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Nile didn’t regret the fact that he’d married Marie. He loved her, loved his children, and would never stop loving her. He was an exemplary husband, cooked breakfast on the weekends and brought bouquets of flowers home for all of the women in his house.

It hadn’t always been that way. He’d never admit it, but he’d only courted Marie because someone else had been interested in her and, well, Nile had wanted that someone’s attention. He’d been a trainee with Erwin, he’d looked up to Erwin, and they’d been friends. Nile had never been able to share a room or extended training practices with Erwin, but there had been time enough outside of military duties to form bonds.

Even the busiest recruit had known Erwin fancied Marie. The stable hands who tended to their horses? They’d all known. Their training supervisors? They’d all known. Nile wouldn’t have been surprised if the king had known – even the gossip mill was desperate sometimes. The story of a fatherless young man trying to gain the favour of a favoured tavern owner’s daughter was ripe news, though Erwin lifted his head through it all and ignored any rumour that crossed him.

“You’ve just been making eyes at each other for weeks, so why did Matthew ask if you’re taking responsibility for the baby?” Nile asked one evening, half-slumped over a tankard of ale, wondering if he’d missed crucial stages of Erwin and Marie’s relationship. He was pretty sure Matthew had been joking, but he needed to be sure… for no particular reason.

It was just Erwin and himself, the others had wandered off to bed a while back. Which was good – Nile would never have been able to speak so openly to Erwin if Mike had been around. They were close, as close as Nile wanted to be to Erwin.
Erwin gave a surprised bark of laughter.

“As much as I would like for something to happen, I’m going to join the scouting legion. Having a family would just hold me back.” Erwin dipped his head slightly, and Nile frowned.

“Hold you back from what?” he asked, elbow slipping from where it had been resting on the edge of the table. Nile’s face smashed into the table, and he groaned loudly.

“Now boys,” a warm voice said, and Nile moved his head slightly, cheek squeaking against the table, as Marie collected their empty glasses.

“Those rumours are just silly things.” She shot a smile to Erwin, who smiled in return. Nile groaned. Erwin had never smiled at him like that.

“It looks like you’ve cut your nose,” Marie said gently, setting her glasses on the table with a clink. “Come with me to the back, and I’ll patch you up.” Nile saw her exchange smiles with Erwin again, and he rose to his feet quickly, head spinning.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Erwin said, shrugging his jacket on and downing the last of his drink. Nile felt a flush crawl to his cheeks. Erwin had easily drunk more than him, and yet he was as unfazed as ever. Did this man have no weaknesses? God forbid anyone give him power, he’d be ruthless.

Nile wanted to stop Erwin. He’d rather Erwin patch him up than Marie any day, and perhaps patching up could lead to some drunken (on his part) fumbling that turned into something more, and then perhaps the next night Erwin would come to his room and ask to speak with him in private, before sinking down and-

“How hard did you hit your head?” Marie asked, gently leading Nile behind the bar and to one of the back rooms. He snapped out of his daydream as she stroked his cheek gently, patting his nose down with something soft.

“Maybe it’s a concussion.” Marie smiled softly, and a light went on in Nile’s inebriated mind. “You really shouldn’t spend the night alone.”

So, really, it was an accident how he’d fallen into bed with Marie. She wasn’t the first woman he’d slept with, and she didn’t end up the last, but she did end up the one he married.

Nile couldn’t quite remember how Erwin had discovered their relationship. Actually, he could remember, he just preferred to block that memory from his mind. Erwin had already known, rumour mills working overtime, and he’d expressed that he was disappointed Nile hadn’t told him first.

The disappointment had cut like a knife, and he wore it on his posture as he did the small scar on his nose. All he wanted to do was to please Erwin, but he found himself in Marie’s company more than Erwin’s and eventually decided to settle down. Somewhere along the line he’d fallen in love with Marie as well as Erwin.

Of course, settling down had meant joining the military police. And joining the military police had meant not joining the scouting legion. And not joining the scouting legion had meant not being with Erwin.

Nile had wanted Erwin to stop him. He’d wanted Erwin to convince him – and Nile would have left everything for Erwin’s words, no matter how heart breaking it would have been. Erwin never had, though.

“You’ve made your decision,” was all Erwin offered after Nile made the choice, and Nile straightened, ignoring the odd quibble his stomach felt. “And I’ve made mine. I hope we can meet again soon.”

They’d parted ways, Nile had married Marie, and they’d had two kids before the recent bane of Nile’s life had walked on scene.

Before now, Nile had never thought anything of Levi. Well, he’d thought him a good soldier and a fucking nuisance from what he’d heard, but that was about it. It was only recently that he’d thought about something else in relation to Levi and he narrowed his eyes.

“Commander Dok?” a nervous voice asked. “Is everything alright?”

Nile looked to the cadet who’d been catching him up on the latest news. He nodded curtly and waved his hand in dismissal.

“Leave the notes with my aid,” Nile said tiredly, thoughts more concerned with the briefing he was to attend. The cadet nodded and passed a clipboard to a young soldier in the corner, the aid Nile had mentioned before.

He walked slowly towards the briefing room, footsteps heavy. The scouting legion (Erwin) had requested a meeting for funds, though that was nothing new. What was new, though, was that the scouting legion (Erwin) had also proposed a mission into delicate territory (Erwin wanted to try to reclaim Wall Maria as soon as possible). Nile expected they (Erwin) wouldn’t get their (Erwin’s) funding, but a meeting was standard procedure (which Erwin would rely on).

Nile cursed to himself, stopping dead in the corridor. Every day he thought of Erwin, of how he should have done things differently, and how he could compensate for that now. He wouldn’t go so far to say he loved Erwin, but he had to admit he was obsessed with him and the possibilities he’d never chased because he was too damn scared.

Usually what happened when Nile entered the meeting room was Erwin would come and greet him. They’d exchange pleasantries, and then Nile would offer to take Erwin to a nearby pub – which Erwin accepted. Nile would sit through the meeting, satisfied, and agree to reasonable demands. When it all ended, he’d take Erwin to the tavern, and he’d bask in Erwin’s shadow. If he got a little too drunk and had to lean on Erwin as they stumbled back to Nile’s home then, well, it wasn’t quite on purpose so he could feel Erwin’s pectorals of steel.

So Nile entered the room with a smirk, raising his hand slightly to greet Erwin. His aid shot him an odd look when he came to a stop, the smirk falling from his face as he met narrowed eyes rather than crystal blue, war-hardened, perfectly framed by lashes… Nile cut off his trail of thought and took his seat at the table, conveniently placed opposite the reason for his sudden drop in mood.

Mike was the one who usually accompanied Erwin. Instead, there was humanity’s strongest soldier, Levi, and Nile sneered his way. Erwin was seated beside him, lips moving without the sound carrying. Levi didn’t break eye contact as he replied to whatever Erwin was saying, and Nile ground his back teeth.

It took three minutes and twenty seven seconds before Erwin noticed him, not that Nile was counting. His aid was slowly sliding papers between them, trying to engage him, but Nile needed to make sure Levi wasn’t trying anything devious. Why was he even here? It should have been Mike.

“Commander Dok,” his aid began and that was when Nile blocked the voice from his mind entirely. He had bigger things to address, such as how blue Erwin’s eyes were now they were locked with his own.

“Nile,” Erwin greeted conversationally, not shifting an inch in his chair. Where was Nile’s hand clasp or his hug? Granted he’d never been hugged by Erwin before, but there was always hope. “Good to see you.”

Oh, was it now? Not nice enough to get the attention he deserved though.

“No Mike today,” Nile shot back, curling his upper lip in Levi’s direction.

“Levi is an invaluable source, and we’ve all agreed that he’s more useful here than supervising training.” Erwin shot a look in Levi’s direction, and Nile’s stomach curdled. No one else would be able to see it, but there was a tiny smile on Erwin’s face – a tiny smile directed at Levi and not Nile.

It was a good thing Nile had brought a decent aid today. His mind was whirling through the meeting, but it had nothing to do with the topics being discussed. When prompted for a decision, Nile looked down at a hastily scrawled note and shook his head, in keeping with what everyone else had decided.

“Your request has been denied, Commander Smith,” someone said, and Nile watched as Levi glowered at him, malice and venom in both eyes.

It wasn’t Nile’s fault they hadn’t got the funding. He wouldn’t want to give Levi anything anyway, not if he was going to be a greedy so-and-so and take all of Erwin’s attention away.

Nile sat up straight, eyes wide as a thought occurred to him. If Erwin’s attention was focused solely on Levi, the one way to get Erwin’s attention would be to stick around Levi.

A grin spread over Nile’s face, and he looked to his aid. He had a personal mission, but he’d need some help. He half-turned towards the soldier at his side, hoping to keep his mouth hidden from Erwin and Levi. He didn’t want them to catch onto his plan, though they were probably more concerned with packing their things up and regrouping at this stage.

“I want a discreet team formed. They have to be good tacticians, loyal, and able to keep their mouths shut,” Nile commanded.

They’d been dismissed a few moments ago, and Nile shot a smile over the table to Levi, who frowned in retaliation.

“We meet in an hour,” Nile said, striding from the room to gather a few supplies. Nothing was too much when it came to catching Erwin’s attention.

.

Nile entered the room alone, leaving his aid to stand guard outside. Three people were seated at the table in the room, and Nile raked his eyes over the choices his aid had made. He’d wanted a group who could be bribed easily, a group that would be loyal to him, a group that wouldn’t form friendships. He needed them for a mission, not to make dinner plans.

“You’re to be reassigned to this mission,” Nile said, and the trio looked at him, instantly alert. Two of the recruits had only recently joined, something for which Nile was thankful for. They’d surely want to impress him.

“Your superiors have already been notified,” he continued, befitting of his status. He was aware of how corrupt his organisation was and knew the laziness that permeated through the ranks. This mission was one of utmost importance, however, and he’d need a diligent team.

“Boris, Dennis and Hitch,” he said, addressing each member sternly. “You’ll be working on a covert mission that includes tracking members of the scouting legion. If news of this task leaks, you can expect severe punishment of highest authority.”

Well, Nile couldn’t afford embarrassment now, could he? And god forbid Marie found out what he was up to. If plans leaked he wouldn’t actually enact severe punishment, but he couldn’t risk the leak.

“Yes sir,” the trio replied, and Nile nodded, eyeing Hitch up carefully. He’d heard a lot about her, a lot that would be extremely useful.

“Boris and Dennis,” he began, and the pair snapped to attention. “I want you to track the actions of a member of the scouting legion. You’ll know him as humanity’s strongest – Levi – and I need a full report of his actions. I expect you to return to me in a week’s time with the full report. You need to be discreet, and if you’re noticed then make up a reason for you being there.”

Nile didn’t miss the look of exasperation the pair shot to each other, and he raised an eyebrow slightly. He had to stamp out any thoughts of slacking off right away. They could all slack off when they had completed the mission and no sooner.

“I hear a shipment arrived overnight. Venison and honey ale,” he commented calmly and nodded at the widened eyes of his soldiers. He’d caught them in his plans alright.

“Shall we leave straight away, sir?” Dennis asked, and Nile nodded, waiting for the door to close before he turned to Hitch.

“I have a different task for you.” Nile came to sit at the table, opposite Hitch. She wore a slight frown, and Nile couldn’t blame her. He just hoped she didn’t get the wrong idea.

“I need you to teach me how to seduce someone who is un-seducible.” Because, really, Levi had a stick so far up his ass it was coming out of his throat. And he was a snippy little bastard. One that apparently hated facial hair, judging by the amount of abuse he gave Nile about his moustache and goatee.

“Sir?” Hitch questioned, no doubt wondering why Nile would need to use seduction when he controlled where the supplies went in all of Sina. Let her keep questioning, the less she knew the better.

“Will you be up to the task?” Hitch nodded in reply and Nile leant forward slightly.

“Then let’s get started.”

.

It just so happened that, a week and three days later, a company of military police members was needed on a joint mission with the scouting legion and the garrison. Perhaps the commander going himself was a little… overzealous, but Nile couldn’t let anyone else on the team. Six other people were with him, but Nile was more focused on the fact he could implement his seduction training.

He knew for a fact that Levi would be there, without Erwin or Mike. He’d have his team with him and no more, his intel had told him, and there was no more perfect a time than now to start. Levi would never know what hit him.

The joint mission was simple. A member of nobility was travelling between towns on a goodwill venture and had requested each faction to accompany the party. It was a waste of time, frankly, but Nile knew the scouting legion needed the money, the garrison could do with trying to climb their way upwards, and the military police were being supplied nicely.

The captains of each military branch were to meet while the others unloaded provisions and began setting up to leave. This gave Nile a perfect opportunity to start his plan, and he looked down at himself, remembering Hitch’s advice.

Levi was a notorious clean freak. Everyone knew that, even Hitch, and she’d taken in Nile’s appearance over the past week and made a few suggestions. One had been to make sure he ironed everything he wore (his socks were particularly wrinkle-free), and another suggestion had been to fill in his thinning moustache and goatee a little.

He had been sceptical when Hitch had brought out a brush and powder, but Nile had suffered for his goal, Hitch assuring it was all the rage in Sina today (Nile had yet to see evidence of that, but perhaps everyone was an expert at putting on the powder and kept their private life private).

“Commander Dok,” the garrison captain said, a strict woman Nile believed to be called Rico. “We were not expecting someone as high status as yourself.”

The politest way to ask Nile what the fuck he was doing here, naturally.

“I must set an example to all members of our branch,” Nile said, smiling at her and turning his attention to the third person in the room.

Levi wasn’t anything extraordinary, Nile thought. He had a gloomy look and permanent shadows under his eyes. His eyebrows were neat (Nile had to pluck his, did Levi? Could they later bond over eyebrow plucking and do each other’s as a trust exercise?), eyes wary, and lips pressed tightly together in dissatisfaction.

“Captain Levi,” he said warmly. First impressions meant a lot, if you ignored the actual first impression between them.

“Nile,” Levi replied, turning away for a moment. Nile was torn between wanting a more respectful address and glee that Levi was comfortable enough with him to use his first name.

“You look impeccable as ever, Captain,” Nile complimented, and he felt Rico’s alarmed stare on his back. “You must have ironed your uniform with amazing precision. Perhaps you’d care to teach me a technique or two?”

Nile had it on good authority Levi often ordered recruits to re-iron their uniforms if they weren’t up to shape and had, on more than one occasion, held a tutorial session on how to iron properly. If Nile could get into a private one of them…

“Your uniform’s fine for a pig like yourself,” Levi retorted and turned to Rico.

So that hadn’t quite ended how Nile had planned, but they’d had to get up early to be here, and they’d be travelling for a few days. That often made a man unhappy, so there was plenty time for Nile to make Levi very happy indeed.

Levi and Rico discussed what they’d need to do, and Nile smiled through the odd looks they kept shooting him. It transpired that the three division heads would be grouped together, the rest of their teams spread throughout the nobleman’s company. Levi would be in very close range for a number of days.

“Captain!” a pleasant voice called, and Nile looked at the woman who had entered. She wore the wings crest, and Levi nodded to her instantly. Nile watched as the woman said they were leaving soon and wondered if he could make friends with her. A friend of a friend is a friend, after all.

The first to leave was Rico, and Nile fought hard not to hyperventilate as the space closed between himself and Levi. Of course Levi’s hand was bunched in his shirt, and he looked ready to slice a thousand titans down, but this was a development in physical contact!

“I don’t know what your plan is, but if you do anything to fuck up this mission then I’ll kill you myself.” Levi had very nice teeth, which was surprising really. He also had nice lips when he wasn’t pressing them together.

“Do you understand?” Levi said, and Nile had the feeling he was repeating himself. He nodded slowly – he didn’t have any plans to fuck up this mission or his own.

His chest felt empty as Levi let him go, and Nile watched him leave, sighing. He’d never been able to do things halfway, and while he’d never intended to feel anything towards Levi (Levi was a goal, but not the full accomplishment) there was a stirring in his gut that he’d only associated with Erwin.

His horse was ready to go when he exited the tent. He mounted and grunted in dissatisfaction. Levi was on the opposite side of the formation, Rico between them, and there was no way she’d pass messages between them. Maybe Nile could suggest to shift the formation soon.

It was a warm day, and the sun beat down as they made their way slowly through town. Nile felt sweat drops roll down the back of his neck, and he had to wipe his forehead more than once. It wasn’t just him who was affected by the heat though – Rico had taken off her jacket and rolled up her sleeves, and Levi sat slouched in his saddle, hair pushed back a little.

“How long until the first stop?” he asked, and Rico turned to him with fury in her eyes.

“You were expected to read the itinerary yourself, Commander Dok. You may be a commander, but here you’re just like the rest of us and-“ she broke off suddenly, mouth clamping shut. She avoided his eyes as she turned in her saddle, facing Levi’s direction instead.

“Rico?” he said, a little concerned with the shaking of her shoulders. He knew when the next stop was – yes he had read the itinerary thank you very much – but Nile had wanted to try and start up some communication between them.

“Levi, is she okay?” Nile said, trying to lean over in his saddle to get a better look at Rico. He gave up and looked at Levi, frowning at the raised eyebrows and parted lips.

“Levi?” Nile suddenly felt very insecure. Rico was fine. It was laughter that was causing her shakes.

“C-commander Dok,” she said, trying not to break into laughter once more. Even Levi had a small smile on his face now (and oh, what a smile it was), but Nile still didn’t understand why.

“Would you like to borrow a mirror, if you don’t have one,” Rico said gently, and Nile ignored the scoffing on Levi’s side to hurriedly grab his mirror.

He almost dropped the compact mirror in horror. His cheeks flushed slightly, and he gritted his jaw.

“Does anyone have any tissue?” Nile said, voice tight. His chin was up high, as dignified as he could be, and he sniffed.

“I’d prefer to let you ride the rest of the journey with sweaty, brown paste on your face, but it would tarnish the rest of us,” Levi said, throwing something to Rico. “There.”

Rico passed him the heavenly pack of tissues, and Nile wanted to bow down at Levi’s feet and grovel, worship every inch of his toes, and kiss them until they were covered in lip-marks.

For the rest of the day, Nile had to put up with the occasional snigger from Rico and the narrow-eyed, pitying look Levi gave him every time he saw him. All in all, Nile had learnt never to trust Hitch with beard-enhancing products. He just hoped the rest of her advice worked a lot better.

.

Nile’s face was stony as he drummed his fingers against the front desk of an inn. Apparently their reservations hadn’t been noted and instead of behaving how Nile wanted them to, the staff were utterly unconcerned with them.

“You’re welcome to take the two remaining rooms we have,” a man behind the counter said. “We really don’t have anything else, and we’re the only inn around here.”

Nile frowned. They’d sent people out to make sure reservations were made and somehow, somewhere, someone had fucked up. It was making Nile look like an incompetent idiot in front of Levi!

“Fine,” he snapped, slamming a bag of money on the counter. “I’ll take them.”

The noble and his personal guards had one room, naturally. They were the clients, and they got the larger of the two rooms, leaving Levi, Rico and Nile standing in the other. The rest of their party had gone ahead to scout the land, and were probably tucked up in bed one man to each room right now. Nile scowled.

“Fuck this,” Levi said, promptly walking out of the door, Rico nodding her agreement and following him. Nile’s eyes widened – his chance to share a bed with Levi was slipping through his fingers.

“Wait, wait,” he called, making down the stairs. Levi was at the desk, speaking in a low voice to the innkeeper, and his shoulder stiffened.

“Fine,” Levi muttered, pushing past Nile as his feet hit the last step. “This is your fuck up, and you’re paying for our drinks tonight.”

The noble and his men were more than content to remain at the inn - dinner was a hearty stew made with freshly delivered ingredients. It left the trio’s evening free, and Rico was quick to suggest they visit the tavern close by. Nile took to the bar while the other two found a table, miserable looks on their face.

“I’ll have…” Nile trailed off as an unimpressed woman faced him. “Three of your finest ales.” He smiled, and her eyes narrowed as she turned to grab three tankards.

Now would be a perfect time to work on his plan, Nile decided. He still had plenty of skills Hitch had taught him, and he wasn’t likely to get Levi completely alone before they set off so it had to be now. Alcohol should help Levi relax too, and Nile called for whiskey to be brought over too, handing over a few coins. That got the barkeep smiling, and she uncorked something foul-smelling and strong enough to make Nile a little dizzy already.

“Oh,” Levi said as Nile returned, the barkeep by his side. “I hoped you wouldn’t join us.”

Nile forced a laugh.

“Don’t be silly!” he said loudly, making a show of sighing light heartedly. “We’re great friends, you know,” he added to the woman serving the drinks, and she raised an eyebrow, retreating to the bar as quickly as possible.

“Are you trying to flirt with the barkeep, Commander?” Rico asked, glasses reflecting off firelight, giving her a menacing air. “Because it would do to remember that you are married, and what you do on a mission will affect us too.”

Levi shuffled in his seat, grimace on his face (and, oh, how could a grimace look so divine?) and an idea formed in Nile’s head. He scowled in Rico’s direction, sped to the bar and returned with a sodden rag. He smiled widely as he wiped the table, knowing that this would get Levi’s approval 100%.

“Were you born in a pile of shit,” Levi hissed, snatching up his drinks. “Do you know how filthy that shit-stained rag is?”

Nile’s smile faltered slightly, and he glanced to Rico. She shook her head slowly, nose wrinkled, and he looked down at the rag in his hands.

Fuck.

Okay, so this could be a rag used to wipe up excess fluids from the bar (and Nile didn’t want to think about the possibility of those fluids originating from a human one little bit). Fuck. He’d fucked up.

“Um,” he managed out, nodding his head to the side and smiling slightly, though it didn’t touch his eyes. “I’ll just…”

The look Levi shot him made Nile’s stomach quiver in fear. He’d take a chance against a titan instead of facing that look, and he handed the rag back to the barkeep, her unimpressed stare leaving him to hand over another coin or two, just to save some pride. Nile knew he needed to step up his game, and he took a deep breath, returning to the table.

“Let’s go over our plan for tomorrow,” Rico said, the mediator it seemed. Nile nodded slowly, glancing to the side, in Levi’s direction. He placed an elbow on the table, fingers smoothing his hair down subtly, one ear open to what Rico was saying.

Did Levi like him? There was obviously something between them. No one could harbour that amount of animosity without feeling something else. He was just a hard nut that needed some strong cracking, that’s all. And Nile was the strength needed.

“Commander?” Rico asked, and Nile looked at her, the fluttering in his heart still full speed.

“Yes,” he replied, and Levi sighed.

“He wasn’t listening,” Levi began, and Rico shrugged, downing her whiskey in one swoop. Nile was impressed, until he remembered Pixis and his infatuation with strong spirits.

“What Rico was saying, shithead,” Levi began, and Nile locked on, eyes wide and open, staring into Levi’s deep, sensuous, dark eyes. What he wouldn’t give to be able to peer into those glorious orbs for all of eternity.

“Tomorrow, we’ll take it in turns to ride ahead as the terrain is rumoured to be littered with bandits.” Levi took a sip of his ale, and Nile watched his neck bob as he swallowed. He almost couldn’t bear to imagine what Levi would look like swallowing something else down his throat…

“I’ll take the first shift,” Nile said eagerly, still looking into Levi’s eyes. Hitch had never said how much eye contact was needed, but the more the better, right?

“Right,” Levi said, raising his eyebrows and looking at his drink. He’d already downed the whiskey, and he looked ready to down the ale too.

“You’ll scout ahead for an hour and then switch,” Rico said firmly, and Nile reluctantly tore his eyes away from Levi. He nodded and let his fingers curl in his hair. Hitch had had an advantage when she’d shown this to him – Nile’s hair wasn’t as long. He contemplated his goatee, but he’d had enough misfortune with facial hair on this mission already.

Nile twirled strands of hair around his fingers, eyes trying to meet Levi’s. His alcohol was untouched, and he barely noticed when Rico stood up, announcing she’d get them another round. (‘Them’ turned out to be just her and Levi, but Nile had more important things to think about right now than alcohol.)

“Maybe you shouldn’t drink anymore,” Rico said, and Nile looked at her in confusion.

“I’ve hardly had anything,” he protested, and Levi huffed.

“That’s my problem too,” Levi mumbled,” not enough.”

As Levi reached for his drink, Nile followed suit. Subtly, he copied Levi’s drinking patterns as they began discussing the best place on their journey to pick up supplies. Body language was important, Hitch had said. She’d also told him how to recognise when someone was interested… well, Levi should be interested by anything he said. He was a commander after all.

“That’s settled at least,” Levi commented.

Nile was sure he imagined it, but Levi shrank away slightly as he put his now-empty tankard on the table. Oh, Levi. He was probably just shy. Hitch had warned him about getting Levi out of his shell. He couldn’t push, not one bit, and had to be patient.

So he smiled at Levi, mind a little hazy. That whiskey had been fucking strong.

“We better go back,” Levi suggested, and Rico nodded.

“I asked the barkeep about rooms here, and she said we could borrow a room upstairs.” Nile looked at Rico. How dare she! Was she trying to steal Levi away from him? “She actually offered first, after seeing that one.”

Nile wasn’t sure who ‘that one’ was supposed to be. It couldn’t be him, after all; he’d been nothing but courteous and attentive to Levi’s words all night.

“Help me get this fucker home,” Levi said, and Nile felt his heart skip a beat as Levi pulled him up. He was about to turn and lower his lips to Levi’s (because why else would Levi touch him?) when he found thin air.

“Aha! Playing hard to get!” Nile said, though the words came out a little more jumbled than he’d wanted them too. Levi was at the door, Rico pushing him in that direction, and Nile followed happily. His feet stumbled a little, but he managed to make it outside (to Levi’s side) simply enough.

The trip to the room was silent. As much as Nile wanted to start up a conversation, Rico was there, butting her nose in. He couldn’t confess like this, and so he remained silent.

Until they approached the inn.

A group of men stood in the middle of the road, and Nile knew they were trouble. They looked cocky, up for trouble, and Nile knew he had to handle this to show how confident he was to Levi.

“Let me handle this,” he said, as suavely as he could. It might have come out slightly different, but Nile was already striding (stumbling) towards the rabble before he could be stopped.

“Push off,” he said, standing squarely, arms on hips and his best commander voice on show. “I’m not afraid to use force.”

“Um,” one of the troublemakers said, no doubt trying to think of an excuse. Nile wouldn’t let them though, he had to prove himself.

“That’s enough,” he commanded, throwing a hand out. He was aiming to point at one of them, but his arm continued falling, and it ended up by his side. Oh well, Nile couldn’t have everything.

“With the powers granted to me by the mighty king himself, I must stop you from disturbing the peace.” Nile strode forwards, suddenly aware he didn’t actually have a weapon. That didn’t stop him (nothing would stop him from protecting Levi), but something else did, and he fell forwards, head smacking against the ground.

Someone must have tripped him.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Levi said, and Nile rolled over, ignoring the dizziness he felt. “Ignore this pig, he’s fucked out of his mind.”

“Sorry to disturb you, gentlemen,” Rico added, as if these thugs were just townspeople and not thugs. Hah. Shows what she knew.

The dizziness grew, and Nile struggled to listen to Levi. He sighed heavily, tiredness overtaking him.

“What a fucking loser,” was the last thing Nile heard, and he smiled as his brain clouded. Levi was thinking about him!

.

Nile was in a very happy place. He stretched his leg out, smiling languidly as his partner ran their hand over his cock, cupping his balls and blowing across his erection. They were light, and there was no doubt who was teasing him, drawing small breaths across his legs, tempting him. There was no way this was Marie, there were no breasts resting against his skin or hair trailing over the person’s shoulder.

No, this was everything Nile had wanted. Between his legs was Levi, it had to be. He shivered, drawing in a shark breath as Levi wrapped his fingers around his cock, jerking him slowly. His movements quickened, as if he wanted to push Nile to the very edge because he knew how irresistible he was, and Nile moaned, taking a deep breath.

He spluttered, opening his eyes and sitting upright. There was a tiny glimmer of light coming from cracks in the wall and the blanket covering him was twisted at his ankles. Nile blinked in confusion as he stared down at his dick, his own hand grasping it and not Levi’s. His mouth was dry and tasted awful. Nile bet he looked far from a pretty picture, hard-on deflating somewhat as he took in how ridiculous he looked with his trousers halfway down his legs and shirt rumpled.

At least he was on his own. He would have been mortified if Levi had been here and-

Wait.

They were on a mission, they’d booked two rooms at the inn, Levi and Rico were supposed to be in here. Where were they?

Hurriedly, fearful that his team had been attacked and kidnapped while he’d been sleeping, Nile rushed to dress himself, wincing at having to dress in yesterday’s clothes. His travel bag was, presumably, still on the wagon they’d brought, so he’d just have to make do until they stopped tonight, and he could clean up properly.

Nile left the bed a mess and walked down the stairs, wishing he had a gun or something to defend himself against the brutes who had taken Levi. And Rico, he supposed.

“About fucking time,” a familiar voice said as Nile hit flat ground, and his heart jolted. Levi stood near the innkeeper, and had he been talking to the stubborn man? Nile didn’t like the innkeeper, and he glared at him.

“Any later and we would have left you behind,” Rico commented and Nile narrowed his eyes. She’d spent more time with Levi on this trip than he had – was she planning to steal him?

They set off uneventfully, their client more than happy with the lie-in he’d received. As promised the night before, Nile took the first turn to scout ahead and watched as rabbits scuttled off into bushes, no hint of foul play on the road ahead whatsoever.

Nile let his horse slow a little, wincing at the jolt in his stomach. Nausea overtook him, and he willed it down, looking for something more interesting on the path ahead. There were no signs of any attackers waiting for them and when he returned to Levi…

Would Levi be proud of him for doing a good job? Nile thought he would be, ignoring the tight knot in his stomach. Levi would tell him he’d done well, and there would be a look of admiration on his face. He’d offer to share rooms with him tonight (or a tent, depending on where they ended up) and things would get a little… heated.

Nile imagined that he’d go to wash up and return to his and Levi’s room with a towel around his waist. There would be an accident, though, and Nile grinned at the thought of his towel dropping completely by chance, allowing Levi a good view of his dick. And after he saw what Nile had to offer, there was no way Levi would refuse him, leading to a night bad for sleep but a very good one for everything else.

The horse between his legs spooked suddenly, stumbling to the side and forcing Nile out of his daydream as his stomach lurched dangerously. Nile’s eyes widened and he practically threw himself into a dismount, running to the side of the road and throwing up the contents of his stomach – though it was hardly solid material that came out.

Admittedly, Nile felt a lot better for it, but he doubted it would win any Levi points right now. He whistled for his horse, and it trotted over. Nile mounted and reached for some water, rinsing out his mouth and continuing to scan the landscape. His stomach was settled now, thankfully, and his thoughts drifted to Levi.

The sound of a horse trotting roused him a little while later, and he switched place with Rico, heart pounding. This would be the first time in a while he’d been alone with Levi, and he struggled to remember Hitch’s advice.

“Levi,” he greeted when he reached Levi’s side. “All is clear ahead.”

Deep, gentle voices were meant to be attractive, and so Nile made sure to keep his low and smooth. He smiled reassuringly as Levi looked him up and down (and his uniform was terribly wrinkled, he felt shame clawing at him for letting Levi see him in this state).

“It shouldn’t be too long before we reach the next town,” Nile continued, puffing his chest out a little. His head was pounding, and he reached for his water, remembering another tip Hitch had given him.

“Draw attention to your mouth,” she’d said, tapping her lips and grinning.

So Nile let his reins slacken and glanced at Levi. He was staring dead ahead, and Nile cleared his throat, satisfied as Levi’s gaze slid to focus on him. Nile licked his bottom lip and lifted his flask up, making sure to let a little water run over his chin when he pulled back. He swallowed heavily, fluttering his eyelashes slightly as he looked over at Levi, making sure to make eye contact.

It didn’t quite have the effect Nile had been hoping for, but Levi was looking at him regardless. That was what really mattered.

He licked his lips again, raising an eyebrow slightly.

“If your horse stumbles, you’ll bite your tongue,” Levi said and his lips! Nile’s heart skipped a beat as Levi’s lips quirked up in a smirk. It had to be aimed at Nile this time, and he looked down at the reins in his hands, composing himself for a moment before he turned to look back at Levi once more.

“Perhaps you could kiss it better,” he said, the words mumbled. Levi turned his head slowly, brow furrowed, and Nile wondered if he would get his kiss after all.

“I’m going to take over watch now,” Levi said instead, spurring his horse to canter quickly.

It’s okay, Nile told himself. He came into this knowing that Levi was a tough one, and he clearly couldn’t deal with intimate situations in open spaces. Nile could wait. He was patient, and he’d make tonight extra special, to make Levi feel welcome and comfortable.

They hit the next town in the evening. Their charge was taken to the inn they’d booked, and there were no disputes about the rooms this time. At the desk, Nile shot a smile to Levi, leaning an elbow on the counter. He slipped, hitting his jaw with the fist he was supposed to lean on and looked down, glad for once that Levi hadn’t been looking his way.

They decided to split up for the evening. Levi looked relieved by Rico’s suggestion and was off before she’d even finished talking. Nile attempted to follow (stealthily), but Rico stopped him.

“I’d suggest having a bath and changing your clothes first,” she said, nose wrinkled as she looked him up and down.

Nile took on her suggestion, swapping his uniform for lighter clothes. He gave his uniform to the laundry with promise it would be ready that evening, and he set out to the markets. Despite his true wishes for a candlelit dinner with Levi, Nile knew it would be impossible to find him, and the market was the best place to get a decent meal on the cheap.

He passed stalls, ignoring calls to buy various products. Nile paused at a glassware stall, thinking of picking up something for the girls, when a woman in the next stall over waved him over.

“You look like a man in love,” she cooed, and Nile felt his cheeks heat up a little. He’d hardly call it love, but he didn’t move to correct her. “But you seem to be having trouble getting their attention.”

She certainly had Nile’s attention. He moved forward, eyes scanning over the filled jars and pots she had on her table.

“You need a little help, something to get their attention, and there is no better way to grab the one you love than through the power of scent.” She smiled, flashing brilliant teeth and gestures to a few small pots.

“I can provide you with aphrodisiacs of the finest grade and perfumes of the most alluring scents.” She placed a jar in his hand. It fit snuggly in Nile’s palm, and she encouraged him to take a smell.

It was… interesting. Spicy, certainly, with a hint of sweetness Nile couldn’t place.

“If you wear the scent of chilli and cherries, no one could resist you. Your love will fall into your lap, and your relationship will bloom!” She threw her arms wide, and Nile knew he had to try it. It might not work, but it wasn’t worth letting the chance slip away.

He left with his money bag severely depleted, but an idea in his mind. He picked up some food and returned to the inn, pressing the scent against his neck. The bottle was small enough that the entire contents were on Nile’s skin before he realised it was empty. Oh well – he couldn’t go wrong with this.

Nile smiled as he entered the room, wiping himself free of breadcrumbs and lying on the bed, hand supporting his head as he lay on his side. After a moment, Nile decided to rid himself of his shirt and resumed his position.

The door banging against the frame woke Nile from his doze and he sat upright hurriedly, wiping at the dribble that had slipped from the corner of one mouth. Rico looked down at him in disgust, setting her bags by the bed reserved for Levi.

“Wait,” Nile said hurriedly, sweeping his legs under him and kneeling on the bed. “That’s for Levi.”

Rico fixed him a stare.

“Levi’s rooming with our client tonight. We decided that he’s the strongest and so the best to protect our client in the event something should happen.” She began changing, not bothered by Nile in the slightest.

“We?” Nile parroted, feeling as if he’d been left out somehow.

“Yes, Levi and myself. I think you were cleaning up at that point,” Rico said flippantly, throwing on a large shirt and sleeping trousers. She settled herself under the covers and blew her light out.

“Not all of us got a lie-in this morning. Please blow your light out if you’re staying in here.” There was a pause, and Nile sighed.

“And open the window, it smells weird in here,” Rico added, Nile deflating and doing as commanded, flopping onto his creaky bed a minute later and wondering if the pillows would suffocate him and save him from his growing crush.

.

It was, Nile realised with a heavy heart, a disaster. Not the mission – no that was actually going really well, people were pledging to donate to various causes and the nobleman had commended them all on their valiant behaviour – but Nile’s plan to get Levi to like him.

Today was the last day they’d be escorting the nobleman, Nile’s last chance to get Levi’s attention. He was under no illusions that once they were able to split up Levi would stay. Unless Nile could do something to get Levi’s attention, he’d lost him. And by losing Levi, Nile lost his last chance at Erwin.

“What the fuck is that smell?” someone commented loudly, someone Nile thought belonged to Levi’s team. He grunted, ignoring them and rubbing his neck. So, okay, the weird fragrance he’d been sold yesterday might have gone a bit vinegar-like and stale, but that didn’t mean it was awful.

Quietly, Nile moved to stand outside. Not because he smelt, but because it was the practical thing to do. He had to wait for Levi and their client.

“Oh,” Levi said when they arrived, looking Nile up and down. “You.”

It was as close to ‘good morning’ as he was going to get, and Nile could take it. The wrinkled nose look from Levi was something he didn’t want to take, however, and Nile skipped breakfast in favour of a quick shower because he really, really, really did smell awful.

No one spared him a glance as they rode out, along the dirt track that would take them to a larger town. It was a fairly short ride, and Nile spent it miserably staring at his horse’s ears, only looking up when Levi trotted past. He never looked Nile’s way, focused only on the mission, and that was so admirable that Nile fought to contain his sigh.

Midday came, warm and not a moment too soon. The mission had stated this was to be their turning around point, and Nile was actually glad the end was in sight. His neck was beginning to hurt from all the whipping around he’d been doing, trying to get Levi to only see his good side. Not that he could remember which side that was meant to be, and, really, he thought his sides were pretty equal.

They stopped to check on the nobleman, and that was where things changed for the better. The nobleman assured them he’d be fine from here on, that he wanted to visit family in a change of plans, and that family were in the noble house of this section, already anticipating his arrival. It was no skin off their back, so Nile gave the order to let the noble do what he wanted, and for the rest of them to head home. They deserved a decent night’s rest, and his orders were met with relieved sighs.

“We’ll debrief quickly,” Nile muttered, and soon it was just Rico and Levi beside him, both wearing identical frowns. He’d make this snappy, Nile thought, to try and avoid any further embarrassment.

Everything he’d done had failed, and all Nile wanted now was to get home without making a tit of himself anymore. This was the first and only time he was going to ask for seduction techniques from Hitch, and Nile wondered what the fuck he’d been thinking.

Well. He’d been thinking of Levi and Erwin of course. Nile closed his eyes and prepared himself to push away the unobtainable and end this mission.

There was a scuffle at the end of the alley, and Nile opened his eyes, frowning. There was a clatter, and he heard Rico sigh heavily.

“Don’t bother Nile,” she said, and Nile half-turned to her.

“Not like your lot bother unless it affects you directly anyway,” Levi muttered, and Nile knew then that something terrible was going to happen, all because he had a huge, fat urge to impress Levi. He tried to control his breathing, straightened up, and then marched towards the alley with fists clenched.

“Oh for fuck’s sake,” he heard Rico say behind him, but by then he was ducking into the alley and staring down a drunken group of people.

“Alright now,” Nile said, aiming to try and break things up and-oh, that was a fist he just had to dodge, okay then.

He lost track of who threw the next punch, but Nile was grossly aware that he was outmanned and overpowered. Seriously, were all these thugs built like cannons? Everything seemed to slow down and he half-turned, eyes narrowing as a thug came at him, arms swinging and-

Oh shit. Nile doubled over, hands flying to his groin. He’d just been kicked in the fucking dick, and he groaned as dirt scuffed his face, the pain unbearable. He curled up in a ball, ignoring the way the thugs had paused, clearly unsure what the protocol for someone kicked in the balls and groaning on the floor was. Nile rocked a little, trying to ease the pain, and he wished he was putting on the theatrics for them.

There was a sudden flurry of movement, and Nile twisted slighty to see Rico with a hand to her forehead, and then Levi was marching forwards, thunderous expression in place. The thugs skittered, calling to each other and charging at Levi, and Nile wanted the earth to devour him right now.

He didn’t see what happened next, his groin and head blossoming with pain. Had they kicked his balls into his body? Possibly. When had someone taken a swing at his head? Why was he slowly dying here?

He thought he heard the satisfying thump of unconscious bodies, but Nile scrunched his eyes up and whined as he - finally - felt himself slipping out of this world to a better place. Levi could take them.

.

He woke for about five minutes after being tucked into a bed, and Nile murmured something, head hazy as a nurse began to administer medication. He could see Levi being settled on the other side of the room, a hospital room, and Nile wanted to say something, to apologise, to boldly suggest they should just share a bed, to do something, but his mouth was full of fluff, and the nurse was blinking in and out of view.

“Oops,” was all Nile managed out, and he was pretty sure he was drooling at this point, all basic functions numbing as the pain medication flowed through him.

Ten seconds later and he was out like a light, mind blissfully blank of everything.

.

When Nile woke next, he could feel someone in the room, and he opened his eyes slightly, resisting the urge to groan. It was dark, he hurt all over, but the familiarity of the voice he could here froze him.

While he knew he shouldn’t, Nile tilted his head to the side, inching a little closer to the partition that divided the room. He knew Levi was behind the curtain, contained in a bed much like his, and the assumption the other person was Erwin was confirmed a moment later when he spoke.

“I didn’t think you liked Nile,” Erwin said fondly, and Nile felt himself freeze, wondering if he should make a noise to alert them to the fact he was awake.

“I don’t, but I know he’s your friend,” Levi replied. Nile’s eyes widened. “And if anyone found out a commander got his ass handed to him in a street brawl…” Levi gave a snort of laughter, and Nile sank back into the pillows, a soft smile on his face.

“You’re a good person,” Erwin murmured softly, mirroring Nile’s thoughts exactly.

There was silence for a while, and Nile felt himself slipping back into sleep, the pain in his arm and head fading.

“Doesn’t change the fact he’s a fucking weirdo,” Levi commented, and Nile opened his eyes slowly, drifting over to stare at the partition. “He kept staring at me, like he was jealous or something.”

“That’s just something he does,” Erwin said, and Nile felt an odd feeling in his gut. Erwin had noticed his affections all along and yet…

“I don’t think he has many friends,” Erwin continued, and Levi actually laughed, the sound bouncing around them.

“Shush,” Erwin hissed, and Levi’s laugh was smothered slightly. “If they find out I snuck in to see you-“

“It’s hilarious you’re talking about Nile not having friends when you have what, 3?” Levi cut in, and Nile looked away from the partition as he heard Erwin laugh gently. Cold realisation settled in his stomach, and he turned over in the bed so his back faced Erwin and Levi.

“Does that include you?” Erwin said, and there was the sound of a chair pushing back and then the shuffle of sheets. “I can’t stay long,” Erwin said, voice barely audible, and yet Nile managed to hear every word.

“Then don’t,” Levi returned simply, the words lacking any bite he would have afforded everyone else. “Your hands are cold, give them here,” he said, and then silence fell. Nile strained his ears to see if he could hear anything else, but there was nothing but gentle breathing, and he fell asleep easily.

.

The next time he woke, Nile was surprised to see a familiar face at his bedside, cheek resting on one hand as Marie smiled, answering someone. Thinking it was a nurse, Nile moved, holding back a groan at the pounding in his head, to look at the nurse, and froze when he saw the partition was back, Levi conversing politely with Marie over his bed.

“I’ll give them a try, I’ve always been tempted to try make my own soap, but time is an issue,” Levi was saying, and Marie leant forwards, hand slipping to her lap.

“Money too I’d imagine. Erwin was always good at sweet talking his way into pockets, but I’d imagine it’s harder than ever.” She paused, and Nile knew her mind was running through plans. Anything she could do to help Erwin, and Marie was on it. Huh. Maybe she was just as in love with Erwin as Nile was, come to think of it.

“My family has been good trading partners with the shop I mentioned. I’ll send you a letter in the post, and hopefully they’ll give you a discount,” Marie said, and Nile smiled gently as she nodded.

“Thank you,” Levi said quietly, as if he was touched Marie would do something like that for him. That was his Marie all over, and Nile moved to take her hand, letting out a yelp of pain that reminded him he’d fucked his arm up.

“Ah,” Levi muttered as Marie leapt forwards, worry on her brow as she called for a nurse.

“Darling,” she said, kissing Nile’s forehead and smiling down at him. “I wouldn’t move if I were you, but I’m so glad you’re awake.”

The nurse bustled in, rattled off Nile’s injuries and listed the medication they’d get him on. He’d be able to go home whenever he wanted, they said, and Nile nodded slowly, the words swooping right over him, focused instead on Marie’s warm hand on his and the way Levi was staring out of the window.

Levi wasn’t someone he could have. He was never meant to be, truthfully, as he was only supposed to have been a stepping stone to Erwin. Somewhere along the line, Nile had wanted Levi to notice him, to have Erwin look at him the way he did Levi. Nile huffed. He was never going to get that, no matter what he did.

“The children are delighted you’ll be at home for a few days,” Marie said, pointing to a card on the table. It was one of the girls’ drawings, with a message for him to get well soon. “I would have brought them today, but I think it would be a bit too much excitement.”

Nile nodded, taking Marie’s hand again and squeezing.

“I also wanted to talk to Levi properly, he’s been giving me some tips on where to get things cheaper and better quality,” Marie said, and Levi looked over at the mention of his name, nodding.

“Shit,” Nile muttered, registering that Levi was in the hospital too. Nile was here because he’d been a complete idiot and injured himself, but Levi? Levi had been dragged into it because of Nile.

“You’re not, um,” Nile began, looking away as Levi fixed him with a blank look. “Er, I mean you’re not really hurt are you?”

Levi raised an eyebrow. “Just a twisted ankle. Erwin forced them to keep me here to stop me making it worse. He’s here on business anyway, I’ll go back with him tonight.”

“That was Erwin I saw sneaking out of here this morning then,” Marie said, humour and scandal clouding her voice. “And there I was worrying he never did anything exciting inside the walls anymore,” she added, and the comment horrified Nile. He prepared to apologise to Levi, but instead found Levi smiling lightly, tilting his head in agreement.

“A difficult bowel movement is the highlight of the week,” Levi said, and Marie laughed, shaking her head.

“Oh Levi, stop it,” she said, waving her free hand. “Isn’t he just delightful” Marie said, turning to Nile. She brought his hand up to kiss it, standing and letting him go.

“Right then, you’re going to change, and we’re going home. Levi’s already assured me he can pass the time by himself, and I think you’ve caused him enough grief lately,” Marie said, shooting Levi a sympathetic look before she looked down at Nile. “I’ve apologised on your behalf dear, don’t worry.”

She left the room, pulling the partition for privacy before she exited, leaving an awkward silence in the air as Nile changed into the clean clothes Marie had brought with her. He really didn’t deserve her, not when all he’d been doing this mission was sniffing around Levi to try and get to Erwin. If Hitch’s seduction plans had been better, Levi would have been paying attention to him, and Erwin would have wondered what had caught his attention. The Nile would have been the one Erwin looked at, the one he smiled at, the one he… Nile sighed. He wasn’t getting that, was he?

Dressed and somewhat a little smarter, Nile pulled the partition back again, hovering as he looked at Levi. He was busy looking out of the window, but when Nile took one step forward, Levi’s head snapped round, a frown on his face.

“I am sorry,” he started, and Levi rolled his eyes. “And… take care of him,” Nile managed out, noting the way Levi’s eyes widened ever so slightly, before he was bolting out of the door and to the waiting space by Marie. She patted his arm, as if she knew exactly what he’d said, and linked her hand with his again.

“Maybe you’ll become friends with Levi,” she said as they left the hospital, warm, weak sunlight warming Nile’s bare arms. “He told me how ridiculous you were on your assignment,” Marie continued, and Nile stiffened, looking down at her with worry, wondering if she knew where his thoughts had been and what ridiculous plan he’d convinced himself would work.

“Don’t worry darling,” Marie soothed gently, patting his arm. “We’ve both always had a bit of a crush on Erwin, haven’t we? There’s no shame in that.” She smiled, her free hand coming out as she waved at someone, perhaps a neighbour or a friend? Nile didn’t recognise them, didn’t even look away from Marie’s smiling face, jaw slack in disbelief. “And Levi is an attractive man too, it’s only natural that he would catch your eye. You know the ladies’ club? Well we’ve been wondering for a while now about humanity’s strongest, and let me tell you their fantasies would put yours to shame.”

“But-“ he began, shaking his head to try and clear his mind. “All this time and…”

He really was an idiot, Nile thought, remembering all the times Levi had called him just that. Embarrassment flushed through him hot then cold, and he felt his cheeks redden.

“If I thought it made you love me any less, I never would have married you and had children with you,” Marie said gently, and Nile really had no idea how he’d ended up with someone so wonderful as her.

“I’m sorry,” he said quickly, though he wasn’t sure what exactly his apology specified. Sorry for thinking about men during their marriage? Sorry for flirting with Levi to try and get to Erwin? Sorry for not being open about it?

“Thank you,” Marie said, and she drew closer, tightening her grip on Nile’s arm, her smile growing wider.

“Now, you’ve seen Erwin naked, haven’t you?” she began, and Nile should be feeling some kind of dawning horror or discomfort that he was going to talk about another man with his wife of all people.

Instead he’d found someone to share his deepest, darkest fantasies with, Marie tilting her head curiously as they walked, asking questions and adding to the stories and thoughts Nile had built up in his head. She laughed with him, and then, just as the children were running down to greet them, turned to him with a raised eyebrow and narrowed eyes.

“We should try to arrange for both of them to come over,” she said, making it clear the invitation wouldn’t be for dinner.

Nile really wondered how he’d ever ended up with such a remarkable woman, and had to admit that it was definitely through her choosing him than the other way around. She was no Erwin, or even Levi, and Nile was extremely happy with that, and their children and their life.

He’d try and work on the not-dinner invite just for her. It probably wouldn’t work, especially if Nile was involved, but maybe he could try to swing a threesome for her. She deserved some decent gossip for her ladies club, after all.

Nile shook his head, trying not to think too hard about the true intent of the ladies club. Some things were better left in the dark.