.

"Uuuugh, man, it's Erwin. He left last night, it's barely ten in the morning now and he's worried. Listen, Eren, I'll have to hang up. No idea how long this might take. I'm probably getting chores piled up on myself. I also have to clean up the cereal, it's all over the couch."

My mood dropped and I switched hands to rest my head against my knuckles with the right. "God bless his leather couch."

"I'll be outside your house at half past eleven. Hide the carpet."

"Alright, go!" I laughed. "Just go, talk to him."

"Sure, yeah. Bye, kid. Take care. 'Till later."

"Kisses."

"Fuck off!" He audibly grinned.

I dropped the call.

I let my hand fall on the mattress. "Promote me for idiocy", that's what I'd say if I was still talking to Levi. I just sat there for a while, then fell back down and stared up at the ceiling. Sniffled bleach residue from time to time, enjoyed how silent my room was. Not like Levi would've been a spare detail. Levi's cool as fuck.

Still lied there for a while and smiled.

I had almost two hours to knock off 'till he drove me to work.

Inspired, I went back downstairs and got a bowl of cereal, joined a sleeping Mikasa on the couch and watched morning kid cartoons. My poor skills in messing with the remote and trying to fix it were so dangerous I fucked the volume again and woke her up.

After that, I had to go refill my bowl and fix up something for her, too. In the end, obviously, I just returned with two bowls of cereal. Zero percent shit giving, I guess.

We ate in silence. Except for the TV. I got the volume to a certain point again and promised to deal with the remote when the TV is off and I'm more willing.

She finished a lot quicker than me and asked if she could sleep for a while longer. I said, yeah, sure, and she asked if I'd mind sharing my lap for that reason.

I remembered my dick area's bleached pink, so I crossed my legs (never try crossing your legs like this if you have a penis) and said I'd prefer her leaning against me. I also reeked of bleach. She didn't comment on it. Mikasa seemed chill enough with just resting, and we ended up in a weird position with fifty percent of her body on mine.

I think I should've had a semi at some point, somewhere. Her tits are so soft, I'm not kidding. Not jerking off in a while leads to semis. At these periods I get semis from anything. Anything.

I get horny from breathing.

We passed out a while later. Time rolls quickly when you're asleep. At least neither of us slept in.

Mikasa pulled on my (now hers) hoodie, running shoes, and took her bag. I just ran upstairs, pulled on clean socks and changed my shorts to sweats. I always looked like I fit in a sports equipment store. Dazzling beauty.

I helped her get the bike without any shoes on and enjoyed the stressful feeling of both Levi and mom watching me. Levi wouldn't bug me much, mom would.

Mom hates when I walk outside with white socks on, even if it's just taking trash out.

I ran back inside and pulled on my shoes, grabbed my bag (that, again, held almost nothing important), let mom aggressively pull me back from the door and kiss me on the cheek (I pretended I had to throw up), and went outside. Levi's car was on the driveway.

Wasn't he inside just minutes ago?

This speed is actually illegal!

I got in without asking and pushed my bag down between my knees. Then I looked to the side.

It was nice seeing him again.

He looks so nice in the mornings, I'm not even kidding. :-D

Levi observed me very carefully; like, very carefully, with squinting. Checked my shirt, pants. That extension pack. I felt too examinated and moved a little. His eyes shot up to my face.

"Hi," I breathed out. "I changed the pants."

"Yyyeah, I noticed. I thought you wouldn't," he murmured. I watched him flick the engine on.

Oh, yeah. The sharp, aggressive purr. Fuck, I love this car.

Levi looked at me. Eyes narrowing. Again.

"What?" I silently murmured, pressed down by the intimacy of his stare.

"You feel different today," he finally concluded. "You look different, too."

My hand quite automatically shot up to my hair. I didn't even know whether it was the problem area or not.

"I'm sorry? I just slept. I mean, I just woke up. I mean. I took a nap. God."

"Yeah. Yeah, I guess. You just look asleep." I watched Levi shake his head and turn back to the road. "I'm hallucinating."

Or, you're checking me out.

;-)

Have I ever told you how good Levi is at driving? He could drive a rally truck and do it smooth. A tractor. A few minutes of driving, and I finally got the guts to ask about it.

"How come you drive so well?" I fucked around with his radio. "You're holding the wheel like a rally car."

The answer was long and not what I had expected.

"I've had a total of thirteen cars," Levi said. "Practice molds you into whatever you're practicing as, I guess. You're shit at everything at the start. I took baby steps. A car crash after a car crash builds up to level two, The Lesser Maniac. It goes in different levels for everyone. I had three cars when I was learning. Two old Audis and a Nissan."

He bit his knuckle, as if remembering something really uncool.

"The Nissan was new," Levi murmured. "Fucking in shards."

I bit my knuckle at that, too. The mental image was enough.

"Rest in pieces," I said.

"My friends thought I crashed cars for fun. We joined up in a club. I haven't always lived here, by the way. I lived in New York. There was a dumpster."

"That sounds like a great fucking story."

"Shut the fuck up," Levi said. "Just listen. The dumpster was our main area for hangouts, parties, hookups, everything. The base for everything and everyone. Any kid who wasn't brave enough to go through the gate was a dropout and nobody ever cared about them. What mattered was the dumpster. The dumpster kids were cool."

"Aren't dumpsters, like the one in Stewart Little?" I asked. "With banana peels, grey masses of trash, old planes, mud and that stuff."

Levi looked at me for as long as the road allowed. "Not really, no. You're describing the regular landfill. This was more of a... metal landfill, you get me? A car graveyard."

"Oh. Okay. Okay, continue."

"So the deal is, we fixed the cars dragged there. The place was almost like a car graveyard. The motor dies, the car gets dragged there. The tires are done, the car gets dragged there. Most cars still had a spark inside. The owners didn't even think of selling them, which is surprising now. Man, our kits were amazing," he shook his head. "We stole screwdrivers from our parents."

"That's super illegal," I said.

"Alright, we borrowed screwdrivers from our parents." He grinned. "Didn't matter back then, trust me. Nobody kept an eye out for it until someone's dad realized their toolbox was empty."

I stretched and slid lower in the seat. "Bright childhood you had. Go on."

"Most of the cars lasted two to four weeks. Some were lucky and lasted longer, some popped the tires off as soon as we got the engine running. I'm pretty good with cars, mostly why I chose this one for myself. I know my kind."

"It suits you."

"I know. I love it." He ran a hand over the salon. "Speaking of the rest, it's a fun story."

"This already is a fun story."

Levi nodded. "Yeah. We did these car repairs during summer, mostly. I was the king, the one who began the whole thing. A certain August, one of my cars survived."

"Oh, fuck."

"We called her Rosalie. A bright magenta Ford Ranger, pretty massive truck. 1994, I think. She went on for a year before her original owner noticed his car's still alive. He bought it from me. I lied about how much most of the upgrades really ate my wallet. I earned way more than I should, saved up for another few months. Then I could afford my first Audi."

"You said you had two Audis in the beginning," I mentioned. "It's technically your third Audi."

"Technically, you're wrong," Levi mimicked. His right hand fell to his lap. The left tapped the wheel. "Do you know what car counts as a first car?"

Yeah, fucking sure! I've never had a car, Levi, who do you think I am, a rich fuck who lives on scholarship?

I am, indeed, a rich fuck who lives on scholarship. :-) But I can't save up any cash, ever. Working on it right now, though. Hate saving up.

"The car you crash first?" was my first guess and "The car you have sex in?" was the second (and he laughed).

"The car you buy yourself." He made a dramatic gesture. "That Audi was all my dreams in solid form. Seems extremely unappealing now."

"Boring. Your dreams sound boring as fuck. Who the fuck dreams of an Audi?"

"I aspire to be you, Eren! What's your dream car right now? A fucking Mitsubishi?"

I turned my head faster than ever. "How'd you fucking know?"

"Oh. I just guessed, actually."

"You made it sound like Mitsubishis suck."

Levi grinned. "No, not at all. Best cars. Best cars ever."

His words reeked of sarcasm.

"Thanks," I said.

He told me about the left eight cars and their backstories. I'd be an ugly liar if I said his storytelling wasn't top class. He knew how to present himself. How to keep attention. Maybe his storytelling was actually bad and I just liked listening to his bullshit.

Very possible.

The way he gestures is just so nice.

By the time we reached Mike's store, Levi's face got gradually less happy and I was seconds away from pissing myself.

"You're not coming in?" I asked while fishing my bag out from the front. "I thought Mike's a friend of yours. You, Erwin, Mike. The Holy Trinity."

"Yeah. Not right now," Levi murmured. He focused on the wheel. "Not in the mood to."

"Not in the mood to - what?"

"To go inside."

"You were in a better mood seconds ago."

He looked at me. "Thanks, personal mood radar? Get out, your shift starts in two minutes. I have places to be, too."

"Man, wow, I'm sorry for being interested in your life and well-being," I said. I stretched my legs. "I'll be home by half seven, if Jean's here in time and that sap. Will probably take a shower, the day looks hot as fuck and I'm already sweating."

"I figured." Levi's nose wrinkled. I sniffed to the direction of my right armpit and checked if the deodorant session wasn't actually a delusion. Wasn't. I smelled like fresh flowers.

Fucking jasmine, or something.

"I'm fresh," I said. "I'm fucking peachy."

"Get out, Eren."

"Kisses," I murmured, staring down at my bag.

There was a short silence and I started laughing to fill it, because I felt Levi staring. He acted like he's actually leaning in to kiss me, with the kissy face and everything. I slapped his arm and he pushed me out the car, also laughing.

On my way to the entrance, I peeked back and aimed both my middle fingers in an X-formation. He did the same, and drove out of the lot shortly after.

Two seconds before opening the door, I had to brace and ready myself for a PG-13 rated shift at work. I knew Mikasa was wearing the most unraveling outfit today and we had the high shelves today, and today was a Big, Nice day already.

She'd be climbing the stairs and I'd be holding them.

Translation: her ass would be up in my face and I could still consider asking her out before Jean ever does. :-)

Her cycling always gets her sweaty. Mikasa's way hotter when she's sweaty and red.

Mike wasn't even in the store, so calling Levi inside would've been pointless and embarrassing.

The men's bathroom was free, so I rushed to the urinals first thing after I got inside. Mikasa was packing a pair of hiking boots and fusing about how heavy they were. I gave her a sympathetic tug on her waist. And then went to piss.

This shift might've been the deadliest so far.

We did work for around two hours. Two hours was the limit and a little more than that.

There wasn't a thermometer, but I had a guess the temperature punched over ninety degrees. The AC wasn't doing much blessing, but I latched to it constantly. Mikasa sat in the storage room and pressed against the concrete walls whenever it felt like getting too hot. I kept calling out to her to check if she's still alive.

Ended up with me joining her at the concrete kissing, and we brought ourselves to a deal. Ask Mike for more ACs. Ask Mike for more fucking ACs. It's a sports equipment store, Mike!

The rest of the day gradually got better. A few big, fat clouds dragged upon the town and gave it a nice rinse. The AC seemed to bloom in it's power again, and we got a little extra energy for the rest four hours.

A few boring customers came. One of the girls looked cute. I felt like I've seen her before, but she left too soon and I didn't manage to check.

On the end side of the shift we got pretty lively and I lost my attention span. We took a break and two bottles of Pepsi. Ran out of the regulars.

Hate Pepsi so much.

"Babe?" I thoughtfully lolled my head in Mikasa's lap. "What do you think, is Jean going to drive me home?"

"Doubt. Though it's your house and he's maybe coming over tonight, I doubt it," Mikasa said. "Unless you apologize for whatever the fuck you did."

"I didn't do anything."

I felt her stomach move as she laughed. "Yeaaah. He wouldn't get so nasty over nothing."

"Oh, right, you're Jean's explanatory dictionary now?" I snickered. "How's it going on with you two? Got to foreplay? Have you fucked yet, anyways?"

She slapped me right above the navel and I whined in pain.

"Shut the fuck up," she said. "We're keeping it mild."

"Hey, hey, hey." I sat up in a painful angle. "You said something else earlier, you said you two have a friendzone gap in between. Are things moving?"

Mikasa took a silent sip of her Pepsi and broke the silence by a loud gargle.

"Things aren't moving," she said after swallowing. "I don't think things are moving. He's still funding my karate classes and gym membership."

"So you're..." I trailed off. "You're, like, leeching money? Technically, you're a gold digger, aren't you?"

She slapped my stomach again, and I really screamed this time.

"You wouldn't fucking understand, Eren! You have enough money and girls around. The whole school's talking about you, dude. You just never seem to hear. This chick from the first years, she's in Marco's class, she made a bet with Marco. She said she'll go and grab your ass, and you'll eventually ask her out. 'Cause you're an ass man, or something."

"What the fuck?!"

"Marco said that's bullshit and you'd more likely be someone to push her off and poke open a Capri Sun out of stress."

"Marco's right," I said.

"Fuck it, anyways," she continued. "I don't think you're getting the deal. These speculations happen every day. You've got a whole school after you, idiot. All these sluts from first years are thirsty for this summer's Regional Cup. I don't know what they're talking about. What's the Regional Cup?"

I scratched my cheek for a long time.

"The Regional Cup is an annual soccer championship. Our school versus all weak schools, basically. And I'm still not getting your point in this."

"I actually have two points, one's about you and your worshipers. The other's about you and Jean."

"Well, boost my ego and tell me about my fan club first."

I was actually surprised about everything I was hearing. Sure, the school knew me, I was sort of an icon, but also the big brother figure, The Sleazy Asshole, The Ultimate Moron and Sophisticated Jock, but hearing girls make bets about grabbing my ass made me feel weird and appreciated.

At least I knew I had an open path for modeling, in case I failed college once and for all.

"Eh, there's nothing big about you, except the constant rumors your dick's over eight inches." Mikasa shrugged and pushed me back down to her lap. "I think anything over eight inches is too much and too fucking gross. I've seen you in underwear. You're not nine inches like Mina said."

"Umm, Mikasa."

"Are you nine inches?"

"Anything else?" I asked to clear my red face. "Besides my genitals?"

"There's a blonde sweetheart who talks only innocence."

"First year?" I guessed.

If yes, Christa. If no, Christa, because Annie would never.

Annie.

Would.

Never.

Mikasa nodded. "Yeah, I think she's younger. Huge, blue eyes, tiny frame. She's got great legs. Usually with Marco. Says the best shit about you."

"Christa," I said. "She's my cousin."

"Really? Oh, yeah. You feel similar as fuck now that I think about it. As I was saying, she--"

Bam.

Something certainly fell, and I heard footsteps.

I placed a finger on her lips.

"You hear that?" I asked.

Her eyes focused on the wall.

"Something fell," she whispered. "Fuck, it's too late for customers. Didn't you lock the store?"

"I can't remember."

"Fucking idiot."

I sat up. There was another bump sound, and a silent "fuck, ouch". Kinda killed the horror movie mood, but we were both still creeped out.

"Go check," Mikasa suggested.

"Go fuck yourself," I suggested in exchange. "I'm going."

She tugged on my shirt to encourage me. I took a baseball bat to be safe. It still had the price tag on. If I got it dirty, I'd have to pay the store for loss.

Though I'd probably have to pay more for a broken skull if I happened to injure someone.

I moved to the door. Now the sounds outside made me think of carton being pushed around, and I remembered there were boxes in front of the storage room's door.

So there was someone coming straight over. Mike wouldn't be this silent. He usually enters the store pretty loudly. Song lyrics in his strong, low voice. Never as sneaky as this.

I felt like CJ. GTA: San Andreas, Eren Jaeger edition. Maybe Vice City, but I couldn't remember if VC got dildos as weapons.

With my toe, I pushed the door open, and stepped out, bat right at my ear.

And there stood a casual Jean with a paper bag of food and a pack of fries between his teeth.

And I was almost swinging the bat at his lovely face.

"Oh," I breathed out and lowered my weapon. "Just you."

"Just me," he managed to say. "Where's Mikasa? I brought lunch."

"Back in there." I pointed my thumb over.

Jean just brushed past me. Rudely. The door closed after a few seconds. I figured I'd rather let them eat together. Didn't look like he brought any lunch for me, except the tiny packet of fries.

The packet was reached out to me by Mikasa a few minutes later, along with two pieces of avocado toast.

I tidied the place from the boxes while they ate. Didn't have anything better to do, anyways. The shift's ending soon. Mike should arrive five minutes before closing. We usually flunked out the second he came in.

As ever, my observations were right and on point, and our group of three were kicked out in just a few minutes.

So we stood in front of the store, the sex triangle, and stared at Jean's family car and neither Mikasa or I dared to ask if he wanted to take me along.

Until I chugged down a cup of bravery and fixed my bag.

"I'll tag along," I said.

"The back seat's packed," Jean replied. "No space."

"He'd fit." Mikasa helped out. "The black bag looks pretty easy to push on top. I can take something to front, too."

"Eren's fat."

"Eren's fit, you meant."

"Eren's tagging along!" I cheerfully yelled and jumped down the sidewalk. I ran up to the back door and pulled the handle.

The alarms went off and I almost pissed my pants the second time today.

Jean let his head fall back.

"Who said I locked the fucking car open?" He gargled.

I squiggled my middle finger towards him. Mikasa snorted, gave Jean's back a pat and headed over to the passenger's door in front. I knew I had her on my side when it came to things like these. Mikasa loves me. Sometimes I love Mikasa, too.

Sometimes.

Jean got soft and unlocked the doors. I squeezed myself in the backseat. Happy and smiling. Me and Mikasa, I mean.

Jean looked sour.

Mikasa kept fucking with the stereo on our way home. Hummed to a few basic songs looping on the radio these past weeks.

Jean was silent. Even she commented on it.

The real game was when he pulled over at our house. I thought I'm going to die over there.

Mikasa reached over the salon and messed Jean's hair up. He tried to bite her, his teeth knacked right before her fingers. Mikasa gripped his jaw and ran her thumb over his lower lip.

He licked it.

And I just sat in the backseat, staring at this.

Mikasa got out of the car laughing. Jean slid the window down and yelled something out of this world. It took me a while to realize it's from a movie. I stared at Mikasa walking around the car and leaning in through Jean's front window. I didn't see if they kissed or anything, but she almost tripped on her way back to the house.

She stopped midway, and turned back to the car.

"Eren?" Mikasa called. "You live here."

I was so lost in their blooming friendship I forgot I had to get out.

But wait, hang on. I'd actually planned all this. I'm smart and actually painfully intelligent. (I'm fucking lying, by the way, but if you fell for this, I'm very glad.)

Jean fixed the rear-view mirror to see me. I leaned over the front chairs, over Jean, closer to the window.

"Yeah! I'll get inside, just give me a minute!"

Mikasa let her hands fall to her sides. She disappeared inside the house later.

Jean and I sat in silence for a while.

"I'll get in the front seat," I said.

"Sure."

And I did. Mostly because this was a serious topic and it was Mikasa we had to talk about, and our overall friendship and relations, and mutual friends, though I'm probably just bringing her up, and nobody else is even going to be mentioned.

With a loud sigh, I got comfortable in the seat. "Uhh, so. I heard some news."

"Yeah, me too," he said. "News is, you're a fucking asshole. Get out of my car."

"Fuck off. If you're still fuming about my mood on Friday, I'm sorry. If it's a new problem, tell me where exactly did I screw up."

Jean turned off the engine and let the keys dangle.

"It's not the Friday, I forgot about it the same evening. It's your stupid fucking attitude, Eren, and not helping out. You're an asshole and you've never acted worse than right now."

"What?" I asked. "Like, excuse me? Were you the one who found out he's been lied to for the past three years, or something?"

"We're not even touching that," Jean murmured. "We're not talking about this."

"Jean, I've known her for so long. Was it really that fucking hard to tell me it's just Mikasa? Trust me, I would've solved so many problems if I knew you used to date her."

"Yeah, like copped her first?"

"What?"

"You know I have a thing for her. You know it doesn't happen often. No, fuck that, it never happens, unless it's her. And you're being a moron, I fucking hate you for acting like this."

"I understand around five percent right now, but thanks, I guess. Can't ever be insulted enough."

"You're making her like you." His voice felt exhausted. "You're doing everything to make her like you, and I think she's fucking falling. I'm pretty devastated, dude."

Oh fuck, this smells like heartbreak and week-old jizz. I feel it.

"Can I get on with my news first?" I asked. "Might kick the positive in you."

"Yeah, whatever." He gripped the wheel and looked outside his window. "Not that you'd care about this."

I cleared my throat. News like these had to be served very elegantly.

"She told me she moved back to Jersey because of you. And she's pretty much all over everything you do. The ignorance is just a facade, and Mikasa's actually super into you, Jean. You both are just damn clueless about approach."

There was silence.

"Plus she said you've gotten really hot," I added.

I can't remember if she actually said that, so don't cite me on this.

"You're fucking with me," Jean murmured. "You're fucking with me, right?"

"Am not. She actually tried asking me if we'd ever work out as a pair, and I was like: "Mikasa, I don't like you in exchange if you do happen to find me cute in any way, but I can remind you of this one dude who's fucking in love with you and all that shit"."

"Did you talk garbage about me, Eren?"

I shook my head. "No, I said the best things. I said you're more attractive than me. And a little smarter. Guess that counts as lying."

"No, it's true, your mug is ugly as shit," Jean said. "And you're stupid."

"Because you're a dude and don't know what girls like," I laughed. "Mikasa told me I have a fan club. I didn't know the girls at school even look at me."

"Ehhh, Mikasa..." His mood dropped again, and he turned to look outside. "How low is the chance of her actually liking me again, two percent?"

"I'd say ten out of...fifteen?" I guessed. "Dear brother Jean, you're not that bad. I don't believe she doesn't like you by the way you're both acting. You look good. I always hate to admit this, but you're smart and pretty hot. Even from my point of view."

Jean meekly smiled and rubbed his face.

"And I'm sorry, if..." I looked down at my bag. "If it looks like I'm leading her on, or something. I try not to. I don't want to get her hopes up for anything. Already explained her why we're still not dating. I think she...you know, understood."

"What'd you say? You told her you're gay, or something? 'Cause it's the only plausible reason." Jean frowned. "You're straight as fuck, though. She wouldn't buy your shit. She'd need proof. You'd have to make out with a guy to prove her right."

I looked at Jean and waggled my brows.

"Fuck off." He smiled even wider.

I imagined myself latching out on Levi for a second, for no real reason (asides from both "kisses" this morning).

"Disgust dot com," I said.

He curled his lip and looked over at me.

"Whatever, I guess? I wouldn't mind if you were gay. Nobody's minding Reiner's gay obscenities."

"Reiner's an exceptional case," I reminded. "He's delusional. Stop speculating my sexuality, by the way. I'm not gay. Don't worry. You won't be my first boy kiss."

"I'm not saying you're gay, I'm saying I wouldn't mind if you were gay."

"I'm fucking going inside."

Jean cackled. "Yeah, sorry. But about Mikasa. I'm curious. Set up a date."

"Oh, dream of it, baby."

"Please, Eren. You live right over the hall. It's easy for you."

I pulled my bag up in my lap, already resting my hand on the handle. "Blergh. Sure, okay. I'll think about it and let you know when the day's closing in."

"No way."

"Yes way. I'll plan this out, figure if she has allergies and what foods are her favorites," I said. "I recommend you check for preppy restaurants. Something cheesy, stupid and heterosexual. Would be nice if I could spark you two up. Again."

He dragged his hands over his face. "I can't believe this is actually happening."

"Pray she's at least a little interested in moving things with you again." I messed his hair up just like Mikasa did a while ago. "Don't brag about your dick, talk about things she's interested in, asides from your huge ego, and compliment. Compliment a lot, but not the mainstream shit. Don't comment on her hair, it pisses her off."

"You're saying this like the date would be tomorrow. Where'd you know this from?"

I opened the door and let my leg hang out. "Yahoo Answers."

"Oh, neat. Great."

I got out the car. Fixed my clothes while looking over at Erwin's driveway. Levi's car was there. He's probably home and heard Jean's Audi's terrifying screeches.

"See you tomorrow?" I partly asked and just stated.

"See you tomorrow," Jean replied.

I closed the door and walked around the car. There was a silent buzz behind me. I knew it meant he slid his window down again, so I turned around, ready for a pained comment on my very chill attire, or something similar.

Instead, he just smiled. "Thanks, dude."

I rolled my eyes and continued walking.

What a soft guy.

Mikasa really meant a lot, I guess.

I actually got home that day. Felt like the longest day of my life. All that's left for me now is taking a shower, changing my clothes to Sunday-to-Monday party attire, and maybe calling Levi to warn him there's an Eren off his leash.

Man, a whole night spent at Erwin's.

Drinking with Levi.

A night at Erwin's. With Levi. Without Erwin home.

Alone with Levi.

I shivered.

Really fucking got myself into something. And I honestly can't wait to see how it's folding out.

Chapter Text

"Yeah?"

I won't try to assure you how much power of Lord this ate up, but I'm standing naked in front of my bath and my phone's in my hands, and I'm on the line with Levi.

If this can't get more awkward, then remember I'm slightly hard from the clothing-related temperature changes, staring at my naked torso in the mirror above the sink, and on the line with Levi.

"I'm stepping in the shower. Outside's a dessert."

"Why are you calling me?" Levi was devastated. "You'll have to drop the call when you shower, I don't want to listen."

"I don't masturbate in the shower, if you're wondering," I said lowly. "Fapping's for singles."

"You're single, and a virgin, and live with your parents."

Shot right through the heart.

"I know," I replied. "Underlines the reason I'm taking you with me in the shower. Drain my loneliness and talk about casualties."

"Eren, I can't talk to a naked man. I'll get a boner."

"Gross! I'm ending the call, bye!"

He laughed. "Don't worry, I'm not creeping on you. World Cup's on in twenty minutes. Don't jerk for too long. I'll get worried."

I turned the water on and dragged the curtains to shield myself. Had to arch away from the flow, the first minute the water always comes out fucking freezing.

"You're really sincere today, balancing out my asshole gene and all. I'll be there before the game starts, I think."

"What if you're not?" Levi gloomily asked. With a hint of something challenging.

"Then I'll...umm."

"Get spanked?" He guessed. "Oh, fuck. Okay, sorry. I'll stop. I like how I'm trying really hard not to let you crave making an amateur porn video in the shower right now."

"Feels like you're watching porn as we're talking. I've never heard you this honest." I squinted at the mosaic tile pattern in front of me. Waited for the boiler to start working. "Not honest, super excited. About, like, intimate talk. Something like that. Like it's just your field."

"You're not wrong. You know, Erwin has a soothing set of TV channels."

"Erwin has porn on TV?" I asked. "Wait, are you actually watching porn right now?"

"Yes and yes. He's got lots. Doubt he watches all this. There's also Cartoon Network and a crapload of science channels. His satellite sure earns fucking bills."

I tried not to wonder whether he's also masturbating or not. Squeezed my dick to keep the idea away.

"How much porn?"

Levi was silent for a while, and I assumed he's counting.

"Six," he then said. "He's got four channels with suggestive names, two channels with "XXX" in the titles, and a few more I don't want to check. What do you think, does Hustler TV sound like a porn channel? And BangU?"

"I'm sure both of 'em contain some sexual material. Hey, does he have Playboy HD?" I asked. "Because I think I could look after his house for a while, if you don't mind."

"Wait, I'm scrolling. Doesn't look like he'd have Playboy... Oh, fuck, wait. There's another page."

Very concentrated silence. I tucked my knee under the stream of water. Certainly wasn't cold anymore, so I turned around and let it wash over my back.

Mmm. Warmth. Dick's calming down. :^)

"Yeah, baby!" Levi startled me with a shout. "Yeah, there it is! Playboy HD. He's also got Playboy TV."

I whistled. "Fuck, Erwin! Haha, you go, old man!Sure he doesn't watch these?"

Levi cleared his throat.

There was a moment of silence I found extremely odd.

"You'd need to organize a trial to make me believe. Don't think a regular satellite pack has this range."

I laughed a little, and heard him accompany me in a while. When his laughter died down, I considered putting him on speakers with the volume low. So, you know, I could wash myself quicker and actually get there before the game starts.

"Levi, I'll put you down," I said. "Won't drop the call, just put you down. I need to wash myself."

"You should actually drop the call, the water's getting too loud," he said. "I get the mentality I need to piss."

"Gross," I dragged and placed my phone on the rails, next to my shampoo bottle.

Wasn't too hard to pretend he didn't hear me whistling and squirting out shower gel. Also wasn't too hard to ignore this mental exhibitionism I was having, along with the thoughts of Erwin's adult channel lair left to me for a whole entire day.

Tried to avoid thinking about what Levi's doing on his spare time. I'd probably masturbate for fucking hours. Sponsor me, Kleenex.

I rinsed my hair from the shampoo and let out a deep breath. My left eye itched. Ninety-nine percent positive I got foam in it.

"I'm done." My voice was uplifted and proud, and I reached down to close the tap. "How much time left?"

"Thirteen minutes 'till the game starts. You'll be late , I'm counting on it . I know your mother."

"I'm not getting my ass kicked by you."

"I'd exchange "kicked" with "dicked", but I'm not freaking you out this early, and we're not close friends enough yet. God, don't you think I need to shut the fuck up? My jokes are far too sexually heightened."

I almost giggled and stepped out the bath with my phone in hand.

The mirror was only partly foggy. Great. I could shave, but I didn't have much to shave.

Not on my face.

I'm not even talking about the jungle downstairs.

"Yeah, it's a little gross, but I don't mind. Got used to it already. I'll dry off, get dressed and be there before seven."

Levi dragged a sarcastic laugh. "If you miss a minute, I'm kicking your ass."

"Literally?"

" Yeah, l iterally."

I took a towel and wrapped it around my waist, knowing the probability of Mikasa/mom walking in on me naked was eighty out of ten (the mom option has happened several times in the past and I did not like her downcast stare at any point).

"Wanna hear me spray deodorant?" I asked like it was the hottest thing ever.

"Not really," Levi said with a ting of distance and concentration. "I'm watching this straight porn tape on Playboy HD. Feeling happy gay porn pays so much."

My frown sank in and I took another towel to dry my chest and hair.

"Does gay porn pay more than straight porn?"

"Oh, yeah. Guys in straight porn get five to six hundred for a shoot. Gay porn pays three times that amount. Man, this guy has it going! He's slamming her raw."

I shivered.

"Means you get..." I tried to get his attention off porn so I didn't feel stupid and turned on. "How much do you get?"

"Sometimes even seven thousand for a shoot, two million five hundred fifty-five thousand bucks if I fuck a whole year every day. But that's not fucking real, anyways. I wish, though. "

How casual.

"You didn't just sum that up in your head," I said, grabbing my deodorant.

Another sarcastic wheeze, and I heard a clink. "I have the number in my head ever since I joined porn."

"Are you drinking?"

"Yes."

"Without me?"

He hesitated. "Nyes. Thought you didn't drink, you straight-edge boy, you."

I shook the can and raised my left arm.

"Technically," I began, spraying. "I don't drink often. Like, once a month. Twice, if there's a celebration. I drink the most at the end of the year, on Christmas and New Years. And I drink on Jean's birthday. That's April." I raised my other arm. "Also my birthday."

"March?" He asked. "Yeah, your birthday's on March."

How did he know that? >:-|

"We don't talk about March, March is the month I'm shitfaced for life," I said. "Anything else educational about your job?"

There was a squeak of leather and a short sigh, and something that could potentially be Levi landing on his stomach.

"What's your benefit?" He asked. "By the way, you have nine minutes. I'm sure you'll miss the opening, my funeral, and possibly the end of the world."

I stretched my arms, listened to the cracking and rolled my shoulders right after. Felt great. Super fresh.

"Well..."

My phone was in my hand once again. I unlocked the door and walked outside to the fresh, cold breeze of my room, and I admit I had to stalk to the window and close it. This motherfucking breeze was colder than anything right now, even though it's super hot outside still.

After-shower bullshit with temperature changes. Eren doesn't like that.

I pressed my forearm to my waist and let my other hand rest on it. I looked over the row of houses through the blinds.

"Wouldn't benefit me, but I'd get some insight in whatever the fuck you're doing. It's a path to thinking you're a good person, you said that mattered."

"I said that mattered around a month ago. Now I'm more worried about your running mouth and Nile's delusional crap -talk."

"So you don't need my sympathy and good thoughts?" I looked up and wiped at my eyes. "And I thought God was real."

"You would've slightly offended me if I was Christian," Levi said. A sip followed. "I don't know. I guess I still care about your view on me, it's just very secondary. You seem to like my company, anyways. I don't worry about it as much now."

"And now I think you're just waiting for me to tell you you're not nearly as bad as I should've thought you are, that you're a good person, and that I should skip foreplay at all times, forever."

Levi let out a weak, highly amused sound. "That's almost what I'd say."

"You sound like a bitter foreplay lover," I commented.

"I am a bitter foreplay lover."

"I've never had sex."

"You've never had foreplay, either," he snarled.

I was just about to spit a juicy "oh, how the fuck would you know?" as a response, but my sweet roll was interrupted by a bang on the door. It made me jump and I was sure Levi heard my small gasp of horror.

"Stop talking to yourself, Eren!" Mikasa yelled, giving the wood another four bangs. "I can hear you from the living room, you egoistic fuck."

My feet went cold.

"I'm not talking to myself!" I screamed back, holding the phone away from my mouth. "I'm having an intelligent fucking conversation!"

"With yourself," Levi murmured. I heard him take a sip.

"Levi" equals "class" at all points. It's written in the Bible. Bible = Levi.

Mikasa wheezed on the other side of the door. "Yeah, and my mom's not fucking Asian. Are you joining us for the game, then?"

"Can you wait 'till I get dressed?" I asked.

"You're naked?" Levi whispered. Mental kick in the balls.

"You're naked?" Mikasa asked. Mental kick in the balls #2. "Can I come in?"

Levi's laughter was silent and upbeat. "Put your phone down, baby, you're getting laid. The game can wait. I won't get mad at this exceptional situation."

"I got a towel around me, motherfucker!" I said, maybe to Levi, maybe Mikasa. I was just a natural selection of poetic language. "I'm shielded."

"If you dropped this call and that towel, I'd be okay with watching soccer alone."

"Fuck you." Aimed strictly at Levi. "I'll be downstairs in five minutes, Mikasa, preserve your sweet bullshit 'till then."

"I just came upstairs to take a piss," she said, and I heard a few footsteps. "Also to tell you what a fucking loser you are. And also to ask you if you're using up all our hot water. Carla wants a bath."

"I'm not using up her bath, and I'm also not a loser."

"Good." Bum bum bum. "Just a reminder." Slam.

I whined.

"Is she your girlfriend?" Levi asked.

"Let's not talk about this now, let's finish what we started," I murmured and placed him on the dresser.

Pulled the top drawer out, checking for boxers. My soccer and volley boxers were nicely folded in the corner. The rest were thrown in a huge heap, and now it's just a game of luck.

Eren, Pull Out The Clean Underwear!

Dug my hand in.

"You mentioned my running mouth," I said. "I like how you're just very exceptionally ignoring the fact I haven't told anyone about this at all."

I raised up a red pair and inspected it through a squint.

"Like, do you even realize what threat it puts me under? It's not just you and your coach job, it's also me. If I pop the bubble, my Eren Jaeger Appreciation Club is gone."

With "pop the bubble" I meant people finding out I was on PH' s gay section. Nobody would ever know I went there to check the layout. Nobody would care. You don't normally go on the gay side of PH to check out the layout. I wouldn't believe, either.

"You have a fan club?" Levi barked. "I want merchandise."

"Yeah, and they talk about my dick. Mikasa said Regionals are going to be hell this year."

"I wouldn't argue with that," he said. "Nile's also a blast between the studs."

"I don't understand how Nile always gets in our conversations."

"Me neither."

"You just mentioned him."

He clearly just drank his drink. "Eren, you got four minutes. I'm kicking your ass."

"You're actually avoiding the subject," I pointed out. "You're really obviously avoiding the subject, Levi."

He snickered, dryly. "I'm avoiding talking about this over the phone. And while being under a slush of alcohol. I told you I don't fucking tolerate alcohol."

"I don't tolerate alcohol, either," I said, and dropped my towel, forcing the red boxers on. "What are you drinking?"

"Beer," Levi replied. "Do you still think it's a good idea to come over? Because I'm not fucking sure you're smart for wanting that."

"Why are you even asking?"

"We both don't take alcohol well and it sounds like my cousin wants to occupy you."

"Cousin?" I asked, pulling the sock drawer open. "Your cousin?"

"Mikasa."

"You two are cousins?!"

"Distant," he said. "First cousins twice removed."

I clearly displayed my shock and grabbed a pair of white socks. So much to find out for my span of twenty years.

"I need to get dressed," I said and stiffled the socks on. "I need to get dressed, go downstairs and tell mom I'm getting shitfaced, and you need to stop avoiding subjects I'm interested in and tell me if wearing a shirt with holes is good."

Nobody doubted how tired Levi was of me.

"Wearing a shirt with holes is good. Don't tell her you're getting shitfaced, today's Sunday. You have a double-training tomorrow."

"At noon." I forced on the shirt and rolled my shoulders to make the fabric cling. "I'll do something anti-shitfacing. You'll drive me."

" Oh, no. Dream of it. I'm not driving. Fucking not as tolerant as you think I am."

"They don't stop drivers at noon. Or school area."

"Well , y ou'll be paying, just in case."

The jeans I fished out were torn and sickeningly blue. I didn't know I still had these. I didn't even know if they were clean. Three-point throw in the laundry basket, Eren Jordan scores points. The crowd's cheering.

I actually missed the laundry basket.

My aim fucking sucks.

"You were talking about the salaries earlier," I continued, and proceeded on my second-skin black jeans. "Like, porn payments. The differences."

"Everyone says gay porn generally just pays a lot more than straight porn," Levi dragged. I heard a soft murmur in the background. "That's it, Eren, the game's starting. Getting your ass kicked today."

Jumping on one leg wasn't a sweet job. "Keep on talking. I'm soon done."

That sounds surprisingly sexual, by the way.

"There are also fucking disgusting straight assholes who film in gay porn for cash. It's called "gay for pay". They just do it for the paycheck. Nile does that. I doubt he really finds men attractive, asides from me, maybe."

"Sounds like something I'd do. What's the biggest you've gotten?"

"Twelve thousand," he said.

"Like, for a shoot? A twenty minute long fucking video?"

"No, it's a movie."

Oh, god.

I fought the urge to look it up on the Internet.

I went back to the window and opened it. Let some fresh air in. Picked up the towel I dropped, hung it on the door, and turned off the lights.

"You won't believe this, but I'm going downstairs," I said. "And my hair's wet. I don't know what to do."

"How about you just come over with wet hair, Eren?" He boredly said.

"Alright. Alright, I'm... I've never drank with you."

"I'm dropping the call. Come over."

I just nodded like he'd see me, and heard the line go silent. Our phone calls could leave a little impact on my phone bill. A few bucks, or fifty. Partly my fault. I'm the one calling him for company in the shower, and, speaking of which, it's:

1. Immature.

2. Stupid.

3. And inappropriate.

Checked myself out in the mirror, fixed my hair, did a few rounds of whipping my head like a huge, wet puppy, and went outside the room. My jacket was hanging on the last post of the stairs. I grabbed it along.

Now to get rid of a mother and a Mikasa, pull on shoes, tell yourself how wild you are and get your ass drunk off on a Sunday evening.

I actually liked how we never came to an agreement we're going to drink, we just knew we'd drink.

I took a few steps aside from the stairs and peeked over to the living room. Mikasa was watching the game, legs hanging over the armrests of the couch (reminds me of something...), and mom was just sitting in a very typical Mother pose.

"Is Jean coming over tonight?" I asked and turned to the TV.

They both looked over lazier than ever.

"Yeah, in ten minutes," Mikasa said. "He's still at the ranch, though. Won't be ten minutes. I'm betting on an hour."

"Great, I'll be at Erwin's. Did you order pizza already?"

She shook her head. "No. I'll order when Jean calls. What are you doing at Erwin's?"

"Order one for us, too," I said, ignoring the question. "Either salami or salami. And ask for Sprite in a sweet voice, they'll throw that in for free. If you sound attractive, that is. Also, gluten-free. Mention gluten-free."

"Us?" Mom interrupted. "Eren, what are you doing at Erwin's?"

I turned to them.

"Us, as in, me and Levi. Levi's looking after Erwin's house. We're hanging out tonight. He has a good stash of TV channels and shit."

I tried to press down my subconscious Playboy HD thoughts.

"I thought Erwin told you, since, you know. The house isn't ours this year. We have a neighbor like the Wash-Off! tattoos. Leaves after a month of wearing."

Mikasa clacked her tongue. "Hanging out with the Ackermans, aren't you."

My eyes just rolled to the back of my head! Would you look at that!

"I found out two minutes ago."

"He's a fucking dirty little guy. Never tells anyone anything. My whole class keeps asking if we're related."

"Cool. I gotta go. I'll stay the night there."

Mom looked at me. "Our house is five meters away, Eren."

"Yeah, but I want something different in life," I said and backed away to the front door. "I'm already getting my ass kicked. I'm missing the game."

They both just shared a glance. I realized Mikasa really looked like Levi way too much. Clean cousins, at best.

I pulled on my shoes, unlocked the door, yelled a "bye" and "don't expect me home until tomorrow", and pushed it open.

Fresh air at finest.

And because I really was so fucking terribly, miserably, sadly late, I ran over to Erwin's (temporarily Levi's) front door. Rubbed my cheeks, took a deep breath and knocked. The rumble of ESPN was clearly heard, and I leaned in closer, trying to catch a phrase.

The door opened sooner than I expected.

I stepped back.

There stood Levi, one out of ten shitfaced and ten out of ten looking like the lead singer of a Hollywood Undead remake.

I noticed light stubble. Along his jawline, nowhere else. Maybe it was too dark for me to notice yesterday. Levi looked casual as ever, black t-shirt, black jeans, white socks. Sort of like balancing a sick yin-yang thing, except not. I was still strictly refusing to believe he was going to kick my ass.

He looked super good, by the way.

His face and everything.

He had that slight drinking smile.

My appearance was scanned, too, receiving positive feedback, or, in human language, raised brows.

"Get in," Levi said and stepped aside.

I went past him, inside the house. The second I stepped over the mat, there was a foot to my ass and a loud "must be Andrew Clarke to think I wouldn't".

Almost screamed freaky obscenities and kicked his ass back.

I think I was mental enough to assume going straight to the fridge was correct. Levi went back to the living room and warned me the game will end sooner than I get to the couch he's in. I didn't say anything in return.

The top shelf was filled with cans and bottles. One of them had a sticky note with a crooked soccer ball and a tiny :-). Knowing Levi was here since yesterday and his memory was diamond clear, the note's from Erwin and he thought further than we ever would. The beer was also from Erwin, but I found the note more endearing.

: - )

Cute as fuck!

"Saw the note?" I called from the kitchen. "Cute!"

"Erwin's my best friend, Eren!" Levi yelled back. "I love Erwin."

"Have you two ever fucked? Since, you know, you love him so much? You should get married. You'd have great harmony. You have great harmony."

"We have great harmony," he echoed. "Get your fucking ass over here. You're seriously missing the game."

I took two cans and went to the living room. ESPN sure was a blast.

Levi sat in the authentic position. There was an empty wine glass without a wine bottle, two cans of Heineken and one Tsintao he was emptying at the moment. I looked down at mine. Bud Light. Good, Bud Light's my favorite.

"What we're doing," Levi said, once I sat down. "Is healthy drinking."

"I think you've healthy drank enough, honestly."

He looked at me like I'd just said something inappropriate and extremely offensive.

"What?" I defended. "You're doing the pep talk. That's around stage three."

"Tsintao's washing down Heineken. I don't like Tsintao. About me fucking Erwin, though. I can tell you why it's not happening."

"Okay." I cracked my can open. "The game will get interesting in the middle. Man, but Netherlands versus Mexico, it's actually a big deal."

Levi laughed. "I'll shut up when Mexico scores."

"Except Mexico would never. Go on with your tragic backstory."

He stretched and took a big chug of his gross fucking beer. "Alright. Since you're lurking in my life so much lately, you might've noticed there's a rectangle going on. You know Mike has contacts with Erwin and me."

"That's a triangle," I said.

"Because we don't talk about Nile yet."

"Okay."

"Yet. Yesterday, you tried approaching Erwin about it, and I thought I could skin you alive," Levi said, eyes focused down. "From all four of us, when and if talking about Nile, approach Erwin as your last call. It'd save everyone a few spare nerves."

I pulled my legs up in the couch for comfort and turned to Levi. He was still looking at his can.

"Not sure if this is the right time to tell, actually," he murmured. His face was lit up by the glowing TV, and the sky outside was still bright as fuck, even through the blinds.

I found myself staring at him and missing out the part where he explained why it's not the right time.

"There was a rectangle going on. Mike, Erwin, Nile, me. Best friends, cool kids, school's clique. Hung out with sexy cheerleaders and wore lettermans, watched World Cup, harassed people. We did everything you're doing now, except you were awoken at age fourteen and porn, and we were awoken since birth."

"Can you please be less depressing?" I waved at my face. "Sounds like a story titled as, I don't know. All My Friends Are Dead."

"That's a book."

I just shook my head and resumed drinking. "Whatever. Go on."

"I told everyone they're all my best friends, but the only best friend between them was Erwin. Erwin's the aftermath of God's slipping hand when he poured good in that guy." Levi shook his head. "Remember, I told you I used to live in the capital? Yeah. I moved here when I was around fifteen, maybe sixteen. I still don't know if I regret doing that."

Eyes still on Levi, I raised the can to my lips.

"First thing Erwin ever said to me was "I'll show you which urinals are broken". Just knew I'd have something big to cling on to from then on. He was almost the same during our school years as he is now. Nice, considerate, attractive and smart." Levi took a sip. "Next lunch, he introduced me to his two best friends."

"Mike and Nile?" I asked.

"Mhm," Levi approved. "When our square got solid, Mike didn't like me at first. Nile grew to get off from arguing with Erwin. We weren't united, just constant pairs of dominating friendship. Erwin and Nile, Erwin and Mike. Erwin and me. I was the last call. The best call, always."

"Why didn't they like you?"

"Because nobody likes the New York's aristocrats."

"I thought you hanged out in a metal dumpster," I said.

"Yeah," he smiled and looked to the side. "Yeah, but they didn't know that. They just knew I'm an ugly boy from New York, and didn't like me. I also wasn't too successful, appearance-wise. You can take a guess."

Since I was so distracted by his teeth at the moment, I uttered: "Braces?"

Yeah, and how'd I figure that?

"Mmm. I was also slightly shorter than I am now. Yeah, it's possible. The coach didn't take me in football. I had the build for it, though. Mike and Erwin played in the team. Nile wasn't massive enough. That's how we both started bonding. Went in for soccer."

Levi's gaze went back up to the TV.

I let him sit in silence for a while and emptied my Bud Light before cracking the other open. Alcohol wasn't kicking in at all, just the typical, warming sensations and a tickle at the back of my throat.

Also, I reeked like I was a hairy-chested forty, didn't walk my dog and had a retreating hairline.

That's how beer stinks.

Hate beer.

Levi slid lower in the couch. I felt the heat from his undercut seep through my shirt. The skin was always warmer there. It's closer to the head.

He ended up resting his head somewhere against the side of my waist.

It felt a little sensual. As if my hormones weren't spiked already.

"At some points, Mike was my friend," Levi then continued, after some while of thinking. "When Mike was my friend, Erwin got occupied by Nile, and we got the chance to shit behind them like Nile did when Mike and Erwin were inseparable. I was shocked Mike never said anything. Later on I realized he was the Absolute Pacific. Like Erwin, just more silent."

"I like Mike," I said. "Mike's a nice guy."

Levi moved his legs. "Yeah."

"You can continue." I looked down at him. His stare up was fifty percent murderous and fifty percent "thanks for the signed paper, I'm glad I'm now allowed to".

By the way, he's now slid almost to my lap, and I'm literally just staring at his upside-down face.

"By the time we were all your age, the cheap definition of "friendship" didn't matter anymore. We just sticked together, appropriately distanced. Mike went to a different school after graduating, though same town, I sticked to Erwin by all costs, and Nile sticked to us."

He made a dramatic pause, and I had to peek down to check if he wasn't dead.

"Until Marie."

"Who..." I began, raising my can. "Who the fuck is Marie for you to make it this dramatic?"

Levi covered his mouth and laughed. I felt his head move against my side, and I slid down lower in the couch. Had no restraints and also no complaints about being a pillow. Pillow in all ways, starting from pillow-talk, ending with... nothing.

Just pillow-talk.

"It goes like this. Nile and Erwin are at a bar after exams. Celebrating, fishing girls. Not me, not Mike. I wasn't interested and Mike was away," he said. "And there's this stunning beauty cradling a glass of wine at the shorter side of the counter. Erwin's a hundred percent convinced she's the woman he loves, she's the woman he marries, and she's the woman who bears his children."

At this point, I was tilting my head back and had a good mouthful of BL, otherwise I would've roared in laughter.

"Yeah!" Levi seemed just as amused. "Yeah, I'm telling this because Erwin told me this. He tells this to me every time this topic bubbles up again. He describes her so neatly.He says her hair was still short and light, and he keeps fucking repeating "Levi, her hair was the most beautiful, precise detail, and I thought she smelled like dandelions in a summer day"."

My mouthful was swallowed, and I swallowed once more to check if there's a risk for ugly choking.

I looked down at Levi to check if he's actually fucking serious, and we broke down in loud jolts of laughter seconds later.

"Alright," he gasped after we calmed down and he stopped pushing the couch back with his weight. "Alright, fuck. Fuck, alright. Alright."

"Alright," I repeated. "So, what's up with Dandelion? How does it end? Do they both fuck her, at least?"

"Dandelion's being hit on by two charming gentlemen, bit by bit. She's obviously got a thing for blondes. Nile isn't much of interest, and Erwin's also carrying a little more good aura. Erwin's also more attractive, and Nile has a runny mouth. But Dandelion doesn't say Nile isn't attractive."

"How hot was Marie for Erwin to act like this?"

"Tropical."

I laughed.

"I'm not kidding, she's fucking hot."

My laugh got abrupt and dry.

"But yeah. They're charmed and stunned, and she gives them her number. Timeskip, Nile gets the girl," Levi said and crossed his ankles.

"What?" I spat out and squeezed my can in shock. "I thought Nile's, like... Like... Why'd he go for Marie? If he knew Erwin was so over her? Oh, fuck! Is that why they're in such bad terms? No, dude! That's fucked up. I'm going through the same situation right now!"

"Nile gets the fucking girl," Levi repeated. " Nile got Marie because I exist. I'm the silent critic, Levi. I'm Erwin's best friend, I'm the little fucking dude, the guy who observes and knows everything and everyone. I thought my relationship advice was top class. I've been Erwin's right hand ever since my arrival at high school."

"What's your role in this?"

"I convinced Erwin Marie wasn't worth it. Made him realize she's just a chick from the bar, took his fucking face in my hands and told him he's way more worth a certain miserable cunt from downtown. He believed.Went studying and forgot her."

Levi finished talking with a dramatic, sad note. I watched him drink and looked away when he looked up.

"We're almost in pieces by then; Mike's got his own separate life, Nile's developing his, Erwin has changed the direction entirely and I'm not sure what I should do. I'm barely over twenty at that point."

"Damn," I dragged. "Sounds like the script of a movie. So Erwin, like, gave up on his sex life and replaced it with studying?"

"Yeah." Levi rolled his Tsintao between his palms. "Yeah."

"Is that the end of the story?"

"No. There's also the wedding."

"Fuck, don't tell me it goes all the way."

"Nile's an idiot. He marries her. All friends are invited."

"No fucking way."

"I told Erwin not to go. He went, anyways. Figure how much time he spent drinking later."

"No..." I pressed my warm can against my cheek. "I get why Erwin's this collected. Fuck, I hate Nile even more now."

"Don't hate Nile."

Levi sat up, leaned against my right side for support, and tried sliding out the couch. I gave him a helpful push from the back. Almost lost my empty beer can. Though could've been us both simultaneously.

"I'm feeling my intolerance kick in," he whispered and shook his head. "Brrr. Monitor the game while I'm away. You want more?"

I gave him my empty can. "Yeah."

While Levi was in the kitchen, I slid down so low I could reach the coffee table with my full foot. It wasn't heavy, so I pulled it closer. Just like that, unmoving. With my feet.

"There's one Heineken!" Levi called. "I don't know if I'm generous or selfish tonight."

I considered his offer between the lines.

"You can take the Heineken if we play a drinking game with Erwin's porn channels," I said. "We drink every time there's an amateur move."

"You're fucking on! Won't believe how fucking stupid straight porn is when there's a commenting porn star next to you."

My mouth split in a grin.

Thirty minutes later, we're sitting on the same couch. Levi's relaxed, his legs are over the armrest, yet another beer in hand, and I'm so tight.

I'm way too tight.

My legs were partly crossed and I had a pillow near my crotch, just in case the tenting gets too visible.

I thought watching porn while drinking would be a laughing matter. I mean, at the beginning, it was.

Levi kept commenting on every small detail, and I genuinely laughed at this, but after a while the clips turned to such quality even he stopped commenting and we watched porn in almost embarrassing silence.

It got unbearable only a while ago. There was a really sensual fucking session, and my body wasn't unresponsive.

Plus the last time I jerked off was a while ago. If Levi wasn't next to me, I wouldn't have my pants on right now.

"He's doing it wrong," Levi finally murmured. His cheek was pressed against my waist. "Look, it's slipping out. Feels painful to watch. Look! Did you see that? It just... slips out."

"The angle's wrong, I think."

"Everything's wrong. This is fucking cheap."

"What category are you in?" I asked to clear my head. "Not category, rank."

"Professional," he barked. "Fuck. Look at all this alcohol. I don't know how I'm still standing."

"You're horizontal."

Levi just looked up at me. "Fuck off. Can you get more?"

I carefully moved to the side. His head slid down to the bottom of the couch. I gave him a pillow to compensate for the loss, and he threw the pillow back in my face.

And then came my beautiful act of standing up, because:

1. I had a semi, and;

2. I was drunk.

3. I was also hungry as fuck.

4. Mmm, fuck... I'm drunk.

5. Blergh.

"I'm in a fucking cherry," I gasped and tried to balance, fix my jeans and talk at the same time. "I'm in a total fucking cherry."

"Hair of the dog solves all problems, Eren."

"Besides alcoholism," I said, and stumbled to the kitchen.

Just sitting and drinking at one spot, or generally being immobile made it so much easier than drinking at Jean's birthdays. Now I felt like my thought process was a neat, little film, with missing panels and burn marks. Click, click, click, oh, darkness. Oh, fuck. Click, click, click. Oh, that's a wall. Fuck. I'm drunk. Click, click, click.

I think the clicks could potentially be me blinking.

Erwin had a big kitchen. He had a huge fucking kitchen. He had knife sets and large windows with curtains. I remembered how I tore those off when I was younger and mom looked after Erwin's house when he was on his trips like he was now.

This room was tidy, big, clean and perfect.

I wondered why didn't Erwin look for a wife, or a girlfriend, at least. Maybe he's discouraged by Levi's words. Levi probably knows it and thinks it's his fault.

"People come up to me in the city sometimes," Levi said from the living room, and I leaned against the fridge to listen. "And ask if they know me, you know, since I seem familiar. Best thing is when it's men with wives or kids. I just know the family is crippling."

Oh.

Oh, FUCK, WHEN YOU GET TO THINK ABOUT IT.

"You've fucked up so many lives," I whispered against the fridge, and pulled it open.

I assumed we were still in the beginner stage, not the party stage, but the top shelf was empty and I realized we drank all the beer.

The beer meant for the entire season.

"Levi?" I yelled. "We drank all the beer."

"Beer's not the only alcohol Erwin has," he called back. "Though I feel like I need to stop. I really can't drink this much, I'm...not going to do good at night."

"Jesus once said "fuck intolerance", and took two more shots."

"God's dead, Eren, but good luck."

Next thing I knew was me kneeling in front of the freezer and inspecting it's contents. Peppermint leaves in a box, probably good for a fresh mojito, I just didn't know if Erwin had rum or lime or brown sugar. He had ice, though. Right next to the peppermints.

There were a few plastic bags with frozen meat, dumplings, a full box of ice-cream, and another drawer on the bottom. I didn't know why I searched for food in the freezer, but I thought it was a splendid idea.

I was also drunk.

Any idea is splendid then.

"Are you hungry?" I aimed my question at the adult in the living room. "Because I found two double packs of crab sticks, and I fucking love crab sticks."

"Fuck... Do you know how much porn's out there on Pirate Bay?"

I took the packs and slammed the freezer close. "I can't watch more tonight, don't torrent anything."

"Why?" He asked. "I'm not torrenting, I just remembered."

I went back to the living room with crab sticks instead of alcohol. Levi's reaction was a squint, then a curled lip, then a raised hand and furrowed brows.

"Because," I said, throwing the pack over to him. "It's the same if I offered to watch and criticize gay porn. Pointed out all details and specifics."

"The fuck, Eren?" Levi sat up.

"I'm straight and this porn gets me reacting."

He looked at me like I just said I love Nile. Just sat and stared with this clear expression of disbelief, like he didn't know males get erections.

His eyes moved down for a second, and went back up to my face.

"Oh," he shortly said.

The feeling was fucking torturing and I tried to forget.

We didn't watch soccer at all. The sky outside got darker gradually, layer by layer. We got louder, and alcohol kicked in only after I began eating.

As a side note, eating crab sticks with Levi might be the most homosexual thing I'd ever done.

Seemed okay at first. I watched Netherlands kick ass and chewed on a frozen piece. Crab sticks were good in all forms. They're kind of a blessing. Levi opened his pack a while after I did. We silently sat and ate our crab sticks. A half of mine and a third of Levi's were cleared when we began messing around.

I was impressed he was sitting instead of lying somewhere haphazardly. Fuck, bless for letting me see Levi in a state like he was in at the moment.

We talked about porn stars without talking about Levi or Nile. Somehow, under this topic, I came to a conclusion only sexy, successful people use drugs. Levi said he's a successful person. I asked if he thought he was sexy. He looked at me, and asked if I think he's sexy. To avoid answering, I groggily stood up and went to take a piss.

But you know my absolutely obvious answer to this question.

Fuck.

Fuck, I don't... I don't think I'm reacting to his presence like I should react.

Whatever, though.

Fuck it.

On my way back, I found out Erwin has Harman/Kardons and a base station. First thing I did was plugging my phone to it. I blasted off the local party radio. Levi screamed I should turn it down, and I screamed, "Dude, turn down for what?"

You can imagine it wrapping up.

I switched to the music on my phone. It felt more calm. We listened to Frank Ocean and that stuff.

Levi turned off the lights and we switched ESPN to MTV, though muted. Just to get the party vibe, the flashing lights off the screen.

Flat colors danced on his face whenever I paid enough attention to notice them.

Sick fucks for getting wasted on a Sunday.

Count the times I bumped on Erwin's palm tree and Levi hit the drawers with the DVD sets with all leg parts he could manage to.

"How are you still standing?" He asked after falling back in the couch. I watched him peel out a defrosted crab stick and push it behind his cheek. "My head's spinning. I feel fucking drowsy. Hate drinking."

"Pimpin' ain't easy."

I slid down next to him. I was positive the roots of my hair were getting sweaty. Like, fuck. I came here with wet hair, and I'm leaving with wet hair. Levi wasn't helpful and didn't give me a blowjob. Blow... Blow dryer. Blow dryer. He didn't... He didn't dry my hair.

Fucking CHRIST.

BLOW DRYER.

Levi looked over, chewing.

"I got Batman socks," he said and raised his foot. There was a symbol on the heel part. "I'm thirty. What am I doing with my life?"

"Batman's really cool."

"You're really cool."

I looked to the side and flinched by how close he was.

Now I noticed the flat colors on his face.

Fuck, he's way too close. I can smell his cologne. Fucking sweet smell, could be Lacoste. Had no idea what he fancied, but this just punched me in the stomach.

Due to the sudden pressure of everything happening, I smiled and hid my face with the sleeve of my jacket.

"You too," I murmured behind it.

He breathily laughed right next to my ear. I felt him slide lower again.

Used the opportunity and reached over to the table for another crab stick.

"I think you wouldn't say this when sober, though," I quite honestly admitted.

"I think I would. Look at you."

"I'm not even visually successful."

Levi sat up almost immediately. "What?"

"Mmm?"

"You're kidding, right? Know the shit I'd give away to look like you when I was your age? Know what people say about you? It's all Nile ever talks about. He doesn't refer to you as anything more than "oh, the pretty guy"."

"What?" My jaw dropped.

"Don't mind. You're twenty. You're likeable. You have so many open paths for everything in life," he said. "You have a potential girlfriend living across the hallway. If you'd get married, we could both be distant relatives."

I thought about it. Always wished I had Levi as a brother, cousin, something, but...

Alright, this sounds fucked, but I wouldn't want him as family.

Because, like.

Reasons.

:-| Like, what if. Assuming the worst, but what if.

"I don't think I'm actually all this cool shit you think I am. I'm just...normal. With a few weird details, but I'm normal." I shrugged. "You're a lot different than I assumed you to be. Thought you're super private and locked-out."

"Now I'm just your drunk ex-coach. Isn't that boring?"

"Do you think I expected something more?" I asked.

Levi looked at me and stopped chewing. We sat there for a brief while with fucking music playing in the background, and he looked at me.

Raised a brow.

"What are you expecting from me?" He silently asked in return.

I smiled a little, out of reflex. After slow minutes of a logic-deprived mind, I realized he might see this in a wrong way.

"Kisses," I jokingly said and rolled to the side, to rest my back against the armrest.

"You're just fucking around now."

My eyes traveled down. I noticed the jeans he was wearing was a pair of tight, black Levi's. The waistband was revealed and his shirt was ruffled and folded back up in random heaps.

I saw more than just the waistband, but didn't say anything.

I tried to think less of everything gross I've thought of today.

We fell asleep after my phone ran out of battery and the music turned off. Only thing lighting up the room was MTV's never-ending music videos.

For a while I wondered how am I going to survive tomorrow.

Wondered how Levi's surviving tomorrow.

Wondered why Mikasa never called about the fucking pizza.

Last thing I knew was my head falling on his shoulder and some fragments of Frank's songs in the background of everything else.

Chapter Text

My lazy hand dragged over my stomach in some weird, unresponsive attempts to scratch the top of it.

I felt light feathers underneath my fingers, right between my ribs.

I'm hairy.

Just...saying.

The aftertaste of yeast and stale apple pies. Repulsive belches. Sweaty roots. A little damp circle right between my shoulder blades. The slight reek of dried sweat. Dry, hurting eyes. Sleep grains.

Fuck, my gums hurt when I grit my teeth. A gross coat over them, too. I kept sliding my tongue over the front, thinking how bad and raw it feels.

This is the most accurate description of a morning after drinking.

Fucking disgusting.

Somehow last night I just knew all these cans on my way to the toilet would result in terror the following morning. I pissed a lot through the night. Had to get the alcohol out. The dangling and aluminum cracking on the floor I wondered about at night was clear only now, after waking up.

At night it got me distracted from the pain in my heels and toes.

In the morning it's just the pain left.

My forehead and cheeks were burning. The skin of my neck and chest was cold and damp. I sneaked a hand on my chest and scratched there. Felt old skin building up underneath my nails.

Fucking... (gun emoji)

Felt hard to concentrate on aiming my leak straight in the toilet the first times. Sleeping through the critical hours (one to three AM) helped. By around six I felt more sober and did a good job on hitting the toilet with ease.

I got really hard at seven AM. Considered masturbating at nine minutes past.

I masturbated in the bathroom at twelve minutes past.

Masturbating in an extreme state of hangover is super sensual. I couldn't find the power to stand, so I sat, legs relaxed, knees junctioned. One leg was stretched out, curling the mat before the sink. The other leg pulled close, ankle pressed against the ceramic toilet.

It took fifteen long, drowsy minutes. Only by the end did I remember I was at Erwin's and Levi was still somewhere around in the house.Didn't technically care. Nor about jacking off at Erwin's, nor Levi being a few meters away.

Who fucking cares, dude. I'm just masturbating.

Hit the climax at a very unconventional moment. I practically vibrated all over for a few seconds, then stopped. Closed my eyes. Pressed my back against the top edge of the toilet, both legs against the bottom. Hit my left ankle.

That detail kind of brought color in all this, and I broke out in a moan with the most embarrassing high-pitched sound that dropped to a grunt in milliseconds.

Worry punched me in the guts first, because I thought Levi might hear me and my ethereal moaning and toilet smashing. It turned me off immediately. It's a lame detail. Once the slightest trace of paranoia appears, I'm written down as impotent until the next time I get horny, basically.

I shot two inches, but most of this covered my dominating fist. Knuckles, wrist. Got some on my shirt, but just the edge. I rubbed it in and it just looked like the most casual wet or dirty spot.

Semen stales pretty bad, I've had experience. So I can't think about wearing this shirt ever again.

Fuck it. It has holes, anyways. Throwing this out.

I was still sitting when I stretched my hand out towards the sink. The thinnest little drop fell on the tiles, right next to the blue mat Erwin had. I just rubbed it in with my socked toe. Erwin didn't have to know. Levi also didn't have to know. I'd be the only one who knew there's my cum on Erwin's toilet mat.

I'd tell this to Jean, but I'm scared he'd diarrhea it all over to Mikasa.

I slept like a damn baby after this.

In four hours it's eleven AM. I'm obviously still sleeping, because my alarm had to go off later. The problem: my phone ran out of battery last Night of Getting Shitfaced, and the alarm would just never go off. A bystander would bet I'd sleep in and never get to work or trainings this Monday.

Sure.

Like Levi doesn't exist.

There's a light but bony (guessing it's a knee) nudge on my ass. "Eren, it's almost noon."

I wasn't in a state to respond, but I felt I could at least think properly, though conscious and in pain, and clearly feeling a thick mass of alcohol down in my stomach. I still kept getting small air bubbles that reeked like warm beer that's went flat.

"Eren, get up. I don't want to get you in trouble."

Me: still very out of it and not even trying.

Another nudge, persistent and repetitive, almost screaming "Eren! Eren, Eren! Get up, Eren! Get up, eat breakfast! Piss! Piss, Eren!".

Like Navi from The Legend of Zelda.

"We have an hour to fix a shitface, you said you're doing something about it." His voice was so reassuring. I didn't have a single worry in life, honestly. "I don't want you to miss the training. It's in an hour."

I tried to move and got my hand out from underneath my stomach. It felt dead and filled up with a grainy tingle shortly after reaching sunlight.

"I don't think I'll do much at the training today," I finally said. Or murmured. Or whispered.

I just pressed my face in the corner of Erwin's dark leather couch with sewn lines and straight edges. Avoided showing this shitface to Levi. Had an idea what he might say.

Might react like I'm not the pretty boy anymore. He said I'm pretty last night, but it's like girls with makeup. It's a trick. Nobody's pretty when drinking/after drinking. You can trust me. I've seen my girlfriends in these states. Mikasa, not as much. But she's not and never will be my girlfriend, so lay off.

"I don't want anything right now, really. I don't feel like hearing Nile today." I blew a heavy breath against the leather. It stinked, but not too much. Just the beer reek. It's normal. At least I knew I hadn't thrown up during my few hours of blackout.

A nudge on my back.

I whined in irritation.

"You're already awake. Just get up. I'll fish some breakfast, get to the kitchen."

"Just chill with me."

"Can't, sorry."

"Please?" I peeked with one eye.

"I can't."

I growled and turned my face back against the couch. It had gotten a little damp where I previously exhaled and I brushed past the spot with my nose and lips. Felt extremely unsanitary. I moved my entire core closer to the back of the couch.

"I'll bring water, okay?" Levi cooed.

These words of his were a melody to my mind, a fucking blessing, a God's gift.

"Thanks, dad."

He audibly gagged.

And while he was busy bringing me the promised water, I tried to put my mind in order while sniffling at this fresh ebony leather. It smelled nice, had a ting of something really familiar, like... Like Levi, or me, or my deodorant, or my sweat, or something better.

In seconds I realized there's been a lot of asses right where I'm pressing my nose against, so I jolted up and wiped my face with my sleeve.

What I kept thinking about was the shit I couldn't remember from last night. I knew there's a brief moment missing. Felt like it. Mind's blanking like I'm running from something. It seemed weird and I wondered whether I should feel embarrassed or not. Don't know what about, though.

Not that I could've done something that bad.

Not that, like... Not that Levi would do anything.

But the more I thought about it, the more worried I got.

Five minutes later we're both sitting next to each other. I'm sure my hair's sticking up, at least on one side. I saw it in the glossy reflection of the TV.

I chugged my water and clung on the large coffee pot (without the sieve part) like sweet life. Levi stared straight. I kept looking at him time to time, but he looked so uninterested in anything but getting me back on line I just dropped it and curled my lip in the most literal sense.

Moody little bitch.

"I'm never drinking with you again," I said. "I hate drinking with you."

"You drank with an intolerant man in his mid-sixties."

"Is why I hate it."

Levi gave me a budge of empathy, a soft push on my shoulder. I knew it was meant to be cute and timid, but the motion I was swindled in was too much.

When you're immobile and hungover, you're good. If you're hungover and someone's playfully pushing you around, yeah, you're going to scream from the rippling pain in your head. I didn't scream, but the coffee mug in my hands almost slipped out, and I slid down in the couch close to entirely. Gargling. Thanks to his "budge". Sympathetic push.

I lied practically horizontal, resting on my elbow, pulling on my hair, feeling my sweat build back up, and moaned in pain. Whined. Like the most unbearable little kid, but in the lowest voice yet.

Levi apologized more often than I've said the word "fuck" through my entire lifetime.

Later on, after letting me rest out my throbbing headache, he asked if I'm even hungry and offered making something if I happened to be. I said something about cereal to make it quick, but Levi shut my mouth with an abrassive: "Do you ever eat anything else than fucking cereal? I'll make breakfast."

He left with this and I went to the kitchen only after hearing some clinking.

Levi was there. He had his t-shirt on, but the jacket from last night was off and on the table. I leaned against the door frame in the most exhausted manner.

"I have arrived," I obnoxiously said and smiled.

He ate his cereal and didn't respond with anything else but a controlled smile. You know, so the food doesn't fall out of his mouth. We kept eye contact during this awkward while. I rubbed my eyes and face to break it, and he looked away by then, too.

I considered pinching myself to check if I'm not dreaming, and if this casual, intimate thing was really happening. Then I wondered if I'm not just the biggest idiot. Everything's far too real. The way I feel my balls when leaning against the frame with partly-crossed legs, the layered sweat on my chest.

Asides from the jacket, he still wore the clothes from yesterday, and his stubble was now obvious. Mostly on his cheeks.

"I made coffee," Levi said after swallowing. I saw him look down at the counter, over his shoulder. "You can take it."

I took milk from the fridge and shook the bottle.Thanked Levi for being supportive, but not aloud.

Currently, this just felt like a nice morning. Had nice atmosphere. This would happen if we were housemates and split bills. If we were, like, living in a twin house, or so. The idea of living with Levi with the most languid relationship in-between made me heady.

I was itching to ask why he left to the guest room (if he left to the guest room) last night, but itching usually stops best when ignored.

Every little sound in the kitchen was echoing. His crunching, especially. So I looked at him and kept shaking the bottle.

"You're eating too loud," I said, with a placid smile that reeked of being content.

He grinned. "Pour the milk."

"Stop chewing like that. It's so disturbing."

Levi let the spoon clink and munched even louder. I guess to torture me.

"Pour your milk, Eren," he said. "It's just coffee. There's some food in the fridge. Can't figure out what you'd like."

While pouring the milk and putting the bottle back, I thought about the beach party Connie blurted something about a while ago. Wished I joined the conversation. I wouldn't mind baking myself in the sun on a better weekend. Going swimming, maybe.

Beach parties meant drinking. So I'd have to drink. Again.

I shivered. Levi looked at me a bit worriedly, but I shook it off with a motion of my hand.

I took a spoon from the top drawer and joined Levi in careless leaning against the counter. Stirred my coffee for longer than necessary. No sounds in the room, no TV, no radio, just our clinking and his crunching, and a little fuzz from the fridge.

Tried coming up with a good conversation starter, even though we both seemed to be okay with this silence, too. It was comfortable. Didn't bother me at all.

"I can't believe I'm drinking coffee during a hangover," I whispered. "The hardest killer is coffee, usually."

"Yeah. I never drink coffee after alcohol."

"Crazy. Most times I'm just hungry. Yesterday just topped all others, I guess."

Levi turned his head to me, but his eyes were on my cup. "Yeah."

I listened to the fridge for a while, and then picked up the idea.

"Last night's okay with you, isn't it?" I silently asked.

"I think. Still feels weird, but I can adjust."

"I know, right?" I overreacted a little. "Drinking with my coach... Jesus. This stays between us. Hope I'm not getting shit for it, or anything."

"Oh, you're talking about drinking." He turned back to his bowl. "Yeah."

My left eyebrow lowered in confusion.

"What else could I be talking about?"

"The kissing?"

I kept stirring for a while, taking his answer as an absolute joke.

It punched me then, and I turned to him, wide-eyed.

"What?"

"That's nothing, I guess. Drop it."

"What are you talking about? Are you kidding? What?"

"I'm not kidding."

"We kissed?" I asked in disbelief. "Us? Who went first?"

Levi swirled the cereal around his bowl and kept staring down, so I figured it probably wasn't me.

I had a bad ache in my stomach because I for sure knew the most specific and intimate details occurred during the gap in the film I can't seem to find. Felt a little like panicking. Maybe we didn't just kiss. You know, we could've went a little further.

It creeped me out.

Creeped me out that I didn't remember.

I tore my eyes away from Levi and looked down at my coffee.

"You kissed me?" I meekly asked.

"Mhm."

"Was I being provocative, or did you take advantage while I was gradually logging off? No! Wait. I'm just asking, okay?. I don't remember a good few hours from last night, so I don't want to sound, like, rude, or anything."

"I'll recite what happened." Levi put his bowl on the counter and turned to me. Didn't look at me, though. "You dropped your heavy bucket on my shoulder and I asked if you needed space, because it felt like you're falling on top of me in the matter of seconds. You said no, snuck your hand behind my back and murmured "I feel fucking lonely", so I stayed."

"And?"

"And watched TV in fucking silence," he finished. "You slept for a few minutes. I was ready to knock out, too. Almost did. Then, all of a sudden, you wake up, sit straighter, and say you'd "kill for making out right now"."

My mouth was forming the straightest line at the moment. "And you just listened to me?"

"Fuck no? I'm not stupid."

"So we got to kissing how exactly?"

"Wouldn't you get to kissing if your attractive team player forced his entire waistline on your lap and said he "means it"?"

My jaw dropped. I'm capable of this?

Weren't the stars alligned just correctly when I was born?

I felt confused and all over the kitchen. "Why can't I remember this?"

He shrugged. "Wasn't important. We can drop this and never talk about it. Just hormonal drinking. I got off the leash, too. It's normal."

"Not that I'd mind, really."

Levi looked at me. Had the hardest stare yet.

"Care talking about it more?" He asked.

"Did we do anything else?"

"No. You tried prying my belt open, but that's about it. You're not a bad kisser. You're physical, also. And kept talking about a movie you're dying to see. Mad Max, I think. First heard the word "Max", I assumed it's your girlfriend and tore off."

I averted my gaze immediately.

"Thanks. No, I don't have a girlfriend."

He stepped a little closer and placed his elbows on the counter. Now I was forced to look at him from above.

"It's really embarrassing I don't remember," I murmured and stared at my coffee to ease the stress. "I wish I would."

"Because?"

I suddenly stressed out from his sharp tone and felt like the ground's fucking shifting.

"Uhh. It's, umm. It's because I'd like to... I don't know. I'd like to at least remember how it felt."

"Like any other variations of kissing." Levi was still collected as ever. "Eren, really. Don't stress it. It's nothing that big. I'll get over it."

I sourly chuckled. "Yeah, like there's anything to get over with."

"It does sting you don't care and don't remember, because I don't usually do this."

"Do what?"

"Get emotionally close. Kiss. Kiss like we did last night, I mean. You don't have to pretend it's something huge." Levi gestured and pushed his cereal around. "Or that it means anything to you. I already assumed it's just a slight withdrawal."

I couldn't figure out if it was just me, or if every single thing he said this morning felt a little injured and weak.

"Do you think it's just drunk kissing?" I gloomily asked.

"I think everything's got a motive."

"What do you mean?"

Levi straightened up.

"It was most likely somewhere in your subconsciousness, and came out only now," he said. "Not that I know much about your personal thoughts, but you've been thinking about it."

I took the cup in my hands and ignored how scorching it was. Tried drinking. I burned my tongue and lips. At least Levi didn't witness me spewing it back in the cup.

"Did you mean it?" He was leaning on the counter again. Strong arms pressed to his sides, pushing his weight up. The bicep was even more prominent now. "Everything you said last night."

"Would be splendid if I remembered everything."

"You said you've thought about having sex with me," Levi said. With a huge grin.

I couldn't figure but he looked a little embarrassed. I PROBABLY DIDN'T LOOK A WHOLE LOT BETTER, FOR YOUR INFORMATION.

I also couldn't connect myself with saying shit like that aloud.

"Anything else?"

"How you're been pining to kiss a boy and how relieving it feels to kiss someone again."

ISN'T THIS JUST THE TITS, EREN? ISN'T THIS GREAT?

"Did I say anything even more embarrassing?" I had my hand over my eyes now.

Levi shrugged. "No, asides from "you know, I haven't masturbated in weeks" and specific details of it."

I stood next to Erwin's fridge and felt morally degraded. But feeling ashamed of it didn't really mean I lied, does it? It just... Fuck, doesn't it mean it's true? All this shit I've said? Me feeling embarrassed he found out?

I couldn't figure out in which sense this all clicked. Levi and I never had anything more than professional coach-player relationship. We barely talked. Him looking at me and me looking back meant nothing but just perceiving the visuals.

That's pre-Pornhub.

Post-Pornhub is this mess we're into right now. I like(d) it a lot better than before, but I went too far last night.

Quite a lot too far.

"I've been thinking about it lately," Levi said. "A lot. Not in a creepy way."

"This, or..."

"Having sex with you."

I swallowed a thick clump. "Umm..."

"Not that I'd force it. It's just an idea. It'd stay in idea for as long as until you'd bring it up first. Don't tell me you haven't thought about it, too."

"I...apparently told you last night. But it's just an idea."

Levi tilted his hair. I watched strings of hair fall to the side and swing for a few seconds.

"Would you mind trying?"

I got weak in the knees.

Well.

Interesting.

Not that my legs are literal rubber and I can't stand, yeah. It's alright.

"Did you drink this morning?" I asked.

"I'm not drunk," he said. "I'm clean, and I actually want you since yesterday."

I put my cup down and tried dismissing my raging pulse. "Levi."

"Yes, for fuck's sake?" Levi looked me straight in the eye. He had a defiantly aggressive grin. I assumed he's a little scared it might not go as he'd expected. "I'm not just saying this to fuck around, I mean it."

"Here?" I blurted out the first thing that came to mind.

"Here. Wherever you want. The kitchen, the bedroom, the couch. Anywhere. The world's your sandbox."

I don't know why I even considered agreeing and asked for expansive information. I wouldn't do it. I don't have the guts for it. Maybe when ass-drunk and dying, or during a blackout, but not on a sunny Monday morning, in Erwin's house.

Plus hungover.

I just took my hot cup again and turned to face the window. Stirred the coffee uselessly.

I didn't hear him eating anymore, and didn't have any appetite myself, either.

"Well?" He asked. Silent and quite impatient.

"It's not your best idea," I admitted, still absolutely fucking confused. "Levi, we're not...that. I'm not like that, I can't just fuck with you. I'm not expecting to face shame for the rest of my life seeing your face, so..."

He raised a dissatisfied brow.

"I'm also a virgin," I mentioned, as if it's changing anything.

"I don't find it unappealing. It's sex."

"I've got no clue how to touch a girl. Don't think I'm good with...guys."

"Can't know if you never try."

"I'm embarrassed."

"To ease you up: I don't see how any of this could go bad," Levi mentioned. "We fit each other well. I confirmed it last night. You feel good to me, and I can't see this going wrong."

"What's so tempting for you to fuck around with me?" I asked, out of personal curiosity.

"Have you seen yourself in the mirror?"

"Funny. It's just because I'm hot." My mood dropped a little. "Nice. No, I'm not doing it. Fuck someone else. I'm not doing this."

I could count his lashes from up here. "It's just you I've been thinking about."

I was about to give an answer, but something pressed against my ass. Not something, was pretty clearly a hand.

A quick breath and I stilled. So did the spoon in my mug.

I made a quick, high mewl.

"Come on, Eren..." Levi whispered in my ear. He pressed closer. I could feel a hard nudge on my right thigh and didn't want to look down to check the cause. "Just fucking once. I promise. I'll piss off right after."

This is literally not fucking happening right now.

"Levi, I'm not, umm. I'm not like that. You've misunderstood something."

"You're exactly like that," he purred. I noticed him trailing a hand over my chest, feeling up my muscles through the shirt. I felt myself growing super hot. To avoid any further inquiries, I kept still and had no clue what to do.

"I used to think you're smart," I said with a light press closer to the counter, because his hand slid right under my ass, to the borderline that divides the glutes from the hamstrings. "Uhhh...now it's just weird. Don't--"

He squeezed and I almost collapsed on the counter.

"Best ass ever," he murmured. I almost laughed, but out of fear and panic. "You could give in. I'll go easy and light. Promise. There's nowhere to step back, really. Plus you know me. At least I'm safe."

I squeezed my eyes shut. He's right, though. There's nowhere to step back. I fucked up last night, out of just blue fucking air, and now he's pursuing the fuck-up. At least Levi didn't keep silent about the shit I said and let me know how fucking terrible it was.

There's no way we could just chill again, anyways.

And Levi's pretty hot.

There, I admit it. From a guy's point of view, I find Levi attractive.

There goes our "World Cup & chill".

"It's just fucking?"

"Mmm."

"What about school? Trainings?"

"What about it?" He cocked his head to the side. "You're leaving later this year. So it's just for the time being. "

"I'm just a temporary fuckbuddy?"

"Yeah."

"Are you clean?"

"Mhm."

Levi leaned closer and pressed his chest against my side. Hot, harsh, toothpaste breath hit my neck, tickled my throat and chin. My eyes fluttered open and close, and the discomfort in my lower stomach and dick now cleared itself up as a slight, still unnoticeable boner.

Dick felt odd from this morning's masturbation.

"Fine, whatever," I weakly said.

I felt his fingers sneak down.

I followed them with my eyes.

He carefully pulled the waistband of my jeans off from my skin and shoved his hand under. I shut my eyes at this and pressed my lips together to avoid witnessing whatever he's doing. Couldn't fight feeling it, though.

A slick finger ran down the outline of my cock. Stomach and chest vibrated due to me growling.

I took a deep breath to tell him it's been a while I've gotten excited like this, but there's SUCH a sturdy, rectangular object almost rudely poking my ass I got pissed and opened my eyes again.

"Eggs, kid! Boiled or sunny-side up?" Levi screamed. "Erwin's got some fucking nice frying pans. He's got induction! You actually don't have a choice. You're getting motherfucking sunny-sides."

I stared at the rigid texture of a blanked right in front of my eyes.

"I, by the way," he paused. "Am fucking thrilled."

I fell off the couch.

I fell off and dragged my tangled legs and blankets down along. Everything under my knees stayed in the couch, just my calves supporting my well-being and hanging on for the fifteen percent or so.

Felt like I had a miserable morning tent.

I definitely had morning wood.

Fucking dreams.

I CAN'T BELIEVE I JUST--

YOU KNOW, I'M NOT EVEN--

LET'S NOT--

ALRIGHT, FUCK IT! I JUST HAD THE START OF A WET DREAM AND LEVI WAS IN IT. FUCK IT! WHATEVER!

I suddenly considered just shooting myself in the head.

"Sunny-side up," I whispered, just to get Levi back away to the kitchen. "What time is it?"

"Nine. Nine and thirteen minutes. Your training's in three hours, and I'm not going to school with you this morning," he said and used his foot to push my ass to the side. "I'm very clearly feeling a hangover. I can't walk straight without crying."

Rubbed my face.

"See?" He pulled at his eyelid. "Look at my eyes. Red."

Yeah, mine are too.And probably can't walk, either. Bet the Bud Light last night did fucking wonders to my subconscious dreamset. I 'm fucking never admitting what I dreamed about. If this ever surfaced, it's only when Levi's in a state he can't remember anything, or dead.

I don't think I'd confess about this even when he's dead.

I don't think I'm ever telling this to anyone.

"Oh," I breathed. "Alright, uh. How do I get there, then? To school?"

Levi shrugged. "I don't know. Find out."

The bus schedule twirled around in my head. "First bus goes off at five past nine, second goes at... The one I need goes four hours and ten minutes later," I said. "Translates to, Eren, you'll miss school, or, Eren, you'll be there way too fucking early."

"Didn't Carla have a car?"

"Yeah, it's broken."

"Grisha?"

"Out of gas."

He swindled the pan in the air and let his arm fall down out of lazy reflex.

"Goddamn," he said.

"Goddamn," I repeated. "Am I getting the sunny-sides, though?"

(Asked this in the highest hopes he'd just walk back off to the kitchen so I'd be able to fix my hormones back in balance and go check if I really masturbated at night, or if it's the work of my dream and my boxers are actually filled with jizz.)

(Don't worry.)

(I wet-dream a lot.)

(NOT ABOUT THE PEOPLE I KNOW, THOUGH, BUT THAT'S OKAY, I GUESS, WE ALL HAVE A FIRST TIME AT EVERYTHING.)

Levi looked at me. "Do I look okay?" He very honestly asked.

I don't know if you look okay, dude. Anyone who'd touch my dick(in a dream) looks okay. He did look a little, you know, ruffled. Obviously didn't change before falling asleep. There's also no morning routine regarding to hair.

Levi smelled like peppermint toothpaste. I had to block my nose for a second.

Throwing my toothpaste out the second I get home.

"Umm, yeah. What's up with the question?" My voice was a little unsure.

He shrugged again. "I don't know. I'm thinking about trying to get myself on track during these three hours and see if I can get to driving by then. It's just ...urgh. Difficult. All my clothes are up in the condo. Still haven't gotten them over here, it's my first night. I could take Erwin's, but..."

"But everybody knows what Erwin wears, so you can't," I said. "Don't consider. You can't."

"Oh, fuck, imagine Nile's face."

I gasped. "Would be worth it."

"No, really. I have to get you to school somehow."

I let my legs slide off the couch, hit my ankles, and ended up lying there. "If this is about getting to school, calm down. I can go home and get Jean through Mikasa or go home and get Baker."

He confusedly stared.

"Baker's my skateboard," I explained.

"You could take my car..." Levi thoughtfully began, staring out the window. Then he shook his head. "No. No way I'm giving you my fucking car. You probably can't even operate a manual."

"Yeah, I can. I can operate both manuals and automatics."

"Wait, you have a license?"

I looked up like he'd just asked "do people die when they are killed?".

"Ummmmm."

"What? Are you driving cars with just pure luck?"

"Yeah, definitely! Right now, I'd be driving cars with ninety-eight percent of luck," I said in a convincing Mark Wahlberg tone. "Sure I have a license. I think we need to lay it down and I still have to get home... Change, or something. Man, doesn't your head hurt?"

Levi's smile was sour. "I hold my pride in not crying."

"Oh."

"Feels like someone's whacking my scalp with a baseball bat," he said. "A nailed one."

"Oh," I repeated. "My head feels pretty alright."

"Try standing." Levi laughed and turned with a slow, pained motion. "I'll be in the kitchen with the range hood on. Scream if you need help."

Great, thanks!

I watched him stagger off swinging the pan with dangerous strength. Considered asking if he's not planning on joining tennis or badminton, or at least teach it to kids, but I had this distant sense of fear that told me "Eren, he may be hungover, but his aim is precise and you don't want this induction pan flying at your nose at five hundred miles per hour".

First was the leg tangling and figuring out how the fuck did I get this on.

"Did you put this on me?" I yelled to the kitchen. "The blanket, how'd it get here?"

"Took it down from the guest room, tossed it on you and went back to sleep!" He yelled back. "I threw up twice. God, beer's nasty!"

"Did you clean up?"

"No! It's why I want to stay home today. Get the house tidy, wash the sheets. Look at all the papers in the couch." Levi flicked off the vents for me to hear better. "There are two Bud Lights underneath. One wasn't empty. I know who drank Bud Light yesterday, and it wasn't me!"

"Not fuckin' me either, you know it!"

He laughed really loud, and cut the laugh off with a short, pained whine.

"I'm dead," Levi said. "I'm dying. Drinking with you was an enormous mistake. You'll have to take my car. I'll close my eyes and pray for your good reflexes."

Then he turned the range hood back on.

That boosted me up. I tried standing on my legs, wobbly, slow and unsure if that's vertical or horizontal.

And then it came, the blood rush and the fluid circulation, everything slammed in my body all at once, and I felt really fucking whacked in the span of two seconds.

Oh, Christ, maybe going to church might've helped me out in the long run.

Like someone cut off my oxygen flow, fucking squeezed insects in my head. Long, veiny bugs, right in my brain. Maybe a brain concussion. This was probably how Jean felt last year after our match with the country school.

Everything looked slow and slimy, like a wallpaper on your monitor that's stretched to fit the frame. I felt like speaking, but Levi wouldn't hear me from all the way there. If I tried to scream, my screen would flick red like it did at Windows errors.

Actually, no, compare this to The Blue Screen of Death.

I weakly gasped.

The vent got silent. "Eren?"

A gargled whine. I felt myself slipping back to my knees. Had no idea if I even got as far as standing.

A clink, and I heard a few beeps. Levi probably turned off the stove.

"Eren, you okay?" He asked.

I just tried to breathe as ever. Felt mysteriously too much saliva in my mouth and prayed I'm not going to throw all yesterday's food and drink lair out here on Erwin's parquet.

"Yeah," I called. "Ohhh... Yeah..."

"Should I bring water?"

"Mmm. Oh, god. This is new. I'll mop the floor if I throw up."

"In any case, try not throwing up."

My senses were violated.

In a few seconds, Levi's kneeling down with me. He tried to lean as low as possible to see my face. I tried to hide behind my hair, because the view was probably not pretty at all. A pale, sweaty, unhealthy Eren.

I probably looked pasty and cancerous.

He took my chin and forced my head up straight.

I made a ":T" face and his mouth broke a nervous smile for a short second. Then he got back to being serious and careful.

"Oh, fuck..." Levi murmured. "Don't get mad, but you look like shit, Eren."

"I know."

He screwed the bottle open for me. If I looked straight, I saw the floor. If I looked up, through my forehead, I'd see only his hands, and that's what I was doing.

Just staring at his hands. Thinking about the vivid dream.

How these hands tried to rip the buttons of my jeans open.

:^) Nice. I'm scarred. Forever.

"You don't look like handling Nile right now," Levi commented.

"I don't feel like handling Nile right now," I said, just as silent.

Had no idea how low I crouched or how low was my face in general, but the closer to the ground, the less gravity felt like it was affecting my goddamn hangover problem.

Levi stretched out the bottle for me. I latched to it like sweet life.

Exactly like in the fucking dream.

He gave me water, I went to the kitchen, shit happened.

A set of cold fingers brushed back my wet bangs. I prayed he placed his whole palm on my forehead. He did. Levi's signature is cold hands when he's worried. Sweaty, cold hands. The hand on my forehead was just cold.

Or, my forehead was already wet and I just felt no difference.

"Should I bring you a bowl? If it gets worse, the bathroom's door is open. Just, mmm... Don't step on the mat. It's damp. Don't know why."

Worked like a light switch. I coughed to press my laugh down. Levi pulled my hair back for a slash of vomit, but I just laughed really, really loud. I have obnoxious laughter.

We sat cross-legged on the floor, laughing.

Kill me and sell my body to the black market.

The morning was spent drinking water and eating sunny-sides. Levi made great sunny-sides.

I tried to keep all my stomach contents down and used the toilet every fifteen to thirty minutes, emptied water bottles and shared them with Levi, and we both pointed out this bottle swapping was nostalgic. You know, the beach? And the ice teas?

When I got tired of his "Eren, pass me the water", I staggered to the kitchen and squeezed half a lemon in the bottle.

He fucking hates lemons with a fiery passion.

Even though the atmosphere was super light and not forced, I kept thinking about my dream and which parts might be real. I knew for sure I still couldn't remember a good gap between falling asleep on his shoulder and the first time waking up for a quick piss.

There's a few hour blank space I can't remember anything about, but I'm way too scared to ask.

I won't ask him. He seems to be in such a great mood.

I got a text message from Jean saying the training's moved to later. Said we have a small meeting on third floor's class 355. It's about the graduation party and stuff.

By the time it was rounding up to half twelve, we left the house. Still absolutely drowsy and sick, me stinking like yesterday's beer and (now fresh) sweat, miserable and fucking wasted. He didn't stink as much as I did. Levi got to brush his teeth and tidy up. I didn't want to go home looking like this, so I just borrowed his comb, splashed my face and rinsed my mouth.

He said I looked pretty okay. He hesitated.

Means I still looked like shit.

The drive to school was silent. Levi turned the radio down as soon as we got in the car. The first thing on it was something insanely loud and upbeat. Later on I plugged my phone to his stereo, played Kendrick and cranked it up, despite the pulsing in my head.

It's fun screaming Kendrick's lyrics with Levi. He knew only the first half of every song.

My mind was set on the dream all the time. Occasional glances at Levi just kept on proving me it was purely a sick alcohol dream. He'd never ask anything like that. Wouldn't convince me to have sex, and also, no matter the situation, wouldn't kiss me when I'm drunk. Trust me, I know Levi.

I'd know his ways.

Dream Levi seemed like an odd prototype of how I imagined him, I guess. Real life Levi just isn't that.

I fixed my eyes on his hands and tried to remember if they looked the same and thought if he'd ever actually do anything like in my dream. I turned away when it got too far.

Which was all the time.

I decided not to bring it up. Obviously, ever.

We arrived two minutes before the meeting started. He wished me luck, I replied with the same, and we parted our ways. Levi walked off to the sports hall in a pretty neat pace. Definitely didn't look hungover. Maybe the water helped.

I was still struggling with moving. Walking up to the third floor was like beating fucking Everest. The halls were empty today, except for the third floor's wing. Had some second years hanging around on the windowsills, a few scattered first years who all in one looked like a snotty Marco, and my normal boy squad with their soccer bags along already.

I gave my sides a pat and realized I didn't have my soccer bag with me.

Why'd I come to fucking school if I didn't have my uniform? :^)

Felt like killing myself, but glided to Jean's right side. He did this quick sideways glance, and after recognizing me, turned entirely.

"Holy shit!" Jean's mouth slipped open. "Dude, where were you?"

"I know. I know. Don't talk."

We got inside the classroom and took the back seats. It's hell-level hot in the "window classes", always has been.

The soccer team took up the entire back. Seconds packed on the right side, and the babies were scattered all around.

Okay, I know there's been some problems ever since I woke up today, but I kept recalling one exact line Levi said in the dream. I can't stop connecting the dream to my actual subconscious. I've got a feeling Levi was there just because we've spent so much time together lately.

Maybe I'm trying to calm myself down?

"How you've been pining to kiss a boy and how relieving it feels to kiss someone again."

I kept sliding lower in my seat.

How you've been pining to kiss a boy.

How I've been pining to kiss a boy.

Mmmmm.

I've wondered about it, but pining's something different.

But it's the exact reason I brought this up.

I've been looking at Jean weirdly this entire morning, and there's an uncontrollable urge to ask him for a favor.

I'll ask later. I look too horrendous to afford being myself.

Some main organizers were talking in front of the classroom. It's ten minutes past twelve and I've bundled myself up in Levi's borrowed hoodie that reeks of Lacoste and amazing laundry.

It doesn't fit me in the arms, but I pulled the sleeves up.

Jean kept fiddling next to me and I kept watching him.

His hair's getting long. Especially the bangs. The tips are pasty white, goes up to a brassy caramel, and the roots are dark brown. It looks really good. Falls in front of his forehead he always complains about.

He's got that slim, vertical line right in the middle. I keep telling him it's normal and he's not the only one who has it. Not like Jean ever listens to me, or anything, but sure.

Jean's got the thickest lashes. Bottom, too. Longer than mine. His brows almost beat mine. They're more arched and make a mess at the ends. Mine are thick from start to finish and grow almost straight. Mikasa keeps telling me I have model brows, but I'm not sure if my brows could earn some cash modeling for magazines in tight bath suits.

Jean's cheeks are always splotched rosy.

He's that kind of pretty boy. But he's got the fuckboy undercut, same as Levi. I can't understand undercuts for the love of myself.

I slid on the table and crossed my arms to rest my head.

"Did you drink?" Jean leaned closer and crossed his arms, too. "Mikasa said you were with her cousin, at Erwin's house. Nothing else."

"Mhm. It's so obvious when I drink."

"Usually not. Now it is. I went over to your place and got super confused because you weren't there. I was, like, what the fuck? What's Eren doing at Erwin's? Erwin's not home, right? Then I remembered you look after his house every summer, and... Whatever. Is the, uh. Is she hot?"

I awkwardly smiled. "What?"

"The cousin?"

"Levi's her cousin, dude."

Jean stared at me, and I did a lazy nod.

"Mmm. They're twice removed cousins. Found out yesterday. Pissed myself."

"Jesus Christ! If I marry Mikasa, Levi's going to be my something-in-law."

"Yeah, as if you two are ever getting married. Levi said the same about me," I added. "He said I should marry Mikasa so we'd be related."

Then Jean slid back in his seat and started paying unnaturally careful attention to the speaking organizers. I wondered if I offended his feelings by saying I could potentially marry Mikasa.

We're twenty, all of us. Twenty's a good age for marriage. Twenty-one, twenty-two.

It makes my stomach tickle knowing most of us will get married one day.

"So, he wants to be related to you, or something?" Jean asked, sarcastically. "Why the fuck are you hanging out with Levi, anyways?"

Nice question!

"We were watching World Cup and drawing strategies for Regionals," I partly lied. "Erwin equipped us with beer before leaving. Had his upper fridge shelf full to the brim. This is the result. My face is a result. I'm so damn shitfaced, haven't been like this ever since I turned eighteen. We tried patching up this morning, but he looks almost as bad as I do."

"You're drinking with our coach?"

I nodded.

And Jean whistled.

We were silent for a while. Some people came in the classroom, some left and came back with milk packets and Capri Suns. I saw Mikasa entering the class, too. She had two Capri Suns and a Connie on her left.

I realized Jean was at our place last night, so we both had entertaining nights. I'm guessing his was slightly milder, though. They had pizza and soft drinks. We had brutal alcohol.

I didn't know if mom stayed home, went to sleep, or left for their romantic instances, but I was really curious about what happened, so I leaned in and bumped his shoulder. He tore his eyes off Mikasa almost immediately.

"Jean? Hey, how'd your last night go?"

And this is how you describe melting.

Jean looked down. "Romantic." He glanced over at Mikasa again, checking if she's not watching us. "Romantic as fuck. We got two pizzas, one for us and one for you and Levi, but you weren't replying to messages, so we ate both. Watched soccer. She's good at commentary."

"No kiss?"

He slightly shifted. I leaned in closer, to see his facial expression and how honest he is.

Jean looked at me very quickly and turned away again. "Um. No."

"Nothing?" I squinted.

"Khem, yeah. We fell asleep together, though?" His voice was full of hope and expectations I would find at least that as something cool. "We watched the game, then a few movies, and after Ex Machina she fell asleep."

"Shoulder, lap?"

Jean smiled.

"Lap," I said.

"Lap," he confirmed.

"Did you really not do anything? The entire evening? You call yourself a loving ex?"

His face got a little cocky now. "You asked about the night, not the morning."

"Jean!" My jaw dropped. Things are moving!

"I'll tell you later," he nervously mentioned. "She's walking over."

I was suffocating through this meeting. We didn't come to a proper plan, but there were many variations. Mikasa just said we'd need to organize another meeting the following week.

I asked Thomas to pull the window open. The class was scorching by now, and not on the north side. He said it's too far up and he couldn't reach the handle. I called him an asshole and peeled off Levi's hoodie, staying just in my holed, semen-stained shirt. Jean made a comment on how I look like a homeless man. In response, I had a topic to bring up.

"Hey, about your date with Mi-- that one, umm." I twisted the word because she glanced over. "I can lure out good information about her from Levi, if you're still interested."

"Did you tell him anything? Fuck, it's so weird you two are just hanging out."

"Uhhh. I think. Yeah. I didn't say you've been together, or in love right now, just did a mention. He's not really interested.I mean, he's more interested in hers and my relationship, not hers and yours."

Jean's eyes got entirely slanted. "The fuck is up with him and matchmaking?"

"Jealous?"

"Jealous, yeah!"

I laughed. "Fuck. I'll ask him about her food tastes and interests. There's an MMA match at the end of the month, I saw a poster. Maybe she'd fancy that."

"I love Mikasa so much," he said and slid down on his elbows. "She's...fucking great."

"It's not like you hate MMA's, right, Jean?" I teased.

"Mhmmm. For her - anything."

Thought about their relationship for a while, until a tiny crack of reality pushed in between.

"Jean?" I sat back up, dizzy. "Jean, but the graduation..."

He snapped his fingers. "I was just thinking about that."

"The third years are organizing the after-party, right? We have to set up the party?" I asked. "I'll be like Annie last year."

"What'd she do, again?"

"Just fucking ditched everything and went to her bootcamp." I love(d) Annie.

"Haha, yeah. Except Annie gets turned on by stones. Your chances are rounding to a thick zero," he said. "The case with me and Mikasa occurs every few hundred years. You wouldn't get back together. Uhm, whatever. Sorry. But the graduation this year is going to be fucking insane, dude. You have to get involved."

"Eh, it's not that important."

"It's Reiner, come on! Ymir? They'll read their graduation speeches. It's worth coming just for that."

"Reiner could pull off his pants and scream he's gay to the entire population of New Jersey."

"I think Reiner's going to do that," Jean agreed.

I laughed and cleared my throat. "But no, like... This year's grads are sick as fuck. Do you have any ideas where to organize the after-party? Thought about the beach, anything?"

"Mikasa mentioned the beach, yeah. Connie said we could rent a boat or something. A yacht? Just our friend squad plus soccer guys all together before Reiner blasts off to Europe. Is he still thinking about that? I think I heard him say something about changing his mind. I don't know."

"Yeah," I said. "We could get tickets to a ferry, rent a whole hallway. The ferries have buffet breakfasts and dinners and everything. They're making wedding and graduation parties, renting dancers and entertainers... Sick."

"That's a good fucking idea."

"I just want Reiner to remember his graduation, you know? One time chance."

"Mmm."

We threw around ideas through the left few minutes, fitting Reiner and gay perversions in every setting possible. The beach meant Reiner swimming naked, the ferry meant Reiner running naked, the boat meant Reiner just naked. Everything meant Reiner naked in one way or another, and I found that fucking cool and only a tad bit funny.

Christ, Reiner's cut, by the way.

After this came the moved training.

And, man.

Fuck.

Levi looked worse than I felt, and I felt pretty bad. I went to the bathroom and drank a good liter of sink water before actually going down to the sports hall. Levi was sleeping on the bench, ankles crossed and arms swinging down. If I didn't know he drank all evening, I think I'd blame it on the heat.

Passing him, I nudged his side with my knee, and he slapped the back of my thigh. Sounded juicy as fuck. Thick thigh appreciation club?

The slap also confirmed my concern about his hands being the same as they were in the dream.

Aha.

They're the same.

I'M THINKING ABOUT IT AGAIN.

I didn't feel good enough to lift weights, and I didn't have my uniform, anyways, so I just sat down next to Levi. Jean gave us both a really puzzled, judging look, and went to the lockers alone.

"Hey," Levi said, swinging his arm. His knuckles brushed against the floor. "I'm dead. Nile keeps asking what's up. I just said "Nile, wait". He'll see you and understand."

I let my bag slide down and pulled my legs up on the bench. "He's more likely to misunderstand."

"Nile's not stupid, you know."

"You sure?"

He kicked me.

The boys filled the hall. Some of them took basketballs and did quick five to fives, some slouched on the seats 'till Nile would come out of the cabinet or barge inside through the back door.

I asked why wasn't Levi sleeping in the cabinet, since there's an AC inside. He just said the AC isn't giving shit, and also that his chair has been pushed to the corner the AC doesn't reach. He said Nile did this on purpose.

I called Nile an asshole.

Nile came a while later and didn't look in our direction. He told everyone to go outside to the stadium. Said it's finally warm enough for long-distance lap runs and endurance. If there's anything I love more than myself, it's trainings in the stadium. The soccer season opens soon and we have to get prepared for Levi's comeback.

Levi's going to kill us in trainings, I'm just saying.

When everybody left, Nile turned around to go back inside and get the equipment bag. Then he saw me chilling at Levi's side.

His jaw clenched. A critic stare, and he went inside.

Levi glanced at me. We pressed down our smiles like it's the fifth grade.

Nile came back out with the bag and cones, looked over his shoulder, and around the middle of the hall, he finally stopped. Stopped, dropped the cones, and turned to us. I poked Levi, and he poked me back. With his shoe.

"If you're not going to do any fucking benefit, you can just leave," Nile said, assumingly to Levi. "I'll mark Eren as fucking absent. Don't sit there and waste two hours of your time, Levi."

"And me?" Levi called out, raising up a little. "Mark me as absent, too, maybe?"

Levi, that's teasing. That's fucking teasing, you can actually get in trouble, take note.

Nile's brows flicked up. "I'll talk to Pixis."

"And your benefit is?"

"He'll cancel off your sign-up. You know his attitude towards alcohol. It's fine, though. No hard feelings."

"Oh, Pixis won't do that," I joined in, feeling Levi's heel sink in my thigh, as if warning me it's a bad idea. "He likes Levi too much to cancel him off. Besides, Dot's just as wild. He drinks, too. All the time."

Nile just stared at me.

"Are you defending him?" He asked.

"No? No. I'm just telling you it's stupid to threaten Levi with something like that. Just my personal opinion."

"Eren," Levi warned.

"So, you two are bonding now, right?" Nile gestured. "Nice! I hope Levi tells you what's his fucking damage, Eren. I really hope he tells you the shit I tried warning you about."

OH, MAN, BABY, I KNOW IT ALL SO WELL ALREADY!

And right when I was about to spit something offensive about pornography, Levi kicked me harder than usual, and my leg caught a cramp. I had to grab it and hold it from shaking.

"Fuck off, Nile!" Levi yelled. "Go, have fun ruining my fucking team. Lead them to Berlin, let's talk then. Thanks for fucking the atmosphere up, by the way. Took me only three years."

"Fuck you. Act your age."

The words lingered juicy and thick in the air, and we all looked at each other before he picked up the cones and left the hall. A few seconds, and someone slammed the door close.

"Nile," I murmured.

"Yep."

I'd have to admit Levi just acted like an absolute child.

We sat there for five minutes to be safe he's not coming for a revengeful last word, and left the school after dropping by in the local store for a bag of cinnamon buns for Levi, some fruits and shit for me, and two bottles of peach ice tea. To boost the nostalgia.

Levi punched my arm when I asked for lemon ice tea, so we just got peach. Levi's super abusive when lemon's mentioned.

He didn't drive us home directly. We went over to the porn condo (I made too many bad jokes about this), he packed his clothes and everything else vitally necessary. Then we went home.

After he dropped me at my porch, I went inside, took a shower, changed my clothes to my bleached pink shorts and a clean, hole-less grey shirt. I packed my charger and laptop, too.

On my way out, I told mom I'll be home in the evening. She was pretty surprised I was home this early. I just said the training was cancelled. I said Nile thought the weather was too nice to enslave us.

I went back to Erwin's after my preparations. Levi welcomed me with a clean house.

We spent the day on our computers. In the couch. Watched Mad Max, due to my "bizarre" recommendation.

That wrapped up my hangover, more or less. Now the rest.

I hung out with Levi more than Jean these days, but that's because Jean and Mikasa ended up being the main organizers for the graduation party. Connie was the one who decided we're making a beach party; a beach party as in renting a hotel and a terrace, maybe a pool and a good slash of the shore.

I mentioned we should get shitty live music, or just play it ourselves. I tried learning the guitar a few years ago. Could totally pull off something as shitty and mainstream as Led Zeppelin.

I kept thinking Annie's going to be there, and it frankly nerved me out.

There were also two evenings I'd like to talk about. The first one occurred after I got home from Erwin's, on that gross Hangover Monday.

I still felt like I needed something from Jean, and Jean never told me what they did with Mikasa. It could be around a quarter past seven or eight when I called him over for a video game evening.

"Video games?" He boredly dragged. "Can't we just throw some laps around your neighborhood in my car?"

I was okay with that, too. After all, it's just a single question I'm dying to ask and a single wish to fulfill, it's just a short while of us hanging out together.

So we're out in Jean's car, parked right before the blank mustard-colored wheat fields. It's got this little "T"-shaped, asphalted space we had the car in. The windows were rolled down, and it's super heated and smells like you're growing life.

We're at the exact transition of night and day. That short lapse of time where the streetlights are turned on. The atmosphere changes completely.

"I made her coffee," Jean silently began. I turned my head to watch him speak. "We kind of, um. We made out in your kitchen."

I smiled with a parted mouth. "Kidding, right? You're kidding?"

He shook his head.

I fell back in my seat, beaming more than he was.

Jean's playing with his Crickets and a cigarette we found in the front of the Audi. Kind of asking for it. You know, my reaction. He's being such a stuck-up little prude whenever it comes to this.

"Are you fucking kidding? You could be," I said. "Should I ring her and ask if this shit's legit?"

From the way his white, perfectly aligned teeth were showing, he's trying pretty fucking hard not to rip his own face in two with that gross grin.

"Eren, it's not like I fuck around telling things like these every day. I'm actually being fucking serious here! Just, you know, be happy for me. For once. Okay? You're my man. It's all thanks to you, anyways."

"I'm fucking happy for you. Dude!" I pushed him by the shoulder. He laughed and dropped the cigarette back in the salon. "It's the moment we've all been waiting for."

"Really, now. Thanks, Eren."

"I, personally, did fucking nothing," I added, but didn't entirely mean it.

I knew there's more to me than just being an obstacle for Jean's dream romance, but Mikasa would've hardly even talked to Jean if I hadn't forced her in the first place.

After a while of silence, he loudly sighed (with the undertone of a smile), and threw his head back.

"God, I kissed her. It's been five fucking years, dude."

"Fuck. Aaaaa. Feeling myself slip in the worst state ever. Stop giving me hope I'm ever moving shit with Annie again."

I had no other choice than to realize Jean's eyes hadn't glowed this way in a long time.

"If Mikasa came back, there's always a chance Annie might, too." He ruffled my hair. "Chin up, baby. I know how much you loved her."

"Fucks me up, Jean."

"I know. Remember about the graduation party. It's the only chance you're both getting."

Something shrieked outside. None of us paid attention.

Jean just rested his elbow on the open window and wiggled his knees against the wheel. He looked like a total kid. There he sits, knees pulled to his chest, amazed by his own told story. Jean's a fucking idiot, but I can't imagine a better friend than him. He's a long-term one for me. I'm placing all my fucking bets we're staying friends.

Due to the touching thought of this, I started laughing. Awkwardly, for no reason.

I turned the music from my phone up slightly louder.

Fucking Tigers Jaw. "Plane vs. Tank vs. Submarine".

"How's Mikasa at kissing?" I cautiously asked.

His turned to me. I noticed the glint in his eyes. With the smirk he's got, it's a killer.

Thinking about it had the expected throwback effect that made him even more hysterical. He was quiet, though. Licked his lips and nodded in every direction, too overwhelmed and satisfied.

"She's...great," he flatly murmured.

Does she kiss better I do? 'Cause Mikasa looks like an amazing kisser. I mean, which I also am.

I've thought of kissing Mikasa, just to try it once. But the thought of her being with Jean now made me back the fuck off. I'd worked so hard for this boy to get the girlfriend he'd already lost once, I couldn't just be the ultimate bitch and kiss her right now. Although I was almost sure she'd agree.

On the other hand, Jean and I have come close to kissing in awkward and diverse ways. Never untended, and never really sober. There's this time Jean tripped and (to symbolize our great friendship and loyalty) brought me down with him. The Drunk Fall cliché. There were the classic bad timing/horrible sync ones. They just lead us to embarrassed laughing, usually.

I wondered if he'd laugh at me if I ever suggested the idea.

This is the thing I wanted to ask back in the classroom, actually.

Because, you know, Jean looked like a good kisser, too. I mean, fuck, Jean looked like he'd be good at anything. Like all my friends, except for me.

So, there's...that. Then there's curiosity. And a little bit of myself trying to prove that I can.

"Jean?" I moved my legs to get more comfortable.

"Yeah?" He answered tentatively, after a while of silence, because I felt too stupid to go on.

That's the irony of having to man up right before asking your best friend to kiss you. How heterosexual of me.

I don't have a real reason for this.

I was almost sure he'd take it the wrong way. Like, fuck do I know. Get angry at me for not taking him seriously. Teasing his eventual gayness. Fuck it, maybe he'd just straight down laugh at my request and flip me off. He could also just say no and refuse. Alright with me. I just knew I wouldn't mind him saying yes.

Like, at all.

I actually wanted him to say yes. Jean's the best option to try this out with. This "fuck that, let's fucking try" thing. This "why not, baby? We're best friends, I've seen you piss on the corner of a charity pedestal in the middle of the night, hell, I've seen you smearing your semen on Marco's shower towel, what's a smooch to me?" kind of thing.

Why the fuck not? I'd agree if he asked.

"What'd you say if I asked you to kiss me? As in, right now, right here?"

I checked his face for the reaction. He looked thoughtful.

Not shocked, more like trying to figure out if I was just fucking around. Mentally searching for the hidden cams and Mikasa behind a huge line of wheat. He definitely didn't believe I just genuinely asked for a kiss, but who would anyways, if I'm always the one spewing sarcastic jokes around? I'm never really serious about anything.

Then he grinned.

That was stupid, Christ.

"Hang on, what the..." He paused and frowned, but the smile didn't fade. Either a stage of denial, or complete delirium. "Are you trying to test me, or something?"

"Chriiiist, oh fuck! I'm not trying to trick you into doing something gay, for fuck's sake. Just answer me, Jean."

He jerked his head backwards a little, still frowning just as much, but he didn't look like he's about to punch me or get out of the car. That's a pretty good sign.

"Why are you asking?" He meekly curled his lip.

"Why not?" I shrugged, as if trying to convince myself kissing a freshly in-relationship straight friend wasn't something utterly ridiculous.

I would've laughed if I wasn't sweating.

It was dark out, but the headlights served as situational lighting. From my angle, Jean's face was strangely attractive and lost in an inner debate.

"Come on, Jean, where are your fucking balls? Is that how you fucking kissed Mikasa? With an hour delay? No fucking wonder you've never been in a serious relationship before," I said. Regretted it the second it passed my lips for the possibility of it being taken the wrong way. I didn't want him to think I wasn't considering his past relationship with Mikasa as a teenage joke.

He titled his head to the side, but the frown disappeared. He felt tense as fuck, but looked cool enough to talk about it. I knew it'd happen differently with someone else. Like, Marco. So maybe I was Jean's exception, after all.

Cute.

As fuck.

"Okay."

"Okay - what?" I asked.

"I said okay. Don't make me fucking repeat it, Eren. Fuck, it's already awkward as it is."

There were a few seconds of doubt during which Jean most likely expected me to start wheezing and call it a prank, or someone to burst out of the wheat field with a camera.

Nobody moved, though, and I raised my brows as proof God exists. Jean smiled, slightly nervous.

"Okay. Fuck, okay." He leaned in, awkwardly, like they show the kids in middle school, paying the local bitch to teach him how to kiss. And show some tits.

I caught him lick his lips again. Tried doing the same.

"No hard feelings, babe," I whispered and grinned when he pushed me back.

Hesitantly, he put a hand over my shoulders, the same way my dad would. The inner comparison unsettled me, and I peeked down at his elbow. He was a lot closer when I looked back up.

After all this time thinking about Annie, here I sat, right about to kiss my best friend out of desperate curiosity. Ahh, Eren, what have you done with your life, baby? When you can't get a fucking relationship, you sneak into others'.

"Um, don't-- don't move?" He ordered in the weakest, shyest voice I'd heard him utter. I moved a bit in my seat to get comfortable. "Yeah. There."

I only felt us getting closer. For just, like, a second. The next moment it's his nose brushing against my cheek, and his lips are on mine.

Just like that. Easy.

And the touch is already gone. Weren't even seconds. Like it never happened.

We looked at each other, both disappointed and ashamed.

"That was fucking ridiculous, Jean," I said, and he nodded, despite the situation.

We let our virile pride down a few levels to get it fucking done properly. In a short while of just staring at each other, he slid his hand higher on my neck, brushed my nape with his fingers, and I took a hold of his white t-shirt to have something to hang on to.

This time, both of us leaned in, the right way, at the right moment, just like we'd do normally. Smooth and soft, like with a girlfriend of ours on a first date. Oh, tell me about it. I've had four first dates, oh, tell me about it.

I parted my mouth first, to show him it's totally alright to do the same, and felt his breath mix up with mine right after. Couldn't tell who went first, but I only recognized the cute wetness (and the complimentary sounds) of someone's tongue.

I'm pretty sure I went first, but it's amazingly embarrassing to admit.

It was suddenly unbearably awkward in general. For a moment I thought about backing off and saying it's just a stupid fucking thing to check if I really meant the shit I've been "spurting" in my dreams.

Jean was doing it out of charity. What was I doing it for?

Fucking experiments, or something?

Science, the classic stalking horse?

The regular kissing motion kicked in as we parted our lips for them to meet over and over. Fucking heaven. I really haven't kissed in a good while. His warm hand against my neck pulled me forwards, just a little, and despite the uncomfortable placement of the seats, it didn't end up unpleasant.

It was actually fucking good, I'd never expect it to be.

We broke the kiss and Jean breathed against my cheek. His nose was brushing my skin, right next to my mouth. I realized he's out of breath. Maybe I was, too. Fucking couldn't think straight. Kissing: making idiots die due to lack of air. Since: forever.

He giggled. "Just to make sure you don't ask ever again."

I knew the situation just couldn't go more downhill when we both made out for the following minute or two.

You know, like that sort of food you try for the first time and need to taste more to make sure you actually like it? It's slightly tricky. Sometimes you still can't tell after you're done eating. Jean would be that sort of eater. He's pretty balanced between his choices. I'm guessing he'd enjoy boys, too, but to a certain extent.

I, on the contrary, had my answer. My plate's not empty yet, and I know for fucking sure I like kissing boys.

My god, I'm a disaster.

HOW HAVE I GROWN TO THIS POINT IN MY FUCKING LIFE?

It wasn't quite kissing Jean who made me close my eyes in a body response I couldn't control, it's more of Jean knowing exactly how to kiss me. He'd probably have the audacity to get anyone falling. If they'd have the guts for it, I mean.

Just before separating for good, Jean smacked my lips one last time. With that wet, soft sound I knew and loved. Everyone loves it. I couldn't deny the aspect of this one sounding a little sexual. Just as Jean's flushed face made me think of mine after an intensive session of masturbation.

"Well..." He breathed out, trying to get some air back. "That was...interesting."

I licked my lips. Felt the odd mix coating it, and smiled like an idiot.

"Christ, we did it."

"Feels unreal."

"Right?"

"I didn't expect it to get so heated," Jean confessed. "But. Umm. You know, this was almost better than yesterday. With Mikasa."

"No shit. You love me more, anyways."

"Fuck off, Eren. It's just this once."

"Why didn't you tell me you're a good kisser?" I covered my burning face, shaking it off as just "rubbing my forehead".

My neck felt colder without Jean's forearm draped over it, but the rest of my body was sweating. I was sweating in places I didn't know they could sweat. He smiled in turn, sucked up the compliment as I knew he would, and we both ended up falling back in our respective seats, saving this story for later, or maybe never.

Nobody would ever know, so.

It's just a personal thing.

It's the highlight of the following month.

And as the rest of the month passed, I spent my evenings at Erwin's house, drinking with Levi (moderate, controlled and not often) and watching Erwin's porn. No, like; we didn't just watch porn, we also torrented movies and games. We mowed Erwin's and my lawn every week, watered his flowers and trees when it wasn't raining, fixed all the taps and leaks in the house for Levi to have normal living experience. We had laundry days.

We were generally fucking keeping the house on a neat A+.

I didn't stay over the entire time, we had days off. But that's just because I'm a nervous, anxious baby and thought I pissed Levi off. I probably did, at some points. Especially with the garden watering. Splashed his face off. With the strong flow.

But the most concerning evening was the other evening, the night I wasn't over at his place.

Mikasa was out the house along with mom.

Mom had a wine night with her expensive artist friends, Mikasa was hanging out with Jean, Connie, Sasha and the rest of the buzz. They went to Pizza Hut and planned out the graduation even further. Jean kept sending me snaps of his pizza slice in eleven different angles, and pictures of Mikasa eating. The captions were all-caps and I didn't even read them.

I once asked Levi which foods Mikasa liked, and he gave me the hardest stare.

"Mexican," he said. "Mexican, Indian, spicy."

I told this to Jean and he said he loved Mikasa even more with this known. Jean hates spicy food. It's not too good for his stomach, usually. But that's not the point in this, the point's in what happened in general. That night.

That night...mmm.

So my house's empty, I'm watching Animal Planet on the TV downstairs, drinking water to soothe my slight last-weekend trails of alcohol, when I get a text message, all of a sudden.

[19:34:22, Tuesday] Coach: Can you come over?

And naturally, I responded, without even considering it being a bootycall.

[19:34:40, Tuesday] Eren: Nope, sorry. Dead rn. You can come over, though, my house is empty. :T

[19:34:59, Tuesday] Coach: Ok, hang on.

It took him around two minutes. Then it's a round of loud, annoying knocks. I yelled a "come in" over my shoulder. I really wasn't kidding about being goddamn lazy. So he came in by himself.

My eyes were still on the TV even when he sat down next to me. I was way too used to seeing him to bother checking up again.

"Hey," I murmured.

"Hey," he said. A while passed. "Hey, there's something we could try talking about."

I turned to him.

"Sounds ripped from a movie. You just arrived." A pause. "You're not serious, are you?"

By that point, I noticed what's up.

Shorter hair, different clothes. I mean, yeah, different, but different as in, these are brand new. My mood just dropped to, like, fucking negatives.

He also sat generally closer than the usual thirty centimeters, but I didn't mind, I just pulled my legs up in silence and raised my brows in question. He looked troubled, worried, tired, anxious, something between all four, and a pint of something more.

Levi looked to the TV, curled his lips in a frown and did this, I don't know, quick, breathless exhale, the laughter sort of thing, and shook his head.

"Stupid," he said. "I'm stupid, I shouldn't have mentioned it. It's going to bubble up one day, anyways."

"Come on! You can tell me. I tell you everything."

"Not now, watch Animal Planet."

I let my hand fall on my knee. "Levi, it's Untamed & Uncut, it's about wild animals raving and attacking. I can have that as my background music in ballet. I'm here." I pointed at myself. "Center of attention, in case."

He nodded. I watched his eyes slip away from the TV.

"Dude, you look fucking depressed," I silently commented.

"Maybe. I'm living through the last due dates. Soccer's soon getting back on track. All the papers, and I need money, and... You know," Levi said. "The usual time of the month I can't afford anything much."

"You got a haircut and new clothes," I pointed out and pulled on his shirt.

"It's all just from the film set."

My insides got a little grainy. "Film set? Still...shooting?"

"Do you always notice I get myself prepped?"

"Most of the time. You usually look better than now. I mean, no! I mean, your hair's fine. You just tend to look facially better, know what I mean? Less depressed. Now you're a little sleep-deprived and odd."

He did a light shake of his head. "Yeah, maybe."

"Sorry, just pointing out."

And that's practically all we talked about! In the middle of the show he did a mention Untamed & Uncut sounds like circumcising, and I had to put down my water for a while. That's it.

We watched another two episodes of the show when he said he should get going. I agreed. Mikasa said she'd be home soon, and I wasn't sure when mom could be knocking. I left the TV on, and walked Levi to the door.

"I'll probably come over on Thursday," I said. "Since the graduation, and soccer, and job... You know."

"Mhm. Erwin's home soon."

"Yeah, I thought about that, too. Ugh. Bitter boys. We're probably not getting this much bonding when he's back."

I think I sounded too sad and melancholic. Levi laughed.

"Bonding," he then said. "I don't know if this is bonding. Fuck, I don't know what this is. Speaking of...hmm." A pause, and two fingers rubbing the bridge of his nose. "No, nevermind. I'll get going."

What's that all about?

I opened the door. "See you tomorrow?"

"Probably." He waved. "Bye."

"Bye."

I watched him walk down the little stairs, jump down on the pavement, walk around and out the gate, look over at me, look back down, stop, and then fully turn to me, because I still had the door open, like a pining, sick, old dog.

"Hey, would you mind actually telling me what you were just about to say?" I asked the most terribly structured sentence since Armin times. "I mean. You know? Would you mind?"

Maybe he hesitated, because he took a step to Erwin's house, but then-- oh, no, wait. Hang on.

Levi pressed his lips together, made a big inhale, and walked back over. With a quick pace and rushed steps, he pushed the gate back open. The metal slammed against the fence column, and I wondered if that would ever leave anything, like small scabbing.Those small lines that lose the color and everything. The green color that peels off in later summers.

But then there's Levi, and his hand pushing me back inside, the pressure focused right on my chest. I nearly tripped. For a short second I thought "what the absolute fuck's going on?", but it switched to a black, moving mess of thoughts immediately after getting back inside the house.

My back met the wall behind. I poked my scalp against the coat hooks and did a few nerved out sounds, still unable to filter whatever's happening.

"What are you..." I murmured, maybe too loud to be a murmur.

Levi just looked up. His hand was on my chest, wrinkling my shirt and pressing against it with some sort of undefined force. I had a guess this was the stupid, bubbling problem he kept refusing talking about, but he's quite shitty at exploiting the idea.

Him being this close felt uneasy and I wondered what's going to happen just now. Like, I knew what happened with Jean. But it's not as easy with Levi, you know? Fuck. Fuck. What's going on?

"I'm trying to tell you what I wanted to say earlier," Levi almost hissed.

I blankly stared straight at him. "And? It is?"

First time his face's inches apart in good lighting. Clear lines, great complexion, no scars, he's got no wrinkles. His eyes seemed to refocus, too. They just kept flicking over all my facial features, eyes, nose, forehead, cheeks, chin, eyes, nose, eyes, lips.

Eyes, again. I was staring down at his lips, and he was staring up at mine.

I figured it wouldn't hurt if I leaned in, and...

...did the same as with Jean, and...

I felt his hand slide on my jaw and my eyes fell close the same second.

I could feel him lingering fucking millimeters away. Fucking particles away. I felt his skin radiate the same exhausting heat mine most likely did. Ran my tongue over my lips, bracing myself for a pretty brash, quick brush of both ours, but it never happened.

It took me moments to comprehend the hand's not on my chest anymore. The empty feeling was followed by a click of the lock, meaning the door's just been closed, and I'm just left like that, cold, sweaty, misunderstood and misunderstanding.

Chapter Text

If a boy tells you his penis is suffocating, it's either he's wearing a suit, or he's wearing a suit.

I can't stand wearing suits. Last time was a year ago. I'm wearing the same suit now. It fits me better in different places and has stopped fitting in some, too. Like my thighs and waist. It's pretty snug around there.

It's just dark blue pants with a matching suit jacket and a light blue shirt. An absolute classic.

"My penis is suffocating," I said.

Mikasa's expression jerked and she missed the hole in her earlobe.

"Pull the zipper," she said.

"I'm pulling my zipper for the past two hours, Mikasa. My dick's squeezed."

"Change to jeans, then. God. Boys. You never have several outfit options."

I frowned. "Yeah, black jeans and a blazer? A shirt and a fucking tie, what's this, Billy Joe? I'll look like an idiot. I mean, I'll look stupid either ways, so."

"No, you look great." She stepped back from the mirror with both little pearls set in her ears, and turned to me. Raised her hands to tuck my hair behind my ears. "Your hair's long enough for a ponytail. I could blow-dry it and make a middle-part, and you could tie it up."

"How much worse are you aiming to make me look?"

"Have you seen Zayn recently? The dude who left One Direction?"

"The terrorist?"

"Dude... What?" Mikasa asked.

"4chan. Sorry. I know who you're talking about."

"He's hot. I'll make your hair like that."

"Show me pictures."

Mikasa took my phone and found Google images of Zayn Malik. We spent a few seconds browsing through them.

I agreed with the middle-part in the end. My hair hasn't been straight for a while, too. So it might be a nice change. It's usually a bit wavy and I actually get curls on good days. It's happening more often now when the hair's long.

"I suggest you wear jeans, sneakers and a blazer instead of going all-formal. Trust me. Jean's wearing something similar," she said. "You'll both look hot and casual."

"How can you compare me and my garbage looks to Jean?"

Mikasa tugged on my cheeks. "You look great today, Eren. Professional and sophisticated. We'll find you a girl for the after-party. There's probably tons of other third years dying to come just to see you."

"Sure."

"Annie's going to be there."

"Annie doesn't drink," I awkwardly muttered. "There's no point in bringing her up now."

"You look great today, babe. It's all that matters."

"Yeah, I'd even wish to step on stage and give Reiner a graduation speech," I sarcastically replied and pulled away. "Dear Reiner, luck on getting European dick. You know, this is going to be the craziest graduation year yet. I'm glad you're here to see this. It's Reiner and Ymir."

Mikasa peeked over at the mirror. "Two outstanding homosexuals? Yeah, fuck. Jean told me. Reiner's amazing, but I've only gotten the approximate hang on Ymir. Haven't talked to her at all. She's...mmm. Mmm."

"Specific," I tried.

"Yeah."

"Most lesbians are specific as fuck. I liked her on my first year. She had super long ginger hair. Cut it shoulder-length last summer, I think."

"Are you telling me I should grow my hair out?"

"No! Your hair's okay, I don't mind. I'm just letting you know."

Mikasa snorted. "Ymir looks fucking better than me, anyways. She's got that Amazonian vibe. Pretty exotic, I think. And the freckles, and everything. Might be fun to be with. Okay, god. Guilty. I'm really interested in her now."

"Don't wind up lesbian."

"Love the way she does eyeliner."

"Mikasa," I carefully said.

She winked.

The graduation blast was in an hour. We still had half an hour before Jean picked us up. Add another half getting there. Plus parking and complimenting everyone on the way inside. It's tiring and very spare, but it's much needed for all stressed first years and graduates.

Third year of being forced into a suit. First year it seemed amazing, we pimped the streets like men with class. Felt super proud we get to organize the party and everything. Second year wasn't bad either. I just felt more mature and hot as a second year.

Third year, which is, right now? It sucks.

I feel extremely confident in a suit if the suit actually fits. This one's squeezing my omelet and the ridge of the sewn parts are slicing my poor guy in two.

Suddenly remembered I bought this suit together with mom.

Mothers have these fucking mentalities you're still twelve and dependent on your parents and the pocket money they're giving you, so they get heartbroken as fuck if you ever dare to speak up against it.

I remember the scandal she made when I told her I'm going to buy a suit with Jean and the rest of the boys because we wanted to match, and refused her endearing offer to go to the mall together and get me a black, classic, boring one.

Mikasa's comments on Ymir made me remember Levi's odd behavior on Tuesday. I'm still weirded out by it. I stayed in my room that night. Listened to FKA twigs' Video Girl and read over our earlier text conversations. Nothing held a trace of anything important or significant I could've let pass like that. I even wrote small pinpoints on it.

On a sticky note, I mean.

  • I DID something

  • he's feeling patronizing he's prolly feeling like a cuck

  • He likes hates me lol (this is funny and believable)

  • he wanted to tell me something

  • WHAT'D HE WANT TO TELL ME THEN I'M CURIOUS

  • He likes m I come off as nice

  • maybe i'm thinking too far

  • Erwin's coming home, Levi's feeling bad

  • cuck

  • cuck definitely, he's cucking me or something

  • fucking lol what is this sticky note murder analysis anyways fuck everything

  • Something's up.

  • He likes me.

So it's slightly weird. I'm looking forwards to meeting him today. Doesn't matter if it's during the graduation or if he's coming to the after-party. I wouldn't mind copping him and asking what's that all about.

I also began thinking if this isn't getting a little weird. Me pleading kisses from Jean, out of everyone, and getting so close with Levi. I don't think anyone around us has noticed this yet, but once someone does, it's fucked.

We're fucked.

'Cause no smart student hangs out with their coach like that.

It's weird.

Me being around men I dream about is weird. Me kissing Jean is weird. Me almost kissing Levi is weird as fuck. What's next, dating Reiner?

Really?

"Mikasa, what would you say if I began dating Reiner?" I asked, arms tied around her waist. My chin was prepped on her shoulder, and she smiled while patting my cheeks.

Mikasa's got a defined little waist.

"I'd say you're fucking insane. And probably give you XXL Trojans for Christmas, or stuff."

"You're kidding."

"No, not really," she said. "Maybe not Reiner. Too big and meaty for your proportions. No, like, I mean, you're big and meaty, too. He's just the extra-large size of your frame. But a guy, yeah. I can imagine that with slight difficulties."

"Jesus."

"You asked for it."

"Yeah, but it's weird you're pairing me up with guys." Not that I just did that in my head seconds ago.

I knew there's the friendly boundary with my hands around her waist like this, but the more I stared, the better we both looked together. I mean, look at us. She's in her super sheek, tight navy cocktail dress, in matte pumps, gold watch flashing with every movement as she's fixing her hair. It's falling over her shoulders, just a little. When we met back at the restaurant, for the first time, it reached just a little underneath her boobs.

(Love the word "boobs", by the way, and "tits" is just as pleasing.)

I'm behind her with my hair in a man bun, a slightly askew middle-part and two or three strands thinly falling on my forehead. I've got my light blue shirt on, it's a high-collar one, and the suit. Strongly considered switching to jeans and a more casual blazer before it's too late.

I'm still wearing socks.

White Adidas socks that go right past my ankle.

Mikasa looked at me through the mirror, but I was lost picturing us both together.

She's amazing. Mikasa is the actual girlfriend material.

"What are you thinking about?" I innocently asked.

"Wondering what you're thinking about," she said. "Looked thoughtful."

"I'm thinking about us in a setting where you liked me instead of Jean, and I liked you instead of--"

Uhm.

"--someone else," I murmured.

"We'd be super cute. I'd drag you to tennis and basketball matches. You could cheer at my karate lessons. I teach kids, by the way," Mikasa poked my ribs. "Could go on dates and have shifts together. You, on the other side, could take me to your soccer games and let me braid your long fucking hair. Fuck, dude. We're like a couple already, anyways. We live in a single house and have work together."

"That's adorable."

"I know."

I brushed my finger against my nose. "Don't you do all this shit with Jean, anyways?"

"I don't braid his hair and we never go to tennis matches." She shrugged. "And we're not together, so."

"How long are you dragging this out, baaabe?" I dragged it out.

"I'm still not sure."

"I heard you made out in my kitchen."

Mikasa closed her eyes the same second I uttered "made out" and smiled with the slightest bat of her lashes.

"Whatever, Eren," she said, still smiling. "I could make out with you, too, for fuck's sake. It's nothing much. It's kissing."

I squeezed her waist, fueled by the idea.

"You could make out with any guy from our school, but you don't. It's a sign, babe. Give him another go."

"Will think about it. Don't force it."

"Promise. But, like..." I stuttered, suddenly embarrassed by the question. "Would you date, like, Annie? If she was interested, I mean. Or any girl from school. Would you date a girl?"

Her eyes shot up to the ceiling, to concentrate all thoughts. I patiently waited and played with the pocket zippers of her dress.

"Yeah," Mikasa then confessed. "I'd probably date anyone with some levels of arrogance. It's arrogance, the feeling of connection, and optionally, you have to be pretty. Dating girls is sexually a little easier."

"For other girls, you mean," I gloomily dragged.

"Fuck. Yeah. I mean..." She gestured. "You know the body is built the same as yours is. You kind of know every right spot and all places you should avoid."

"Dicks were probably a terrible invention."

She laughed. "Funny. I'm terrified of how Jean's changed since the last time we slept together."

"You've had sex?"

I realized I'd been a little too quick and harsh with the question. Her mood visibly dropped and the smile was slightly faked.

"The super awkward first time," she said.

"For both?"

"For both."

"Oh, Christ."

"Help me put the necklace on."

She changed the subject. Means it's touchy and nobody wants to talk about it. Great. I stepped straight in a war zone.

I'm good at this.

I glanced over at the shelf. "Pearls?"

"Mhm."

Had to pull away from her and raid mom's red box. Mom said she'd love seeing Mikasa in her extremely antique pearl set; if not on Mikasa's own graduation, then at least as the hostess. Mikasa agreed, claiming Jean would take care of her (and the pearls), because, after all, she's under his guidance tonight.

I fished out the necklace and gave it a long stare.

"Are you sure it's a necklace?" I asked. "Looks like--"

"Don't say it."

"I wasn't going to. You name this."

"Anal beads," Mikasa finished my previous sentence. "Oh, fuck. Look at the gaps. I'll be hosting a graduation ceremony with anal beads around my neck."

"I'm sure those are pearls."

"Your mom's an interesting person. You'd never know."

"You're making me wish I was dead, Mikasa."

Mikasa collapsed in laughter.

But the necklace looked good on her. I gave a double thumbs-up over her shoulders. It didn't look like she was willing to lean back in my warm embrace, so I kept my hands in the pockets of my pants, tenting them away from my crotch. The ridge was still grazing.

"I think I'll go change," I said, after minutes of torturous staring at Mikasa fixing her makeup. "I'm really scared this might leave a mark."

"Google it up," she murmured and swept a finger underneath her eye. "Yahoo Answers."

"If you google "crotch pain", you'll wind up discovering you have at least four cancers and three testimonial diseases, and maybe you're also pregnant."

Mikasa looked at me lovingly.

I went to my room and changed the pants to black jeans (ripped at the knees) and my navy suit jacket to a grey blazer. The blazer's folds were in a pretty red tartan pattern, and I thought I looked better than ever.

Also swiped my navy Vans with completely black ones.

Mikasa said I looked like a groom's best man. I told her nobody would ever pick me as a best man, that I'd drink dubious amounts of alcohol and very likely piss on the cake.

Mikasa said she'd pick me as her best man anytime.

We got the last details ready. Mom promised to be downstairs until the point we're okay with showing ourselves, but there were volume-wise various knocks on the door in the middle of Mikasa pulling her other shoes on and me fucking with my bow tie.

"Eren!" She called. "There's an attractive man on our porch!"

As far as I'm informed, Levi shouldn't be on our porch.

I saw myself blush in the mirror and cleared my throat.

"Must be my boyfriend," Mikasa dragged.

Ah, right.

Jean.

"You called him your boyfriend," I excitedly whispered.

"Shut up."

"It's Jean!" I yelled back. "You can let him in or tell him we're going downstairs in a few minutes. It's better if he stays in the car!"

"I'll tell him, alright. You have seven minutes!"

We checked ourselves out from all possible angles before spraying lethal drops of perfume (I didn't use hers). Mikasa gave my ass a light pat, I tried to be polite and gave her just a little pinch, and she made a revengeful smack only when we left the room.

"Hey! Hey, is..." She whispered once I took her hand to guide her down the stairs. "Is Jean's penis really as massive as his ego?"

"I thought you'd seen it already."

"Yeah, fucking five years ago?"

"If you fold it in half," I said. "Half is his ego, yeah, technically. Could say that."

I got my ribs poked. "And how big are you, Mr. Bravado? Eight inches? School rumors?"

"Seven and something." I blushed.

Again.

"And erect?"

I choked. "Holy shit, good one."

Mikasa's great at balancing on heels, so the stairs weren't problematic. Mom was in the kitchen and only heard the clacking of Mikasa's shoes when she stepped on the parquet.

And then came my (even further, exquisite and detailed) realization of the dreading fact mom had (truly) always wanted a daughter.

She looked happy. Happier than happy. Ecstatic, almost. Clapped her hands, covered her mouth, wiped a few tears, dried her face off. I stood in the background, pushed my sleeves up and down, and acted like we didn't have much time to waste on this.

When she noticed me, she yelped, and I finally felt satisfied. Got showered in hugs, kisses, compliments on my hair, clean shave, shirt color, everything.

"I can't believe you'll look even better on your own graduation, sweetheart," mom said, fixing my blazer. "You look amazing, Eren. Mikasa, give me your phone. I'll take a picture."

Fuck no. Family photos.

I tried to resist.

Ended up with a full album.

Mikasa went inside the kitchen for a glass of water. I followed as her trusty companion. We smiled at each other and leaned against the counter, both almost equally excited for the speeches, the evening, and the night.

The party.

Our sentimental moment was ruined by several long, annoying car honks. I suggested Jean fell asleep on the wheel. Mikasa said we should just get going, put her glass in the sink and dragged me out.

A few more kisses from mom, questions if I charged my phone and took my wallet. I assured her we'll come home to change, anyways, and the graduation itself wasn't expected to take up much time.

I helped Mikasa avoid the weeds in our brick pavement.

"I'm wondering if you'd ever use anal beads," she murmured and clung on my arm once we got past the door. "I'm walking next to you, we're going to a big event, and I'm wondering if you'd use anal beads. I'm fucking sick."

I had to try and keep a clean and straight face. All Ackermans are oblivious porn junkies.

"You're interesting."

"I know. Would you?"

"Never. Leave the toys to lesbians."

Mikasa laughed.

The honking stopped when we were at my gate. Jean wasn't getting out the car, so I took my pride and smeared it across his windows by opening the door for Mikasa instead of letting him do it.

The second she got inside, Jean popped out, combing his hair back with shaky fingers and a slightly worried face.

First off, wow.

My mouth slipped open a little.

First off, Jean had a fresh cut and ridiculously good colors. Got rid of the yellow tone, fixed his roots. Got a nice, layered trim.

Here I went thinking my hair might look nice today.

:') Where's that (crying but laughing) emoji? Fits with the (gun emoji) I so often muse about.

I never change my hair. It just grows in this "I can't find the motivation to got to a barber but I also don't care too much" style. I just cut it if it gets too long. Which is around twice a year. Maybe three times.

I haven't cut it in a while, and I'm not even going to. It's that time in my life.

"I look like shit," Jean said.

"You look hot," I spat with a frustrated lift of my brows. "Good. Hot. Feels like we're graduating, not Reiner."

"Reiner's popping buttons. He called me this morning, and he's ready," Jean replied (obviously letting my homosexual impulses drift past). "You literally look torn out of a teen grunge fashion magazine. I can't figure if that's gross or not."

"Thanks. Did you see Mikasa?"

He shook his head. "I'm trying to leave the best for last."

"She has a short dress."

"Mmm... Rest in peace, Jean."

"I should probably take a separate ride from you two," I said. "Feels like something's happening tonight. Something big."

He awkwardly swapped his weight from leg to leg, leaning on the car.

"Magnums? You're staying in C-32 together, right?" I kept on at it.

"Yeah. The receptionist forced us in a single because we're the hosts. I don't think we're having sex, dude. We haven't even had your promised dinner date yet," he murmured and pushed his hands in his pockets. "Might very likely go for a kiss by the pool, or, I don't know... A romantic walk through the corridors and Stanley Kubrick feels all along the way."

"If anything, I can take over the hosting deal."

"The papers are under my name."

"I've always wanted to be a little Jean Kirschtein," I said. "Come on, I'm saving you a night. You'll be thankful."

He gave my chest a pat. "Three years and still can't pronounce my last name right. Thanks, though, I'll... I'll see what I can do."

I did a few rounds of steady breathing. These ideas of hosting big events made me a little jittery inside. A meat grinder sort of jittery. I know I'll get fucking anxious on stage, but it's just the matter of alcohol and how much I get to drink before going up.

I'm fucking stupid when I get worried.

My guard was down the entire time I was outside. When I plunged out of my terrorizing thoughts about the hosting, I noticed there's a low, sweet background rumble on my right (I assumed it's been there for at least five minutes by now).

I turned to check. My cheeks hollowed, and I took a deep breath.

Holy shit.

Would you look at that!

I guess I'd temporarily forgotten about the awkward movie scene I had with Levi a few days ago, because this movie scene was brand new.

The car's polished. Shined with the slightest movements. The white was even more synthetic than ever, tires looked clean and the license plate didn't have layers of dead bugs and dirt on it. Windows reflective, engine soft.

Oh, but guys, it's a Cherokee. Who the fuck drives a Cherokee? A white one, at that.

"The annual Levi-In-A-Suit Day?" Jean nudged my side. "Go talk to him, he's rolling down his windows. Will probably give you a lift 'cause you're the good boy."

I rubbed my forehead. "Well... Luck with Mikasa, then. Remember, compliment her, not yourself. Be sincere. Calm her down before the big thing. She hates lemon water, don't give her that. Don't say anything about her necklace unless you're ready to talk about anal beads."

Jean's eyes lit up. "Christ... Alright."

"Have fun."

"You too. Meet you at the hall."

I took a big, brave breath and turned around. I had to force myself to move. Now I remembered our movie scene (shirt clenching and not-too-awkward-but-we-still-don't-talk-about-it face enclosure) and I knew it wasn't smart to think about it while being around him, but... Fuck it.

Fuck.

Levi looked like the guys they smear all over the Internet. High-quality, perfected to the last pore. I hate always admitting he's good-looking, but you can't just dismiss it like that. He is good-looking. To everyone.

"Hi," I said, swinging by his window. "You look nice."

Levi's doing the same. The scanning thing. He's fucking scanning me really hard. Top to bottom, bottom to top, details here and there, and I watched his knuckles go paler around the wheel. His lower lip also jerked, slightly, right before speaking.

Then he looked up. "Hey. You too."

"Are you driving me to school?"

He nodded behind me. "Your transport just drove off. You wouldn't skate or take the bus today, I guess."

I turned around right in time to see the Kirschtein seniors' Audi roll down the street.

An "ah" was all I managed. "Well, then. Fuck."

"You can get in, if you want to." Levi toyed with the window. He slid it up and down with short pauses. Like a kid. I assumed he felt just as nervous about our following conversation as I did. "I can get you to the bus stop, too."

"No, I'll go with you."

It was slightly awkward. There just were things we had to bring up, and he might be fearing them just as much as I was. Like, last week. Last week was fucking weird and I still crave listening to Video Girl for the appropriate vibes the moment gave me.

Fucking nobody talks about mildly romantic moments face to face, anyways, so we might not get to it. That's the purpose of phone calls and texting.

Avoiding literal contact.

I wished I refused to drive with him.

"Umm, so."

"So?"

It's all that came after brief minutes of frustrated silence and glances over at each other; then followed by acts of looking outside the window, like I was interested in looking outside his window, and he was musing about staring out mine.

"About last week," I tried.

"What about last week?" He shot back, extremely defensive and probably expecting this conversation from start to end.

My courage was just punched out of any (non-)existent state.

"What you did. Or tried to do."

I watched his knuckles go white again.

I knew I'm lurking in the wrong territory, but he's not saying anything still. I cleared my throat and sat up higher. "The weird thing."

"Weird thing?"

"Yes."

Levi wasn't looking at me at all. "What do you want to know?"

"Can you stop it?" I asked. "Can you stop acting like you don't fucking know what I'm talking about?"

"Can you stop being so insanely oblivious to everything I do?" He raised his voice.

For a second I thought he'd get us into a car crash.

I took a breath and turned back to my own window.

"Sure, I'm oblivious to everything you do," I muttered. "You know what? Pull over. I'm walking if you can't talk to me. We're close enough. Only a mile or two left."

He didn't even look like considering.

"No," Levi said.

"Alright, then, how about I push you out the car?" I asked. "I mean, no damage, right? It's probably better than letting me know what's all that shit on Tuesday about."

He turned to me again, and the car's path got groggy. I gave a meaningful look. He turned back to the road.

"Why..." Levi spoke up, and dismissed the word right after.

"What is..."

Okay, another try. Keep going.

"What's so exciting? What do you want to know? " He finally asked. "You can't be this stupid. You passed everything."

"Uhh, regarding to you, I'm fucking pissed. It looks like you're expecting me to quiz something out. Levi, I don't fucking understand . I'm not a strategist . I can't swerve something up. Please tell me. I wouldn't realize anything unless it's literally served on a plate or screamed at my face."

"I've figured we can't stay "friendly" like this anymore."

"That's the problem? You just figuring something?"

"Mostly."

"That's not our problem, it's yours."

Levi sarcastically barked. "Not our problem, right.So me dying over meeting you isn't a problem and my raging emotions are suddenly what matter the most."

"Raging emotions?" My squint was growing. "Raging emotions? At age thirty? Your raging emotions?"

"Am I not acting like a fucking teenager?"

"With this shitty emo attitude, yeah, you are," I spat.

Levi sat up in his seat at the forever red light on the square and rolled up his sleeves. I noticed a watch. Probably expensive.

We had around seven minutes 'till school. Tried to zone myself out by staring at the buildings we passed and counting people with red shirts.

This felt so out of this world. Felt like Levi knew I had something to hide. I also felt like he's got something to hide. It made me sick and nauseous. I didn't like this Tom & Jerry we were doing.

"Levi."

He turned.

"Can't you just tell me? Really?" I let my head fall back against the seat. "Is it that hard?"

"Okay," he said. I watched regret flash over his face. Pain tugged at some corners. "Okay. I'm going to fucking hell for this, but you called it."

I nudged his bicep through his layered clothing, and he looked down. Hesitation, old friend.

Then he started talking, slow and careful.

"Last week I felt mad and upset about my occurring thoughts about you lately. I wanted to avoid you, at least until it settles. When I went over to your place, I'd meant to talk about it, but you seemed out of everything I had in mind, so I didn't say anything. We just spent time together. Know the saying, "it's good while it lasts"."

I watched him speak and didn't interrupt due to clear curiosity.

"And by the end of the day, when I was just about to leave... I still don't really know what happened. I think something inside me broke. It's mesmerizing. And uncomfortable. I thought it's going to end a lot better than it did."

"Yeah?" I almost accidentally whispered.

"I went back, zoned out and almost kissed you."

My stomach sunk so deep it almost hit the bottom of my seat.

"Kind of sorry about that," he guiltily said. "It won't happen again."

I didn't know what to say for a while.

So a part of my sticky note pinpoints resembled some of the million truths I had figured out. Thoughts buzzed around and hit each other, and I ended up with nothing more than realizing I have to give him information in exchange.

"Umm, after drinking... The morning after drinking, I had a dream about you," I shakily said. "It wasn't about friendship. I'm sorry. I'm ashamed, I want you to know that."

He stared at me and I wondered how the car's still going straight.

"Dream?" He then asked, seemingly really confused.

I'm probably flushing like crazy. "Pretty...moist."

Levi kept staring at me. I just gave him a shy, encouraging nod. Realization hit him when his jaw dropped and he made a weird whining sound, much like the ones Connie sometimes makes, smiled, and looked out the window.

"Wow, this got awkward super fast," I said and looked out my window.

We drove in silence again, but it was better silence now. I was happy he didn't ask for details. Admitting this alone was embarrassing enough. I wasn't embarrassed for having a wet dream, I was embarrassed Levi was in it.

Moist dream, though. Liked my choice in words. Not very wet. Moist.

He dropped me off at the school's main door. I promised to try and find a seat closer to the side block where all teachers and coaches sit, but he said I shouldn't bother, and, if anything, we can just text.

He murmured something absolutely irrelevant when I got out the car. I didn't catch a thing he said, but it felt like Levi's absolutely out of everything right now. Kept smiling at unconventional moments and didn't hear the stuff I replied to his weird questions.

I liked seeing him absent-minded.

Levi looked really absent-minded after this car ride.


"...and they didn't know the aim. I'm glad Reiner's sane enough to host parties. Look at the rest of the graduates! Do you think anyone from..." Jean's microphone silenced down. "...host anything?"

I leaned in to Connie and whispered the sound-check guy needs a promotion.

I mean, at least Jean looked good on-stage.

"We're going with traditions," Mikasa said and slapped Jean's head with her script. "Traditions tell us it's the graduates who give speeches. Baby, get off the stage. Someone drag Mr. Kirschtein off the stage."

The girls applauded at her "baby", and the boys wooed at the rest.

"I'll marry you, Mikasa," Jean whispered, though straight in the microphone.

The speakers were right next to the front seats.

Reiner screamed a "you go, Cherry" from his spot. I dared to whistle.

Reiner calls Jean "Cherry". It's because "die Kirsche" is "cherry" in German, and Jean's last name is somehow closely related. I translated that when Jean and I first met. ("Your last name is what? Fucking Cherry, really? Oh. No, dude. I took four years of German back in middle school. It's no big deal.").

Not that Reiner's a whole lot better. His last name is just "brown".

Connie next to me wondered if Jean took a sip of Levi's everlasting Hennessy before the graduation.

My raging jealousy towards Jean and Mikasa was seeping through all my pores. I constantly tried to find Levi and skimmed across the hall, but it was too filled with people and I couldn't even figure where to look.

[13:27:09, Friday] Eren: Where are you? Can't see.

Levi didn't respond for a while. I got to see Pixis' speech. Some guys from the town spoke. We caught a previous graduate and made him stutter a few more overplayed sentences and quotes, and two drunk as fuck teachers who kept talking about just some of the basic slurred sentences on love and finding light in your life.

[13:43:12, Friday] Coach: Not in the hall

[13:43:54, Friday] Coach: I'm downstairs

[13:44:40, Friday] Coach: I'll be there when the speeches start, okay?

[13:44:59, Friday] Eren: Can I say "not ok" and you come up right now?

[13:46:22, Friday] Coach: I'm talking to Nile

[13:47:01, Friday] Coach: Please wait a sec

Furious fucking rage!

[13:47:32, Friday] Eren: Cool

[13:47:55, Friday] Eren: Thanks

[13:48:18, Friday] Coach: Don't be mad :*

I stared at the screen and tried figuring out if what I'm reading is real and not just a slight mistake. Is that a kiss emoji? I didn't respond to it and resumed listening to the guest speeches.

Smiling.

Every time the door was pushed open, I clenched my ass in the seat. Every time, Levi wasn't there.

[13:49:59, Friday] Eren: Plz come back i am alone :-)

[13:50:33, Friday] Eren: I need someone to talk to about the dresses.

[13:50:58, Friday] Eren: Dude MIKASA is THE hottest girl in the Universe and she 's not even graduating.

[13:57:20, Friday] Eren: I'm fucking crying

[13:57:47, Friday] Eren: She kissed JEAN on stage

[13:57:59, Friday] Eren: A historical moment

[13:58:08, Friday] Eren: In our school's history

[13:58:17, Friday] Eren: Frame this and hang it

[13:58:35, Friday] Eren: On the wall next to the thousands of medals and pictures of me and our soccer team

[13:58:42, Friday] Eren: So does it hurt to respond to my texts

[13:58:58, Friday] Eren: How much is medical insurance

[13:59:10, Friday] Eren: How much does it hurt

[13:59:26, Friday] Eren: RATE THE PAIN 1/10

[13:59:42, Friday] Coach: Eren can you please

[13:59:59, Friday] Coach: Give me a minute

[14:00:12, Friday] Coach: I'm not missing the speeches. I'll be there.

[14:00:38, Friday] Eren: Love how you're spending time with me

[14:00:56, Friday] Eren: Seriously stop being around me this much

[14:01:13, Friday] Eren: Tired of seeing you

[14:01:29, Friday] Eren: Alright I'll fuck off

I locked my phone and pushed it in the pocket of my blazer. Fixed my hair a little, just the knot.

I think everybody's waiting for Reiner's speech now, after the long, boring intro ceremony's past. People began clapping.

I felt my phone vibrate, but didn't check it.

Pixis announced the first graduates. None of them were too interesting, or in alphabetical order. I figured he maybe did the list by himself and on purpose. I placed all my bets on Reiner and Ymir as last two, to totally blow the ceremony.

Caught the door pushing open again with the corner of my eye. I didn't pay attention to it, and only looked over a while later. Spotted Levi, neat as ever, just slightly out of frame. He closed the door behind himself, said something to the two girls in front, and sneaked to the right wall. I sat at the left.

It was obvious he began scanning for me. Checked the front rows, the back rows, pulled up his phone. I was expecting a vibration, but he didn't write anything.

I raised in my seat every time he glanced somewhere to this side and tried to give a sign. I waved, raised middle fingers, did everything to low-key catch his attention. He noticed me in a state of desperation where I just widened my eyes and pushed my nose up in a pig-face.

He laughed and almost interrupted a graduate.

And so, with our contact rejoined, all we did was glancing over and over and over. Levi constantly had a sweet, lost smile, and I probably looked just as stupid. Whenever someone messed up their speech or messed something up, we looked at each other and shook our heads like absolute professionals and motherfuckers at everything.

Most graduates mentioned people that have helped them through the journey. Some girls mentioned Mikasa and thanked her for martial arts classes. Self-defense, and everything. 'Cause Jersey's not the safest.

A good set of boring, lengthy and monotonous speeches, and we've narrowed our list down to the last three. Bert made me tear up. He didn't blurt absolute bullshit like the rest. Bert's a writer, you know. Like all of us here. We're part-athletes, part something else. Music, painting, writing, politics.

And don't think I've forgotten Annie also graduates today.

Seeing her in a white, tight, long dress made me rot on the inside. I churned in my burgundy Holland cloth seat and kept biting my cheek. With her hair down and straight, unlike the usual knot or ponytail, eyes dark and smokey, I seriously thought she's the most gorgeous being I've laid my eyes on.

I'm a bit out of my league. Need to go back to knot tying before I get hurt.

I'm reminded I don't have a chance every day, every second of my fucking life. I know I need to get over her, and now I will be able to, maybe, since she's graduating and I'm leaving for Revolution later in autumn.

I remembered a paragraph from Wikipedia I'd read about autumn once.

Autumn has often been associated with melancholia. The possibilities of summer are gone, and the chill of winter is on the horizon. Skies turn grey, and many people turn inward, both physically and mentally. It has been referred to as an unhealthy season.

My autumn's most likely going to fucking suck.

We're never meeting again after today. The party, and all that. I'm never seeing her again.

Might as well just talk to her for the last time.

Annie's speech impressed me. She's never been a big talker, didn't like crowded places. Was in denial of public speech in middle school. She impressed everyone, even Levi, or at least I sought to think so. I'd never heard her as aspiring and emotional as she was on the stage. Never even talked to me like this, back when we were together, and before that. Quotes, life goals, life expectancies (neither of any involved me), and only by the end of the speech did she confess about a tequila bottle and two unslept nights.

And I thought Annie didn't drink. Guess graduations are large exceptions.

Next came Reiner.

Reiner's the best big brother I could imagine myself having. Asides from being gay only between friends, you'd never tell he's friendly. When Reiner's not smiling, talking and being himself, you'd see him as a big, meaty mass of Please Don't Hurt Me.

His speech was, briefly, fucking gold.

"Congratulations, fourth years, on getting through college without getting pregnant!"

First sentence of his speech and it's getting better than my entire life so far.

"May your college memories last as long as your student loan payments, may your instant noodle toxins clean out before you hit forty, fuck, I don't know, may your memories of this place be either good enough to shoot a movie, or bad enough to drown in wine bottles every other Saturday along with your course mates you've still stayed friends with after college. I think that's not my case. My college years were good as fuck, asides from Annie's sweet nut kicks and drinking on days that aren't Fridays."

I looked over at Levi. He had his hand over his mouth, pressing down a smile.

"I've learned lessons," Reiner continued. His fingers tapped the microphone. "For example, to all the sad kids who've just launched into college; guys, change is inevitable. Except from a vending machine. God's last name is not Damn, there are and will be certain people always reminding you about your most embarrassing moments in this school, and it's a fact you'll get heartbroken at least seven times throughout this period of time."

Connie was rubbing his eyes dry. I had no idea if he laughed because he found this funny, or cried because Reiner's leaving and we're next on list.

"Friends, teachers, professors, janitors, I've got a confession. Do you remember the "TOILET OUT OF ORDER" sign on the door of the last cabin? Second floor toilets?"

The hall murmured approvingly.

Reiner proudly smiled. "I sucked my first dick there."

The hall was silent for a second or two. Then it gave off.

Levi was possibly crying, and someone screamed Bert's name. Everything got far too loud.

Reiner laughed and got the attention back. "Hey, but, go for it. Be bold, be true, be kind. Rotate your tires. Don't drink so much. There won't be enough liver transplants to go around."

I dryly laughed.

He the microphone off the holder. "I'm looking at you, Eren. Please carry our school's name out without me telling you drinking is bad and alcoholism is better."

I blushed when a few people turned to me. Gave Levi an apologetic glance.

"I love you all. I'm honest. You've all been a family. Bertholdt, the wife, Eren, the son, Annie, the husband, and Jean, the daughter. The rest's just scattered little cousins everybody invites to Thanksgiving. But Jean's the most beautiful daughter I've ever had."

Connie fell off his chair.

Reiner paused on his speech while I tried to get Connie back up.

"Jean." Reiner leaned on the podium. "I can't wait to hear your last name horribly mispronounced at your graduation. Love you, baby. I love you all. It's been great four years."

I clasped Connie's hand and we both broke down in tears. People clapped, someone tipped over a vase on the side, and it broke. Some girls screamed. Most guys from the team cried. Even Reiner wiped at his eyes while walking off, and when I looked over at Levi, he also hid his face.

Nobody's getting over it, alright? Reiner was and still is the root of our school. Our school isn't our school without Reiner.

After at least ten minutes of tear wiping and team members hugging him, we got back to our seats for Ymir's speech. Should be something just as big. Ymir's our female icon.

She had her hair down, just like Annie, and I found that nice.

"So, this is it, right?"

I clutched Connie's hand and bit back more tears.

Ymir's nose was red. She cried along with us, and now she couldn't concentrate on her speech. I felt so guilty.

"This is it. The big moment, our big chances. Starting life from a fresh point."

She paused and looked down.

"Guys, I'll be honest for a second. I forgot to print my speech."

Everybody laughed. I didn't. I'd be fucked without a paper to look down at.

"Four years down in developing myself," Ymir said. "Four years, three hundred and sixty-five days per year. How much is it, math geeks? One thousand... four hundred and sixty. Right? Right."

Levi was biting his lip and I found it hard to concentrate.

"But now, guys. Guys, think about it. I've spent so much time here, I've gone from a lanky loser lesbian to this." She gestured. "This. People know me, I have a job, I'm humorous, I've opened up. I can work and perform according to my actual skills. You can't believe what a pleasure these years have been. It's nothing like the regular community college my mom tried to force me in. This made me realize I've got the potential for everything I need."

I remembered how Ymir talked about this during one of our trips to Vineland.

"Yet another shout out to Eren today, except now I'm adding his fucking amazing and fucking hot as fuck mom for employing me in a field I matter. She took me in art, guys. You know art and sports are the only fields I'm strong at. Not lesbianism, not fucking fighting for female rights or some equality speech bullshit. It's art, and I love it."

Everybody's turned to me now.

"Eren, your mom's beautiful. Tell her I love her. I'll say it again when I meet her on Monday."

My cheeks were burning red. I felt Levi watching me.

Ymir was silent for a while, staring down at her empty podium.

"On an even brighter side, I fell in love this year."

We wooed.

Ymir paused and rubbed her face. "I'd kill for my script, but it's okay. This was planned. Stuttering and crying. I'll fix my makeup later. Fuck, man..."

Just when I thought this was getting too juicy. Our graduations always had people swearing.

I looked over at Levi. His jaw looked pretty slack, and he wasn't looking over as he would normally do. I'll put this on reminder. This must feel nostalgic.

Maybe he connected with Ymir in a sense.

Ymir was in a state between tears and laughter. The microphone hitched and made weird sounds through the speakers. She apologized and leaned on the podium like Reiner did earlier, and tilted her head down. I still held Connie in a steel grip.

"I thought I'd get off this stage before my big graduation breakdown," Ymir murmured and wiped her cheek. "Uhhh...man. Thank you all for being supportive. For being my friends. For hanging around, you know. I don't want to be a big sissy in front of the entire school. As for wrapping this fucking thrilling ride up, I've got a single more thing to say."

I sat up straighter. Connie whispered, asking if she's converted from homosexuality, and I had to hiss back a quick explanation you can't just convert between sexualities.

"I'd like Christa Reiss to be my fucking girlfriend," Ymir said. "That's about it."

There was a silent yelp from the back of the hall. I turned to find Christa slouched in her seat.

The hall's suddenly raging.

Here's to hoping my graduation will ever beat this.


I kept thinking I should do something enormous.

Levi's been talking about his conversations with Nile for the past few minutes. We're at the long table, enjoying the slightly formal bowl of punch and snacks. I'm chewing on cheese, mostly. The rest is gluten-dubious and I don't want to pull an allergy out my ass for nothing.

Levi swirled his punch. "The speeches were amazing this year."

"Agreed."

"Did you know about Reiner?"

"Kind of. I knew he's gay. Never officially said it, but everyone knew. There were rumors of him liking Christa going around, but, you know." I made quotes in the air. "Rumors."

I kept bracing myself on asking if Levi was going to be home tonight, but after a few more refills, he shot first.

"Are you going to the after-party?"

"I have to. Took up hosting if Jean feels too bad about it. God. Imagine me hosting a party at a beach hotel. Think about it. Fucking great, isn't it?"

Levi shook his head. "Fatal injuries."

"I'd give it a thirty percent chance."

We watched the people for a while. I refilled twice and Levi set his glass down.

I couldn't stop thinking how well suits fit him.

I couldn't stop wondering if all guys found other guys attractive.

"Erwin's home in a few days," he said. "We could tidy up the garden and house again. I think there's a new leak on the second floor. The bathroom. I showered yesterday and it had an odd spraying sound."

"That's the sound showers naturally make," I commented.

"Funny."

"I'll help you, sure. I'm really starting to miss Erwin. His Caesar salad breakfast and mistaken letters. Oh, by the way, have you ever checked his mailbox?"

"Yeah. I paid for some bills, too."

"I thought you didn't have too much money." I squinted.

"Erwin left me cash in an envelope, you don't have to worry about that."

I swallowed my questions along with a chug of punch.

I had to wait for Jean and Mikasa by the exit around fifteen minutes later. Levi kept me company 'till that point. We didn't talk much, just made comments on the people around us and had speculations about several things Erwin could bring as souvenirs.

Levi said Erwin will probably get him a distasteful t-shirt that goes down to his knees and I'll get something stupid. Like a magnet. Erwin buys everything the last second.I said Levi could rather get something cooler, like a woven mat or a blanket, and I'd get a t-shirt that says some of the lamest things a tourism agency could think of.

Levi said that would be okay.

I got ripped away from him by my two beloved, raging lovebirds who kept claiming we're already late and the hotel management isn't giving a fuck about setting everything up.

Kinda knew we'd text later, anyways, so I didn't cry about the loss. Showed Levi a peace sign and let myself be dragged to the car.

Jean let Mikasa drive.

Couldn't remember if she had a license, but her driving rubbed me in all the wrong ways.

We got home. Mikasa changed to high-waisted shorts and my hoodie around her waist. I peeled off the shirt and blazer and left my jeans as they were. The aim was looking as insanely attractive and smoking hot as I could, so I fought on a tank top.

Tiiight.

Jean had his clothes in his bag. I let him borrow my bathroom for changing. He also yelled he'll take my hair gel, because his was empty.

We did everything unnaturaly rushed. Good thing mom wasn't home. I remembered the terror of taking pictures, and I don't think I'm too ready to face her another time.

We packed our bags. I took my phone charger, a jacket, sunglasses, trunks, wallet (and two condoms in it), and mint gum. Mikasa asked me why the fuck would I need mint gum. I said I wasn't planning on drinking.

Then she just stood and looked at me like I was the most idiotic human still existing.

Jean called me cancerous.

"I once fell asleep with mint gum in my mouth. I have now priotarized absolute fear of mint gum," he said. "Remember second year, when I came to school with my sides shaved?"

"You mean when you cut your hair to the ugliest fuckboy haircut in the world? Right!" I replied. "Just letting you know you looked better without your stupid rooting undercut, Jean."

"Shut the fuck up, Eren."

"Only when you get your normal hair back."

Mikasa joined in. "Do you want me to drive again? Overwhelming death wishes?"

"Do you have a license, Mikasa?" I squinted.

She didn't say anything, and turned to go to the car.


I was reading hotel management wank on our way to the hotel. 8pt shitty font information about the rules in Pacific.

Clearly stated drug use was prohibited. Yeah, a school full of athletic graduates, the most plausible chance they're all boarding good cocaine. Or LSD. Or weed.

I think this was the point I began feeling guilty as fuck about everything I read in this fucking booklet.

As a side note, but related to drug use, I miss Armin and still haven't thanked him for kicking me up to better results in school. It actually helped.

Made a mental note to contact him. Maybe tonight, after a drink. Yeah, I know I said I wouldn't drink. Whatever. Maybe a glass, or two. Or three. Main thing was surviving all Jägermeister jokes and fucking diss on anyone who came up and slapped my back because of it. Just... Just this very form of association to me makes me cringe and not want parties, ever.

'Cause every party is bound to have a group of people who think Jägermeister is amazing.

So, as I said, I'm flipping through hotel management wank, and we're a few minutes away from Pacific. The hotel's generally forty to fifty minutes away from my house.

"Point one: we reserve the right not to allow any bag, parcel or other item to be brought into Pacific, and to deal with any unattended object in such a way as we consider appropriate," I read. "So, means if they don't like my backpack, they can just refuse to take it inside? Sir, your bag's sick cool. We can't let you in. We don't like what's inside."

"What's inside?" Mikasa fixed the mirror.

"Like, the most extreme thing? Two condoms."

Both my friends in the front seats made weird sounds.

"What?"

Mikasa looked outside. "No, nothing."

"What?" I repeated.

"Eren, you're, like, not ready. This could round up to seven hundred people at least," Jean finally forced out. "You won't last with just two condoms."

"It's not like I'm about to fuck the entire school, but sure, thanks, Jean."

"I'm just saying, if you happen to pass out and forget everything."

I laughed alone for an ugly minute and shut myself up along with the manual.

Practically nothing was allowed ("You also can't consume food, can't blink, no eye contact, dancing speed restricted to 0.00002."), but when I asked, Mikasa explained she had a talk with the entire management crew, and they had all come to a mutual point we rented the hotel for this night and the next day, and all responsible services (maids, cooks, security) would be replaced with our manpower. As in, we just rent the building and territory, and do everything purely on our own.

Honestly had less than no idea how she made them believe Pacific could be returned in proper conditions, but I guessed that's Mikasa to you, that's what she does for a living.

We arrived at five PM. The entire hotel crew was still there along the managers, guiding out the last tourists and prepping the rooms up. I left Jean and Mikasa pending for a conversation, and went around the corner, to the terrace.

I knew this hotel pretty well. Most teams stay in Pacific during the soccer season. The big stadium is a fifteen minute jog away.

The terrace's, like, huge. Polished wood, at least sixty to seventy square meters, no rails, just miniature, potted pine trees. The territory Pacific owns regarding to the shore isn't tiny, either. I kept remembering last year's morning routines with Levi and the team and got extremely pained and melancholic.

I realized I won't be here next year, and this is the last soccer season I'd be in.

Last summer I can still be a kid and not care too much. Last summer...with the team.

My team. :-|

I mean, I'm not trying to squeeze some pity, but if you listen closely, you can hear something shatter! Would never guess it's my fucking heart!

On my way inside through the terrace door, I ran up on Jean, just as glassy-eyed and mentally done with this place. I think we both had a grip on what was up. He smashed his forehead against my shoulder, and I just pressed mine against his.

We stood in the middle of the door and equally cursed this situation with some separable phrases like "I love soccer so much" and "I can't believe I'll have to shop at Forever 21 next year", "we're so old" along with a side dish of "I'm fucking getting saggy balls and wrinkles in a few years", and the dessert could be his long and loud "I won't ever go to Berlin without the team".

I think I had at least two tears in my account.

Pacific is nostalgic as fuck.

Skip to rejoicing with Mikasa again. She got the key ring to vital rooms, like, you know, the kitchen and boiler room, management, everything. She said they trust us since we've been here several times earlier, and under the same last names. Around then I realized Jean's lying about having the hosting under his name. I was a hundred percent convinced it's the Ackerman deal that plays the trump.

Levi's always the one who books all hotels, and everything.

We got a grip on a few to-do lists and a bird's-eye plan of the tables and the stage. Mikasa sent Jean and me out to get the table sets while she ran to the kitchen after the drinks, coolers and buckets for ice and champagne. Obviously, alcoholic.

From all things at once, I found out Jean's fucking stupid at coordination.

A blue shin, three pulsing knees and a sprained arm, and the terrace room's finally a carbon copy of the plan. I'm already sweating and thinking about taking a dip in the ocean, but we had at least an hour of more intensive thing moving and work to do.

Work hard, play hard, I told myself. I'll just have the dip when the party starts.

While Jean helped Mikasa with kitchen relations, I was ordered to get the couch from the reception.

Alone.

It's heavy as fuck. Took me twice as much pushing than with the tables. The couch had four small cone legs, and I broke them all off by accident. The couch just didn't fit through any doors.

Just, like, picture me standing in the middle of the reception with four small fucking things in my hand, staring down at them because I have no fucking idea where they came from.

I decided to throw them out and never tell Mikasa I broke anything.

The couch found it's place in the only free corner.

I sat down on it and asked them both to join me for a break. We had at least fifteen minutes, maybe more. The only thing left to set up was the music central, all speakers, the DJ table, generally, minor and easy bullshit. Also had to cut the watermelons.

Fucking watermelons.

"I think it looks good," Jean said, after we all had an impressed look over the place. "It finally looks like a, you know."

"Party place," I said.

"Yeah. Party place."

"What time is it?" Mikasa murmured and reached down her pocket. "I swear, feels like we still have hours to go on. Wait. Wait, did we arrive at five? Five PM, right?"

Jean did a slow nod. "Yeah, I think. You said we had to be here at five. And the party starts at six or somewhere around six."

"It's almost six."

"Holy shit," I said. "I need to cut the watermelons."

"You didn't cut the watermelons?"

"You didn't set up the DJ table, either!" I pushed back in defense. "There's a chance of everyone being late, okay? And the table takes a while."

"There's a chance someone's arriving sooner," Mikasa said and stood up. "Alright. Alright, don't worry, I'm taking the watermelons. You two go stick the fucking table together. Okay?"

Jean was silent. I nodded.

Mikasa chopped up the watermelons while we took our time screwing the boards together. I'm a complete disaster in anything not involving duct tape, so it went on for an unnecessarily extensive while. We're both still jerking the last foot and I'm listening to Jean's wide curse vocabulary, when Mikasa drops the knife, interrupted by a round of yells outside.

It's the casual squad; Connie and his girlfriend, and Marco along with Christa.

I left Jean crying under the table and Mikasa wiping her knife in a senseless act of violence, and ran to get the big doors open.

Marco and Christa swung along to help Mikasa with any last preparations, and the other two headed straight for saving Jean. I caught a glimpse on Sasha's ass and felt more content than I could ever.

She's got...the greatest back...ever.

As soon as the table was more or less stable, I carried a few stereo boxes, speakers and the big system, and plugged everything. That's around the moment people began flooding.

Fun note I remembered only by fifty to sixty people: the DJ was expected to arrive right after Connie arrived.

So the DJ's fucking late.

I didn't know I'd regret my words when he actually arrived.

Jean got manly.Slammed the DJ down for being late and sent me out to help with carrying the bags and electronics. The guy looked like an unsuccessful David Guetta spawn. Had long, greasy Scandinavian blond hair, light lashes and blue eyes. Fucking gross stubble. Even I fucking shaved for this party.

Come on.

Gross!

First off, I had to sort out his fucking wire system and plug all his ports. One wire was slightly cut. The rubber poked open. I had to duct tape it. Another one didn't have the nest. I had to fix it. Then the table was too high. Jean, come over, help with the table. Then it's a little too low. Jean, I'll need help again. Turns out the table isn't too good in the first place. Well, alright, nobody's perfect, I guess, but I'm fucking pissed.

I fixed all his major bugs in ten to fifteen minutes. Then he began playing.

I honestly wondered who the fuck hired him, because it wasn't me and it wasn't me for certain.

Some kind of a "95.1 WAYV" junkie, he's one of the guys who hate "99.3 The Buzz". The music taste was either awful or he truly was a generic David Guetta ripoff with absolutely no musical sense at all.

Depressing circles of Lana Del Rey.

Yeah, I'll need a drink with this.

Around a hundred and sixty people in, and we decided our DJ Almost-Guetta isn't staying.

I paid from my pocket (the few whatever bucks I had) and told him he can get his equipment next evening. Jean assured we're not messing it up, said we have another professional hired. When he asked for contact details, I stupidly blurted out he was just as blond and European as the current DJ himself.

I had no honest knowledge of DJs in our town, and the capital's too far away. I sat down to think. There was my Spotify playlist on, but I knew there's no point of leaving it playing. There's around three people in this entire hotel with at least distantly similar music taste.

First idea was asking Levi if he could work as a DJ. He looked alternative. Could hide up his face a little, wear something abstract, and be the next generation Skrillex, but I had a feeling he'd know nothing this technology and he could also have a pretty bad taste in music.

I didn't know what was Levi's music taste, but I felt like he could listen to anything. He's a moody person, he does what he feels like doing. Levi's like an alternate universe grown-up me.

Still not sure, I plunged in for my phone.

[18:52:22, Friday] Eren: Yo my sweetest

[18:52:59, Friday] Eren: Do you get shit from DJ stations

[18:53:30, Friday] Eren: Can you be our DJ for the night?

[18:53:58, Friday] Coach: Hi my dearest

[18:54:53, Friday] Coach: I thought you had one hired(?), no, I can't DJ. Did something happen?

[18:55:19, Friday] Eren: This guy sucked ASS lmao! I paid him to leave the equip. and come get it tomorrow. Right now we're pretty stuck lol.

[18:55:31, Friday] Eren: I tried getting into this system and buttons and almost fucked up his shit

[18:58:01, Friday] Eren: We need a fucking DJ dude my Spotify is too patrician for DEEZE PLEBS

He didn't respond for a longer while.

[18:58:09, Friday] Coach: Have you tried asking Armin?

[18:58:32, Friday] Coach: It's just a far-fetched guess, but I think Erwin's told me something about it

[18:58:42, Friday] Coach: Armin's school has a Youth Initiative...thing

[18:59:01, Friday] Coach: He attended a few clubs, might know something/someone. Or have contacts.(???)

[18:59:12, Friday] Eren: HOLY SHIT

[18:59:26, Friday] Eren: Thanks! I'll call him!

[18:59:39, Friday] Coach: Yeah. Alright.

I thought about a kiss emoji, but held myself back.

I'm not doing this with Levi, come on.

It took me a good while to remember I had Armin saved under "Peach". Made a mental note to fix it when I'm not quite so wild.

[19:01:07, Friday] Eren: Armin? Dude I need your sick IQ

[19:01:15, Friday] Peach: Yo, Poser Skater?

Holy shit, eight seconds?

[19:01:27, Friday] Eren: I need your help SO bad

[19:01:38, Friday] Eren: Are you good with electronics? I can offer you a party and like two plates of sliced watermelon if you help me out

[19:01:51, Friday] Peach: Call me, I can't type right now. Cops scattered around the city like fucking bugs

I got back to the contact page and scrolled down. Tapped the green button. He picked up right away.

"Hey, fuck. Hi!"

"'Sup?"

"Man..." I stuttered. "Hi, dude."

" Cut to it, I'm in a slight rush."

"We're having technical difficulties and nobody knows how the fuck a DJ station works. Someone recommended asking you."

"Okay," he said. "Okay, yeah. Is everything set up, or are you missing something?"

"We're missing a DJ. The electronics are set up. I plugged the ports, and stuff." I paused, then pushed my chest out in the proud spotlight moment. "I set them up."

"How did you get them?"

I scratched my chin. "We had a DJ, but he's pleb as fuck. Threw him out. He'll come for his equipment tomorrow evening."

"Umm. Dude. You know his equipment is probably stolen or just not too legit, right?" Armin dragged the words slow and painful, like I was the hugest idiot in desperate need for English lessons.

"What?"

"DJs value their sets more than their testicles. I'd know. I had an American Audio set and I didn't let anyone touch it. It's stolen."

I still hesitated. "You sure it's stolen?"

"Might be," he said. "Might also be borrowed. Alright, what address? Where are you? Send it through text, make sure it links."

"Okay, give me a second."

I typed out Pacific's whereabouts and checked twice before sending. It sent as a link and I almost kissed my phone for not failing me.

"Pacific?" He murmured. "Who the fuck goes there? It's so outdated."

"It's a graduation party."

"I know, Erwin sent an e-mail. By the way, Eren, congratulations on passing." The note in his voice was partly sarcastic and partly disappointed, like he'd assume I just forgot to thank him and he has to lead me on. "Heard you got one of the highest scores, actually."

"I'll thank you when you get here, okay?"

"Uhh... Sure."

Had no idea why I said that, because I had a literal zero on any materialistic values at Pacific. It also sounded really dirty, and I considered backing up, but it's too late.

Armin's line was silent, except for a few cars passing. Then he sniffed. "Cool."

"Yeah."

"What type was the DJ?"

"Type?"

"Mobile, club, radio?"

"How the fuck would I know? Seemed like a radio guy," I said. "He just did bad mixes of anything on the radio. Anal Del Rey, her fucking Summertime Sadness and shit like Demi Lovato and everything. Is that a radio guy?"

"Sounds like shit. He's a radio guy. Okay, I'm heading over. Expect me in ten to fifteen minutes, I have to go. Cops are tailing."

"Cops? Armin? What the fuck are you doing with the police?"

He kept breathing in the microphone. I guessed he got on a quicker pace. "Playing Twister! Later."

He dropped the call. I stared down at my phone for a while. It lit up a few times, each for a different message.

[19:06:00, Friday] Peach: Plug out his base and let three USBs and two external plugs hang out

[19:06:43, Friday] Peach: I can do club, radio sucks, but if you want better music it'll take 30+ minutes until I get home and take my own laptop

The other few were from Levi. I didn't respond to Armin's. I felt like my IQ's miserably too low for even USB outputs.

[19:06:30, Friday] Coach: How's the party?

[19:06:50, Friday] Coach: Got a hang on Armin?

So I replied, knowing he's boring his ass on Erwin's couch at the very moment.

[19:07:11, Friday] Eren: Yeah, he's coming over right now

[19:07:49, Friday] Eren: Thank you so much! Saved a few lives.

[19:08:23, Friday] Coach: Anything else you need?

I thought about this morning for a second.

[19:08:57, Friday] Eren: Yeah. Your company. :-(

Two seconds of staring at my screen and it's flashing with an "Incoming Call" message.

I picked up.

"Hey?"

"This is as much company as I can give you," Levi said. "And I'm drinking, so we share a bond."

His voice was so familiar and warming. I even had all his facial expressions in mind.

I smiled.

"I'm not drinking tonight, actually. I have to host. I'll probably empty a glass or two." Then I hesitated. "I mean, I could down a bottle."

He laughed. "Right, hosting. Ceiling lights do good if you're drunk and on stage. If you have the projector sets, I feel sorry for you. Just don't drink then."

"What are you drinking?" I asked. "We have literal stashes of Cash&Carry over here. The bar's overflowing. There's even a freezer under the DJ table. Do DJs ever drink, by the way? Can they?"

"I don't know." His voice was filled with honesty. "Maybe. I raked through Erwin's house and found a Tullamore. Wonder why we never drank it when you came over."

"Irish whiskey. Fancy," I said. "Is it good? I've actually never had Tullamore."

" I mplying you'd drink it with me?"

"Implying you'd agree?"

"Yes. Drinking with you is good when I need my regular doses of sympathy and adventure."

I rubbed my neck and took a plastic cup. Swindled it back and forth. I had a few choices on this table. Beer, two shakes, good champagne, some heavier drinks, and everything for a mojito. I went for a mojito.

"Well..." I murmured and pressed my phone between my shoulder and ear. "Great. I'll take note. I'm trying to mix up a mojito right now. Don't worry if you hear a clink and bubbles, I've got the highest chances to drop you in a bucket of alcohol."

"You could put me down, " he said. "But sure, when do you ever listen."

"Wrong. I listen to you more often than not. You're super timid tonight, by the way. I noticed."

Levi laughed.

"Timid?" A pause, and a sip. "Timid... You're using this word out of place. Timid would mean I'm shy. Have I ever been shy around you? Really? I'm drinking right now, that's not equal with being shy."

"You sound stupid and drunk," I said.

He made a long, high, annoying sound. I smashed my ice in the cup and sprinkled peppermints.

"Fucking drunk," I mentioned. "Please put the Tullamore down."

"I'm starting to feel like I need some company. Physical, maybe."

Stopped what I was doing, leaned against the counter, and tried to figure out if he meant what he meant, or if he meant what I thought he meant.

"Are you, like..." I poked the subject with a meter long rod. "Are you horny?"

"What?"

"I'm just guessing."

"Why ' d I be horny?"

"I don't know, you sounded weird saying that."

"Calm down and drink your mojito, Eren. Don't worry about my sexual life, I'm active enough and it's all that matters. Although, yeah. You're right. I have slight porn in the background. Muted. "

My question came right along the slash of rum. "How'd the last shoot go?"

Levi fell silent.

"Good," he distantly said, after a moment of thinking. He probably milled through everything he was about to say. "Good. Your tone is too negative. Don't sound so offended about my job."

"Do I sound offended? I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Very funny, yes, you do."

"Come over."

A slurp. "I'm too old."

"I'll go home then."

"You don't have a car and you're drinking your mojito right now. Cops are patrolling even our street over here. I don't want to know what's happening in the town," Levi said and interrupted my religious chugging. "I don't feel like visiting you in jail."

I wiped my mouth. "But you're the closest person to me. I wouldn't let mom visit me in jail, anyways."

Three sudden buzzes got me jumping. I pulled away and checked the caller.

It's Armin.

"Hang on, Armin's calling," I whispered, switching the icons. "Fuck... Alright. Armin?"

Heavy, luscious breathing and distant coughing. "Can I fucking get in? Or is that just for privileged people?"

"Isn't the door open?"

"As far as I fucking know, I can't walk through doors! No, it's fucking not!"

My cup almost fell because of my ethereal ways of placing things. I tripped on my way to the front door. Really, someone's left it closed, and it doesn't really budge from the outside.

I opened the door with a rushed inhale and got hit by pretty brash draught, smoke, and actually nice fragrance. Not some cheap brand cologne, fragrance. Sweet and just slightly putrid, also. Smelled like Armin. I felt another soft blow of smoke on my face, and coughed. A round of smoke puffs followed.

These were the ones that smelled so sweet. This isn't weed. Just flavored tobacco.

"Good evening," Armin murmured. "I've arrived."

"Smells good," I said. Stepped back and plunged down for a bench so the door stood open. "The tobacco. Is that, like, melon?"

He looked at me, quite satanic.

I tried to smile and tilt my head in this adorable, distraught damsel way. Raised eyebrows, pressed lips. Armin gave me a dosed smile and straightened up like I did a second ago. I let him in and peeked outside before backing off in the hotel.

It's a little chilly out, but it's just the wind.

Armin took his time to wander around like there was no emergency. He held his black backpack under his right arm and had the septum, as usual, except it's a pale green today, and I assumed it glows in the dark. Would be sick as fuck, if so.

I caught up on him and grabbed my mojito when we passed the counter. I previously dropped the call with Levi along with the one with Armin, but getting back to it shouldn't be hard. In case I got pulled into this party business later, I could just tap out a message.

Though I felt bad for leaving him hanging with a bottle of Tullamore, insults and a great porn stash, but that's what a man needs once in a while. Some massive butthurt and masturbation.

Had no idea if Levi had it in him as much as I had it in me. The exhibitionism feeling.

I'm such a sinner for masturbating in Erwin's bathroom. I still get bummed over it.

Armin got on the part of the stage with the stereo system and pulled off his hat. Once again, I suddenly had some moralities to question.

Fucking hate people who can get their hair cut all in equal length (The Straight-With-The-Chin Cut) and it stays healthy. My hair fucking curls at the ends. I wish I had Armin's natural straight, light hair.

Plus he's got the Chin Cut, and it pisses me off how good it looks.

I sneaked up next to him and slightly pressed against his firm side.

"You're hosting this with me," I said, and drank my mojito. "You'll have to host this party with me. Entertain everyone, do speeches. Jean-- Jean's the guy in the white t-shirt. See him? Over there, by the glass door. He's next to Mikasa. He was expected to be the host, but it didn't work out like we all planned and I brought it on myself. You're fucking smart, Armin. Save me. We're in this together."

Armin stared at me like I'd just exploded in fucking fireworks.

"What the fuck did you just say?"

I straightened up and slammed my cup down. "We're hosting this shit together!"

"Who told you I'm good with crowds?"

"Who told you I'm interested?"

"Eren, I can't perform on stage."

The way his expression changed crept me out. Like the facade just popped off in an instant, and he's only a blond kid with an edgy neon piercing, that, by the way, does glow in the dark.

"Are you stage fright?" I murmured.

"I'll need a smoke. Right now."

I watched him start zipping his bag open and kept squeezing my cup. It cracked and made crumpling noises, and my hand grew colder from the ice. I felt slightly guilty, but whatever.

Armin gave his bag a light tap. The typical sound of a plastic bag.

"Did you bring weed?"

"Yeah," Armin said. "Yeah, I did."

"You should do it outside, I read the rules this morning. No drugs, nothing like that." I paused. "The shore is nice, pot might feel better in fresh air."

"I had three cars tailing me fucking fifty seconds ago. Do you think I'm inexperienced?"

He zipped the front pocket backpack open, taking out a lighter first.

"I have signed papers for needing this as medicine. Stress relief, being overworked, diagnosed with depression and some personality disorders. A kid who can't keep his raging hormones together. Otherwise it's impossible to get a pass in Jersey."

I kept staring.

Armin pulled out two bags, a bunch of wires, and a laptop. But there's two zip-lock bags of weed. I pointed at them absentmindedly.

"You got two," I stupidly said.

"Yeah. The small one has a sticker, read it." His tone was playful.

I looked around and snatched the bag.

The sticker was just a white box of Name:               Content:               , but what got me warm was the handwriting. Armin had incredibly messy handwriting by the first glance.

Name: For Obtuse Retard , Content: Berry White (Cali Ku$h).

"You got me weed for passing?" I rubbed the texture through the zip-lock.

"You did a good job. Most guys from your school are absolute measle. You earned this, athlete." Armin slapped my back. "Fuck, your back's massive. Dude, you're built as fuck. Holy shit."

I shrugged and smiled.

He plugged in all the hanging ports, his ports, and also a charger. Said his phone's dying.

And by the time Armin stuffed a regular cigarette between his teeth, fingers flicking on the stereo system, I'd say the party finally started.

Chapter Text

"The party finally started", yeah, sure.

It's more like "Eren's public embarrassment finally started".

I had to introduce myself to the five to six hundred people already there. Held a short, absolutely talentless comedian speech about our dear graduates (which, by the way, began flooding in only by now; I began stuttering after noticing Annie), introduced our DJ, earned a lot of screams, and also signs of someone fainting.

Not wanting to admit it, but I still admitted Armin looks fine as fuck and I'd have no restraints if someone asked me about my opinion on him.

By the end of the second hour, I was taking people with their personal speeches dedicated to the graduates on stage, and funny things began happening. Things uncontrollable, drunk teenagers do.

I didn't like masses of more or less twenty year-olds, and I didn't like being uncontrollably not sober, so I never drank at parties, plus parties this major.

I pulled my shirt up by someone's request one time, and then got embarrassed because of My Happy Trail I Never Show Anyone, Ever. After that, I got to spend time by Armin's side. Got to hear peoples' song requests and wrote down short quotes they'd like me to read, as for the graduates. We kept a rum stash, an ice bucket, and everything else for making a mojito under the DJ table. All I ever did was make mojitos for Armin and myself.

I also stole the two watermelon dishes I promised, and we slurped those down during Matthew Dear's VCR mix.

Armin had a good taste in music. A few tracks were my typical taste (4chan's /mu/core from which comes the roots of my knowledge), a few tracks were way too sick to be even my level (like girls a few million times worse than Alice Glass singing something), a few were too unknown, but everyone liked everything.

The song requests got us both wheezing ("Dude, can you put up this song... I forgot the name, but there was this bass part one time, like, wubbashhh...hrrhrrr...haa..."). I realized this was the first time I actually heard Armin laugh. You'd need to videotape this, he really has some fucking issues.

Then we round up to three hours in this nonsense brainwash.

Armin's gone with his backpack and weed bag, hanging out on the cliff I recommended. I was left to check on his computer and put on songs I liked.

Earlier, I introduced him to all my friends from college. First came Reiner, who was utterly, completely and absolutely all over Armin and practically fell to his feet.

Came the regulars. Connie, Marco, even Christa. Armin seemed to click with Christa a lot. Once their conversation trailed off to mutual interests, I just went down to the lower floor. SCP Foundation talk, I'm not the person.

The most important detail regarding to Armin was Annie.

They...they clicked too much.

Staring at them talk, I remembered going over to her house for the first time. No idea why.

She had a single-story English house, brown plank facade, white window frames. Potted plants on the porch, on both sides of a braided beige couch with two striped pillows and a Kohl's rug underneath.

Her parents weren't home that week, so I lived at her place for a few days. I had my green skate bag with my Doomsayer's board (I bought Baker shortly after we broke up) strapped to it, and some clothes thrown inside in a total rush. I remember her calling me saying I should meet her at the park so we could take the bus together.

Took me seven minutes to pack.

Thinking about it now, I wouldn't say it's me who ruined us. We could've went on and on. I was the most tender and loving guy she'd ever have. Really, though, I placed her above anything else in my life. Stayed up for so many nights, fucking did everything to make her feel good, I comforted her when she felt bad, I drove her to places, we talked a lot, we kissed. I respected her, and I still do.

While at first I didn't know what's wrong, later on I cursed myself for being this vain.

Jean's first guesses were simple: cheating, sex or distance. But the truth is even more simple and generic, and I was shocked these can be actual reasons to break up.

Annie got bored. I'm a year younger, also, and her dad didn't like me.

That's it.

There's nothing more to it.

The boredom thing's a little specific. Of course, from my point of view, I'm probably the best boyfriend ever, but as I'd later found out, it's always been soccer filling my free time. Apparently I've never quite been the boyfriend she's wanted me to be, and even though our time spent together counted as the best moments of her life, she was expecting something different from it.

I bored her with being myself. I wasn't interesting enough. I couldn't entertain her like she'd want me to.

But to not make this entire breakup seem like it's just me fucking up, I'll remind you Annie's also boring as fuck.

Yes, I can shit on her, but I prefer not to. Why? 'Cause I loved and still love her, and her negative sides don't matter to me as much.

What attracted me was her collected presence and visual appearance. When I got to know her closer, back then, at one of Reiner's parties, she seemed like the girl I'd totally marry. I fell in love with her every time she smiled or laughed, and the moments were so rare I could sometimes just lie in bed, listen to American Football and think about spending time together.

We got closer after I found her Facebook, and eventually, got her number. We started going out. Not on dates, exactly. Just walks around Wildwood, because it's a pretty place. Cape May is generally a very beautiful area.

I asked her to be my girlfriend in Veteran's park. It was... September, I guess. We were walking side by side and I blurted the question as an accident.

I swear, I'd never meant to ask it aloud, but she answered with an immediate yes.

I asked Annie to punch me several times just so I'd believe I didn't dream it. And so it carried out.

I'm still surprised she mentioned my age during our last walk together. Like it's some big deal I'm a year younger. Fucking so? My dad's younger than my mom and they've been happily married for years.

It's just another excuse to make it look less ugly. As with Annie's dad, there's nothing much to say.

He knows I'm half-Turkish and he's a racist fuck.

These things happen.

I got back to reality, in front of Armin's laptop. Emptied my mojito glass and opened Spotify to type in a song. Thought of The Velvet Underground, but ended up putting The Weeknd, to satisfy the plebs downstairs.

Then I sat back in the chair and closed my eyes. The Hills isn't all that bad, actually.

I remember myself on my back, on Annie's bed, her in my lap. She wore my t-shirt and grey panties. It's...a Saturday, I'd assume. I felt too nervous to even look at her like this.

Annie had her makeup off, I had my hands flat on her firm thighs, she kept brushing my cheek with her thumb, and we sat and talked about the stuff that's been occurring lately. We kissed later, after Annie slid down next to me and draped her thigh over both mine.

Thinking about this makes me nauseous.

Thinking about this makes me nauseous.

I remember the way we took the bus and held hands in the pocket of her windbreaker. How she always ran her finger over some small scars on my knees whenever I wore shorts. The stares at each other.

I just can't believe feelings die off like that.

Maybe I wasn't taken seriously even when we first got together.

Maybe she just tried me out.

I need to get over her.

Fuck it, I'm getting over her. It's not like it's her that I miss. It's the feeling of being wanted and cared about. Details like making out and staying over. Skin to skin contact. That's what I miss. I don't think I crave her blank personality as much as my memories and what we did.

But it feels weird to know Annie used to say she loves me and then brush around Armin this entire evening.

Whatever.

Maybe he fits her better.

I don't care anymore, I need to get over her and myself, in addition.

I was on phone with Levi for at least a few hours.

I told him my entire story with Annie. I even slipped in details, like our "sexual life", the way she liked making out and how I always had to force her to go out with my friends since she didn't like them. How Annie always got pissed over some girls at school coming up to me. It pissed her off so much, it's not even deliberate. I don't attract first years just to fuck around with Annie's emotions.

Come on, dude.

Levi listened to everything I said. Sometimes I talked over him and didn't even listen to anything he said. I just had to get this out. I told him details even Jean didn't know, and after a longer while of me speaking, he kept silent and thought about it.

Connie got the neons and lamps to work. Hung over the ceiling, they flashed down on the crowd. Slashes of all complexions, laughter, background heaviness... Amazing.

It felt good. I felt good. Away from home, school's over, everything's perfect. At the same time, as everyone's dancing and moving too fast, smashing against bodies and tables, it felt lonely.

I'm pretty stupid for getting depressed right now, but it happens.

At least everyone's having a good time, that's what matters to a party host. This asks for a super degraded smile.

Eh.

I watched Annie sit next to Armin. Not like he didn't look at her all the time.

Maybe the balance wasn't quite right. Maybe he just pulled the winning ticket. With "Annie" written on it, or at least on the back of it.

Not that I'm jealous. (It's the fattest lie I'd ever thought of.) I had enough time to get a girlfriend, but not enough energy. Levi called it absolute laziness, and it probably wasn't valid just for body criteria. I could have a girlfriend if I tried. One word and alea jacta est.

I'm just fucking lazy and demotivated. As fuck.

Plus I couldn't find a girl I like, here, in New Jersey. I'd have to wait until Revolution, anyways.

But it's something else. It's not me having or not having a girlfriend. Something more...bitter? I don't know. Something to that side. Pretty ghostly, barely genuine. Maybe it had something to do with me crying against Jean's shoulder earlier. Maybe it has something to do with moving on. Time passing. After all of it together. All of this. My own graduation, one day.

My own graduation, a real job, and a real (preferably not Asimo) girlfriend, though I'd lack the motivation to totally and absolutely invest myself in a complete, healthy, boring heterosexual relationship.

Anyways. I'm drunk, what's new?

Mom's embracing me and letting me live with them as long as it seems like a massive requirement issue. I wish I could just tear away and move out. But she'd still nag me with subtle questions about getting married and my other future plans.

Blergh, having a girlfriend. I don't want this.

As a completely contextual subtext, understand my mom's perfect girlfriend prototype as Mikasa underlined with dozens of fucking lines.

Well, not necessarily her, but, you know.

A girl.

Anyways, shot two. I'm still drunk.

Jean's kissing Mikasa at any chance she's giving him.

"You giving up?"

I wasn't the type to knock out first at parties. I wasn't someone to sleep at parties at all. It's not even my fucking party, anyways. I should just go to my room and knock out.

For all I fucking care.

Who even cares if I went to sleep.

He guessed what was on my mind. "Hey. Tonight's not the time for being depressed. Come on, I'm not great at relationship advice, but it'd be fantastic if you stopped staring at Annie and Jean. Enjoy the party. It's not your graduation, but it doesn't mean you can't."

"Yeah." A sigh, or something close to it, and I sprawled a little deeper in the chair. "Yeah, sure."

"How convincing."

"Levi, I don't even feel like fucking moving. I haven't felt this down in months, I think. My chest feels so heavy."

"Is it because of her?"

"No, it's because I fucking hate myself. How can you hate your daughter's boyfriend because he's half-Turkish? Would you fucking do that? Fuck! White people. Her dad's as white as it can get."

He has a gun, by the way. A rifle, don't know what number, but he hunts.

"Calm down and stop thinking about it."

"Thanks, great advice. I wouldn't have thought of it myself," I murmured.

I wasn't even sure he heard me. Someone screamed near the place I was sitting. I jumped from the surprise and held the phone away from my face. Scanned the area around me and pressed it back against my ear once it got clear.

"Go outside before completely breaking down," Levi advised. "You don't sound too enthusiastic and fresh air is always helpful. I'm on the balcony too, now. It's cold, though."

I looked over my shoulder to check the crowd for any familiar faces.

I wasn't about to panic. I also wasn't about to decline a break outside with Levi on the phone. I felt like I could need this and it might help me sort my head and thoughts out.

"Okay."

I got up, slowly. Not because I'd been drinking. It's because I had an entire room to cross and it already tired me out.

It's so hot in here, actually.

"Wait, I'll just-- Fuck. Get out of here."

"Be careful."

I managed to get out alive. Levi's voice drowned under the hazy cloud of laughter and loud, distant music. I did volume swaps to check if he was still with me.

A few steps and I'm at the terrace, sort of. Bumped into someone going back inside. The guy gave me an apologizing look before walking off without any insults. I frowned as I watched him go, way too tired and downhill to give a fuck.

Stepped outside.

The air was fresh and smelled like salt and wet sand. Pacific is good because it's so distant from any towns. It's like in this one book I can't remember reading, but I know I've read it. Annie forced me to. The story's about a hotel that doesn't even exist.

I assume Pacific is my hotel that sometimes feels so surreal and relatable it doesn't exist like that to others.

"Are you alone?" I silently asked.

"Mmm." I expected he'd continue, but he got silent. So I went on.

"What are you doing?"

Squeaky leather noises. He's back in the couch. "Lying here with my eyes closed. Are you outside?"

"I'm on the terrace." I leaned over the rail of the terrace and looked up. "It's quiet."

"Appreciate this divine moment of loneliness before you dive back in there again."

"I'm not exactly lonely."

"I can drop the call."

"Don't."

"Then don't nag," Levi said. "How's Pacific?"

"It's pretty cool. Hasn't changed a bit. They only changed the sheets. They're not white now, they're super marine blue. And the shower curtain has a beach picture." I cracked my neck. My body felt tired, but I felt pretty awake in my mind. "Otherwise, all's the same. Would be better with you, I guess. You'd give the vibe. I actually wish you were here. At least I wouldn't die from a company deficit."

I cringed at myself for saying that and looked around. Looked at how peaceful it was out here, compared to the mess inside.

Levi was silent, but I knew he's there for me.

Actually, coming to think of it... Jean knows me well. Mikasa, too. Armin saw through me in a second. But Levi's the one who sees the entire mess of me, all of me, all my arguing thoughts and fucking sick aesthetics without sparing a fucking thing. Whenever I talked to him I felt like being accepted.

"Didn't think I'd be alone outside." I paused. "But, like, I am? There's no one here. Armin went back inside a while ago. I thought there would be the regular school couples making out, or something."

"It's normal. They do it later. What's around you?" He asked. "How does it feel being there? You can't believe how much I crave being by the ocean right now."

"There's nothing much. The sky's dark as fuck right above me, but it gets slightly more purple towards the horizon. And there's a pink strip right above the horizon. The ocean smells like fucking heaven. So salty. And the wind is super soothing. It's light enough, actually. Could be around three in the morning."

"It's three forty-seven. "

"Early enough for the sunrise. Enough to light the stuff all around. Like, the trees. The three pine trees by the big lamp post, you remember those, right? Those are chopped up. Not entirely, just the lower branches. One branch used to have a swing set, remember? It's not there anymore."

"You fell out that swing set on our first summer."

"I know. Mom said I sprained my neck. It still hurts from time to time."

"You didn't sprain shit. I had to buy Juice Pops for you all to forget the cracking."

"Sorry. The sun might be up in, like, an hour. Less, maybe. Once it starts it's really fast."

"Mmm."

"It's dewy."

It took me a while to realize I could hear his breathing asides from the buzz back inside and the waves here, outside. It took me a little while longer to realize he stayed up 'till near four in the morning for me.

I briefly wondered if I mean anything to him.

"Mikasa keeps kissing Jean," I said. "I can't stand them like that. And, umm. Armin is with Annie the entire evening, so I've got reasons to be depressed and hate myself with passionate fire."

"Don't think about it now. It's not worth it. She left you, anyways. I guarantee Annie doesn't think about you even a milligram of the amounts you spend on thinking about her. Fuck, I'm drunk. By the way, look forwards to Monday," he said. "It's our first training back together. I'll still have some hangover remnants, but it doesn't change the aspect."

"You wouldn't know how it feels," I murmured.

"Yeah, but I know you well enough to say you weren't the fault in this not working out."

"Levi, you won't convince me. I'm not likable once you get past the exterior. I'm such garbage, Jesus."

"I like you, and I've gotten past the exterior. Dumb expression, by the way. You could've said it differently."

I itched to ask in which sense did he mean the "I like you", but held back.

Levi cleared his throat. I heard some movements and imagined his grey cotton t-shirt against the couch. The t-shirt that looked like a fading white screen.

"You and masturbating are my two favorite things in the world," I said. "Fuck everything else."

"Since when am I a thing?"

"Would it sound better if I said you and masturbating were my two favorite people?"

"It's either me, a thing, or Masturbating, a person." Levi paused. "Levi, meet Masturbate. Masturbate, this is Levi, my best friend."

"Are we best friends?" I cautiously asked.

"Up to you."

"I don't know what category are you anymore."

We sunk in heavy silence.

I was still watching the horizon. Pushed the rails out of place with my swinging.

It's so calming talking to him like this.

"I'd like you here," I said. "You'd like it here, I mean. Would be cool if you saw this. Felt this. It's so great. It smells like a forest. And the planks are all cracked in this corner I'm standing in. The shore is completely fucked. The rock we pissed on isn't there anymore. You'd really, really like it here right now."

He took two long, deep breaths, different from earlier.

"Trust me, I'd like to be there."

Another minute of silence as I stared at the vague form of the ocean. The music was still loud, but as a background noise, and I could hear the sound of the waves, slow, patient and calming.

"Or you, here with me."

I shivered.

Why does hearing it feel so good?

My stomach curled and I pressed against the rails harder to calm myself down.

For a second, I considered finding someone for a quick hookup. Then I considered locking myself up in a bathroom, getting drunk and fucking my hand 'till some undefined satisfaction to get rid of this GROSS FUCKING FEELING.

My phone made these tiny buzzes that said it's running out of battery.

"You're running out of juice soon."

"Not really. I've got my charger in the room."

"I meant overall. Go inside and have fun." He hesitated. "You deserve it."

I was sweating my ass off the entire evening. The fucking DJ caused me a fucking inner rave, I stressed out about Annie, about going on stage, about existing, and all these efforts seemed exactly just meaningless right now.

"Don't say stuff like that. The ten percent remaining are quite strong, usually," I whispered. "I'll take a picture, hang on."

He laughed, and I smiled, because his laugh was quite nice and low, and fit my melancholic horizon viewing.

No music. No screams. Just this, absolute silence and silent, fuzzy giggles.

The two of us at our best, at almost four in the morning.

I snapped a landscape and sent it.

He received it in a few seconds.

"Oh. Pretty."

"Right? It's really...got all the right colors, and everything."

"I actually thought you're sending a picture of yourself."

I wondered if he said "pretty" before opening it, then. :^)

"I look super shitty right now. I'm drunk and my bun isn't holding up," I murmured. Switched to my front camera to check.

Fucking.

Wasted.

But the rosy lighting was quite complimenting. I let the corners of my mouth tilt down to at least have some plausible excuse of looking this bad, took a picture, and also sent it.

"I'm sorry," I said. "Also, it just took like two percents off my battery. Fucking Apple, dude."

Levi wasn't saying anything for a while.

I would've went to get my charger, but my bag's in the room R-11. R-11 is on the other wing, and I didn't feel motivated enough for that.

"Levi?"

"Yeah?"

"Where the fuck did you go? I'm not that horrendous."

"Uh... Yeah. No. You're not."

Oh, fuck. I did something wrong. He's suddenly speaking in super brief sentences and abrupt, short phrases. Yep. Fuck it. Fuck everything, I fucked something up.

"Thanks for tolerating me," I sarcastically said.

"It's easy to tolerate you. Sorry I disappear once in a while, I'm thinking a lot tonight. About things that don't matter and will never happen."

I had to get a drink before I began sobering up.

I don't want to leave this state of nirvana.

"Are you talking about Tuesday?" I asked, eyes squeezed shut, because it's so selfish to think his problems might be in any way related to me.

"Yeah."

I almost threw up from stress.

"Are you tired?"

"Yeah."

Hello, I'm Eren's inflamed sense of rejection. The idea of being left here, on the terrace, sleepless, empty battery... It gave me something melancholic to fuel myself with.

"Go to sleep, I'll manage," I said.

I couldn't quite hear my own heart beating. Is the music too loud, or are the waves too present? Or am I thinking too deep into this, again, and picturing myself in a setting far too unrealistic for it to actually be real and happen?

"I don't feel like sleeping."

Six percent, kill me.

All that's left for me was gazing at the ocean.

I looked up. The sky felt clearer. More light.

"Eren?"

"I'm here."

"You know, this might seem funny, but I want to..." He lost his trail of words. "Wait."

There was a loud scratch and I knew he put the phone on the couch. Probably got up. I was alone for the moment and tragic disgust assaulted my guts, because when I looked at the screen, it was at five percent.

Fucking sue this company.Last thing I want right now is leaning against the damn rails with an empty phone, churning stomach and dry throat, and coincidentally, I'm doing exactly that.

I just need my person, that's it.

It's at four percent now, and I know for sure it can pass out any second. Always does when I'm having calls. My heart's beating way too fast. I know I won't really get to talk to Levi until Monday after this.

Something scratched again.

"I'm here," Levi updated.

"What were you doing?"

"I took the bottle of Tullamore and am dedicated on drinking it tonight. This morning, rather. Or just today."

"Are you serious?"

"Yeah. So much for drowning a crush." I imagined him raising the bottle. "Cheers."

What does "drowning a crush" mean just now?

"You can't physically tolerate that, Levi."

"If I can tolerate you, I can tolerate anything."

"Thanks. What does "drowning a crush" mean? My phone's practically out of battery."

"Go to your room and get sleep. Charge your phone. You've got work tomorrow."

"I--" I began, and then looked at my phone after hearing the monotonous background buzz get cut off.

Dark and dead, a white, monstrous circle in the middle of the screen.

Fuck you, Apple.

A wave of anger, two quick, enraged breaths, and I threw the piece of plastic down in the sand.

A minute of calm breathing, and you can find me tiptoeing down to rake it back out.

Adventures on my way back seemed even more vital. I cleaned the screen and blew in all gaps to get the sand out, and somehow, fucking coincidentally, there's Earl's Chum playing.

I love that song.

Everything felt like a bad joke. I frowned, because I didn't exactly have anything better to do than frown, but me staring at the black screen and my grainy, warm hand got my jaw tightening and organs throbbing so rapidly I could've just thrown up.

Was this the last mojito, or am I just not mentally well? I'm pretty sure the terrible timing between this song and my death, right now, is pathetic irony.

I leaned against the rail again, as if nothing ever happened and I never had any eventual issues. My head got heavy and dizzy, and I jumped at every sound I could potentially take as five meter radius away. Closed my eyes, to relax.

What the fuck am I doing?


It's quiet, but I keep fiddling. Can't find any peace here. The back of my throat still hurts, and so does my neck in general.

The remains of yesterday's party were all over the place. Drinks, empty cans and plates, cigarettes here and there, ashes spread all around with no real intention. Lonely jackets and shirts.

The room's empty now. Only a few people laid somewhere asides. Some were asleep on the tables, a few guys from the team pushed chairs together and slept on those. There's a girl on the broken couch.

Everybody's having their faces hidden behind their lazy arms due to the rays of sun through all Pacific's windows. It wasn't hard to guess it's the same up in every taken room.

Jean's probably snuggled up to Mikasa right now.

I knew Armin was one of the last to go to sleep. I don't know if he went with Annie, or if she went home. I don't remember anything after last night's conversation with Levi. I just dragged my ass to my room, locked myself in and passed out. I could still hear the music at night, even from this wing of the hotel. Armin played tracks from my playlist.

I knew I had poor amounts of rest in my account, but it kind of banged my brain out when I realized Annie's completely forgotten about me.

She's gotten over it. She probably never even had any problems.

It's not exactly killing me, but it does bring a wish to kill myself.

Fuck it. I couldn't say anyone had been really themselves yesterday.

It felt weird seeing the room free from screams, flashes, body masses and slurred, loud music. Now it's just tables with a coat of trash and messy chairs. Guessed we'd have to clean this up sooner or later, but it wasn't on top of my list. Actually, it was piffling.

I'm not doing it.

I didn't sleep much, didn't really try sleeping, either. I didn't feel tired like I naturally should. Sure, some joyful reminders of a few hour old mojitos lurked down in my stomach, and I could recognize watermelon from occasional burps.

Food topic ignited, now I feel hungry.

It's probably some natural remedy, this clarity I'm experiencing. This gross sober feel. Makes me wish I was never sober.

I wasted my time stacking empty cans in the "kitchen area". Made a sick pyramid nobody looked at. It's okay. They'll see it later, by noon.

The counter was still in a pretty good state. Only had my phone, still dead (I didn't have the power to charge it), and the jacket I had last night when we arrived. It felt too hot to wear anything else than the tank top I had on at the moment. Even that felt like too much, but walking around naked isn't exactly socially adequate.

I'm a ray of sunshine.

Speaking of rays, sun's up. Bright and ready to welcome me into a great, new day full of surprises. Once I get home I'm probably throwing up and masturbating. And breakfast is vital, also. Can't wait to get something warm in my stomach and watch irrelevant shit on YouTube. Maybe listen to some albums.

I went back to my room and took my bag. Going to R-11 was inevitable. The extremely clingy vibes I felt at this place drove me insane. We'd be staying here next month, too, just slightly different people and emotions.

I stole everything from the bathroom's toiletry set. Tiny shampoo bottles are mom's life source. Walked downstairs to leave my card and keys at the reception, and guess who I met right by the door.

Annie.

She looked like she's leaving. Hair's up, jeans, a hoodie.

My stomach twisted, but I decided I won't let myself fall back in the state I was last night. We haven't talked in months, so it felt weird when she said "hi" and walked up to me, up to the counter at the reception.

It didn't feel right and I wondered if I'm dreaming.

"Hi," she said.

There's no way I can describe my emotions right now. It's not a thing of description. It feels fucking good to look at her distraught like this, with slightly smudged eye makeup and greasy hair.

It's just way too endearing for me to let it pass like that.

I stared at her before answering. "Hey."

"Are you leaving? I was hoping there's someone going to the city early."

No fucking way, is she asking me for a car ride just now?

I shrugged. "Yeah. I've got work in a few hours. I want to take a shower and get sleep."

"Would you mind driving me? Just 'till Veteran's park. I'll walk home on my own."

My throat's burning as I talk to her. It's probably easy as fuck for her to mention Veteran's park like that.

Right, though. I'm probably nothing to her now. But it doesn't mean I don't care about her.

"I'll just drive you straight home," I said.

She guiltily pressed her lips together and smiled. "Thanks, Eren."

I'm not dying.

I'm not dying.

I'm not dying.

I still had Jean's car keys, so I'm leaving with the Audi. Mikasa gave them to me. She told me she's not going to be at work today, and I'm okay with it. And Jean could get home, eventually, with someone else. Mikasa's always with him, anyways.

It felt weird driving in Jean's car with my ex-girlfriend next to me and Levi on my mind.

I rubbed my forehead while making the turn out from Pacific's forest territory. Met something warm and sticky (sweat consistency), and cringed. Gross. I didn't feel ill or anything close to it. Tired, a little, but I blamed it on not taking any kind of break last night.

"The party was cool," Annie silently mentioned after we got on the road.

Her voice made me tingle all over. I clenched my jaw and just gripped the wheel.

"Yeah. Glad you liked it. The squad worked pretty hard."

"The squad?"

"My people." I turned to her. "You know. Jean, C&S, Mikasa. Marco and Ymir's girlfriend."

"Haven't heard from them in a while. Is that the same Mikasa from my martial arts class? We have matches together. She's good at karate."

I couldn't figure if she's jealous, or if I'm mad blind. Don't think she'd be jealous over Mikasa. As far as I know, Annie shouldn't know she's living with me, but whatever's been bubbling up on the girls' side is out of my reach.

"Probably," I carefully said. And after a short while of silence, I spoke up again. "You looked good at the ceremony. I liked your speech, also. Felt weird seeing you speak about what's actually going on in your head for once. I mean, at least you've changed, unlike a year ago."

With the corner of my eye, I saw her head drop back against the seat. She sighed.

"You're still not over this."

"I honestly don't think I'm ever getting over this."

Annie meaningfully looked at me, and I raised my brows.

"What? Am I still boring?"

"I don't want to start this conversation right now. You know all my reasons. I don't want to repeat myself. Don't cling to it."

I didn't respond and kept biting my cheek.

Speaking of Jean and his dad's car, he wouldn't need it up until the evening today (eight, nine, ten), so I can technically drive around all day today.

Five minutes on the road and I calculated I still had plenty of time to go back home and do what I technically could go without. Shower, to wash away the bitter feelings of last night and try to remember the good ones, find something nice to wear, and maybe sneak some breakfast. I'm feeling too nauseous for breakfast right now.

Ten minutes later you can observe how I struggle with not talking to Annie when she's right fucking next to me.

I enjoy the taste of a morning's loneliness. Boy, did I want to be alone right now. Alone, all by myself, without her next to me and this thick wall of treason between us. I craved my thoughts and Jean's good radio, food when I get home, the shower's warm water, my shower gel, home.

I just want to get home and forget about all this. There's too much on my mind right now.

She spoke up a moment before I turned to her street. The moment I least expected.

"Is this the last time we meet?" She asked.

Like I'd be the one who dumped her.

I nodded.

"You think so?"

"Annie, yes. As much as I'd crave staying around you, it's not working out. We don't even talk. It's better if we stay out of each other's lives. I don't want to bother you, and you don't want me to get clingy."

I watched her stare out the window. She kept trying to get the sleeves of her hoodie over her hands, and her ankles were crossed.

She wore Converse sneakers.

I love Converse sneakers.

I hate myself for loving her still.

When I pulled over by her house, she didn't budge. Just sat there like that, with a distant stare, and bit her cheek. Same as I did.

We sat in silence. The morning went from a sunny Saturday to a pretty fucking gloomy and grey day of routine and idiotic chores. The only way it differed from my daily life was me trying to hide my shattered little heart both due to Annie's behavior now and Levi's honesty last night.

"We'd work out," Annie murmured. "It's not your fault."

"You said you don't want to talk about it."

"It had to be said one day. You're still on my mind from time to time."

"I still love you, but I'm letting this go. You're not right about us working out. We won't work out, even though I wish we could. Stuff's not like it was before."

"I don't mean us to get back together," she said. "I meant it as... Looks like you're holding an everlasting grudge and I'm a major bitch. Since when are things like that?"

"At least I don't shit on you," I gloomily answered.

"And I do?"

"No, but you kept avoiding me. We could've had this conversation months ago, and shit might've cleared out earlier. Annie, really. You could've spared me months of fucking suffering."

Annie didn't respond and switched the radio station. She had her nails black and short.

The screen said it's Rival Sons playing. Electric Man.

She looked at me, and I looked at her. Her light features, blue eyes, long lashes. Soft, pink lips.

Yeah, she's still the prettiest girl ever, but I don't feel the same about her as I did before. Just as I wondered last night, it's just my idiotic crave to have her back. Just the ownership and the bonds of having a girlfriend, and I can't stop feeling guilty for being this selfish. It's a boy gene. It fucking sucks, and you have to believe me.

This made me remember a story Jean once told about a girl who left him. He asked for a last kiss before breaking up completely. He got it.

I'm wondering if I'm getting mine, finally, to seal this and never get back to it.

Annie's eyes sunk down from my face to my shirt, arms, waist, and then the car's salon. Her head bobbed down a little, and she tucked her hair behind her left ear. Then she just took her bag and got out the car.

I sat, exasperated, and stared down at the wheel.

I've lost all faith in this weekend getting any better.

Then there's a knock on my window. Rolled it down to find her slightly distraught and teary-eyed. The tip of her nose was red, and she kept tugging on the strap of her backpack. My stomach froze immediately.

I leaned out the car and rested my chin on my crossed arms. Looked up at her.

We shared a silent while together. Her pressed against the door, me listening to the distant highway. I heard a train crossing the rails on the left side. Some neighbor's dog barking. Watched a couple walk past with their kid and paper grocery bags.

Annie sniffled and looked to the side. She pulled off the car. I tensed, waiting for something, and kept looking at her.

She took a step and leaned down to kiss me.

This is the infamous last kiss.

This is the kiss I dreaded.

This either draws the line, or smudges it out.


After I dropped Annie off at her house (and didn't drive off for a single spare minute, lost in staring at her bedroom's window), I drove straight home.

As I pulled over at my own house and took the keys, ready to get out, I paused. For just one second, because I had to. To fully remember everything, and let it all settle.

A sigh later, my forehead was against the wheel and I tried to recall why I was sitting here in the first place.

My mind fell in thick rolls.

I hate everything today.

Got out the car and dragged to my house.

Took off my shoes and put my bag and the keys on the last step of the stairs right after getting inside. I expected mom to call me out at the sound of the front door, but she didn't. So she's most likely just asleep.

Whatever, works for me. It's around eight or something, anyways.

I pressed my back against the door and ended up sliding to the floor, eyes closed. Kept thinking about Levi and the shit he said last night about crushing. Then I added up the scene in this very corridor of mine last Tuesday.

Then I added up the kiss emoji and thought about my dream.

I'm admittedly blind. What's been going on this past month? What the fuck? How the fuck can a phone call mess you up so bad?

But it's not just that, I slowly and carefully realized. It's all of this. How much he tolerated me, no matter how pissed he got. It's how he cared so much about everything asides from himself. About me, the team, about me, again. And I'm not just a soccer "prodigy" with literal built-in skills, or a weird,cool kid with a dubious sense of humor.

I'm an immature, lame, young adult trying to convince himself his soccer coach is just a coach, and a friend by extension.

Seriously, after everything that's been happening lately, I don't think this counts as friendship anymore, and I'm terrified of it.

I'm terrified this might escalate to something more.

Fuck, I'm terrified I might like him.

I stood up and walked over to the kitchen. Didn't make anything specific, just gluten-free bread with Mozzarella and tomatoes. Cleared my plate in around ten minutes and sorrowfully stared outside my window for a few more.

Later on I picked up my bag and Audi's keys from the stairs, and ran to my room. Being home was so pleasant. Relieving, I guess. I really liked being in my room. These are my own, personal four walls.

Ignored the burning sickness left by my conversation with Annie and threw all my belongings on the floor with the rest. Yesterday's outfit fitting vain was on the floor. Then I slipped on the edge of my bed and lied down.

In the perfect, familiar silence of my room, I could take my head in my hands and hold it. Still had to shower and get ready for work, but the literal mess in front of me was killing my motivation second after second.

I managed to do something after a few more minutes of blank gaping.

Crawled on the floor to reach for my phone and charger. Plugged it, waited, and the screen lit up in response. Honestly, I felt like a teenage girl. When my home screen loaded and wasn't showered in unread messages, I couldn't help but embrace a huge block of disappointment. It's stupid, but you can't help or outrun that.

I switched Airplane Mode on and off, as the last hope. Maybe the network's not working.

Nope, nothing.

Great.

I fought back the urge to send Levi a text. Would be a stupid move. Even from me. What would I say, anyways? Hey? Hi? Good morning, slept well? I'd rather be fucking silent than obnoxious.

From now on, I have to wear a constant filter and think before I say anything.

The shower looked to be the brightest side of my day. Warm and comforting, all I needed. Plus had time to concentrate on something else than just thinking about this shit over and over.

It doesn't make sense anymore.

I don't make sense anymore.

I was too lazy to wake my friend up downstairs to enjoy myself, so I gave up on it and got out the shower with a dozen thoughts added to my porn basket and no ideas on how to get rid of anything.

I dried myself. Also stopped in front of the mirror and frowned at my gross face. I looked like I'm older than just twenty. I always look extremely manly after drinking, but I'd blame the shadows and my bathroom light.

My phone was at seventy percent when I plugged it out, so I decided I'd take the charger to work, as originally planned.

After forcing on boxers and pants, I fell back in my bed. A lazy hand on my flat stomach, and I thanked Mozzarella cheese for existing. My thoughts were pushing on the mental porn basket. For a second, the lazy hand felt tense and moved down. I considered finally beating off, but ruined it myself by remembering how clean I am.

So I got up, fished a t-shirt, and slapped my face for at least ten seconds, all parallel to staring out my window and thinking if Levi's spilling cereal over Erwin's couch again.

This shirt's thin and olive green.

I like this color.

Went to work with Jean's car. His gas was at seventy percent, and I could tuck in a few bucks in his AC gaps in case I used up too much.

The poisonous need to sleep was actually cunning. My eyelids were getting heavy, eyes felt grainy and dry, and closing them became too relieving.

I was alone at work. Didn't really bother me. It's nice, in fact. I had a full stash to unbox, so the day was intensive. Good thing, I didn't have time to think, but got myself more exhausted than ever.

Mike bought more drinks. The fridge was packed.

I didn't feel too good.


The weekend was slept on. My inarticulate senses and emotions tensed down during the night from Saturday to Sunday. I got Mikasa in a good enough condition to work along with me on Saturday.

Monday rolled in. Job from nine to six, then our first real soccer training with Levi this season.

It wasn't great.

Jean refused to talk to me about the party. I itched to tell him what happened between me and Annie, but I knew he'd shit on me and all my ancestors if I did. He actually dislikes Annie more than anyone. It's probably like me and Marco, except Marco's never dumped my best friend.

I don't know, I've tried figuring out if it's just because she left me, or if she's turned him down in the past, or something.

Moving on to Levi, I didn't really have time to talk to him about anything. We had just enough time to get ready, change into our new uniforms and gather in the hall for a run to the stadium.

Nile was wandering around with papers in his hands. He looked thoughtful and it didn't seem possible to distract him. For a second I thought something's wrong and Levi wouldn't come today, but the creak of the door echoed in the hall right in time to knock my suspense over.

He walked fast and stopped next to Nile, exchanging a few words I couldn't exactly catch.

I ignored Jean restlessly elbowing me to get my attention back, and chose to stare at Levi until he'd bother looking me.

He didn't.

Eh, too busy with his shit and a team to train, as usual. Too busy with Nile and whatever were the papers. Levi looked as usual, but there wasn't this godawful speed in his movements I'd usually notice. He was tense, but in a different way. Whether good or not, I couldn't tell, but for my body's sake I hoped it'd be the first.

If he's in a bad mood, we're usually brutally murdered during the trainings.

Jean nudged my shoulder. "Hey. I think we're moving."

"Stadium, one on one?" I suggested.

His teeth sank down his cheek as he considered my offer. I'm a fucking daredevil, I know, but I have to move my rusty ass and check if I'm still more of a sprinter than Jean has been for the past years. I also felt the need to exhibit myself and show off like I'd be seventeen all over again.

"Alright, stadium, one on one... Start's from the door, where do we finish?"

"The bleachers," I said, with a meaningful glance over at Nile.

Then a soft look, at Levi.

Still not looking.

Great, then. Should get fucking going, as there's no other use of me here.

We were still missing Thomas, Mylius and Franz, so everybody warmed up indoors. Connie kept blasting jokes about the graduation in the background, and I caught myself smiling at a few.

Whilst stretching, I almost slipped down in a half-split. It's painful for me to do full splits, though we all learned those, like, three years ago.

Levi wore his casual coach clothing (he looked like the newly trending guys with Roshe Runs and black sweatpants, tighter by the calves) and seemed pretty proud to be back in the game.

Nile kept spitting something at Levi. They both looked like two kids constantly fighting for power and respect, but they never manage to get any of both. That's 'cause they're too preoccupied with being assholes.

I selfishly wondered if Levi not looking at me was purposeful, but then remembered I wasn't the only person in the hall and he wasn't my personal coach. He had to divide his attention to everyone. It relaxed me for a minute.

It's so unsettling he said all this shit to me on Friday, and now he's not even looking over.

He began talking, and Connie went mute.

I didn't really listen to him talking at all... Like, I knew I should, but it bored me so fucking much. I just absentmindedly looked around and wished this would all just end so I could get home and take a nap.

Then again, he's looking at us, so I looked back at him again.

Oh, someone's noticed me.

My stomach burned with meter tall flames. I could vomit ash.

He checked my face with no restraints at all. Then just continued talking. I felt myself zone out again and get lost in staring.

Levi held my stare just long enough for me to know we'd have to talk later. I didn't feel too satisfied by that. I could still sense the freshness of the air outside on the terrace, or the wave crashes, seagulls and dusky music. His prickling laugh and frightening honesty in our words.

What would we talk about, you ask? I don't know. Some drinking policy. Cutting our phone calls. Maybe my bad timing and dying batteries. Maybe it's about today's training, or maybe he had to tell someone how sore he was after a great shoot, and Nile just wouldn't be good auditory.

Ew, I'm getting salty.

I tried listening to Levi talking, and caught words like "laps" and "more endurance", and logged out. I knew the entire program for this year. We talked about it during our Alcohol Evenings. I suggested him a lot of stuff I'd read on the Internet, and he listed it down.

Now it's clear he actually took me serious.

Only by the shifting of people did I realize we're moving. Jean slapped my shoulder by the door, we did a few jumps to get the blood rushing, he yelled at a group of boys to get the fuck out our way, and on a "three, two, one" base, we shot off to the stadium.

Alright, I might be rustier than I thought, but I still beat Jean.

My war flashbacks punched me hard with the pain in my previously broken leg. A little, aching pressure on the knee, serious burning in my thigh and the entire ankle area is just dead. I never tell my physiotherapist about this. He'd stripe me off soccer in an instant.

Levi, on the other side, knew I'm pained as fuck. Again, blame the Alcohol Evenings. I spilled everything on Alcohol Evenings.

Once a few guys followed our example of sprinting, we got crowded again.

Levi tailed in the back of the last three, checking through papers. Nile wasn't with him. I felt secure knowing it's just us and Levi. Us and Levi, like always, like before everything turned to shit. You know?

He looked up, as if knowing I'd be thinking about him. I turned away.

My leg's still sort of aching.


The training was straight killer.

I'd be a fucking liar if I said Levi hadn't stepped up his coaching game and got his voice a little more aggressive over this while of not coaching.

Maybe it's thanks to alcohol, but it's a little more rash and metal. Fuck, he's so ready to make up for the lost two months.

Now, think about the start of this, the start of everything, the day I spilled the secret to him, what'd he make me do? Think about everything I was thinking back then. Why'd he overwork me that much, why'd I earn only the nastiest stares and phrases.

Right now, he's doing the same thing as ever. Eren's the main target and you can freely shit on Eren for being Eren.

I'll give you the most common examples.

1. "Jaeger, fucking move!"

2. "Jaeger, what the fuck are you doing?"

3. "Jaeger, can you keep the fucking ball?"

4. "Can you not play like you're the only one on the fucking field, Jaeger?"

5. "Jaeger, can you be less fucking egoistic? Give passes!"

6. "Christ, Eren Jaeger, can you participate more?"

7. "Why are you so fucking slow, Eren? Move, move, move!"

8. "Calm the fuck down, Jaeger, you're wasting too much energy!"

"Pick up some fucking speed for once!" He yelled from the sidelines whilst handing out a water bottle to Connie. "The ball would've been swapped over, for fuck's sake! Put in some fucking energy and enthusiasm, and fucking score for once!"

I pushed myself to absolute limits. My leg was tearing me open, but I still had a hold on the ball.

Half of the team had neon green fishnet tanks to differ from the others. The others would be me, Jean, and the rest. We had bright orange ones. Connie's with the green fishnets.

Made a pass, Jean caught it, I covered a few more meters, and he passed the ball back. Still extremely unenthusiastic, I tried to goal, but my leg jerked out in a different angle than expected, and the ball wasn't kicked strong enough.

The goalkeeper caught it with ease. Levi made sounds resembling a dying animal, and so did the rest of the team.

I just felt heat and exhaustion surge through me, and dragged a silent "meh".

We all dragged together to the bleachers where Levi stood with all our equipment. I didn't believe I actually managed to suffer through three hours of training. I pulled off my fishnet tank and collapsed at Levi's feet, right next to Jean and Connie. They weren't in a better condition.

"Fuuuck..." Connie poured the bottled water on his face. "This is a complete polar opposite of trainings with Nile. Fuck... Christ. I'm sore tonight."

Jean nudged me, grinning as he pointed at Connie doing some stupid shit with his shirt. He tried making a crop top by tying it higher on his waist.

I checked out Connie's clean-cut abs and almost died from the definition. Jean and I shared glances, and I knew he's noticed the same thing.

I was still waiting for my bottle of water. The synthetic grass felt pretty soft, so I rolled over on my back and imagined I'm already on my way home, lathering myself with shower gel and washing away all this heat and fucking sweat.

Felt so great thinking about it, but home's half an hour away, and we've still got some talking to do.

Eren Jaeger is barking.

"Stretch," Levi said.

I pretended I'm stretching for a second, until I got a bottle dumped on my stomach. Made a weak sound, but still kept my eyes closed. Then there's a nudge on my cheek (I took a guess it's Levi's shoe) and yet another recommendation for everyone to stretch and drink as much as we can, because we're "looking dehydrated".

Groans left all of us. I tried sitting up and bending my legs to stretch my back. The bottle rolled off to my lap, then the ground, then hit Jean's thigh, and he rolled it back to me, until a point Levi just took hold of it and pressed it against my forehead.

I let out sounds of satisfaction and leaned in to the pearling bottle. I felt relaxed.

Ultimately, absolutely relaxed as fuck.

I mixed up my position to get my legs some stretching. Levi waited, patient, to get the bottle against my face again.

He was kneeling, so cracking my eyes open meant catching his whistle in a mid-dangle, right in front of my face.

"Eren?" I hear him murmur silent enough so it's just between the two of us.

"What?"

"Can you stay a little after this?"

Shit. Yeah. Something's probably wrong.

Fuck. Like I predicted.

Did he figure it out? What I tried not to think of? What's on my mind since the party and long before it, too?

What's up with us?

"I need you to check your program," he raised his voice to make it less intimate and for others to hear it as a "casual" thing. "You're getting the three star program, remember?"

"Yeah."

Levi turned the bottle to get to a colder angle. "Work on Sundays. Talked to Nile about getting you a free pass to the gym. It's expensive lately. He said he'll think about it, but you have to understand it goes up to two or three hours, so plan your work hours accordingly."

"Fuck, Eren, I don't really envy you," Jean said. "At all."

"The rest is dismissed. Don't forget your bags back at the hall, I'm locking it after we leave. Rest tomorrow, see you on Wednesday."

Jean stood up, grabbed his bag and gave me a friendly push on the back. Then he nodded at Levi and started walking back to school without even asking if I'd need a lift home, or if I had Baker back in the lockers. I had Baker back in the lockers, but I wasn't really feeling like skating this evening.

Others followed him, with or without bags, after Levi's nod of approval.

I'm screwed.

After most of them were distant enough to be approximately ant-sized, Levi stood up and walked off to the bleachers where his sports bag was. I got up, following his example, and brushed the rubber chunks off of my shorts and calves.

My brows lowered in suspicion.

There's something super shady about his behavior.

"This isn't about the program, right?" I called.

He just zipped his bag and put the program inside. I left my bag at the hall, in the lockers, along with my board and all other personal stuff.

"No, not really," Levi replied. "But it's actually late. I don't want to talk about it right now."

"It's only, like, nine."

He checked his phone. "Nine twenty-three. It's late."

I lit up.

"Got enough sleep on Saturday?" I felt cunning. "Did I break your schedule? Nine's late now, right? And four in the morning wouldn't be so much."

Levi let his bag drop back on the bench and he turned around.

It wasn't too dark outside. It's summer, still. The sun was in it's last stage of setting, but the sky wasn't dark yet. Everything had the peachy gloom and vibrant, purple shadows. You know, the colors of the sunset.

These little hairs sticking from his hair were flaming orange due to where he stood. The rest of his face fell in dark blue shadows. Last rays of sun give these colors, I guess.

He looked fucking amazing.

I caught myself having a bad twist in my stomach again.

"Where's your irony getting you? Don't talk to me like I've done something."

"I don't see why I couldn't. We're kind of friends, right? Friends talk like that."

I tried to express my frustration as little as possible, but looking at him like this, with the bright blue sky with streaks of orange right above was killing me, and the entire image of him standing there, a few meters further, was killing me even more.

I swallowed an irregular inhale along with all my building saliva and tried to dismiss how grossly quick my heart was.

I felt hopeless and stupid all of a sudden.

"How are you getting home?" Levi asked. Changed the topic. "If it's your lame board, I'm taking you with me. Erwin's home. I need to give him the keys back."

"My board isn't lame, I can get home by myself, and I dearly fucking recommend you stop switching topics like a lying teenage kid." I paused. "God, you're fucking stupid sometimes."

"What's wrong with you?"

"What's fucking wrong with you?"

Levi took a step back and hooked his bag on his shoulder. I felt like my stance was similar to his back when he still kept his progressive aggressive behavior towards Nile and did MMA representations. I tensed down, and slipped a filter in.

"No, I'm..." He tried again. "I mean, what... happened?"

You mean, what's wrong with me? I'm having some problems with figuring myself out, at age twenty! That's nothing. That's nothing wrong, we all come to surprises when exploring ourselves, I just happened to find out I'm totally keen on boys (and you in specific) three years after first coming in contact with you, that's practically nothing.

I can't even describe the sickening emotions I felt churning in every pit of my body. I knew this isn't ending well, by any means, and whatever's going on in my head just has to be fucking stopped.

I hate this feeling that's straining my fucking chest, and I'm vibrating like a little twig.

Fuck everything.

"I'm okay," I said, hands shaking, and stepped back. "I need to go home."

Self-explanatory, I need to get to Erwin.

Right now.

But you're going to be at Erwin's for a brief while, so I can't go immediately.

So, fuck off, I'm not going to Erwin's as long as you're still there.

I covered the brief block 'till the hall running and walked only by the end of it. It killed my leg, but I seriously couldn't bring myself to give a fuck.

Again, just as the last time with me sprinting away from his presence like a feral freak, I didn't change back in my casual clothes, just took my bag, board, and hurried home. Got there in around twenty to thirty minutes, as I normally would. I skated. Sprinting would've been more efficient, but I felt drained and devastated.

I took a shower and napped for ten minutes. Mikasa made dinner tonight, and it's just rice and curry. I took the food to my room and sat by my window. (I've got this wide windowsill, so I can easily sit on it and watch the entire neighborhood from above. There's a few trees planted in straight lines on both sides of the street. I can also see Erwin's terrace if I peek through the gaps of my blinds or just pull them up.)

By now it's a very late evening. Shy light from the lamp posts, fresh air from my opened window and remains of food on my desk.

It's pretty much the summary of my previous hour. Nothing to do, nothing I wanted to do, nothing at all. I didn't even listen to music as I normally would. Tried out one song after another, but nothing fit my mood, so I just closed my laptop and went to sit by the window again.

It's one of the nights it's too hot to stay inside and too chilly to stay outside, and since there's no real middle-ground, opening the window seemed like a perfect option.

Levi's car was still parked in front of Erwin's house. I fought my urges to wonder what they could be doing. I generally tried to exclude Levi from any thought I had, because I knew it'd fuck everything up even more.

Christ, fuck it.

Levi was still there at ten and something. Then eleven.

It's fucking dark, dude. Go home. I need to talk to Erwin.

I waited. Patiently. Wasn't the patient fucking type, anyways. Everything always seemed so free and within easy reach that waiting for my turn didn't feel like the usual thing I'd do. I'm the first on the finish line and always aware of everything. And right now? Sitting next to my window and fucking waiting for things to happen, when's that fucking good for anyone?

Before I'd freak out to full potential, I went downstairs. Mom still wasn't home. Neither was Mikasa (she said she's going out with her girls). But it's good, it's perfect. I didn't feel like spitting jokes and watching TV, or trying to explain my "light young adult depression" or "sudden mood swings that are certainly influenced by my lack of good sleep and overworking".

A glass of water seemed like the best thing right now.

I leaned against the sink, desperate and overactive. I wished my insides calmed down.

Five minutes later I'm back upstairs and ready to go insane. Good thing I did that. When I stopped by the window to check Erwin's driveway, I found out some great news.

Someone's cleared the driveway of their Cherokee. The checkered road felt empty without his car.

I rushed back downstairs and forgot about everything I was leaving behind. The food on my desk, the messy sheets, the strange, comfortable temperature of my room.

And before I could think about it, I'm standing on Erwin's porch, knocking several rounds.

Chapter Text

Love these depressing little rides home throwing endless loops around the city and partially the countryside just to vouch out all this baggage that builds up over the course of two or three weeks and gradually blurs my good mood with a gloomy reality. Yeah, car rides. It's a regular thing to do for steaming off and it calms me more than some beloved month-old whiskey I always set on emptying and end up going to sleep before the clock strikes ten.

Further away from the city I meet dry, plain yellow fields stretched out on both sides of the country road. On the right side there's a poorly-cultured patch of dark brown soil. Quite large. The surface might be dry and crusty, but it gets warm and excitingly moist when you push your fingers through and wiggle them around. It's relaxing, but it gets under nails. That's if I choose the low cliff near the river and drink there.

Usually start brushing the dirt off my boots. Not having company is boring. At times like these I wish Eren would consider our relationship more normal and less like I'm expecting all the world's extras from it. But he's busy, that boy, he's always got a lot on his mind. It's not easy being considerate and recalling he's got a job and other friends. We're so similar I tend to assume Eren's got just as much spare time as I do.

We spend more time together than what's taken as "normal", anyways, and I know it should stop.

My car and the motor roaring soothes. Sometimes I tend to drive off to the edge of the fields where the miniature forest starts, turn the engine off and pretend I'm sleeping; in case the lady in the log house tiptoes over and asks me if I'm lost.

It's that same Friday evening.

Their training punched me out the trails and I've driven here to seek comfort and time alone. Not surprised it's calm and dark, the air's soothing, I rolled the windows down to look outside and listen to the sounds coming from the forest.

I'm more than willing to figure out everything that happened today, especially what happened to Eren, and if there's a way of fixing it.

By now I know it's completely normal for me to think about him. Fucking considering how much I've been thinking about him the past two months, I let myself do it. A while ago I'd condemn this and do anything to get him off my mind. Now it's alright. I don't know what changed.

I wonder if he'd react in any way if I told him what I meant to tell him back at the stadium. The evening felt fitting for a walk back to the sports hall whilst talking about us, but he wasn't in the same mindset, and it happened the way it happened.

I'm itching to confess about a lot of things and I need to understand what's on his mind. It's the only way we'll be able to find any sort of compromise. Every mutual motive expressed so far has been fulfilling and prickles my emotions. Every evening after we've parted I'm thinking about him for a spare few minutes, and it takes serious motivation to kill the fucking grin off.

I know it's not supposed to be this way, but I've given up on fighting it.

Eren's easy to be with. I love his presence. Undoubtedly, I hate admitting he's also the straightest guy I've ever liked. Twenty years-old, so I can't doubt he's pretty set on his sexuality by now.

He's ten years younger. Feels like an enormous gap.

This is 2007 rewinded. The "coach and student" trope is overplayed, they cancel the background music, they lessen filters, the cameras are better. We don't use DX4 anymore. Bareback's the sexiest category. Still is, I'm guessing. It's casualities like that, it's evolution. A Monkey Disaster check wouldn't be too bad, you don't want to spread that love. Your acting could be cringeworthy, but you still got paid.

Now it's all so dependent on how in love you look. The way you grapple with your partner and act like you've known them for years, even though thirty-four minutes ago was the first time you've seen this mug and you're not getting any harder than Play-Doh.

It's hard to think porn once had nervy disco music in the background.

I remember people still calling AIDS "Monkey Disaster". Insane how time passes. Christ, I'm thirty-one in a few months. Been on shit like Caverject for two years now. It was a lot easier back in the days when I got erect naturally from the sight I loved viewing. Had less problems with my health due to alcohol intolerance. A better pulse, if you're wondering. Then I got on Viagra on occasions. Couldn't help it. Guess the guys got gradually uglier as months passed. They made me fuck the ugly ones because I used to be selfless enough to do it.

Viagra makes you cling emotionally. You use Caverject to lessen that effect. See, Caverject gets you artificially hard, and you can fuck for a few hours with no sidetracks. Not that it doesn't hurt, make you hate the feeling of being turned on, or make you capable of having a higher chance of growing impotent or developing illnesses. It's all good.

Couldn't shut my mouth about dealing with a heavy drug like that and changed companies I worked for pretty often. Never been with CockyBoys. Who cares how high-quality their videos are if the only chemistry going on is a mix of fifteen to twenty constantly circling and changing gay boys and dancers? They've got a few constant, solid stars, but that's about it. Levi Karter. He's their face. Tayte. Colby. Jake. It's as far as CB reaches.

Ever wondered why does a shot of a CockyBoys blowjob video feature a pile of books from which one is Friedrich Nietzsche's? It's the fake "depth". They're making it look like porn has some meaning by adding short interviews about how both of the boys met and the details they like about each other.

It's fake as fuck. I'd whip up a better story about Eren in three seconds or less.

I'm just wondering because Nile's been talking about them a lot. He went to a club night. That's how they pair the new boys up. It's a show where some regulars perform with slutty acts and play with neon lights. They exchange numbers or just have sex, from what I've heard; I've never been to their club nights myself. Too stuffy, I'm not fond of it, and I'm not really interested.

Our current manager turned CB down when they offered pairing me and Nile up for a video of theirs. Gave us a script. We skimmed over it around fifteen minutes before Eren's soccer training. Two minutes later I had to hold in the idea of Eren getting his hands on it. He'd laugh at every detail and read the lines aloud in spite of me getting a little embarrassed.

It's lovely when pornography is scripted by someone who's never worked in this sphere, it's just so very obvious then.

Keith knows the situation I'm in. My boss, Keith. He has a fucking line of reason, gladly. He knows I'm in my "solo video" phase of life. Thought I doubt I'd even do solos now. I don't want to film anymore.

I considered leaving in high hopes Eren might want to push our friendship further, but by the looks of tonight it seems like I'm neither leaving the industry, nor getting anywhere close to him.

I need to talk to him. But I'm over at Erwin's right now; came here after my ride around the countryside, it took only around forty minutes. I'm not sure if Eren's home, but Carla isn't. Her car's out of the garage and it's left open. Maybe she's getting back soon. Either ways, I'm not barging in their territory like that.

I'll just wait it out and see what happens.

I'm salty. I do like him. Admitting that to Erwin is treason, whatsoever, and I don't think he'd understand even if he tried, which I knew he would, since his situation's even worse than mine, he's not bisexual and it's a student we're talking about.

So I tried to skirt the issue, shrug, and say "maybe" a lot.

Maybe I like someone. Maybe it's someone you know. Maybe he's your neighbor, a kid prodigy with a lackluster ambition, and maybe he's the most fascinating guy I've ever met.

Wasn't easy to describe how exactly I saw Eren in this state I'm in. I'm placed against my will with a cup of caramel tea and organic honey, even after attempts to remind Erwin I'm not a big fan of neither caramel tea or organic honey. But I guess he knew I'd do anything when forced, so he brought creamers along.

I dumped at least three inside and didn't touch my tea at all.

We're on Erwin's terrace. I'm sitting cross-legged in his light beige lounge chair. Erwin's laid down on his little outdoors couch like they do at the psychotherapist's. He's drinking red wine. Guess it's Wolftrap, I saw a bottle in the fridge earlier.

His terrace offered a nice view. I've always admired his garden since I only had one prior to living in a condo. Now I don't. The house I own a few miles outside of Wildwood has a large backyard, but it's a different story and I don't live there.

The lawn was Eren's job for the past month. The flora was alive because I watered every other day. I'm glad Eren didn't let me trim Erwin's evergreens; he said even Erwin, having years of experience, tends to fuck up, and recommended I'd rather not try trimming anything.

I've been leaning back on my chair to check the window the past while being outside. Eren's bedroom is strictly to my left and up. It took me two inches of swinging on two legs of the chair to get to see his shut blinds, and it still brought more satisfaction than just having sat there doing nothing.

It's dark outside. It's getting darker. So are the windows of his room, even with the blinds shut. Usually there's some faint yellow light coming from the gaps of the blinds. Sometimes, at nights, it's a pale blue. It's his computer screen then.

Now it's just dark.

Maybe he's not home yet.

I stopped trying to swing in position after a few cracks from the chair.

"What are you doing?" Erwin asked once catching me swing with inarticulate hand movements when I thought I'd fall. "It won't handle your weight."

I plopped back down on four.

"I'm steaming off."

"Is something wrong? You're doing this the entire evening," Erwin commented. "Hey. I heard someone's back with coaching. Congratulations."

"From whom?"

"Mike. Eren's been talking about it at work."

"Mike," I snarled, ignoring the mention of Eren. "You're in contact?"

"Ever since he moved back downtown, yeah. We met up before I left. He mentioned we should gather at his or my place and get something going on. And he's been asking why you never go inside the store, since you're driving Eren so often. Said it seems weird he's only catching you on your way out."

"I don't recall Mike and I being in the best of terms in high school. How's that changed?"

"You two were better than Nile summed up with everyone. History's repeating," Erwin gloomily said. "Eren's defensive over him. I know you are, too. I'm not picking sides, I'm just saying he's not really good for anyone."

"Who, Nile? Nile's a little mentally unstable, but you know we used to be friends. Despite anything, I'm sticking up for him."

He sat up on the opposite side of the table, in that miniature couch of his, and combed through wet hair. I was outside alone for fifteen minutes previously, left with a list of promises; I'll get stories about the trip, I'll get to see the pictures, I'll have to talk about the graduation and the rest of the month he was away, he's just taking a shower before everything washes down.

All this time I've been thinking how to exclude Eren from this story, but he is what makes the story, he's the spine and stomach of it, and now I'm wondering how to present it to Erwin without looking like a thirty year-old creep. It'd frankly calm me down if Erwin was a guy who has sex with his students and talks about it after around four glasses of red wine. At least we'd share something very distantly similar.

"Tell me," Erwin said. "What's bugging you."

"I'm having some complications." That's not a lie. "Big complications."

"Specify." He dried his hair by ruffling it. "I don't want to guess. You get irritated when I'm wrong."

"Fucking tops."

"Same reason you wrote about?"

"By the start of the month?" I asked and pushed my cup around. "Yeah. Only now it's major. The problem is bigger. So I might want your help with this, but I might try to handle it myself."

I sent him an e-mail saying I'm having slight difficulties with taming my emotions. He expressed surprise and said we'd talk about it when he gets back. Now he's back and I can't spit a single word.

Erwin kept combing through his mane. I watched him closely. We kept strict eye contact. He laid back down only when I clinked my cup with all implications I'd actually like to talk about this.

Maybe we'll finally have a big, mature, adult-to-adult conversation.

"Was your trip any good?" I asked, not really out of interest as to calm myself down.

For starters. He'd understand.

"The trip, yeah. Feels more successful than the past summers," he said. "I know you hate me nagging, but you should consider a vacation, Levi. You're tired."

An immediate shake of my head.

"Can't afford that. Berlin will have to do."

"You've got bags under your eyes."

"I've got bags under my eyes since I was five."

"You'll be working in Berlin!" Erwin let his hands fall to his lap. His wine glass clinked against his phone, also in his lap. "It's a week of a ten times more stressed schedule than you already have. Save your money up a little, don't spend religious amounts on the team, and you might allow yourself a nice crunch by the ocean. Not here, in the States. Travel somewhere overseas, get to a different shore."

"Yeah, sun seemed to love you out there. I just boil up to a shrimp shade."

"Thank you." Erwin smiled. "You wouldn't look too bad tan."

"I'm tan enough, thanks."

"It's just your nose getting brown. You're partly an albino."

"I'll get freckles in seconds," I growled. "What else besides drizzling yourself in hot oil did you do?"

"I took pictures. But your problem's more important. Know what? I'll get you a drink." Erwin waved at himself due to the mention of heat and stood up. Took him some time until he got his legs off the armrests. I know how that shit feels. "Fuck tea."

And left.

Wow.

I poured the milk tea out over my shoulder. Right on his petunias.

Casually tapped the table and looked around. Then leaned back both legs of the chair to check if Eren's blinds are still closed and dark.

One of the gaps fell shut.

He's peeking. And there's a faint blue light, so he's on his computer. At least I know Eren's home, but it stings I'm being pushed away from this neighborhood dilemma.

Erwin came back with a glass of soda. Sizzling, like coke. I whiffed it and instantly locked eyes with him.

"There's alcohol," I concluded. "I'm driving."

"It's Friday," he said. The chair creaked after he sat down again. "You can always stay at my place, the second floor's yours. You could move here, actually."

"No fucking way!" I shot too quick and tried to relapse with a chug. "No. No, I mean, I can't stay tonight. I have..."

Erwin nodded like he knew what I'm talking about. It made me feel better.

"I need to talk to you."

I need to talk to you, Erwin, because I'm trying to deal with pride and some ridiculous attempts to show my ignorance whilst suffering on the inside. But I guess that's what most adults do. Age twenty-five up to forty.

I'm making myself believe everything I've thought of Eren this past month just means going through an early, severe mid-life crisis. See, now; I'm just an eternally unsatisfied man indulging in violent intercourse, chopping after money at any point I could and pining after a teenager, shamelessly, more or less.

But until I had to face talking about it, it always seemed like something uncomfortable and possible to put down until later use. Now, being pushed to talk about it, it's too real, too overwhelming, and a big killer.

I had my arms stretched out in front of me, elbows pressed close together. Observed my veins, to calm down. I knew Erwin's watching me with a scrutinizing stare, so I can't look up.

"Lately, I've been bumping on a thought. It's because I met someone," I easily started out.

He nodded.

It's a whole lot fucking harder than I expected, honestly!

"It's someone new."

I'm not lying. The side of Eren I knew previously wasn't the side of Eren I know now. With this statement produced, I have to be more careful. Erwin's got a great talent for riddling me out, and he also knows Eren.

"There's a guy," I murmured. "He's pretty astounding. We used to talk on a friend base and it was casual. No hard feelings, you know. Now it's gotten to a breaking point where it's obvious it's not fucking friendship, or anything similar."

Wow.

I've taken Eren's "no hard feelings" and projected this shitty quote onto my own vocabulary.

"How old is he?"

"Oh, he's young."

Erwin's brows lowered. "He's not a minor."

"Not that young. In the middle. The good age. The one that could be too young for you, but right for me."

"That is? My range isn't the widest."

"Mine's twenty. Your's around twenty-five."

He laid his head back on the armrest and drank wine. Had his arm tossed behind his head due to the lack of a pillow. I watched him, waiting for a further reaction.

"Twenty's not bad," Erwin thoughtfully said. "It's a ripe age. You've got a good catch. How'd it end up this way? You seem heartbroken."

I placed my hand over my eyes to avoid the following embarrassment.

"He's straight, Erwin," I said.

It's silent at first, but then I hear him laughing and uncover my face again.

This is why liking men can get hard. You may be an open-minded guy who doesn't mind himself having a knack for other men, but it doesn't mean everyone is this way. Freaks me out. The most painful aspect is feeling attraction towards someone you know wouldn't respond with the same for the love of it.

Eren seems like the kind of guy. Although I've started getting different signals and doubts about him being straight, it's still the only sexuality I imagine him being.

But he's went on gay porn sites several times, he's dreamed of me, and there's still a lot more I probably don't know. Am I the only one who sees his and Jean's relationship in a slightly different light than it's meant to be?

Is this just me? Am I paranoid about something?

"Is he from New York?" Erwin asked.

"No, he lives here. In New Jersey." Next to your house.

"How did you meet? It's pretty interesting. You never slip in this much detail when talking about someone." He drank more wine. "Maybe it's finally real. You know, even if he's straight, it's real for you."

Oh, here comes.

"I've got a thing for one of my players," I silently said.

Erwin almost spat his wine. I watched with the most saddening emotions, knowing he's going to pull the ends together in a few seconds, or even less. Then I'm fucked. There's no real choice between the boys in the team.

Eren's the only one I really talk to.

"Which one is he?" Erwin asked, still flushed from surprise. "Don't tell me it's one of the lankier ones. Thomas wouldn't make it."

"Yeah, he's a squarehead, but I'm not talking about Thomas. Nobody's lanky in the team anymore."

"Connie?"

"Connie?" I doubtfully echoed. "Since when?"

"I guessed. He has a girlfriend. I'm guessing the ones I for sure know are heterosexual first."

I suddenly realized Eren doesn't come off as heterosexual to Erwin right off the bat. Does that mean I'm sporting a chance? Maybe he's just forgotten about him. He probably has.

"What about Jean?"

"He's not straight."

That's an end-call.

Eren's blurted something about Jean previously, but he comes off as the experimental type to me. Just like myself or anyone else I know on a more personal level.

I for sure know I'd never be able to be with someone like Jean. He's a little too sturdy. Jittery. Changes his mind often, can't ever decide what he wants. It shows in the way he acts on the field. You don't need to be a scientist to tell their personalities from the way they're playing.

"Any other heterosexual twenty year-old you can think of?" I sarcastically asked. "Someone to reciprocate my flaming feelings in a friendly way."

"I can't think of anyone."

"Really?"

"I'd start slapping my thighs if I enclosed to an answer," Erwin said. "As you can see, I'm not slapping my legs in some feral manner, so I've got no other options."

I couldn't figure out if he's mocking me, or if Erwin really has no clue.

I took a deep breath.

"Have you ever thought of Eren?" I casually asked and felt Erwin's attention grow.

"Eren never came off as entirely straight," he confessed, staring up at the hurrying clouds.

Then looked at me, eyes wider than usual.

"It's not Eren," he hopelessly concluded.

"It's Eren."

"Eren?"

"Yeah."

I found something to stare at. Tried to stay casual, but in a short while, I gave up. I took my head in my hands along with the advantage to hide my face from Erwin, and tried to die.

He laughed a little.

I listened to it. I didn't feel like laughing at my most pathetic moment so far. I guess he expected me to start feeling better, but it's not doing the best job.

"This isn't funny," I murmured.

"I know it's not. I'm just surprised."

"Listen, but..." I weakly began and sat up straight again."It's not normal. I don't think it's alright to be this attracted."

"Sexually?"

"No. I'm not talking about sexual attraction, I'm talking about something more. Bonds, you know? I'm talking about everything above the physical level. Something mental. But count in his looks. Everything combined forms the epitome of attractiveness."

"Emotional attraction, you mean?" Erwin asked, but it sounded more like a general statement. "Emotional, not mental. Mental is more to diseases and disorders."

"I'm only smart in front of Eren."

"Just as I'm only fucking eloquent in front of Eren. It's normal."

I took a stronger hold on the sizzling glass, raised it up to drink, but put it back down. I still wasn't sure if I wanted to drink. I know I wouldn't really stop in a state like this. And alcohol has everything to do with Eren.

So I'm struggling. My face is possibly pretty pained and I'm squinting because I really want this cocktail.

Erwin's staring across his yard without saying a single thing.

"Why are you so silent all of a sudden?" I asked.

Erwin massaged his scalp for a while.

"I'm wondering how you two got to a point like this. Or just you, alone, assuming he doesn't feel the same way."

"Oh, you can't judge me for this, now. You didn't judge me for anything before. This isn't a high or low-range crime, okay? It's not pornography, at least. It's me confessing I like someone once in a few thirty years, so I'd love to hear your opinion."

He fiddled.

"What happened between you two?"

"You think I've got any idea?"

Erwin shrugged. "You're the one who's conflicted now. I figured you might know more than I do."

I closed my eyes and clenched my jaw, and tried to figure out how everything began. It's not hard, it starts out with the video. Slightly odd to think we began talking because of my porn.

Gradually, it moves to having Nile be their coach. All of my defense mechanisms work and I stay there. The interest cues Eren and we start talking. Skip a month and I'm sure I like him in every way there is.

"We got drunk in your house and watched all your porn. I don't know anyone else who'd be up for watching pornography with a senior porn star. Just you and Eren."

"The subscription is only valid this month," he reminded. "You were the one asking for porn."

Oh, but Eren thinks Erwin's the one who masturbates to all this. He's giving Erwin the stinkeye lately. It's because he seems so perverted now. It's all actually meant for me. I'm pretty good at camouflaging my immense love for masturbation and so on.

"You know what I did most of the time spent here alone."

"Does Eren know?" Erwin suddenly asked.

I mistook the question.

"That I masturbate?"

"No, Christ. That too. But I'm talking about your second job, next to coaching."

"You can say it aloud, you know."

"The industry," Erwin said. Everything sounds juicy and professional in his big voice.

I didn't feel like telling Erwin Eren knew would benefit me in any way, so I tried to dodge the question with an impolite manner of putting my priorities first.

"Come on. I'm being serious. I need to know what to do," I whispered. "He's the only one being himself and it's almost too much. I've never met someone as carefree, this...diverse. He's physically old and mentally seventeen, but not in a bad way. I don't have to stress about anything. He gives off that calming aura I love in you so much."

I stared Erwin's empty wine glass and fought back the urge to send him fill it again to give me some space.

I'm a delusion filled man to think Eren would ever feel anything similar.

"And I feel like he doesn't care about things that normally appear vital to me, or you, or Carla. He does a chore if you tell him to do it, but he'll never do it without being ordered around. Having sex with him would be constant, you know..."

I silenced down, seeing Erwin raise his brows at the sex topic.

"I feel comfortable talking about sex for a reason, Erwin."

"I know," he said. "I understand. It just comes off different. You're speaking a lot more different than usual. More content and headstrong."

"It's because there might be something emotional over physical. That's never happened. I'm scared."

Didn't really realize how low my voice dropped.

Somehow voicing it felt heavier than thinking about it.

"Plus your face expresses everything you're saying," Erwin added up to his previous list. "You're in absolute pain right now. I don't understand why. You've got all the chances, don't fret so much."

"Erwin, he's young. He's got his whole life ahead, a brilliant one. He's talented and smart, he's attractive. He's everything I wished to be. Look where's my fucking life leading me now. To hell or even worse. I don't even know what to do if I decide I'm leaving Keith."

I put a hand on my forehead and closed my eyes, because I was slowly and surely losing my self-control, and I didn't know why.

"What's your point?"

I raised my brows like Erwin always did, and looked at him with childish eyes.

"He's straight. He likes girls. My point is, I don't stand a chance. Eren's not interested, as much as I'd selfishly crave him to be."

"Don't you think he's a little tilted towards liking boys?" Erwin asked. "I've known him for twelve years and he's never striked me as a heterosexual."

I found myself shrugging. "Even if he does like men, he's not showing it. Guess he's the kind of boy Nile was. Something in the middle, in the best of my hopes, never expressing his sexuality or any other interests."

"Eren's twenty, Levi. He should have a stable view on what he likes in bed and out of it. He's not too hormonal anymore."

"Not too hormonal," I sourly echoed. "Eren's a virgin."

"Mmm. You're close enough to share this kind of information?"

"It's pretty obvious, anyways. His constant fiddling and occasional nervousness, it's all wiped out once you get laid for the first time." I emptied my glass. "I'd know."

"I honestly don't think anyone would resist dating a porn star," Erwin innocently mentioned. "I mean, a resigned porn star. Think about all the extras. He'd know you're loyal to what you do."

I stared at him for a while.

Maybe he's got a point somewhere beneath his clouded little vision.

We gradually moved inside. I helped him carry the glasses and cups to the kitchen. We continued talking there, this time about his trip and everyone he'd met on the way. He showed me a few pictures, but said we can watch a full slideshow whenever I've got more time and less on my mind.

By the end of the night he patched me up with the same cocktail as before. When I was just about to leave, already stepping out the front door, my problem bubbled up again; only due to looking at Eren's windows and feeling my heart struggle with functioning.

I still don't know what to do.

"I'll think about this," I said, pushing the key in and out the lock of the door. "I'll think about everything. I'll let you know if anything changes. God, the training was practically an hour ago, and he didn't feel like he usually did. I don't know if I'm scared or sympathetic, but something was wrong tonight."

Erwin seemed silent and deadly. I moved to remind him I'm still there. Our eyes met again. I shamefully let him see through me and fiddled between the door and going to my car.

"Give it a week."

"What does "a week" mean?"

"About Eren, give him a week. To calm down and settle. If you're still like this in seven days, you'll have to talk about it."

He paused, as if trying to break down my incredible wall of restraint.

"With him," Erwin finished.

I'm sure I'm paler than I could ever be.


Erwin told me I need to give it a week, so I gave it a week. It's seven days after our previous conversation and I'm sitting at the same place now. At the same place, the same table, the same cocktail, talking to the same person. Only now whatever emotions I had last week are brutally killed off and my lifeless staring at the glass full of whiskey has lead us to a point it's not alright just leaving it like this.

I enjoyed the weekend and did self-indulgent shit without spending much money on anything else but gas. Drove around town and did various things I usually never had the time to do. Eren didn't bother calling or texting, so I took my phone along for no real reason. I'm too stubborn to text first. It's a little idiotic, in my opinion, he could figure getting off his own ass for at least as much as apologizing for his behavior, or something. Not that I give a fuck if he apologizes or not, he simply never sees his fault in anything. Being older and slightly more wise, I'm expecting him to act a little mature once in a while.

It's me saying this. I can taste the irony with the tip of my tongue.

I listened to music in my car and skipped songs that made me cling to some thoughts. Left the senseless pining to later; either when I'm back in my condo, or Monday. Like that. It's not worth throwing a fit over my weekend and ruining my free time with thoughts about Eren when he's not even near the state I'm in, and is probably out with friends or working.

Asides from lying in bed and thinking about him to full extent the entire Sunday, I think it went pretty well.

Monday started out great. I woke up by ten or eleven and knew the day's going to go well. I've got a training with Eren by noon to around four or five, and I can offer driving him to work straight after. His shift starts at six. We'd have a plethora of time to talk about everything. I'm sure he wouldn't mind.

My aspirations are killed off when he doesn't show up to the training at all.

And as my further display of interest reveals, calling Mike resulted in a confused "no, Eren's not at work today, why?".

I drove home that Monday and stared out my panel windows for a good couple of minutes.

So is he ignoring just me or everyone around him? If it's just me, I'd understand, I've most likely done some heart-wrenching shit he can't get over with. But the swerve involves the rest of the team. I noticed it when Jean confusedly searched for Eren on the field and later ran up to Connie asking if there's any news.

I'm assuming he's blocked everyone out, then.

I didn't do anything on Tuesday. Eren didn't have trainings on Tuesdays and Thursdays and optionally either Saturday or Sunday, so I'm not bothering him, and I doubt he'd even answer if I did.

I'm getting worried by Wednesday.

Jean walked up to me and asked if Eren's been informing me about anything. I said we're not currently in contact. He then said they're not either, and if I don't mind visiting Eren when I'm over at Erwin's, just to check if he's alright.

After I innocently asked if Mikasa's not keeping him up to date, he just shrugged and said Eren's locked up in his room and the only signs of him being alive is the food disappearing from the fridge overnight. He's been throwing fits with Carla through the door and she's threatening to throw him out the house if he can't properly behave.

Citing Jean, "how the fuck are you expecting to throw me out this fucking house if you can't even get me out my fucking room, mom?" was what Eren said.

I tried calling Eren in the evening. The first two times I heard the signal, at least. After that he turned his phone off and there wasn't any real use for trying again. Wrote him a message and considered writing an e-mail, but he doesn't check e-mails.

I called Carla on Thursday.

"No."

"Nothing?"

"No, he's not talking to us."

"And Mikasa?"

"The only thing he keeps repeating to her is a modified line of "fuck off, Mikasa". Sometimes he goes in his bathroom and slams the door so it's clear the conversation is one-sided again. I've got no idea what's going on. I tried talking to Erwin, but he said it's going to pass."

"I doubt it," I murmured. "Listen, would it help if I paid a visit? I know this sounds selfless and doesn't help this situation in any way, but we need Eren back in the team. You know how vital he is for the rest of the boys."

You see, this is obviously a lie. I'm very likely the one who needs Eren the most right now.

"Hasn't he been updating Jean?" Carla worriedly asked.

"No. Jean's working his shift at Mike's store."

"Is he really just sitting in his room doing nothing?"

"I guess." I paused. "Haven't you tried unplugging the WiFi port? Or switching the electricity off? That might get him out his room at daylight."

"Oh, the port is in his room. Mikasa tried switching the electricity off. We left it like that for a few hours yesterday, but he turned it back on at night. I'm so upset. Grisha said I need to change my attitude. It's really overwhelming by now."

"I'll see what I can do, Carla."

"Thank you. Come over for coffee sometime."

"I'll try to. Take care."

God, she's the least of an adult. No wonder Eren's still acting like he's in his teens. With a mother like that, I'd be stuck in the phase of being fourteen forever.

I had a long, fiery conversation with Nile the same night. At least I made myself sure it's nothing connected to him. Actually, that was my first fear: Nile. The shit he might've said to talk Eren into something. Thinking about it gives me the chills.

But I'm sure he wouldn't do anything. I trust him enough to know by now.

And now it's Friday again and Erwin's showing me this godawful slideshow I can't focus on.

"Erwin," I said. "You do know Eren hasn't showed up for a week, right?"

"Oh, yeah. Carla came over. That's not too like him, I guess."

I looked away. Down at my drink.

The blinds of Erwin's kitchen were pulled up to reach the middle of the window. The setting sun wasn't letting us view the slideshow he craved me to see. It's all nice and thought-through pictures, but I see these every year. Bits of the beach. The beach in the morning. The beach in the evening. Erwin with Malaysian women. Erwin in front of a Levi's store with both middle fingers in the air.

Erwin with an ostrich.

Erwin running from it.

"God, I can't help it. I'm sorry." I slid down on my forearms and focused on the table. "I tried to be subtle the last time I saw him. Now he's not responding at all. I tried calling him, he turned his phone off after the second call. I even called Carla the next day. Then, Mikasa. You won't believe the juicy details Eren spits at Mikasa through the door."

"You reek of desperation, a little," Erwin absentmindedly said. "You're overreacting."

"What is wrong with you?" I asked. "Are you suddenly teaming up with a stagnant little boy who's locked up in his room and can't even drag his ass to work?"

Erwin took his own glass from the counter he was leaning against and crossed his legs. I watched him carefully enough to spot some hesitation in the answer.

"Well, Eren's not stupid, I'll give you that. He does things for a reason. I've been living next to him for twelve years. We all need time to sort things out sometimes, don't you think?"

"It's been a week," I said whilst swirling the drink. "We agreed on a week. I can't let this go on."

"What if he hasn't figured everything out yet? A week's long enough, but it's a pretty major thing to go through."

"What?" I confusedly asked.

"What?" He echoed.

"What do you mean with "he hasn't figured everything out yet"? What are you talking about?"

Oh, it's something heavy. Some recognition, some pint of regret. Erwin's chest rose, he held his breath. I counted for a few seconds and found him sighing.

"You were busy, so I thought it's smarter to keep it in until the weekend. I know you've been upset and it's been problematic throughout the week. This didn't seem like something light."

His expression tortured me. I'm not the best at guessing his emotions, but he looks slightly conflicted and guilty. Erwin's the one who sees straight through me, I'm not as good at it.

"Eren came to me practically right after you left last Friday," Erwin silently said. "He told me almost precisely the same things you did. About being confused and unsure, about feelings not being answered. I didn't tell him anything you wouldn't want him to know."

I felt my skin get a little damp.

"Eren's madly head over heels," Erwin finished off. "He was sweating through the entire conversation."

I could practically see myself from Erwin's eyes. Christ, that must be Levi at his worst, sitting at my table like that, squeezing a glass of whiskey between his fingers, mouth hanging open and brows lowered to an almost accusatory level. Oh, he's probably mad at me for not telling.

Oh, yeah.

"Are you mad?" He murmured.

I drenched my "yes" with everything in the glass.

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be." I wiped my mouth and pushed off the table. "Don't be, I'm heading over. A week is far too long. It doesn't matter if he'll push me away or not, not at this point. Fuck, maybe that'd be better. I don't know. I need to see him."

"You're pretty selfish," Erwin snickered. "I thought you'd need more time to process this."

I would, if there wasn't a time frame, and if longing for each other wasn't so agonizing, yes, then I would.

"It's not pretty selfish to like someone. You know that. It's just selfish not to let them go."

The subtext was too heavy and his grin twitched before disappearing.

"You're talking like you'd be flawless at relationship advice," I said. "Don't act that way. We both know you're a moron. I need to find you a girlfriend."

Erwin smiled again, slightly more genuine this time. "Go get him."

I took a deep breath and got up from the table.

I got my phone and keys from the counter outside in the living room, pulled on my shoes and stood in front of the mirror, wondering if my sweatshirt was better zipped up or zipped down. I looked like a child either ways, since my cheeks were red and I'm undeniably shinier than usual. God, I'm sweating like a demon.

By Erwin's front door, I stopped and squeezed the doorknob.

"I'm actually scared, Erwin," I weakly called back. "I could use some practice."

"Good luck!"

He clearly has no intent of helping me with this, so I did a few rounds of breathing and opened the door.

"Have faith in me, will you?" I yelled back, and left his house.

This felt like an enormous mistake. It'd be a little easier scripted, or if I'd at least think about it before rushing over. Currently it's an abrupt idea without any real underline, asides from wanting to meet Eren and actually get to know if whatever Erwin told me is just his interpretation, or reality.

It's not cold, but it's not hot, either. The tepid kind of temperature. The sun's just starting to sink behind the line of roofs on the horizon. It should get darker in the matter of minutes. I pushed my hands in the pockets of my sweatshirt and tried walking as quickly as possible.

Still wasn't dark enough to see if there's any kind of light radiating from Eren's blinds. In a matter of seconds I'm on Eren's porch. I knew for sure neither Carla or Mikasa were home. It's too early for Mikasa to be back home from her shift, and Carla always stays out late on Fridays.

I bit my cheek and raised my hand to knock on the door, but changed my mind. Then wondered if I should press the doorbell, and changed my mind again. I chose not to do anything. Eren's the only one home right now, for fuck's sake, and it wouldn't be the first time for me to enter without any warning. I probably wasn't too desired here, anyways.

First thing in front of me is the corridor. My lashes fluttered and my movements lost speed for a second. I remember the night we almost kissed here.

The weight in my stomach is too apparent and depressing, and I just can't think of anything to replace the crave of reliving this memory than physically trying to reenact it again.

The living room's quiet and empty, the TV was turned off. The silky curtains were drawn open and tied off with a pretty bow.

I peeked in the kitchen. No trace of Eren anywhere.

I tugged off my shoes and did a nervous glance at the narrow mirror above the counter to check if I still looked flustered and scared.

Everything I did seemed loud. I went upstairs as silently as I could, and stopped on the last step to take a few short breaths. After that I'm standing right at Eren's door, maybe for the second or third time in my life.

I heard silent taps from inside his room. Could be his knuckles against the table. And the creaks of his leather chair. I wonder how he's not saving up for a new one yet.

I stared at my feet, unsure of my further actions. Decided to knock. Seemed polite and subtle.

I expected him to open the door and soften up, but it's nothing similar. I only got a sour, irritated answer coming from the inside.

"Fuck off, Mikasa."

At least now I know for sure she also tried.

I cleared my throat and leaned forwards, closer to the gap. "It's me."

In an instant, I heard Eren getting up from his chair with a quiet "oh", hitting what sounded like a plate.

He slowly opened the door soon after the creaks, and I had to fight back an aggressive wince.

He looked like shit. First time in twenty years.

Eren's voice seemed like usual, didn't sound like he was sick, but he looked bad. Like someone desperately trying to convince himself the world outside doesn't matter and things like fresh air, job, bills to pay and real company don't mean much.

His hair was tucked behind his ears, still in the same mid-part as the last time I'd seen him, just now it's showing signs of being greasy. These thin, stringy strands that look slick from the oils.

He looked like he hasn't showered for a week.

His face seemed tired and older.

He probably didn't sleep much.

The clothes also didn't look like a fresh wear. A navy hoodie with an unreadable band logo and green basketball shorts. Grey socks.

God, and I felt angry all of a sudden. Not just for caring about this moron, but for letting him fall in this state; he's forcing me to care and he's acting like a child. And now I'm angry because I feel bad about the sudden, quiet, extinct glow in his eyes, and he's not even looking at me, let's begin with that.

"Hey," I said.

I felt like punching myself and running under the tires of a logistics truck.

Eren stared asides, eyes glassy. For a second, his face darkened.

"Hey," he just repeated.

I felt more disappointed than ever. I kept examining what his wide shoulders allowed me to descry.

"Is this what you're doing this past week?"

He looked up at me, but avoided my eyes. I must've sounded too severe, maybe. He just shrugged.

Dirty dishes. Messed up sheets.

"Being ignored is a nice feeling," I continued. "I'm okay with not talking over the phone, you know. Blocking my number is a little too much. It's nice you ignored everyone equally, at least."

Eren was still avoiding eye contact and played with a small piece of paper on the ground, hands in the pockets of his shorts. He kept pushing the paper around with his toe and I fell quiet.

"Yeah," he suddenly said. "Yeah, sorry."

I closed my eyes and wished I'd have the strength for this shit.

Eren stepped aside, offering me a chance to enter his room. This quiet, little world.

The windows were closed and the blinds were shut, making the area lack air. The little light allowed in his room was barely enough to see anything. I tried avoiding any possible dishes or glasses, and wondered what so major happened for it to get this bad.

My chest felt tight and in seconds I just stood there, completely out of place.

Eren shrugged again. I couldn't see the details of his face in the dim light, only the outlines of his shoulders and bits of hair.

"I'll just... Umm. I'll shower. Sit down, wherever you want. I'll be back," he murmured.

I watched him turn around without saying anything else. He looked over his shoulder, all of a sudden. Now I'm wondering if it's just me, or if he really looked physically in pain.

"Just don't go, alright? Don't go. Give me ten minutes."

The door was closed before I could say anything. A few seconds later, I heard the sound of water running.

Look, I don't mind fucking waiting if it's like this. I've waited for a week straight, so I can't complain about ten minutes.

I looked around and observed his room. There's a lot of posters and shelves full of magazines and comics. A few books on there. Then there's the "Trophy Wall" with strict lines of shelves and trophies stuffed on them with no space in between. He's got a few hooks on the wall to hang the ribbon medals, and every free space is filled with a framed diploma.

There's a guitar in the corner of his closet.

He has a TV above the door I just came in through, and a console with all its sets on a shelf besides it. I'd never reach it without a bench, and I'm sure Eren can't, either.

I thought about letting air in. Letting some light in, also. Then I looked at Eren's bed, the piling sheets, haphazard pillows, a curled charger, tied down with silver tape by the output, and suddenly understood why he did this.

This feels safe, in a way. It's calm and comforting. I'd be ruining his balance if I tried changing anything without his permission.

In the end, I gave up my crave and opened the window. Didn't pull the blinds up. I just wanted to ventilate the room. I picked up most of the clothes and tossed them in the basket in his closet and pushed the dishes under his bed.

That's it. I'm prohibiting any other changes. It looks good enough.

I sat on the edge of Eren's bed and put my head into my hands.

That's the moment I lost any perception of time.

I just stayed therewith the buzz of the water pipes and strange peace of Eren's new cocoon. I thought about the things I'd say when he'd come back. I wasn't sure I even wanted to say anything. I'd more likely ask questions.

The water stopped at the same time as my heartbeat. I looked up and tried to ignore the sensation in my guts. The door was still closed, and there was no sound other than the pipes. I put my hands together, leaned my elbows, chin on my knuckles, and just waited.

Closed my eyes.

"You can plug out my earphones and let Spotify play aloud," Eren said from the bathroom. "I was listening to music before you came."

I shot up and went straight to his laptop.

Considered checking his History tab to see what he's been up to, but I'm not that much of a dick. Just plugged out his earphones. The low beat of this song hit me in an instant.

I checked the title. It's the last few seconds of a song called Video Girl. I've never heard of it.

Walking backwards, I got back to the edge of the bed and took my previous position. My mind's filled with bizarre thoughts. Fuck, I'm lost, and I'm not supposed to be here.

I was so busy being lost I didn't hear the door open. Eren's voice came like a crack in my invisible safe zone.

"Are you alright?" He silently asked.

My heartbeat dropped the pace again. Is he actually asking this to me? Like I'm the one living in a dark, isolated room for days, missing trainings, job and friends. Christ, I'm not the one who has to answer to this fucking question, really, now.

I looked up at him, as serious as I could. Eren stilled, being two steps away.

He was still wet from the shower. I noticed drops of water. Some caught the faint light from the gaps of the blinds, but not much, so I couldn't see the full image, but I knew he's shirtless. I still appreciated whatever I had.

His hair was combed back and he had a towel around his waist. The face was still the same. Like he cleaned everything on the outside, but not the actual state of mind he's stuck in.

"Eren." My voice was cautionary. He became even more heedful at his name, if possible. "I'm not the one with a problem here, okay? Look at your room."

He didn't.

Eren took a deep breath. I saw it. His chest grew and stilled, and then everything was back to normal again. He kept running his hands over his forearms in a nervous matter. Scratched his wrists and slipped on his shoulder, in the end. As if he'd be protecting his collarbone from something.

God, he felt so vulnerable naked, like he couldn't lie, something like that.

I need to admit this isn't the first time I've seen him shirtless, but it's the first time I'm paying this much attention. At least he can't see me staring in this semi-darkness.

I put my left forearm on my knee and covered my mouth with my other hand to feel more safe and in control of the situation.

"Alright, mmm..." He searched for words and examined the floor I'd just tidied up. "I'm going to dress, and then..."

I thought he'd finish his sentence, since he looked back up and met my worried eyes (or the approximate position of my face in general), but he just gaped. "Wait."

Eren left my range of view, and waved a pile of clothes a second later, to signal he's leaving.

He disappeared in the bathroom, leaving the door open.

Again, I pressed my hands against my face and closed my eyes for a minute.

I craved air.

"Are they okay?" Eren finally called, and I thanked him for the huge effort he was making right now when I'm too much of a coward to do it, instead.

I straightened up and looked at the poster on his door. "Yeah. They're okay, I guess. Jean's worried. He's doing everything you're supposed to do. Could've cut him some slack, at least."

There wasn't anything coming back from the bathroom. I knew he wouldn't comment on that.

"I know," he finally said. "Mikasa told me about it. At least he isn't complaining about it."

"Mike is devastated," I dared to comment. "And nobody knows what's happening."

I began searching for something else to say, and felt guilty for lacking any sense of mind.

Eren stopped before the door. He had a white t-shirt on, as if he's not dark enough already, and different pants. Grey this time. Maybe it was the color change, or the shower, but he visually seemed better.

He rubbed his hair with the same towel and draped it over his chair before walking towards the bed I was sitting on.

I felt unsettled.

Eren sat next to me and we stayed silent, both pretty aware of each other's presence now. He smelled good and inviting. My stomach hasn't looped like this in years. I thought about turning my head in his direction, but we're too close for doing it. I'm afraid I'd pass out if he did the same.

Our shoulders brushed against each other. I was about to realize how comforting it felt, when he, without any kind of warning, leaned forward, adapting the same position I was in a few minutes ago, and looked at me over his shoulder.

He just leaned down like that, and looked up at me.

"We need to talk," he said.

"We need to talk," I clumsily repeated, surprised he's the one igniting the conversation. "This feels like a joke."

"Uhh, this is the furthest from a joke." Eren's brows lowered, but he was still giving me his sweetest look. Christ, he looked so young and vulnerable right now, here, in the darkness of his fake night. He looked so real. "It's just the most bizarre shit going on."

"Listen, I need to--"

"No, you should listen first," he cut me off and moved so his right leg would be on the bed and he'd be facing me. It kind of worked. "I'm sorry for everything."

He looked around, but it was as much to avoid eye contact than actually looking around.

"For not showing up. Not answering any messages... Or calls, or whatever."

He kept biting his cheek and looking to the side. Finally, he faced me again. I searched for his eyes in an instant.

Fuck, how I thanked him for talking first, because I, for instance, couldn't breathe. To think he didn't know I'm into him made me feel odd. Not that I know much of his situation, either, but I'd like to assume I've got it a little better.

"Look. I'm being selfish. I'm not in my normal state right now. Fucking honestly, I didn't want you to see this." He seemed to hesitate. "You more than anyone."

I stared. Should've probably said something. He was having a tough time trying to express himself, and I still didn't say anything, waiting for a better moment.

"I'm... Uhh, yeah. There's things you should probably know."

These are the only things I really wanted to hear. I think I even leaned forwards, burning in anticipation.

Eren suddenly shook his head. "Alright, forget it, it's not--"

"No!" I rushed. "No, keep going. Please."

He seemed to look for some mercy in my eyes, but didn't succeed in finding anything.

I watched him play with the bed sheets.

Things were already different from the beginning of this talk. A few minutes and a bunch of words, things are already changing. For some reason it scares me, but it's not always a bad thing.I knew the outlines of what he'd said to Erwin, but hearing this from him personally felt more important.

Fuck, I couldn't keep myself still. Hearing him confess first would make it a whole lot easier for me.

"I didn't want to go to work or trainings, because...because it's not... Uhh. I have a lot of things on my mind right now. It's leading me nowhere. Nowhere good, at least.I'm a fucking mess these days and it keeps getting worse. I didn't want you to know that. I fucking didn't want you to see me like this. I stink, everything's fucked, and I can't even get out of bed."

"You locked the door open and let me in," I murmured. "It's something."

"I did," Eren repeated, calmly. "I did, because it's you. Like, maybe ignoring you like this any longer would be worse than letting you see me at my worst. Even if that's not... Whatever."

He shrugged. I searched for his eyes again, but he was staring down at his hands.

"You shouldn't care about me this much."

It stung. I pictured he's talking about the formal approach to our relationship. The "coach and player" sort.

"No, I mean-- you should. I'm a massive egoist and I love your attention. What I mean is... I'm not fucking worth it. I can't ever get over myself. Really, just..." He looked up and smiled. "Just fucking drop it. There's nothing between you and I that could ever work, so."

"Are you sure?" I asked.

"I'm sure."

"I think it's complex."

"It's not complex, I just don't know what the fuck am I doing right now." The previous smile morphed in just teeth clenched in undefined pain. Eren looked like he's on the verge of crying. He then closed his mouth, and looked down. "Fucking... shit. I love this."

"What?"

He hesitated. "You."

My stomach froze.

We stared at each other in silence.

I want it more. I want it again. I want Eren to say it again. Say things like that all over again. I want to go deaf so it's be the last thing still echoing in my ears. With his faint little embarrassment captured in a strong, capable body, he looks almost like he did three years ago.

"I can't fucking sleep. I try to. All day long. I just can't. I've tried everything. This constant darkness, documentaries, banal masturbation, nothing helps, so far. I'm emptied out and I don't have motivation for anything. See, I just..."

He didn't give me too much time to process it.

"I'm going insane. I'm batshit over you. I hate this feeling of being incapable of doing anything else. I got fucking-- I got dumped for once at the graduation, and it's been fucked up ever since. That night and the conversation?" Eren flamed. "Fucking aces! I thought I'm losing my mind from thinking about you. You're the only one on my mind for this past fucking week, Levi."

"It's--"

"Fucking idiotic!" He hid his face by rubbing it. "God, I... Remember when-- fuck it, you probably don't, but the time we watched Untamed & Uncut, and you almost kissed me? It's been fucked since then. Fuck, no! It's been fucked since the first night we drank together. My sloppy, vivid wet dream and all the shit that followed."

"Eren, I've been--"

"It's been fucked since I went on Pornhub," he whispered and pulled his knees up to hide his face entirely. "I told Erwin I like you."

"I know."

He looked up. "How?"

"I know. He told me." I felt his face getting darker due to Erwin's immense treason. I continued before he'd have fake guesses of what happened. "I told him I like you the same evening, so it's aces, as you'd say."

My words were very effective. I caught his stare the second after that. Held it, hoping he wouldn't look away. I would've liked to smile, but it wasn't the easiest thing to do with Eren gaping at me like this. Looked away at the window to collect my thoughts.

"I tried confessing indirectly, but he figured it out. I'm an emotional virgin, Eren. Erwin told me I should wait. Less than an hour ago he told me I'm an idiot for "not noticing"."

Eren stayed silent.

"I thought you're straight," I awkwardly murmured.

"I...am? It's just you I'm nuts for," he confessed. "I mean, I kissed Jean to check what's it like kissing guys, and-- Like. That's it. Fucking really, though. I guess I'm just done with girls for now. All recent ones won't cut it."

Didn't I mention I've got reasons to feel bummed about his and Jean's friendship?

I heard a familiar song play from his laptop. I'm sure it's the same I'm thinking of. I showed Eren this one back when Erwin was still traveling. He said he's heard it in a skating video before.

It's Drop the Game. Chat Faker. Flume.

He swung his foot to the song. It's still the first few seconds.

"At least now you know I'm just as batshit," I said.

"Yeah. But you're an adult. You've got yourself figured out. I spent a week on figuring myself out. Shit, haha. Actually felt like it's going to be a lot harder, but it's easy spilling anything to you."

My finger brushed the cuffed ankle of my jeans. I was sitting in the same position as Eren, now.

"I guess that's why I like you so much," he lightly said.

The urge to kiss him is insane.

I looked up at him right in time to see his face lingering inches away.

Sweet Heaven, I feel like I'm on drugs.

Listen, you are my sun.

He kissed me with an open mouth, and even my shoulders dropped from the intensity packed in this. I felt him breathe quicker and through his nose, and every exhale burned my cheek.

It felt like this is what we were supposed to be doing ever since we met.

My skin's tingling like crazy. I kept leaning closer with my entire torso. Eren's heated up. I let my hand drag across his entire neck to feel the warmth before it slid up into his curling, damp hair that smelled like mango shampoo, and continued kissing him.

His hands slid on my calf and one of them slipped on the inside of my thigh. Made me squirm, though I knew he's not going all the way.

Eren abruptly broke off and pulled away, back straight. He had the back of his hand on his mouth and his eyes were wide open.

"Holy shit," he whispered.

I still wasn't recovering from what just happened, and I'm guessing I'm droopy as fuck anyways, so I combed my hair back and leaned on the same hand.

"Sorry?" I guessed, quite kicked out of my senses.

"Holy shit-- did you also just get the same thought?"

"What thought?"

The hand covering his mouth dropped to his lap. "That it sucks we're doing this only now. That's the best... Oh my god, shit, Levi!"

Still trying to come off the high I was in, I leaned in a little. I want more of whatever that just was.

Eren flinched, and his eyes dropped straight to my lips in a second, so it's clear I'm not the only one acting like I'm fifteen all of a sudden.

Slow, not to be mistaken for lazy, I kissed him again. The light sound of my lips on his lower one was everything. It rang in my ears. I slid my tongue across it and toyed around. His reaction was immediate; a subliminal little vibration at the end of his throat and entire abdomen, and his hands slipping back on my raised thigh, just slightly higher now.

I nervously breathed out against his mouth, and he mistook it for a light moan-like exhale, considering it a cue to almost force his entire body weight on me. I doubt I meant for it to happen, but I'm not complaining much. Christ, I craved his smell. His skin. Bare, naked, vulnerable. His breath on my neck, everything. It's suddenly so clear what I've been craving all this time.

Having him so close was already the best thing over the course of my past five years.

I let my right arm fall around his neck. He got a lot closer, and it ends with us "making out", whatever that means nowadays, I'm trying to lessen my feral breathing as I'm kissing a twenty year-old knot of hormones, as if I'm not just as hormonal myself.

He took me with him as he lowered on his pillows behind. It happened so quickly I couldn't even figure it might get too heated. A second later, we're horizontal on his bed, my hands are on his bared hips, and I'm really holding back with all my sweet, sweet willpower to keep myself from leashing out and doing anything over-the-board, although I'm more than sure Eren wouldn't mind.

I'm a little embarrassingly hard. By the realization of it, I stopped kissing him on the mouth, and switched to his jaw.

His breath was ragged against my ear.

"I like you," he murmured.

I didn't say anything. I felt warm, strong and secure. Dropped on the bed next to him and moved lower to get his body fully against mine.

"Oh, trust me, I like you too."

"I really like you. I mean it. Ohhh, god... Aces."

I closed my eyes and felt him sneak up closer to me. Ended up wrapping my arms around him and just stuffing my nose in his hair.

He smiled against my neck. I noticed his hands freely running on my stomach.

"Your chest feels nice."

"Jeez, isn't that just aces," I whispered.

He kicked my leg as strong as our positions allowed. I ended up laughing. He complained my stomach shuddered too often and that it's not comfortable, and I had to choke him to get him apologizing. Still, even knowing he liked me more than just a friend, I didn't feel like anything between us changed. He's still Eren, I'm still myself. Everything's just a whole lot easier after realizing and unwillingly admitting just friendship wasn't satisfying.

I never assumed Eren would go in for this, and apparently, he didn't assume it, either.

It just feels odd to be kissing him and getting away with it like it's no big deal.

We sank in this...churning feeling again. I felt like I had to talk just to fill the silence, and he, on the other side, felt like he'd be surging with the wish to express himself. I found him picking the conversation up again.

"Sorry if I'm taking all of this too seriously," Eren thoughtfully said. "It wasn't the same with Annie, so I have to be careful. I don't even know if I liked Annie the way I like you."

Then he's staring up at me. I felt unprepared and caught under guard. He made the best out of this whole situation by wriggling up higher. I wasn't too sure what his aim was until he crossed his forearms higher on my chest, and placed his chin on them.

And kept looking at me, head slightly tilted, cheek against his forearm.

I felt so incredibly unarmored.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm looking at you."

"Why do you have to lean up this close?"

"I'm zooming in on you. It's called "zooming in". Practically never seen you this close in my life."

"Oh, yeah. Did you know your eyebrows are black?"

"What the fuck." Eren rubbed his left brow. "What the fuck, they're not black."

I felt emotionally inert. Leaned in, and kissed him again. His lips were warm and didn't actually taste like they should. More like shampoo, or shower gel, or something. Not even toothpaste beats it.

Fuck, he just smelled very manly, overall.

The kiss was quick and soft this time. He laid there with eyes closed for a while.

Eren has long lashes.

"Why'd you do that?" He suddenly whispered.

I actually thought I blushed. "I don't know."

"Oh, fuck, you're red."

"Not really."

"Wow. Last time I blushed was, like--"

Eren pressed his lips together.

"What?" I asked. "Eren?"

"Nothing."

I realized his face was changing colors, though he was too dark for it to be just as visually obvious as my complexion. I just guessed, by the way. His body got more warm than it already was.

I nudged his thigh with my knee and he uncomfortably winced. "Come on."

"I regret everything I did this week," Eren said. "Can you guess what I did?"

I shook my head.

"I, uhh. Looked you up on the Internet. But, like, on a deeper level. And, like, I found...a lot of stuff."

"Oh, fuck, what?"

"Wouldn't you? I'm so sorry, but, like... Wouldn't you do the same? If you were me, you'd rake the fuck out of every site you can find. You've got so many photoshoots that aren't even connected to porn. I checked out the porn ones, too, but whatever. You have pictures with the team before us. Fucking tops everything. You look sixteen years-old."

I tried letting his mention of finding my stuff online slip. "What else did you find?"

Eren looked to the side, squinting. "Mmm... I found a picture of you in Revolution. Like, graduation, something similar to it. Why'd you cut your hair off?"

Embarrassment strikes: now.

"You've got long hair, too, and it's the same period of time, Eren. Everyone's had a period in their life where they just resist cutting it. It's an unwritten rule."

"You did look a little hot, though," I heard him murmur against my sweatshirt. "But your hair is good right now. Wish I could get mine in some order. But I'm growing it out."

"Your hair is fine," I said.

"It's way too uneven."

"Your hair is fine."

"Yeah. Whatever you say, I guess."

Chapter Text

I've got a lot to say.

For example, I'm sure I could rive Levi apart in a second. His tongue is a lot softer than Jean's. Or Annie's. I nudged his dick by accident, with my knee, right against the ridge. I found out he tucks left. He's got a stubbly, rough undercut. I'm a sloppy kisser, all of a sudden. I can't hold myself back, all of a sudden.

What the fuck? Seriously. I've been acting like a feral little dog this entire evening. I'm refusing to believe I've grown and hit the roof of my puberty which signaled the final hormonal wave. Like in Plants Vs. Zombies?

Anyone can relate? :-)

Plus I'm kind of throwing the freak right now since we keep making out on my bed and my mom's supposed to be home any second.

I'm kind of throwing the freak over fucking everything today, if anyone's asking for my petty honesty. It doesn't feel real and I'm conflicted by this entire situation, often wondering if what's happening not yet another wet dream. It didn't feel like a wet dream whereas the other one I had back at Erwin's. I'm more alarmed and unsettled in real life. I do whatever I crave in my dreams. So it's got to be real.

I scratched my cheek to make it look like I'm not blushing.

Despite it being a normal summer day, even when bundled up like this it wasn't hot inside; I had the AC running, the window was open for the first time this week, and asides from my gross room, garbage looks and godawful expectations towards my future, the only great thing would be my thigh over Levi's in the most casual matter on Earth. My laptop's balanced on both our free thighs and I'm showing Levi his Revolution graduation pictures. He hasn't seen these in years.

(I had his Revolution pictures in the same folder as his porn stills, so it felt slightly alarming to skip over pictures of his back arched and similar shit. So, sure, I showed these whilst turning to him with a cocky, gross smile once whatever explicit content flashed.)

(He hasn't looked this embarrassed in a while, I'll admit.)

I didn't know when's supposed to be the moment I start filtering everything that happened through the day, so I kept reminding myself I'd get to figure everything out once I'm alone. Then again, now that I've found someone who actually likes me back, like hell am I staying alone ever again. What I had with Annie wasn't nearly as satisfying as this.

Annie now seems just a mediocre little waste of time. Considering the energy and emotions I put into her and my relationship in order to receive that poor amount of attention and two hours of her free time in exchange-- Dude? Not fucking in for that. I'm not even asking for sex. Not even a handjob. I just wanted her attention as the boyfriend I once used to be.

Fuck, and I used to be nervous around her. Fuck that. With Levi it's the calmest feeling ever. I don't have to pretend I like Death Cab for Cutie. I hate them, just as multiple other shit Annie listened to. I don't have to go to her karate trainings and spend hours reading crap about martial arts the previous evening to at least approximately be able to figure what's the shit she's talking about when I'm driving her home.

I always drove her home, by the way, even though she had an ugly BMW her rich daddy bought her a year ago.

Fuck that, jeez.

Oh, yeah, and this happened nearly every week. We get in the car, the lights from the salon lit up Annie's flushed, still shiny face, and she starts talking about several techniques and mentions words I'm not sure I can physically consume into my vocabulary. Just to add the cherry, these were the only times she talked. And I'm not even going to mention her enthusiasm.

Why am I so rage filled now, I've got no idea, but compared to Levi, Annie really was shit.

Related to this quick string of thought, I couldn't keep my hands off him due to a weird fear of being abandoned. Like, you know, it's still that slightly awkward phase during which I'm not too sure if a hand on his thigh is nice or not. But since Levi didn't say anything, I kept it there. For my own little safety purposes. I'm still trying to recover from the Depression Week.

Fuck. It feels like something I'd do during primary school.

I'll think about this after he leaves.

"It's getting late," I murmured, later when we're just lying in bed, hands behind my head to prep it up.

We're next to each other with a small, formal space in-between. This would be easy to explain to mom. If not easy, then easier, at least. All my training schedules and team formations are choppily plastered to the ceiling along with Levi's notes and some other reminders. There's my home workout... My workout schedule with Nile that's probably never happening. My Deadpool poster.

I'm staring at Deadpool's abs and Levi's probably doing the same.

My ceiling is low and my eyesight isn't too shitty. I change the stuff on there every other month. It gets boring to wake up to the same old Constitutional flag or an A4 page of Al Quaeda stuff. That's Erwin's influence. Talked about America.

"Do you want me to go?" Levi silently asked.

"Obviously not. I'm just wondering when mom's home. It might get slightly difficult to explain."

"I don't think so. I called her last night. Asked if it would be okay if I came to talk to you, and she invited me for coffee." He turned his head towards me. "Consider this as having me over for coffee."

Drop Mountain Dew, coffee is the best beverage from now on.

"We can go for a walk if you want to," I offered. "It could stretch the evening out. We can walk down by the river to avoid the highway. Mom takes the second turn there."

"Sure."

"What's the weather? Man, I can't wait 'till it starts getting shitty," I mused. "Got my North Face stuff delivered last week. The yellow windbreaker, backpack, everything else."

Levi rolled on his stomach. "Eren, it's hot outside."

"I just really love the windbreaker."

Glad it didn't take much negotiation. I got off my bed and backed off to the window. Peeked out to check out my driveway, Erwin's driveway, and the rest of the street.

It's empty, and the air coming from the outside is so fresh I'm actually craving going for a walk.

I turned around. Had to stop for a second, to memorize this.

Levi's in my bed, lying on his left side, legs just slightly pulled up towards his chest. He's got his usual black jeans, white socks and the sweatshirt that makes him look like a teenager.

I switched my balance to the other leg and tried walking closer. He had an arm draped over his face, shielding it, and he's looking at me from there.

My heart died. Christ, have I actually been this oblivious to myself liking him? I've probably liked him the entire time, I just had no idea. I'm sure that's it. There's no other way I might've just let this gem pass, really.

I offered a hand to help him get up, and ended up being pulled on top. By the way, not that I mind, but whenever I'm kissing him, it gets steamy. I guess it's me who can't help it, but Levi does react a whole lot, too. I'm just wondering if it's our nice chemistry.

Is it normal to feel the regular masturbation pressure in your lower abdomen every time you're kissing with a guy you're mad shit for? It's cool, right? For example, right now, being on top of him, I'm pressed against his (for a grown man) typically hard body, hips down on his lap, and I don't even mind mom coming in. Shit, it's like there's something in the hip shuddering and pressing lower, and my miserable, uncontrollable breathing, it clears my mind out of any excess information.

I got off him after he warned me we're going too far, so we went outside. To talk, and for me to calm down.

Late July nights smelled great. The opposite side of the street had pine trees, so the entire neighborhood was filled with the smell. It reeks like a forest, like pines and resin.

Everything felt fresh. I swung my arms to feel how alive the air was.

"It's a nice evening," Levi commented.

"Oh, yeah. Has it's reasons, I guess."

He didn't reply, just bumped against my side. I smiled and looked away.

We took the longer path around the patch of birch trees. It adds a few minutes. There's a river down the street. It divides our neighborhood from the other one; it's just around ten feet wide, and the area around it is pretty swampy. There's a wooden bridge a few miles further that connects both villages. It has my initials and other shit I've written there with Jean.

I'm walking close with Levi and sinking in thoughts about us, when he nudges me again.

"Listen, before I leave... We might have to talk."

"About what?"

"Us."

Thinking about it, there probably are some things we'd need to talk about, but this evening's not meant for it. I don't want the big talks yet.

I turned to him. "No."

"So you're okay with bringing this to public?" He snickered. "Can I stroke your cheek in the middle of a conversation?"

"No." I paused. "Not yet, I mean. I don't want to keep this as a secret forever, but I'm also not too sure about telling anyone."

"I can imagine the reactions."

"Me too."

It gave me the chills.

"We could take a while with it, you know?" I shrugged. "Adjust. The basic things. I still can't get used to it myself. Plus I don't want to get you in any kind of trouble, at least not while I'm still in Wildwood."

The silence dragged in as we walked. I saw him stuff his hands in his pockets. "It's hot", he said. Sure.

"One more thing," I added. "I don't want this to affect the other aspect of our relationship, the formal one. Okay?"

"I was about to mention that," he said.

"I'm still your best player and you can't go soft on me. You know what happens then. I don't want to see the slightest change in your attitude. Like, you could be less harsh after the training, but that's it."

"Sure. We're dividing personal life from public life. That's what you're trying to say." Levi pressed his lips together. "I'm glad I don't have to explain this to you."

"I'm twenty, I got a head on my shoulders."

"I know." He looked up. "You're smart."

"Thanks. I've spent my time thinking about this."

We reached the bridge a few minutes later. It was slightly past the sunset, so the skies were tinted magenta, and gradually turned to a dark blue.

There's a pair of benches on both sides of the bridge, and it's a little wider in the middle. I mean, it's a pretty place, a chill spot of some sort; I used to come here with Jean back when Jean still gave a fuck, and I talked to him about the girls in our school, soccer and irrelevant shit other irrelevant friends have said.

Then I'm sitting on the bench with Levi, had the back of my head pressed against the rails, and one leg slightly pressed against his. Like the child I am, I had both legs pulled up. I always pull my legs close to my chest, whenever there's a chance.

Levi had only one pulled up, and he had his hand around it to take hold.

Due to my hormonal imbalance, I just had to reach to the side and kiss him again. It's not fucking funny, I'm not normal. Jesus. Kissing my coach like that. Jesus Christ, I'm fucking sick. To think the shit he's seen me do, the team do... Like, eww. Gross. He's seen me sweaty and everything. He's seen me at almost every possible state that could embarrass me - except for my O-face and me, crying.

After I'd started pressing myself against his raised thigh (once again), he pulled off, and I figured we should get going.

The walk back to Erwin's driveway wasn't long. Felt like it. With the street lights placed every five meters, with the crickets, annoying hipster music from the other neighbors, some casual birds, this evening didn't differ from others in any way. A few houses had the windows lit.

I looked back to see how my house looked from outside. Not that I haven't seen it, but... To get the feeling.

This evening had something good to it.

Levi was the first one to walk up to his car. His Cherokee was parked right besides the fence of Erwin's other neighbors. Behind the fence was a big bush, and it's branches hung over, so it shielded us from the light. Not entirely, though. When I stepped closer, my shadow was chased away, and miniature specks of light found their way on Levi's cheek and neck.

His throat was practically shining. I caught myself staring like an idiot.

He leaned back against the bumper of his car, and raised his chin.

"I can't think of anything good to say."

Levi smiled and looked down. "Thanks."

"Hope you got my subliminal message."

"I did."

I tried to slide my hands in my pockets without him noticing, but by his blink, I realized he did. Took my wrist, and pulled me closer. I noticed he's slipped up the bumper and is sitting on it, so I took the position between his legs, put my hands in front of his crotch, and looked up.

Fucking... Jeez, dude. The light went right through his iris and made it just as light as the rest of his eye. And his lashes are long as fuck, too. My mouth might be gaping.

I looked down, out of sudden nervousness.

"Can we... Before you go?" I asked. "I kind of... Can we?"

He didn't reply, just pulled me close. My thighs hit the front of the car, since Levi was already on top of it, his legs wide to make it comfortable for me. He didn't calculate my angle, so it wasn't good at first. Despite the bone-breaking position, I still enjoyed the moment and kept pressing my nose against his neck.

A bit later, he laughed.

"What?" I murmured, too dazed to think about anything.

"Why aren't you telling me to get off the car?"

"Should I? I'm not thinking about it at the moment."

"Your legs are shaking," he whispered. "You don't need to put so much effort in this. It's straining your muscles."

I didn't feel it until he pointed out. Embarrassed, I began pulling back, but he had my waist in a tight grip and slid down the trunk instead of letting me back off. We stayed like that then, and it felt a lot more comfortable. His ass was pressed against the car.

Guess where's his dick pressed against. :-)

Hugging shorter people is easy. All your weight is pushed down. The person just works as a podium. But the short people feel pain. They get around a hundred and seventy (might be more) pounds (in my case) on their lithe frame, and they need to hold it to seem responsive and loving.

I realized I'd just categorized Levi with "shorter people" and made him have a "lithe frame". That's fucking not what he is at all, his frame might be wider than mine, and he weighs, possibly, more than I do. Shit, I'm just naturally huge.

"Should I go tell Erwin before leaving?" He asked. "Not the details, just informatively."

"We should wait. With everyone."

"Who would you tell first?"

I found myself hesitating.

"Reiner, probably."

"Reiner?" Levi didn't hide his surprise. "What about Jean? Armin, Mikasa?"

"Reiner, out of everyone, knows how it is. Jean doesn't know jackshit, he's just kissed me once, and I'm not sure if Armin puts up with any of this. I doubt he'd look at me the same way. And Mikasa's from your side, she'll either figure it out herself, or just ask me directly. She's quite nonchalant in these terms."

"I'd say it's my work, but we're not the best at being relatives," Levi said. "I should fix that."

"Yeah."

We spent a while longer standing like this until I pulled my phone out to check the time. Levi also noticed.

"Nine thirty-six," he commented. "That's over Carla's limit. She should be home by now."

"I don't want to go home."

"You don't want a lot of things. Eren, we'll meet in a few hours, quite literally speaking."

"Is the training at six?"

"Yes."

I let my head fall on his shoulder."Fuck. I'm using Jean's utilities tomorrow, so...yeah. We'll be late. My shift ends at six and we still need to get there. Not that it takes years, but we're going to hit traffic hours straight in the belly."

"It's alright, I'll talk to them before the training." Levi squeezed my waist for the last time. "Get back inside. Don't walk past Erwin's gate too close, he set up new movement detectors last night. You'll get fucking blasted away. I told him the bulbs are too bright, but he's not listening, obviously."

"Is that why you pushed me earlier?" I asked.

"Yes. Go."

I kissed him, pretty deeply, might I add, and walked backwards, to the direction of my house. I know I'm still too weak to spend more time alone, by myself, so I've got to brace myself for this big night I'm sure expected to be filled with dreamy confessions and ethereal thoughts.

When passing Erwin's gate, I tried to walk more on the asphalt. Levi got in his car, so I assumed it's safe to turn around and walk like a proper person by then. I heard him get the engine running right by the time I dragged myself up my porch.

The last sad, scripted look over my shoulder, and I went inside.

Closed the door.

Everything was silent. Levi abruptly slammed the pedal and it murdered my ears. Then it got silent again.

I plunged in the kitchen for something edible before my thoughtful evening. Fuck, I'll have to tidy my room up. No way I'm letting it stay like this.

I took a box of cereal (this gets me sickeningly allergic) and got back upstairs, still drowsy from what just happened. My lips were still sore from the kissing.

God, everything felt ecstatic and I felt like going through four existential crises at the same time.

My room's a mess. Wow. I don't get how I let Levi see this before.

Jeez, now I'm embarrassed.

So I dropped any other thoughts and left them for later, focusing on getting the place clean. Had a plan to tidy it up and leave the door open while I'm thinking about Levi with a meditative purpose, so the ladies see I'm alright and alive when they arrive.

I began with the dishes. All plates and glasses went downstairs, and I packed the dishwasher to leave as much place as I could.

I ate shit all week. Mom and Mikasa weren't home that often; they mostly ate out, so I was the only one taking care of the fridge contents. On first day it was cool. I emptied the pack of French fries that's been in our freezer since the last mammoth. Gradually it turned worse. For example, I ate canned beans yesterday. And pickles. There wasn't anything else to eat.

I did assume my week-long depression flooded from Mikasa to Jean, and from Jean to the team, since I got more calls and messages than I have ever through my entire lifetime. I read them all at first, on the first two days, but only Levi's in the end. Levi wasn't too expressive through messages. He sent me a few nice, polite questions. A few death threats, but it's normal.

I know they're all blaming me for not coming to trainings right before the Regional games.

If we win the Regionals, we're going to Berlin again. Regionals happen by the end of August. Now's the start of August. Berlin games happen in the first dates of November, and last a week. Same schedule every year. I know this from experience. I've been goaling for three years.

Continued cleaning my room. I dumped all clothes in the tray, didn't care if clean or dirty, and carried it downstairs. Then came the general object sorting. I pulled up the blinds. Cleaned my bathroom. Vacuumed the floor.

I felt a little bummed knowing I won't get an entire evening of making out every day. Felt like texting Levi. Christ, I'll text him every day from now on. He's like a boyfriend, isn't he.

My stomach twisted by the thought, and I found myself grinning.

I was nearly done with my floor and there's three sudden knocks on my left. I looked up.

Both mom and Mikasa gaped at me.

Oh, they're probably shocked.

Flicked off the machine. "Hey."

"Are you alright?" Mikasa asked. Then pointed at the vacuum cleaner. "Are you alright?"

"Better than ever."

They both still stared. Mikasa's slack hand fell back down to her side. Mom put hers on her own shoulders.

I smiled and left to the bathroom.

Two hours later you can view me laying in my bed in my boxers. It's nearly past midnight, I'm hot and hungry, and I can't stop fishing bits of cereal out of the box.

Man, I'd have to face some problems.

Coming out with a girlfriend would be easier than coming out with a boyfriend.

Coming out with a girlfriend would be easier than coming out with your soccer coach.

I pondered about my sexual life for a longer while. Wondered how long it would take for me and Levi to step over the God-tier and have sex. Not just sex, anything above the norms. Anything that could get my mom embarrassed if I asked about it.

I wonder if he's thought about it, too.

I can't stop thinking about it now. Has he ever been with a virgin? Oh my god. I'm a virgin, it's fucking hilarious. Are we just not the best match? A virgin and a porn star.

Man.

This rumor you always lose your shit in college...yeah. It's not a rumor. I'm pretty sure it's real.

I fell asleep thinking about it, with a few bits of cereal on my stomach.


Getting back in order was amazing. I felt better going back outside than withering in front of a bowl of cooked rice and eggs, bad porn and toilet paper.

Jean was both happy and disappointed. Since he replaced me at work, he got to spend more time with Mikasa. Now he won't. The rest of the team seemed to appreciate my comeback a lot more. It touched me so deeply I called everyone to 7-Eleven and bought them melon cream soda.

All trainings grew insane. Levi worked us like military dogs every single day. I often found myself falling asleep by eleven, which isn't the usual two AM. As promised, he didn't have mercy on me; and after all, I'd skipped a fucking week.

He did a very good job with handling our promise.

Now I got driven home after every training, which was exclusive, even for our situation.

Levi and I were too busy to spend time together. The only free days were either Saturdays or Sundays; it depends on how good or bad we did at trainings. We couldn't really plan anything in the future due to that. Sometimes he got the Saturdays empty on purpose so we could hang out somewhere for a few hours. Sometimes he strictly kept our rule and didn't let relationship affect business.

Again, he's good at drawing lines.

But now there were two problems that lurked in my mind more and more lately. Those would be:

1. Nile, who happens to be in our way more than usual.

2. Levi's second job.

Like, let's be real.

Let's not be delusional for one fucking second.

Both of them are intertwined so tightly it's almost a single problem.

I can't imagine my relationship with Levi if he's still active in the industry, it's unrealistic. I understand it's just physical, but I couldn't deal with it. So one evening, I figured we could bring this up.

We were done with the training (it was more to exhaust us than a physical build-up and killed my left leg). I didn't eat breakfast that day and had a fucking shitty day at work. I also got a red card from Levi for kicking Connie. Felt super bad that day.

Despite warming the bench for the last fifteen minutes of the training, I didn't feel any better. Levi was visibly more rough with everyone on the field once I was gone and barked at them twice as much as he barked at me on a normal daily basis. This couldn't be taken as injustice to our rule of "drawing lines", since Levi wasn't in a great mood that day, either.

I know he's pissed about the same thing. Us not having the spare time we used to have.

I missed that between us. Spending time together, romantic sense or not.

Once they were done stretching, I apologized to Connie. Shortly after, the field cleared, and I was left alone with Levi.

A bit past nine, maybe, something around that. It wasn't dark, the stadium had the lights on. I helped him clean the field every night, get the cones, balls, fishnet tank tops and anything we used at the given training, and load the back of his car.

Now I spent two minutes kicking a cone as hard as I could. Levi just stood aside and watched me steam off.

"Are you okay?" He called. "I'll need that cone."

I stared at it for a while, then marched off to get it.

"I'm alright, just surprisingly full of anger!" I yelled back. "I haven't eaten anything and everyone's pissing me off."

"Let's go to the car."

I got the rest of the cones, took my bag, and followed Levi. Threw all the junk inside and slammed the trunk close. Not too hard, though. I felt like he'd get mad at me for expressing anger on his car.

Slipped in the passengers seat, progressively calming myself down. Being this mad about life meant I had hormonal issues, but it all makes sense when you think about it. You get something good, you'll need to balance it out with something bad. Black and white, yin and yang.

"I have a plan for tonight," Levi spoke up.

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. Since it's a Friday and you all worked additional time, the Saturday is free."

I slid down in my seat. "Spit."

"I'll drive you home. While you're taking a shower, I'll head over to Erwin's. When you're done, we both go to my condo. I have a short meeting on the first floor." He gave me a meaningful look.

I nodded.

"After that, we can drive somewhere. Maybe the shore. We can sleep in the car. Or not sleep in the car, I can drive you back home."

It took me a while to evaluate how exclusive this was. Then I realized he was aiming on actually spending the Saturday with me.

It warmed my stomach, out of all areas.

"Sure," I said. "I was ready to complain we weren't getting enough time alone, but here you come."

"I'm great, I know."

"Sweet. I'm tired as fuck."

"You did good today," he said.

I looked down. "I got a red card. If I'll get red cards in Regional games, you can also cancel the flight to Berlin and make me a part-time janitor."

"You mixed personal issues with business," he said it like an existential rule. "If you don't let that happen in Regionals, we'll win."

"Let's go, I'm sweating."

Levi placed a hand on my shoulder. "You know what I'm talking about, don't you?"

"Yeah."

"Good." He let go of me.

I sighed very loudly.

Once he got the car running and steered us out of the parking lot, I had to get out and run to the booth. It had an electricity box for the lights I switched off, and the keys for the sports hall. Then we drove back to school and had to lock the back exit, that also I did.

So when I got back in the car after all this running back and forth, and Levi made it to the main road, I finally got his hand on my thigh combined with a concerned look.

I figured he was back to his regular self.

"Something wrong?" He asked. "We can talk about it."

"I didn't eat breakfast."

"That's it?"

I paused.

"Yeah. Yeah, that's mainly it. That, and the time spent with you these past weeks."

"I'm not satisfied," Levi admitted.

"I'm not satisfied, either. We used to hang out every day, eight hours as minimum. Now it's a block of hours with you screaming at me at every step I take."

"It might change after the upcoming games," he said, voice full of hope. The grip on my leg got a little tighter, and I positively vibrated. "We're staying at Pacific during Regionals. Again. I can book us a single room, if it makes any change."

"Spicy."

"Shut it. We'll see what happens after the games. If we win, I'm mixing up our schedule for efficiency in Berlin. If we lose, we can fall back to the previous one. The "eight hours as minimum" schedule, I mean."

I grinned. "You're baiting me to suck at Regionals."

"That wasn't my intent. I'm just letting you understand the situation."

"I miss getting shitfaced."

"Me too. If everything goes well, we can squeeze in a celebration at the hotel. Make a little get-together, you know?" Levi drew his hand back to the wheel. "Would be nice. For the team, and... For us both."

I didn't reply, just looked out the window and hid my smile.

We drove in silence for a while. Once I sat back up straight and peeked over at Levi, something nudged my self-conscience.

"Are you okay?" I asked, a little sharper than intended. "You seemed pretty off before. Now you just look...depressed."

"I'm starting to have problems at work," he said. Just like that, loosely and indirectly, left it open for my curious self. He wanted me asking questions.

"Which job and what problems?"

"The job that isn't coaching. I'm inactive and it's getting them bad rates. I'm denying all offers from other companies. They think I'm unresponsive because I don't like the themes lately, but it's not that."

He stopped at a red light and dragged a hand over his face.

"I haven't filmed for two and a half months."

Jeez.

My jaw dropped. "No way. It's been that long?"

"Yes. Now my rates are dropping along with their rates and shit companies are asking me to work for advertisements and short clips. English-speaking Asians are what's in right now, everybody suddenly needs that. It's so...depressing. I always knew pornography sexualized everything, but I didn't really have to do anything with it back then. Now, counting as a "high class" that's dropping to a lower level..." Levi's voice faded. "I don't know."

"Why'd you stop being active?"

He looked at me like I was the utmost imbecile.

"Why did I stop being active?" Levi echoed, turning back to the road. "Eren, you should understand, you out of everyone. I'm finally developing a stable relationship and it's distracting and surprisingly disgusting to have sex with a person that isn't you."

He stared outside for a while.

"But we've never had sex," I mentioned.

"It's not happening any soon, either."

That was a huge disappointment, so I shot back something just as rude, in defense.

"You said you're a professional, right? Know what else you said? You said it's wrong to mix private life with business. Take a look at this: I'm your private life, and porn is your business, so we have a few options." I raised my hand for a countdown. "One, I'll fuck off before it's too late. Two, you get the fuck out of there, stay with me, and don't think about it anymore."

We spent a while in silence again. I let him stomach what I just said. Frankly, I was surprised for being this "wise". I care about him and the shit he does, and as open as I may be, him fucking around with tons of other people phases me like nothing else.

"I don't want to go back," he said. "I like being with you."

Fuck, yeah, that's what I meant.

I let my head fall on my shoulder and closed my eyes from the sweet haze his words brought upon. "I like being with you, too, but you need to make up your mind. I might look like I wouldn't care if you nailed three guys every day, but I would."

"Touching."

"I'm serious."

"Eren, I'll figure it out. I know I can't make you wait, and I'm not going to shit myself over this, either," he murmured. "I like you. I know you're worth it. I'll talk about it with my manager this same evening."

"What if I'm not worth it?"

"I've craved to leave that place for years."

I didn't talk up until Christa's old house.

"I'll make myself some dinner before we head out," I said. "Fucking hungry as hell. You'll eat something at Erwin's, right?"

"We'll drop by the gas station later." Levi tapped the salon. "She's out of fuel. I'll buy something there."

"Sure."

We rolled by my house a few minutes later. I ran inside to take a shower, change clothes, and drop my bag. Nobody was home, as usual, so I didn't bother with privacy.

Right after that, I went downstairs and checked my fridge. Ended up throwing together a shitty dish of mac and cheese (with fucking shredded cheddar and curry, dude! Fuck!) and shoveling it down my throat during the short news roll on TV. Later on I took two cans of leftover soda, scribbled a short note for mom saying I shouldn't be home until tomorrow afternoon, and popped out the house.

Shit, I should remind Levi I've got work tomorrow. Maybe he made post-work plans. Would be nice.

I locked the door, tweaked and stretched to get the pants more comfortable, and sent Levi a text message. Then called and waited for the first three signals.

We ended up being at his car at practically the same time.

Once he got in the driver's seat, I earned his most loving looks and began melting in my cushion. Levi seemed to like me more when I'm right out the shower. He just liked that. He had weird tendencies.

I had my feet on the salon by the time we were at the condo. I let him go inside without saying anything.

His car had the seat warmers on, the radio played pretty okay music, and I wondered what's the angina limit for Levi's AC.

Everything outside was beautiful. Street lights, rushing cars. This place gave a perfect view on the big highway since it was a straight turn from it. The road looked like a panorama film from here. The narrow driveway to this place was surrounded in condo buildings and they worked as frames on each side.

I'd never seen anything as cool as that.

Yeah, now I'm wondering if Levi really hates living here. I know he might hate working, but the place is really pretty. I'd kill to see this every night. Bet the mornings are stunning, too. That's why he's carrying such a good aura. Look at the place he's living in.

I closed my eyes.

Fuck me if Levi's leaving just because of us. It's an insane amount of money he's wasting. I don't know if I'd exchange my financial well-being with a boyfriend. I mean, if it's Levi, I probably would, but it doesn't even stand a chance with anyone else. Jesus, what's this idea, anyways? Like I'm ever getting anyone as close to a boyfriend as him.

Speaking of which, his abrupt return and loud door closing made me jump. I straightened back up in my seat and took my feet off the salon, in case it helped.

He leaned on the wheel, forearms crossed, chin resting on them.

I let it stay silent so he's the one to start talking.

Levi started up the car. After the first beeps, he fell back in the seat again, and looked outside his own window.

"What a fucking blast," he said.

"Do you have to go somewhere?"

"No."

"What happened?" I asked.

He looked at me and I suddenly felt stupid for asking.

"Where do you want to go?" Levi changed the subject.

"Oh. Umm. You said something about the shore. We could go to the shore, or... Just somewhere nice. Maybe the bridge, park the car there."

"Over the channel?"

"Yeah."

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "Alright."

I suggested the bridge since the sunrise was worth all my fucks, the sailing traffic underneath was cool, plus cops look pretty dumb in the water, unless they're chasing you with big boats and whatnot. I've had my brief gameplay on Grand Theft Auto.

Also it's just the major switch in Levi's mood. I hate when he's mad at something that's not me. If it's me, I know the reason, at least.

The ride to the bridge took ten minutes from Levi's condo. Takes around twenty-five from my house. The road's dark, only lights being from other cars and the town we distanced from and the town we closed in to. Levi's salon was rich in neon and bright lines. Accompanied by the music in the background, I couldn't really say there was anything to add.

"Do you normally just live in the condo?" I asked. "I thought porn stars have big apartments. Like, on their own. Pools, big yards, lots of windows. Uselessly huge TV sets. A bath with golden claws. Things like that."

"It's overrated," he whispered. I was surprised he even answered. "Most porn stars express their wit this way. I have a house like that, asides from the condo, but I don't live there. It's funded by my company for God knows how long. The pool's empty, but there's still someone keeping the yard up."

"You have a house?"

"Yes."

So many mysterious ideas in my mind I wasn't exactly sure which one to start with.

"I want to see it."

"One day," Levi said. "It's not in good condition."

"Does it have everything I said?" I asked. "A royal bath? Tiled floors?"

He was smiling and tried to hide it. "The floor's only tiled in the kitchen square and all bathrooms. Everything else is parquet."

"All bathrooms? How many?"

"Four."

"Holy shit! What's the parameters?"

"It's big."

"How big?"

"Eren, it's a large house. I avoid living there for a reason," he said. "The rent is too much and it's physically impossible to do all house chores by yourself, in case you do agree with paying up. To afford this, you've got to be either a director, producer, or work every day. Plus the gardeners in New Jersey have their expectations set in space."

"I want to be your gardener now," I dreamily said.

"I doubt you'd do any good."

We parked on the bridge a few minutes later and did alterations to the car.

Levi pushed the front seats closer to the salon, freeing space in the back. I cleaned the back seats out from Levi's documents, game schedules, time tables, letters and his bag, and packed it all in the trunk along with our training equipment.

I fixed the front seats a bit more, he got inside. After I was done, I did, too. With my two soda cans and a great mood.

A while later he's sprawled in the back seat and I'm lying on his stomach, between his warm legs. They're rock solid, though, so it's not too comfortable. At least my head's in a great place. Both windows closer to the water's side were open. Levi parked the car so we could see the sun if we stayed up long enough. I'm way too tired for it, but I might manage.

The air felt fresh to breathe. Everything smelled like seaweed and fish.

"You didn't tell me what happened." I let the subject surface. "I'm a little worried."

"Back there?"

"Yeah."

"I'm finally leaving, once and for all. I've left this business many times, but it gets you sucked right back in. It's hard. I want to leave for the sake of us two, but being a porn star is an insanely well-paid job."

I'm bummed.

"You don't need to decide tonight."

"I have to decide and have my answer on Monday. I'll have to sign up for everything they give me if I stay since I've dropped this low. If I'm actually leaving, that's it. There's no compromise so far," Levi said. " I thought I could figure something out with Keith, but it's just Nile spending his free time there. Keith is out on-set."

"Where's the problem, though?"

"In what?"

"You leaving," I explained. "Or whatever you're trying to do. Can't you just...ditch it?"

"I like working with sex. With this...absolute intimacy."

"Oh, god, here it goes."

"What, Eren? Each of us has an undying passion for something. I'm actually extremely keen on capturing emotions and feelings, any kinds of. See, and there's a detail. I love erotica, not pornography. Always wished to be a cinematographer, but I never really had a chance."

I looked up at him to check if he's not kidding.

No, by the looks of it, he's not.

"Jeez," I murmured. "Erotica."

"I took photography and video classes after school when I was sixteen. My instructor liked my work. Said it's distinctive. I never did anything in addition."

We drank our sodas in silence.

"Sorry," Levi suddenly mentioned. "My image is probably ruined now."

I poked his inner thigh. "Come on, I'm also soft on the inside. You're leaving, though, aren't you?"

He moved underneath me. I took it as a "maybe".

"Look, it's not my right to decide, okay? It's your job and your hobby, but you need to think about it. Weigh out what it benefits and what it takes away. Reach for the best, I guess. I don't want to see you in a mood like this every day," I said.

"You don't have to be my psychologist."

I slid my fingers up his wrist, to his neck, and cupped my hand around the nape.

"Who gives a fuck? You need to have stable ground about how much I mean to you. We haven't gotten anywhere far yet. If you do decide staying in the industry would be better for you, I'd understand. It wouldn't be hard to draw a few more lines and stay in friend terms like we're used to do. I'm alright with you choosing your passion over something as boring as me."

"You're not boring," he said. "Come on."

"What then? Bright and textured? The coolest?"

"Blackmail." Levi caught my fingers.

I rolled on my side, slotted my hip between his legs, and tried to look angry. It didn't work.

"Just know what you're doing," I said.

"You're squeezing my balls."

I purposefully leaned up to kiss his jaw. Levi took my face in his hands and kissed me, instead.

We fell asleep right after sunrise and a few more conversations about future plans. I don't like talking about the future. You never know what happens next. You can't promise anything long lasting. You can't plan anything.

But it feels more secure thinking about it with Levi.


The night from Friday to Saturday wasn't bad. Got dropped off at work right on time. He promised to pick me right after my shift and head to the beach later.

We stopped by my house to grab swimming trunks and a towel.

Spending two nights by saltwater can't get better. Everything smells like seaweed, like sand and summer. Monotonous waves hit the concrete parking platform, and at points, the wind grew stronger. Everything splattered on the front window. It's a super windy day.

After swimming and getting killed by Cali worth circumference waves, you can't be full of energy. If you've been fueled through a full shift by cereal and a few cans of soda, you're tired as fuck by the evening. So, you...you start relaxing. You're in the back of someone's car, there's a lot of space, and it's comfortable, except for your skin sticking to the beige leather.

I felt good.

The water in the ocean was slightly colder than the water that first comes when I get my shower running. It's obvious autumn's coming, and there weren't any people on this part of the beach. Due to the wind, we only noticed around four old swimmers and a few kite surfers.

Jeez, it's the first time I actually saw Levi shirtless. I didn't dare peeking while he changed.

I'm pretty sure he peeked, though. :^)

We kept falling asleep on each other by the end of the evening. These silent promises of waiting for the sunrise again, some senseless murmurs about sand in pants. I had sand in my shorts. It kept scratching my thigh during the night.

Waiting for the sunrise meant staying up for three more hours. Levi knocked out in the next fifteen minutes. He's got this bad habit of "yeah, no, I'm not sleeping" and falling asleep in the following ten minute frame. I watched him sleep for a while, and then gave up.

Something about this is nostalgic. Like all movies. Everybody thinks it only happens in the fucking movies, but it's true as fuck. Once you meet the one you connect with, you don't think it's an ugly cliché. You think you're special, you think they're special, nothing's an overplayed record. Everything's suddenly happening for the first time.

You've fallen.

Absolutely.

I know I have.

A week later, it's a Friday again.

The weather became more rough as September slowly closed in. It was storming the entire week. Many trainings were canceled because of rain, and I knew I shouldn't be celebrating, but this much free time with Levi was cool as fuck.

Until he figured out we can just as well train in the sports hall.

Kissing during a thunderstorm... In his condo. Wow, guys, it's...there's something to it.

He looked more tired than usual this week. Missed a few minutes of our trainings and got mad at himself. So when he drove me home, when he pulled over, I kissed him, his neck, a bit down his chest. He relaxed. And it went around. Every night. Levi's incredibly moody, I never knew that before.

By the end of the week, we set up a small dinner date over at his place.

Sushi and chill.

I bought white wine without Levi knowing.

Our "sushi and chill" ended up with Levi throwing his leg over both mine and sliding straight on my fucking lap.

Levi dropped me off at my house an hour later.

I don't know, I'm pretty euphoric. I felt like I could sit and smile for fucking hours, I can't put this in words, I can't replace this with metaphors and quotes and scene cutouts. You can't put out emotions on anything, you just own them and memorize them. You're the only owner of that. You can try and make someone else feel the same, but you can't be sure they will, and that's a little, you know, ouch?

I'm getting my teenage year hormones.

I'm...whoa. Going through a nice phase.

Really unasked for, but my phone rang. Levi's the only caller I wouldn't get mad at for interrupting me at something like this. "This" being, uh... Sitting in bed with my face in my hands.

I picked up. "Hello. It's been practically five minutes."

"Eren, I left."

It felt like a literal smash in my scalp.

"You did?" I almost screamed and got off the bed. "What the fuck? Weren't you supposed to decide on Monday? What the fuck, can you come over?"

"I thought Carla's home. And I don't really want to run on Mikasa. We're in good terms, it's just a little odd to date her friend."

"Nobody's home! I'll protect you. I've got fresh backup. Printed out our last year plans. We can tell them we're writing down strategies." Then I hesitated. "And you can, like. Stay the night."

I guess my voice was way too hopeful on continuing what we did back at his place, because his tone changed.

"No," Levi said.

"Why?"

"Don't bargain, I'm not staying. I'll be there for a few hours, okay?"

I stood silent.

"I'll stay one day, just not tonight."

"If you don't stay, I'll tell Nile."

"Blackmail."

"I'll tell him."

"Do so," he perked up. "I'm just wondering what shit you'd tell him."

I grinned. "I'll be upstairs. Knock before you come in."


"I have to wear the uniform?"

"Yeah. Nile said we're making replicas of last year's photos. Like the ones in the hallway to the lobby? Yeah. He said it'd look fucking sweet. Then he changed his mind and said we'd just need pictures in our new uniforms. Fuck... Christ. All in uniforms, all neat and cut. He got me really cut. My gains are seven pounds."

"You mean the lobby hallway pictures? The framed ones? Where I'm seventeen?"

"Tie-dye," Jean simply said, but everyone and their mother knows what "tie-dye" means.

"Sweet fucking Lord, Jean."

He's laughing now. Jean knows I wasn't holding my shit style when I was seventeen. I dressed like an idiot before we became friends. Was that why Nile wanted us all to just have uniforms and not be too embarrassing with knee-high tie-dye socks and rolled up jeans?

"Marco's dressing like you did three years ago," I heard Jean say. "He's got a few of your old Facebook photos saved on his computer."

"Fuck Marco," I said.

"He's a shitrag."

"I thought you're best friends." I zipped my suitcase open and turned it upside down to get out the sand from previous trips. I knew I could imitate Marco's stupid voice at any time of the day, so I looked up and pressed my nose close.

"Jean, sex is so cool. I'm a virgin, but sex is so cool. I've never done anything cooler than sex. I have sex with women every day."

"He doesn't say anything like that."

"He does. Whatever, cool, so he is your best friend."

"Fuck you, Tyler."

"Jesus, motherfucking Theresa!"

"I know the whole verse."

"Fuck off and help me pack, Jean."

He pulled my two upper drawers open and threw everything I might need; underwear, socks (uniform and regular ones), a few tight tank tops and a few t-shirts from a lower drawer.

Then he went over to my closet and threw two pairs of jeans, infrared thermo leggings (for morning runs before the games; Levi said mornings can get cold), a sweatshirt and three hoodies. A beanie. Two belts. One button-up. Sweatpants.

I'm just staring at this pile of clothes I'll never fucking wear. Regionals last only a week. This looked more like the baggage I'd take to Berlin.

"I don't need this much," I said. "I could go with socks, jeans, and a t-shirt."

"Exactly. That's what you'll wear in the bus," Jean called back, still raiding my closet. "I'll have my black HUFs."

"Pack my green ones. Let's wreck Pacific's local sex appeal radar."

"Nile might kill you. He hates our flashy sense of style. By the way, I drew together some information and concluded he's coming along. No idea why, but Levi said he's not coaching our game with Armin's school. He won't be on the field on Thursday. Hitch told me their team is really good."

"I'm taking Baker with me. What's up with Levi? You still talk to Hitch?"

Jean stepped aside the door. His face felt strange.

"It's actually because of you. We have papers that say you technically...can't play. Remember your leg? You broke it above the joint. Nile found out and joked you should've given up on sports after the first injury. Connie told him he's too weak to be a coach."

"I'm guessing he smashed Connie's face in."

"Pretty much. Connie got fifteen divided reps. But Levi's trying to get papers that say you can play. I assume that's why he's skipping that one day. I guess they don't give a fuck about the Regional games, but it seems really tight with Berlin."

I shrugged. "I can play with both my legs broken and still win. What's up with this? The injury's old. It's fucking stupid he's doing this now. Any other time would be better."

But he's doing it now because now he's worried about me, and that's so cute my ass could start bleeding.

"Pack your clothes, Eren. We're leaving in thirty minutes."

"So, where's the party at? Ranch, your place, where?"

He walked out of my closet, over to my bed, and dumped down a pile of clothes I didn't think I still had. The yellow t-shirt on top wouldn't fit my wide chest even a year ago, and I can't understand why the fuck I still own it if I never even wore it.

Jean's right about getting cut. Nile did everything for the sake of our gains. We really built up mass. The physical trainings were actually good change being different from Levi's regular schedule; Nile was necessary for personal agility and some sort of self-respect.

Jean wasn't as lean anymore. He'd gotten wider and facially more mature after the torturing months.

I had to fill my suitcase with clothes Jean told me to bring along. They were all ugly and too skater-esque for a soccer tournament forty minutes away from home. Fuck, why am I packing at all, if home's this close?

Ended up with a semi-empty backpack and my skate strapped to it.

So there's this thing, this party, sort of.

A few boys from our team got giddy about the idea we spend this night at Jean's ranch. Someone disapproved and asked if we can't just set the same thing up in Jean's living room, in his house, since it's closer and has three indoor toilets instead of two.

He was already involuntarily talked into moving the party to his place, but I slapped the back of his head and asked if it's really worth skipping traditions. We celebrate at Jean's ranch every time. So, Jean decided we're doing this at the ranch in the end, obviously, due to my enormous power of convincing people.

We had packs of OJ and a fuckton of food; everything you need to have your perfect Friday get-together.

Except girls aren't allowed, and the same goes with alcohol.

I won't define it as a party. Nobody was using anything. No drugs, no cigarettes, not even Slims or electronics, no alcohol, just OJ, light food and movies on the projector. We can't use anything before and during the games. We can't even have sex, masturbate, or physically do anything for our hormones to climb up.

I call these "The Black Days".

The ranch wasn't technologically falling back at all. This house we were all at was Jean's aunt's. It's two-story house, has two bathrooms. Painted in a mustard color. Open WiFi. My phone had the strongest signal.

Any sort of light form was blinding; everything seemed louder than usual, and every single detail floated in the air, pretty temporary. Nothing looked too certain, nothing looked too logic. I embraced the familiar numbness of the mind and let the night take me with it.

Jean's huge house left us with a lot of perks.

First and main of all, music.

We could blast it on his stereo system, we could connect every speaker he had and not fear anything or anyone. The ranch didn't have neighbors in the nearest fifteen kilometer radius. Nobody would hear us scream at each other for fighting over the last hot dog, nobody would hear us laughing at Connie breaking something in the hall and staring at it for five minutes without moving.

Nobody would hear Jean theatrically cry and look down at his phone like he'd be waiting for something, and then actually getting a little sadder.

No girls allowed? I had the gut feeling he's starving for his girl.

Can't say we were nervous. It wasn't fear or worry, just the overwhelming feeling of life in our bloodstream at the thought of the field the next day. We all craved the sunlight, the spectator buzz, people watching and judging. We had to sleep. I had to sleep, but I knew damn well a good half of us wouldn't sleep tonight.

Almost all lights were turned off now. We only accept the fresh air coming from the open windows and the sound buzzing from the projector's speakers of Jean's aunt's living room.

I ended up alone in the couch, in the back of the room, the one close to the bay window, open. It offered me fresh, chilly air. I had a perfect view on the projected movie, had the snack table on my right, a pack of juice in my lap, and the strongest WiFi connection in this entire household.

I let the guys talk and laugh and share memories while they barely watched the movie on the screen (it took twenty minutes for them to choose it; what the fuck), and I allowed myself to take this free space for my own thoughts. A lot of space was necessary. I had to breathe, I had to feel the night, I had to imagine dark, green, soft water. It's always alright after that. It's that dark, green ocean water.

It's me staring at my fingers through the minty filter, the light breaking through.

At the beach, with Levi.

Thought about mom, about Mikasa. About my irresponsible dad. About the last months, and the next to come, and those to follow.

I thought about Levi, eventually. I chiefly thought about him. I ended up looking at my phone the same way Jean was looking at his own, both losing ourselves in this...rough dilemma of affection. I tried to avoid it tonight.

Unlocked my screen in the end, went to my contact list and scrolled until Levi's "Coach" name appeared. Then I closed my Contacts, opened my Recents, pressed on Favorites, and watched his, Jean's and mom's number list down. I stared.

He needs sleep, too. Plus he wouldn't like the idea of us awake here before the first day. We're considered being the "big" boys, but he's our coach, and he wants us to win these games.

Check me out, I'm super selfish.

I looked at Jean. He sat silent in the middle of the entire group. I assumed he was thinking about the same thing, since he caught my stare and I looked away incredibly quickly. I don't want him seeing me in this state. Sensitive, overwhelmed by emotions. Like he's still not matured from some aspects. And now it's seeping through his face every time Mikasa is mentioned.

I pressed my thumb on Levi's icon.

[01:47:53, Monday] Eren: You awake?

I locked my phone and looked outside.

The sky right now is my personal carpet of dust, it's spilled sugar, spilled... I don't know. What's equivalent to this blue tone, the water I think of to calm down? The water's usually green...

I feel tired in my head, so I closed my eyes and rested against the couch. Kept nodding as my consciousness logged off.

My phone vibrated. I stopped breathing.

Eyes still closed, I reached down to my lap to get the pack of juice and screwed it open. Then I sat and drank to recover. I opened my eyes only to screw it close.

My phone's screen was dark again. Unlocked it, opened the messages with Levi. I couldn't stop the physical excitement rushing through my body like every goddamn time I was doing something private and intimate.

[01:48:32, Monday] Coach: Guess.

I smiled a little. It's enough. He sent another text soon after that.

[01:49:02, Monday] Coach: I can't sleep. You?

My teeth sank in my lower lip, and I looked up.

[01:49:59, Monday] Eren: I think I'm falling in love

[01:50:13, Monday] Eren: I most definitely am

[01:50:32, Monday] Eren: God

[01:52:33, Monday] Coach: Want me to call you?

[01:53:01, Monday] Eren: The room's full of people. It would bring so much attention.

[01:53:20, Monday] Coach: :/ :*

[01:53:50, Monday] Eren: I just wish I could tell you how much I like you

[01:54:08, Monday] Eren: Right now, up close

[01:54:29, Monday] Eren: Kissing you feels so great.

The next thing I feel is my phone vibrating and a picture from a tournament two years ago. I picked up.

"I'm going to be silent," I warned.

"Christ, I adore you," he almost wheezed out.

"Oh my god. Shit."

"What?"

"I don't know. You just recited lyrics from one of my favorite songs. I missed you. Still do."

"Eren, you're too far for that right now."

"I can take someone's car," I said. "I'll find your place, eventually. It's down Glenwood Avenue."

"You'll meet me tomorrow. "

"Nice," I whispered, and sunk deeper in the couch."I like you."

"I like you, too."

I raised my fist in front of me and watched it tremble. Then I pressed it tighter and let it fall back down.

I'm super lovestruck.

"I wouldn't mind making out with you right now," I murmured, though a little louder than I meant to.

Someone from the other side of the room wooed.

"That was cute," Levi commented.

"What, me? Or them hearing my little perversions?"

"Both."

"I can't wait to see you again."

"You'll be surprised about some things when we arrive." The note of his voice changed. "I'm going to bed, Eren. Rest."

"Sure, yeah, I... Goodnight."I bit my knuckle to not say anything more than a "goodnight" and dropped the call.

Yeah, sure. Here's to sleeping tonight.

I can probably sleep in the bus.


I had a few hours to snooze through. Half of the time was spent thinking, then I fell asleep. Woke up by six AM and raided Jean's fridge for my specific gluten-free food.

His aunt's food is gross as hell, but it's the healthy sort we, athletes, have to pack.

So I ate breakfast as everyone was getting up. Jean didn't comb his hair and let his hair fall in several directions. I don't remember what and I did with mine. My hair keeps growing and I don't get it cut. Now it's right at my shoulders, like a centimeter past, maybe. In two weeks, my mane will flow over my shoulders and I'll either have to cut it, or tie it up.

Looked like Jean was the only one who slept well.

Everyone came to the kitchen packed and dressed, so we only had to get the place a little tidier and carry the baggage outside. Levi said the bus was expected somewhere around seven, so we went outside at fifty-eight past six and froze off everything hanging.

"Motherfucker," Jean said. I watched his breath linger in front. "It's cold."

"Yeah, no shit. Autumn's coming."

"I thought this kind of weather only comes by the end of September."

"By the end of September this dewy grass is going to be frozen," I reminded. "Then it's cold."

He jumped to warm up.

I felt Jean step closer to my side and push his hands in his pockets. My elbow brushed against his side. I poked it, and he lowered his head closer to mine.

"What happened last night?" I asked. "You still don't look good."

"I still don't know what I'm doing," Jean said, after a while of swinging on his feet. "I don't know what the fuck is going on. I'm Sam, she's Salem, and I'm crazy about her."

Yeah, I guessed right. It's always Mikasa.

"Calm down. Is she coming to the games?"

"Is she coming?" He echoed. "I didn't ask. You're the one she's living with, you could've told her."

"She doesn't know she's invited."

"Invite her?"

I slapped the back of his head. "Fuck off! She's your girlfriend, not mine. Hey, look. The bus. Back seats?"

Our transport stopped a few meters ahead of us. They had to drag their suitcases to it. The front doors opened with a science fiction extraction sound, and I noticed small bits of black shoes. Then, a swinging triangle of a jacket, and in the end, this incredibly good-looking boyfriend.

Of mine.

:^) Cheesy, ain't it? He looks so good in the mornings. I didn't notice I'm walking forwards until I pushed on someone from the team. Apologized, and continued moving without letting my eyes fail me on savoring every second.

I stopped right before Levi and looked up. He's still standing on the tiny steps of the bus, so he's at least forty to fifty centimeters taller than me now.

"Nice weather," I said.

"Hi," he said.

I could tackle him down right now, fuck, you watch me, I could do that.

"Hi. Do I look good?"

He observed me for a while, then reached out. I panicked. It looked he's going to go for it and lean down, and we're just going to make out in front of my entire team and Nile somewhere inside the bus. To my disappointment, he just took a big bunch of my hair and pulled it up.

My forehead was revealed and I raised an angry eyebrow.

Levi smiled. "Yes."

"My socks look stupid."

"Jean dressed you. I'm feeling it."

"How?"

A little shoulder lift. "I don't know. Maybe it's because you look exactly like him."

I let that pass. "When do we have to be there?"

"Around eight. Booking, everything. Getting settled. Then we have to shoot a few pictures for the newspaper. Followed up by a few hours of training. You get dinner and two hours of free time after that, and then's the first game. Eight games together. There's two more schools now."

"Fuck."

"Mhm."

I still kept my eyes on him. We stared at each other until he cleared his throat and jumped out the bus. I felt safer with his aura shrinking along our height difference.

Levi went to the boys packing their shit in the bus, and I followed right after. Something about his general appearance that day made me shiver in all different sensations.

After Levi gave directions on how stupid they're all packing, I helped them pack the suitcases right. Then I sneaked to the back of the crowd and waited for everyone to get in. By the last two people, I looked over my shoulder and caught Levi being hilariously close.

I fought some unruly instincts to kiss him. I swear I regret promising we're not mixing relationships with business.

What does this tell about me?

"Too close," I murmured.

"I know, yeah."

I stopped my slow walking and leaned against the bus. "When..."

"Soon, I promise."

He walked over to the front entrance, and I had to get in alone.

Levi's hanging sentence left me wondering.

Jean had a reserved seat for me. Appreciated. I didn't put my backpack under the bus, so it took a half of my seat and I packed it under my legs after seven minutes of loud complaining.

I had my earphones in for the whole ride. I craved that.

Levi's profile made my stomach burn with high flame. He's unbearably attractive from all aspects. Listening to Kanye's Hell Of A Life with my hands in my pockets and legs spread pretty loosely in front, I got fucking horny from all my charged primal desire and irregular waves of thoughts. I had to stop myself whenever Levi looked over. His face made too many thoughts and memories resurface.

I can't believe I can't masturbate for two weeks. My sex drive is overheating already.

But Levi said soon, right? He said soon. Maybe we could sneak out one night. I know Pacific's halls and corridors, every one of them. I know the terrace.

There's a beach.

At some point during the ride, I had to put my left ankle on my right knee to make my shorts fall more casually. Also pulled the t-shirt lower for safety. I examined my hairy legs for a few seconds. Fixed my socks.

When I looked back up at Levi and had Earl's Couch playing, I realized I have The Universal Opportunity to communicate with him without putting down the cards of absolute embarrassment.

I unlocked my phone.

[07:38:33, Monday] Eren: I have a boner from your face.

I erased that.

[07:38:42, Monday] Eren: I have a boner.

Sounds better. I sent it.

As for the few seconds of waiting, I tried to figure out how was he going to act. He had Nile in front of his face at the moment, and looking over right after checking his phone would be stupid and predictable as fuck. Guess I forgot he's smart.

Levi checked his phone a little while later. My hopes were set a little too high, I guess. I just thought he'd write something back. Watched him stare at the phone screen with no defined expression. Then lock it and push it back in his pocket. He resumed talking to Nile shortly after and I almost got pissed.

Crossed my arms very casually and looked out the window, still peeking over at him every ten seconds.

One moment, I caught him looking.

He had that freaked out look that also asked for it.

After this incident, I listened to calm music and only looked outside the window. I really didn't want to challenge his ability to fight back.

We arrived five minutes before eight. My legs were stiff and I still had a semi.

After everyone got out the bus, Levi thanked the driver and he drove off. I waited for him at the hotel's gate, same as Nile, and scratched my palms out of stress.

Levi had this crooked grin whenever he looked at Nile. Back in the bus I had a blissful idea of sharing a room with Levi. But I got my hands on the list earlier (like two days before), and noticed I was put in a bunk bed underneath Jean in a bigger room for four guys.

Levi shared a room with Nile. I didn't really like that.

If I ever shared a room with Levi... Christ. Yeah. Sometimes I wish I'd be born fucking lucky.

Alright, calm down.

I followed Levi and Nile inside like a troubled puppy.

The ocean made the air even colder than at Jean's ranch, it was a little windier than the couple of days I spent at the beach with Levi, and I had nothing besides shorts, socks, and a t-shirt on. My hoodie was in the bag. I thought I'd survive a few steps without it, and I was wrong.

Pacific makes me feel so calm at any time I visit. The hotel has large windows and nice interior. I've wondered if I could ever become an architect or interior designer just because of this place. Then I think of all the years wasted in art schools, since all I can physically produce is a small penis on the corner of my worn notebook.

I won't be an architect.Or an artist, ever. Mom would piss herself if I ever let her know I've wanted this.

This is going to be similar to Levi's photography and video classes.

The reception was big and light. Everyone sat down or warmed up; Jean blew on his hands in an exaggerated manner. I walked and sat down next to him while both coaches talked to the receptionist.

We all got cards for the rooms, and a key, in case the card got lost. Around two minutes later, I realized my card read "A-22", which was the first wing. Weird. I bought a bottle of water from the same receptionist and headed for the hallway.

They never put the combo rooms in any of the first wings.

I walked with my brows in a knot.

Nineteen, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two... Got it. A-22.

The door was slightly open, so I didn't bother knocking. I had this room with three other guys and we all knew each other.

Though when I pushed it open, I didn't find what I'd expected to.

Levi's lying in a small bed (clothed), there's another empty bed next to it, and then - another one. Between the two empty beds, there's Nile standing and gesturing like he's insane. But Levi's just chilling. He just laid there and flipped through some papers.

I choked and instantly looked down at my shoes. Looked back up only after a brief while. I noticed Nile was looking at me, but Levi wasn't.

Suddenly, we all existed in the silence of this small room. I could hear the AC and several dying flies. I didn't know what else to do than stare, so I stepped back. The movement made the door click close.

By absolute accident.

I was waiting for someone to talk first, but as Levi seemed totally out of this and Nile looked pretty surprised, I did a little roll on my feet and tugged on the straps of my bag.

"I got the card for this room," I said. "And the...key, too."

Nile gaped. I felt awkward knowing Levi heard everything I was saying and didn't say anything himself. Then I remembered me threatening him with telling Nile I knew everything and all this basic shit, and compared my bravado back then to my shaking knees at the moment.

Oh, man, I'd never do this on my own.

"Oh, okay." Nile changed his stance and crossed his arms. "Alright. We'll get you re-booked."

What? No way. This is your only chance, Eren. This is such a great deal.

"What?" I raised my voice. Almost started yelling due to the interrupted fantasies of the nights spent here. "Sorry, what? No. I'll be good where I'm placed."

"Let the kid stay," Levi called from behind.

"Kid?" I tensed up.

"You can't stay, Eren, I'll get in touch with the receptionist, tell him there's a problem. We'll need you re-booked."

"I can stay." And to sound less excited about staying in a room with Levi: "I mean, there's three beds here. I only need a room to shower and rest. Why can't I stay, really?"

"Nile, really."

Levi wasn't putting in any effort to sound less excited about it, and I blamed him for not reading my shitty acting.

"Levi..." Nile dragged.

"Yes, Nile, let him stay! Mark it as a, you know, good player thing. You like him, anyways. He tells funny jokes."

Oh, I tell funny jokes, alright!

My eyebrow practically pushed a crease. I raised both my hands up. "Let me stay, okay? All other rooms on our wings are full. Booking another room would be excessive spendings, right? Let me stay. I won't disturb anyone and I don't shower for too long. I flush the toilet. I sleep well."

While on the inside, I've thought this through by now, and I can smell Levi's grin from this side of the room. He was the one responsible for booking all rooms, and I think Nile knew that, too. I could feel Nile fuming, though. Not a good thing. What's the sign you put somewhere before a radioactive explosion?

"Amazing," he silently said. Nile turned around and politely walked past me. Slid the card, opened the door, and on his way out, stopped.

"Levi, we'll need to talk. Come downstairs to the lobby, whenever you can."

The door clicking was the last thing I heard.

I burst out in laughter a few seconds later, to be sure he's not there, listening. My bag fell down and I leaned against the door Nile just closed. Man, I couldn't imagine what this following conversation would be like. Or this week, what this week would be like.

Or later, Berlin.

I'm getting the jolly shivers.

"You're a fucking genius," I said. "I should've realized you're plotting something."

"I thought this was the most obvious detail out of everything we've talked about. Wasn't it?" Levi asked, dumped the papers and got up.

"It wasn't."

"But no rules are canceled," he said. "About us and me not having sex with you. Jesus, not here. You actually considered it?"

My heart cracked.

"What the fuck am I doing here, then?" I felt my cheeks heat up. "Did you really make Nile shit himself for nothing?"

"There physically weren't any other rooms in our wing, Eren. Out of everyone, you were the only player I could--"

He did a gesture of sucked in cheeks and a pointed thumb at his mouth.

"Take in a room with us. You get me."

"That's absolute bullshit," I said.

"Not really. I'm interested in what Nile thinks about this now."

"Exactly what you made it look like. Your acting is pretty bad, I'll admit. Next time, try sounding three times less happy about facts that should upset you."

"Instead of talking, you could come over."

"I'll lock the door first. How much time do we have?"

"Around fifteen minutes."

"Fifteen minutes, you say? Jeez. Help me get the uniform on."

Chapter Text

What happens if you break up with someone you see on a daily basis?

God, that's got to be shitty. Seeing the mug you loved a week ago every day for a certain part of your life, and then you start hating them for no big reason other than not really working out. Jeez. I'm concerned with this thought as I get dressed. Shit all over me if Levi helped, he just stared at me getting dressed.

I don't know if this was his aim for sharing a room. There's many possible reasons. Sharing a room is intimate. On other trips or games Levi shared a room with Erwin. I couldn't give two shits about Erwin, but once Nile comes in the picture, my attention span grows for eighty percent.

What about Nile? What do I know about Nile? I've been getting the knicks Nile's not really the monster Levi's making him be. He's annoying, but he's not a fuckwad. It shimmies me he's not in Philadelphia with his wife and three kids, but then again, it's none of my business.

What does his wife think of this? I asked myself several questions like that while working on getting my pants down. Bless me for already having my sport boxers on. It's a good detail soccer doesn't require a jockstrap or compression shorts, we just cup our balls before a free kick. Otherwise it really hurts.

Man, but Nile's been bugging me lately, in both the positive and negative sense.

He lurks around the team, he keeps talking to everyone. They've adapted to him (obviously, and we've all got fifty percent off the membership for the gym Nile works at. I've got it off up to seventy percent.

What kicks me is his recent passive-aggressive behavior towards Levi. They keep fighting about irrelevant shit, see, and it ruins balance within the team. Our twenty-five boy group is a divided organization. There's the guys who are new to the team, and they stand for Nile, surely, since Levi now comes off as a rude, irritable guy. But Nile throws some comments out in the open and Levi flames by accident. Not like I don't get it, I'm the same with Jean, but the difference is that Jean's twenty and Nile's thirty-two.

Nile's a pretty guy. He's attractive. He has the face for what he's doing. He looks precisely like every gym instructor in the late eighties. He could, with ease, own a private gym for men and have a monthly subscription from each that rounds up to three hundred dollars per guy.

The way I've been thinking of others lately compared to how I thought before has changed. I don't feel like I'm seventeen inside of twenty. I feel like I'm nineteen inside of twenty, and soon I'll feel twenty inside of twenty-one, because my birthday isn't hilltops.

I might be maturing. It sort of seems (feels) like I'm moving forwards. Not just with my college and relationships, with thinking and perception. The perspective. It's changing. What I thought was cool last month seems delirious now. I thought reading comics in bed and playing PS3 was the most entertaining shit to do on a rainy summer day. Eating ice-cream, too. I thought there was a key to life in all this porn. Chronic masturbation never gave me anything, just regular toilet paper refills. I guess that's when your mom asks:"Dear, is your nose running? Why all the tissues?"

Why all the tissues? My nose's running, moms, but I'll be fine once I start going out with someone.

My nose is always so runny when I'm single.

"Are your boxers on the wrong side?"

I didn't recognize the voice at first and didn't even slip out my comatose state. Just stood by the bed, shins pressed against the matress, forearms crossed, and had this long distance stare you get after seven classes in middle school, trying to survive the eighth. I had German as the eighth lesson on Wednesdays. In fact, I had two Germans on a single Wednesday. That was ninth grade.

Levi repeated the question.

Still staring at blank air, I turned to him. I feel like I can't describe how I looked, but I know how I looked. I've seen people stare like this and hold their hands like this and have their jaw clenched like they'd be trying to figure out what the fuck is wrong with the world, all of a sudden.

This gets me real deep, you see.

"Yeah," I said. Distant, like that.

"Are you alright?"

"Yeah."

He didn't say anything for a while. Then I heard the mattress creak.

"Okay."

Silence, again, but I didn't find it awkward. I wasn't paying attention.

"I can book you a different room, if that's the..." He began. That kind of shot me out from the blank state.

"No! No, no, I'm cool with the room. I'm just thinking. I think I'm having young adult crisis."

"Jesus Christ, now?"

"Yeah. God. I think I'm wobbling between being a kid and an adult. It's like-- jeez, you know, I'm a kid, I'm still pretty young, I still live with my parents, but at the same time... What the fuck? I'm so old."

"What?"

"I'm twenty, you know? Didn't you ever think about that when you were my age? Ever got too concerned about what kind of a person you are?" I kept talking. "Like, fuck! Wow. I have a great job and a bright future. Don't you just think twenty is the best age in my entire predicted sixty?"

Levi stared at me over the training plans.

"I just asked about your boxers."

"I said, it's a crisis. These don't hit me often. My fluctuations aren't predictable, unlike with economy. I'm getting self-aware. It's dangerous. It's like with babies."

Levi let the papers fall on his face, expressing his peak state of confusion.

"Come on," I whined.

"Eren, how did babies get into this?"

"Just listen." I resumed binding my knee up. "I was at a funeral two years ago. The girl whose dad had died had a friend. The friend had a kid. A small kid, like, half a year, or something. So we're standing around the pram after the burial, everybody's calming down and drinking something solid, and we're watching the kid. Super taken away. Glassy eyes and gross smiles, the affectionate drinking smiles."

I pulled a sock on my binds and sat down on my bed to pull the other one.

"And the kid takes his foot in his hand and lifts it up to his mouth. All women start laughing. But like, wobbly laughter, like after crying. And his mom says "baby, do that again". And you know what the kid does? He smiles and does the same thing again. Jesus! It's not even possible at that age, right? Kids don't understand anything yet. The women go off, obviously, like firefighter alarms. The moral?This motherfucker is self-aware. He knows how to make cunts wet."

It was so silent I could hear the AC buzz again.

"Really?" Levi asked with the mildest tone I'd heard. Felt like he didn't really believe my exquisite story.

"Yeah. That happened once," I said and turned around. Then I looked down at my boxers.

The tag's really on the front.

"How did you notice this?" I turned back to him. "I thought you had plans to revise."

"I do."

"Can't you concentrate on those a little more?"

"Yeah. I just happened to be resting right when you're getting dressed."

I raised my middle finger when he looked back at the plans again, took the rest of my uniform, and went to the bathroom.

Levi told me something about taking pictures. Jean talked about it, too. So asides from getting in my uniform and zipping up mysweatshirt, I tried getting my hair and face in order. Overall, I looked nice, I'll admit. The shorts were a nice fit, I liked the socks. Only bad detail would be the shirt. It's way too tight in the shoulders. My fault, I guess. But this is why I love getting new uniforms, it's the fun of tweaking to fit in them.

After leaving the bathroom, I received criticizing stares from Levi. It lasted to a point I began sorting out my backpack and sulking to myself. He hugged me from behind a while later. It didn't make the atmosphere romantic or me sulk less.

We'd picked up on a conversation about our training schedule when Nile knocked and let us know everyone's ready for the picture. I went outside first to erase suspicion, and Levi followed a few minutes later.

It turned out we're taking the picture in Pacific's trophy hall (which, by the way, holds a good half of the trophies from our victories and the previous team's victories, too). While the photographer (an attractive girl, could be twenty-five-ish) told everyone where and how to position, I almost cried from all these memories and effort I'd put in soccer just to make this trophy hall exist.

Here, this one, this is from 2012, I was still a really fresh kid, and it was the first time I'd ever get coached by Levi. Before, in high school, I'd only dream of it. All my soccer-loving friends had an aspiration to be coached by him at least once before death.

At times like these I sit down and remember we're together now, we've shared ice tea and kissed.

This room had no place to sit down, so I just stood and sank in thoughts about Levi.

When it was my turn to get placed, she made me stand in the center. I'm supposedly nicknamed the "Gorgeous Captain" now. With her said direction, most guys clapped and a few whistled. She looked embarrassed. I didn't get her reaction, but as Jean later explained, she's from the local newspaper and occasionally writes small blocks promoting our college, our soccer team, and soccer in general.

And as I found out even later, she was in her fourth year when I was in my second. Same college. Graduated and went for sports journalism. Jean tried to tell me she'd used to crush on me for two years, but I called it bullshit and turned him off. It still kept bothering me, so I tested her with a smile, and she smiled back.

Eww, she thinks I'm flirting. She looks like Mina, the girl from the parallel class. Mina's cute, and the girl's also cute, but Levi 's right behind her. I wiped my smile off. He namely tilted his chin towards the girl's back, and I shook my head, meaning there's nothing between us.

She snapped us from two angles (from the front, from the back, to see the numbers), and then asked if any of us wanted bonus pictures, like, with friends, or with the coach, or whatever. I agreed to get a picture with Connie and Jean, and even encouraged myself to call Levi over for a picture, too. I think I'd never ask him for a picture together otherwise, but this was an exception.

The picture was stupid. He had his arms crossed and jaw tilted up, as anyone would normally pose, and I had my arms blurred in front of a good half of my face. Everyone laughed at the contrast between us two.

Not to seem glued to Levi, I also made a picture with Nile. We did idiotic flexing poses. Connie laughed, Jean took a picture from his own phone, and Levi was acting like he'd found something interesting outside the window.

A while after everyone got the pictures they'd wanted, we went back to the lobby. It's still early, so we could start the training any minute.

Levi first allowed us to run by the ocean's shore, to enjoy the salty air and chilly breezes, but Nile said it'd be safer if we'd sticked to asphalt if we've got the first game tonight. Levi looked ready to slice Nile open, but didn't argue, and we had to run on asphalt. The ocean air was still present and strong. It boosted me and filled me with energy.

After a longer stamina run, we had to work with cones and figure separate team tactical tryouts. Levi tried to remind us we wouldn't always use these tactics perfectly, but told everyone they can rely on me in case the ball goes missing from us.

He worked us off in a heavy class category that day. The two hour break for lunch went by too quick. The following was the last training, the pre-game warming up.This training was worse.

Nobody told me who'd be the first team we're playing against until I found a list by the message board. It had a small sentence Levi had written (I guessed by handwriting; he had small "o" letters) that listed the games he'll be with us and the games we should avoid enraging the referee.

After the second, shorter training, Levi called our bus driver off and said we could build up our resistance by sprinting to the field. The field's a few miles away, and up to this point I still can't figure at which exact moment did he want me to calm down before the game.

We won the first game with a 3:1. The opponent school gave bad passes. Unholy aim, their captain seemed to hold zero order. There's no harmony between their players. Uniforms sponsored by Keystone Light. An ugly coach. No real tactics. Lame school. Their goal was an accident, otherwise I'd scored all three points alone.

The five following games were beaten to a pulp. We pulled a 5:0 the next day, and our scores ranged from two to four in the upcoming four.

Armin's school's team was the final game. I don't remember any details of the game with them, I'm just telling you: Armin's classmates, or friends, or whatever, be it friends, they carry this...drug smell all around. Town's schools are known for socially inept kids from rich families. Public or private, it doesn't matter, nor does your age matter, every kid from the town is a misplaced little junkie with their parents backing them up. I'm talking about Armin, too. Not like he's the outcast or something special, asides from being really smart.

There weren't even two side-glances between Levi and me during this week.I guess it's Levi testing how well I'd behave around him in public. I tried indicating something on our way back to the hotel, after yet another victory, but he's so strict I couldn't even lure the slightest softie out.

He didn't touch me, and we didn't kiss. I assume it's good. He did the right thing. I wouldn't be able to concentrate otherwise. Fuck concentration, I was so tired by the end of each day I didn't even pay much attention to the messages from my friends who couldn't come to see the games.

Levi ignoring our convenient situation didn't erase the need, though.

I still hoped he'd make a move, since the want was always there. We slept in the same room, only a few feet away from each other, and it's the most painful feeling in the world. It's like the Earth's collapsing, literally.

So, just like the party the night before we came to the hotel, there was a formal drinking evening after the so-called "Regionals" we've won for the, who knows which, year in a row. There was usually a two day break before the planned trip to Berlin, so we didn't have to rush much.

My body finally began relaxing from all the running. Thighs were still a little stiff. My mind was still back in the field, and my toes twitched once in a while, to show how uptight I am. I was still mentally outliving the stadium's bleachers, lights, people. I had two hours of this same mental outliving.

Every night.

After every game.

My insides always tremble from the adrenaline rush this causes. I close my eyes at moments like these, and try to breath deeply.

I don't know how to describe Nile's attitude through the week. He looked at me oddly for the first day. As days passed and he realized Levi isn't making any moves on me, he opened up. So I got to see a more positive aspect of him. I think it's a nice thing to find out he gets the worst stomach twists from salsa dip.

But again, Nile means shaky ground, and I want at least one of all my grounds to be stable. Levi's currently my most stable ground, so I'm sticking to him.

There's something depressing about the end of the Regional games. Don't know what it is. Each year, each time, the feeling is different. It's hard to pretend things haven't changed, that they wouldn't change further. I've got no idea how to deal with that downhill feeling. All I could think about is that bittersweet idea of what we used to look like, who we used to be, and appreciate what's waiting for us later.

Levi usually allowed alcohol after the games. Not much, enough.To drown the satisfaction. I'd say this is his way to congratulate us without saying much. We already know how proud he is.

I fought my weariness as others gathered in the huge lobby, with Nile (as the babysitter), to watch movies and enjoy loud talk and different songs on the local radio. Some boys went outside to swim in the ocean. Sasha had the games filmed, and five of the boys gathered around the laptop she'd brought along.

I didn't want to be a part of that tonight. I actually wanted to be alone. I felt alarmed by the frequency of this need. Wasn't the first time.

But there's that probing need. Same sky above different cities.

I really wanted Levi's presence.

We both agreed to go back to the room while still having the chance to. We didn't say anything, at least I didn't have to; he judged my exhaustion by the way I dragged myself to the direction of the stairs. See, having him by my side is enough. I can sense every unspoken word emanate from his body.

I gave up my motivation to sudden exhaustion and turned too aware of the pain in my muscles. The pain woke me up with every step I'd take.

Levi and I didn't have to fight over the shower. He just let me take the shower first.

I left my face pressed against the cold tiles for a good while. Staying awake seemed like the hardest challenge I've faced so far. The fatigue grew within seconds. I tried to keep my mind clear, but it clouded up.

When I got out of the shower, Levi was sitting on the edge of my bed with a towel around his neck. I'm dry already. Not because I put effort into drying myself with a towel, it's because I took so much time staring at myself in the mirror and nodding off I dried myself naturally.

Every move felt heavy and difficult to make, even though I could see that personal little light at the end of the road. A warm, clean bed. Levi's voice from two meters away; the darkness of the room, since none of us flipped the switch when entering, and sleep.

Fucking. Sleep.

Can't wait to knock out.

Relief. Fatigue. Sheer contentment.

Levi said something. I didn't listen. I'm not sure I'm even able to listen. Can't hear the tight beat from the lobby downstairs. I slipped under the covers and closed my eyes. All I could hear were Levi's footsteps fade away. Then a door clicking.

I passed out after that.

The sound came back a second time. Felt like hours had passed. I moved. Something creaked and my bed sank a bit on my right. I turned and spotted Levi by my side. It's dark as fuck, and the only light source was the annoying, pale, ripe orange-shaped moon outside the window, so I couldn't pull too many associations. Levi felt fresh, not completely dried, with a t-shirt and wavy, wet hair.

I felt so naively cold all of a sudden, since it's only now he'd figured I would love this sight every night, and not just by the end of the week when I'm tired as sweet Christ.

"Oh, man." I fought with sarcasm. "Look who's came to see his best boy."

"Don't be like that."

"Sure."

He lied down next to me without a single question. His legs met mine under the blanket. I'd lie if I were to say my stomach didn't knot, even through the idiotic layer of sleep I'm trying to fight off.

I realized he was in his underwear and, in fact, a t-shirt. I took the warmth he'd brought with himself, slid my leg over both his, and pressed my forehead against his chest. He draped his arm over my shoulders a while later, and started talking. I laid silent for a while.Fueled by his realness, I became conscious again, and we talked with low voices, like Nile would be with us in the room, and there was a risk of getting caught.

Though Nile's busy getting hammered downstairs, and we're here alone.

"I feel like shit," I said, dragging my forehead up and down his shirt.

"You've done a lot of work, Eren. You can sleep."

"This is the first time we're closer than a few feet over the course of a week and you're expecting me to fall asleep. I guess we all have aspirations."

He pulled me closer and settled lower. His face lingered just slightly above mine.

"You're passing out," he whispered. "I doubt we can work with this."

"Oh, I'll work with this. Fuck off. If I were you, I'd suck my dick."

Levi raised his brows in surprise.

"Sorry," I added. "Slipped."

"What's the point of giving you head while you're asleep? I'd rather you awake."

"Fuel my wet dreams, please?"

"Jesus, Eren, go to sleep."

I actually did. He didn't have to repeat himself, I just closed my eyes and everything blurred out.

We fell asleep at the same time. I guessed it'd happen.

Maybe I slept for an hour or two. Most likely less, it doesn't matter. I woke up again. It took more than a few minutes to get my spirit back now.

I freaked out at first since the surroundings weren't my usual shut blinds or trophy shelves. A few seconds passed until I realized I'm in the hotel and remembered my own name.

Jeez, what time is it? Could be two or three AM, at best. Nile wasn't in the room. I could tell by the sounds. If I held my breath and ignored Levi's breathing against the top of my head, I could hear the same everlasting beat downstairs at the lobby.

Team's still enjoying their time.

And I'm in the same position I fell asleep in.

I looked around, as much as the narrow space let me see without moving much. I switched to watching Levi sleep. I don't know what I'd say if he woke up just now. It'd be the most uncomfortable situation on Earth.

At some point I scratched my stomach under my shirt and cringed by the thickness of sweat. It built up right in the ridge of my stomach, between my abs. I slipped a finger through. Rubbed it against my thigh right after.

And to think I was clean a few hours ago.Gross.

I laid sideways and kept dragging my fingers over my abs when it hit me.

My eyes widened.

Jesus Christ, I have a semi. What's worse of it, Levi's legs are between mine. I can't believe he hasn't woken up due to this sharp object poking his thigh.

I glanced at his face without moving my head and looked back at the ceiling the next second.

No way, I'm freaking out. What to do? I'm not the careless type of horny right now, I can't just postpone masturbation until a few hours later, it's got to go. It's the kind that has to go. His tight, warm thigh isn't the most helpful, either. If he moves, I'll grunt. He'd hear that, wake up, and shit would get far too awkward if he found out I'm sporting boners.

Come on, no, he'd have to come to terms with it. I'm a boy, this happens. Plus we're together. Levi would understand. At worst, he'd go sleep in his own bed.

I closed my eyes.

I wish he wasn't in the bed next to me. I'd just beat off and call it a day.

Now it's impossible.

Fuck, I can't even get up and leave to the bathroom. He's the worst sleeper and I'm sure the walls here are thin enough he'd hear my foreskin flap. Especially when it's a little wet. It gets pretty noisy. It's irritating if you're trying to beat it with your friends in the same room.

Like any other soccer tournaments when I'm staying with Jean and Connie.

Yeah, like thinking about masturbation fucking helps! Great! Jesus! I'm fucking done with living.

I'm only now realizing I'm getting myself even more horny because this is what most people would call an opportunity. I feel horrible. I know I have the chance to start something with Levi. Not doing it means I'm taking the risk to regret my choice later. Then again, doing it has the same exact possibility.

I'm hesitating. What do you do when you wake up horny next to your boyfriend? ( Oh, hang on! Your boyfriend who also happens to be a n ignorant former porn star who's trying to shrug off the fact you're a virgin with the most disgusting sex drive on Earth!) You'd normally just suck his dick, right? Jesus, what do people do at times like these? It's the most frustrating moment of my life, I think. And I've never even sucked a dick.

I hope I can still go back to sleep and pretend this never happened. I never had a semi, I haven't been literally cooking under a good hundred layers of sheets and covers, it's not even real. What the fuck is that by my ankle?

I hope I can still go the bathroom and take care of myself, and make sure Levi never finds out about this. It's weird.

Or, I can just wait for it to go away! Christ, yeah. I'll just wait it out.

I laid on my side for a while, waiting.

Some time passed. I stayed in the same position and took regular breaths, calm and short, organized my thoughts. I thought about going home tomorrow.

Really, any minute, now. :-)

I looked up at Levi's face. Shit, come on. Leave. Go away.

Despite my neurological attempts to make my boner flee, it didn't.

Waking Levi up would be a mistake. I 'm not sure I want us to do anything, and even more sure he'd say "no", anyways. I laid still for eight, nine more minutes, wondering what to do as I got irremediably harder. You have to be an idiot to think about this fucking shit for that long.

I raised my head and let it fall back on the pillow.

"God," I whispered.

Levi's got to be dead not to feel me pressed against his leg.

Literally the second I thought of this, I felt him move. He murmured something, still asleep.

"What?"

"Does your leg hurt?" He murmured.

Shocked he's finally awake due to whatever reasons, I looked at him, half-asleep, lying on his side. I'd spent all this time trying to find a good way to get rid of my erection and all that comes to his mind is my leg.

"No," I said, way too eagerly.

Levi frowned. From his point of view it's probably the only passable reason to why I'd wake up at four in the morning and stare at the ceiling with such a painful expression.

Some guys say you can feel your own heartbeat when you're hard. You know? They're right. I'm feeling it pretty vividly.

"Did something wake you up?"

"Uh, yeah. It's pretty loud downstairs."

Levi sighed and covered his face with his forearm. "I can go tell them to cut the party."

Fuck me.

"Don't," I whispered, and took a dangerous little step.

This is what kills the man.

This is what's going to kill me.

I slightly leaned forwards and stopped with a distance just enough to look tired and not as desperately horny. I relied on the covers to hide the secret treasure I hid (in case he hasn't felt it up yet), and bit my lip, in case he saw it.

I actually want to kiss him, though I'm way too scared to spoil the comfort we're currently sharing and wake the strict, logic side up. He might start lecturing me for being such a hormone knot.

Levi looked like he'd never been this content. So relaxed. Only one of both his eyes was open. I had to fight back the urge to see what'd happen if I leaned a little closer.

I didn't want to ruin this sweetness, whatsoever, but what happens, happens.

"Eren?" He opened both eyes. "Is that your ankle?"

"No, it's not my ankle."

He looked down at me.

Oh, he knows.

I straightened up with the help of my entire right arm before leaning in for good. Levi didn't push me away. Probably since he didn't expect me making a move. Not that I'm particularly unpredictable in general, fucking just isn't the most common first thing that comes to everyone's mind when they wake up.

He rolled on his back and I took the given advantage, slipping half of my body on his. I'm sure he clearly feels my excitement by now. The entire materialistic side of this excitement is sandwiched between my stomach and his hip. I guess it's great Levi's asleep enough not to fully realize the consequences of what I'm about to do.

I took a deep breath, and as he watched with heavy-lidded eyes, kissed him.

His jaw, first.

God.

Then I closed to his ear, his neck. I kissed his throat and expected him to stop breathing for a second or two; I felt his trembling exhale against my hair,and raised up to face him.

"What is this?" He excitedly whispered.

"Me exploring you," I lied. "Or, if you'd rather, this is what the best boys do when their coach starts giving a fuck again."

He took a hold of my neck and brought my lips against his.

I can't really say it's the best way to get rid of the blood boiling in my stomach. I'm sweating like feverish, since this is technically us breaching any kind of borders still limiting our relationship.

This is going nowhere.

We kept kissing, I kissed his cheeks, his lips, jaw, neck,everything I could. He didn't move much, since I was on top and currently led this situation, as mentioned previously, to nowhere. Levi's hands progressed from just my waist up to my neck, shoulders and chest. Mine were trying hard to bear my own weight as I leaned over him and kept inching closer. When our chests touched, I knew it's around the time to decide if I'm going in for it.

Uhh, like? Hell yeah I am?

I went for it before Levi even managed to blink. My right hand wandered around his hip for some time (it's a bitch to hold my weight on my left), and when he kissed me again, more awake now that both his mind and his body seemed to contribute, I let my fingers stop at the thin line of skin revealed between his shirt and his underwear.

Ohhh, fuck me... Wow. This isn't the furthest I've ever went, but it sure as fuck feels hot. I've pulled myself into a wet fucking nightmare.

I hesitated at first. Then dared to slip my hand underneath his shirt like I'd already done so many times previously.

Today it's different.

My sweaty palm's flat on his stomach. He brought his up, too. One got stuck in my hair, thus pulling me close, and the other felt pretty unsure before grabbing the side of my shirt. I could feel the doubt in his movements. It's prominent. Proves how detailed he wants this to be.

Whatever "this" is, anyways.

I moved my hand lower while still having that miniature drop of confidence.

Fuck, why am I getting so upset over this? It's Levi. Levi. I've known him since forever. If I sucked, he'd tell me I suck, and we'd go to sleep. It's no big deal. We pick up each other's traits, so it's completely alright.

Says Eren, two seconds away from Levi's groin.

Uhh, fuck, now I'm nervous again.

I pushed my hand down, past his navel, feeling it adjust to the irregular pattern his abs created. The lower I got, the hotter his skin felt. My fingertips bumped against the rubber band of his underwear, and I looked him straight in the eyes.

I thanked Christ and all his angels for not sending Nile in the room when things are just about to get interesting.

I could almost predict what Levi might say right now. I feel like he's upset. He should be upset, since I'm incredibly irresponsible. I'm also scared he might shove me off and tell me to fuck off and never step near him again.

My throat's a little dry.

"Are you okay with this?" I asked.

Fortunately, some of my expectations shoot past the real deal.

He turned silent and continued breathing through his nose. I became aware of my own irregular breathing.

Levi frowned. I realized he's becoming that serious and responsible adult again. Like he'd always do. Like: "No, Eren. Let me list all fifty thousand reasons why we shouldn't do this."

He nodded. Very slowly. Like he's still trying to decide for an answer, but he doesn't want to spend too much time thinking about it due to the sheer fear of changing his mind.

Then he nodded more quickly, and almost as if he's afraid I wouldn't notice it, he said, "Yes."

"Are you sure?"

"I'm okay with it if you're okay with it."

That's all it took, honestly.

I swallowed back my fear of doing this badly and went for it. It's been too long, and I want it too much. My hand slid lower, rising along the base, and gradually lowering further. With eyes squeezed shut and as much self-taught male anatomy knowledge I had, I cupped his dick through his underwear and felt a great rush of blood splitting both to my cheeks and groin.

God fucking... I'm hard. Rock hard. Levi's also not the softest, Christ, not at all, he's fucking solid.

"Eren..." My name sounded more like an exhale.

"Yeah?"

He didn't say anything else, so I searched for his mouth to prevent any kind of disapproving speeches that might follow. I don't want to hear this. I don't want to consider dropping this idea. I want him to be absolutely, totally, purely mine.Fuck the relationship steps. Fuck the rules we'd established. Fuck what he said and fuck what I replied with. I don't care about anything but his shivering little breaths on my cheek.

I'm craving a stroke. A light drag over the curve. Just one, just to see what it'd do.

I moved my hand.

His throat's vibrating. Levi's entire neck practically moved against my lips. I pressed my mouth harder against his throat at the same time I put more pressure on his cock. Now he tilted his head back more, and let out something similar to a mixture of "mmm" and just a breathy moan.

I did it again. By the cue of it, Levi kicked me out of any rational thinking I had left.

Quite honestly, I'm shocked. I almost choked. He pushed his hips up against me; "up", as in, fuck, there's my hand flat between our dicks, and I'm so embarrassed I'll just ask for a kiss. I think that's the moment I went crazy. Crazy, like, damn, is this a fucking sound in your head, or... I want him. Doesn't matter how or where. No criteria, no personal preference, I don't care, I just want to see his face and hear his voice at moments he's at his peak. It's the sexiest fucking thing on this Earth I can possibly imagine perceiving.

Man, I thanked him for wearing underwear. Just underwear. It's so close and yet it doesn't make it entirely intimate, it's just a thin layer of fabric that's separating my hand from his cock. That's all. That's like the worst form of safety, but the same does it for me.

Levi's breath was ragged and fast, but he had experience and stamina. He's got enough to control whatever I'd do. I like to think I'm someone really special and I wish he feels different with me than with anyone else.

I dragged my tongue down to his chest whilst still palming his-- god forbid I freak out by closing in with my mouth-- cock. One of his hands pulled on my ass. I 'm far too worked up to notice, but I did notice it once Levi got me closer than any heavenly physics would allow.

I've spent so much time watching porn it seemed a natural thing to do, but trying it out here, with Levi, it's difficult. Not exactly because I wouldn't want it, or because I'm scared, it's more because I just don't know how to do it and am constantly fearing the possibility of him having greater expectations. Like, he's still a fucking porn star, you know?

That's why hearing him breathless pushed me on the red line. It's insane someone like me can get him aroused. His moans, his breathing, he even got hard. I'm not sure this is actually happening.

I need a deep breath.

I need to show him I'm not fucking around just because we're together now.

I hesitated sliding my leg over both his for personal encouragement, but in the end, managed to do it, anyways. I placed my hands on both sides of his face and straddled his stomach.Tried not to imagine what I looked like. The only thing I'll focus on from now on is his breath and body temperature. Mood and attitude, the sounds he makes, everything that's a sign of pleasure, since that's kind of what I'm seeking.

Levi watched me position myself with curious, patient and careful eyes. He seemed to analyze every detail. Maybe he's trying to remember the sight for later, I like to imagine.

I leaned forward to kiss him again. As we kissed and I sorted a few shelves in my head, I realized I'm probably the luckiest guy in this shitty world. That made me smile and my teeth hit his. I never realized he also smiled.

"I'm terrified of moving," I murmured, lips almost against his. "My dick's...right next to yours."

"Don't narrate this, please."

"I'm trying not to. God, you're heavenly."

Levi kissed me. "Do it."

I played with the elastic of his underwear again and tried to think of a way to surprise him.

I want this, not even too deep down. The tension in my stomach that's followed by the stressful feeling of his hands running over me for encouragement, that's... That's not what I see in porn. See, porn's about the visuals. This, here, is about feelings. It triggers all of my fucks. I crave pleasing him, not myself. The only goal in my life is to lose my breath and never get it back. I want to watch Levi break down in my hands, someone like him in my hands, I want this to hurt in a delirious, intimate way, and I want the power it gives me, for all I give a shit, since this is the first time in my life I've felt as expressive as this exact moment.

I guess it's something every virgin experiences. You're just a voyeur when you're watching porn. When you're doing this shit, you turn other people on. You're not passive anymore. You're the aggressive. It's the trick of converting from a virgin.

My eyes fell close. I sat on Levi's thighs and hooked my finger behind the rubber band. It let me pull his boxers away from his skin, creating a space for my other hand. Vision still black as the night itself, I licked my entire palm and slid it across his dick.

Man, something's growing in my chest. Still swindling whether it's the pride or the ego. Feels similar to my first time getting drunk. White wine, Solo Dolo.

I hadn't planned on telling this to anyone.

I realized I can't talk about it.

I can't ever tell this to anyone.

I can feel Levi's not shaved, by the way. Fuck, this is so hot.

His cock's pretty...normal. It's hot in the most literal sense, and by a few short movements, I figured he's cut. I'd say I expected good measurements beforehand. It's told the length doesn't matter as long as you know how to deal with a dick itself, but you can't deny the effect it makes. Everything is automatically a whole lot more impressive when it's bigger.

I swallowed back the fear of a beginner and began stroking him, slowly, since I didn't want to fuck up, and since I also predicted Levi might like it slow. I turned out to be right. And while Levi's just at the start of trying to get his shit together, I'm flourishing due to this odd, satisfactory feeling. I've never held a dick that's not my own. What an accomplishment! :-)

Levi's head fell back on the pillow. It shot the butterflies straight to my stomach, and I took the cue to go faster. Due to this, his hand clawed my ass through my underwear, and I'm fucking sure it would've hurt if I didn't wear it. Of course, I had my spare dose of shivers.

I don't really know what's happening. Felt dizzy and impatient because of not having a clear mind. It fed me up, my strokes got more harsh, more angled, and I spat on my palm to wet Levi up. He seemed to like this. His breath was my radar, and it kept racing, so I kept going.

His free hand slid down to my stomach. I'd found a way to balance above his body while getting him off, so I could see his face and still kiss whenever necessary. I visibly jerked from the touch, and though I first thought he's just searching for my skin and presence, in two seconds, his hand's down my boxers, and I find myself getting weak in the knees.

Holy fuck, hold-- hold on. Hold on. My narration's having slight technical difficulties.

I slowed down for a second or two, surprised, but not disapproving. Levi didn't pay attention to this. Long fingers found my cock and he didn't waste any time. A second in, he pulled his hand back, licked it, and let it slip back underneath. I cringed.

It felt like he's clumsy at first, as if what I'm doing to him is overwhelming and he can't stay conscious - but then he gained his usual confidence, and it was so beautiful I almost couldn't take it.

The hand on my ass ran up my back and he caught my shoulder from under my arm, burying his own head in the crook of my neck like he's searching for air. There wasn't any sound, just the barely audible shift of our sheets, my occasional heavy breaths and his wet lips against my neck.

This was like any other time I've tried getting off. It's boring at first, but it gets heated as the video gets to, maybe, the mid-part. By the end, all I'm thinking of is how good it's going to feel in a few seconds. When it comes, it's blissful. When I get over it, everything grosses me out.

Suddenly, there's a sharp pain right where Levi's open mouth is. I sucked in a quick breath. He smiled against my neck, I felt it due to his teeth, and kissed the spot again. This continued a few more times. Levi slid lower by each, and the burning feeling prickled my senses. I couldn't figure what he's doing, so I responded with guttural moans and slid my thumb over the slit of his dick.

This gave me an idea.

I dragged my hand from his underwear. He didn't get it, at first, and turned his head, giving me a questioning look. I nodded, breathlessly. He removed his hand along with mine.

I hope he's not assuming I can't climax or anything, that'd be embarrassing.

I took a deep breath.

I'm hesitating a bit. Levi looks patient, as ever.

"You're not dropping this, are you?" He finally asked.

"Keep your hands to your sides."

Levi's brows lowered, but he haphazardly let his arms take whatever position.

Thanked my own for helping me bear my weight, and pressed my body against his as easily as I'd be doing push-ups.

Softly, just like that, my entire lower body.

Levi didn't move. When I did it again, he snapped. Boy, I heard that sound, and it's the most melodic shit to my ears witnessed up to this day. The deep exhale, it's when guys empty their lungs out when lifting weights.

This against my ear, and I'm bought.

Underwear's great. It's hot, it's thin enough to do whatever without removing it, and it's permeable. God! Have you ever imagined having your cock sucked through fabric? Doesn't that just turn on the Pope himself?

He grabbed my shoulder with momentarily strength. I suddenly wondered if he'd be capable of breaking it, like Edward almost did with Bella when he got to rip her virgin ass open.

I let my entire body rest on Levi's now, since the grinding movement's pretty exhausting. I hoped he wouldn't die under my weight. Levi got used to the position pretty fast. His both hands slid up on my ass again, to bring me closer, and to get me whimpering like the weakest little cunt ever.

To lessen his efforts, I put all my weight on my elbows and my face crashed against his cheek, mouth open, begging for air; my eyes were closed, and I was overwhelmed by everything.

I swear, this is the first and last time I'm mingling with Levi this selfless and unprepared. I'm in dire need to train my fucking stamina. My breath's so hot it feels wet, like humid air, and I let this air heat his cheekbone, and at points I even dragged my tongue across his skin, similar to what dogs do when mating.

Grinding is hot.

Levi took the lead. I groaned against his jaw and his hips bucked up, searching for mine. I mentally died when his entire seven-or-whatever inches brushed past my own. Even my stomach touched his, and I can't even form a comment on the sounds I was making.

I'd say "power bottom", he'd say "natural gift".

Jesus Christ, I'm closer to coming than I've ever registered myself being.

Levi grabbed me by my neck and pulled me down, closer, and our noses bumped against each other's as he blindly found my lips. Just found them, and we shared breaths without kissing.

I can't think properly.

I don't want to think properly.He's not much better.

"Fuck, Jesus." Levi's hips bucked up. "Fuck."

I decided to join him and picked up a rhythm. It's visible he's also close, and I'm sure my boxers are ruined by my precum and his precum.

The climax came as fast as usual. It's unpredictable, it comes in the matter of seconds. God, the big, tasty feeling of your orgasm coming, I love it every time it's coming. My entire stomach felt pressured, and there's that gross little tingle building up from down the base and up. It's hot, every inch of me is burning up, and I can't even hold a two-word conversation with Levi at this point.

His nails pierced the skin of my shoulder. He tried to get a grip onto something. I totally blanked and held my breath.

Shit, I'm-- shit... Oh my god...

I whined shortly before it exploded in my chest, in my groin, in every muscle and patch of skin. Levi spaced out for a second, I felt his hands getting firmer; clenching, clasping, pulling at me. It satisfied me even through my white daze.

I heard him drag a long, desperate moan. It made my dick twitch, as if it wasn't convulsing along with my entire stomach already.

One of Levi's hands pulled on the waistband of my boxers and held it tight. Ten seconds later, as he's still trying to get his morality back, I'm there, gasping for air, face buried in the crook of his neck. I barely noticed his arm around my neck and the soft kiss on my temple.

It's warm between the both of us, and I now know he's also done.

I collapsed on the side, a half of my body still on his. Now comes the exhaustion. I closed my eyes and cringed. My boxers feel damp. If I don't change now, I'll want to murder myself in the morning. It's going to stale, and semen stinks. But by all means, I've got no motivation to get up and rake through my backpack for new boxers, so I laid there, nose flat against Levi's shoulder.

I don't know if I want him to say anything.

I know I'd get killed the next day, but maybe the risk's worth it. No idea. Maybe it's alright he's not saying anything, since I'm actually quite sure he'll yell at me tomorrow. Who cares, we did it, that's what matters. I'm hyped about the fact it's my first time with such a guy.

I can't thank Nile enough for preferring alcohol and partying with college soccer players to sleep.


Life's based on your personal karma and overall balance. Good weighs out the evil. When there's too much good, evil takes part.

Or, shortly, me last night, and me this morning.

The scene goes like this: I'm standing in front of the bathroom's mirror, watching myself; my arms are crossed and I could joy about my biceps, but I'm looking so depressed my biceps can't get more attention than any disturbing, ethereal fetish.

I keep staring at myself. In the eyes. In the eyes, I can't bring myself to look anywhere else.

There's silent knocks on the door and the knob is being pulled three or two times.

I'm in boxers and a t-shirt, the Last Night Outfit. Oh, I stared at my boxers for a while before. Now I'm in the purest state of nirvana.

I don't want to reveal what happened before this exact scene, but I've got to, I've got to enlighten you.

The birth of my day began with my alarm setting off at seven in the morning. We were expected to leave Pacific by eleven, and I just wondered if waking up to first breakfast (at eight) would buy me some more quality time to sleep than the second breakfast (at ten).

As ever, it took me a while to wake up. A dose of face rubbing, picking scabs from my elbows, thighs, shins and knees, I rolled around my narrow bed, stretched, and-- Jesus, shit, what's this? It feels odd when I pull my knee closer to my chest. I stress out, sit up, and look around. Nile's sleeping, bundled like a small rock in the middle of his bed. Levi looks the same.

It's abnormally cold in the room, and I feel goosebumps prickling all over my thighs, not just due to the temperature of the air. It's somewhat disgusting and makes my stomach churn a little.

I'm so dizzied up from the sudden movement I can't even recall the past few hours before going to sleep.

Still keeping my composure, I sneaked to the bathroom and locked the door. Then slid down against it. My head felt unnaturally heavy. I sat like this for a few minutes, then got up. Pulled off my shirt and stretched. Something didn't feel right starting from the fact I woke up in time, and everything's just plain wrong when I turn to the full body mirror.

I looked at myself and had to touch my face to see if everything I'm seeing is actually there. Last time I saw myself like this was my eighteenth birthday. Almost three years ago. I only recall waking up by a floral print couch two hours away from home, red plastic cups stacked on my stomach, and a few crumpled bucks in the pockets of my sweatshirt. At least I looked physically alright after that night. Now I come off pretty terrifying.

I've got dark bags under my eyes. My lips looked swollen, like I'd spent the past hour chewing on them, and my neck looked like a new fucking galaxy. Galaxy's the equivalent of gorgeous colors. That color spectrum was all over my neck. Starts with purple, blue, a bit of grey, continues on with a bright green, a speck of yellow, and the center goes brown. Now I became aware of the places Levi sucked on last night.

It's a wide trail of bruises down from the side of my neck, and there's a splotch beneath my collarbone, too.

I squinted and leaned closer to the mirror. Wow, I've even got a hickey on my cheekbone.

I watched my Adam's apple bob up and down.

I can't remember last night clearly. It feels surreal. It's a dream, most likely. An extremely detailed one, as I've been getting only that sort lately. If it's not a dream, it's even worse then. It's not possible. It's just not rationally explainable. I need to sit through a court with my sane side.

"Shit," I silently said.

Spent around seven minutes poking my neck to see the spots go light and dark again. During this, I kept wondering how Levi and I came to this, and all arguments to why it should've been a porny, detailed dream instead.

By the eighth minute, I decided I'd take a piss.

By the ninth minute you can hear shampoo bottles falling in the nearby bath.

After seconds of terrific (the only word fitting) shock, I found myself staring down at a completely ruined set of boxers. My entire right, inner thigh's wet; my spunk's staling by the rubber band. The worst is that it's itching, and it's the most disgusting feeling ever.

So this is what felt odd when I pulled my knee to my chest.

My mouth's open. I just held the cold, clingy material away from my skin and looked down at my penis, wondering what moral damage have I suffered from to not change my underwear after ejaculating.

Oh, great, it's in my pubes.

I didn't understand anything and understood everything at the same time. I looked up right along with a soft knock on the door.

"Eren?" That's Levi's muffled voice. I woke him up with the shampoo bottles. Told you he's the worst sleeper.

"Yeah?"

"Are you alright?"

"Oh, yeah! Absolutely."

"Eren?"

"I won't come out the bathroom."

"Can I ask why?"

My right hand went numb from the angle I held the band away, so I let it snap back at my skin with a gross sound and walked over to the door. The doors in this hotel weren't almost thermally secured like in several other hotels I've stayed at, so the gap by the frame and the door was almost like a cellphone right now.

"Levi?" I murmured, pressing my shoulder against the wall. "Can you get me my backpack? I'll take a shower and get dressed. Close your eyes, though. You'll freak out if you witness this."

I pictured him standing on the other side of the door with eyes shut due to how early it is.

"Yeah, sure," he then said. "One second."

I heard him walking off.

Practically seconds later Levi's knocking again. I decided to let him in. There's really nothing I could lose. Last look over to my bruised neck, and I turned the lock.

Levi squeezed in without asking. It seemed like his plan from the beginning. I got my bag pushed in my hands the same second, too, and used it to cover everything below my hip bones.

He stood there and stared, and I stood and stared back. His expression wasn't clear; it kept jumping from disappointment to surprise. I watched his eyes slide down the dark line down my neck, and almost pleadingly linger at the sight of my navel and the three visible pubic hairs beneath.

He looked back up.

How embarrassing.

I didn't want to talk first. I suddenly thought about regretting this on a serious level. I wondered if I even liked Levi, or if this is just because I'm twenty now and don't have anything better to do than fuck around with older guys and figure my fugitive sexuality out.

I felt like I wanted to say this out loud so I'd be able to share my open mind with him and let us have a brainstorm of two, but I didn't. My lips jerked to form a word, but I didn't say anything and ended up looking down.

When having arguments and a tiled floor under myself, I always want to place my feet in a straight angle, along with the lines of the tiles.

Levi took a deep breath and crossed his arms. I had to stare through my forehead to see him move.

"I'm sorry," I spurted out. "Fuck, I'm really sorry about last night."

I realized I can't do much more, so I leaned back against the counter (still having my bag in front of my crotch) and rubbed my face with the hand that wasn't occupied.

"I don't want you to be mad at me, so, like... Listen, I don't want you to be mad at me, okay? I shouldn't have done anything. It wasn't bad, but I won't do it again.I'm angry at myself for not thinking about it, but... but, like, I didn't feel like stopping, and... You know how it is."

"So you regret what you did last night?"

I didn't want to hesitate, and I didn't want to spit out an immediate "no", so I just shrugged and kept staring down. "I don't know."

"Do you need to think about it?" He cautiously asked.

"Yeah. I just need to put things in place. I don't understand myself at all."

He, too, looked down, but more to the side. If I concentrated enough, I could spot what he looked at.

Levi was staring at a cable.

"What time is it?" He absentmindedly asked.

"Around seven. First breakfast's in fifteen minutes or so."

Levi scratched his neck. I caught him glance over at my neck again, and hid it with my wrist.

"Do you want me to join you?" He asked, now concentrating on my face as I'd hid the bruises.

"I wouldn't mind. But it's probably better if you slept for the three extra hours."

"I'm more awake than ever."

I sighed. It echoed through the entire bathroom.

Think of something you like - a bike, an artist, a musician; then think of every time you've faced the problem of telling someone about your favorite bike, artist or musician.

Like, have you ever faced struggles with explaining how awesome something is? Let's take your favorite artist, let's take Gambino, for example. You've known Gambino for a good while. You like him, you think about him, you reference him, you dress like he does. You really want to express your sympathy towards the shit he does, you want to tell everyone how cool Gambino is or how good is his music, or humor, or acting. And then there's a presentation week in your school where everybody talks about their idols. You already know you're going to talk about Gambino, right? You're really set on him.

When the week comes around and it's your turn to present, and you start thinking how to make the presentation sound as good as possible, you know, so it reflects every single cool thing about Gambino. You want everyone to understand how much you like this guy, but you can't put it in a fucking presentation. What's a fucking slideshow? It's like you've made your own aesthetic and you can't express it. It's because people don't have your mindset.

Am I even steering clear, or do you have no idea what's this shit I'm babbling about? Because it's similar to how I'd explain what I feel towards the man in front of me, but it's like the difficulty setting has been set on "hard" and I can't spit a single word.

I rubbed my eyes and took the one step that divided us, letting my head fall on his shoulder. Levi wrapped his arms around me the same second.

Oh, I'm spent. I'm so spent.

He's warm and his body's tight, and I've noticed it fits mine from every and in every angle I press against him. His shoulders are wide. I love his shoulders. And his chest. He's got the chest that isn't fully flat like Connie's. My chest's also like that, we've got the pecs that could potentially make us look like built as fuck girls.

This hug isn't just a hug, it's the post-ejaculation-stressed-morning-dirty-underwear hug, and it's something else.

We stood half-naked and hugged. He smelled like my shower gel.

Everything about this made me think of Connie screaming "unbelievable".


I thought about it in the bus.

The way home felt longer and more difficult to stomach. We had two glorious days of break ahead now. Then comes the flight to Berlin. I can feel my exhaustion already.

I'm worried about Levi. Since I sit in the furthest right corner in the back of the bus and he's in the front rows again, I've got a good view on his profile. This time Nile didn't bother with papers or talking. Nile's tired and hungover. Levi's just tired.

I felt a little intrigued. All Levi did was stare out the window and clench his jaw. The dim morning light was soft on his features, and he didn't pull the curtains close, unlike me, so the weak beams of sun fell on his face like he'd fit in a William Blake canvas. I could see the skin stretch whenever his facial muscles moved. He had lines on both sides of his mouth when he smiled and looked down, due to whatever reasons. It made me curious. Coolest option would be him thinking about last night. But he'd probably look back at me once in a while if that's the deal.

I have to admit, he's pretty stunning this morning. Maybe it's just my post-handjob daze, but I feel like I've fallen even more. Staring at him made me rethink my emotions all over again. After thirty minutes of wobbling on different thin lines, I'm set on my answer. I wouldn't mind talking to him right now, but he's around fifteen seats further. There's probably no fucking use, anyways.

I actually think he's pissed at me, for whatever reason that may be.

I was listening to Suffering by The War On Drugs while observing the scenery outside. We still had a few minutes till we're back in town, and I didn't know if Levi's driving me home, or if I'm going somewhere with Jean. If everyone cancels me out, I'm skating.

I re-shuffled my playlist and went to Messages.

[11:38:43, Sunday] Eren: Hey. Are you driving me home? We need to talk/I need private space with you. You look gorg from this angle :-)

Proud and smiling, I looked up without sending the message. It's about time I changed his contact name from "Coach" to "Levi", but I left it as it is. For safety.

I realized I'm stupid. I thought I got more mature, but I'm just degrading. I erased everything written, took a deeper breath and tried again.

[11:39:03, Sunday] Eren: Are you going to be busy?

Should do.

A few seconds later I saw him reach down for his phone. Sudden embarrassment made me look out the window and act like I've been doing this ever since we left Pacific. I plugged my left earphone in, too, so now I had both in, to block the conversations out.

Levi also looked out the window. Then did an indirect glance to the back, letting me know he's read my message. And then he shook his head. A light movement, I don't think anybody noticed.

Okay, then...

[11:40:23, Sunday] Eren: Want to hang out y/n?

This time he replied with a message.

[11:41:00, Sunday] Coach: I'm visiting Erwin later. You could come over with me.

[11:41:49, Sunday] Eren: Are you kidding lmao? He's suspicious as fuck already.

[11:41:58, Sunday] Coach: Exactly. I want to talk to him about everything that's been happening lately.

[11:42:11, Sunday] Eren: How about WE talk about it first?

[11:42:24, Sunday] Eren: I've been thinking about it ever since I woke up. Can we talk about it now so I can go to Erwin's with you and act human?

[11:42:43, Sunday] Coach: I want to talk about this face to face, but this also works.

I stared at the ceiling of the bus during the first few seconds of Mad Sun by Motorpsycho. Then I began typing.

[11:42:59, Sunday] Eren: I don't know if I regret last night, okay? I don't know. I guess not, since I've never felt that way, but I'm still filled with doubt. What's going to happen later? In the future. Are you going to dump me? Would I regret gaying out with my coach? Lmao. I threw my boxers out.

I'm really happy right now, content with my life and you, but I don't know if it's bound to be this way for a longer while, or if I ' m just having a period during which everything is cakes.

I don't know what dating means whatsoever, I don't really have an idea what's a normal couple, so I can't compare you to any of my exes. In fact, all my exes are immoral girls, and you're a hot brother-type guy. I don't even know how I've gotten this far with you. I'm scared I'm going to shit at being your whatever. Your standards might be higher than I'd ever reach, so. And my concern HAS a foundation. But you're what I focus on right now. I want to try and concentrate on you and see what happens. I want this to work out so bad.

Are we together?

[11:47:21, Sunday] Coach: My main concern is my attitude. I feel bad for this morning, sorry. I should've said something more assuring. You looked like you'd expected me to say at least something. I HAD things to say, I had no idea how to present them as careful as possible. Really, I'm sorry for that. I didn't express too much because I was scared. I'm terrified by the idea I'm the one making you engage in romantic/sexual life when you don't want it yet.

Never thought I'd say this, but I'm very surprised. Last night caught me off-guard. I really needed it. So, thank you, I guess. Your sex drive's amazing. I'll tell you what you did after falling asleep, but I'll leave it for later. I want this conversation to be serious.

As you said about the "period"- you might be right. I don't know, either. Maybe it's just us craving some change, but I'd like to believe it's serious. I'm older than you and I still haven't had a stable (moral, could call it that way) relationship with anyone, so this, the question mark that's happening between us, is just as unexplored for me as it is for you. I'm not used to a single partner, I'm not used to seeing you every day, but now, when I've really thought about it, having only one person to understand and care about is a lot harder than meeting a new one every week.

Are we together? We can try being together.

Levi's response warmed my heart to insane temperatures. For a while, I just sat and pressed my hot cheek against the window. He was looking outside his window again, the same thoughtful expression as ever, but smiling.

I wished the bus was empty so I could sit next to him and watch him forever.

I don't understand this new feeling.

I'm lost.

I've never wanted anything stable until now. You know what you want only when it's served right in front of you. So what the fuck has been my problem for the past three years of playing in his team? Like, what's different three years ago from now?

Why didn't I realize I liked him years ago?

[11:53:01, Sunday] Eren: I'm sorry, can we talk about it now? I'm kind of curious how I got such a huge load in my boxers. :-D By the way, Christ if my neck isn't bruised. I've got no idea what to tell mom. Should I tell everyone it's the girl from the newspaper? It's at least plausible.

Levi, I want to be with you. I like you so, so much. You're someone I see myself with.

P.S. Was last night...embarrassing? I'm curious. I know I should be blushing and avoiding you, but I'm not embarrassed in the slightest. Btw your dick is...woah. :---)

I hesitated before writing the last sentence, but it's necessary.

[11:59:02, Sunday ] Coach: I wasn't sure if I liked where it was going at first, since you seemed kind of heavy on having sex. I won't let myself fuck you for a good while still. No, don't object. Yes, I'd love us to spend a whole day in bed together. I can't allow myself going too far, Eren, you've got to understand my position.

God, I don't remember much from last night. I didn't pay attention to my thoughts as much as I paid attention to how you looked and what you did. You're hot. It drives me insane.

Now, really? We've got a few minutes. I'll be brief, I can't think about it for too long. Nile's next to me. He smells arousal ten miles away.

You came early when I first touched you. I don't think you even noticed it, because you kept going. I guess it's the week you've been holding back doing the magic. You came twice, second time being grinding. I also did, then. That was good. I kept kissing you after you fell asleep, changed clothes and sneaked to my own bed.

P.S. No, I'm not embarrassed, obviously. But it does feel different than when it's all industrialized. Intimacy with you is more open. I don't have to think or do too much, you know how to maintain the balance yourself. I'm assuming it's because we were friends (+/-, I can't really say I saw you as a friend; I've felt 20% visually attracted to you ever since you joined the team).

P.S.S. Your cock is the kind I'd suck.

This message excited me so much I saved it.

Your cock is the kind I'd suck.

I looked at the ceiling.

I thought about that for a while.

Oh, man.

Through this religious typing, I didn't notice we'd pulled over by the sports hall. The hour passed like flat seconds, I swear, and realization kicked me only when everybody stood up. In the end, I never really figured out how I'm getting home.

I jumped out the bus and awkwardly tugged my straps, watching everyone take their luggage out and gradually move to the parking lot. Connie and two others headed for the bus stop, the rest had cars parked. I had Baker back in the locker room.

Jean kept circling around Nile. Levi talked to the driver.

I pushed gravel around with my foot.

I could go home with Nile. We've got a few things to talk about, anyways, and it's pretty convenient for us both, since he now lives in the three-story building with a long yard and a Mexican couple above him.

See, if Erwin knows Levi's good and bad sides, I'd say Nile knows Levi's best and worst sides. I could ask him some stuff I've been interested in. I just craved hearing something about Levi from a person that has an absolutely different view on him. (With "different" I mean different from Erwin's and my view, since we both think Levi's a gift from some higher forces; that's very subjective and existential.)

Maybe in exchange I should finally tell Nile I know where they've both worked. I'd be bummed if my players kept something like this as a secret for months. Really, there's no point of hiding it anymore, and there wasn't a proper reason before, either. 006 is the only video of Levi on Pornhub. The rest is scattered all over premium websites. All Levi's videos are either premium, membership gifts, actual cassettes or DVDs, or torrents with odd names and symbols.

I, of course, have no problems with paying a few dollars for the sake of love, but I don't want mom running up on my bills of weekly gay porn site memberships or receiving packages of porn cassettes that include Levi's name and a test tube of strawberry lubricant.

I still had my earphones in. Dragonaut by Sleep was playing. I rolled on my feet just enough to feel the rhythm.

Jean waved at me to catch my attention and walked over after I'd clearly shown I'm not moving.

"Eren Jaeger," he proudly slapped my back. "This week was a monster. I'm proud we're a team."

"Oh, yeah. You tell me."

"Nineteen goals a week, you tell me. What are you doing later tonight? You could come over."

"With my laptop?"

"No, take the guitar, maybe. I've been thinking of dusting mine off for the past week. Could practice Neutral, or something."

"Oh. Yeah, I can dig that. I'll come over by nine."

Jean pulled his hair up in a tight bun and tied it off with a band on his wrist. "It's settled."

"You're heading home?" I asked, in hopes he'd drop me off.

"Uhh... Sorry, no. I'm out to meet Mikasa. We're spending time in the city. You can join us, if you want. You haven't seen her for a whole week, either."

Shrugging, I leaned against the bus and stopped the music in my earphones. "Jean, I live across the hall. I'll meet her."

"Just asking. I'm off. Need to drop my stuff."

"Take care."

"At nine."

I watched him walk off in a tight pace, thumbs under the straps of his bag. Now it's just me, Nile talking to Thomas, and Levi somewhere behind me. His presence caught my attention when he nudged my shoulder when walking past.

"So, what's your plan for the evening?" He childishly asked. "Coming to Erwin's with me, or are you leaving me to the hands of terrorizing peril?"

"I'm going over to Jean's at nine. We're playing guitars. He's going to buy wine, I swear to everything I own."

"Wasn't Jean the fat kid singing Billy Idol a few years ago?"

"On that Talent Show? Yeah."

Levi's brows flicked up and he smiled. "Wow. The perks of living in New Jersey."

"Thought you hated it here."

"No, I like this place. The atmosphere, the people, the aura. I've settled. It's made for me. Compared to the life up in New York, or the area around Pacific, or any other, really, Cape May is the most fitting. Everybody's extremely average." He sighed. "I also like my job. I'm content with where I am."

"You liked Berlin, too," I mentioned.

"I like Berlin, but I don't fit there. One of the exceptions where I don't fit instead of the place not fitting," he said. "I've been in Portugal. Portugal's the nicest place right after where I'm now. I guess if all else fails, I'll move there."

"Mmm."

"I wouldn't have met you if I didn't move to Jersey."

We stared at each other for a long while. He watched me fix my straps and pull on the hem of my shirt.

It feels weird to hear such things from someone that isn't, for example, my mother.

"I want to talk to Nile," I silently said and kept looking down, at the sidewalk. I was almost sure Levi would get pissed over this, but it's got to happen. "There's some things I'd like to find out and ask him about."

"If it's about me, you can ask me in person."

"You don't want me hanging out with Nile," I suggested.

"No, but that's your decision."

"Would you get mad at me if I did? Levi,